Lockdown has come and gone. Shockingly, Bully Ray turned on his wife Brooke Hogan, and her father Hulk. He revealed himself to be a member of Aces and Eights after winning the World Heavyweight Championship away from Jeff Hardy. How will that play out tonight? Will Hulk react? How will Bully's wife Brooke react?
TNA takes its show live on the road at the Sears Centre in Chicago, in minutes.
We open with a recap of Hulk's pep talk to Bully at Lockdown, then his eventual turn and reveal as the leader of Aces and Eights. They run through some still shots from the match as well as video of Ray using the hammer on Hardy to win then taunting the Hogans afterward.
The announcers check in from the announce position at ringside. They talk about the Bully Ray turn and hype up AJ Styles' appearance on the show tonight.
Early note - the building looks good and the crowd looks lively and of decent size.
Chavo and Hernandez come out for a title match, but it never gets going. Aces and Eights hits the ring and attacks them. D'Lo, Mr. Anderson, Knox, DOC, Garett Bischoff and Wes Brisco are in this along with Devon. They clear Chavo and Hernandez then Devon heels on the crowd.
Devon introduces Bully Ray as the TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Bully comes out from the opposite side of the stage setup. Taz says "the boss man is looking good." as he walks out with the title over his shoulder. Taz hugs Ray at ringside then the Aces members hold up the eight-finger sign.
Ray has an Aces cut on the first time and asks if we know who he is. "I am Bully Ray, I am the president of Aces and Eights and I am the TNA World Heavyweight Champion. I'm the guy who used Sting, the guy that screwed Brooke, and I'm the guy that made a fool of Hulk Hogan."
Ray says he made a fool of the fans too. He pulled the wool over their eyes for nine months and the fans bought it. Ray says he never felt so proud as when he saw his brothers climb the cage and give him the hammer.
Ray says it was planned that he would leave the cage when Brisco and Bischoff came out but didn't because of Hogan. He said Hogan gave him a father-to-son-in-law talk. Ray says he can't give a damn about Hogan's advice.
Ray says he did in one night what the NWO could never do. He begs Hogan to come out and fire them. "It won't happen, he ain't gonna fire us. We are the Aces and Eights, and when you ride with Aces and Eights, you never walk alone."
A good promo, but they didn't really try to fill the storyline holes. Hopefully they'll do that down the road - didn't have to be the first night.
I am NOT missing the iMPACT Zone right now.
Sting says Bully Ray is digging his own grave and a grave for TNA. "Now he's in the fast lane and it pisses me off." Sting says. He wants to get his hands on Ray and that starts with talking to Hulk.
We get a tease for Tara and Gail Kim vs. Velvet Sky and Mickie James next.
Match #1 - Gail Kim and Tara (w/Jesse) vs. Mickie James and Velvet Sky
Gail gives a pre-taped promo where she says no woman should have to suffer what Brooke is at the moment. Gail applauds her decision to put Taryn Terrell on probation.
Terrell is the official for this one, though. Tara hits Mickie with a kick to the head at the apron before they go to commercial.
New graphics, new pop-up window for the interview. TNA is doing a top-notch job tonight.
After commercial, the heels work Mickie. She gets a hot tag to Velvet and the crowd pops for that. Gail ends up taking a shot at Terrell later in the match. Terrell sells, but returns fire.
The finish comes when Tara hits Mickie with the Widow's Peak. Velvet turns right around and hits Tara with her butterfly facebuster finisher for the win.
They show highlights of Bully's promo to open the show.
Aces and Eights are celebrating in the backstage area, drinking beer. Ray says Hogan didn't have the balls to fire them. He toasts then calls Brooke, saying he hasn't heard from her. She sent the call to voicemail apparently, and Ray says he can't believe it. He puts it on speaker and has the whole group say hi and they all laugh.
They show a Slammiversary commercial promoting Boston as the location.
Hervey Cam approaches Hogan and asks if he'll fire Aces and Eights, then asks about Brooke. Hogan cautions him saying "now, now..."
Match #2 - Robbie E vs. Robbie T
E gets a mic and calls T's win at Lockdown a fluke. T just dominates this one and actually draws a "feed me more" chant at one point. He picks up the win then Terry does his dance routine.
