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Impact: Abyss and Flair engage in war of the rings
By NICK TYLWALK - SLAM! Wrestling


I don’t envy the line TNA is currently trying to walk. The promotion has to ensure it doesn’t alienate the small but loyal following it has built up over the past seven years while trying to use some of the bigger names it has brought in to attract new fans. Thankfully, all I have to do is write about Impact, so let’s get to it.

Hulk Hogan is borderline giddy as he is in the ring talking about new TNA heavyweight champ Rob Van Dam. Correction, make that Mr. TNA, Rob Van Dam. The new top dog hits the ring and says the reason he wanted to come aboard was that he knew Hogan and Dixie Carter would let him be himself. He admits that some people don’t understand his, um, lifestyle (the first of several weed references), and can’t figure out how he can be so cool and laid back yet still kick so much ass. One of the people who doesn’t “get” Rob is deposed former champ AJ Styles, who comes out to say that RVD is nothing but a hippie freak from SoCal. Rhetorically asking if Van Dam is currently high, Styles claims he was on his way to winning their title match last week until he slipped on the top rope. Now he’s stuck in a BS tag team match tonight, but AJ is okay with that because he can get a rematch for the belt at a time of his own choosing. Ric Flair, who accompanied Styles to the ring, can’t keep quiet any longer and launches into a semi-coherent rant against Hogan and Abyss, who he will face later tonight. I get angry email every time I say something even remotely negative about Flair, so let me clarify my position: Ric is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, and possibly the greatest. He’s also currently very close to being certifiably mad.

The Beautiful People complain to each other about the unfair nature of their title defenses. Madison Rayne is especially displeased that she has to defend against Tara and Angelina Love in a triple threat match where she doesn’t even have to be pinned to lose her belt, but she plans to let her challengers beat on each other and sneak in for the pin. Lacey Von Erich is simply having trouble keeping up with the conversation. A video package fills all interested parties in on the lingering issues between Tara and Love.

Match 1 – Angelina Love (challenger) vs. Tara (challenger) vs. Madison Rayne (champion) – TNA Knockouts Championship Match

Taz and Mike Tenay enjoy Velvet Sky’s outfit, complete with riding crop, and I have to say I am pretty fond of it myself. Rayne sticks to her plan for the most part, though she ends up getting pulled into the action for several stretches. She gets in trouble when Tara hits her with a snap suplex and floats into a guillotine choke, but she manages to escape. Eventually, Rayne knocks Love into Tara, who falls out to the floor, and she rolls up Angelina (Taz says it’s a schoolgirl!) to keep her gold. Tara returns after the bell to attack Love, forcing TNA Security to send out two guys to try to pull them apart. Tara fakes an apology, then ambushes Angelina from behind.

Match 2 – Shannon Moore (challenger) vs. Kazarian (champion) – TNA X Division Championship Match

Though Kaz is the champ, the belt is still in the possession of Douglas “Don’t Call Me Doug” Williams. He’ll apparently be on the show next week to explain why he feels he was unfairly stripped of the title. They really need to put a volcano clause into these guys’ contracts. Moore looks like he may fly to win it, but Matt Morgan, still irritated by Shannon turning down his offer to tag up last week, shoves him all the way down to the floor. Kaz hits his back-to-belly piledriver, which is crying out for a catchy name, to get the three count. Seconds later, Samoa Joe angrily storms the ring and destroys Kazarian with a series of kicks and a muscle buster.

Abyss admits that Hogan’s ring doesn’t actually give him any magic powers. What it does give him is confidence. Hey. Maybe someone can tell Geoff Johns to add that as the secret eighth color on the emotional spectrum. Anyway, The Monster vows that even if he loses the ring, he won’t lose what it has given him.

Morgan approaches Jesse Neal about becoming their new partner, but Neal apparently watches Impact on a regular basis and knows that The Blueprint punked Amazing Red. Undeterred, Morgan reminds Neal that he promised one of his late friends from the military that he would one day be a world champion, and this is his best chance to make good on that promise. If he wants to tag with them, he knows where to find them.

Match 3 – AJ Styles and Sting vs. Jeff Jarrett and Jeff Hardy – Falls Count Anywhere

The faces launch right into the heels, with Hardy taking on Styles on the ramp and Jarrett battling Sting in the ring. Sting eventually gets tired of taking a beating and seemingly walks out on the match. JJ gives chase as Hardy and Styles battle outside the ring. Jeff eventually sets AJ up on a table and drags a ladder out as well. Meanwhile, Jarrett catches up with his foe on the way up the stairs to the rafters. That ends up being a bad move, because Sting uses his trusty baseball bat to knock Jarrett silly and pin him on the steps. Hardy is about to launch a Swanton off the ladder, but he backs down when he realizes the match is over. Boo!

