Monday, 17 September 2007

TNA Hard Justice 2007 on Bravo 2 - TV Review

When I heard that TNA had signed Pacman, and that he’d be appearing at Hard Justice, I had visions of follow-up signings that including Mario & Luigi and Sonic the Hedgehog. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, as Pacman is in fact an American footballer called Adam Jones, a guy who I’ve never heard of and has apparently been suspended from the forthcoming NFL season. So do I care? No. But before I go off on a tangent, it’s time to take a look at the 2007 version of Hard Justice, held in the Impact Zone in Orlando, Florida, and shown on a three day delay on Bravo 2 here in Britain. Our hosts for the evening are, as usual, Mike Tenay and Don West.
After tons of hype for the Pacman, we finally get to the first match, a three way tag-team match featuring Jay Lethal and Sonjay Dutt, the Motor City Machine Guns team of Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin, and the Triple X team of Senshi and Christopher Daniels, who are accompanied by their partner Elix Skipper. With six X Division competitors, it’s obvious what sort of match we’re going to see here, fast-paced action with tons of high-risk moves from each and every wrestler, which gives us an outstanding spot-based encounter, with every one giving a good account of themselves. But after all of this, the move that finished the match was basic, as Lethal pinned Daniels with nothing more than a small package, and although this was a good ending, after all of that spectacular stuff, I was kind of expecting a spectacular ending.
Next up, Raven, who has Serotonin, Havoc and Martyr, along for the ride, takes on Frankie Kazarian, or Kaz as he’s now known. An interesting one this. Although Raven is certainly not the athlete he was in years past, he’s still capable of putting on a great match with great psychology. It’s basically a three-on-one contest here, with some great moves from all parties, especially from Kaz, who got the unexpected victory, despite the overwhelming odds, after taking Raven out with a drop-kick. A good showing from Kaz, but I can’t help but think that Kaz would perhaps be better off in the thread-bare X Division.
It’s time for no holds barred action next, as James Storm, accompanied by Jackie Moore, faces Rhino in a bar room brawl. The rules for this one are simple - there are no rules. Messrs Tenay and West go to great pains to remind us that Rhino is a recovering alcoholic, which is what makes Storm’s previous attacks on the War Machine more reprehensible. Third match in, and we get the monthly brawl around the Impact Zone, before Rhino falls off the wagon by downing a few quick beers and a couple of shots of vodka. The booze seems to fuel Rhino a little, until it begins to take effect and slows him down a little. After he misses a gore and puts himself through a table, Storm takes control, with several shots with a rubbish bin, followed by several shots with a chair, a super kick to the head, finished off with a beer bottle smashed over the back of his head before the winning pin. An entertaining brawl here, but much of this was similar to last month’s match.
It’s tag-team action following the brawl, as the Voodoo Kin Mafia, along with their weirdo woman Roxxi, take on the Latin American Xchange. I just couldn’t get into this one. It was kind of weird, and it didn’t seem to have a lot of planning go into it. VKM dominated for the most part, Hernandez came in and did some power moves, until Roxxi threw some powder into his eyes and Kip got the pin after the fame-asser. It was then that Hector Guerrero came into the ring from the Spanish announcers table to tell the ref what had happened. The match was re-started, and Homicide went on to get the pin. So now I’m confused. Are LAX good guys now? Are VKM bad guys now? This is confusing the hell out of me, and this poor match didn’t help at all.
Then it’s on to yet another Eric Young/Robert Roode match, this time in an ultimate humiliation tar and feather match. This is one feud which is really starting to get a little tired now, and judging by the reaction of the fans in the Impact Zone, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Although a technically good match, it’s pretty much what we’ve seen from their previous matches. Tracy Brooks interferes, and Roode got the win after clobbering Young with the brass knuckles. It then looked like Young was going to get tarred and feathered, until Gail Kim came running down the ring. The usual altercation broke out, which resulted in Brooks getting accidentally clobbered by Roode, before getting a low blow from Young. It’s then that Brooks get tarred and feathered as Roode leaves her to her treatment. Please tell me that this feud is now over!
Dustin Rhodes makes his return to a TNA pay-per-view next under the guise of Black Reign, going up against Chris Harris. Now this was something of an anti-climax. Black Reign just seems to be a more psychotic version of Goldust, and it seems that Rhodes can only get on in his career if he adopts crazy gimmicks. Rhodes attacks Harris early on, busting him open with a handcuffs shot, and then basically beating the crap out of him, and taking out a couple of referees as well. Indeed, it was only when Rhodes was choking Harris with the handcuff chain that a third referee came out, and after getting shoved, he called for the bell, awarding the match to Harris via disqualification. But that wasn’t the end of things, as Rhodes then handcuffed Harris to the ropes, and then attacked him with that strange looking weapon he brought to the ring, causing more damage to Harris’ head. It was only when Kaz, Jay Lethal and Sonjay Dutt came down did Rhodes stop his attack. All I can say about this one was that it was really disappointing. Rhodes certainly has his critics, but this new persona totally overshadows his wrestling skill. I would rather watch a Rhodes/Harris wrestling match than this.
