Impact: Hogan and friends arrive, but Angle and Styles steal the show
NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling
Ah, memories. As you’ve probably heard, Hulk Hogan is making his debut on tonight’s live, three-hour edition of Impact, and he’s bringing some friends with him. Since I was the Nitro recap guy for this site for several years, I have a feeling memories are going to be flooding back – both good and bad.
I shouldn’t leave out Mike Tenay either. He and Taz welcome us to Orlando for what they are calling “the biggest night in TNA history.” And they’re actually not exaggerating.
Hogan is the focus, of course, but also on the docket are an eight-man X Division Steel Asylum Match, as well as a Barbed Wire Massacre between Rhino and Abyss.
Bubba the Love Sponge, a radio personality and close friend of The Hulkster, spent some time earlier today asking fans what they expect from the “new” TNA. Their answers literally run the gamut from taking things back to the '80s to seeing something new and exciting. Fulfilling all those requests is going to be a tall order indeed.
Match 1 – Alex Shelley vs. Chris Sabin vs. Jay Lethal vs. Consequences Creed vs. Homicide vs. Kiyoshi vs. Suicide vs. Amazing Red – X Division Steel Asylum Match
What, you thought we were getting Hogan right away? Patience my friends. If you’ve never seen one of these, the goal is to climb out the hole in the top of a dome-shaped steel cage. Yes, that’s as difficult as it sounds. It’s especially hard when seven other guys are hitting high impact moves at the same time. My SLAM! Wrestling teammate notes that the cage makes it difficult for the fans to see through, but the shots from up above are pretty cool. In any event, no one makes it out the top, because Homicide decides to use a metal baton on the other competitors (even Kiyoshi, his stablemate), and the ref calls it a no contest. The fans start chanting “This is bullshit,” keeping the guy with the censoring button quite busy. As everyone keeps brawling, a familiar face makes his way through the crowd... Jeff Hardy. He’s attacked by Homicide outside the cage, but the tables are quickly turned, and Hardy dispatches him with a chair shot and a Twist of Fate. Jeff makes his way up to the top of the dome and just sits there looking cool.
The limo shot is a staple of the last two decades of wrestling, and we get one that is allegedly Hogan on his way to the Impact Zone. Backstage, Christy Hemme gets a word with another one of Hulk’s buddies, Kevin Nash. Big Sexy says it’s a big night for everyone as TNA makes its ascent to number one. Echoing previous comments he’s made, he says that Hogan isn’t coming alone. Oh boy.
Match 2 – ODB (challenger) vs. Tara (champion) – TNA Knockouts Championship Match
This isn’t a “blink and you missed it” affair, but it’s pretty close. ODB gets the pinfall and takes the title, but Tara doesn’t take the loss lightly. She drops the new champ with a Widow’s Peak, then sets her pet spider Poison on her.
The limo pulls up and its occupant gets out. It’s not Hogan, but Ric Flair. The average age of the TNA employees goes up just the same. The Nature Boy heads into the arena and is seen entering the dressing room of AJ Styles.
Earlier today, Hemme was also outside with the fans. Mick Foley happens on the scene, and Hemme asks him what he’s doing. Mick says he’s reporting for work, but Christy reminds him that he won’t be allowed inside the building. Incredulous, Foley tries to enter but finds that Security won’t allow it.
Moving on to people who for some reason were allowed to participate, Bobby and Kristal Lashley make their way to the ring. Kristal has a message for Hogan, which is that her husband is a two-sport star, even if as a wrestler he has to perform in front of toothless, inbred degenerates. Or something like that. Kristal goes on to say that since they have better things to do, they are requesting Bobby’s immediate release. Alright, well, good luck in your future endeavors!
Here are some things to consider. All three members of The Beautiful People playing strip poker. And the girls aren’t very good at poker. When they lose, everyone wins. And for maybe the first time ever, I agree with them.
Our trip down memory lane continues as Scott Hall and Sean Waltman arrive. Only they find they’ve been locked out of the festivities as well. Elsewhere, Hogan’s limo pauses briefly and an unseen figure hops out of a black limo and into Hulk’s. Hogan must have asked for a substantial increase in the show’s limo budget. And Hall and Waltman must have figured out some way to get inside, because they’re now out in the crowd. Perhaps they saved a little of their alcohol money and bought tickets.
