Hello, Gatecrashers! TNA! TNA! TNA! That’s what you probably WON’T be chanting when you read my recap of the Miss TNA segment in this week’s installment of Compare/Contrast TNA and AEW!
I’ll be following my usual “The Good, The Bad and The Mid” review format. In the previous TNA PPV, we had some really good Good (Sabu vs. Shamrock, StyleLynn vs. The Flying Elvises, The Truth on the mic, Low Ki vs. Amazing Red) and some really bad Bad (Disco Inferno, The Dupps, Bryan “Try Hard” Lawler, The Dupps, RUSSSOOO!!!, The Dupps) and mid middy mid Mid. TNA is nothing if not consistently inconsistent.
So join me, if you weeell, nearly 20 years ago at the Nashville Auditorium on July 31, 2002. AJ Styles is wrestling, so how bad can it be?
Good: AJ Styles is wrestling, so how bad can it be?
Start the show off RIGHT! Styles is defending his NWA X Division belt against the 1 Win – 2 Losses Elix Skipper, so of course Skipper deserves a title shot! Styles and his partner Jerry F’n Lynn head to the ring with INTENSITY! Elix doesn’t have any friends so he enters alone with LESS INTENSITY. I guess he doesn’t want friends because he jumps AJ at the top of the match! I know it’s hard to make friends as an adult, but that’s no way to build a relationship, Elix!
Lynn joins commentary and, when you can actually hear him because he’s wearing his mic 9 miles from his mouth, defends his pin-stealing ways from last week, telegraphing that Styles and Lynn are going to pound the shit out of each other at some point tonight. It’s like when they do a recap on a serialized fiction show and they play a clip featuring a character you haven’t seen for two seasons ago which pooches the reveal that they’ll be back. There’s just no juice (outside of Jerry’s blading last week) to yet another “tag team that can’t get along” story.
Elix looks really good here. So good that I don’t know why I put Elix in the “mid” category in my mid for the last couple decades. I don’t know if he’s going to be a revelation over multiple reviews but, man, he’s crisp, he’s fast, and he’s brutal. It’s pretty much agreed that Skipper was missing something that kept him from reaching that next level echelon of respected X-Division styles wrestlers. To be honest? I think it’s his name. It’s tough to be afraid of someone who’s last name is the same as Barbie’s younger sister.
There’s a just fantastic dive-counter-counter-counter-dive sequence on the outside that I can’t describe so I’m not sure why I’m bringing it up, but it’s worth poorly describing. AJ wins with a wild looking Spiral Tap. You can see the last 30 seconds of the match here on Facebook Watch of all things. With the subtitles Don West says “I LOVE THE SEX DIVISION!” YEAH ME TOO BRAH
This is a good-ass X Division match that is pretty indicative of what the X Division will look like for a long time; a string of essentially meaningless but very watchable matches with occasional train wrecks and must-sees.
Jerry Lynn meets Styles after the match and they give each other a bro handshake and head to the back. Maybe I’m wrong and they have worked everything out! LOL I’m not wrong, I watched ahead a little bit!
Bad: Meanwhile, Off Camera
Longtime readers will recall that in PPV #1, Ricky Steamboat was… there. The announce team lets us know that Ricky Steamboat lifted the 60 day suspension on Jeff Jarrett, because Ricky Steamboat is suddenly the NWA representative. I thought Behrens was the NWA authority figure! What about Big Jim Miller!??!? WHERE IS JIM MILLER?!?!??!!
Anyway, Steamboat is there to bring law and order. He talked to Shamrock and Malice and somehow got him to give the belt back to Shamrock? Man, that’s a lot of stuff to happen off-camera. Bad storytelling!
Oh, yeah, and Steamboat lifted the suspension because Scott Hall requested it so Hall and Jarrett can have a big ol’ fight tonight. Time for an WWF Intercontinental Title rematch in our TNA main event!
Apparently Skipper has been wandering around in the ring this entire time and ABYSS’ MUSIC HITS BUT IT’S MONTY BROWN’S MUSIC FOR NOW! Brown ragdolls Skipper as a measure of revenge for last week’s sudden and pointless betrayal.
A storyline moves forward on screen? Whoda thunk it!
Bad then Mid: Jarrett’s Sack
Oh, no. Jarrett comes to the ring with a burlap sack with someone in it. The person inside looks pretty small. Time to put my safety harness on because this is going to be a bumpy ride.
Jarrett blathers on about how Behrens told Jarrett that he’d have to start at the bottom of the roster and make his way to the top. WINS AND LOSSES MATTER TO BEHERNS. Anyway, he opens the bag and reveals little person wrestler Todd Stone. I guess Stone is at the bottom because stones always sink there (pause for laughter). Jarrett beats Stone’s ass, makes a terrible and offensive pun and then is confronted by Puppet, the Psycho Dwarf. Oy. Jarrett challenges Puppet to a match… Puppet calls Jarrett “slapnuts”, I yawn, and then Puppet PULLS OUT A FUCKING HANDGUN.
