Friday, 18 July 2008

TNA Victory Road on Bravo 2 - TV Review

It’s gimmick match overload time again, as Total Non-Stop Action bring us their latest pay-per-view, Victory Road, headlined by Booker T challenging Samoa Joe for the World title, and shown in Britain on a three day delay on Bravo 2. Our hosts for the evening are the Professor himself, Mike Tenay, and the guy who is still wearing those awful bloody ties, Don West.

The show begins with the third round of the World X Cup tournament, an elimination match, with Puma, Masato Yoshino and Milano Collection A.T. representing Team Japan, Ultimo Guerrero, Rey Bucanero and Averno representing Team Mexico, Doug Williams, Alex Koslov and Tyson Dux representing Team International, and Curry Man and the Motor City Machine Guns representing Team TNA. Needless to say that I’m extremely pleased to see Britain’s best wrestler on a TNA show in the form of Doug Williams. A fast paced affair this, reminding me of the early years of the WWF’s Survivor Series. Some great performances throughout this match, particularly from those overseas stars I normally don’t get to see too often. Sadly, Doug Williams didn’t make it to the final two, but Alex Shelley and Masato Yoshino did, with both men looking great as they went all out to get the pin and the points for their team, with plenty of false finishes, before Shelley got the pin with his variation of the kryptonite crunch. This one seemed to go on for ages, but the action was so good it didn’t matter.

Grudge match time, with Angelina Love, accompanied by her buddy Velvet Sky, taking on Gail Kim. This was one match I was really looking forward to, and not just for those obvious reasons, because the Knockouts division is currently producing some of the best wrestling in TNA at the moment. It didn’t disappoint. With the action starting before the bell, Gail and Angelina went all out, and you got the feeling while watching this match that these two really hated each other, the action was that intense. Of course, if you add in liberal amounts of outside interference from Velvet on the outside and you’ve got an even better match, with Gail getting the pin after her handcuff neck breaker. The victory celebration didn’t last long though as Velvet attacked her soon afterwards. But Gail was soon able to escape the clutches of the Beautiful People. Now this is why the Knockouts are so much better than their Diva counterparts.

Grudge match time #2, with Sonjay Dutt taking on Jay Lethal, accompanied by his main squeeze, SoCal Val, and all of this just because they both love the same woman! Something of an X Division master class here, more fast paced action between two wrestlers who made a great team and who now make great opponents, even though we’ve seen the wedding disruption storyline that resulted in this match countless times before over the years. Val’s expressions at ringside as the match progressed looked very forced, and she had a hand in the ending as well. After Lethal took Dutt out with his lethal combination, Val climbed onto the ring apron in an attempt to stop the match. This gave Dutt the opportunity to get the roll-up pin with his feet on the ropes. Good stuff here.

Fan participation time next, with the Latin American Xchange defending their tag-team titles against the new team of Robert Roode and James Storm, otherwise known as Beer Money Inc. The fan participation comes in the form of several fans armed with leather straps surrounding the ring. These armed fans force Jacqueline to stay backstage, fearing for her safety, even though Salinas and Hector Guerrero do make the journey down to ringside to support Homicide and Hernandez. In the ring the action was good, with Homicide and Hernandez again impressing as a team, and Storm and Roode not looking that bad either. I have to admit though that I did find it a bit funny to see some of the marks….I mean fans at ringside with their leather straps, whipping Storm and Roode whenever they could. LAX retained their gold in this one, with Homicide scoring with an ace crusher on Roode after the Canadian was placed upon Hernandez’s shoulders. A good match here, but if Roode and Storm are to continue as a team in the long-term, they need to come up with some double team moves.

The first title match of the evening follows, with Taylor Wilde defending her Knockouts title against former champion Awesome Kong, who, as always, has Raisha Saeed along for moral support. There’s a part of me that just can’t figure out why they’ve taken the title off Kong. I would have given her a very long reign as a dominating, monstrous champion. Kong dominated the match here, but it wasn’t enough for the win, as Taylor reversed a choke slam attempt into a canary roll to get the title retaining win. But as with the previous Knockouts match, the celebration didn’t last long as Raisha attacked Taylor from behind as she went towards the stage. Kong then took Taylor apart, until a knight in shining armour in the form of Abyss, still dressed as if he’s on day release from Arkham Asylum, came down to save the day. Sadly we didn’t get the Kong/Abyss battle. Instead we got Abyss taking Raisha down with the black hole slam. An entertaining match, but the aftermath was a little confusing, especially after what TNA has said in the past about male on female violence.

Then it’s time for the final round of the World X Cup, in the form of the Ultimate X match, featuring Naruki Doi of Team Japan, Volador Jr of Team Mexico, Daivari of Team International, and Kaz of Team TNA. Now this may have been nothing more than a spot fest to some, but it was still very entertaining, and again it was good to see some wrestlers I’m not too familiar with. Once again Kaz proved just how good he’s becoming, and the other three wrestlers contributed to the entertainment. Moment of the match came when Kaz leg dropped Daivari as he was climbing along the rope. Seconds later Volador was moving across the ropes, claiming the giant X that was hanging above the middle of the ring, and winning the World X Cup for Team Mexico.

More fan participation follows, with Team 3-D and Kurt Angle facing Rhino, Christian Cage and A.J. Styles, with the fans choosing the stipulation via the TNA website - full metal mayhem - basically, anything goes. And that’s just what happens. There’s tables, ladders, chairs, rubbish bins, anything they can get their hands on. Essentially it’s a brawl, with Devon getting injured after putting Rhino through a table with 3-D’s version of the doomsday device. I have to admit I kind winced when I saw the replay, but he managed to carry on, even helping Brother Ray put Cage through a table with a 3-D. Styles would later put the former Dudleys through a table, and even send their erstwhile buddy Johnny Devine running after taking his kendo stick and walloping him with it. He then looked like he was about to win the match for his team, but as he climbed the ladder, hoping to put Angle through a table, Frank Trigg, who had be commentating at ringside, climbed onto the ring apron and clobbered Styles with the aforementioned kendo stick. Angle then picked up the pieces, as he put Styles through the table with his Olympic slam to get the winning pin for his team. Not the best TLC-like match I’ve seen, but still damn good nonetheless.

Main event time, with Booker T challenging Samoa Joe for the TNA World title. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with this one. Despite the pedigree of the two wrestlers involved, it seemed to be little more than a punch-and-kick affair, with not much actual wrestling. Whether it was booked in this way or whether it was down to a lack of chemistry between the Joe and Booker I don’t know, but I do know what this was the weakest match on the card, and it takes a lot for me to say that considering how much of a Samoa Joe fan I am. We also got the obligatory referee bump, Joe brawling with Sharmell’s personal security after she pleaded with Joe to stop the punishment before slapping him, Joe taking out more referees, and security, before none other than Sting came out to try and talk some sense into the champion. But after Joe ignored the advice, Sting clobbered him with his baseball bat, knocking him out. Then Booker, still the worse for wear after the assault, covered Joe, with Sharmell making the three count. Mrs. T then took Joe’s title belt and draped it over her husband’s shoulder as the show came to an end.

In conclusion - despite the slight non-event that was the World title match, TNA Victory Road turned out to be very enjoyable. The over-reliance on gimmick matches still annoys me though, even though both of them were entertaining in their own way. The World X Cup was very well executed, even if Doug Williams didn’t win anything. But the main event left a little to be desired, especially as the champion has been marketed as a submission machine in the past. Also, no Eric Young this month! So overall a good show, so if you haven’t seen it yet, and you actually listen to my opinions in these reviews, you might want to borrow a copy from a buddy, or wait for the official DVD release.