Better show than last week - which I didn't even feel like covering at all.
Jericho's opening was great and made Team SD and the Bragging Rights match seem like a huge deal. Kane being co-captain is a good way to keep him near the top of the card - he's an awesome promo guy and cut a good one here.
Dolph vs. Finlay vs. Knox wasn't anywhere near as good as I'd hoped it would be, although it did at least give Dolph a chance to not only win - but shine with the awesome splash.
Cryme Tyme vs. the Hart Dynasty was too short, but really good while it lasted. DH boogeying down to get JTG to not ram into him was awesome, and I hope they try JTG out as a singles guy because he's being held back by Shad and is clearly the star of this team.
Escobar vs. Matt Hardy was also entirely too short and wasn't particularly good. Escobar has some presence, but would look like more of a star with long tights - the trunks make him look like just another guy on the roster, only one with constantly-slick hair.
The Dirt Sheet was awesome - not so much due to the wacky insults, but due to the intense promo work from Miz AND Morrison. Morrison showed an intensity that he has never had before. "All Raw is these days is a cheap version of Saturday Night Live, so, if you want to tune in and watch the amazing star power of Al Sharpton and Nancy O'Dell, go ahead." - I Couldn't have agreed with this bit more, although I don't think they needed to devote so much time to burying Marty Jannetty. Jannetty was a darn awesome performer back in the day, Poor guy.
Drew vs. Truth was just boring. I loved the video package before it as it made both men come off as stars, but the match had nothing happening for seemingly ever until the ending, which I liked. The leg drop on the steps looked sick and made McIntyre come off as smart while allowing Truth to lose without hurting him here. I'm not quite sure why they had him lose via pinfall in their first singles match and by countout here, but I liked this ending aside from that.
Batista vs. Rey was a better partner vs. partner match than Jericho-Show from Raw, but didn't quite capture the same chemistry that they have as a team. Still a fine match though, and Batista actually took the rana, which surprised me. He's been pretty good since returning - I just hope that he can remain healthy for more than a few months this time around. The buildup to Punk-Taker for next week was also good, and I'm interested in seeing just how they book that since the PPV is just two days later.
Good show intro...then things got Impact-ariffic as they had the lead heels and faces get into a big brawl after Angle rambled on forever. Then there was an awful 3-on-3 knockouts match where the faces sabotaged each other. With Kong, it's fine because she's more of a tweener, but Tara's supposed to be a face...so of course she kicks the sh*t out of her partner, the women's champion, who LOSES AGAIN. TBP all looked awful in the ring, and even the finish was botched here - it was supposed to be a schoolboy but turned into just a basic pin cover.
Then they do a deal in the back saying that Homicide's been suspended, but never talk about it - that's saved for later during the Red-Suicide match when it's revealed that he was suspended for INSUBORDINATION. The Pope said things during this bit, which ruled. He had bills to pay and made Lauren feel him up so she could feel that he had the heart of a lion. Then Red faced Suicide in a fine little match that was highlighted by DW being revealed as the new manager for Red. Awesome move, as Red can't talk and DW damn sure can. The match was too short to be memorable, and they made it clear in a video package that Red didn't really earn the title - Lashley gave it to him.
Hernandez came out in his old tag gear for his "run the gauntlet" match, so now we know the difference between a TNA "gauntlet" (Royal Rumble-style match, unlike every other company's gauntlet match) and the traditional gauntlet match. He proceeded to make the IWGP tag champs look like jobbers, which bugged me. They tried to cover for it by saying that they aren't all that experienced in singles matches, but still, they shouldn't have been in this role. They could have killed Kiyoshi and Bashir here - they aren't in a PPV title match. They did further try to get over the shoulder block, which is sold like a pounce, which I like as it makes it seem like a credible finisher. And the use of the Batista Bomb as more than a transitional move is good - they've now tried to get four big moves over for him as finishers, but I don't know why they didn't have him wear his supermex gear - he looks like a star in it and seems like just another dude in his street gear.
The weird CNN-ish split screen deal with Tenay and all of the captains for the teams for the double tag team title full metal mayhem match was hilarious for all the wrong reasons. And then everyone started yelling over each other, then they cut to the back with EVERYONE fighting for some reason. Way too much happened at once here and nothing meant anything.
Dinero vs. Daniels was a really good, but short match. I loved the Pope's new falling Dinero entrance. It's a shame they didn't save that FOR THE BIGGEST PPV OF THE YEAR! Especially since he lost. Still, they had a really good match for the five minutes it lasted. They blended together really well and I'm looking forward to seeing them go at it in Ultimate X - hopefully leading to the Pope winning the X Title. Homicide coming out and attacking Daniels was great - especially when he unmasked, mugged for the camera, then got an OH SHIITTT! look on his face as security came out. His backstage promo was interesting - it seems like he's going to blackmail Suicide to not spill his secret, which is at least better than doing nothing with either guy, even if it makes more sense to have Hernandez vs. Homicide than it does to have Hernandez vie for the Legends title.
Foley's deal where he showed 10 seconds of footage to prove how big a rip-off Abyss is was a bit brief - accurate, but short, and then Abyss came out and got tricked because Lauren was held hostage. After having a bat held to his throat, Foley just went back and ate popcorn while the shot showed a fan wearing a "seriously" shirt sat right next to him in camera view - that ruled. Heel Foley just sucks - way too over the top here, and the prior build for this match was way better. Still, I'm sure they'll kill each other for this show, so it should at least serve the purposes of the feud.