Finally, Hogan comes to the ring, getting a huge crowd reaction in the process. He speaks a bit about making wrestling history and taking TNA to the top. He’s undoubtedly about to ramble on, but Hall and Waltman start causing a fuss, but Hogan tells Security to let them come to the ring to say their piece. Hey yo! Scott says they heard Hulk was taking over TNA, so he and Sean figured it meant big paychecks, sold out arenas and (most importantly for him) big parties. Hogan replies that it’s a new place and a new time, and it doesn’t work that way any more. In what could be the most ironic line ever spoken by a sports entertainer, Hulk says it’s time to do what’s right for the business. Nash soon joins the party, saying that he heard something different from Hogan over the last few weeks. The final WCW reunion touch comes when Eric Bischoff makes his way down the ramp. Eric says there’s been a serious breakdown in communication, but he’s siding with Hogan when he says things are going to change starting tonight. Hogan and Bischoff insist that everyone from the janitors to the talent needs to earn their spots on the TNA roster. Nash says he gets the message loud and clear, and he leaves the ring with Hall and Waltman in tow. Eric and Hulk return to their message of change (echoing the campaign of some guy who ran for public office not long ago, though his name escapes me) and ask the producer for the format of tonight’s show. Bischoff rips it up and hands over a new schedule. Here I thought they were just going to ad lib the whole thing, which actually may have been pretty entertaining. Hogan says if you can’t talk and you can’t wrestle, you may as well pack your bags and head up North. Many snide jokes come to mind here. And a shadowy figure is watching from the rafters. You may know him as Sting.
Match 3 – Awesome Kong and Hamada (challengers) vs. Sarita and Taylor Wilde (champions) – TNA Knockouts Championship Match
Ah, I almost forgot there was supposed to be wrestling on this show. Sarita and Wilde use good teamwork and numerous aerial maneuvers to hold their own for a few minutes, but the size and strength of Kong is just too much. One missile dropkick/powerbomb combo later, we’ve got new champions. Oh, and during the match, we find out that the Motor City Machineguns have been laid out in the back.
The Beautiful People have a visitor who is wrapped in a towel and doesn’t want to be addressed by name. Let’s say it rhymes with Mal Menis. He talks his way into joining the strip poker game. At one of the doors, Foley finds some sympathetic guards, but he doesn’t want to jeopardize their jobs by barging in, and he vows to find another way. The Nasty Boys are next to try their luck but find that they also won’t be allowed inside. Wait... the Nasty Boys? Really?
Match 4 – Dr. Stevie and Raven vs. Matt Morgan and Hernandez
This is virtually a squash, with Morgan quickly pinning Stevie after a Carbon Footprint. Have to get the wrestling out of the way and get back to the talking I suppose.
D’Angelo Dinero is the next person to get some time with Hemme. He’d like to get even more time with Christy, if you catch my drift, but he wants to talk a bit about his upcoming match with Desmond Wolfe. He doesn’t get too much time to do it, as he’s interrupted by someone I don’t immediately recognize, but turns out to be Orlando Jordan. As Dinero stares in some disbelief, Jordan says he’s there to see Hogan, and we find out that D’Angelo hasn’t actually met Hulk yet. OJ tells him not to worry, because Hogan will like him. They let The Pope look bad at the sake of Orlando Jordan? Blasphemy!
Match 5 – Desmond Wolfe vs. D’Angelo Dinero
This is a short but good match while it lasts. Wolfe controls the action early with his ridiculously good mat skills, but Dinero finally finds his groove. Surprisingly, just as Wolfe is about to reassert himself, The Pope pulls off a small package and steals the victory. Maybe Hogan really does like him!
Lest any old stone go unturned, Jeff Jarrett is in the house. In the back, Rhino has fallen victim to the mystery assailant. Bubba is right on the scene to cover the carnage. We get another look at Hogan’s first appearance on Impact, because Jarrett is taking his sweet old time to get to the ring.