As Team 3D prepares for its tag team title match, Neal asks for their blessing to compete against them. Ray likes his spunk and says he better bring it hard, also warning him not to trust Morgan. Devon reminds Ray that before the match, they need to take care of “that other thing.”

“The Pope” D’Angelo Dinero is somewhat the worse for wear, sporting an eye patch and a sling, but he still wants to address his congregation. Even though he lost his title match with Styles, Dinero hasn’t forgotten about the ex-champ, and he promises to repay an eye with an eye. When The Pope falls, he gets back up. Can I get an amen? One person who has been listening to the sermon is Mr. Anderson, who comes out and says he understands how gullible the fans are and how they are drinking The Pope’s powdered beverage. Anderson wants to know if Dinero is going to go away and lick his wounds like Kurt Angle or get in the ring and face him at Sacrifice. Can I get an amen or a buck-buck-bawk? Pope says that while his one arm is in a sling, his pimp hand is still strong... and he proves it by slapping Ken. Anderson administers a beating punctuated by a thumb to Pope’s already injured eye, forcing TNA Security to break up the melee. Wisely, they roll more than two deep this time.

Match 4 – Team 3D vs. Matt Morgan and Jesse Neal – TNA Tag Team Title Match

Prior to the action, we learn that the “other thing” involved Team 3D putting Syxx-Pac through a table backstage and leaving him in a puddle of his own blood. The match barely gets started when the Wolfpac music hits, bringing Kevin Nash and Scott Hall out to scrap with Ray and Devon. The ref furiously calls for the bell. Neal goes to help his mentors, but Morgan drags him back to the ring and drops him with a choke slam.

After a commercial break that features the Iron Man/Burger King prototype going awry, Neal is in the ring calling out Morgan. Christy Hemme lets the big man know about it, but he blows her off saying he “is off the clock.” Hogan cuts him off, telling him to get back in the ring to face Neal or stay backstage and deal with the Hulkster instead. Matt chooses to face Jesse, who attacks him on the ramp and does surprisingly well as they battle to the ring. Morgan begs off, but he shows his true colors by nailing Neal with a low blow and a shot from one of the title belts. Moore decides to run down and hit Morgan with a missile dropkick, seemingly forging an alliance between the two TNA wrestlers with Mohawks.

It’s time for Eric Bischoff to make his big announcement about his new ranking system, and... it calls for people to go to TNAWrestling.com and vote for the top 10 contenders. That’s cool, but somehow I was expecting something more. Jay Lethal drops in and gives Bischoff the start of a headache by simply announcing his votes out loud.

Orlando Jordan expresses his, um, admiration for “The Freak” Rob Terry. The big man will be OJ’s guest next week on The O Zone, and Jordan promises it will be delicious. Also, Flair hasn’t hit his rant quotient for tonight yet, so he angrily talks about how Hogan is spitting on everything the two of them worked so hard for by letting Abyss wear his ring. Ric says he will kick The Monster’s ass, and that’s the bottom line, because Ric Flair said so. Oh, and he was saying that before Steve Austin.

Asked by Jeremy Borash about The Band being a man down, Nash angrily replies that maybe they will bring someone else in to even the odds next week. A video package takes us back through the festering issues between Flair and Abyss. I like that word, festering.

Main Event – Ric Flair vs. Abyss

Flair unloads on the big man early but gets turned around and takes some chops and punches as well. Abyss hits a back body drop and the two men battle out to the floor. Flair scurries back into the ring and rakes The Monster’s eyes, but he tries to press his advantage by going up top and gets tossed to the mat for probably the one millionth time. Abyss hits a big boot and a side slam, forcing Flair to resort to a mule kick that hits Abyss and the ref. The Nature Boy gets out a pair of brass knuckles, and though Abyss shakes off a shot to the head, his testicles prove to be a bit more vulnerable. Flair covers and revives Earl Hebner to make the count. That seems to be it, but the knux fall out when Hebner raises Flair’s hand, and an angry Earl calls for the match to be restarted. Abyss hulks up and connects with a Black Hole Slam to win the match for real. Hogan comes down to celebrate with his star pupil, and since he can’t resist rubbing salt in Ric’s wounds, he takes the ring from Flair and says he’ll give it out to someone next week. That’s all, folks.

Nick Tylwalk thinks he has enough confidence to unlock the full power of the ring when he receives it from Hogan next week. If anyone knows where the lantern is that recharges the ring, write Nick at ntylwalk7@yahoo.com or hit his Twitter feed @Nick_Tylwalk.