July 31, 2004
Impact! shows "squash" isn't so bad after all
By STEVEN JOHNSON - SLAM! Wrestling
When WWF and WCW started clashing in the "Monday Night Wars" of the 1990s, the televised squash match became a thing of the past. Both companies tried to outdo each other with ever more exciting TV cards that approached the quality of their par-per-view events.
But fans who followed the sport in the 1970s and 1980s know that "squash" matches -- a bout where a star whips his opponent in a brief time -- were the mainstay of televised wrestling for years. In fact, until the mid 1980s and the coming of the WWF Saturday Night's Main Event on NBC, it was rare to see a quality match between headline performers on free TV.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, which bills itself as the future of the business, actually has been turning back the clock the last two weeks on its Impact! show. The Friday afternoon show, airing on Fox Sports Net, has had more than its fill of two and three minutes squashes.And that's not a bad thing. When a company and its wrestlers are unfamiliar to a large part of wrestling fandom, as is the case with TNA, squash matches help to create an air of superiority and invulnerability among the favored stars, such as Jeff Jarrett and Monty Brown. That helps to create that star aura in the minds of newbie fans.
Further, since the match outcome is not in doubt, announcers Mike Tenay and Don West can digress to hyping the company's weekly PPVs without distracting from their call of the contest. When Tenay and West talk through a high caliber match, it makes those wrestlers and that bout seem irrelevant. A squash match frees them from those constraints, and gives them more time to orient viewers to key storylines.
Of course, some of the wrestlers who are on the receiving end of the whipings may risk being labeled as perpetual losers -- every older fans can rattle off the name of several wrestlers who never got into the victory column.
But sometimes those "jobbers" pick up experience and make contacts that help them advance their careers. In the early part of his career, no one lost more regularly than Tim Brooks. After paying his dues, though, he became Killer Brooks, and the rest is history. Maybe there's a future "killer" among the ranks of the losers on Impact!
Match one: Jeff Jarrett vs Lex Lovett
Jarrett, the TNA champion, is preceded to the ring by members of his Elite Guard as Tenay noted that Jeff Hardy is now top contender to the title after last Wednesday's PPV.
Jarrett jumps on Lovett, whom we are told is 29, with an early flurry. Lovett missed a dive over the top rope, and Jarrett slammed him headfirst into the ring barrier. He then sent Lovett into the Spanish announcers' table, which, for the record, did not break. Must be a different table supplier than the one used by the WWE.
Back in the ring, Lovett managed to get in a little offense before missing a flip off the top rope. Jarrett nailed him with The Stroke in 2:45.
Winner: Jeff Jarrett
A video package showed the "Night of Revenge" PPV scheduled for this Wednesday. Much of the hype concerned what was billed as a one-time affair between Raven and Sabu for the mantle of the late Sheik, who helped to train both.
Match two: Kid Kash with Dallas vs Mikey BattsKash, back from his "suspension," traded arm bars and hammerlocks with Batts. Batts was able to clothesline his opponent over the ropes, but when he dove after Kash, Dallas caught him and threw him to the arena floor. Kash clotheslined Batts this time for a two-count.
Suddenly, Vince Russo and Dusty Rhodes appeared on camera arguing about something. The subject of their contention was unclear ... booking finishes, divinity school ... one could only speculate. Back in the ring, Batts picked up Kash in a fireman's carry and reverse slame for a count of two, but Kash spin him around in the Moneymaker for the victory in 4:25. In all, a decent bout.
Winner: Kid Kash
Match three: Raven vs Rod Steele
Steele was only minimally identified, and it was probably best concerning the beating he took. Raven was painted with anti-Sabu lettering. He quickly through Steele out of the ring and into the barrier before sending him to the canvas with kneelifts and a DDT in 1:22. Sabu rushed the ring after the match and threw a chair at Raven. Sabu leaped over the top rope as raven tried to escape, but appeared to only graze him. Russo and Rhodes were still arguing, by the way.
Match four: Team Canada with Scott D'Amore vs Jerrele Clark and Mark LaurnoffBobby Roode and Petey Williams are making a strong mark on Impact! and D'Amore is a quality manager (if the only traditional one of consequence in the promotion). Team Canada attacked their opponents before the bell and laid them out with a series of kicks and punches. Laurnoff took most of the beating for the first three minutes.
Williams controlled Laurnoff with a neckbreaker, then threw him out of the ring so D'Amore could take a poke at him with his hockey stick. From the replay, it appeared to be a crosscheck, but it was difficult to make out. Laurnoff recovered sufficiently for a hot tag and Clark rushed in to administer a huracanrana on Williams and a dropkick on Roode. he hit his dazzling 630 spin off the top rope on Williams, but Roode pulled his partner from under a two-count. Team Canada regained the upper hand as all four brawled in the ring. Williams pinned Clark with his flip piledriver ("The Canadian Destroyer") in 4:06, exactly as Roode was pinning Laurnoff. And, after the match, there was more Russo and Rhodes.
Winner: Team Canada
Match five: Romeo vs Jeff Hardy
Hardy towered over Romeo; you don't usually think of Hardy towering over anyone. Romeo attacked him before the bell rang, but Hardy recovered for a neckbreaker and swanton bomb in 2:03. Tenay then called him "The Charismatic Enigma," and it's probably fair to say that no wrestler -- from Jim Londos to HHH -- has been known as "The Charismatic Enigma."
Monty Brown was Jeff Hammond's guest on the "Six Points of Impact!" interview. Hammond asked Brown about his nickname, "The Alpha Male."
Responded Brown: "Who is the Alpha Male? The most dominant male on the planet, the most articulate, the most cunning, the most feared, the most dangerous man on this planet." The reference to "articulate" somehow seemed out of place. Brown was intense and very well-spoken during the segment, though he, too, referred to Hardy as "The Charismatic Enigma," which perhaps fit in with TNA's emphasis on "articulate."
Russo and Rhodes have finally made it to a microphone with Shane Douglas. Russo promised to create a championship committee on the next PPV and explain his point of view. Rhodes told Russo his job had simply been to got to North Carolina and lock up Hardy in a contract. It seems as though this predicament could be worked out by reasonable men.
Match six: XXX (Primetime and Christopher Daniels vs Michael Shane and Kazarian with Traci
Hammond joined the commentary for the Impact! main event, and all four men were scrumming in the ring within 40 seconds. Daniels took the brunt of punishment early, including suffering through an inverted atomic drop and leg whip off the top rope by Shane.
Daniels tagged to Primetime, who powerslammed Shane for a two-count that Kazarian broke up. With all four men again in the ring, Daniels managed to throw Shane through the ropes and concentrate on Kazarian. Daniels hit a huracanrana off the top rope on Kazarian as Primtetime followed with a leg drop off the ropes. But Traci distratced the referee from making the pinfall count. That gave Shane enough time to recover and take a swing at Primetime with the X Division title belt.
Suddenly, A.J. Styles, adorned in street clothes, jumped into the ring to gain revenge (remember -- it's a night of "revenge" at the Wednesday PPV) against Shane and Kazarian for costing him the X title. Kash followed Styles, with Team Canada not far behind. The melee meant the bout ended in a no contest, but helped the show go off the air with a spirited, if somewhat confusing, level of action.
Winner: no one
Steven Johnson is a writer and editor in Virginia. He can be reached at email@example.com.