Hello and welcome to my recap of
TNA Impact Wrestling’s PPV live event Bell to Bell. This is the first edition of this pay p–er-, li—, event and it seems loosely centered around the theme of long term grudges being settled. It’s kind of funny. In the past six months or so since Impact Wrestling’s been temporarily (?) out of the pay per view business, they’ve actually done a better job of building up big time matches than they were at times when they were actually expecting people to pay for them.
I’m a relatively new fan of this promotion. I started watching regularly in the Summer of 2013, at the tail end of the ill fated Hogan era (I did order one or two of the shows during the early weekly PPV era) and at the beginning of the slow mass roster exodus. Sometimes, I think this is a similar experience as to what it would have been life for someone who started following WCW in the Summer of 1999.
However, after all of the budget cuts, roster cuts, and network changes, Impact Wrestling’s survived and arguably thrived. I think the show is a lot more interesting now than it was a year ago. While the show has more than its fair share of faults (way, way too many stables and they really really like doing the “evil heels want control of the company” storyline way too much), it does feel like a legitimate alternative to WWE. It’s a point that the new voice of TNA Josh Matthews is almost too eager to boast about. They’re not afraid to spill a little blood or upset the kiddies. They proudly (over)use the words “pro wrestling” and title belts. Their storylines are basic but generally, reasonably well told. Even their event names aren’t particularly flashy!
Impact Wrestling Bell to Bell
April 3rd, 2015 (Taped March 14th, 2015)
From The Impact Zone in Orlando, Florida
Announcers: Josh Matthews & Tazz
Opening video package hypes our card for the evening, using footage of past events and cartoonish caricatures of the wrestlers participating on the card. Nothing gets me hype like some big headed illustrations.
Josh Matthews & Tazz welcome us to the show. They’re calling it live from TNA Headquarters in Nashville. This is one new innovation of TNA’s that I don’t really get. I get why Tazz & Josh are calling these shows live (?) to give some freshness to weeks old shows but do we really have to cut to shots of them hanging out in the sort of low rent looking studios in the middle of matches?
Submission Match: Eric Young Vs Bobby Roode
I’ve never really been a EY fan until the last few months. I didn’t dislike him but he just seemed like the TNA equivalent of the lifelong midcarders in WCW who got big pushes in the last few months of the company just because they were one of the last remaining options. And of course, there was the absurdity of his TNA World Title run in the Spring of ’14 which seemed solely designed to cash in on Daniel Bryan’s popularity in WWE. However, since he lost the title and especially since he turned heel in January, he’s shown that he definitely deserves a big spot in the company. He’s taken all of the eccentricities that made him a prominent wacky babyface, subverted them, and transformed himself into a raging psychopath. Kind of like Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love. Which Tazz actually broke down in a pretty good diatribe about how EY isn’t a monster, he’s been a weird dude all along and is just showing his true colors.
As for this match, I thought it was pretty good although it was kind of telegraphed in the duelling promos for the match. Consistently throughout their feud, Roode has proven himself to be the superior wrestler but EY just keeps charging at him. Tonight, Roode dominated most of the match but got caught up with a knee injury and an ill timed referee bump leads to Eric Young winning with a loaded figure four. B. I was fine with that ending. Roode really showed he was the superior wrestler throughout the feud but EY showed he could hang and picked up a cheap victory to close it out. Also I’m pretty sure that it’s going to lead to a Roode heel turn anyway since Josh Matthews kept questioning when Roode will stop having to fight the system.
Lashley & Angle are in the building!
Should be noted that TNA keeps hyping their new Sting DVD set throughout the show. Now I find it odd that TNA hasn’t released a Best Of DVD set in years and now they release a Sting DVD the very same week that he makes his WrestleMania debut. TNA, I’m not mad…I’m just disappointed. Although I guess props to them for striking while the iron’s hot, I guess!
TNA Tag Team Champs The Wolves comes out before the match for an in ring promo with Jeremy Borash. Eddie Edwards is on crutches. He won’t be able to compete for a long time. He fractured his foot almost in half. JB asks Davey Richards if he has a replacement in mind but Davey says that Wolves fight in packs and not alone. The Wolves are vacating the titles but vow that they will get them back once Eddie’s 100% healthy.
Angelina Love Vs Gail Kim
Angelina Love cuts a short promo before the rematch, reminding us that she’s a six time Knockouts Champion and claims that she’s a greater Knockout than Gail. This is a match to reestablish Angelina as a serious women’s wrestler after she’s spent the last few months goofing it up with the BroMans. Not too serious of a threat though as Gail gets the win with the Eat Defeat. There was a weird spot here where Gail flew off the top and I think Angelina was supposed to catch with her a powerbomb but it didn’t quite workout and it confused the announcers. Surprised that they didn’t just edit it out. Anyway, match was better than I expected but not one of the best recent Knockouts encounters. I like that they’re establishing the Knockouts division outside of Champ Taryn Terrell and challenger Awesome King. Also more Knockouts are on their way so hopefully, the division can become one of the strongpoints of the company again. B-
After the match, we get a goofy crossover where the cast of the Destination America series Ghost Asylum inspect James Storm’s barn to find out if it’s haunted. OK, I’ll give them an A for Effort and a C- for execution. I like that they tried to tie in a current storyline with a blatant plug for another show on the network but the way the ghost hunters guys kind of shrugged at Storm just made him look goofy. We’ll see next week if James Storm’s barn really IS haunted. Oh great. A two part lame crossover.
We get a video package hyping the intense feud between Magnus & Bram that’s led to a Falls Count Anywhere match tonight.
