Coming off the heels of a great Sacrifice pay per view, TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bobby Roode comes out to kick things off. He immediately brags about beating the odds each and every time, including at Sunday’s Sacrifice ppv, when he beat Rob Van Dam in Van Dam’s own kind of match. Roode puts over RVD, saying that he put the champion through hell, yet Roode brags about how he still prevailed and once again proved all the fans wrong. There’s a very funny spot, where the fans are all booing the champion, but Roode claims that they are instead chanting ‘Roode’ (this was great). He says by this time next week, he would have reached a milestone, meaning that he would officially be the longest reigning champion in the history of the company. Roode says to celebrate this properly, he is going to hold a victory celebration next week, called the celebration of domination, but he says that in order for this to run smoothly, he needs to call out the man in charge, Hulk Hogan. Hogan quickly joins Roode in the ring. Roode says he has a list of demands to be met for his party. He says he wants his dressing room redecorated and to have five bottles of chilled champagne and some M ‘n’ M’s in the room as well (only the green ones he says). Roode says he also wants gold confetti to be dropped from the rafters, which must be imported from Canada. Hogan says that out of all the champions that he’s seen in his lifetime, until Roode had the title, the company was going awry, and since Roode won the title, order has been restored. Hogan reminds Roode that he has not become the longest reigning champion yet, and with that, Hogan rips up the list of demands. Hogan also reminds Roode that next week is Open Fight Night, which means that Roode will be defending his title next week. Hogan says he took a poll in the back, to see if anyone wanted a shot at the champ on Open Fight Night. Hogan then invites all of those men out, which leads to just about everyone on the roster coming out. Hogan says he’s going to eliminate this down to four guys, meaning that there’s going to be a series of elimination matches tonight. Hogan says it’ll be RVD against Bully Ray, Jeff Hardy versus Mr. Anderson and Kurt Angle against Samoa Joe. Hogan adds that the fourth qualifying match will be decided in a battle royal between whoever’s left. While Roode protests the decision in the ring, the rest of the guys on the ramp continue sizing each other up and staring each other down.
After the break, TNA quickly reminds us of Abyss’ return last week.
Match #1: Bully Ray vs. Rob Van Dam in a contender’s qualifying match
Question: How does RVD get a potential rematch for the World Title, when Hogan instructed the Machine Guns a month ago that they couldn’t get a title shot, because of Sabin’s knee injury and because they lost at the previous pay per view? Explain how that makes sense. Tenay mentions in passing that next week will be the return of Gut Check (I wonder when the return of Alex Silva will be). Ray immediately goes after RVD’s injuries from the pay per view. RVD comes back with a spin kick, followed by rolling thunder for two. Ray misses a big splash, allowing Van Dam to build some momentum with a series of knock downs. RVD tries a single leg missile dropkick, but Ray sidesteps him, which lands Van Dam on his bad knee, and leads to Ray hitting a diamond cutter for the clean win.
Winner: Bully Ray by pinfall
Bully Ray is approached by Joseph Park backstage, and Park says when his brother warned him to stay away from the fire last week, Park concluded that Abyss was referring to Bully Ray as the fire. With that, Ray warns Park to stay away from him (why is Park still here when Abyss’ whereabouts are no longer in question?).
Up next is a video package, to fill us in on the signing of MMA fighter King Mo Lawal to both TNA and Bellator Fighting Championships.
Gail Kim is with Madison Rayne backstage, complaining about Hogan stacking the deck against her this week. Madison’s mind is obviously elsewhere and she quickly makes her exit. Velvet Sky and Brooke Tessmacher (new BFF’s) show up and remind Gail that she only has a 33 per cent chance to retain her title tonight, and since Brooke and Velvet both have their sights set on her title, Gail’s chances may be even lower.
Match #2: Contender’s qualifier battle royal
Why is ODB considered for a title shot? Not only that, but along with her husband Eric Young, she quickly dumps Crimson out with a double clothesline, but the momentum takes the newlyweds over the top as well. After being thrown over the top, Magnus tries skinning the cat, but is the recipient of a low dropkick by Aries, and Magnus’ night is over. At this point, Madison Rayne is seen at the entranceway, making googly eyes at one of the participants (yeah I’m holding my breath on that surprise). As Robbie T. is frantically trying to eliminate Garrett Bischoff, the big man is tossed out by his own running buddy little Robbie, who is also sent packing by Devon. Garrett Bischoff unleashes right hands on Devon, but Devon comes back with a flying shoulder block, only for Garrett to low bridge Devon, sending the TV champ packing (are you kidding me?). Garrett’s momentum doesn’t last long, as he’s drilled with a Pele by AJ and then sent flying over the top. There’s a great exchange of holds and reversals between Aries and Styles, as it gets down to the final three, with Gunner just taking a breather in the corner. Gunner capitalizes on both guys wearing each other down, as he eliminates Aries, but is quickly sent home by AJ, who gets the win.
Winner: AJ Styles
After the break is a video package to remind us of the never-ending saga between AJ Styles, Daniels and Kazarian.
AJ Styles is in the ring, saying he intends to end Bobby Roode’s title reign, before he reaches that milestone. AJ then addresses the so-called evidence from last week. He says things are not always as they seem. He says he and Dixie have been business partners for years. This leads to Daniels and Kazarian coming out. Daniels says seeing is believing and Kaz adds that all they wanted to do with expose some truth. He says AJ has always claimed to be a guy with strong morals, and they invite him to just tell them what the deal is. Daniels says even if they did misconstrue those photos and take them out of context, he and Kazarian have a video. The video shows AJ and Dixie arriving at a hotel, arm-in-arm, and Daniels is providing some commentary for the video. He asks AJ to explain why he and Dixie Carter are walking into a hotel room together. AJ shoves Daniels back and walks off, with Daniels and Kazarian just shaking their heads.