Straightforward plow-through by Terry. There was a bit of a botch going into his finisher but it was simple storytelling.
They show Sting entering Hulk's locker room.
Bully complains about the lack of Aces merch at the stands. He tells DOC to open up a TNA book, and they'll pick the person to pay the price tonight by the first person they see.
In Hogan's office, Hogan stands up and tosses the crutches away. He says Sting led everyone down the wrong path that Bully is a good guy. Hogan says he told Sting all along that Ray is rotten to the core. Sting begs Hogan to not fire Aces, especially Bully. Sting says "we" need that tonight. Hogan barks out that there is no "we" anymore. He says he knows how this movie ends and rambles a bit before throwing Sting out. Hogan mutters that Sting makes him sick.
They recap the various AJ Styles video packages, then Tenay hypes up his return for after the break.
Austin Aries and Bobby Roode taunt Sting for falling for Bully's antics. They were both wearing "dirty heels" t-shirts. Sting says he wants to fight one of them. Roode sneaks off and Sting is left with Aries. He tells Aries he's going to fight him.
If you're paying attention to TNA's website, Aces has taken it over. All the front-page stories and merch plugs are Aces related.
Christy Hemme introduces AJ Styles. His music plays, but he doesn't come out to the ring. The music changes and here comes Daniels and Kazarian, spoofing the Road Warriors look. Daniels is Hawk, Kaz is Animal.
Kaz says this isn't the first time Styles has disappointed. He calls it Throwback Thursday and they're paying homage to the second best tag team in wrestling. Daniels says that legion of the past were fake tough guys like AJ and the fans. Daniels calls him and Kaz the original ring warriors and Legion of Boom. "Oh what a tush!" Daniels closes and tells the crowd they can worship them now.
James Storm's music hits. He says the team they're mocking is a little bigger, stronger and a lot more over than they'll ever be. "Unlike you two douchebags, they're actually from Chicago." Storm says he will let Daniels and Kaz decide which one will get their ass kicked tonight. He uses the ropes to pull Daniels in and we're underway.
Match #3 - Christopher Daniels vs. James Storm
Storm uses the Backstabber to win this one. Afterward, Daniels and Kaz team up on Storm. AJ Styles comes out and punches Daniels. Daniels rolls out and Styles glares at the two of them. Storm stands by Styles, but then takes a clothesline from Styles.
Daniels and Kaz had a good look, but the mic work wasn't their best work. They delivered on the AJ Styles return, but they didn't give away too much on the first night.
They show footage from Wes Brisco beating Kurt Angle with D'Lo Brown's help.
Kurt Angle gets taunted by Wes Brisco about losing. The rest of Aces jump Kurt and leave him laying. "All too familiar...dammit, not again." Tenay says.
This really didn't pack much energy here.
Keneley runs down the upcoming live-event dates and they show it on the screen. They run through highlights of the Styles segment.
Joseph Park comes out wearing a suit. The announcers talk about members of Park's law firm being in the crowd. Park talks about winning matches at Lockdown and over in the UK. He talks about the best moment of his life graduating law school at the top of his class and the second being made a partner at Park, Park and Park.
Park waves to the upper deck fans like they're employees of the firm. He apologizes for their seats and says he doesn't have clout yet. He talks about growing up in Chicago and watching Cubs games. The White Sox fans don't like that. Park switches gears to the Blackhawks after an apology and that draws a big cheer. He says he can't wait for the next step in his TNA career.
Matt Morgan's music hits and he comes out in street clothes. Morgan addresses Hogan and says that to say Hogan has made repeated mistakes is an understatement. He says there's been no bigger mistake than "this walking joke in front of me right now."
Morgan says that Hogan signed Park to a deal is an abortion in the sport of pro wrestling. Morgan vows to eliminate Hogan's mistakes, starting with Park. Morgan asks Park that unless he wants his teeth knocked down his throat, he should get the hell out of Morgan's ring right now.
Park goes to leave and Morgan calls him fat boy and tells him to leave Chicago and never come back. Park stops and tells Morgan that they don't back down from a fight in Chicago. Park tells Morgan that if he wants a fight they should do it right now. The fans roar approval.
