The only serious competition to the WWE juggernaut is TNA Wrestling, which has been making some changes to their product in recent months in hopes of being more competitive. They took their show on the road, no longer taping every episode of televised programming from the Impact Zone in Orlando, Florida. They moved back into their 9pm Thursday night timeslot after moving around a bit. They decreased the number of events in their annual pay per view cycle, and they’ve started running special events on free television to supplement.

Given those changes, and some positive reviews in past weeks, I’m diving back into their product to see how it’s progressing, and to see if I should make it a fixture in my weekly wrestling viewing. This week’s edition of Impact is one of the aforementioned special events, bringing the Destination X pay per view concept and putting it on a Thursday night for free. Having attended a Destination X pay per view a few years back, I’m excited to see what they have in store. Given some of the recent roster cuts, I’m hoping this event is focused on pushing the talent they’re looking to put into prominent positions.

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Chris Sabin: Challenger

The show kicks off with a nice hype video  where they give us the underdog story of Chris Sabin, who has a storied history in the X Division and tonight gets his shot at the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. He got this shot by turning in the X Division title a week ago, a decision that some people don’t like. Personally I’m a huge fan of the X Division, and aside from the times where the tag division was excellent, the X Division was the highlight of the company. Do I blame them for openly admitting that the X Division title is a lesser championship than the World title? Absolutely not. In any company, the World title should be the top goal of everyone on the card. That said, there’s still room for competitors to want to get the X Division title for the reason of having THAT championship, not just as a stepping stone towards the World title. It’s not like this is the first time Chris Sabin has held the X Division championship, either. SIX TIMES he’s held that belt. Three times he won the World X Cup. He’s the perfect competitor to turn in the belt to get the World title shot.

Bully Ray: Champion

The live event begins with Bully Ray in the ring, cutting a great promo. The Aces & Eights aren’t out there. His drive is clearly focused on defeating the threat of Chris Sabin, and once he said his bit about the challenger, he moved on to Brooke Hogan. Having not watched a significant amount of Impact in 2013, this is the first I’m learning of Brooke Hogan having not only a significant role in the company… but apparently she’s married (kayfabe) to Bully Ray. Who she calls “Mark”, which is a poor choice of blurring the lines by TNA.

After Bully Ray and Brooke have a bit of a verbal spat on the mic, with Bully Ray saying he’s not letting Brooke “move on until [he] says she can move on”, we get a brief, pre-recorded promo from Kurt Angle and the new Main Event Mafia (complete with Rampage Jackson). I’m a bit mixed in my opinion on whether it was a good idea to have it be a pre-recorded promo, but given the fact that one of TNA’s problems used to be the awkward feeling of their face-to-face encounters and their penchant for going on too long, I’m okay with it.

Bobby Roode: Looking Towards The Future

We get a reminder that last year, Bobby Roode lost the TNA World Title to Austin Aries when Aries turned in the X Division title to get the shot. Bobby Roode says he doesn’t want to look at the past, and rather he wants to focus on the future. He reminds us that he doesn’t have any points yet in the BFG series, and he’s looking to change that tonight. Nice short promo.

Bound For Glory Series

For those of you unaware of how the BFG series works, essentially there’s a list of guys who fight in matches, round robin style, and they gain points for outcomes. Getting a submission win is better than just a pinfall. Losing by disqualification loses points. If you really need to know more about it, there are plenty of places to find those details, but it’s one of my favorite parts of the year, going from July to September’s pay per view, deciding who will get a World title shot at their flagship pay per view in October, Bound For Glory.

Live Tweeting Live

Apparently Gail Kim is live-tweeting Destination X. If they had picked someone more controversial, I probably would’ve checked out what they had to say… but they didn’t. Headed to Twitter I’m not.

BFG Series Match
Bobby Roode vs Austin Aries

Very nice booking here, to book a return match from last year’s event and have it relevant to what’s going on this year. Both of these guys could very easily fit into the WWE landscape and have that type of popularity, so this is a good booking decision for a prominent episode of Impact. They might’ve taken a moment or two to “remind” us that Roode and Aries were a tag team not long ago… which I just figured out while looking for an image to include with the article for this match.

