Sunday 21 July 2013

Destination X 2013 review

Until last year Destination X was one of TNA’s twelve annual pay-per-views. The move to four annual pay-per-views this year has resulted in the event being demoted to the status of TV special. As the name suggests it traditionally focused on the X Division and its competitors. In practice that had been something of a problem for TNA for a few years, thanks to the general inability of the company to keep the X roster sufficiently stocked.

The answer to this, as far as TNA’s concerned, is to bring in outsiders for Destination X. If the sole aim is to put on a decent show featuring X Division matches then that’s a fine answer. But in actually it’s a course of action that overlooks the fact that TNA has to attract an audience for their weekly television show and market pay-per-views.

Bringing in outside talent does not help in these areas. Very few people are going to buy a pay-per-view or tune in to a television special to watch a bunch of guys that they don’t know. The ones that do tune in are going to be disappointed when they watch the next episode of Impact and discover that most of the X Division guys will be appearing.

The answer is obvious: sign new talent to be a part of a rejuvenated X Division. That’s easier said than done, of course. TNA is going through some pretty public financial difficulties right now, which makes signing new talent unlikely.

TNA management have nobody to blame but themselves. Instead of concentrating on big names like Sting and Hogan they should have spent their money on enlarging the roster, allowing them to create their own names. It’s now reached the point where the TNA roster is comprised almost exclusively of men and women who have been with the promotion for years, making fresh matches impossible to come by, which in turn leads to an uninspiring product that uncontracted wrestlers don’t want to be associated with, which means TNA can’t bring in sufficient new talent and so the problem becomes worse.

It’s a vicious circle. Right now it looks like the problems are too far gone to be fixed. TNA should have acted years ago. I hope they survive and can become a worthwhile number two promotion but I can’t see it happening.

Anyway, last Thursday’s Impact was this year’s Destination X. It featured the return of Homicide, Sonjay Dutt, Petey Williams, and Rubix, as well as Boot Camp victor Rockstar Spud. The former Trent Barreta also made his first TNA appearance, wrestling under his real name of Greg Marasciulo.

I’m sure all or most of these wrestlers combined would work for the same amount of money as Sting or Hulk Hogan. They’d be better for the product too. But TNA would rather have the former WCW names, doing the same things they’ve been doing for years and being incapable of offering anything to the future of the company.

The show opened with a shot of the men who would be wrestling in triple threat X Division matches during the night. Chris Sabin was then shown preparing for his main event match with Bully Ray (more on that below) in what appeared to be a bathroom. That’s how you make talent look like stars!

TNA champion Bully Ray kicked the night off with an in-ring promo. It was standard stuff. ‘Calfzilla’ belittled Chris Sabin, said he’d leave with the title, and assured us that Aces and Eights would be destroying the reformed Main Event Mafia very soon. He also referred to himself as the most hated man in wrestling. He’s not at the top of the list but I’d say he’s pretty close.

Bully called out Brooke. She came tottering out and told him that she’s moving on with her life. She brandished the ring she was given by NFL hunk Phil Costa to drive her point home. For those unaware Brooke and Bully are married in TNA storylines and Brooke is engaged in real life to the aforementioned NFL player. This uneasy marring of storyline and real life is a standard move from TNA.

Hogan came out and told Bully that he’d raped and pillaged TNA and his family for long enough. I thought the use of rape was a little strong but it came from the same guy who called Aces and Eights terrorists and pussies at Slammiversary. ‘The Hulkster’ is not the sort of man to tone things down.

Anyway, Hogan said the raping and pillaging is over because enough is enough. Someone needed to remind him that’s not how pro wrestling works: things get sorted in matches, dammit! Luckily Kurt Angle and the MEM were watching things from backstage and took this moment to pipe up. Appearing on the big screen ‘The Cyborg’ told Bully he’d lose the TNA title in a fair fight and there was nothing he could do about it. Powerful stuff, right?

Mike Tenay and JB (who was on commentary because nobody knew where Taz was, which could be a shoot or work considering how chaotic TNA is) hyped the Bully Ray v Chris Sabin main event and then showed Austin Aries victory over Bobby Roode from last year’s show. From there we saw Roode walking down a corridor saying he was going to get his first few points in the BFG series later in the evening.

Gail Kim was shown watching a TV and playing around on her phone. She was live tweeting the show apparently. I’m sure that was a barrel of laughs.

Roode v Aries was the first match of the night. At first I wasn’t keen on Roode, a guy with no ties to the X Division, appearing on the show. But then I remembered two things. First of all, this is TNA and there are for bigger things wrong. Secondly, it was a rematch from the previous year’s show so it made sense.

