Tonight's TNA Impact segment comes to you from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
The show begins with a review of last week: the removal of MVP's authority as Director of Operations, and the naming of Kurt Angle as Director of Operations. Bobby Lashley will face Eric Young in a rematch for the TNA Heavyweight Championship. Bobby Roode has been reinstated. Kurt Angle comes out to give a speech; Tazz and Mike Tenay hype him up real well. Kurt Angle ties in tomorrow's Independence Day with a celebration of TNA's freedom. Kurt Angle calls out Earl Hebner - and reinstates him into TNA, calling him "the greatest referee who ever lived". Kurt Angle calls for the first match: EC3 vs. Bully Ray in a...Tables match!!!The second match will be for the tag team championship. Gail Kim will take on Angelina Love for the TNA Knockouts Championship, and Angle reminds everyone that Lashley will face Young. Samoa Joe then comes to the ring, and mockingly calls Kurt "b.s." (to some boos). Samoa Joe asks, "How long before you book yourself into a championship match?" He points out that once Angle's knee gets better, he'll go after the title belt he's after. Samoa Joe shows some bitterness as he states that he was built in TNA while Angle was brought to TNA. Angle and Samoa Joe argue back and forth about who the better man is while Angle challenges Joe. Samoa Joe warns Angle "be careful what you wish for" and walks away. Just before commercial break, MVP is seen backstage where he appears to call out Bobby Roode and challenge him to a fight. Unfortunately for Roode, he falls for the bait and is attacked from behind by Kenny King.
After the commercial, Angle confronts Roode and shows concern for Roode being injured. Angle tells Roode that he doesn't like him but he respects it. Roode shows appreciation for Angle, then admits that he wants a match with the man who's responsible for all of the trouble (presumably MVP).
Match #1 TNA Tag Team Titles Match: The Wolves vs. Knux and Crazy Steve
The Wolves start out in control. Crazy Steve is thrown over the top rope to the outside. Krux then takes over and shows some amazing strength, easily suplexing and taking on both of The Wolves. The match is a bit out of control before the ref. settles things down. Davy saves Eddy from a pinfall that may lose them the titles. Eddy really needs to tag out; he does. Davy's on fire as he knocks all of The Menageries out of the ring one at a time. After a big boot to the face, the Wolves get the pin.
Winner: The Wolves
Just before the commercial break, Angle announces that Kenny King and Bobby Roode will face each other in a street fight match.
Match #2 A Street Fight Match: Bobby Roode v. Kurt Angle
This match started out real well. Roode and King both delivered great promos. Unfortunately, a problem occurred with my computer and I lost some of the notes I kept through the match. The gyst is that MVP was ushered away from ringside by Kurt Angle to prevent an unfair advantage. When the match gets started, Roode and King fight outside of the ring for several minutes. Both performers are hit with aluminum garbage cans, and Kenny King in particular is beat up. Eventually, the match works itself to ringside. The two men brawl for a while before Roode makes a clean pin.
Winner: Bobby Roode
Before commercial, EC 3 explains that he's the true hardcore legend as he prepares to face Bully Ray. TNA Knockout Brittany is show making her way to ringside, and Mike Tenay mentions that she has something important coming up. After returning from the commercial, Kurt Angle tells Austin Aries that he will face Sanada next week for the X Division Title; thus granting Aries' wish.
Back to ringside, Brittany calls Madison Rayne to the ring. Rayne comes to the ring, and it's clear that the two have some tension. Rayne is ready to fight, but Brittany has a different attitude. Brittany is apologetic for some of her mistakes, and "seems" to want Madison Rayne to accept her apology. She gives Rayne a speech about how much she's always looked up to her and how she's learned an important lesson. Rayne says that if Brittany is genuinely sorry, she'll be there for her. They hug and embrace, only for Brittany to turn the tables on Madison by attacking her. Madison is thrown shoulder-first into the steel post. There relationship seems to have met its end.
Bully Ray cuts a promo on EC3. Bully Ray points out that - if it wasn't for cheating - EC3 would've been destroyed by him at TNA Slammiversary. He reminds Ethan that he will keep his promise about putting his Aunt Dixie (Carter) through a table, but will do so to EC3 first. He ends his promo by saying that their Tables match will take place next.
