Bully Ray came out last week and began to establish himself as the leader of Aces and Eights. After the shocking reveal at Lockdown, he is making himself known as a threat and has clearly made Hulk Hogan his target. He wants to destroy TNA.
But what of his Lockdown opponent, Jeff Hardy? When will Jeff step up and challenge in a rematch for the title? Or will someone try to take Jeff's spot away?
We get a video package that TNA had released earlier. The announcers check in and Hulk Hogan makes his way to the ring. Hogan says Aces and Eights fooled everyone. He says when the TNA guys got beaten down, he realized he is now in a war. Hogan says there are four men who led the charge and that's Samoa Joe, Magnus, Kurt Angle and Jeff Hardy. The four come out to some generic music.
Hogan says he needs these four guys to take out Aces and Eights and get the title back. He asks Jeff Hardy if he's ready for his rematch. Hardy says he's beat up but he wants the title Bully stole back. He wants to prove he's the best by winning a four-way with the men in the ring to get that title shot. Hogan agrees and books it.
OK, that's just absolutely stupid. Hardy has the automatic rematch but he's putting it on the line?
Bully Ray explains Plan A. Plan A was to win Bound for Glory and the title. He points out that Aces and Eights started to show up that night too. He talks about how they made James Storm appear to be the leader of the group to provide a cover and throw people off. This provided cover for Bully. He then takes credit for manipulating Bobby Roode in his match with Storm, too.
He gives Hogan credit for locking out Aces at Bound for Glory, and puts over Jeff Hardy for being tougher than he thought. He says his plan A got derailed, but Hogan brought him a plan B.
So far, we're getting some logical explanation. There's going to be some hard holes to fill though...
Match #1 - Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez vs. Austin Aries and Bobby Roode (c); TNA Tag Team Championship
Chavo and Hernandez come out while they recap the beatdown the former champs took from Aces last week.
Chavo starts with Roode. Hernandez gets a quick tag and goes to work but he gets cut off by Aries from behind. The heels take control for a bit. Hernandez counters a double suplex and hot tags Chavo. Chavo hits two dropkicks before they go to commercial.
This crowd is tired from sitting through two shows. They were up for the opening segment but they're not reacting at all to this match.
After commercial, the heels work Chavo out on the floor. Hernandez gets a hot tag and takes them both out. He backs down the ramp then hits a dive onto both men in the ring. The fans pop just a little for that.
Hernandez tags in Chavo and then picks Aries up for a double team move. Aries counters with a headscissors that sends Hernandez to the floor.
Chavo loads up the Eddie Offense, hitting Three Amigos and calls for the frog splash. Kazarian comes out and distracts the official and Daniels shoves Chavo off the ropes. Aries rolls Chavo up for the win, complete with a grab of the tights.
Afterward, Bad Influence attacks the champs and leaves them laying.
The fans finally perked for this by the end. We saw the heel vs. heel feud coming, so no surprise what went down there.
We get a video package that highlights the rules changes in the X-Division. Now, no one in the division is over 230 pounds and all the matches will be triple threat matches, even championship matches.
Kenny King is shown backstage, and he complains for a minute about the rules. He says he needs energy - 5 hour Energy to be exact. Little product plug there. He's up next.
The rule changes are a bit of old and a bit of new. Wasn't the rule at one time no one over 225 pounds? But anyhow, the "all triple threat" rule could be interesting and lead to some fun matches. We'll see how that goes.
Match #2 - Sonjay Dutt vs. Zema Ion vs. Kenny King (c); TNA X-Division Championship
The action is fast in this one. The fans like Sonjay in this one. The finish comes when Dutt goes for a moonsault and hits it, but Kenny King hits him with the blockbuster to get the win.
That was a fun match. I don't quite get why Tenay said "Dutt is eliminated from contention..." though. Does that mean Ion gets another shot since he wasn't in this finish? That might make for some interesting storytelling.
Brooke Hogan shows up and refuses to answer family questions. She says she's there simply to conduct business as the head of the Knockouts Division.
We get another Bully Ray video. He explains Plan B now. He talks about kidnapping Joseph Park and says when he shook Hogan's hand, he knew he had Hogan where he wanted him. He took the loss that led to the gang getting access to the iMPACT Zone by taking the table spot. He says he then went after Brooke as the prize, but got caught. He admits to knowing how Hogan would react and it actually worked in his favor when Brooke rebelled against Hulk.
That table spot was possibly a big hole to fill. They glossed it, but it's not that big of a deal. How they explain the wedding attack will be important given the nature of that attack. They're not doing a bad job though.
Sting enters Hogan's office and asks for Bully in the ring again. Hogan tells Sting to disappear into the rafters. Sting says last week was about apologies, but this is about revenge. Sting tells Hogan he wants Bully, and Hulk mumbles Sting isn't the only one.
We get a video recap of the tension between Taryn Terrell and Gail Kim. Terrell comes to the ring and cuts a promo about having to fight back when Gail put her hands on her. She says she's ready to face the consequences of that. Gail comes out in street clothes.
