We’re two weeks into reign of Anthem Sports as the new owners of TNA (is it still called that?), with many proclaiming no difference from the Dixie Carter regime creatively. Although to be fair, a slow turn of the ship is probably better. In the past, when WCW or even TNA at various points did an abrupt reboot, it was generally met with a public outcry and lack of respect. While a majority may have applauded the change this time around (or at least a soft reboot), tweaking the positive and slowly phasing out the bad is probably the best way to transition something. Let’s see if the second episode of Impact Wrestling in the Anthem Era continues a slow turn or cranks the wheel with a little more ooomph.
The Hardys open with a challenge to the American Wolves, Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards, who reunited last week on Impact Wrestling after Richards’ lengthy absence. They challenge them fight tonight as the Hardys must prove they are the Greatest Tag Team of All Space and Time.
In-Ring Segment: Ethan Carter III
EC3 starts off in the middle of the ring, holding a steel chair, a nod to the chair Richards used to knock him out so Edwards could retain the World Championship. It was unintentional (Richards was swinging for Bobby Lashley), but either way, EC3 is pissed. He challenges the Wolves to come out and explain themselves, but instead, Lashley’s music hits.
Lashley runs down EC3 for not using the steel chair he gave Carter last week at One Night Only to get the win. But he needs to eliminate EC3 if he’s to get to World Champion Eddie Edwards. So he challenges EC3 to a Last Man Standing Match tonight for the #1 contendership to face Eddie Edwards for the World title.
EC3 accepts but says it won’t be later tonight. It’ll be right freakin’ NOW!
The two got at it in a street fight, before officials pull them apart and separate the two, sending EC3 up the ramp and Lashley screaming in the ring.
Deep Impact: EC3 was arguably one of the best heel wrestlers in the world a year ago – between his TNA work and his short invasion in Evolve – but his face turn feels forced. He’s a natural heel and his face work always feel contrived. In many ways, he’s like Randy Orton that way. Lashley is a natural face, with that babyface face, and his antagonistic attempts always fall flat for me. I’m sure the match will be solid enough, but it would be enhanced greatly if the alignments were on the other card, so to speak. Either way, a huge match-up.
Back from commercial break and Lashley is in the ring with the steel chair. Apparently, during the break, management approved the match and it’s under way now!
First Match: Ethan Carter III vs Bobby Lashley in a Last Man Standing Match
Carter explodes onto Lashley quickly, landing a chair shot and a top rope missile dropkick, sending Lashley to the floor. Carter chases him out, but Lashley possums him and slams him into the guard rails.
The two beat on each other back and forth for several minutes, until EC3 drags a table from under the ring, chasing Lashley up the ramp.
Back from the break and the two are still beating each other. Lashley lands a spear and EC3 barely stands up from the count before he’s speared a second time by Lashley. As EC3 lays in the ring, Lashley grabs a table from the floor and positions it in the corner of the ring. He returns to a struggling Carter, trying to get to his feet.
EC3 attempts to fight back, but Lashley lands a vicious spinebuster, then props Carter on the table. He attempts to spear EC3 but Carter moves out the way and lands the 1% on Lashley, then spears Lashley through the table.
With both men down, the referee starts to count.
Carter makes it to his feet at 8, and Lashley rolls out the ring and lands on his feet at 9. EC3 follows Lashley out and uses the steel chair on Lashley, smashing him down to the floor.
Lashley climbs the stairs on the 8 count, pulling himself up to the ring apron, with EC3 stalking him. EC3 puts Lashley in a sleeper hold, but Lashley throws himself off the ring, crashing both men through another table set up on the ground.
Lashley gets up at 8, but Carter fails to beat the 10 count. Lashley is the new #1 Contender for the Impact World Champion.
Backstage, we see a hand putting on a large gem ring. Who could it be?
Deep Impact: The match took a bit to get going – it wasn’t bad, but it was the same slugfest we see with every match like this. It picked up steam at the end with some nice spots and moments. Makes sense to have a villain like Lashley face Edwards. Chances are the Wolves will be entering the Tag Team division for a bit, so having Carter chase Lashley for the World title is probably a good way to get your main stars back in the main event for the new owners.
Backstage Segment: Eli Drake & Tyrus
Backstage, Eli Drake and the perpetual bodyguard Tyrus are holding an Impact employee hostage, making him read a statement that Drake was going to be causing havoc because they cancelled his talk show. Upon finishing the statement, Drake pummels the employee mercilessly, while Tyrus holds people back. When Drake is done, they both leave.
