TNA Slammiversary 2013: 10 Talking Points

1. Why Did Kurt Angle Win?

When AJ Styles took his sabbatical at the beginning of 2013 after suffering a string of losses including one which stipulated that he would not be able to secure himself a TNA World Title shot until Bound For Glory in October, my presumption was that on his return, Styles would go on a journey of redemption and be thrust back towards the top of the card. It was fair to believe then that, in Styles’ first pay-per-view match back, he would go over. Granted, Angle had earlier in the night been announced as the 2nd inductee into the TNA Hall of Fame, and so for him to lose on the same night would have killed the mood somewhat, but that could have been avoided by making the announcement at any other time- seriously, why did they need to make the announcement at Slammiversary when his actual induction won’t be until October!?

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I suppose TNA management will feel that Styles can more than make up for his loss to Angle by winning the Bound For Glory series and securing his place in the main event of the October pay-per-view, but this was an important match for Styles, in particular to maintain the momentum he has built up since returning a few months ago. Why they couldn’t book Styles to go over with the help of Aces & Eights (thus protecting Angle) and then had Styles attack the biker gang, revealing his allegiance at the pay-per-view is a mystery. Instead TNA decided that they would reveal Styles intentions prematurely and missed an obvious booking opportunity.

2. What a waste of Jeff Hardy’s return

Jeff Hardy was the winner of last year’s Bound For Glory, TNA’s equivalent of Wrestlemania, and was their lead babyface for much of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013. When a wrestler who has been built to the level Hardy has returns from a 2 month absence it is worth making a big deal of their return to action for two main reasons. Firstly, if Hardy is brought back into a high profile, and well hyped scenario then it is likely to garner either higher television ratings or pay-per-view buys. Secondly, if TNA don’t make a big deal of Hardy’s return, why should fans believe that it matters?

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Put another way, if TNA treats Jeff Hardy’s return to in-ring action as an after-thought, shoe-horned into a 6-man tag match against 3 mediocre members of TNA’s midcard, then why should fans regard Hardy as a big star anymore? When you have a character who is as over, popular and has as much investment in them as Hardy, you need to always present them as being important, rather than just another part of the show, lest they lose their aura of stardom. Again, this could have been done better by TNA if they had just thought it through a little more. Jeff Hardy didn’t need to return to the ring at Slammiversary, in fact his reintroduction to the company would have been much more impactful had they saved it for his announcement as Bully Ray’s opponent this past week on Impact. As it was, Hardy’s star value, and more importantly, his value to TNA was reduced by his return on the pay-per-view.

3. Taryn Terrell laughing couldn’t spoil a great knockouts match

Gail Kim once again cemented her reputation as one of the finest women’s wrestlers in the US after she and Taryn Terrell put on a fine contest to conclude their long running feud. In particular Gail’s bump into the steel chair that had been placed between the top two turnbuckles was a fantastic spot, and unique in a women’s match. The whole feud has been a well thought out, well planned programme which has been designed all the way to put Taryn Terrell over as a competitive member of the TNA Knockouts division to the audience. Credit must go to all involved for the way this was conceived and executed in spite of the way Terrell nearly spoiled it at the last hurdle.

After another superb spot where Terrell came off the top rope with a cross body on Kim whilst a chair was in between the two, Terell was on the mat whilst the camera was on her and could clearly be seen to be laughing. Firstly the director didn’t react quick enough to the situation and cut to a wide shot of the two women on the floor, which is strange as it was so obvious that Terrell was in fits that a member of the audience shouted to her to stop laughing. In the midst of such a good, and brutal looking match the last thing that fans needed was to be taken out of the moment in such a way, luckily the action managed to gloss over the mistake, but only just.

4. A fantastic Boston crowd

Given the length of Raw these days it is not rare for a wrestling audience on television to be quiet and generally uninterested in what is going on in the ring. It was more than welcome then that the crowd in Boston were well up for the night of action on offer at Slammiversary. From the opening bell of the X-Division 3 way contest to the overbooked finish of the TNA World Title main event match, the fans were loud throughout (with the exception of the poorly hyped Sam Shaw and Jay Bradley match).

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It is exactly this kind of crowd reaction and atmosphere that TNA were hoping for when the company made its decision to take their show on the road earlier this year. The atmosphere that existed in the Agganis Arena made everything that took place look more important than it would have done inside the Impact Zone. The matches were more exciting, the wrestlers looked bigger stars and the company as a whole came off looking that much more of a big deal because of it. What’s more, an audible crowd always gives a card a better chance of being entertaining, something that must come across if TNA is to continue to build its fanbase.

5. A finish with very little logic

Those of you who read my preview of Slammiversary a week or so ago would have been aware that I wasn’t exactly relishing the contest between TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bully Ray and Sting, mainly due to the fact that I couldn’t see how the past it Sting could put on a pay-per-view main event calibre contest. Fortunately for TNA , I was wrong and in truth, Bully Ray and Sting put on a decent match, that was at least until the highly dissatisfying home stretch. After Sting hit his Scorpion Deathdrop on a part of the ring where wooden slats had been exposed, Garrett Bishoff, Wes Brisco, Knux and DOC ran interference for the leader of the Aces & Eights. At this point, you would expect that the other members of the TNA roster would run down to help ‘The Icon’ out.

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Instead, Sting ran them off on his own, before Devon ran out to help Bully Ray as well. When Sting disposed of him, Mr Anderson passed Bully a hammer who then used it on Sting and took the win. At no point during all of this interferance or after the match when the Aces & Eights celebrated in the ring and Sting was out on his back, did any of the TNA army come to help the Stinger, not even his ‘good friend’ Hulk Hogan. Given the supposed importance this match had in terms of the war between Aces & Eights and TNA, it made absolutely no sense for none of the TNA soldiers to come down and support Sting with the odds so firmly stacked against him, which in my view undid so much of the work Sting and Bully had done to push the match into thumbs up territory.