Yep, he's a good guy again

‘A Double’ played face in a fast, intense bout. They crammed in a bundle of pinfall attempts, signature moves and finishers. It made for a lively match. Aries eventually went over clean with a brainbuster. The crowd were very into him.

Afterwards ‘The It Factor’ lobbed a few chairs about to illustrate his frustration. I think that could be a great gimmick for Roode: the man who takes his losses out on chairs.

Backstage Hernandez and Homicide caught up. Chavo showed up and the conversation stopped. It was super-awks. Homicide wandered off and Chavo told ‘SuperMex’ that they’d face off at next year’s DX as the X and world champions. I think that’s a bit optimistic, and not just because the chances of either man winning a singles belt are slim: there’s every chance TNA won’t be around to promote a Destination X show next year.

Mr Anderson rallied the Aces and Eights troops, asking if everyone knew what they had to do. They did. That’s hardly surprising when Aces’ plan was basically to wander to ringside and watch the main event. This segment existed simply to let viewers know that DOC’s left A&E and TNA.

The first X match of the night was Petey Williams v Homicide v Sonjay Dutt. Because none of the men are regulars on TV Tenay had to resort to referring to an online feud between Dutt and Williams. Had they been under contract that dispute could have been built up with some high quality wrestling matches. I thought that was supposed to “matter” in TNA. Has that slogan outlived its usefulness now?

Petey got hit with a Gringo Killer but Dutt made the save and nailed ‘cide with his moonsault into a double stomp for the victory. The match was pretty cool but nothing special.

After a break Kenny King and Chavo Guerrero were both in the ring awaiting the third man in their match. That was Manik. Formerly Suicide. Formerly TJ Perkins. The Suicide name has been consigned to history and TJP is now wrestling in the same suit under the Manik name. The point of this is known to no one. Perkins would be far more likely to get over if he wasn’t hampered by absurd gimmicks.

This match wasn’t quite as good as the one before it but it did feature a nice spot: Manik applied an Indian death lock on King and hit a Northern Lights suplex on Chavo. After that the commentary team started putting Chavo over as a singles guy, referencing his cruiserweight title wins in WCW and WWE, the last of which occurred in 2007. If TNA did what I suggested and concentrated on building up their own name talent they wouldn’t need to stoop to embarrassingly referencing accomplishments achieved in other companies.

Manik went over with a double underhook into a gutbuster. It was an impressive move. Definitely believable as a finisher.

In the back the MEM had a pep talk. Rampage said he was going to knock somebody out. That’s to show how manly and unpredictable he is, kids.

That was followed by another pep talk, this one being delivered by Hulk Hogan to Chris Sabin. ‘The Hulkster’ said he’d had no idea that the injuries and the setbacks suffered by Sabin had been setups for greatness. Sabin was told to make the fans remember him and bring the world championship back to TNA. Sabin’s one line in this segment was “Thank you.” That told us all we needed to know about who the star was.

The Main Event Mafia came to the ring. Four of them were wearing sunglasses, indoors and at night. They looked like idiots. Rampage Jackson (he of MMA fame) was wearing a T-shirt, army fatigues and a big chain, so he looked out of place. I appreciate what TNA are trying to do resurrecting MEM but they’ve made a mistake by having two headline guys in the group. The focus should be on boosting younger talent. At this point they should embrace the inanity of the faction and bring Scott Steiner back to cut all the promos.

The gang talked about how they’re going to rid TNA of Aces and Eights. I find it hard to care about this programme anymore. It’s been going for a year and hasn’t made a single new star or given us any truly excellent matches. I just want it to end and for a new lead storyline to be thought up.

Mr Anderson appeared on the big screen to say Aces were conserving their energy for a party later in the night. Joe took the mic to say that he and the Mafia were going to head to the back and drink the heels’ beer. And that’s what they did.

The segment ended after all the Mafia members bar Angle were locked in a room with Aces and Eights. Bully and Devon threw Angle into the back of a track and he was driven out of the arena.

The final triple threat match saw Greg Marasciulo beat Rubix and Rockstar Spud. It was a decent enough match, but again it was nothing amazing. Triple threats are hard to pull off for wrestlers. They’re equally hard for audiences to watch when there’s no legitimate reason for them to happen.
A rare appearance for Rockstar Spud. Why they don't use him every week I've no idea
We got a shot of Bully Ray chatting to someone on the phone. He put over how great his plan was and told the mystery person on the other end of the line that Angle was being taken to the location discussed to be made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Hilariously, the next shot was of Angle driving back into the arena without any explanation as to how he’d escaped his predicament. We didn’t see him again until the main event and no mention was made of MEM having been stuck in a room backstage. Presumably Angle let them out. But it is possible they escaped by magic.

