Sunday, 17 August 2008

TNA Hard Justice on Bravo 2 - TV Review

It’s gimmick match overload time again (and I know the readers of Wrestling Edge are going to love that opening line) as I make my monthly trip to the kingdom of TNA with their latest pay-per-view, Hard Justice, headlined by Samoa Joe defending his World title against Booker T in a weapons-filled cage match, and shown on a three day delay here in Britain on Bravo 2. As usual, our hosts for the evening are the Professor himself, Mike Tenay, and the man who would merit a visit from Trinny and Susannah, Don West.

The show begins with title action, with Consequences Creed challenges Scott Steiner wannabe Petey Williams for the X Division title. Petey, as always, is accompanied by Rhaka Khan….Rhaka Khan…..sorry, but I just had to do that. So this opener features a wrestler using Steiner’s gimmick, and Creed using a gimmick from a Sylvester Stallone film. Does the TNA creative team have any original ideas? Anyway, back to the match. It’s not bad for an opener, but I just feel that the X Division isn’t as exciting as it was back in the day, and this match was a good example of that - technically good, but not really that enthralling. Williams, as always, was the best thing about this, and Creed did his stuff well, with Williams getting the win thanks to Sheik Abdul Bashir. Bashir clobbered Creed with a chair while the referee wasn’t looking, which allowed Williams to get the pin after the Canadian destroyer. ‘Nuff said about this one.

Women’s action follows, with Gail Kim, ODB and Taylor Wilde taking on The Beautiful People and Awesome Kong, with Tracey Brooks as special referee. It’s the usual good effort from the Knockouts here, once again showing that they can be just as good as their male counterparts. Raisha Saeed got sent out for interfering early on, and Taylor got the win for her team, pinning Angelina Love with a roll-up. Pleasant on the eye (well, perhaps not Awesome Kong) and pleasant to watch wrestling-wise as well.

Then it’s time for the second title match of the evening, with LAX defending their titles against Beer Money Inc. Both teams have their usual followers in their respective corners. The story surrounding this one is the condition of Homicide, after Robert Roode and James Storm put him through a glass table a while ago, and if he’d be fit enough for this match. This one started off as a brawl around ringside, with the bell only sounding when it got into the ring, and as the match went on you could just feel the intensity between these two teams, to the point where you actually believed they wanted to tear each other apart. Roode and Storm looked great as a team as they centred their attack on Homicide, and in particular his bad eye. As usual, Hernandez was as impressive as hell, and the spot where he dived over the top rope, took out Roode and Storm, and then landed on his feet was a joy to behold, as was when Hernandez border tossed his own partner onto Beer Money on the floor. But sadly, after an age of great action, there had to be an end. As Homicide was about to put Storm away with the gringo killer while the referee was trying to sort out the out-of-ring happenings, Roode came into the ring and clobbered Homicide in the eye with a beer bottle, with Storm getting the pin moments later. A controversial way to end what was a great match.

The grudges continue with Sonjay Dutt and Jay Lethal going at it in a black tie chain match. Now this is what I mean about TNA’s gimmick overload - both wrestlers are wearing tuxedos, will be chained at the wrist. To win, one man has to either disrobe his opponent or pin him. It’s essentially putting two gimmick matches into one, and frankly, it’s not really needed, and a little confusing. But anyway, back to the matter at hand. This was another of those matches I just couldn’t get excited about, and that’s probably because of the gimmicks involved, and I really didn’t care when SoCal Val stormed away, angry at the punishment Lethal was dealing out to Dutt. But I suppose what really did it for me was after Dutt ripped Lethal’s shirt off, and those concerned, including the ref, seemed to spend a great deal of time trying to remove the shirt from the chain. Finally, after the fans chanted “boring” and “fire Russo”, Lethal got the pin after a dodgy looking top rope elbow drop, hampered by the chain. Couldn’t agree with those fans more!

Yet more grudges follow, with Team 3D taking on Christian Cage and Rhino in a Jersey street fight. It’s basically a hardcore match, where falls count anywhere and anything goes. This one is a brawl, pure and simple, with the obligatory brawl through the crowd, and all four men use anything they can get their hands on as weapons. Sadly, no kitchen sinks are available for this particular exercise. In short, it’s a damn entertaining match, and just what the doctor ordered after the disappointment of the previous match. Too much great action to go into detail here, so I’ll stick with the ending. After Cage came down on Brother Ray with a frog splash from the top of a ladder, Rhino finished him off by goring him through a table set up in one of the corners. Things didn’t end there though as 3D’s running buddy Johnny Devine joined them in a post-match beat down, with the after match activities once again brought to an end by Abyss, who proceeded to clean house. An excellent encounter, but did the Abyss moment really add anything to it? I think not.

Third grudge in a row next, with Kurt Angle and A.J. Styles facing each other in a last man standing match. Now remember, TNA’s version is slightly different to WWE’s version. Here, someone loses the match if they fail to beat the ten count after they’ve been pinned. Once again a tremendous match between two of the top wrestlers in the business. As the old saying goes it was a knock down drag out affair with two men going all out in order to attain victory, and perhaps the most interesting moment came when Angle went for the Styles clash, but Styles countered by applying the ankle lock, with Angle tapping moments later, but beating the referee’s ten count. A few more pins and near-ten counts followed, before a struggle on the top rope led to Styles taking Angle down with a DDT from the top, with the Olympian failing to beat the count, giving the match to Styles. Things didn’t end there though, because as the medics were attending to Angle, Styles went back into the ring and attacked Angle and taunted him. Then, as Styles went back up the ramp, the arena went dark, and when the lights came back on, Sting took him out with a scorpion death drop, before Kevin Nash emerged to try to find out what was going on. Another great match, but it’s also the second match in a row where someone has made a surprise appearance.

Main event time, with Booker T challenging Samoa Joe for the TNA World title inside six sides of steel, with weapons all over the place. So it’s another match where two gimmicks have been mixed. Oh, and let’s not forget that Booker is currently in possession of Joe’s title belt. While last month’s encounter between these two was disappointing, I have to admit that this was a lot better. However, it still failed to set this writer’s pulse racing, and there’s just something about these two in the ring together that doesn’t seem right, as if they don’t click with each other. There were some good moments, and Joe, as always, looked good at times, but it just seemed to be missing that unknown something. The ending of this one was a bit strange though. As Booker was about to connect with an axe kick, the lights went out, and when they came back on, Joe was standing in the ring with a guitar in his hand, the sort of guitar that used to be used by a certain Jeff Jarrett. A second later Joe clobbered Booker with the guitar to get the title retaining win.

In conclusion - while, for the most part, the matches here were good, the over-reliance on gimmick matches is still very annoying for me. I would love to see a TNA pay-per-view with none of these kind of matches, but I don’t think I’ll ever get my wish.

And the creatives also have to look at the way they’re positioning the matches as well. With the Booker/Joe match immediately following the excellent Angle/Styles match, which itself followed the excellent Team 3D/Cage/Rhino, it seemed to have a negative effect on the main event. The crowd were all but dead by the time Booker and Joe started going at it, and despite the fact that the match was for the biggest title in the company, it didn’t seem very important, especially as Jeff Jarrett’s return was teased at the end.

Mention must also be made of the mystery appearances of both Sting and Abyss. Putting them in consecutive matches didn’t seem right. It would have been best to spread them over the show.

So in all, good, but disappointing at the same time.