Tuesday, June 19, 2007

TNA Slammiversary (17.06.2007)

The best pay-per-view TNA has done in absolutely ages.

I really liked the opening video package, going back to the opening from the early days of the promotion before bombarding you with a barrage of crappy angles set to some duelling banjos. But just as you begin to wonder what the hell they were thinking with this goofy redneck nonsense, the rock music kicks in over a montage of today's top talent hitting their big spots. It's a hell of a contrast, but just as THAT sinks in, here comes the surreal: Mike Tenay and Don West calling the action at a golf tournament with Tiger Woods about to make a trophy winning putt. No, really. But THEN, Tiger's ball is stopped inches short of the 18th by the boot of Jeff Jarrett who proceeds to smash Woods over the head with his grey balsa guitar before some hillbilly rock band performs the theme song for the show. Well, that was quite the unique start to a wrestling show.

The Latin American Xchange (Homicide y Hernandez) [w/ Konnan] vs. Rhino & Senshi [w/ Hector Guerrero]

Super hot opener, crowd was really into it which was pretty much the theme of the night. Senshi was a last-minute replacement for Chris Harris but no reason was given. I actually didn't realise at the time having not followed TNA's mostly God-awful TV show in recent months but it was a pretty good substitution that set up an even dynamic between the two teams, and Rhino/Senshi really clicked as a team despite this being their first outing with little prep time.

This was just a nice little match to get the crowd going (and man, were they ever going!) with everyone doing what you'd expect - Senshi bringing the kicks before getting caught by Hernandez who threw him around like a ragdoll before Rhino scored the hot tag and cleared house. The seconds then got involved - Konnan threw in the slapjack to Homicide but with the referee distracted, Hector Guerrero jumped up and pulled Homicide throat-first across the top rope allowing Rhino to hit the match winning GORE! GORE! GORE! at 8:24 of a fun opener.

- Backstage, Mrs. Brooks tried to convince Eric Young to sleep with her but Gail Kim intervened and told Eric he needed to focus on Robert Roode.

X-Division Title: Chris Sabin (c) vs. 'Black Machismo' Jay Lethal

I wish we could get Kevin Nash and JBL on the same commentary team, I really do. Nash was a riot here, even if you don't get what he's referencing half the time but the line about changing the name of Jonesville to Nashville in honour of his basketball career was hilarious.

This was another fun match with the crowd deeply into Jay Lethal's Macho Man take-off, and they were rewarded when the unlikely title contender scored the pin at 8:52 with an awkward looking Big Elbow after some typically good action. Don West just added to the whole situation by insinuating that Nash was Lethal's dad, and the title win must be a great father's day present. The only thing I didn't like here was TNA asking fans to vote on who they thought would win the World Title match later via text message which was just really distracting while the match was going on.

- I just noticed Earl Hebner was rocking the old-school blue shirt with black dickie bow style referee garb tonight. In fact, all the referees did that. Cool.

James Storm & Ron 'The Truth' Killings vs. Jerry Lynn & Frank Wycheck

Frank Wycheck, competent wrestler. Who'd have known? Everything he did here was perfectly acceptable for a non-wrestler celebrity whilst Killings and Storm in particular were absolutely hilarious in being complete and utter dicks. At one point it seemed like Storm was going to get over as a babyface until he donned a Tennesee Titans helmet mid-match, hiked a football to Killings and spilt the following pass in a ridiculously comical manner to HUGE heel heat. It was absolutely amazing. Eventually, Titans player Kyle Vanden Bosch got involved which led to Wycheck pinning Storm with a cradle piledriver in 8:53. Crowd loved it.

This was another fun match and I wouldn't worry too much about Storm doing the job here since he can be built up again easily enough, especially if he continues to show the kind of character traits he put on display here, and Wycheck going over was just the icing on the cake for the live crowd, pretty much guaranteeing TNA a hot market to return to in future. That's something WWE seems to want to kill for whatever reason, their latest example being the following night's Raw when they jobbed out Mickie James in her hometown even though the crowd was completely molten for Mickie like she was Hogan '84.

