Credit: Travis Beaven & Pwtorch.com

I’m here in Orlando for Tuesday’s Impact taping. Advertised (and I mean this somewhat loosely) are RVD, Jeff Hardy, and Hulk Hogan. For those of you who have never attended, you basically get to hang out in a line under a roller coaster. Every now and then, something falls out of the pocket of one of the riders and hits a hapless taping attendee in the head. Hardcore!

After standing under the coasters for a few minutes, I am herded into the taping studio area, a long and exceedingly smelly hallway. There does not feel like a ton of people here as opposed to people in line for Shrek outside. This crowd is noisier here, though, and lots of chants (from one noisy guy) for Hogan. A guy behind me is interested in wrestling news, so I direct him to the free PWTorch App. A Universal Studios cast member makes fun of me for typing on my phone, but has a charming Aussie accent. Somewhere in-line, a guy yells out, “I wanna f— Velvet” who I’m assuming is the Knockout, and not a weird fetish. There are also lots of promises of it being a lot cooler inside the studio. We shall see. Live in the Impact Zone!…

Doors open and there’s a mild stampede inside. There are lots of signs here and Harry Potter gear. It feels like something clever could be done there. Inside, the merchandise has a lot of day-glo in it, really nailing the feeling that I’m back in the ’80s. Also, lots of Direct Auto Insurance advertising. “My outfits may leave me exposed, but my car insurance won’t,” reads the slogan. Well, geez, Love, put on a coat. Problem solved.

My seats are staggeringly good. Vince McMahon was never this good to me; automatically, I find myself giving the matches an extra star. I also regret the choice of not changing from work clothes prior to coming to the event. Lots of set-up happening, and some quick advice: the gloss stickers on the ringposts would look better in matte. Just saying. Also, tons of Team Tara shirts. She’s the champ, right? No? In the title chase? No? Er…

Hey, unlike WWE, these folding chairs aren’t chained down! Now we’ve got a party! Warm-up includes showing the results of Lockdown on the nice HD screen. That’s a smart move. I doubt many people here ordered Lockdown, and it gets the crowd invested.

Dixie Carter is out, along with Taz and Mike Tenay. Holy cow, Dixie looks pretty solid. Jeremy Borash then comes out to warm up the crowd. He’s really working the camera side. Hemme battles slightly with the ramp as Borash runs down all the countries where Impact airs. Flag of Norway with PCW on it; new faction? Who knows. Some models at ringside; not sure what the story is there, either. At the start, it’s not packed; there are empty spaces, but certainly loud.

Impact SPOILERS 4/19

– Out comes TNA World Hvt. champion Bobby Roode. Slow walk to the ring, and apparently he got a huge haircut. Some basic gloating that the crowd isn’t into to start off. He points out that James Storm’s kick won him the match at Lockdown. Psychology, folks. Some decent heel heat as Roode runs through his wins, but then is interrupted by serious-face Mr. Anderson. Anderson’s mic isn’t working very well.

Anderson says he doesn’t need a beer bottle to win. This is hilarious to Roode, who tells Anderson to get back in line. This is a cue for Jeff Hardy, who gets a louder pop and limps to the ring. He’s the most over so far, for sure, and stakes his claim to the belt. Anderson points out he was here first and calls shenanigans. Roode moderates some bickering as refs take the ring, and encourages a bake-off.

This brings Hogan to the screen. He says that he wants all the champions in the ring later, and makes a match for the number one contender slot for later in the night. As an aside, Hogan’s music sounds like a lame circus/ska remix.

Back from break, it’s Crimson with some pyro and this cocky heel walk and gum chew. He’s apparently in a tag match with Bully Ray, who looks surprisingly younger from his late WWE days. They are fighting Matt Morgan and Austin Aries.

(1) Bully Ray & Crimson beat Matt Morgan & X Division champion Austin Aries. Morgan goes after Crimson as Aries chases Ray up the ramp. Inside the ring, Morgan dominates until some hyjinks occur. This leads to Crimson and Ray working Morgan’s leg. Morgan tempts fate by pulling Crimson’s tights uncomfortably low, then makes the hot tag. Aries cleans house, which leads to Crimson hitting Ray and being dumped outside. Aries gets in a surprising amount of offense before Ray wins with a fluke roll-up and hook of the tights on Aries. Overall, a perfectly serviceable tag match from new teams; nothing special, but a good level of offense given to “the midget,” as Ray kept screaming.

Borash was out next to remind everyone that Eric Bischoff has lost the right to his name and is off the air. Garett is out next for a celebration.

— Back from break, Garett is out with A.J. Styles, Mr. Anderson, and RVD to celebrate. I suspect this will end in tears. Garett is just not good on the mic. He makes RVD sound brilliant. Also, if they want him to be taken seriously, perhaps he should not wear a loose-fitting plaid shirt. It’s all in the positioning.

