TNA Impact: Ric Flair bleeds, sweats and pays the price

The final image of the last Thursday episode of TNA Impact was a close-up of Ric Flair drenched in his own blood, the result of being attacked by Hulk Hogan with a barbed-wire baseball bat. A little less than three hours earlier on WWE Superstars, a match was briefly halted because Chavo Guerrero had a trickle of blood above his eye. If those two scenes say anything it’s that fans are going to have a choice between two very different products when Impact moves to Mondays next week to go head-to-head with Raw.

Personally, I like that WWE and TNA have contrasting philosophies in regard to content. I enjoy the blood and guts and more mature material, but I also appreciate a show that tells good stories and has star power while also being suitable for kids (although I think WWE interrupting matches for minor hard-way lacerations is a little overboard). It reminds me of the ’80s when the WWF and NWA (Jim Crockett Promotions) were nothing alike but I was a big fan of both.

Thursday’s Impact drove home the fact that the selling point for Monday’s big show is the return to the ring of Flair and Hogan, who will team with A.J. Styles and Abyss, respectively, in a tag match. It’s almost surreal that a fledgling company that is pushing itself as an alternative to WWE has the 61-year-old “Nature Boy” and the 56-year-old “Hulkster” wrestling in the main event, but I understand TNA's reasoning. The Internet Wrestling Community may disagree, but Flair and Hogan wrestling is probably more likely to lure casual fans to watch the show than if the main event was Styles vs. Abyss.

I’ve stated many times that I’m extremely disappointed that Flair has come out of retirement after the grand send-off WWE gave him two years ago, and I’m not particularly excited to see Hogan back in the ring either. However, I do think that TNA did a good job of promoting the match on Impact, and both Flair and Hogan seemed motivated. I thought Flair looked disinterested in his first couple appearances in TNA, but has been on his game as of late, especially the past two weeks. He has been the bleeding, sweating, crazy-eyed guy that I find entertaining.

Other thoughts on Thursday’s show:

The show-closing segment was heated, but I did think it was a little odd to have the heels beaten down heading into Monday’s show. The angle last week, which saw Hogan busted open, seems to me like it should have been done this week, but I’m probably nitpicking. ...

Flair said the reason he wanted to wrestle Hogan is because he’s never beaten Hogan on national television. Not true. Check out the video below of WCW Nitro from January 1996. ...

For the second week in a row, Desmond Wolfe joined Styles and Flair in a beat-down of the babyfaces. Perhaps a Flair-led Four Horsemen-type group is in the making. ...

Putting Styles with Flair and Abyss with Hogan to give them a rub is a good idea in theory, but I think the manner in which TNA is going about it could be better. Styles wearing a Flair-style feathered robe looked so ridiculous that it reminded me of when Charlie Haas was doing the short-lived comedy gimmick in which he impersonated wrestling stars. I think being a Flair copycat could work for someone, but Styles isn’t the guy. As for Abyss, having him come out to Hogan’s “American Made” music just isn’t a good fit, and the Hogan-Abyss love-fest is starting to get creepy. I think Matt Morgan would have been a much better choice for the role of the big guy Hogan takes under his wing and passes the torch (or the ring) to. ...

Even though “The Pope” D’Angelo Dinero did the job in the main event – a four-way match for the TNA world title that included Styles, Abyss and Wolfe – it didn’t hurt him. If anything, it made him look good that he worked on a bad ankle and lasted as long as he did in Styles’ figure-four leglock. ...

I’m usually the one who preaches the wisdom of having clear-cut babyfaces and heels, but I am enjoying the dynamic of a heel Eric Bischoff and a babyface Hogan working together. You have to figure at some point they are going to be feuding with each other. ...

I like the on-going angle with Bischoff trying to make Jeff Jarrett quit, but has it ever been established why Bischoff has it out for him, or is it just because Bischoff is a “pr**k” as Jarrett called him? ...

Having an overbearing boss forcing a wrestler to perform menial tasks such as cleaning the men’s room and flipping burgers is a favorite plot device of Vince Russo’s. He placed Hacksaw Jim Duggan (in WCW) and Kip James (in TNA) in similar situations in the past. ...

Although it’s a moot point now, TNA did figure out that Sean Morley – who announced today that he has left the company – is better as a heel. I though the falls-count-anywhere “match” in which Morley defeated Jarrett in the restroom worked. ...

The Mick Foley etiquette school vignettes were not as funny as I thought they’d be. ...

Mr. Anderson’s parody of Kurt Angle got a lot of heat (mostly for Anderson’s remarks about Angle only pretending to care about the troops to get people to like him). During his promo, Anderson referred to Angle as “the most injury-prone wrestler in the world.” (Wink, wink). ...

The way Angle pledged his total support to Hogan almost made me think that Angle is going to turn on him in the near future, but I seriously doubt that’s going to happen. ...

The close-up of the welts on Angelina Love’s back after she was whipped with a strap by Velvet Sky was effective in selling the beating. Speaking of close-ups, it was classic TNA when the camera zoomed in on Sky’s butt when she was hanging over the railing during her scuffle with Love. I say give that cameraman a raise. ...

The four-way tag match between Beer Money, Morgan and Hernandez, The Motor City Machine Guns and Generation Me was good but way too short. Morgan is getting more heelish by the week. ...

Another ridiculously short match was the one in which Global champion Big Rob Terry squashed X Division champion Doug Williams in a minute. I get it that TNA wants to push Terry, but why bury Williams and the X Division title in the process? ...

Bischoff took another shot at Vince McMahon this week when he said during a phone conversation that “only a moron” would start a rival football league to take on the NFL (an obvious reference to the XFL). He was off base last week when he said that having guest hosts on a wrestling show was the dumbest idea he had ever heard, but I can’t argue with his point this week. ...

Hogan also used a phone conversation to get in a dig. His target was the Internet. As he was talking on the phone while walking down the hall, he said: “Don’t believe what’s on the Internet. It’s not true.” ...

Boy, has Tomko’s stock fallen since his previous stint in TNA. Now he can’t even beat Jarrett when Jarrett is injured. ...

Wolfe gets kudos for working in references to Ed “Strangler” Lewis and Lou Thesz into his promo. He was giving examples of great world champions. I’m surprised Russo didn’t script him to say “Vince Russo” and “David Arquette.” ...

In regard to the acting ability of Wolfe’s valet, Chelsea, she’s great to look at. ...

I keep reading that Bubba The Love Sponge says he’s through with TNA, yet there he was on my TV screen again. Please go away. And take the plant in the front row wearing Hogan merchandise and holding up the “We Want Bubba” sign with you.

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