3/14 Powell's TNA Impact Wrestling live coverage: Bully Ray's first appearance as TNA Champion and Aces & 8's president, A.J. Styles returns, TNA Lockdown fallout
By Jason Powell
TNA Impact Wrestling on SpikeTV
Aired live from Chicago, Illinois at Sears Centre
[Q1] Impact opened with a recap of Hulk Hogan giving Bully Ray a big speech backstage at Lockdown only to have Ray go on to reveal himself as the leader of Aces & 8's. Still shot photos aired of the match and video footage aired of Ray striking Jeff Hardy with a hammer and taunting Hulk and Brooke Hogan afterward...
Todd Keneley, Mike Tenay, and Taz introduced the show from the announcers' table, which is positioned at ringside. They spoke about Bully Ray and teased the return of A.J. Styles for later in the show...
Powell's POV: The building looks good on television. It looks like a good sized and lively crowd.
Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez came to the ring for a tag title match. Aces & 8's hit the ring and attacked Chavo and Hernandez. The Aces & 8's members included D-Lo Brown, Mr. Anderson, DOC, Knox, Devon, Garett Bischoff, and Wes Brisco. After clearing Chavo and Hernandez from the ring, Devon took the mic. Devon heeled it up by telling the crowd to sit down and shut up.
Devon introduced the new TNA Champion Bully Ray. Bully slowly walked to the ring from the side of the building opposite the stage and he had the TNA Title draped over his shoulder. "The bossman is looking good" Taz said. He got up and hugged Ray once he arrived at ringside. The Aces & 8's members all held up their eight finger sign.
Ray, who was wearing an Aces & 8's cut for the first time, soaked up the "Hardy" chants for a bit and then asked, "Do you know who I am?. I am Bully Ray. I am the president of the Aces & 8's. And I am the TNA World Heavyweight Champion. I'm the guy that used Sting. I'm the guy that screwed Brooke (Hogan). I'm the guy that made a fool out of Hulk Hogan."
Bully said he's also the guy that made a fool out of every single fan. He said they pulled the wool over the eyes of the fans for nine months. "For nine months, you bought it," he said. Ray said he's never felt so proud as when he saw his brothers climb the cage at Lockdown and hand him the hammer.
Ray said the plan was actually for him to leave the cage when Brisco and Bischoff came out. He said that didn't happen because of Hulk Hogan. He said Hogan sat him down and had the big father to son-in-law talk with him. A loud "Hogan" chant broke out. Ray said he couldn't give a damn about Hulk's advice.
Ray said he did something in one night with his Aces & 8's brothers that the NWO could never accomplish. Ray called out Hulk Hogan and begged him to come to the ring and fire them. "It won't happen," he said. "He ain't gonna fire us. We are the Aces & 8's. And when you ride with the Aces & 8's, you'll never walk alone."
Powell's POV: A very well delivered promo, though no real attempt was made to answer the questions about why the other members beat up Ray repeatedly or the other holes in the story. It doesn't have to come in the first promo, but I hope there is some explanation offered. Does anyone miss the Impact Zone? Me neither.
Backstage, Sting said Bully Ray is digging his grave and he's digging a grave for TNA. "Now he's in the fast lane and it pisses me off," Sting said. He added that he wants to get his hands on Ray and that starts with him talking to Hulk...
The announcers teased Tara and Gail Kim vs. Velvet Sky and Mickie James for after the break...
[Q2] [C] During the introductions, Gail was shown delivering a pre-taped promo. She said no woman should have to go through what Brooke Hogan is, but she applauded her decision to put referee Taryn Terrell on probation...
1. Mickie James and Velvet Sky vs. Gail Kim and Tara (w/Jessie). Terrell was the referee for the match. Tara kicked Mickie in the head while standing on the ring apron just as the show went to break.
Powell's POV: TNA is using new and improved graphics for Twitter and the pop up box style interview with Tara was new. It looks like they've made some quality production changes along with going on the road. Everything looks top notch thus far. My only complaint? I still can't hear the goddamn ring bell!