The live crowd was hot for this match, and rightfully so, and it certainly adds something that they didn’t have back in the Impact Zone. Lots of great moves, some fun false finishes which had me tricked. Austin Aries gets a big win at the end with his brainbuster, and although he might look smaller than Bobby Roode, he certainly makes up for it with his strength and offensive moveset.

After the match, the announcers (Jeremy Borash and Mike Tenay) are talking about Bobby Roode is 0-4 in this year’s BFG series… and he flips out, throwing chairs everywhere.

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LAX Reunited

One of my favorite tag teams in TNA history, LAX, is back together again, at least for one night, because Homicide is back in the building for this X Division Qualifier match. Sure, the announcers didn’t mention him by name. Neither did Hernandez or Chavo, but it was fun to see Homicide and Hernandez back together. Personally I’m hoping that Homicide sticks around. He’s dynamic in the ring and on the mic, and his character is significantly better developed than some of the other X Division guys I’ve seen TNA put in their ring since Homicide left.

Ultimate X Qualifier
Homicide vs Petey Williams vs Sonjay Dutt

This is a match that I probably would’ve advertised, because I’m a fan of all three of these guys, and I’m sure this match is going to be highly entertaining.

Nice spots:

  • Right at the beginning, Homicide catches a kick from Sonjay, spins him so that Petey ends up holding Sonjay’s foot, and then Homicide kicks Sonjay in his prone leg.
  • Sonjay spinning out of a snapmare, a reversal I’ve NEVER seen in 20 years.
  • Slingshot codebreaker from Petey Williams from outside the ring apron onto Sonjay Dutt
  • Homicide hitting a neckbreaker on Petey Williams while Petey was looking for a sharpshooter on Sonjay Dutt… but Petey keeps his legs intertwined on Sonjay and turns it into a different submission
  • Homicide looking for the Gringo Killer on Petey Williams, which is then reversed into an attempt for the Canadian Destroyer attempt… which is blocked… and then Homicide hits a Gringo Killer which looks like it almost killed Petey Williams
  • Sonjay Dutt’s finish, which was a double foot stomp onto Homicide’s chest after a moonsault.

I’m really hoping that at least two of these guys end up staying with TNA beyond tonight. And for those of you who aren’t familiar with Homicide’s Gringo Killer…

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Ultimate X Qualifier
Manik (formerly Suicide) vs Chavo Guerrero vs Kenny King

Not as exciting for me, because I’m not as familiar with Manik or Kenny King… and I’m not as big of a fan of Chavo Guerrero as I was about any of the guys from the other match, but still a decent match. Nice single-leg submission from Manic on Kenny King, followed up by Manik doing a bridging suplex on Chavo while maintaining the leg lock. These are the types of moves that make the X Division three-way matches soo exciting. No fast forwarding here.

Another nice spot: Manik runs towards Chavo, who back body drops Manik… who flips over and kicks Kenny King instead of hitting the mat.

Manik’s finisher looks awkward, but he hit it on Kenny King and it’s certainly impactful. I’m not even sure how to explain it, other than saying he gets belly-to-back, butterfly hook of the arms, lifts his opponent up… then drops them forward onto his knees. Confusing, right? Well the opponent gets dropped forward with their chest pounding into their opponent’s knees. That’s pretty much all you need to know. And that Manik won the match.

Hogan Playing Favorites

Hulk Hogan backstage in the type of segment he should be doing a lot more of in TNA… mentoring Chris Sabin, getting him ready for his match, telling him to bring the belt home, and telling him to make it memorable.

Main Event Mafia In-Ring Segment

Sting, Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, Magnus and Rampage Jackson get to the ring and they talk some smack to Aces & Eights, saying that they’re focused on getting to A&8 tonight… and if that’s the case, why wait until halfway through the show to do ANYTHING?