A.J. compliments Garett on his balls at Lockdown. But, here comes Ric Flair. It’s serious suit time; no feathery robe. Flair stays on top of the ramp and claims that Eric is responsible for all the talent in the ring. Also, Garett is a punk. Wait, all of them are punks. Flair promises a party next week as a tribute to Eric Bischoff. He’s hosting it, and he’s drinking at it, and the four in the ring aren’t invited. A.J. and Anderson sell broken up. RVD just looks slightly stoned. Told you it would end in tears.

— Back from break, it’s Kurt Angle. His leg is taped and he’s ready to wrestle. Out comes A.J. Styles, who had time to change into his hoodie vest.

(2) Kurt Angle beat A.J. Styles. Basic lock-up and counters. Hey, couldn’t this be a PPV level match? It feels like something could be built here. Angle dumped to the outside, and down comes Christopher Daniels and short-haired Kaz. Daniels has a paper and encourages Kurt to get him, but Kurt seems annoyed and surprised they are here. This leads to Angle eating a move from A.J. as Daniels and Kaz sell concern. Daniels hops up on the apron as the referee politely asks him to step down. A.J. then grabs the paper as Angle rolls him up for the win. Overall, serviceable while it lasted, but this was clearly a vehicle for an angle, which is a shame.

Afterward, Angle tells A.J. he had nothing to do with the shenanigans as A.J. puts the paper in his tights. That’s what I always do when I get handed important information.

— It’s announced that Rob Van Dam is also in the main event for the #1 contender. The ring girl dumps two microphones next to me on a chair. Super tempted.

— After the break, TNA tag champs Samoa Joe and Magnus are out. They are joined by… Knockouts Gail Kim? Gail’s outfit does not look appropriate for ring work, but I’m sure it’s okay and perfectly normal. TV champ Devon comes out to a big pop. As in, surprisingly big. Gail has a mic. I just clued into that this is all of the champs coming to the ring. I had a really strange idea of what match was getting set up. X Division champ Austin Aries is out next, weakest pop thus far. Finally, TNA World Hvt. champion Bobby Roode. Roode is still perfecting the slow walk.

Out comes Hogan. Biggest pop and pyro thus far. Gail has ceded her mic to Roode. Hogan announces that change is in the air, and starting next week change is coming. Once a month, Impact will be called “open fight night.” Basically, a talent from outside TNA will show up to have a match. There will be three judges (smells like “The Voice”) and Hogan who will decide if the person get a contract or not.

But, there’s more!

On open fight night, anyone can come to the ring and make a challenge, and whoever the person challenges must come to the ring to fight. Roode is pissy. Hogan tells them that any champion must be ready to fight. Gail asks who decides this. Hogan decides. And, the crowd randomly chants for Miss Tessmacher. Hogan says he wants to hear who the fans want to see. Clearly, it’s the responsibility of someone to call out Hogan next week. Just saying.

Devon talks about how he promised to be a fighting champ. (Really? Wasn’t he MIA between PPVs?) Hogan announces that from now on, the TV Title will be defended every single week. Devon likes it. Hogan closes the segment with a statement that on open fight night, everyone fights. Roode looks dismayed. I shrug. Roode shrugs. We have a moment. Everyone leaves but Gail. It looks like it’s time to test that outfit.

— Mid-Show Thoughts: It dawns on me that if I’m seen on TV, it’s going to be this guy in dress clothes typing frantically. The women next to me seem both nonplussed and very bored. What is their story? Mystery of the night. The crowd is clearly hoping for Tara here. By crowd, I mean the two guys with the Team Tara t-shirts on and cardboard Knockouts belt.

— Next out are Madison Rayne and Sarita & Rosita. Whichever one in the green can’t figure out how to stand. Out come Tara and Tessmacher. Finally, Mickie James. No wait, Velvet Sky. Eight-woman tag? I’m getting why the Knockout matches are popular with the collection of 13 year-old boys at ringside.

(3) Team Tessmacher beat Team Rayne in a Knockouts tag match. Sky starts off with various spots and clubbering. James comes in and looks basically solid. Wasn’t she told to lose weight in the WWE? Sheesh, this isn’t a ring masterpiece, but I’d take this over Kelly Kelly in the ring any day. This whole match reminds me of a slutty version of the cruiserweight matches in WCW during the ’90s. A lot less talent, but spots that the crowd likes and some genuine engagement from the crowd. I suppose Eric didn’t know what to do with them back then either. It turns into a Jr. High School cheerleader brawl, and Tessmacher rolls up KO champ Gail for the win, and presumably sets up a match down the road.

Afterward, there’s some bickering in the ring as Gail gives her best scowl and points to the belt. More bickering. Madison wants to go again, and the crowd is interested. Instead, they all leave.