Alex Shelley vs. Bob Backlund

Backlund is in great shape for a 58 year old. I actually wish I could be in the same kind of shape now and I'm 23! : Short silliness with Backlund going over via roll-up at just 3:46 before Chris Sabin came out for a beat down followed by Jay Lethal and Jerry Lynn to save for Backlund. That brought out Kevin Nash who booted Lynn's head off, presumably setting up Nash, Shelley & Sabin against Backlund, Lethal & Lynn down the line, and in turn giving us NASH VS. BACKLUND II: This Time It's Personal~!

- Chris Daniels cut a promo on Sting.

The Voodoo Kin Mafia (Kip James & BG James) vs. Damaja & Basham [w/ Christy Hemme]

It's kind of weird in a promotion full of one-time ROH starlets, WCW veterans and WWE cast-offs, The Voodoo Kin Mafia to me just seem really out of place. I was deeply into their act as a 14 year old but I need never seem them wrestle again. This ended up being the shortest match on the card (just 2:47) before Kip cradled Damaja for the pin. If pro wrestling was real, there's no way either of these guys could beat Doug Basham, he's just leagues ahead in terms of in-ring talent. Like someone said, charisma goes a long way although even that seems to be running out for the VKM.

Post match SHENANIGANS! I CALL SHENANIGANS! saw Kip chase Christy up the ramp only for her to run in to Lancy Hoyt (wearing a WOMEN's tank top, the fucking fruit) who delivered her back to ring. But that proved to be a swerve as he kicked Kip's head off then made out with Christy. Seems like TNA has a new stable on it's hands.

- Meanwhile, LAX beat the shit out of Hector Guerrero at the Spanish announcers desk. This was great, as while WWE pay-per-views seem sterile and formulaic, this felt really unexpected, fresh and exciting. It's a shame Konnan has bailed but hopefully TNA will stick with LAX as a Homicide-Guerrero match could be pretty interesting.

Robert Roode vs. Eric Young

Another good match as Eric Young fought to gain his freedom from Robert Roode in the outright winner for 2007's Most Convoluted And Nonsensical Angle Of The Year Award. The basic gist appears to be that Roode owns Young's contract and if Young wins here, he's free of Roode but if Roode wins he can fire him from TNA. I'm not sure how or why as the build has been utterly horrific with Traci Brooks propositioning Young, Roode trying to find out who Young's friend was, why Young having a friend even mattered and why after all of this was revealed we ended up with a Roode vs. Jeff Jarrett match but if you ignore all THAT bullshit, this was pretty good until the Dusty Finish kicked in.

Brooks got involved, Young exposed her arse, he hit a few highspots then Roode nailed him with a steel chair for the anti-climactic pin. BUT THEN! Jim Cornette came out saying that was bullshit and he had the match restarted, and of course Young almost immediately after got the pin with a roll-up to earn his freedom. And then they cut away almost instantly. Why the FUCK does TNA insist on doing this? It's worst when they do it at the end of a pay-per-view after a major title change but there's another example coming up later.

TNA Tag Team Titles: Team 3D (Brother Ray & Brother Devon) (c) vs. Rick Steiner & Road Warrior Animal

Animal was the mystery replacement for the injured Scott Steiner and he got a monster pop and a bunch of LOD chants. Steiner and Animal both looked like used-to-be in-shape middle aged men but the crowd was molten for them and really happy to see them and somehow, rather than feeling like you were watching Legends of Wrestling or 6:05 - The Reunion, this felt more like NWA 1989. Yep, TNA managed to make Rick Steiner and Road Warrior Animal relevent again, even if just for one night.

Sadly, the teased Doomsday Device was not to be, and the Dudleys (rightly) retained in 6:39. Neither Steiner nor Animal embarrased himself despite age and ring-rust limitations, and the match never outstayed it's welcome. All in good spirits. Not sure why Rick was the one who got pinned off the 3D though, surely Animal would have been the better choice for when the inevitable 3D-Steiners match goes down.

