Pruett's Pause: TNA Impact Wrestling - Bully Ray regains the TNA Championship, Tito Ortiz turns heel but sadly doesn't turn charismatic, alcohol matters in three out of four matches
By Will Pruett
Chris Sabin lost the TNA World Championship on this show, about a month after he had won it. It was a predictable loss, but it was also a weird one. The loss came at the hands of a heel turn from a character fans don't care about. The entire last six weeks of storylines from TNA has me wondering what the point of Chris Sabin's title reign actually was.
I like Sabin. When he returned, I saw him as a great protagonist in the X Division. He's likable, charismatic, and seems like the kind of guy I would want to watch my dog and water my plants while I'm out of town. When he won the X Division Championship, it seemed like the culmination of his story. Sabin fought his way back and was now holding gold! Neat story, TNA.
Of course, this lead to the announcement of Destination X approaching. Sabin lost the X Division Championship to a costumed Austin Aries and went on to defeat him for it again. This story, at least to me, seemed to be the most convoluted way to accomplish a goal. They wanted Sabin to beat a former World Champion and eventually he did so. The story around it was too complicated though. Why not just have Sabin beat Aries in a competitive match?
Then Sabin won the World Championship, not via his own greatness as a wrestler, but via a hammer thrown into the ring by Bully Ray's Aces and Eights brethren. Sabin is a great wrestler. TNA went out of their way to remind us of this when he was going into the title match, but they forgot it in the actual match. "Poetic justice" is nowhere near as cool or compelling as actual justice. Beating Bully with an actual wrestling move would have been a much better idea.
As champion, Sabin had a match with new X Division Champion Manik and a tag match against Team 3D. He rose to new levels of charisma. His promos proved how well he could fit into the TNA World Championship role. Sabin shocked me by rising to the occasion on the mic. I didn't expect him to cut the best promos of his career during this run. He did though.
Chris Sabin lost the TNA World Championship at the end of a very competitive and entertaining cage match on this week's Impact. He lost the title when Tito Ortiz turned heel, hit Rampage Jackson with a hammer, and Bully Ray was able to Powerbomb him. Sabin was pinned and is no longer TNA World Champion.
So what was the point of Sabin's reign? Is Sabin more over because of this than he would have been in a series of competitive matches against Bully Ray where he comes up just short? In this series, Bully could have cheated to win constantly and Sabin would be a scorned babyface. Instead of using chicanery for his first title win, Sabin would be upset about the lack of a level playing field. Fans would rather support a guy losing fairly than winning via cheating.
Did TNA suddenly happen upon a creative resurgence because of this title reign? I'll let you watch the last month of Impact and deicide for yourself. I lean towards no. Did Sabin gain some prestige by now being called a former TNA World Champion? Ask Ken Anderson if being a former TNA World Champion helps anything.
In all honesty, the only point I see to Chris Sabin's title reign was to turn Tito Ortiz heel at the end of it. This is the weakest possible reason I can find to put a title on someone. The story hasn't been compelling and it has been convoluted. Sabin is not a new hero. TNA complicated stories they could have told in a straightforward way and achieved the same goals.
I'm glad Chris Sabin got this recognition for his years of work and rehabilitation efforts, but it was not a good story. Stories should come first.
Picking up the pieces:
- To correct something I wrote last week, TNA has evened up the odds for the other eight men in the Bound for Glory Series, this giving everyone an equal opportunity at 20 points. Good work, TNA.
- The opening Ladder Match on this show was pretty insane. Jeff Hardy, Austin Aries, Kazarian, and A.J. Styles tore the house down in this one. I would have loved this match to have been promoted a little more last week. It was announced, but no promos are anything established how important it was. This match deserved more beforehand.
- The Appletini finish to the Ladder Match was slightly silly, but not the worst thing. It would have been more effective if the drink had actually hit Hardy, but such is life. I enjoyed Kazarian winning the match.
- How silly did the paper only reading "20" look hanging above the ring?
- Chris Sabin cut what might have been his best promo to date backstage on this show. He really does carry himself like a World Champion. It's a shame his title reign didn't mean more.
- TNA picked a very classy way to write Kurt Angle off of television. I might not have mentioned rehab, if the decision were up to be, but I can't complain about it. As I said last week, I'm excited to see Kurt come back clear headed and show what he's capable of.
- The promo exchange between Aces and Eights and Main Event Mafia was pretty good. I enjoyed the way TNA made the numbers game seem like a huge disadvantage. I also enjoyed the way MEM was put in jeopardy. This was a nice setup for the main story of the show.
- Mickie James, ODB, and Gail Kim had a very good hardcore match. I expected nothing less with James and Kim in the ring together. It's a shame (for the story, not personally) TNA's lead babyface Knockout (Taryn Terrell) is pregnant and can't compete now. This has lead to an ODB resurgence, but I've never really enjoyed the ODB character.
- Is Austin Aries a babyface now? I know many will say it's a shades of grey thing, but I'm honestly wondering how we are supposed to respond to him.
- Rampage Jackson has not mastered the pro wrestling promo style, but he wasn't awful at it on this show. Jackson didn't quite have the rhythm, but he had the charisma to carry it.
- Tito Ortiz does not have the rhythm, or the stance down to cut a pro wrestling promo. Ortiz was loud, wildly gesticulating, an standing in an overly awkward manner. I hope someone coaches him on how to look natural in the ring instead of seeming like a cartoon character.
- Was Samoa Joe in the ring just in case something got out of hand and he needed to pick up some promo slack?
- The Tables Match between Samoa Joe, Magnus, Anderson, and Bobby Roode was good, but couldn't live up to the Ladder Match. All four men worked hard and produced something entertaining.
- If the Bound for Glory Series matches are so easy to rig in your favor, why has no other person or faction tried it? I'm surprised it has taken TNA this long to discover all the loopholes they made. I'm also surprised babyface authority figures in TNA can ignore this fixing of the series. One would think they would stop it.
- Three out of four matches on this show involved alcohol, including two of them directly involving it in the finish. This is probably not the route I would go down if I had to announce a star entering rehab on the same show.
- The Bound for Glory Series seems wide open to me right now. Maybe I'm a little blinded by the World Championship drama, but I have no idea who is going to win it. A.J. Styles was a popular pick, but his story seems to have stalled out. I'm still in favor of Magnus winning it all, but I doubt this will happen.
- Although I didn't like the finish or the overall story, Sabin vs. Bully was a really good cage match. TNA produced a great night of in-ring action.
- Is it weird to anyone else for TNA to help build up a real fight between Tito and Rampage with pro wrestling angles? Is the plan for them to have a pro wrestling match against each other? This would be an awful idea. It would also be immensely entertaining for all the wrong reasons.
It's hard to say this was a bad show. The action in the ring was great. It's hard to say this was a good show. The stories told around this action didn't really excite me. TNA does a nice job with these pseudo-pay-per-views, but they don't always tell the best stories. I sincerely hope putting the title back on Bully Ray is a reset for TNA, but the focus on MMA stars doesn't excite me.
I want to enjoy shows with this much great wrestling, but bad stories make it hard.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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