[Q3] After the break, the heels worked over James until she made a hot tag to Velvet. The crowd popped big for the tag. Later, Gail took a shot at Terrell. She sold it for a bit and then returned fire. Tara hit Mickie with Widow's Peak, but Velvet came right back with her finisher and pinned Tara...
Mickie James and Velvet Sky beat Tara and Gail Kim in 10:00.
Highlights aired from earlier in the show of Bully Ray's promo...
Aces & 8's were shown drinking beer in their backstage area. Ray said he didn't think Hogan had the balls to fire them. He toasted the group and then said he hadn't heard from his wife. He called her on the phone and said he couldn't believe she sent him to voicemail. He put the phone on speaker and had the rest of the group say hello. They all laughed heading into the break... [C]
The TNA Slammiversary pay-per-view commercial listing Boston as the location aired... The camera guy approached Hulk Hogan whether he would fire Aces & 8's and also asked about Brooke Hogan. "Now now," Hogan replied...
2. Robbie E vs. Rob Terry. Robbie E took the mic and said Terry's win at Lockdown was a fluke. Terry dominated E and the crowd chanted, "Feed Me More" at one point. Funny. Terry danced afterward and the crowd was somewhat receptive...
Rob Terry beat Robbie E in 1:15.
Powell's POV: There was a positioning flub before Terry hit his finisher, but otherwise it was pretty straight forward with Terry plowing through his former sidekick. This dancing thing strikes me as something funnier to people backstage than the people in the crowd.
A shot aired of Sting entering Hulk Hogan's dressing room...
[Q4] [C] Backstage, Bully Ray complained that the TNA merchandise stand didn't have any Aces & 8's gear. He told DOC to open a TNA book and the first person they saw is the person who would pay the price...
Inside Hogan's office, Hulk stood up and threw his crutches aside. He said Sting led everyone down the path that Bully is a good guy. Hogan said he told Sting all along that he was rotten to the core. Sting told Hogan not to fire Aces & 8's, especially Bully Ray. Sting said "we" need that tonight. Hogan said there's no "we" anymore. He said something about knowing how the movie ends and then rambled before throwing Sting out of his office. "You make me sick," Hogan said...
A video recapped the recent A.J. Styles videos... Tenay hyped the return of Styles for after the break...
Powell's POV: I want to see Hulk fall into an A.J. Styles-like rut. He should stop shaving, develop a big beer gut, wear a wife beater white t-shirt, etc. Then they could send him to Dallas Page's house for a few months and tell his redemption story. Why? The real question is why not.
Backstage, Austin Aries and Bobby Roode approached Sting and mocked him for falling for Bully Ray's antics. They were wearing Dirty Heels t-shirts. Sting indicated that he wanted to fight one of them. Roode slipped away. Sting said he he was fighting Aries...
Powell's POV: TNA had Aces & 8's take over their website tonight. All of the main page stories and merch plugs are for Aces & 8's.
Christy Hemme introduced A.J. Styles. His music played, but he did not come out. Daniels and Kazarian's music played instead. They came out dressed in Road Warriors colors and makeup. Daniels was dressed as Hawk and he had his reverse mohawk painted on his head.
[Q5] Kazarian said this isn't the first time Styles has disappointed his fans. He said it was throwback Thursday, so they were paying homage to the second best tag team in wrestling. "Weeeelllllll," Daniels started. He said "those warriors, that legion of the past" were fake tough guys like A.J. Styles and the fans. Daniels said they are the original ring warriors and the Legion of Boom. "Oh, what a tush," Daniels said. He told the crowd they have permission to worship them now.
James Storm's music played and he headed to the ring. He said the team they were mocking is a little bigger, stronger, and a lot more over than they will ever be. "Unlike you two douche bags, they are actually from Chicago," Storm said. Um... Anyway, Storm said he would let Daniels and Kazarian decide which one of them would get their asses kicked. He used the ropes to pull Daniels inside the ring and the bell rang...