Falls Count Anywhere Match: Magnus Vs Bram
For those of you who haven’t watched TNA in the past year (most of you?), Bram is one of the most notable newcomers to the roster. He’s a former NXT star (and original member of The Ascension) who was released from WWE in 2012 after being arrested for assaulting a police officer. He’s also the husband of NXT star Charlotte (and thus, he’s also the son in law of Ric Flair. WOO!) That unsavory past makes him one of the few guys in current pro wrestling who seems legit crazy. Bray Wyatt does a great job of acting crazy but Bram looks legit unsettled.
He’s been feuding the past several months with the man who brought him into TNA, his kayfabe childhood friend Magnus. Magnus is now just recovering from his disastrous TNA World Title run last year, which may have been the worst World Title run in TNA history. Which is really saying something. This is the kind of feud that can be mutually beneficial to both parties. Going against a former World Champ (no matter how hard they’ve fallen down the card) is a boost for a newcomer like Bram and going against a newcomer on a hot streak is a boost for Magnus’ stagnant career.
Unfortunately, this match didn’t quite 100% work for me. There was a surprising lack of intensity here for a No DQ match between two guys in a blood feud. Bram the character is almost there but Bram the worker seems like he has a bit to go. I was also disappointed at the lack of the use of the Falls Count Anywhere stipulation. They fought a bit around ringside and used some chairs & ring steps but that was pretty much it. They didn’t even make a single pin attempt outside the ring. I don’t think there’s any reason why they shouldn’t have gone all over the building. Normally, a reason would be you don’t want to piss off the fans that paid hard earned money who can’t see most of the match. But the crowd here is 500 theme park goers who are here for free! Fight out to the parking lot. Who cares?
Anyway, match picks up towards the end when Magnus’ baby mama Mickie James runs down. She almost gets attacked by Bram but gets saved by evil cult leader James Storm, of all people. James Storm tells Bram to cool it and allows Mickie to get away. Magnus gets the win with two powerbombs and a Spineshaker. C+
Jeremy Borash talks to TNA World Champion “Crazy Old Man” Kurt Angle. Lashley was Angle’s toughest damn opponent of his damn life and winning the TNA World Title again after three and a half years of not having it was the proudest damn moment of his career so far. It’s real, it’s damn real.
Magnus & Mickie James walk to the back. Magnus spots James Storm and asks him what the hell he was doing out there. James Storm says he was just helping out his old friend while Magnus sulks. It should be noted that James Storm uses his normal speaking tone in this segment instead of his evil cult leader ranting voice. Color me intrigued. I can get behind the idea of a Magnus-James Storm feud.
We get a video package for Kurt Angle Vs Bobby Lashley, highlighting their match two weeks ago on Impact from Wembley Arena in London.
Kurt Angle & Bobby Lashley get boxing style entrances as we follow them from their locker rooms to the ring. One thing that TNA has done especially well since moving to Destination America is making their main events feel big time. The boxing style entrances, the footage of the combatants training, the way they edit their video packages. Like I said…they’ve done a better job of selling their matches now that they’re not doing live pay per views for the time being than they did when they were actually literally trying to sell their matches!
TNA World Heavyweight Title Match: Kurt Angle (c) Vs Lashley
I’m still not sure if I’m into the idea of Angle as a World Champion in 2015. Angle’s high up there on my list of favorite wrestlers but he’s 46 years old with an extensive injury history. For me, it’d make a lot more sense to have Angle as a once or twice a year special attraction in the ring rather than a World Champion. They’re not even portraying his World Title run as a George Foreman in ’94-esque “One Last Run”. We’re supposed to believe Kurt Angle is as good as he ever was.
You know what though? Even 46 year old, banged up Kurt Angle is still a damn solid worker and arguably, one of the best on the roster. Workrate wise, this isn’t like when Hogan got the WWE Title in ’02. Angle can still bring it and this match with Lashley was one of the best matches of the year so far in TNA.
A lot of people who are out of the loop with TNA might scoff at Lashley being a main eventer and think “Typical TNA…showcasing a marginal WWE main eventer from ten years ago”. But hear me out, Lashley has gotten good. He had one of the most inexplicable comeback years ever in 2014. During his mid ’00s WWE run, I always thought of him as a guy who physically had almost all the tools to be a mega star but had virtually no charisma. Well, something clicked in the past year and Lashley made his weakness into one of his strengths, transforming his character into a stoic, dead eyed ruthless machine.
I really dug this match with Lashley relentlessly tearing apart Angle but Angle surviving by using his vast ring smarts. One thing that hurt this match is that Impact Zone crowd. This match had a big time feel but unfortunately, did not have a big time audience. Financially, I understand why TNA films here but the place is where crowd heat goes to die. It seems like there’s a few dozen hardcore fans and 500 bored tourists which is not a conducive atmosphere for a huge Heavyweight Title match.
Another thing that really hurt the match was the weak finish with Kurt Angle rolling up Bobby Lashley while Lashley obviously had his shoulder off the mat the entire time. I know TNA was trying to go for the controversial finish but it just looked dumb. Brian Hebner was almost purposely moving himself to get as out of position as possible for the ending. Anyway, it was a really good match but hard to compare to their encounter two weeks ago because of the superweak crowd and finish. I’ll say B+
Overall, I dug the presentation of the show with the focus on in-ring action. It was basic, no frills without any long promos (outside of the Wolves vacating the TNA Tag Titles) and kind of let the action speak for itself. While the Magnus-Bram match was a bit of a letdown, I think every segment had its merits—with the exception of the goofy Ghost Asylum. Booking was a mixed bag but the wrestling itself was generally solid. I’ll give this show overall a B
Next Week: Kurt Angle defends his TNA World Title in a Triple Threat Match against Eric Young and Lashley! Plus it’s a live interactive episode of Impact Wrestling where Josh & Tazz will read your tweets live on the air. Yeah, I can’t see how that could go wrong.