— After the match, some guys come out to wipe down the ropes. What kind of message is that sending? Borash is giving away some tickets to meet people later, then Hemme enters the ring. apparently there is a massive U.K. contingent here tonight.

— Back from the break, it’s Gunner. Zero reaction. Meanwhile, the crowd is being urged to cheer for tickets. Out as Gunner’s opponent is Devon, who again gets a strangely loud pop. Sure, why not.

(4) TV champion Devon beat Gunner. Gunner attacks him from behind and the ring girl takes the belt with some really good scared selling. Some of the better selling tonight. Also, she let me take a photo of the belt, so she’s a good egg. This isn’t such a good match. Also, both men seem blown up after 60 seconds. TNA encourages a “Devon” chant as he tries, but he’s no Kurt Angle, and Gunner is no sack of flour. Devon wins. Apparently he will be defending the title every week going forward. Testify!

— James Storm is out next, looking sheepish, as if he recently lost a big match in his hometown. I know this because of the nice recap at the start of the show. Thanks, TNA. James Storm is sorry. The crowd says it’s okay. Very supportive crowd. Storm said he wasn’t just trying to hurt Roode, but cause him pain. Um…okay. Storm starts talking about tucking his daughter into bed, then she asked him where the belt was. Sadly, he had to tell her that he lost. Didn’t she order the PPV?

Storm says that Roode didn’t beat him, but that he beat himself. Storm then cites the crowd for his inspiration, and thanks his dad up in Heaven, who was killed by a drunk driver. (Wasn’t his team *Beer* Money? Odd.) But, wrestling is what he loves. He’s kind of all over the map here. Storm says maybe his luck has run out and he leaves. The crowd is dismayed. “Well, that sucks,” says the ring girl next to me.

— Next, they set up for the main event #1 contender three-way match between RVD, Mr. Anderson, and Jeff Hardy. Also, the next PPV is Sacrifice. Yep… RVD comes out to a good pop. Anderson does his own announcement, which wakes the crowd up, but in the battle of crowd reactions, RVD has him beat by a mile. Hardy’s pop is okay, but RVD had the best reaction. Much of the crowd is just standing there, and Hardy is mumbling to himself. One of the U.K. people gets his shirt, and she seemed happy, then hung it over the fence barrier. RVD’s the champ of the crowd. By the way, TNA, don’t just cut off wrestlers’s music. Fade it out. It’s more classy.

(5) Rob Van Dam beat Jeff Hardy and Mr. Anderson in a three-way match to become new #1 contender to the TNA World Title. Typical three-way action with each wrestler getting a chance for a few moves on offense. Again, little reaction to Hardy’s moves. Not enough teenage girls to paper the crowd with? Anderson on top, then RVD, then Hardy, then Anderson. Very structured momentum here. The ref then finds Anderson’s gum and tosses it out. It’s these details you miss on TV. Hardy goes up for the Swanton and nails Anderson, and the crowd finally comes alive for Hardy. RVD goes for the big splash on Anderson, Hardy goes for the Twist of Fate, RVD reverses it, and scores the pin. The crowd is happy and RVD is the new #1 contender.

Reax: Okay match, but it was more structured than fluid. It felt like a paint-by-numbers match. Move + move + move + reversal, rinse, repeat. Not bad exactly, just a round robin spot fest. But, by crowd reaction alone, this was the right move. RVD was the clear favorite and there was some excitement at the prospect of a title match. It was a little weird he wasn’t in the opening segment to sell the match that he would then WIN, but whatever.

— More wiping down of the ropes. An Xplosion match is up next.

Xplosion match: Daniels beat TNA tag champion Magnus. Daniels works the crowd well, but the U.K. crowd is clearly behind Magnus. Daniels doing heel things like selling, smirking, and playing a heel. Dear Gunner, consider watching Daniels. The crowd is also more alive for this than the main event. For the finish, Kaz comes out, distraction, roll up, Daniels wins.

Afterward, Magnus clobbers Daniels some for revenge, but is over-run by Kaz and Daniels. Out comes Joe and the ramp sounds like it’s about to implode as he runs down it. Joe scares off the heels and it’s posing time. Again, nice huge crowd reaction. Seems legit.

Reax: The match was generally fast-paced and decent. Magnus doesn’t seem like the best worker, but Daniels was bumping like crazy for him and did the usual heel tactics to, you know, sell that he’s the heel. I give Daniels credit, but it really doesn’t seem that hard to make heel faces, sell moves, stall to rile the crowd, etc. It feels like a lost art because most of the heels tonight didn’t do it. Magnus looks better, Daniels looks better. See how it works?

— Out comes some ring crew with steps for crowd shots. Suddenly, a huge crowd of children are standing in front of me, apparently to get into the ring for some reason. I think this is my cue to leave.

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