6. Jay Bradley can gain much from the Bound For Glory Series

TNA did a poor job of building up the relevance of the match between Jay Bradley and Sam Shaw prior to the pay-per-view, with the ‘tournament’ between Gut Check contestants limited to one match, and one bye, then this final. Had TNA extended the tournament to include 8 wrestlers instead of 4, then it would have given Bradley and Shaw the chance to appear on 2 matches on Impact before the pay-per-view and possibly given us a reason to care about the two men who have so far been presented as being sub par to the regular TNA roster.

Having said all that, TNA made a brave decision to put this on the pay-per-view, and if hyped up better could have resulted in either one, or both getting over with the TNA fanbase. I’m not convinced of Jay Bradley’s ability yet; the 3 or 4 times I have seen him in action have been decent enough, but the way in which he is presented as having not really graduated to the main roster yet means that fans have no real reason to buy into his work. Maybe with Bradley now in the Bound For Glory series he will have the chance to compete more often on Impact and start to make an impression, a couple of significant wins against regular members of the TNA roster wouldn’t hurt either.

7. What’s next for Abyss and Joesph Park?

Joseph Park has been in TNA now for over a year and we are seemingly at the point where the company are ready to reveal that he and Abyss are one and the same person. What significance this has when it has been obvious to even the most casual of wrestling fans that this is the case since the very beginning I don’t know, but I was surprised that the ‘big reveal’ didn’t come at Slammiversary. Having given Park a storyline reason to be taken out of the match and replaced with Abyss it seemed to me to be the obvious time to end this particular chapter in Chris Parks’ (the man behind both characters) career.

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The Abyss character has pretty much done everything that he can do in TNA having been with the company since the beginning and it was always my assumption that the company had introduced the Joseph Park character in order to keep the man behind the gimmick in a job, and doing something new. Now that it seems that TNA are giving up on the Joseph Park character and reintroducing Abyss, what is left for them to do with him. Dixie Carter has a reputation for being someone who is on occasion too loyal to the people she employs and doesn’t recognise when their usefulness might have run out, given his only average in-ring ability and lack of remaining options, I fear that Chris Parks is getting very close to that point.

8. A deserving TNA Hall of Fame inductee

It has always fascinated me to understand what TNA believes it can achieve with its Hall of Fame. Given the profile of WWE’s Hall of Fame and its close association with Wrestlemania, it seems strange that TNA would feel it is worthwhile from either a business or legacy perspective for them to create their own. TNA should avoid drawing comparisons between itself and the WWE wherever possible and so TNA’s choice last year to begin to honour workers from their short history with the recognition of Hall of Fame status is a strange one.

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Whatever the case, TNA has done itself a favour by keeping their own Hall of Fame as exclusive as is possible and once again only having one inductee this year. If there is one major criticism of the WWE’s Hall Of Fame is that there are a number of people who have been put into it that are arguably not deserving of the honour. Obviously this applies to celebrities such as Donald Trump, Drew Carey and Bob Ueker but also potentially to guys who actually worked in the ring (Koko B. Ware and James Dudley spring to mind). TNA meanwhile seem to have some resolve to ensure only the elite members of its roster make it into the reckoning and as a consequence, membership of it will end up meaning that much more to those who make it in, you could see how much it meant to Angle at the pay-per-view when it was announced.

9. Does the X-Title mean anything anymore?

The new format of the X-Division is still in its infancy and up until Slammiversary we had been given cause to be mildly optimistic that the company were behind the task of re-establishing the division as an important aspect of its promotion. At the pay-per-view however the X-Title was given a some pretty tough knocks by the company, the first of which was to put it on first, which I wouldn’t have ordinarily minded except for that fact this wasn’t just a regular X-Title match but an Ultimate X match which has traditionally been a big deal in the past.

The company had been doing a good job of building Kenny King as a credible champion before his loss to Chris Sabin at Slammiversary, but it was understandable that they switched the title to Sabin given the story of his comeback from injury was ready made for them to exploit. My main issue is that having won the title, Sabin was interrupted by who did two things that took away from the importance of the Title and Sabin’s win. Firstly he announced that having won the title, Sabin would now get the chance to go for the World Title as though winning the X-Title wasn’t a big enough prize in and of its own. The second thing he did was, once Sabin had left the stage, transitioned into the next segment by stating that “it was time to get down to business”, belittling the importance of the match that had just opened the show.

10. Let that be an end to the 4 way tag team feud

I don’t know about anybody else, but I for one would be happy if I never seen another tag match featuring any combination of the 4 teams that took part in the tag title match at Slammiversary again. In particular, if Chavo and Hernandes have to lock up with Daniels and Kazarian one more time I will turn off the television immediately. I’m a big fan of Bad Influence as a team, and think that all of the others involved in the match (with the possible exception of Gunner) are good workers who can have great matches, but keeping Aries and Roode in particular in this feud is a supreme waste of talent.

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The signs are good that the men involved in this interminable feud are going to go their seperate ways as on Impact, Hernandez qualified for the Bound For Glory series and it would be very surprising if both Roode and Aries weren’t also involved. One thing is clear, if TNA want to maintain an exciting tag team division, they simply must put some more teams together. Guys like Robbie E, Joey Ryan, Christian York and Jesse Godderz are in desperate need of something worthwhile to do, joining them together might be a good start, and surely there is a regular tag team combination that can be put together from all those midcarders in the Aces & Eights?

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