Jarrett logically bails. Security rushes the ring. Puppet POINTS HIS GUN WILDLY AT THEM. They scatter. What the fuck is happening? Puppet tells one security guard that he’ll “shoot your kneecaps off”. Jarrett rushes in behind Puppet and bashes him in the back of the fucking head with a chair. I HATE THIS.
Jarret whales on Elix Skipper who has been laying around the ring this entire time and keeps going after Puppet. Steamboat interrupts from the ramp alongside Head of Security Don Harris and NWA President Bill Behrens. Steamboat tells Jarrett that they can do it the easy way or the hard way. Jarrett challenges Steamboat to a match, and if Jarrett wins, he gets a title shot. If he loses, he’ll take back his LIFTED SUSPENSION for 60 days. VOLUNTARY VACATION STIPULATION.
STEAMBOAT TAKES OFF HIS JACKET AND SENDS DON AND BILL TO THE BACK WHAT THE FUCK THEY FACE OFF LET’S FUCKIN’ GOOOOO
But instead of something awesome happening Scott Hall sneaks into the ring and wipes out Jarrett. Jarrett bails. Hall comes into the ring with a stretcher. He cuts a promo about how he’s been going out on a stretcher, but after tonight’s match, Jarrett’s going out on a stretcher. Cool?
Bad: Talking In Third Person Doesn’t Make You The Rock
Goldilocks interviews Siaki. Siaki refers to himself in the third person the entire time, like a much more famous and over wrestler had been doing for a few years. He cuts a stilted promo about his ass and that Goldy can’t touch his ass without his permission and blah blah blah he’s fighting without the rest of the Elvi tonight. Terrible.
Good: The Arc of the Story
His match tonight is a heel vs. heel match with The Disciples of the New Church’s Slash. Siaki actually does one Elvis pose this week! Wow!
Uh, so, uh… there’s this weird thing going on at the announce table where Minister James Mitchell is on commentary. He places a gold box with a dragon on it on the table and says it’s “The Arc of the New Church” and that it contains “the blood of the audad”. According to internet, and audad is “a wild mountain sheep, Ammotragus lervia, of N Africa, having horns curved in a semicircle and long hair covering the neck and forelegs.” Then he mysteriously drops the audad stuff. I love spooky shit but this better be going somewhere.
Siaki and Slash have a good match which shocks the shit out of me. They move with speed and make the most out of the 8 minutes they get. Slash looks pretty damn good here. I think he would have been a good addition to the X Division as a mini boss.
Mitchell keeps fielding questions about The New Church during the match, being generally mysterious and cryptic. It’s all good stuff, but, again, I love spooky shit.
The match ends with Slash putting a black bag on Siaki’s head and then giving him a neckbreaker. Slash holds Siaki against the ropes. Mitchell brings the Arc into the ring and then ‘anoints” Siaki’s face with the blood of the audad. This is some good spooky shit! Don Harris, head of security, rushes the ring and, just as a security official would, powerbombs Slash. Malice runs down, jumps on the apron and has a BIG MAN FACE TO FACE with Don Harris. Next week they have a match and the most offensive thing maybe ever in the history of TNA happens. Tune in!
Mid: Someone finally does an interview with Goldylocks and doesn’t perv out
Goldilocks interviews Steamboat about the utter chaos that TNA has been in since day one. Steamboat says he was called in to set down the law in TNA. He also says that he won’t be pushed around like Bill Beherens. Yep.
Bad but Good: I’M UNCOMFORTABLE
I don’t talk much about the TNA cage dancers, but TNA has cage dancers near the entrance ramp. This week there’s a Black dancer and a white dancer. The Truth enters, looks at the Black female dancer, jumps off the ramp and tells her that she’s being exploited by TNA. Buuut then he says that she’s a sex worker (in a much more offensive ter)m. He then… yuck… starts to take his belt off and moves towards her. This is ROUGH. Monty Brown saves us from having to watch an assault by waylaying Truth. They brawl in the crowd for a while and then split off and go backstage in their separate ways. Woof.
Steamboat comes to the ring and says something along the lines of “Ron… or Ron The Truth, or whatever you want to call yourself.” He then stumbles through some crowd interaction before calling Truth to the ring. Steamy has never been the best on the mic. They trade barbs about respect and “them” and what “they” do and if Truth is talking about “them” in terms of skin color, then they have a problem. WOOF.
Truth cuts another HOT but WOOF WOOF PULL ON COLLAR promo about race. He puts over Steamboat and his Intercontinental win over Savage, but how “they” stopped Steamboat from going for the World Title. “The Intercontinental Belt was always for second class citizens. 15 years later, they are pulling the same shiznit on me. I’m tired, I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it.” Fire. Truth says that Steamboat can make it right.
