By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Bobby Roode Interrupted Kurt Angle
Angle did a superb job of recapping his disappointing 2013 and promising that 2014 will be better. He did a nice job of stressing of how bad 2013 was for him personally without getting into the issues specifically. Roode interrupted at the right time and had yet another enjoyable verbal exchange with Angle. I would have rather seen Roode end the feud victorious last month, but I am fine with Angle finally getting his win over Roode inside the Steel Cage. Here's hoping their match at Genesis will be better than their 2-out-of-3 Falls match from Final Resolution.
Madison Rayne def. Knockouts Champion Gail Kim in an Open Challenge Match (Non-title)
Rayne accepting the open challenge was predictable given how she has been feuding with Kim in recent weeks. These two are the best women wrestlers TNA has at the moment, so it was no surprise that the match was very good by Knockouts standards. However, I was surprised that the match went as long as it did, as I expected them to save the lengthy bout for when they eventually meet for the title. Even still, it was a nice preview of their eventual rematch and a good win for Rayne in her first singles match back.
Chris Sabin def. Austin Aries to Win the X-Division Championship
Sabin and Aries have awesome in-ring chemistry together, as seen during their clash on the July 4 edition of Impact Wrestling. That being said, why can't they just be allowed to go out there and have a lengthy, great match? I mean, Aries went for his finisher within the first minute of this match. This was better than their first match against each other a few weeks ago, but it still felt like they were holding back a bit. I couldn't care less about the X-Division title changing hands again, as this is the third time in the last three months this has happened. The Velvet Sky storyline is semi-intriguing, but the belt Aries and Sabin are fighting over is essentially worthless.
Samual Shaw def. Norv Fernum
I was never a fan of Shaw, nor am I now, but at least I am slightly more intrigued by him now following his change in character. He is both awkward and aggressive, and apparently has a crush on Christy Hemme. Hey, I will take that over the swim-trunk-wearing generic wrestler he was before! By the way, is Fernum actually employed by TNA in storyline? I don't recall him ever getting a contract.
Bobby Roode and James Storm def. Kurt Angle and Gunner
The thought of Roode and Storm teaming up was extremely illogical given their past history, but they at least attempted to make sense of it by saying Storm was trying to get to Gunner. It was a solid matchup and everyone involved was given time to shine. The finish was well done and it gave Roode momentum going into his rematch with Angle at Genesis in two weeks. The match hinted at a Storm heel turn, though he didn't attack Angle after the match ended, so it remains to be seen. As I have noted a number of times before, I would rather see Gunner as the heel in his feud with Storm since he is more fitting in that role in my opinion.
Sting Confronted Ethan Carter III
Everyone in attendance knew Jeff Hardy wasn't answering Carter's challenge, hence why they were silent when his entrance music played (though I wouldn't mind a feud between the two when Hardy eventually returns to TV). They came alive, however, when Sting came out and confronted EC3. They had a solid segment that successfully built towards a match between the two at Genesis in two weeks. That is the perfect stage to hold the match and I look forward to seeing if Sting does the job for him.
Joseph Park def. Bully Ray by Disqualification
As much as I am loving Ray's character evolution, the notion that he was going to light Park on fire was laughable. Didn't anyone really expect that to happen? Isn't that attempted murder? Where were the cops? Sometimes I am ashamed to be a wrestling fan. If nothing else, Mr. Anderson coming to the aid of Park helped further his feud with Ray and made him look like a heroic babyface.
TNA World Heavyweight Champion Magnus' Coronation Was Crashed
Rockstar Spud, Ethan Carter III, Dixie Carter and Magnus all had good showings on the mic, Magnus especially. He is very well-spoken and did a great job of garnering heel heat from the live crowd. Gunner interrupting to cash in his Feast or Fired briefcase was unexpected, but I am not sure what point it was supposed to serve since he didn't ultimately cash in. AJ Styles returning made for a hot moment and was obviously very reminiscent of when CM Punk returned to confront John Cena in July 2011 when both men were WWE Champion. Magnus didn't look like a dope for accepting Styles' challenge, as he mentioned how he didn't want to doubt himself as champion. If Styles doesn't have a contract, then why didn't Dixie just have him kicked out of the building by security? Anyway, I would have rather seen Magnus vs. Styles in a title unification match at Genesis instead of next week's show, but it should still be an excellent match, regardless.
With this being the first episode of TNA Impact Wrestling in 2014, I was thoroughly impressed. The title change, the Beer Money reunion, the debut of Samual Shaw, and return of AJ Styles all made this a noteworthy show. There was also quite a bit of build for the upcoming Genesis event in two weeks as well as next week's edition, which will feature a title unification match between Styles and Magnus. Thus, I give this show a thumbs up and hope it is an indication of good things to come for TNA in the new year.