Jeremy Borash speaks with Styles, who gives the pro-Hogan line that he’s excited and can’t wait to see what Hulk does next. He also can’t wait for his title defense against Kurt Angle at Genesis. And he won’t have to: Bischoff comes by with the bad news that the match isn’t going to happen, but the good news that it will be tonight instead.
Jarrett finally reaches the ring for some quality time with the microphone. He says it’s great to be back in the place he founded, and he’s proud that he gave a chance to many young guys over the past seven years. JJ claims he tried to convince Hogan to come aboard many times, but the timing wasn’t right until now. Sadly, Hulk is unimpressed, appearing on the video screen to accuse Jarrett of almost running the company into the ground. Hogan gives Dixie Carter the credit for giving fresh faces a chance to shine and says that he is her new partner. If Jarrett wants a spot, he’ll have to get his boots on and stand in line.
A busy Hemme is about to interview Daniels when Borash interrupts. It turns out he has a little bit of a Mick Foley problem. Also, Shannon Moore stops Hardy as he finishes up a painting – not usually what wrestlers do backstage, but to each his own. Moore says the “big man” is ready to meet with Jeff.
Match 6 – Abyss vs. Samoa Joe
Apparently Abyss and Joe have never met in singles competition. The fight quickly goes to the floor as Tenay pimps the first TNA trading cards featuring Hogan (that was quick!). Sting is still looking on, and he sees Abyss tap out before he gets choked out.
Mrs. Lashley barges in on Bischoff, who seems not to know or care who she is. Kristal demands a meeting with Hulk and gets lectured on her attitude. She storms out and promises Eric will be sorry for his dismissal of the biggest star in the company. If she’s talking about the size of his traps, then yes, I concur.
Bubba discovers that Beer Money has also been ambushed backstage. Hey, at least critics can’t say the current stars didn’t get any camera time! The Nasty Boys still can’t figure out a way into the Impact Zone, and Angle tells Borash that even though Styles is great, he’s greater and will win back the TNA title.
Hardy and Moore are confronted by three screaming tween girls. One asks for an autograph, but Jeff gives her his painting instead. They may or may not have contracts in those envelopes they are holding. And oh crap, the Nasty Boys finish their quest by trashing Team 3D’s locker room (those boys are off wrestling in Japan). The big shock is that the Nasty Boys turned down donuts.
Main Event – Kurt Angle (challenger) vs. AJ Styles (champion) – TNA World Heavyweight Championship Match
WHAT YOU THINK
Which was the better show last night?
Raw - 47%
Assuming they let this one go, there’s basically no way it can suck. Styles gets things off to a rousing start with a somersault out to the floor. The masked man who’s been bothering him attempts to interfere, but Angle takes care of him, signaling that he wants a fair fight. I’m not going to try to record every move, but suffice it to say the match is full of suplexes, aerial moves, reversals, counters and more near falls than any bout in recent memory. After a dizzying series of signature moves, Angle gets the Ankle Lock applied. Styles rolls through and hits an enzuigiri, plus his second Styles Clash of the bout. Angle kicks out, so Styles considers a third Styles Clash. Angle reverses it into the Ankle Lock as Flair comes out on the ramp to watch. Styles escapes and nails a somersault splash, but it’s still not enough, and we break for one last commercial. Shortly after the break, Styles connects with a springboard somersault splash and gets the pinfall. Angle plays the good sport and shakes hands. Hogan comes out (where did Flair go?) and calls Styles and Angle the two greatest wrestlers in the world today, next to The Hulkster, of course. Okay, I made that last part up. Someone comes out and whispers in Hulk’s ear, and he abruptly takes off for the back.
Because we’re not quite done here! Foley stumbles into the strip poker game, which has apparently gone in, um, Mal’s favor. He’s not happy, but he tells Foley to go down the hall and to the left to find Hogan. A mumbling Mick follows the directions but finds Bischoff instead. After some witty repartee (kind of), Hall and Waltman burst in and start beating down Foley. Hogan looks on with a grim (I guess) look on his face as a long and not uneventful Impact comes to a close.
Nick Tylwalk isn't convinced revisiting the past is necessarily the best way to move forward but does think TNA needed a shake-up of some sort. Anyone wanting to reminisce about Nitro can email him at email@example.com.