Monday 19 August 2013

Hardcore Justice 2013 review

It’s a good job Hardcore Justice wasn’t presented as a pay-per-view this year. Had it been I think TNA would have had a lot of unsatisfied customers. It was not a good show. There were no matches that rose above average and far too much time was dedicated to the progression of storylines that are hard to care about.

The worst offender there was the Main Event Mafia and Aces and Eights plot. MEM ate up a ridiculous number of segments throughout the show. It was entirely unnecessary. The same things could have been accomplished with half the screentime they got. The way they’re presented doesn’t help people to care about them. They come across as swaggering, egotistical idiots more interested in how they look than anything else. Sunglasses indoors? C’mon guys.

The chief problem with the MEM is that they try so hard to be macho. It always ends up verging on ridiculous. They are not an act people feel they can invest in.

The show opened with the first of three multi-person matches. It was a four-way ladder match involving leather-loving loner AJ Styles, frequent face-heel flipper Austin Aries, run-in bump fodder Frankie Kazarian and facepaint aficionado Jeff Hardy. As matches of this type go it wasn’t bad. The trouble is that we see so many ladder matches these days that it’s tough to care about them. One means little more than another, and it doesn’t help that both TNA and WWE more often book them to fit with the theme of a show than because they fit well with a programme.

Through a combination of this fact and a lack of memorable spots this match failed to rise above the average level of ladder battles. And again, this is not the guys’ fault. It’s because the modern pro wrestling product has become oversaturated with gimmick bouts.

Frankie picked up the twenty points (amusingly represented by a clipboard with 20 written on it) after interference from old pal Chris Daniels and new pal Bobby Roode. ‘The It Factor’ dashed an appletini (easily the greatest foreign object currently used in pro wrestling) into Hardy’s face, causing him to fall off the ladder and giving Kazarian a free shot to the top. Why Hardy feel because liquid was thrown into his face wasn’t clear. Perhaps it was secretly acid.
That's a victory pose, right there

Now is as good a time as any to discuss the commentary work of the evening. It was bad. Really bad. Tenay spent far too much time hyping Bellator. He mentioned the Bellator show that airs after Impact a nauseatingly high number of times. He wittered on about the Rampage Jackson v Tito Ortiz Bellator match that will happen in a few months too, but that at least made a little sense as they’re both on the TNA roster.

He also decided to kick things off by discussing a “hardcore three-way” between three Knockouts. It was accurate but his wording could have been less evocative. Similarly his claim that Hardcore Justice was a pay-per-view on free TV could have been better. If it’s on free TV it’s not a pay-per-view, Mike.

Tenay’s not a bad play-by-play guy. Whoever’s producing him is doing a horrible job. He spends too much time shilling for irrelevant things or focusing on storylines. The amount of time he spent talking about action in the ring was minimal. Taz was awful too but by this point that’s expected.

Backstage, TNA world champ Chris Sabin put Bully Ray and Devon over as vicious guys. He said he won’t take them lightly but warned they shouldn’t take him lightly either. It was one of many inconsequential interview segments. It accomplished its goal of hyping the main event and was kept short. I don’t think we could ask for more than that.

The Main Event Mafia got the “already in the ring” treatment next. They were joined by Dixie Carter. She was there to inform everyone that Kurt Angle had checked himself into rehab after his latest brush with the law. She, the company and the MEM are all in full support of the guy, apparently. Personally I find it hard to sympathise with Kurt’s position. It’s entirely self-inflicted and it’s happened too many times for Kurt to deserve the benefit of the doubt. He’s clearly not learnt from his mistakes.

The Dixie-related fun was interrupted by Aces and Eights. Mr Anderson cut a boring promo designed to hype this coming Thursday’s MEM v A&E match. The man who takes the losing pinfall there will have to retire. The rest of Aces just stood around laughing and nodding, as bit part players in large heel stables tend to.

The segment ended with a brawl. Because they had a one person advantage Aces and Eights came out on top.

Match two (yep, we’re only on the second match) was the three-way Knockouts match that had so excited Tenay at the start of the broadcast. It saw Mickie James tangle with Gail Kim and ODB. The title was not on the line but that didn’t become clear until James was pinned and a title change didn’t occur. ODB went over with her Bam (TKO) finisher.

Again this match failed to be anything special. It was proficient but nothing happened that we haven’t seen before. It was just a solid match that we were given no particular reason to get into.

Cutting backstage again we saw Sting chatting to Austin Aries in a locker room. ‘The Icon’ asked ‘A Double’ to join the Main Event Mafia and help them fight Aces and Eights. The final shot was of Aries smirking.

Elsewhere in the building Bobby Roode said he has to win the twenty points available to him tonight. Doing so would help him leap from amongst the bottom scorers in the series to second place. This was the best interview segment of the night. It was kept short and Roode explained his point clearly and concisely. He’s got more than enough charisma to get through promo segments like this with no trouble at all.

Back in the Main Event Mafia’s pokey shared dressing room (hardly a main event aura, is it?) Sting returned to inform his cohorts that Aries had turned them down. Rampage said he had one last option but it had to be taken care of in the ring. Of course it did.

The backstage segments wrapped up with Bully on the phone. He referred to the mystery person as honey and said he’d bring the world title. He ended the call by saying “I love you too, Brooke.”