In Ring Segment: Aron Rex’s New Character
In the ring, Rockstar Spud is in the ring, wearing a flashy valet outfit, and introduces the Sultan of Showmanship. Damian Sandow‘s “Intellectual Saviour” intro briefly hits before a new theme stars and Aron Rex (the former Sandow) emerges, wearing a white fur coat, wearing eyeliner and lipgloss and a multitude of gem rings, like a cross between Adam Rose and Gorgeous George.
Rex takes the mic and and states that he just had an epiphany. That no one pays to see him wrestle, they pay to meet and see him. So this is what they get.
Rex is interrupted by Robbie E. who questions what we’re supposed to be looking at. He then berates Spud for losing to Maxel Hardy and Hornswoggle. He attacks Spud, but is soon taken down by Rex. Spud joins in and the two lay a beat down, with Rex using his ringed fist like brass knuckles.
After the beatdown, Rex puts back on the fur coat and they leave Robbie in the ring.
We get a vignette from the DCC, where James Storm, Bram and Eddie Kingston call out the Decay. They are sick of being told they don’t look right or talk right or act right. “The Devil whispered in my ear, ‘You can’t handle the storm,'” James Storm said. “I whispered in his, “I AM the Storm.”
Deep Impact: So Aaron Stevens has been in Impact for about four months now and he’s had three gimmicks. And you thought the WWE had no idea what to do with him? This Adorable Adrian Adonis Lite gimmick seems a little dated (not to mention a tad offensive in today’s atmosphere), but it looks like Anthem wants to see Rex be more of a character than a “real guy”. Which is probably a smart move (even if the character is not), as his “real talk” face then heel just wasn’t working. The DCC have emerged as a pleasant surprise. Storm is an Icon in the world of TNA/Impact and is showing a bit more passion that his last few months in the company and Bram always had the tools. Eddie Kingston finally gets a more mainstream platform to display his veteran bad-assery – the question is, how far will they let him go? Either way, it’s a nice faction with some real potential.
Backstage, Allie is checking on her phone, when Maria Kanellis storms through and berates her for wasting her time and not getting her errands done. She tells Allie that her desire to become a wrestler needs to end and her “thing” with Braxton Sutter needs to end. So tonight, Maria’s husband, “The Miracle” Mike Bennett, will take Sutter out.
Second Match: The Decay (Crazzy Steve & Abyss, w/ Knockouts Champion Rosemary) vs. The DCC (Bram & Eddie Kingston w/ James Storm)
Chaos breaks out early, with everyone clearing out everyone. Finally, Kingston rolls Crazzy Steve into the ring and the match begins. Steve gets some early offence, but Kingston stops his momentum and is soon joined by Bram, who lands a double Alabama Slam on Steve.
Kingston drags Steve to his corner and tags in “The Chesterfield Plague” Bram, who continues to beat up on Steve with a few power moves, before quickly tagging Kingston back in. Kingston throws Steve out the ring, where Storm works him over, then rolls him back in to “The Wild Card” Eddie Kingston.
Another quick tag to Bram who goes for a quick powerbomb, but Steve counters and runs over to Abyss for the tag. The Monster Abyss comes in and takes out both Bram and Kingston with lariats. He whips both men into the corner then lands a running pancake on the two DCC members.
With his boys in trouble, James Storm gets up on the ring apron to distract Abyss, while Kingston and Bram roll out the ring. Steve climbs the top rope and lands a leap onto the DCC on the floor.
The bell starts ringing, as the match has been thrown out by the referee. The fighting goes all around the Impact Zone, with Storm, Bram and Abyss fighting to the back, and Kingston and Steve clashing on the ramp.
They cut backstage to Edwards and Richards getting hyped up for the American Wolves reunion.
Deep Impact: That was odd. In the middle of a street fight, they cut backstage to a bromance in the back. The feud is starting off a little slow – not much action and the awkward ending seemed more unfinished than cliffhanger. And after that Wolves bromance segment, scratch that previous statement of the Wolves re-entering the tag division. At least long term. Now it reeks of a Richards vs Edwards jealousy feud in the making.
A quick segment where Brooke Adams announces her return to the Knockouts Division after giving birth to her new child a few months ago.
Third Match: “The Miracle” Mike Bennett (w/ Maria Kanellis) vs. Braxton Sutter
Sutter starts off with the advantage, landing some big shots on Bennett, until Bennett counters with a kick that sends Sutter to the railing on the floor. Bennett attacks some more before rolling him back into the ring and taking the momentum.
Bennett and Sutter trade blows in the middle of the ring, but Sutter slowly regains the advantage, with a series of high impact moves that causes Maria to enter the ring to distract Sutter.
Braxton turns into a Superkick from Bennett, who then hits Sutter with his finisher, the Miracle in Progress, followed by a piledriver. Instead of going for the pin, he turns and kisses Maria at the ring. She yells “One more time!”