I will say that, aside from Sting, who is past his prime and probably still stuck in a mindset from a decade (or more) ago, I’m really liking this incarnation of Main Event Mafia a lot more than the previous one.

Mr Anderson (with Aces & Eights behind him) gets on screen and laughs at Main Event Mafia’s invitation to join them in the ring. It’s then decided that things are headed backstage “right now”, but nobody seems in any kind of rush to make that happen. When they finally get back there, a scuffle ensues in some sort of store room… which gets locked up after they throw Kurt Angle out of there, and Bully Ray throws Kurt Angle into the back of a truck which drives off.

I guess they’re looking to keep their advantage when it comes time for the World Title match.

Ultimate X Qualifier
Rubix vs Rockstar Spud vs Greg Marasciulo

This match intrigues me a little bit because I’ve never seen Spud nor Rubix before, and I’m a big fan of what I’ve seen from Marasciulo from when he wrestled in WWE as Trent Barreta.

Rubix… sounds like a familiar game, right? Then why is he wearing ring attire which prominently features puzzle pieces? Apparently because he used to be known as Jigsaw in other promotions he has worked for.

Spud is apparently known from some reality show over in Britain.

Decent moves from Rubix and Marasciulo… I don’t recall much from Spud despite hating his “look”… but overall a decent match (which probably should’ve been the second qualifier of the night instead of the third) and thankfully we get another match from Greg “Don’t call me Trent Barreta” Marasciulo next week, as he wins with an interesting movethat plants Spud on his back into a pinfall position.

Knockout Champ Mickey James In-Ring

Not wearing her “Hardcore Country” outfit anymore, it looks like Mickie James is looking to heel it up a bit more. After hyping up the singing performance she gave the week before, Mickie gets interrupted by Gail Kim, who shows up and talks about getting a shot at the Knockouts Championship, and then the two rumble. Nothing special, but it was at least average, which isn’t always a given for women’s wrestling segments.

Aries and Sabin

Backstage, Austin Aries tracks down Chris Sabin and tells him that Aries was the one who pushed Chris Sabin to realize he can be great… and that he’s pulling for Chris Sabin. Quick, effective, and I liked it.

AJ Styles Backstage

Not to be left off the show, AJ Styles is backstage, he’s mysterious, he’s in a dark room, and he lets us know that he intends to keep taking matches in the BFG Series. Yep, that’s it. Just that. Then we find out that next week, he’s fighting Jeff Hardy.

World Heavyweight Championship
Chris Sabin vs Bully Ray (c)

They’re giving the main event 254 minutes, which is better than they’ve done in the past, so that’s promising. They both get a decent entrance, but neither one of the entrances takes too long, and Bully Ray shows up by himself.

I had no doubt that Chris Sabin could put on a good match if he did things his way, fast paced and innovative, but that’s not the way Bully Ray works, and I’m happy to report that in the beginning of the match, Chris Sabin did a great job of proving that he can wrestle an intense, brawling match.

Aces & Eights show up while Chris Sabin is on the outside, and then Main Event Mafia show up, just like they promised to do, and they keep Bully Ray’s squad at bay.

Bully Ray turns the attention to working over Chris Sabin’s leg, hitting a variety of moves to keep Sabin on the mat, taking off his knee braces, even unlacing Sabin’s boot. For the majority of the match, after Aces & Eights comes out, Bully Ray dominates. Chris Sabin starts to get back into it, does a Missile Dropkick, and somehow that’s enough to where he’d have a pinfall win… if the referee didn’t get knocked over when Bully Ray stumbled into him after the dropkick. A member of A&8 tries to give Bully Ray a hammer, the Main Event Mafia gets involved and removes them from ringside.

Just as the referee is starting to get up, Bully Ray finds the hammer, loses the hammer to Sabin, and as Bully Ray tries to get the full and final advantage, he hoists Sabin up for a powerbomb… gets drilled in the head with the hammer by Sabin… and Chris Sabin pins him to become the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion!

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