Hamada vs. Flash was a good little match. Too short, especially since the build involved A WOMAN BEING THROWN DOWN A SET OF BLEACHERS, but they really built up the table spot well - teasing it at the beginning and then paying it off at the end. Not sure I'd book this three days before a match involving tables in the tag title match, and one that will likely involve them in the monster's ball, but it was a fine match on its own.
Lashley vs. Rhino was built up pretty poorly. They built Rhino up kinda well for Lashley, and then he's just off TV for three weeks until tonight when we're expected to care. And then the guy gets the edge before the match and still can't beat Lashley. God, what a loser. The match was nothing special, but I preferred the "drag the guy in a stretcher to an ambulance" stip as opposed to WWE's CROSS THE FINISH LINE! one. Makes things seem more real. Rhino needs to stop doing the gore so much - it led to him slamming into a wall early on in the match and then getting kicked and full nelson slammed into a guardrail later. As a match, it failed, but it at least led to Lashley getting a rib injury, which Joe exploited with a chair after the match. So it theoretically worked at building up the PPV match, even though I was left with less desire to see it. Also, why bother building up Lashley as an MMA guy if he's just going to have the same kind of matches as everyone else?
Then Abyss gets tricked by Foley, Stevie, and Daffney in a cartoonish bit right out of a Hanna Barbera TV show, with Daffney dressed as Lauren, screaming in terror for help, so Abyss comes to help and gets beaten up. Then they go from this to saying that Angle vs. AJ is next. Bizarre placement for this stuff, and it really undermined the main event after seeing stupid sh*it like this right before it.
AJ vs. Angle was fantastic. It was definitely a PPV-quality match, which created some problems as it was really a better match than either man's PPV match could hope to be. This was the best match on iMPACT! in a long time - it really stood out as something different, in part, because of so many things it did right that are rarely done on iMPACT! It started off slow - they didn't do anything beyond basic groundwork for about five or so minutes, and it was great because you rarely see stuff like this on TV. Angle's tope was crazy, and scary since he barely hit and appeared to smack his back on the floor, but I'm sure it'll make a highlight reel. For once Taz really added to this match by putting over all of the amateur stuff that Angle did as deadly - and doing so in a believable manner. Tenay took away from it a bit by yelling a lot and saying stupid stuff like " AJ GOES SPRINGBOARD" and "ANGLE GOES CHEAPSHOT".
I've got mixed feelings about the Styles Clash getting a 2- that almost never happens, which helped make this seem special and played into the story when AJ kicked out of the Angle Slam, but it kind of undermined the champion's finisher heading into the PPV main event. And then Angle kicked out of another one when he kicked out of the springboard 450. Given that the story they're telling is that AJ arguably doesn't deserve the title, this kind of stuff doesn't help. And then he's saved by the bell during the ankle lock - so he would've been beaten had the time limit not expired. Great match, but AJ looked weaker than he should have heading into the PPV.
The AJ-Sting deal, I didn't mind the lack of footage in the preview video package - they did at least try to have photos of every era that they didn't have footage for, and unlike that documentary they did, you can get by with that for a few minutes and have it not hurt things too badly. However, if if they try a whole career retrospective deal ala WWE and Flair, yeah, that'll suffer a lot because with that, you rally have to show major career moments, and TNA owns like maybe three of them, not counting when his boots made their debut. They also should have picked better photos to tell the "STING WAS DESTROYING HIMSELF AND WAS ON A DOWNWARD SPIRAL" story, because in every one of them, he looked roughly the same - surely there's something in his personal archive of photos that could have worked for that. That whole part of the story was kind of weird because it's a deeply personal thing that someone COULD get behind in some way...and it played absolutely no part in the story being told on TV for the past month. It was like they watched said documentary and said "well, this part was touching, let's have him re-tell it on this special". It felt completely out of place and made the PPV MAIN EVENT seem even more like filler.
Another problem for me is that they've really milked the "THIS IS STING'S LAST _____" NUMEROUS TIMES over the past year to absolutely no consequence. He lost at least one "last title shot EVAR!" match, and what did he contend for last month? The world title. This month? The world title. So even if this actually is Sting's last match, the fans have no good reason to believe it will be regardless of his contractual status because they've been conditioned to think that "Well, it's Sting, so somehow, someway, they'll find a way out of this".
Plus, the whole retirement aspect of it didn't mean a damn thing until the past two weeks - before that it was literally restricted to the show's graphics in ads with the "IS IT STING'S FINAL CURTAIN?". Why play the retirement card if you don't intend on doing anything with it? It just renders it useless when that day does inevitably come, in which case, they've got no one to blame but themselves for it not working.
The PPV preview stuff was good, but not up to par with the UFC Countdown stuff I've seen. Lashley-Joe at least humanized Lashley, but didn't do much for Joe at all. The Monster's Ball one was hurt by the ridiculousness of the storyline, and Foley kind of flying in the face of it by saying that he and Abyss are out to have a great match. Hell of a blood feud. Morgan-Angle was really well built-up, with Angle saying that he's the best, but hasn't been able to prove it at BFG, so he will this year, while Morgan said that this is all-consuming and he won't be happy just having a great match - HE MUST WIN! Awesome all around, and I love that they added in how important it was for Angle to win at this particular event.