Gail gets a mic and say that Taryn finally learned you don't mess with Gail because she's the greatest Knockout of all time. She says there'd be no Taryn if there weren't Gail. Gail calls for Brooke Hogan to come out and fire Taryn.
Brooke comes out and says this was a tough decision. She admits she loves Taryn but has to do the right thing for business. She terminates Terrell as an official, which makes Gail happy.
Brooke goes on and says she decided to sign Taryn to a Knockouts contract instead so she can get physical with anyone at any time. Terrell hits a spear on Gail and Gail rolls out to the floor to leave. Taryn gives chase.
Brooke watches them fight their way to the back. Bully Ray sneaks in behind her. She turns and sees him and says "I love you" as a question. Ray shows his ring and mockingly says "til death do us part!" She shoves him away and tells him she hates him. Ray mockingly calls "love ya honey!" as Brooke leaves.
Not surprised with what went down with Taryn Terrell. The Ray/Brooke interaction feels like seeds of a Brooke Hogan heel turn to me.
We get another video package from Bully Ray. He explains how everyone in the Aces group was disrespected. A lot of the things were petty - like Garett Bischoff not getting a title shot - but there were also legitimate things also. He reveals himself as the guy who hit Hardy with the hammer. He explains how they manipulated Wes Brisco into his contract. Ray says it was at that point it was time to pull the trigger on the final part of their plan.
They blew right past a lot of the main holes. Not surprising, but is disappointing. For the casual fan, they'll probably not care too much but not everyone will be able to look past the plot holes.
Backstage, Kurt Angle gives himself a pep talk.
Match #3 - Joseph Park vs. Matt Morgan
Morgan punks Park and makes him flinch. He shoves Park, but Park shoves back. Morgan throws a hand and begins pounding on Park and insulting him at the same time. Morgan teases the Carbon Footprint, but Park moves and Morgan gets tied up.
Park hulks up and starts a run, but when he goes for the second rope splash Morgan moves. Morgan hits the Carbon Footprint for the win.
They needed to do a little more with this in terms of Morgan claiming to "fix Hogan's mistakes." The announce team pointed it out, but they needed it from Morgan.
We get a video package that recaps the AJ Styles return and hype for his interview with Mike Tenay up next.
AJ Styles Interview
Tenay comes to the ring and recaps the recent history with AJ. Styles comes out and Tenay asks for an explanation. Styles says nothing. Taz interrupts as Tenay starts asking about drugs and alcohol. Taz offers Styles a "prospect cut" and replacing his moped.
James Storm comes out and cuts Taz off. Styles wouldn't turn around to face Storm though, and Storm calls him on it. He asks if this is a "new AJ Styles." He says the old Styles would speak his mind. Storm says this might be a new AJ, but he is the same old James Storm. He gets in AJ's face and says he could sucker punch him again, but Storm would cram his teeth down his throat. Styles backs off and Storm asks where he's going.
As a whole, the segment was good, but Storm was a bit disjointed here.
We get another video of Bully weaseling into Hogan's life. They finally address the wedding attack. Ray says it was only a visual that he got hit with the pillar, but it didn't really happen. He says everyone has to take a beating every once in a while. He says he knew that if he took one in front of Hogan he would be "in" and he was right. He reiterates that he fooled everyone for nine months. He is Bully Ray, and he's the president of Aces and Eights.
Well, they finally got there with a wedding explanation. Wasn't a real good one, though. Overall a good enough job for most fans, but there's still some flimsy logic in there for those who are more intent on following the product.
Match #4 - Samoa Joe vs. Magnus vs. Kurt Angle vs. Jeff Hardy; Number One Contender's match for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship
Early in this one, Joe hits a big dive on the other three men as they go to break. Out of commercial, Magnus catches Hardy off the rope and pushes him into a suplex. He gets two out of it. Magnus works Hardy and the crowd is chanting for Angle and Joe who are at ringside. Odd...and kind of funny.
Joe crashes into the ring. Magnus hits a driver and turns his attention back to Hardy. Hardy begins a comeback by hitting the other three guys with the Twist of Fate. He goes up top, but Magnus throws a punch and knocks him off. Hardy crashes hard. Angle takes out Magnus then locks Joe in the Ankle Lock. Joe powers his way out, and Hardy hits Angle with the Swanton to win.
An "okay" match, but the finish was very creative and hot. I still can't get the reason for this match. Hardy ended his night where he started - the guy with the title shot. No dissension was teased, so there wasn't any reason to employ the "Team TNA" storyline here either. Odd.
Overall, it was a good show but you could tell the crowd was a bit tired. The video packages they used to explain the Aces storyline issues were good, but there's still big holes for the discerning fan.
Going forward, TNA really needs to make sure they're delivering on the story. That always is a worry and we've seen it with other wrestling factions. They always seem to stall out. Let's see if they have a good long-term plan which includes the exit strategy of Aces and Eights.
Join me again next Thursday for more live iMPACT Coverage.