Steamboat says he knows what Truth is talking about. He gives Truth a shot at the NWA Championship match against Shamrock. The man who lost to NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler four weeks ago has a title shot! WOW!
Truth then raps and it’s pretty good!
Removing the VERY UNCOMFORTABLE near-assault at the top of the segment, this fucking worked. Truth spoke some actual truth to Steamboat, but he also manipulated Steamboat with those facts into getting a title shot. Great stuff.
Mid: Malice-ous and Apol-ling
Malice (with Mitchell) has a match against Apolo. There’s a lot of action on the outside of the ring. Apolo blades after being thrown into the guard rail. Malice takes control and works over the bloody bean of Apolo. Apolo wins with a flash superkick. It’s all fine and it’s over in six minutes. Forgettable stuff.
Malice lays a brief beating on Apolo and then chokeslams the ref Rudy Charles. He sets up Apolo for another one, but Don Harris again rushes the ring, and, like a security professional, big boots Malice in the mush. Slash comes out of nowhere and hits Harris with the Black Bag Neckbreaker. Malice chokeslams Don. During this whole thing Apolo is just lying there bleeding like a stuck pig. Hope that blade job was worth it!
The Disciples hold Don in the ropes. We get to see the blood of the wild mountain sheep get slopped over Don’s face. Mitchell gloats. Slash stares. Malice exits. AND SCENE!
Bad: Gay Panic For Laughs
Don West invites Miss TNA Taylor Vaughn. We haven’t seen her since PPV #2. She won in the objectively terrible and exploitative Lingerie Battle Royal. She’s about to speak when gay parody Bruce from the Rainbow Express interrupts. Buckle up.
Bruce says he listened to The Truth last week, and says he wants to be treated fairly and wants rights. He requests a match for the Miss TNA title and calls Taylor a b*tch. She gets on her knees and gives him a forearm to the shnards while saying she is going to kick his ass.
Scott Armstrong comes to the ring and the bell goes off. It’s a match! Vaughn suplexes, slams and spears Bruce. He gives her an awkward clothesline, an awkward abdominal stretch and an awkward scoop slam. This sucks. He then hits her with an awkward… I don’t even know… flip over face slam into the mat… and then gets the pin. He puts on the tiara and sash. The audience has no reaction outside of one lady in the front row who loves it. Trashy Russo trash.
Worth noting that Bruce is AWFUL on the mic. Just the most emotionless, stilted delivery.
This whole (gestures wildly) thing gets worse in the next couple shows.
Good: Chess Match
Now we’re talking. Low Ki vs. Jerry Lynn, which probably would have been an ECW PPV midcard match if the company had lasted a couple more years. AJ Styles and his ludicrously thick Georgia accent are on commentary. He also says that StyleLynn is copacetic and puts over Lynn as a great mentor.
Side note: There’s a bunch of glitter all over the mat from the terrible Miss TNA match so Ki and Lynn slowly transform into Twilight vampires as the match continues.
This match has a solid opening sequence of holds and throws with neither competitor coming out on top. Ki throws in a couple of small kicks here and there to remind you of what he’s capable of.
The only problem with this section is the crowd is just not into it. I don’t know if they’re burnt out or just not into strategery but they don’t come alive until the big moves get busted out.
As the match goes on, Lynn starts to lose his cool and ends up paying for it. Don West points out that “Ki is the kind of guy who can frustrate anyone.” Ki takes advantage of Lynn’s lack of patience until it devolves into brutal chops and kicks. The crowd starts cheering for Low Ki. Ki gives Lynn the Bryan Danielson Chest Kick Combo but can’t get the pin. Lynn catches Ki in the middle of the air during a Ki Krusher attempt and powerbombs him INTO THE SHADOW REALM! Kickout at 2! Ki’s Dragon sleeper reversed into a Tornado DDT! Only 2! This is picking up on the stretch! More stuff happens! I’m not going to recap it all! Ki signals for the Ki Crusher! AJ on the apron! Lynn goes into the ropes and AJ KICKS HIM IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD! The ref calls it a no contest! AJ stands over Lynn and the feud is back on! Ki goes shitnuts on AJ, kicking him in the jaw so hard it flies over the audience like a boomerang only to come back and reattach to AJ’s face.
In the end this was a surprisingly subtle match with a lot of counters. Chess match shit.
Later in the show they announce a THREE WAY DANCE with Styles, Lynn and Ki. PUT IT IN MY VEINS.
Mid: First Blood Part 1
Goldy is backstage with Don Harris who is washing audad blood off his face in a freakin’ water fountain. Couldn’t he have found a sink or a shower somewhere in the Nashville Auditorium?