Up next is a highlight package, with footage from TNA Genesis 2006, showing highlights of the Samoa Joe versus Kurt Angle match.
Joe approaches Angle backstage and says it’s a shame that the two of them have to settle their business once again to get a title shot, but business is business. Angle then reminds Joe of the headbutt when they first met, saying that it’s all about who makes the first move. Angle then paintbrushes Joe, who pounces on him and the two of them are then separated by some of the other wrestlers.
Mr. Anderson is backstage with the Reaction crew, questioning his own victory over Jeff Hardy at the pay per view, saying that it’s possible that Hardy may have kicked out at two, so tonight, he’s going to make things right and he’ll beat Hardy again.
Match #3: Mr. Anderson vs. Jeff Hardy in a contender’s qualifying match
Hardy delivers an inverted atomic drop and then negotiates a double-leg takedown and follows with a double-footed legdrop to the abdomen and then a low dropkick. Hardy delivers a slingshot dropkick for two. Anderson comes back with a swinging neckbreaker for two. Hardy ducks under a roundhouse kick and goes to the knee with a chopblock. He then delivers a back body drop. He follows that up with a side Russian leg sweep, but Anderson is able to surprise him with a modified victory roll for two. Hardy retaliates with the whisper in the wind. Hardy then goes for a twist of fate, but Anderson spins through it and hits the steamroller. Anderson then gets caught in a crucifix, giving Hardy the win, but it looks like Anderson may have kicked out (I see what they’re doing there).
Winner: Jeff Hardy by pinfall
After the match, Hardy and Anderson show some good sportsmanship with a hug.
Up next is another video package, containing highlights from the Samoa Joe versus Kurt Angle match at Lockdown 2008.
Match #4: Gail Kim vs. Velvet Sky vs. Brooke Tessmacher in a 3-way dance for the TNA Women’s Knockout Championship
Taz makes a bunch of terrible 3-way jokes to get us set for this. The two challengers double team the champion right off the bat. Velvet delivers some facebusters, and Brooke follows up with a flying forearm. Gail regains the advantage, knocking Velvet to the floor and delivers a backbreaker to Brooke. Gail then applies a Boston crab on Brooke, as Velvet applies a dragon sleeper on the champ, which was a cool spot. Gail then delivers a tilt-a-whirl into a horizontal octopus on Brooke. As the challengers go at it in the ring, Gail drops both of them with a missile dropkick, with a foot for each challenger. Velvet plants Brooke with the In Your Face, but Velvet is shoved to the outside by Gail, who takes advantage and gets the pin on Brooke.
Winner: Gail Kim by pinfall
Match #5: Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe in a contender’s qualifying match
Joe lands some leg kicks in the early going, and punishes Angle with some stiff jabs in the corner. Angle gets a double-leg takedown, but Joe powers him back down with a couple of running shoulder blocks. Angle responds with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex, as World Champion Bobby Roode comes out for a closer look. Roode joins the announcers on commentary, as the match continues. Angle delivers a snap suplex for two. Joe catches Angle with an inverted atomic drop, as Angle comes off the middle turnbuckle. Joe follows up with a flying boot and then a senton backsplash for two. Joe then delivers a snap powerslam for another near fall. Angle comes back with the rolling German suplexes. Joe avoids the Angle slam and applies the Coquina clutch, but Angle reverses and counters into the ankle lock. Joe rolls through it and delivers a spinning front kick in the corner. Angle responds with the Angle slam, but only gets two. Joe tries another kick on a kneeling Angle, but Angle catches the foot and clamps on the ankle lock. Joe rolls Angle right into the middle turnbuckle and catches Angle charging in with a urinage. Joe then tries the muscle buster, but Angle drives a headbutt into Joe’s forehead and rolls into a sunset flip for the win.
Winner: Kurt Angle by pinfall
As Roode taunts Angle from the entranceway, he spots Jeff Hardy in the crowd. Bully Ray then shows up behind the champ, and AJ Styles comes through the entrance tunnel.
I actually really liked this episode. I loved the opening segment with Roode and I feel that if they can’t find a contender who can match him in terms of being a standout in this company, then they shouldn’t take the title from him until then. Roode was at his absolute best tonight, and I loved his list of outrageous demands as well, and I love how he’s always booked in matches where the odds aren’t in his favour, but he somehow always prevails; he’s such a great heel. I also like the idea that guys have to earn their way to a title match, instead of it just being handed to them by Hogan, like the Tag Title match at the last Open Fight Night. The whole angle with AJ and Dixie is actually starting to grow on me. Not because I particularly like it, because I still don’t, but if it gets Kazarian and Daniels booked more frequently on television and in prominent roles, then I’m all for it. In fact, Daniels has been fantastic for the last few weeks and has really made the most out of what he’s been given. The women’s match actually wasn’t even terrible this week. That’s not to say that it was great, but it was at least passable. I liked the spot with the double submission, and I thought the finish was booked well, if they’re going with Velvet as the long-term challenger. Even though tonight’s main event was not nearly as good as the other Angle versus Joe matches, it’s always great to see Joe booked in important TV matches. Plus, the way the match was booked, he actually got to put up a fight and it’s not like the match was completely one-sided, which I honestly expected it to be. It’s almost like they undid all the terrible booking of Samoa Joe in the last few years on this one night, but just ‘almost.’ I also liked how Impact ended this week with the four challengers at opposite corners of the arena, with Roode kind of trapped in the middle. Now it’s time for TNA to capitalize on this momentum and hopefully have a great build for Slammiversary. 9 out of 10.