Friday Night Wrestling Review - NJPW on AXS & TNA Impact - March 13th, 2015
After a few weeks away from both NJPW on AXS and TNA Impact, this week I returned to my couch to check out both shows. Now, the reason I've not watched for several weeks is different for each show. For NJPW on AXS, it's because I haven't been home. For TNA, it's been that as well, but it's also because I've been completely uninterested since January. So, the questions I had going into this night of television wrestling were - 1) Can NJPW on AXS continue to be as awesome as it was the last time I watched? 2) Is watching Impact going to be worth my time?
NJPW on AXS Review - 3/13/15 - Okada vs Naito from WK8
Let's start by answering the first question. NJPW came on at 8pm so I guess I should be apt to discuss it right out of the gate. I'll just simply say from the get go that it did indeed continue to be as awesome as it was the last time I watched. I'd even venture to say that the commentary was even better. They do (almost) everything I want from a pro wrestling commentator. They stay serious most of the time however they are beginning to throw a bit of light hearted talk/humor in which is very nice. For NJPW though, I think they do a perfect job. New Japan is straight up pro wrestling and the commentators reflect that by adding to what the athletes do in the ring.
Speaking of the athletes, this week's edition saw a match between then IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and challenger Tetsuya Naito from Wrestle Kingdom 8 in January of 2014. I really didn't know what to expect heading into the bout considering I'm a big fan of Okada, but I haven't seen enough of Naito to know if he'd be able to deliver here. His match with Styles at WK9 was really good though so obviously I'm came into this with an open mind.
With all that being said about my thoughts heading into the match, I think it's safe to say that it exceeded my expectations as they delivered a definite 4 star bout. The first thing that I loved was some little things that I've always liked about Okada. The way he pauses before/after a manuever which displays him taking time to take in what he's just done and ponder his next move makes everything feel so real and I love that. He did so several times in the early going of this match which kept me drawn in from the opening bell. The commentators noted the lucha influence of both guys which I was unfamiliar with however Okada & Naito did have a few fast paced exchanges that solidifed what Barnett & Ranallo said.
From what I picked up, the story here was that of Okada being hell bent on continuing his groundbreaking second run as champion while Naito tried to prove that he was good enough to win the IWGP Title and achieve his dream. The two men told that story very well by it being back and forth for the majority of the bout only for Okada to show his dominance in the end by always one upping the challenger. Naito showed some resiliance near the end by coming back from moves that aren't easy to come back from, but in the end, Okada would pick up the victory after a hard fought battle. This match had my attention from start to finish, featured some outstanding exchanges & reversals near the end, and told the story it set out to.
The post-match promos reflected the importance of this 30 minute title bout to Naito as he banged the table and proclaimed "I couldn't do it! I couldn't achieve my dream!" I love how NJPW tapes promos with guys after matches. It adds to stuff for me and helps reiterate what just took place in the ring. Okada's interview displayed his cockiness/confidence in being the champion.
All in all, this was another FINE episode of New Japan Pro Wrestling action on AXS TV. It continues to be something well worth going out of your way to see for die hard wrestling fans. Fantastic stuff as usual as the commentators added to an already great bout.
Match rating - ****1/4
Final verdict - 9/10 (Highly recommended)
TNA Impact on Destination America Review - March 13th, 2015
In the past I've voiced my frustrations with things TNA has done since debuting on the network such as the completely underwhelming booking of the first ever encounter between Kong & Havok and having a street fight that was a straight up mat wrestling contest between MVP & Kurt Angle however on this night, things seemed different. It actually felt like a smartly booked show with equally interesting and entertaining storylines.
The show began with an extremely good Last Man Standing Match between Eric Young and Bobby Roode. The two have been feuding since the new year began and I'd definitely say this is their best match in the feud. I was hoping TNA would give them a strong finish and they certainly did as the two got nearly the first 30 minutes of the show to work with. They made the most of their time, worked the stipulation well, and delivered multiple great spots to keep things from getting dull. Both EY and Roode recovered from piledrivers late in the match which led them to the ring apron where Young for another. Roode reversed and nailed him with a Roode bomb off the apron through a table which got him the 10 count for the victory. Awesome end to their rivalry.
The other noteworthy story was the Magnus/Bram saga. I've been a fan of Bram since he debuted and while I've never been sold on Magnus, this is the best thing he's done since before his World Title reign. Mickie James' invovlement has been a great addition to this story. Her segment with Bram from a few weeks ago is definitely worth checking out along with what went down here as Bram made Magnus kiss his foot as he held Mickie, making her watch. I can't wait to see where this feud goes next and expect the unevitable clash between the two to be quality.
The most talked about segment/match from this week's show was the main event between EC3 and Rockstar Spud. Never did I think this story would reach such heights, but it did. Never did I think this would be worthy of a main event slot on tV, but it was. If I'm honest, although I always thought EC3 had potential to be one of the best, I had almost come to the conclusion that he wouldn't reach that status in TNA. His run there until this point had been lackluster in my opinion aside from his match with Bully and his weekly promos. I just felt like he could be doing so much more and this segment proved that. It also changed my opinion as I'm sure that EC3 is going to be the star that I expected and the star that I knew he could/should be. I truly think that the segment between EC3 and Spud from this week's episode of Impact will be remembered as the night that EC3 broke out, truly came into his own and proved himself to be THE future of TNA Impact Wrestling. Let's not give him all the praise though because dammit, Spud is awesome at what he does. He's become more than I ever thought he would be and that's not a slight. I knew he was a solid wrestler and could provide some fun matches despite his size, I just never expected him to morph into the old school heel he became during his run with EC3 nor did I expect him to become the best underdog in mainstream wrestling today like he has. His performance here was sensational and in a word, must see. EC3 delivered a beating to Spud like TNA hasn't seen in a long time. He bloodied him, he assaulted him, and in the end, embarassed him by shaving his head in front of his homeland. For EC3, this will launch him into superstardom and as for Spud, he will always have a place in the heart of anyone who watched his battle with Ethan Carter III. Must-see stuff here.
To answer the question I posed at the beginning of this article, giving TNA another chance was, for the first time, well worth my time. I enjoyed this show as a whole more than I have in such a long time that I can't remember when. I personally think it even beats out the shows during the summer because you had quality wrestling and AWESOME storytelling/booking. It's rare that you get this from TNA in recent years so I'd highly recommend checking this show out. Let's hope they can keep this momentum going and follow it up next week.
Final verdict - 9.5/10 (Highly recommended)
Overall thoughts: I think it's safe to say that it was a phenomenal night of wrestling last night. I knew NJPW would likely deliver in the straight up wrestling department as they did. However as I said before, I never expected TNA to deliver a show the caliber that they did. A quality match between Roode & EY (arguably the best this year on Impact thus far), alot of great storyline development, and an amazing main event match/segment that beats anything TNA has done story wise in quite some time. So, do yourself a favor and check out this week's editions of NJPW on AXS AND TNA Impact on Destination America. Both made for an entertaining Friday night for this wrestling fan.
Thanks for reading and be sure to follow me on Twitter @EthanPWT along with this blog @ThePWTruth!