Out in the ring knockouts champion Mickie James talked about the great Knockouts division moment she'd had the week before. The footage she had played revealed that she was talking about her singing at a bar and being part of a parade. Until that footage played the fans had been cheering her. They booed her after that.

Mickie talked herself up until Gail Kim came striding out. She told Mickie the only thing people were talking about was her win in a ladder match the week before. Mickie tried to slap Gail but Gail ducked and struck first. They tussled but referees broke them up. Mickie's great as a self-absorbed heel. Gail's promising as a babyface who doesn’t back down.

Backstage Austin Aries told Chris Sabin he was the reason Chris is getting a title shot. Not because of the cash-in clause (more on that below) but because Aries tested him and drove him to improve in their recent match. Acting like a true babyface Austin said he'd be rooting for Sabin. Sabin didn’t say anything. He did not come across as a star.

Borash did the in-ring introductions for the main event. If TNA want to save themselves some dosh they should release JB. Don't feel sorry for him. He could get work on a shopping channel, no trouble.

So… this match came about because Chris Sabin was the X Division champion. A ruling was introduced last year that allows X Division champions to turn in their title for a shot at the world championship. This process has been referred to several times as “cashing in”, which makes the obvious Money in the Bank rip-off even more obvious.

Nabbing the MITB concept is not, in and of itself, a bad idea. The trouble is that it’s just one of many instances of TNA emulating WWE as opposed to trying to forge their own identity and creating fresh ideas. It also serves to devalue the X Division championship. The belt now comes across as trinket that’s traded throughout the year in order to get a more important prize come July. As the X Division is the one thing that sets TNA apart from WWE that’s a real problem.

For the first several minutes of the match champion and challenger exchanged strikes, kicks and chops. Sabin pelted Bully’s ribs while Bully targeted Sabin’s knees, which had been the cause of him missing two years of action. It was a sensible story to tell.

Sabin rolled out on to the entrance ramp after a particularly vicious elbow was driven into his knee. Aces and Eight sauntered out on to the ramp which predictably brought out the Main Event Mafia. The two gangs surrounded the ring as Sabin was chucked back in by Bully.

Bully continued focusing on Sabin's knees, stopping occasionally to shout at the MEM. Bully tugged down Sabin's knee pad for extra damage (whadda heel!). The crowd started a "Bully sucks!" chant as the champ mocked Hulk Hogan's ear cupping pose but it quickly petered out when Sabin showed no signs of making a valiant comeback. He’d tried a few times but got put down every time with an attack on his knees.

Bully hit a suplex from the middle rope. Sabin kicked out. The champ pulled the challenger up and went for a Bully bomb but Sabin escaped and kicked him in the head. The challenger made it to the top rope and scored with a missile drop kick. Unfortunately the referee was caught by that too, so the subsequent cover didn't get counted.

A brawl between the factions kicked off when Anderson passed the trusty rubber hammer to Bully. A&E and MEM all headed backstage, leaving Bully and Sabin in the ring. Bully tried to use the hammer, which has put down such names as Sting and Jeff Hardy, but Sabin saved himself by kicking him in the gut.

Bully responded with a low blow and went for a power bomb but Sabin managed to reverse into a pin for the three count. Yep, just like that Chris Sabin won the TNA world heavyweight championship. The crowd reaction was not as animated as I’d expected. It could be that that result came from nowhere (a swift exchange of big moves and near falls would have been a good idea) or it could have been shock that Sabin had actually won. Maybe a combination of the two.
I don't think many people predicted this outcome
Bully feigned unconsciousness as Sabin celebrated, even though he hadn't been struck with anything that would knock him out. Perhaps the result had stunned him into fainting?

I don’t think the result is a good idea. Sabin does not have the star power to get over as a headliner in TNA. The way he won the title won’t help him there either, his victory was presented as a fluke. He’s going to be overshadowed by the Main Event Mafia and the storyline with Bully. It also seems pretty clear that the title change occurred in order to keep Bully busy until Bound For Glory. He’ll regain the gold and work against the BFG series winner in October. Sabin will have a short reign and be bumped back down into the X Division. It will look like he was out of his depth at the top.

I’m all for TNA trying new things and giving guys that deserve it a run on top. But the trouble is that Sabin didn’t deserve it. He was fine as an X Division guy. There was no call from anyone for him to become a world champion. It could work out. I’d love to be wrong and for this to be something that helps TNA turn things around. But it’s not going to happen.

Overall, Destination X was a decent show. It was an above average episode of Impact but it paled in comparison to previous instalments. That’s about what I’d expected, to be honest.

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