I was at Hard Justice on Sunday night, and here are some observations from the show:
Before the pre-show started, Jimmy Hart came to the ring and he brought out the NWA World Tag Team Champions, Andy Douglas and Chase Stevens to say a few words about Chris Candido. Chase talked about how Chris was one of the greatest guys in professional wrestling. He talked about how Chris knew how to get the fans to react to him.
The footage of A.J. Styles ‘arriving’ at the Impact Zone in front of the fans was taped shortly before they started letting fans into the Impact Zone.
The ‘double turn’ by Traci Brooks and Michael Shane was a little unexpected, but at least they did a good job of remembering storylines.
While I was very critical of Sean Waltman’s work at the last pay per view, I was surprised by how good the Raven’s House of Fun match was because it had the possibility of being a cluster with all of the weapons and the two sides of weapons hanging from the chains. The finish with the cage wall coming down for Raven to get the pin looked good from the rail. Speaking of the rail, when Waltman hit Raven with the chair after he was released from the handcuffs, the blood sprayed onto some people on the rail as well as the front wall of the bleachers.
The second surprise of the night was that Brian James would not be in the tag match. However, I think the addition of Ron Killings was an improvement to the match. Some of the people around me thought that Brian James would come out and cost Killings and Page the match. To say that the people inside the arena did not like the return of Phi Delta Slam during this match would be the understatement of the night. With the exception of a few spots during the night, that was the loudest reaction of the night to that point.
After the Page/Killings match, Diamond Dallas Page and Ron Killings went into the crowd while they aired the interview that Mike Tenay had with The Naturals. This prevented some of the people in the crowd from hearing everything that was said in the interview. However, I would not blame Killings or Page for this because the live crowd generally do whatever is possible to make it difficult for people inside the Impact Zone to hear anything that airs on the video screens.
While the tag title match was very emotional, especially with the chair being placed at ringside with a t-shirt, it did not appear to have the intensity of the title change from three weeks ago. It was a very solid match and all four men gave everything in the ring. It was very fitting that The Naturals won the match with the use of the ropes because that is something that Chris Candido would have done.
The Gauntlet match was entertaining and did a good job of showing how Team Canada is a cohesive unit. It was a good touch to have all four members of Team Canada in the match by number nine. The three-man Canadian Destroyer was an interesting spot during the match. With Brian James being announced earlier in the show as not appearing, it was a bit of a surprise to see him in the gauntlet match. I don’t know if they rushed the gauntlet a little because they got to the final two shortly after Abyss entered the ring. Personally, I want to thank the people in the crowd who joined with me in giving Ron Killings an ovation for his performance in the gauntlet match since he was being attended to in the ring after the match while they showed the video package for the main event. I wonder if TNA will remember that Abyss has a title match on Impact because of his victory over Jeff Hardy at Against All Odds; and I also wonder if Abyss will do what some people have suggested that Edge do in the WWE if he wins the Gold Rush tournament: Use the television title match right before he has a scheduled match with the champion so he can weaken the champion for the second match.
The main event did a good job of building during the course of the match. It was weird to see a referee count so fast when a wrestler was out of the ring. When you saw Jarrett use the Styles Clash, you kind of knew that Styles would use the Stroke during the match. Before Styles tried for the first Spiral Tap, a fan on the rail yelled for Styles to do the Spiral Tap. I thought Monty POUNCING Jarrett would start a face turn, allowing Monty to explain what his ‘opportunity would be’. One of the best moments of the main event was when A.J. took the guitar and destroyed it on the ring post. I know that I have heard Jimmy Hart suggest that in interviews and it was interesting to see someone actually do that. I wonder if Jarrett will claim that since the ref hit him to cost him the match that he is entitled to another shot at the title. If they do that, maybe they will incorporate Monty Brown into the match.
When A.J. won the title, I don’t know if the cameras captured the elation from most of the crowd. There were a pocket of people who hoped for Jarrett to retain the title, but people were definitely happy to see the title change.
The crowd as a whole was better tonight than at Lockdown. However, there were pockets of fans around me who should not have been there. After the House of Fun match, all they cared about was getting one of the people trying to clean up the ringside area to give them a chair, kendo stick, or trash can. Why can’t people just let the guys who work on the ring crew do their job? With one of the attractions at Universal Studios near the gate for the Soundstage closed, there was a queue area that was not being used. Because of the heat, a few people suggested to the TNA officials that the people could wait in this area so the people did not have to stand in the sun for hours. This also enabled the people at Universal and with TNA to have a much more organized line. While there were a few people who complained about the line, it worked much smoother than previous shows where there were pockets of people clustered to make it difficult to have a single line into the Soundstage. I am sure that there will be some changes made between now and the next pay per view, but TNA and Universal have been very helpful in making the wait more tolerable for the fans.
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