3. James Storm vs. Christopher Daniels (w/Kazarian). In the end, Storm hit the backstabber on Daniels for the win. Afterward, the heels put the boots to Storm. A.J. Styles walked to the ring with his longer hair and beard. Styles punched Daniels, who rolled to ringside along with his tag partner. Styles glared at the duo. Storm stood by Styles' side, but then A.J. turned and clotheslined him out of nowhere...
James Storm beat Christopher Daniels in 3:40.
Powell's POV: The best part of the Road Warriors spoof was when they first walked out. They looked funny, but the actual mic work wasn't their best. I hope TNA runs West Hollywood so we can see Daniels and Kazarian as Lenny and Lodi. I'm happy there were more to angry A.J's return than just the bit with Daniels and Kazarian. They delivered on Styles returning without giving too much away on the first night.
Footage aired of Wes Brisco beat Kurt Angle at the pay-per-view with help from D-Lo Brown...
Backstage, Kurt Angle was goaded by Wes Brisco, which served as a distraction for the rest of Aces & 8's to jump Angle. They put the boots to him and left him lying. "All too familiar, dammit, not again," Tenay said...
Powell's POV: Not again is right. The attack on Angle didn't pack a punch.
[Q6] Keneley ran through upcoming live events as the dates were shown in a graphic... The announcers narrated highlights of the Styles segment...
Joseph Park made his way to the ring wearing a suit. The announcers said there were members of Park's law firm in the crowd. Park recalled winning in the UK and at Lockdown. He said his early success have made him step back and look at his life. He said the best moment was graduating law school at the top of his class. He said the second was when he made partnership at Park, Park, and Park.
Park waved to the fans in the upper deck as if they were employees of Park, Park, and Park. He apologized for the location of the seats and said it's because he doesn't have clout. He spoke about growing up in Chicago. He made the mistake of saying he watched Cubs games. The White Sox fans booed. He apologized shifted quickly to Blackhawks games and was cheered. He said he can't wait for what's next in his TNA career.
Matt Morgan's music played and he headed to the ring in jeans and a shirt. Morgan took the mic and addressed Hulk Hogan. He said that to say Hogan has made repeated mistakes is a bit of an understatement. He laughed at the way the Bully Ray situation played out. He said there's no bigger mistake that Hogan has made on Impact than "the walking joke standing in front of me right now."
Morgan said the fact that Hogan signed Park to a contract is an abortion to the sport of pro wrestling. Morgan said he's going to start eliminating Hogan's mistakes starting with Park. Morgan got in Park's face and told him that unless he wants all of his teeth knocked down his throat he should get the hell out of his ring now.
Park started leaving. Morgan called him fat boy and told him to leave the dump city of Chicago and never come back. Park stopped and told Morgan that they never back down from a fight in Chicago. The fans roared. Park told Morgan that if he wants a fight they should do it on the spot.
Morgan said they do things on his time. Morgan teased leaving the ring, but then he stopped and blasted Park with the Carbon Footprint. "And my time is next week," Morgan said to the fallen Park...
Powell's POV: The timing of the Carbon Footprint was bad. Park looked one way while playing to the crowd and Morgan started going for the move thinking Park was going to turn that way, but then Park turned the other way instead and Morgan had to stop and reset. It was a little clunky, but they pulled off the reset CFP. The overall segment was good as Park got a great reaction in his "hometown" and Morgan had good heat while railing on him and the city.
Backstage, Bully Ray told the rest of the gang that he felt good about taking out a gold medalist. Ray asked if Hogan was going to fire them. "Do something, Hulk, fire us if you have the balls," Ray said. "If you won't come to us, maybe we should come to you." Ray told Hogan not to think they won't destroy his show. He said that was a good idea and led the rest of the group out of their room...
[Q7] A video recapped the Hogan family and Ray drama. Brooke was shown crying in the video and asking why so many people take advantage of her... Taz said you'd think Brooke would be happy for her husband...