Sting vs. Christopher Daniels

I really do hope Sting sticks around after his contract expires, he's proven outside of the crappy gimmick matches he can still go, and this was bell-to-bell energetic stuff, like watching a Sting from 15 years ago. Daniels went for the Last Rites and Sting reversed into the Scorpion Death Drop. I'm assuming this is going somewhere since it seems odd to have Daniels drop the big bout with Sting first time out.

No Disqualification: Abyss vs. Tomko

I was actually expecting this one earlier and unintentional comedy came from TNA promoting this as Abyss' comeback match when he wrestled unnanounced on TV last week.

First few minutes were completely skipable since everyone knew this was just going to be about the silly bumps and they didn't disappoint in that regard. Abyss took a back bump into the tacks, a barbed wire baseball beat over the head then Tomko dug a piece of glass into Abyss' face. They ended up brawling up to the scaffold surrounding the big entrace set and climbed that for your typical WWE-style fall off the set spot.

Tomko swung the bat but Abyss grabbed it and pulled him off the scaffold sending him hurtling to the stage, then followed that up with a dive onto Tomko from the scaffold. This would have been great if WWE had done it - they'd have crashed through a thin plane of wood for the cracking sound, cut to a close up of the guys rolling around on a concrete floor (giving the illusion thats what they landed on) and a bunch of fireworks would have gone off 'accidentally'. Since this is TNA, they just pulled to wide shot revelaing the most conveniently placed set-up of gigantic fall-breaking boxes you've ever seen, which also explained the lack of any sound when they fell. Shit. SHIIIITTTT.

Back in the ring, Tomko took the Black Hole Slam on the shards of glass which looked nasty, gimmicked glass or not. At least Abyss gets to wear a shirt when he bumps into the tacks! Full credit to the referee too for counting the three with GUSTO~! despite all the crap in the ring.

On a show with great undercard matches, celebrity involvement, story-advancing angles, a star studded main event with a guaranteed title switch and even a hint of feel-good nostalgia, this was fine with me although they cut away almost instantly instead of keeping the camera on Tomko's back so the horror of it all had absolutely zero time to sink in. Get it sorted, TNA.

- Backstage, Samoe Joe and Kurt Angle agreed to kill each other in the main event. Sounds good!

- Jeff Jarrett gave an interview via video about the history of TNA and how his late wife Jill was the inspiration for him and gave him the belief TNA could succeed.

TNA World Title, King Of The Mountain match: Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles vs. Christian Cage vs. Wildcat Chris Harris

Chris Harris ended up being the replacement for an absent Jarrett (explaining his disappearance from the opening tag match). This was all action like most King Of The Mountain matches usually are. Joe and Angle went at it first before Styles and Christian did some great stuff with Christian demanding AJ lay down for him so he could become eligable to hang the title belt but getting upset when AJ demanded he return the favour.

Everyone took some big bumps and the crowd was going absolutely nuts for it (like they had been all night). Angle hit an Olympic Slam on Harris to become eligable before Joe hit AJ with a muscle buster then locked Angle in the rear naked choke. The referee then got bumped which actually added to the story as Angle tapped out but Joe never gained eligability as the referee didn't see it. Joe then revived the referee but Christian stole the pin on the still-down Angle.

AJ and Joe then climed to the top of the penalty box and AJ took his requisit insane bump, crashing through the announcers table, completely wiping him out. Christian and Angle fought over the belt on the ladder until Harris made a last-ditch dive and took out himself and Christian but missed the ladder leaving Angle standing with the belt. With Joe on the floor, Angle hooked up the belt to win his first TNA World Title.

Post-match, Joe actually offered his hand out of respect to Angle, but Angle being a glory hogging bitch booted Joe in the gut and gave him an Olympic Slam to end the night on a shocker.


Anyway, that was fucking fantastic. The set-up with the big stage, the low-camera and the better lighting and audio than previous non-Orlando pay-per-views (Bound For Glory, LockDown) plus the 3,500-4,000 crowd made this look and feel like TNA was actually a big league outfit, and they certainly matched that in terms of sheer entertainment value. Not every match was a classic by any means, and there weren't any Match Of The Year Candidates but I was sheerly entertained for three hours solid with that card and I can't ask for much more than that.


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