Pruett's Pause: TNA Impact Wrestling - Angle and Roode's feud benefits from positioning, Anderson's crusade against Bully Ray and the Aces and Eights continues, and more!
By Will Pruett
As a wrestling critic, I often spend a great deal of time thinking about how a person, feud, or story is positioned on a wrestling show. This can be seen in where a segment falls on the show, how the announcers address it, and how the crowd responds to it. Positioning is one of the most important aspects of creating a wrestling show.
There is a big difference between being a feud on the show and being the feud a show is built around. Two hours of wrestling should include quite a few feuds, but not all of them are the central feud on the program. TNA took what was a good, but normal feud and, on this show, turned it into the central feud in the promotion.
Kurt Angle and Bobby Roode were all over this show, and their work was exceptional. From the opening promo segment where Roode interrupted Angle to their final brawl, which also involved future Angle opponent Austin Aries, these men took their rivalry to a new level. Bolstered by an extensive history behind them, and two great matches with intriguing (but not satisfying) endings, Angle and Roode have found some amazing chemistry with each other.
Not only is their chemistry good, but the storytelling arc of this show was built around Angle and Roode. This feud, while it wasn't the actual main event match, was the main purpose of this wrestling show existing. Walking away from the show, I am most intrigued by the thought of Kurt Angle and Bobby Roode possibly (and, if TNA's foreshadowing is to be trusted, likely) meeting in the finals of the TNA World Championship tournament. While their foreshadowing may have been heavy handed, they gave fans something to look forward to and expect. It creates a central story for the tournament and makes it more than just a collection of matches.
My only qualm, when looking at this story, was the lack of attention paid this week to Kurt Angle's injuries. He mentioned visiting his own doctor, but never gave a diagnosis. The commentators were quick to play up the drama of last week, but they weren't worried about Angle being involved in a brawl (or three) just a week later. There was an opportunity for drama they missed here.
This show demonstrated a clear creative path for TNA going forward with the collision of two major stars at the forefront. What more can a wrestling fan ask for? Angle vs. Roode is not dependent on authority figures, pointless characters, or backstage drama. Angle vs. Roode is about telling a strong personal story built around the wrestling happening in the ring. On this relatively light on wrestling show, TNA proved wrestling does matter. They positioned a future match as exceptionally important and created interest in the journey both characters will take to get there.
Positioning was the key change here. TNA positioned Angle and Roode in a place where the show benefitted from their work and their program benefitted from the positioning.
Picking up the pieces:
- As I said above, Kurt Angle walking out completely fine in wrestling tights for the opening felt like a major missed opportunity. Why not play up the drama of whether he will be cleared to compete next week? Austin Aries could even ask what happens if Angle is not cleared? This was another chance for TNA to add some real sports-esque drama to Angle's struggle.
- The Main Event Mafia's amicable breakup worked for me. The faction had a clear purpose when they came together, and now it is accomplished. Sting played this segment perfectly in his interactions with all three members of the Mafia.
- Part of me wanted Sting to pour a forty out on the entrance ramp in memory of Rampage Jackson, the Mafia's forgotten brother.
- I appreciate the effort put into playing up the continued tension between Sting and Magnus. I assume TNA will find a moment to revisit this feud in the next few months.
- Magnus, Samoa Joe, and Kurt Angle all delivered quality promos about their want and need for the TNA World Championship. The tournament is giving them direction and a path to get what they want. The strongest characters always have strong objectives.
- Why was Kurt Angle in wrestling gear if he did not plan to wrestle on this show? With Magnus, Sting, and Joe all wearing the Mafia's trademark suits, it made Angle stick out.
- Bad Influence assisting Bobby Roode in beating down Kurt Angle worked for me. Magnus and Joe helping Angle, while not being formally associated with him anymore, was a nice touch as well. It's refreshing to see babyfaces help other babyfaces out of a sense of honor.
- The short brawl between Bad Influence and Packman Jones (and his teammate) was quite fun. It didn't overstay its welcome and it gave the Cincinnati crowd a nice moment to get excited about.
- Mr. Anderson is doing a good job in his role as the protagonist in the Aces and Eights story. I'm happy to see the faction sticking around long enough to be defeated instead of just dissolving.
- I would be upset about the non-finish in the Knockouts match, but the division is too depleted at this moment and said non-finish will likely lead to a new Knockout debuting (or a past one returning). TNA needs fresh blood in the ring against Gail Kim, as ODB, Brooke, and Velvet Sky have all been played out.
- The "Friends of A.J. Styles" device being used to show footage of Styles defending his TNA World Championship around the world worked for me. It gives us a conspiracy to wonder about, as well as a logical way to see footage of A.J. without Dixie approving it.
- The Ethan Carter III and Dixie Carter relationship is very fun. I hope there is a longer term plan for EC3 beyond the point where he gets what is coming to him for being a Carter.
- The Aces and Eights segment had me buying into the group actually dissolving until Bully Ray began talking about Steve Austin. At this point, I saw where it was going. This was a nicely built and executed swerve to put Anderson in danger and give Bully a major moment in their feud.
- Anderson vs. Bully at Victory Road will be an intense brawl. It'll be interesting to see if this will be the end of the social media savvy biker gang, or if there is another chapter to come. Ending it now works for me, as long as TNA has solid plans for the characters coming out of it.
- I was mildly confused when Bobby Roode was interrupted by EC3's music. It gave the show the chaotic feel it was going for, but Roode's disappearance was jarring.
- Are Dewey and Norv the only jobbers in TNA's phone directory?
- The low point of this show was Bad Influence vs. Joseph Park and Eric Young. This feud has not been pleasant to watch since Bound for Glory and it just keeps going. I actually like all four acts involved, but the comedy aspects of this aren't funny and the dramatic aspects are not well done. This is not a quality story.
- I know Daniels and Kazarian are great at comedy, but sometimes I wonder why TNA does not give them more of an edge. They have nicely fleshed out characters, so why not let them get into more serious programs? TNA could even build up a great tag team feud on the undercard with them.
- Every time Angle and Roode came to the ring on this show, the fans wanted to see them fight more. This is a great way to hype (what should be) the tournament final without directly giving away what will end the tournament. I'm eagerly anticipating Angle vs. Roode III.
- Jeff Hardy and Chris Sabin had an excellent Full Metal Mayhem match. While I don't believe it is necessary to make every match in the tournament a gimmick match, I liked this one. Both men took major bumps and gave the fans everything they could want, as far as death-defying risk taking was concerned.
- Chris Sabin, at one point in this match, seemed to forget he was a heel and started playing to the crowd an awful lot. Character consistency matters, not just in promos and backstage segments, but in the ring as well. Sabin seemed caught up in the (very good) match he was having instead of remembering who he was.
- Hardy's advancement to the semi-finals of the tournament doesn't surprise me. TNA should want him in contention for as long as possible. Advancing Sabin wouldn't make a ton of sense, since his story lies in the X Division and not with the World Championship.
This was a very good episode of Impact carried by the Angle and Roode program. It's rare to see a wrestling show with this direct of a focus and objective behind it. I left this show feeling excited about the future meeting between both men. Of course, there is always the opportunity for odd booking decisions and creative missteps to hinder what should be a sure thing, but today I am optimistic.
So, what did you think of the show? Agree? Disagree? Either way, feel free to email me at email@example.com or to follow me and interact on twitter at twitter.com/itswilltime.
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