Back from commercial break, MVP cuts a promo about how confident he is in Lashley's ability to win tonight. He implies that Kurt Angle is only "feeding the beast".
Match 3: EC3 v. Bully Ray in a Tables Match
Bully Ray comes to the ring with a bicycle chain. The implication is that this is going to be a special kind of hardcore match. BR gets the crowd behind him; this is his type of match. The two start off throwing punches at each other. Bully Ray has the upper hand. He's trying to weaken EC 3. EC 3 is thrown over the top rope and Bully Ray follows him. Bully Ray slams his head into the steel post (three times). The crowd chants "we want tables!" When Bully Ray misses a move, EC3 finally gets a shot in. Unfortunately, he ducks his head and is caught with a big boot to the face. Bully Ray calls for the tables and goes under the ring to retrieve them. Throwing the table into the ring, Bully Ray sets it up. He takes too much time; EC3 levels him with a clothesline. EC3 slams Bully Ray's head to the canvas (three times). EC3 grabs the chain, but Bully Ray hits him with hard chops to the chest. After a moment Bully Ray is about to powerbomb EC3 through the table, but Rockstar Spud delivers a low blow. With no disqualification, Earl Hebner allows it. All of a sudden, Rhyno comes into the ring, making a surprising return. The crowd cheers only for Rhyno to turn heel by goring Bully Ray. With a 3 on 1 in the works, Bully Ray loses easily as EC3 puts him through a table.
Before the commercial, Eric Young and Bobby Roode talk backstage. Bobby Roode encourages Eric Young regarding his upcoming match, and Eric Young seems confident despite the obstacle in front of him. Bobby Roode lets Eric Young know that he'll have his back during the match.
After the commercial, Rhyno tries to defend his actions in an interview by stating that he doesn't owe anyone anything. With the crowd having cheered "you sold out" at Rhyno's heel turn, this scene bears a strong resemblance to Seth Rollins' heel turn. Sam Shaw is shown backstage. He's being slowly mentored following his release from the asylum. Mr. Anderson runs into Sam Shaw, and is at first very dismissive. Gunnar explains that Shaw has changed and Mr. Anderson should give him a second chance. Shaw is introduced to Christy Hemme, who's clearly creeped out. Shaw offers what appears to be a sincere apology and walks away. Mr. Anderson is clearly unaware of what to make of it. In another segment, Angelina Love and Velvet Sky are backstage trying to seduce referee Brian Sinclair. Sinclair seems to be enjoying the attention, and both Velvet Sky and Angelina Love are convinced that they've got the advantage.
Back from commercial break, Kurt Angle immediately replaces Brian Sinclar with a new, impartial referee. Meanwhile, The Menagerie cut a promo in which they try to convince their team - mainly Crazy Steve - that the wrestling business is different than the carnival business.
Match #4: TNA Knockouts Championship: Gail Kim vs. Angelina Love
Angelina Love tries to seduce the new referee, but fails miserably. Meanwhile, Velvet Sky still offers an unfair advantage as she manages to attack Gail Kim on the outside while Angelina Love distracts the referee. With Gail Kim tied up on the ring post upside down, the referee demonstrates impartiality by trying to help her. Gail gets the offense going, but Velvet Sky interferes and hits a neckbreaker on Kim. Referee Brian Hebner has had enough, and sends Velvet Sky backstage. Gail Kim's confidence has clearly returned. She nails Love with a missile dropkick off the top rope. Kim goes back to the ropes, but is kicked outside with the Botox injection. Gail Kim is about to get counted out, but Angelina Love is more interested in a pin and brings Kim to the ring. A foolish move, Gail Kim kicks out, regains momentum, and (predictably) wins the TNA Knockouts Championship with an Eat Defeat.
Winner: Gail Kim (new TNA Knockouts Champion!)
Before the commercial break, Bobby Lashley and Eric Young are both shown getting psyched up for their rematch.
Back from commercial break, Kurt Angle is interviewed and says he's excited about all of the new changes. He mentions that there will soon be a 20 man battle royal for the TNA Heavyweight Chanpionship.