Morgan says they do things on his time, and teases an exit. He turns around and hits the Carbon Footprint on Park and says 'my time is next week.'
A bit of a clumsy spot with the Footprint, but the segment was actually good with Park getting a strong "hometown" reaction and Morgan getting heat for railing on the city.
Bully tells the rest of the gang that it felt good to take out a gold medalist. He asks if Hogan will fire them. "Do something, Hulk, fire us if you have the balls." Ray says if Hogan won't come to them, they will go to him. Ray tells Hogan to not think the won't destroy the show. He ponders that as a good idea and they leave the room.
They recap the Hogan and Ray drama. They show Brooke crying and asking why people take advantage of her. Taz wonders why Brooke isn't happy for her husband.
Match #4 - Austin Aries (w/Bobby Roode) vs. Sting
Roode and Aries have their Dirty Heels shirts on still. They were looking for cheers over boos with the way they played the crowd. Sting gets a huge pop. The announcers tell us it's our main event of the night.
Dueling chants for both men. Sting gets the early advantage but Aries eludes a Stinger Splash. Roode gets involved and Sting roughs him up. He hits a Stinger Splash on the guardrail. Aries jumps off the rope for a splash but takes Roode out instead. Sting soaks up the ovation.
Sting comes off as such a big deal outside of Orlando. The fans like him in Orlando, but the fans who don't get to see him regularly just go nuts for him.
The official throws out Roode after commercial. Aries gets control as the dueling chants start again. Aries hits a second rope dropkick and gets a two-count.
Aries is frustrated and Sting starts his comeback. Aries bumps all over. Sting tries to lock on the Scorpion Leg Lock but Aries slides away. He follows with a top-rope clothesline then a missile dropkick. Aries does his best Sting impersonation as Sting gets back to his feet.
Aries battles back with a corner dropkick. Sting hits the Scorpion Death Drop that Aries kicks out of. Sting hits the Stinger Splash and locks on the Scorpion Leg Lock. Aces and Eights hits the ring and attacks Sting. Aries slips out and leaves.
Ray has the gang hold Sting. "I used you," he says, then calls for Hogan to come out. "Where's everyone's hero,...where are you, Dad?" They go to break with Ray taunting Hogan.
Aries could have done more to stop the cheering and be an all-out heel but he seems content where he is at the moment. He got a good match out of Sting though. I could have done without the no-contest finish though; let the match finish and then have Aces come out.
Afterward, Ray keeps taunting Hogan until Hogan comes out to his "NWO" styled music. Hogan gets a big reaction. He says that firing Ray would be the easy way out. Hogan tells Ray every dog has his day, and it might not be today or tomorrow. Live by the sword, die by the sword.
Hogan says he's empowering every man and woman in the TNA locker room to band together to eliminate Aces and Eights. Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, Magnus, Samoa Joe, Joseph Park, Chavo Guerrero, Hernandez, and Rob Terry all hit the ring to brawl with Aces.
Aces gets the better of the brawl in the end. Ray gets a mic and asks if this is what "dad" meant by something memorable. "How's this for something memorable, you old bastard." Ray asks. He whips the various members of the TNA team with his chain while Hogan watches on.
Ray heads up the ramp toward Hogan and tells him that his cavalry got killed by Aces and Eights. "What are you going to do now, Dad?" Hogan left his crutches and takes a couple steps toward Ray, who is joined by D'Lo and Devon. That's where the show ends.
Tonight's plan was obviously to get heat and build up Aces and Ray. They did that and they clearly also wanted to put Hogan in the middle of this feud, which they also did. Ray did a solid job holding up his end of the bargain, but I can't help but feel like the rest of the Aces guys are simply henchmen with little meaning.
I am confused why we got nothing from Jeff Hardy tonight, seeing as he was the guy that Ray beat on Sunday for the title. That seemed to be a big gap to me. We also got no reaction from Brooke Hogan either - someone who has been a big part of the story thus far. Odd those two were silent players tonight.
One BIG thing to point out is how major league TNA looked tonight. The building looked good, and being in front of the live crowd helped enhance what they're doing. The company felt big, the wrestlers felt big. It all seemed way more important than being inside the iMPACT Zone every week.
Join me next week for more iMPACT coverage here on Ring-Rap.com.