Goldy asks him if he has any comments on Malice. Don refuses to “cut a promo” but tells her that he’s going to talk to Steamboat about getting a First Blood match next week. Unfortunately Steamboat doesn’t get last looks for Don’s outfit before that match.
Bad: Jive Talkin’? Keep Walkin’.
Time for the world’s worst wresting interview segment, Jive Talking. This takes place at the top of the ramp along with the cheapest looking set dressing they could find. Disco Inferno and his terrible bangs claim that he’s going to take over for Oprah. No laughs. He says he’s going to cast Miss Jive Talkin’. No laughs. He introduces his first guest who will expose her naked breasts. Oy. He calls out Goldylocks and calls her a dumb b*tch. She tells him that she was insulted when she called her a dumb b*tch. She wanted to talk about her music. Disco apologizes. No reaction. Ed Ferra says “I thought we were going to see her breasts” like a fuckin scumbag.
The segment keeps going and nobody cares. I don’t care. I would type out more but you don’t care. The best part is when Goldy says she’s the female Kid Rock. Disco gets, like, one laugh off of calling her a b*tch again, then tells her to take her shirt off. They keep saying “breasts” and I hate it. To be honest, Goldy does a pretty good job here, showing more personality than she’s been allowed to the last 7 weeks. Things get worse! Eventually Godly slaps him and then he grabs her by the neck and it’s fuckin’ awful. She kicks Disco in the nertz, but then Paulina from Tough Enough comes from the back and chokes Goldylocks out. The end.
Terrible unfunny sexist segment that would have been the most uncomfortable part of the show if it weren’t for The Truth threatening to whip a woman with a belt.
Mid: Down The Stretch
Time for Hall and Jarrett’s stretcher match! I’m expecting a lot of punches and not much else from this one. Hopefully I’m wrong!
They brawl on the outside for a while with Hall totally in control. Hall stays on top when the total nonstop action moves back in the ring. Then they go outside again. They fight to the back where some wrestlers are hanging out. Jarrett pushes Jerry Lynn to the floor. I see the underrated Matt Stryker (not to be confused with Matt Striker) for, like, half a second. He was in the Dark Match against BJ Whitmer for the previous PPV. I was lucky enough to watch him wrestle Tom Carter in ROH in a fantastic technical match that rivaled Angle/Benoit. The crowd basically sat on their hands the whole time. Regardless, Matt Stryker is awesome and I’m more interested in talking about him than Jarrett and Hall fighting in and around the Auditorium.
More brawling backstage and then down the ramp and into the audience. The cameras can’t keep up so we see a lot of the back of a lot of heads and a lot of pretty bad haircuts. They almost get back in the ring but then fight outside with the stretcher. It’s pretty dull hardcore fare all around. Let’s skip ahead.
Hall gets a pin, but The Truth drags the ref out of the ring, then hits Hall with a Scissor Kick. Truth drags Jarrett onto Hall but Jarrett only gets two. Monty Brown makes his third brawly appearance of the night and occupies Truth’s attention with punches and kicks. Jerry Lynn runs down and does a slingshot press onto Jarrett right in front of the ref. AJ Styles attacks Lynn on the ramp and goes to the top to Spiral Tap.. somebody, I don’t know, but Don Harris arrives and throws Styles to the floor. Then the Disciples bum rush Harris and they brawl to the back.
Jarrett and Hall collide noggins for a long double down. Hall throws the slowest discus punch I’ve ever seen. Hall misses Jarrett with the stretcher and takes out the ref. Good lord this is overbooked to hell. Jarrett dropkicks the stretcher into Hall’s face. Steamboat runs to the ring. Jarret sings at him with the chair. It bounces back in his face. Steamboat fires up Hall but Jarrett plants the chair onto Hall’s dome, then rolls his limp body onto the stretcher. Boo. Fade to black.
Wow, that was brutally uneven. We got some really good wrestling which was interrupted by a little person with a gun, multiple instances of misogyny, a long homophobic stretch and Disco Inferno being Disco Inferno. The only thing that would be worse is The Dupps showing up and farting in each other’s butts or whatever.
The bad stuff was so offensive and unnecessary that I can’t recommend this episode. This would be a darn good wrestling show if all the trash was removed. Maybe we can get a TNA Director’s Cut series where the focus is on the wrestling and the good angles (yeah, I’m including the goat blood stuff because I LIKE SPOOKY STUFF) which would make a very watchable show.
Just a huge step backwards from last week.
Next column we’ll be watching the third episode of AEW Dynamite, featuring a lot, and I mean a LOT of tag team wrestling. Read me then!
GODDAMMIT I JUST LOOKED AT NEXT WEEK’S SHOW AND IT’S THE FUCKING DUPP CUP JIVE TALKIN’ CROSSOVER EPISODE NOOOOOOOO