Oh noes! We were meant to assume that Bully and Brooke Hogan had swerved us all. My initial reaction was that I’d missed an important plot point revealing that they’d got back together at some point (because, y’know, this is TNA and everything). I hadn’t missed anything and neither had you. It will be revealed on this week’s show (taped last week) that Bully Ray was actually on the phone to Brooke TessmacherI. Brooke Hogan has been written off TV because she was released from her TNA contract last week. Apparently someone in the company realised they’d had to release some wrestlers for financial reasons and that Brooke should probably have gone too.

So there we are. The payoff to the months’ long Bully Ray and Brooke Hogan romance-slash-divorce plot culminated in a backstage segment. How thoroughly TNA.

Rampage Jackson finally made it out to the ring. For no reason at all Samoa Joe was with him. Rampage talked about how MMA fans have called him a sellout by joining TNA but that he doesn’t think that’s true because he’s always been a wrestling fan. After he’d rambled on about that he called out Tito Ortiz.

For those who don’t know, Ortiz rocked up in TNA a couple of weeks before. It’s part of a cross promotional deal set up by television company Spike with MMA outfit Bellator. It heavily favours the MMA league. I’ll avoid repeating my feelings on the signing. You can find them here if you're interested.

Ortiz came out in a T-shirt that read Wrestling Is Real. Take that however you want to.
Even Joe was bored by this segment

Rampage talked up their Bellator match but said that’s separate, it’s not TNA business. Tito repeated back everything Rampage had said, which never makes for a good promo. It also made him look thick. Bully Ray then came out and got himself some heat by saying if he had time he’d get into the ring and beat all three men. Rampage and Joe then did the hold me back routine on Tito as Bully sauntered to the back.

It was yet another boring segment.

Back from a break Anderson and Magnus had joined Joe at ringside and Bobby Roode was making his entrance. The match would be fought under table rules. The first man to put one of his opponents through a table would gain twenty BFG series points.

Magnus and Joe, MEM members both, worked together during the match. Anderson and Roode mostly stayed separate and when they did interact it was to confirm that they’d work together. So the bout effectively functioned like a tag match, Magnus and Joe swapping between their heel foes. It wasn’t a bad effort but as was the case with the previous in-ring offerings there was nothing on display that we’ve not seen before and we were given no reason to care about the tables stipulation. It had been added for the sake of it as opposed to being a logical heightening of drama in a continuing feud.

Repeating the finish of the evening’s opening match, Bad Influence headed to ringside at the match’s conclusion. Daniels threw his appletini (he certainly gets through those things) into Magnus’s face, allowing Roode to power bomb him from the second rope through a table in the centre of the ring. Twenty points went to Mr Roode.
Looks like Roode's doing a little dance, doesn't it? Well he's not. He's doing a power bomb

The evening’s final backstage interlude saw a camera crew catch up with Sting for his thoughts on Tito Ortiz. Sting said the guy’s an asset wherever he goes. He also said he felt Ortiz would join up with the MEM.

We were then treated to a shot of Bully and Mr Anderson. They bickered and ‘Calfzilla’ finally admitted (supposedly not aware of the camera crew filming him remember) that he was unsure if he could beat Sabin because the guy’s pinned him twice already. Bully said he wanted support from his club and that Anderson appeared to be more of an enemy than a friend. The message we were meant to take from this was that trouble is brewing in Aces and Eights. Not that it was subtle or anything.

The main event finally got underway with twenty minutes left of the show. The challenger controlled the first half of the match, overcoming occasional flurries from the champ. An attempted power bomb turned the tide of the match: Sabin reversed it into a sleeper and then spiked Bully with a tornado DDT. Sabin then blasted the Aces’ president with punches, kicks and an enziguri before whipping him with his leather gang coat.

Bully came back with a big boot and a Samoan drop. He tried to climb out of the cage but got stopped, which just so happened to place the two in the perfect position to botch a hurricanrana, which they managed wonderfully.

Moments later Bully was up on his feet trying to walk out of the door. Sabin stopped him and tried a walk out of his own. That got stopped too. Referee Brian Hebner (surely the unluckiest official in wrestling) took a bump as Bully scooped up the champion. Sabin came back with a missile drop kick but couldn’t get the win because there was nobody to count it. He shouldn’t feel too hard done by: when was the last time someone won a match off a missile drop kick?

Sabin tried to win via exit but Anderson appeared and slammed the door closed. Instead of simply climbing over the cage wall on the opposite side of the ring to Anderson, which would have guaranteed him victory, Sabin stood and stared incredulously at the Aces member. He looked an idiot.

Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz ran out at this point. Rampage threw Anderson off the ramp and down to the concrete floor then got blasted in the back of the head by a rubber hammer wielding Ortiz. Sabin, who’d stood and stared at this development like a slack-jawed mark, was rammed into the side of the cage by a recovered Bully Ray and then power bombed in the centre of the ring to lose his title.
Yep. Another TNA swerve turn

Tito Ortiz and Taz joined Bully in the ring to celebrate his victory. Ortiz raised the champ’s hand. The champ raised Ortiz’s hand. Nobody raised Taz’s hand. Back on commentary Tenay feigned disbelief at Ortiz’s “shock” betrayal. It had been a setup all along. The final shot of the show was two time world champion Bully Ray posing with his championship belt. That he regained it surprised precisely nobody.

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