Suddenly, Allie comes down and starts yelling at Maria, who tells Allie “Watch! Watch!”
Bennett is beating on Sutter, who suddenly catches Bennett by surprise and rolls up Bennett for the three count. Sutter runs out the ring to Allie, who raises his arms.
Deep Impact: Clearly this is all leading to Allie finally getting into the ring (which we need – Allie is a great wrestler as shown in her work on the indies as Cherry Bomb), but Sutter and Bennett are capable of better. Hopefully these two get a chance to showcase that before the story shifts focus to Maria vs. Allie.
In-Ring Segment: Knockouts Champion Rosemary & Jade
Knockouts Champion Rosemary of the Decay comes to the ring, with no sight of her stablemates. She takes the mic to issue her challenge to Jade. These two put on a great match inside a steel cage a few weeks back. They’ve been an unheralded feud in women’s wrestling, overshadowed in the mainstream by Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks over in WWE.
Rosemary opens a challenge to not just Jade but the entire Knockouts division that they will all “Decay! Decay! Decay!”
Out comes Jade, who tells Rosemary that their feud is just starting. She tells Rosemary that she only won because of her mist and she’s not leaving until she gets her rematch for the Knockouts title.
Rosemary grants her her “death wish”, but first she must accept the Decay’s invitation to a Monster’s Ball.
Jade accepts and the two immediately get physical with each other, with Jade landing her package piledriver on Rosemary. Rosemary grabs her title and rolls out of the ring, scrambling up the ramp.
Deep Impact: Two outstanding women’s wrestlers, this has been a great feud so far. Going a bit more extreme than their last cage encounter should be interesting, but neither woman is afraid of getting rough. Rosemary is one of the great characters in wrestling right now. She’s taken elements of other “crazy” characters like Luna Vachon, LuFisto and “Crazy” Mary Dobson and really made them her own.
Fourth Match: Impact World Tag Team Championship Match: The Hardys (Broken Matt Hardy & Jeff Hardy) vs. American Wolves (Impact World Champion Eddie Edwards & Davey Richards)
Wolves comes out first for their first match since January 31 of 2016, when they lost the World Tag Team titles to Beer Money (James Storm and Bobby Roode). The piano of the Hardys music begins and the Tag Team Champions make their way to the ring.
Eddie Edwards starts off, facing across from Broken Matt Hardy. They tie up in the middle of the ring, trading wrist locks, until Edwards works Hardy to their corner where he quickly takes in Richards.
Richards grounds Matt early, who quickly scampers over to tag in Brother Nero, Jeff Hardy. Richards carries the momentum through, before Jeff gets in a brief comeback. Edwards tags in and the Wolves work in tandem and get Hardy down.
As Richards leaves, Jeff forces Edwards to the Hardy corner and Matt tags in and the Hardys work over Edwards. The Broken One takes over on Edwards, but Edwards turns the tide after a failed Stinger splash.
They work back and forth, but the Wolves continue to work Matt in the corner…er..one of the point parts, tagging quickly and often to keep Matt wounded and exhausted on the ground.
Matt catches Richards with a Side Effect slam, winding him, and giving him enough time to tag in a fresh Jeff Hardy. Richards tags in Eddie and the World Champion comes in to face Jeff.
Jeff takes the offensive command in their match-up, before Richards interrupts and the Wolves team up on the Charismatic Enigma. Hardy fights back and attempts a Swanton Bomb on Richards, but gets a set of knees in the back. Edwards comes in but Matt Hardy comes in to fight him off.
The four men trade moves, with Matt landing the Twist of Fate on Richards, followed by a Swanton Bomb from Jeff, but Edwards gets in to break up the count.
The Hardys turn their attention on Edwards, but Richards gets Matt out the ring and the two Wolves beat on Jeff. Edwards goes to work on Matt outside the ring and Richards turns to call Eddie back to the ring.
Jeff rolls up a distracted Richards for the three count, and the Hardys retain the Tag Team titles.
Richards is frustrated that Eddie didn’t heed his call, as we go off the air.
Deep Impact: The main event was much like all the previous matches. They featured some solid talents, but the matches ended just a little flat. It’s understandable not to give everything away in the first few encounters, but considering the names involved – especially in the Tag Team title match – a little more pizzazz would whet the appetite. Still, at the end of the day, some solid feuds moved on – Rosemary vs Jade, Bennett vs Sutter, Lashley vs EC3, Decay vs DCC, Drake unleashes a more vicious moment in his silence, and Aron Rexdow gets a new makeover (again). The Anthem Era Impact Wrestling is starting to turn this ship around but it’s not exactly at a blazing speed. But hey, at least they’re avoiding the iceberg.