Match #5: A TNA Heavyweight Championship featuring Bobby Lashley (champion) v. Eric Young (challenger)
Bobby Lashley comes to the ring accompanied by MVP (on crutches). Mike Tenay notes that Eric Young is 0 for 3 lifetime against Lashley. Bobby Roode's music plays and he comes to the ring, clearly calling out someone - most likely MVP - en route.
The match starts, and the crowd chants for Young. Lashley lands an early suplex, but Young fights back. Befiore long, Earl Hebner has decided that both MVP and Roode are distractions and sends them backstage. An irish whip sends Young to the turnbuckle, but an elbow to the face gives him some breathing room. The two men fight outside the ring, but Lashley sends Young into the ring and corners him. Young is eventually clotheslined to the outside. He appears to have hurt his ankle. Lashley takes advantage, slamming Young's ankle against the ring. Hebner warns Lashley to back off. Back inside the ring, Young fights back with a few punches. Lashely regains the upper hand, and puts Young into a single handed Boston Crab (heel hook). Young stretches for the rope to no avail. Lashley gets a two count. Eric Young gets some offense going, getting a boot on Lashley and hitting him with a dropkick. He motions for an elbow drop, but takes too much time. Young eventually lands an elbow after he and Lashley fight on the ropes, but can only get a two count. Following a reversal, Lashley has the upper hand and Eric Young is clearly out of it. Lashely finishes off Young with a spear and retains the TNA Heavyweight Championship.
Winner: Bobby Lashley
After a few weeks, I think the gimmick of The Menagerie is in some trouble. It's not that the gimmick is bad, it just doesn't seem to have anywhere to go. It reminds me of The Oddites from WWE's Attitude Era, who were loved and appreciated yet didn't last long because there wasn't much of a story. Unless TNA can find a way to make The Menageries come across as legitimately threatening, they may be suited to serve as nothing more than entertainment. For this reason, I didn't think too highly of the first match. It was hard to become seriously interested. With their aggressive style, I'd love to see The Wolves take on Willow and Abyss.
Kenny King versus Bobby Roode was pretty good. They brought garbage cans to the street fight and had the wrestlers fight on concrete, so it certainly had a good feel for a hardcore match. Roode and King seemed to have good chemistry working together.
I liked the third match and thought the heel turn by Rhyno was introduced well. There are some heel turns that can be seen from a mile away. This one had the feel of legitimate unexpectedness. With EC3 beating Bully Ray again, I would anticipate that Bully Ray is going to be stronger in looking to take on EC3 in the future. I wouldn't be surprised to see another pay per view showdown involving the two, although - as a way to gather interest - TNA will probably try to introduce a scenario where Bully Ray has to take on his old pal Rhyno.
The fourth match may have been the best actual match for the night. The TNA Women's Division is arguably the best women's division in all of wrestling, and it showed. I think replacement referee Brian Hebner did an excellent job of calling an even match in accordance with what new Director of Operations Kurt Angle expects. Gail Kim and Angelina Love wrestled well, and - while Gail Kim was excellent as usual - Angelina Love played into her own gimmick by allowing her arrogance to get the better of her during the match.
Finally, I was mostly happy with the Heavyweight Tile match. The match took a while to get started, but this had to happen to ensure everything was fair. I think the most interesting thing TNA did was allow Bobby Lashley to win the match without help/outside interference. They might be trying to give him a strong push here, as many heels don't have the power to win on their own without outside interference. Lashley won fair and square. Additionally, he dominated much of the match. In fairness, Eric Young did injure his ankle during the match.
Kurt Angle's leadership is the opposite of everything MVP represented. He's fair, impartial, responsible to the fans, and makes sure everyone is accountable. This should help TNA reach an audience of viewers turned off by MVP's egotism. I'm interested in the Samoa Joe angle. I was a bit surprised he wasn't seen after the opening promo. I anticipate this means something big is coming up, yet I wonder what that something is. Will Samoa Joe turn on Angel? Will he join with Angle to the crowd's shock (as he's done before)? Because of their up and down past relationship, it'll be interesting to see what happens here. I also look forward to seeing what will happen with Bobby Roode not entirely respecting Angle (though thankful for him), but completely despising Angle's nemesis. It should be interesting to find out whether or not Brittany develops her heel persona after turning against her mentor, Madison Rayne.