Back to tag-team action, the battle of the two legendary teams as the Steiner Brothers face Team 3-D. A brief power cut in Cromer means that I have to miss the first couple of minutes of this one, but that doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of what was a good match. Although this will never be regarded as the best tag-team match ever, the Steiners and the former Dudleys showed us just what tag-team wrestling should be about. 3-D, in full heel mode here, spent a great deal of time focusing their attack on Scott’s recent injury, before we got the four way brawl, and, surprisingly, a Scott Frankensteiner from the top rope on Devon. To finish things off, and to take fans of a certain age back a few years, the Steiners got the win after taking Devon out with a bulldog off the top rope to finish this good match. I know I’ve been quite critical of Scott Steiner in the past, but if he’s left in tag-team matches with his big brother Rick then he might have a few more good matches left in him after all.
Then, the moment that everyone has been waiting for, as Pacman Jones appears for an in-ring interview with Mike Tenay. Pacman says a few words until Ron Killings come down the ramp and makes a challenge of sorts. As a promo cutter, Jones is poor, real poor, and although Killings did his bit well, I really can’t see what Jones has to offer TNA, especially as he isn’t allowed to wrestle or have any form of physical contact. So the only reason for signing him was for a bit of cheap, mainstream publicity, and he’s not going to actually wrestle. Well, I guess his tenure in TNA will be really interesting then.
Thankfully, it’s back to normal action next in the Doomsday Chamber of Blood match pitting Christian Cage, A.J. Styles and Tomko against Sting, Abyss and “The Punisher” Andrew Martin, with the only way someone can get pinned is if they’re bleeding, with the man getting the pin becoming the number one contender for the World title. After a few minutes of action we see footage of Pacman getting loaded into an ambulance, having apparently been attacked backstage. Boy, was he selling those injuries well! This was another one that goes under the “interesting” banner. It was basically two teams beating the hell out of each other both inside and outside the cage, with both Tomko and Abyss bleeding for their art. But perhaps the most notable thing about this one was that Cage bailed out of the cage and left his team mates as the good guys secured their victory, with Abyss taking Styles out with a black hole slam on a pile of broken glass, and as Styles was now bleeding, the monster was able to get the pin, becoming the number one contender in the process. Given the way that this match played out, I really don’t know whether to call this one “good” or “bad”. I think I’ll have to think on this some more.
Main event time, with every title on the line, as Kurt Angle faces Samoa Joe in a winner takes all match. I have to admit that I was a little weary going into this one. I was left to wonder if they could match the sheer intensity of their previous series, and while they may have failed to do so in that respect, Joe and Angle had something else going in their favour - the storyline surrounding Karen Angle. This was a match definitely worthy of it’s main event status as both wrestlers pulled out all the stops, with Kurt constantly distracted by his wife’s presence with her new special friend at ringside. But as the referee got knocked out, it looked like Karen would continue to side against her husband by handing Joe a steel chair. But she ended up stabbing Joe in the back, handing the chair to her husband, who used it to knock Joe into the middle of next week. A three count later, and Angle had every title in TNA, ending what was nothing more than a great match.
In conclusion - once again, TNA have proven that they can’t put on a pay-per-view with good matches throughout. While the Joe/Angle match may have been great, and the tag-team match between the Steiners and Team 3-D may have delivered, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed with the show overall. We had re-matches that were essentially the same as the previous matches, and a situation which now means that the X and tag-team divisions seem kind of useless at the moment because all the TNA titles are now held by Kurt Angle. Christopher Daniels, for instance, is meant to be the number one contender to the X Division title, and while I’m sure many would like to see a Daniels/Angle match, given that both of them are heels, this probably won’t happen. And don’t get me started on the whole Pacman thing.
But I’m going off track a little here, so to wrap things up, TNA Hard Justice was disappointing. Let’s hope they can turn things up a notch next month.

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