4. Austin Aries (w/Bobby Roode) vs. Sting. Roode and Aries wore their Dirty Hells shirts to the rings and seemed to be looking for cheers more than boos based on how they were playing to the crowd. Sting got a huge reaction. The announcers noted that this was the show's main event.
There were loud dueling chants for Sting and Aries. Sting had the advantage, but Aries avoided a Stinger Splash in the corner. Roode got involved at ringside. Sting roughed up Roode and hit the Stinger Splash on the guardrail. Aries leapt off the top rope and took out Roode accidentally. Sting soaked up the loud ovation heading into the break. [C]
Powell's POV: As expected, Sting is coming off like a much bigger deal outside the Impact Zone. Those fans always liked him, but bigger crowds that don't see him in person on a regular basis are sure to be louder and more appreciative.
After the break, the referee threw out Roode. Aries took control of the match and the dueling chants for both wrestlers started up again. Aries performed a dropkick off the second rope to the back of Sting's head and got a two count.
[Q8] Aries showed frustration over not getting the three count. Sting made his comeback and Aries bumped all over for him. Sting went for the Scorpion leg lock, but Aries slid away and then clotheslined Sting with the top rope. Aries followed up with a missile dropkick. He stood up and impersonated Sting, who got back on his feet.
Aries came back again with a big dropkick in the corner. Sting returned fire with the Scorpion Death Drop, but Aries kicked out. Sting hit the Stinger splash and applied the Scorpion Death Lock. Aces & 8's hit the ring and attacked Sting. Aries slapped the mat once and then rolled out of the ring and disappeared.
Sting fought Austin Aries to an apparent no contest in 15:00.
Ray had the gang hold up Sting. "I used you," Ray said. He started calling for Hogan to come out and taunted him. "Where is everybody's hero? Where are you dad?" The show cut to commercial with Ray still taunting Hogan... [C]
Powell's POV: An entertaining act with really good crowd support. I'd like to see Aries do more to shut down the cheering. He seems to be content being comedic and getting cheered rather than going for all out heel heat. Still, Aries was responsible for getting a better match out of Sting than anyone else has lately. I definitely could have done without the bad NWO finish. Let the match end and then have Aces & 8's interfere.
After the break, Ray continued to rant until Hulk Hogan's NWO theme interrupted him. Hogan got a big reaction from the live crowd. He said firing Bully Ray would be giving him the easy way out. Hogan said every dog has his day. He said it may not be today and it may not be tomorrow, live by the sword, die by the sword. Hogan said he was empowering every man and woman in the TNA locker room to band together to eliminate Aces & 8's.
Jeff Hardy, Samoa Joe, Magnus, Kurt Angle, Joseph Park, Chavo Guerrero, Hernandez, and Rob Terry Ran out and brawled with Aces & 8's in the ring. Aces & 8's got the better of the brawl. Ray got on the mic and asked if this is what "dad" meant by something memorable. "How's this for something memorable, you old bastard," Ray asked. Ray whipped members of the TNA team with a chain as Hogan watched from the stage.
Ray walked up the ramp toward Hogan and told him that his cavalry got killed by Aces & 8's. "What are you going to do now, dad?" Ray asked." Hogan, who was on crutches, took a couple of steps toward Ray, who was joined by Devon and D-Lo on the ramp. The show went off the air...
Powell's POV: The goal of the night was clearly to build up Ray and the rest of Aces & 8's and to put Hulk Hogan even more at the center of the feud. We really should have heard something from Jeff Hardy given that he's the guy who lost the TNA Title. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I was actually hoping we'd hear something from Brooke Hogan. Ray did a good job of holding up his end. He's star, but the other members of Aces & 8's just feel like henchmen more than anything.
Overall, though, TNA looked so major league while playing in front of a hot crowd in an arena. The company and the wrestlers all felt more important than they ever did inside the Impact Zone. Stay tuned, as we should be getting live updates from the building on the taping for next week's show. Check back on Friday for Chris Shore's TNA Impact Wrestling Hitlist and Will Pruett's Pause and audio review. Thanks for watching along with me tonight.
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