By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Kurt Angle Called Out Willow
Angle has done well as TNA's authority figure thus far and this segment was no exception. He is a popular figure in the company and while I usually despise promos from authority figures kicking off wrestling shows (see: Raw, The Authority), at least it's a bit more tolerable when the authority figure is a face. I was happy to see him attempt to convince Jeff Hardy to ditch the Willow gimmick by saying that Dixie Carter isn't around anymore so there isn't any need for it. However, didn't Willow debut at Lockdown, the night where Dixie lost power? That logic gap aside, this segment built intrigue for the main event Battle Royal as to which persona Hardy would compete as.
TNA World Tag Team Champions The Wolves def. Bram and Magnus
I liked how Magnus and Bram were actually worthy of a title shot and not randomly granted one seeing how they beat Abyss and Willow last week. The action itself was entertaining and they kept the pace consistent throughout. The final few minutes were fun and it was smart to keep the straps on The Wolves as it still feels too soon for them to drop them. Bram and Magnus are a hot pairing, so I hope they're the ones to take the titles at some point down the line.
Bobby Roode Called Out MVP
Roode has been flourishing as a face these last few weeks and this was another solid, intense promo from him. It would help if he talked about why he changed his ways and is now embracing the fans, but that's nitpicking things. MVP played his role well and the brawl that ensued between Roode, Kenny King, Lashley and Eric Young did a nice job of building tension between the two sides. It's encouraging to see Young's push not over just yet and this helped put heat on the heels for once. Lashley should be spotlighted a bit more given the fact he's the TNA World Heavyweight Champion.
Austin Aries def. Sanada to Win the X-Division Championship
This match wasn't given enough of a back story going into it (aside from it being mentioned that this was Aries' rematch clause for the championship), so the fans weren't given much of an incentive to care. That said, Sanada and Aries instantly clicked when they clashed and had a very enjoyable match. They developed fun chemistry with each other and the near-falls down the stretch were suspenseful. I'm completely content with Sanada dropped the strap if only because he never seemed to be getting over as champion. That's not entirely his fault, it's TNA's fault for not giving him any personality or anything for the fans to latch on to. That and the fact Aries vs. Lashley for the world title is a much more intriguing matchup than Lashley vs. Sanada.
Bully Ray Confronted Rhino
The idea of a Ray vs. Rhino feud in 2014 may feel tired to some, but I personally don't mind it. It beats seeing Ray continuing to feud with Ethan Carter III when you know EC3 won't lose and it definitley beats seeing Dixie Carter on TV every week. It also serves as a nice tie-in to Ray's feud with Dixie and builds toward the inevitable moment that he puts her through a table. The promo work from everyone involved was good and the crowd popped for Tommy Dreamer making the save. Expect Ray and Dreamer vs. Rhino and EC3 in tag team action sometime soon.
Knockouts Champion Gail Kim def. Angelina Love, Madison Rayne and Brittany in a Fatal 4-Way
I'm not sure what Rayne and Brittany did to be deemed worthy of a title shot, but their inclusion in the match prevented Kim and Love from giving away another way between them this early in the feud. It was a decent 4-way for the most part, but it was mostly a mess and a train wreck as a whole. Kim retaining was logical given that she just won the title one week ago, but I'm curious as to whether the feud between Kim and Love will continue beyond this point. Where was Taryn Terrell?
Jeff Hardy Won a 20-Man No. 1 Contender's Battle Royal For the TNA World Heavyweight Championship
Maybe it's due to the fact that I've seen so many of them in WWE over the last few months that I've grown numb to Battle Royals, but I found this one in particular to be incredibly weak. Many of the eliminations were rushed, awkward and inconsequential. Not one person came out of this match looking like a star and there was hardly any drama. To top it all off, TNA spoiled the end result of this match weeks ago when they announced that Lashley would be defending his TNA title against Hardy at one of the tapings. If nothing else, I'm glad Hardy has ditched the Willow persona since it wasn't working out and he's much more over as himself. I can't say I'm thrilled to see two ex-WWE guys face off in the main event for the TNA title, but Hardy is a good top star for Lashley to beat to further establish himself as a credible champion.
Aside from the lackluster Battle Royal in the main event, this was a great show and arguably one of the best in recent memory. These last few episodes have done a great job of setting the stage for the New York tapings which have already received rave reviews. The return of Jeff Hardy and several title matches (including one title change) made this a newsworthy show and did a great deal in building to next week. I'm extremely excited for what TNA has in store for the next several weeks, so here's hoping the shows live up to the hype they've been given.