Impact: Hulk Hogan’s (nudge, nudge) last stand
DAVE HILLHOUSE -- SLAM! Wrestling
Hulk Hogan has supposedly passed the torch on enough times to grant him an honourary Olympic Torch runner’s certificate. With his latest retirement announcement/tease tonight in Knoxville, TN, though, there’s less of a feeling of sentiment amongst the wrestlers, and more of an “it’s about time” vibe.
First to echo that feeling is James Storm, who is in the ring with his tag partner and number-one contender to the World Championship, Bobby Roode. The partners have been set up tonight as opponents, in a match that Roode hopes gets him in top shape to face Kurt Angle, while Storm suggests that he has something more to prove to both Roode and himself.
Hulk Hogan’s history with TNA/Impact is reviewed throughout the night, with the first memory taking us all the way back to January 4th, 2010, when Hogan arrived.
Match #1 – Gunner vs. Kazarian
The skirmish spills quickly to the floor, where Gunner runs Kazarian’s left arm into the post, apron, and ropes. Inside, Gunner continues his focused attack with an arm wringer and a body slam that is tilted towards the left arm. Kazarian’s comeback is short-lived as Gunner pokes him in the eye behind the ref’s back, and soon Kazarian is tapping to a serious-looking arm-bar.
Winner via submission: Gunner
But wait, Gunner refuses to show restraint after the match and continues his attack, and the referee reverses the decision.
Winner via disqualification: Kazarian
Mr. Anderson is in the ring next, apologizing to his fans (my, what language he uses to describe them) and saying he’s learned a lot through his time in Immortal. One thing in particular is how much he dislikes Bully Ray. Ray joins him in the ring, and Anderson tries goading him into a Falls-Count Anywhere match at Bound for Glory, but Ray rebuffs him (though he would accept later on in the show).
Backstage, Eric Bischoff is speaking to nobody in particular about the end of an era with Hogan retiring. No better way to follow that than with Brian Kendrick doing some freestyle poetry. Kid Kash hears his name in the verse, though, and none too flatteringly. He engages in some freestyle beating on Kendrick.
Match #2 – Mickie James & Velvet Sky vs. Winter & Madison Rayne (w/ Angelina Love)
James and Sky show off the smooth double-teaming early on, culminating with James’ Thesz Press off the top rope on Winter. Love grabs James’ leg from the floor, though, allowing a recovery by Rayne and Winter. Sky gets in and cleans house, as James takes Rayne to the floor, but Love gets on the apron and halts Sky’s momentum with a punch. Rayne tags in and rolls up Sky for the win.
Winners via pinfall: Winter & Madison Rayne
Hulk Hogan memory: his red-and-yellow return as he teams up with Abyss. Elsewhere Jeff Hardy is in the building and Kurt Angle is none-too-pleased. Bischoff tells Angle that it’ll be taken care of.
Bischoff intends to take care of it in the ring, calling in Hardy for a lecture on opportunity, both earned and wasted, and tells him that he has used up his last chance. Hardy responds by decking Bischoff and running away, scoring points from any reasonable wrestling-debating judge.
Another trip down the yellow and red brick road: Hulk Hogan announces his complete ownership of TNA.
Match #3 – Samoa Joe vs. Crimson
Crimson takes it to Joe, but he panders too long to the crowd. Joe recoups by beating Crimson outside around the entire ring, then brings him back in to chop-block him twice on the way to a submission leg hold. Crimson withstands the pain long enough to roll Joe up for the win, keeping his undefeated streak intact.
Winner via pinfall: Crimson
Match #4 – Bobby Roode vs. James Storm
Actually, before the match, Roode looks back over his tenure with TNA, once again accentuating how it’s time for younger folks such as himself to take the lead in the company that they have loyally supported. His parents chime in, championing Roode’s determination.
The match itself starts with fits and bursts of criss-crossing, block, reversals, ducks and dodges. The partners are in each other’s face going into the commercial break, decidedly even with each other so far.
Coming back, clotheslines are traded back and forth, and then an exchange of hard punches. Things are getting chippy, when Storm catches Roode on the top rope and brings him down with a superplex. As they fight into the corner, the referee gets in the middle of them and all three go down with a collision. Kurt Angle rushes the ring and throws Storm into the steel steps. Roode slowly comes to and tries a pin, but Storm kicks out. Roode follows with his Pay-Off, getting the win after all.
Winner via pinfall: Bobby Roode
The time has come, ladies and gentlemen, for the great Hulk Hogan to finally retire. He shares his love with the crowd and reflects on ... oh, forget it. Sting comes out in a Hulkamania shirt and says he has proof that Hogan is putting everyone on. He shows backstage footage of Hogan and Bischoff having a laugh about fooling everyone with the retirement nonsense, and, in the ring, Hogan yells out for the video to stop.
Hogan gets so enraged that he challenges Sting to a match at Bound for Glory, and is also so incensed that he says Sting and Dixie Carter can win back TNA if he loses. He immediately slaps his hand over his mouth with one of the funniest “I can’t believe I just said that” faces since Ron Burgundy.
Dave Hillhouse is a screenwriter and teacher, and really can’t decide if the “Crow Sting” and “Joker Sting” phases are supposed to be tributes or banal rip-offs – or both.