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   Fri, July 16, 2004



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Impact! pushes Brown, Raven, Sabu
There is life outside of Hart-Flair
By STEVEN JOHNSON - SLAM! Wrestling


With the flurry of jabs between Bret Hart, Ric Flair, and their followers this week, you would have thought pro wrestling was reliving the early 1990s.

Flair's comments about Hart in his new bestseller, To Be The Man, and Hart's retaliatory blows, have dominated the wrestling headlines for the last few days. So perhaps it was best that the latest edition of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling's "Impact!" focused more on action in the ring among performers in their primes.

The show, taped as usual on a Thursday in Orlando, Fla. for next-day airing on Fox Sports Net, served to advance Monty Brown as contender to Jeff Jarrett's TNA championship, and provided more background to the Sabu-Raven rivalry, which will be a focus of next Wednesday's TNA pay-per-view.

This week also represented the first time that A.J. Styles has not appeared on "Impact!" But a good mix of young wrestlers - and no pointless backstage vignettes - kept the showing moving for most of its hour. Whether that helps the PPV buy rate - a six-sided cage match between The Naturals and America's Most Wanted tops next week's bill - is yet to be determined.

Match one: Team Japan (Nosawa and Miyamoto) vs XXX (Primetime and Christopher Daniels)

The announcing team of Mike Tenay, Don West, and Jeff Hammond was a bit slow to get into this matchup; in fact, the camera didn't point to the ring until almost 15 seconds into the bout. West spent a few seconds ruminating a wrestler who wasn't there - Jeff Hardy, and whether he will sign with TNA - than the combatants at hand.

Daniels and Miyamoto worked early with a variety of moves and flips. Daniels delivered an elbow over the ropes to get a two-count on the Team Japan member. Miyamoto and Nosawa returned to double team Daniels in a nice sequences that saw a leg drop to the back of the head, a camel clutch, and a dropkick to the face of the prone Daniels.

Primetime came in off a hot tag and clotheslined Nosawa for a two-count. Daniels tried to enter the ring, but was escorted to his corner (well, one of the six corners, anyway). Miyamoto blew green mist at Primetime when the ref's back was turned, but the former Elix Skipper ducked, and the mist blinded Nosawa. XXX hit a combination powerbomb-suplex for the win in 5:39. Team Canada appeared at ringside after the match, but no punches were thrown.

Winners: Primetime and Christopher Daniels

A video package showed the ongoing feud between Sabu and Raven, each claiming they part of the true lineage of the Sheik. Sabu will fight Abyss next Wednesday, but TNA is building to a grudge match. Some footage of the Sheik - with appropriate commentary by Tenay - might have helped to underscore the issue for first-time "Impact!" viewers.

Match two: Sabu vs Alastair Ralphs

Ralphs, a big, rough-looking blond, was making his first "Impact!" showing and got in a lot of offense. Though Sabu trapped him in a camel clutch within the first minute, Ralphs stood up with the smaller Sabu on his shoulders and back slammed him to the canvas.

Sabu brought a chair into the ring, but, unlike the Sheik, used it for aerial moves instead of head bashing. He sprung off the chair into a huracanrana for a count of two, and then bounced from the chair to the ropes for a finishing moonsault in 3:25. Tenay called it a "triple jump," but the chair and the ropes only added up to two.

Winner: Sabu

Match three: Alex Shelley (with Goldylocks) vs Roderick Strong

The storyline in this bout was that Goldylocks is infatuated with Shelley at the expense of her other charge and ringside companion, Abyss. Once again, the underdog got in a lot of offense, and looked quite convincing. Strong threw several right hands, and punished Shelley with a backbreaker and leg lariat. He even got a two-count after putting Shelley in a fireman's carry, then dropping his foe across his knees.

But Strong made a fatal error by following the "Baby Bear" into the ropes after a whip into the turnbuckle. He tumbled to the mat, allowing Shelley to come off the ropes with a knee and a finishing brainbuster - Shelley had to double clutch to lift Strong - in 4:15. A glowing Goldylocks left with Shelley, leaving a puzzled Abyss in the ring.

Winner: Alex Shelley

Match four: Monty Brown vs Lex Lovett

That's Lex, not Lyle Lovett, for the record, Julia Roberts fans. Of course, Lyle would not have had any more success against Brown, who is being billed as the next threat to Jarrett's title reign. As in past weeks, Tenay spent time talking about Brown's background in professional football and his overall athleticism.

"The Alpha Male" overpowered Lovett early with punches and kicks. Brown caught Lovett with a backbreaker and Samoan slam, before whipping him into the ropes and ramming him with a flying shoulder block, nicknamed "The Pounce." Lovett did his part on the connection, bouncing a high and far as Lyle did when he first encountered the separation papers from Julia. The end came in 1:43.

Brown grabbed the microphone and warned Jarrett about entering the Serengeti. Jarrett, you see is "King of the Mountain," while the Serengeti is a flat desert ... well, there are hills in the northern Serengeti, but this is wrestling, not Geography 101.

Winner: Monty Brown

Hammond interviewed Jarrett in a segment entitled "The Six Points of Impact." Both men sat in the six-sided ring while Hammond lobbed six (get it?) queries in Jarrett's direction. Asked about the "Asylum" in Nashville, Tenn., the venue for the weekly PPVs, Jarrett responded: "Yankee Stadium has The House That Ruth Built. The Asylum is the House That Jeff Jarrett Built." Of course, the Bambino's seats more fans.

Match five: Kazarian and Michael Shane with Traci vs America's Most Wanted (James Storm and Chris Harris)

America's Most Wanted controlled the early course of the match, with Harris holding Kazarian interminably in an overhead suplex before getting a count of two. Shane grabbed Harris's leg, enabling Kazarian to respond with a neckbreaker for a two-count.

Coming from a commercial break, Shane had the upper hand until Harris came back with a full nelson slam. The teams traded near falls in the final minutes, with little regard as to who was in the ring properly. Shane dropped Harris with a superkick, only to be flattened by Storms' big boot. With 1:00 to go in the 10:00 match, all four men hit the deck. Harris finally mounted the top rope, only to have Traci shake the rope and crotch him into apparent agony.

Harris hit Kazarian with a tackle near the bell, and the count reached two just as the 10:00 time limit expired. After further review, judge Dusty Rhodes awarded the decision to America's Most Wanted. Just s quickly, The Naturals hit the ring to remind us the teams will square off next Wednesday at the PPV. Primetime and Daniels made the save to end the show.

Steven Johnson is a writer and editor in Virginia. He can be reached at blakeslee_74@yahoo.com.