Mt. Killamanjaro -- TNA Destination X Review -- @MikeKillam
Last Chance Fourway
Mason Andrews def. Lars Only, Rubix & Dakota Darsow
I've grown fond of WWE's semi-recent trend of starting pay-per-views with blockbuster matches, and I was originally worried about kicking Destination X off with four guys nobody's ever heard of. No offense meant to indy workers – they're some of the hardest working people I've ever met in my life – but the large majority of TNA fans have never heard the name “Dakota Darsow”. They may know Rubix, or Jigsaw from CHIKARA, but even that's a stretch for most fans.
Luckily, the X-Division – and more generally, cruiserweight wrestling – has the ability to keep fans interested, no matter who's in the ring. As long as they can fly around and do things fans have never seen before, you'll get a decent reaction. Four solid workers entered that match, they kept things short and simple, and I honestly believe the best man won. It was a bit of a momentum killer to have Mason Andrews take the victory, as the crowd was firmly behind Rubix from the start, but I'm guessing the final decision came down to who TNA wants to continue pushing post-Destination X.
Ultimate X Qualifying Matches
I apologize if you feel slighted that I'm not going to review each of the four Ultimate X qualifying match-ups. To put a very, very long story short, TNA decided it would be a great idea to book five matches with relatively unknown talent (including the Fourway above) back-to-back-to-back-to-etc etc. The result was over an hour of toe-tapping and waiting for something I was actually invested in.
It's not that any of the matches were bad! Mason Andrews was hugely impressive winning not one, but two matches in a row. Kenny King got a great reaction and was incredibly solid against Douglas Williams. In fact, none of the matches I would have rated under a 3/5. The only reason I'm not going to take the time to break them all down is to save us both from the inevitable boredom that would come from it. They were all decent matches, but they were all largely the same. The crowd lost more and more interest as they went on, and you can't really blame them.
Looking to the future for next year, TNA needs to either host some of these qualifying matches on Impact, or spread them out better throughout the night. I understand wanting to get the tournament out of the way, and as a result the later half really benefited, but the first hour was simply not exciting.
Collective rating: 3/5
Bound for Glory Series Match
Samoa Joe def. Kurt Angle
Joe and Angle are two of the most consistent workers in the business - when they're together they produced magic on nearly every ocassion. Their most recent attempt was good, but definitely nothing we haven't seen before out of either man. Still, a straight-up wrestling match for no other reason outside of the spirit of competition and a future shot at the World Title is refreshing and great to see. Not every match on a PPV card needs a deep, dramatic story. A very focused Joe cut a promo earlier in the night guaranteeing victory, and put down one of his biggest rivals in one of the most brutal ways possible. It's been a long time since I thought the Samoan Submission Machine could cut his teeth in the main event scene, but after a big win here tonight and new focus, could we see Samoa Joe in the main event of Bound for Glory?
Last Man Standing Match
AJ Styles def. Christopher Daniels
Every time these guys meet in the ring I think there's no way they can out-shine what they've already accomplished together - every single time they prove me wrong. It's truly impressive when any performers can put over a feeling of legitimate hatred. Every feud just adds a little more fuel to the fire; eventually TNA's going to have to invent some sort of suicidal death match for these long-time rivals to finally put an end to the violence. Styles/Daniels is one of my favorite rivalries in pro wrestling's history. No matter how stupid the gimmick or storyline creative sticks them with, they turn it into gold.
Last Man Standing was a good pick for this PPV. I'm happy to say that the referee didn't ruin it with too many counts that only detract from the action that could be happening. It's a rough match to pull off, but when done properly, as Styles and Daniels proved last night, it can pay off in spades. The pacing of the match was impressive; whoever helped them lay it all out deserves almost as much credit. Brutal from the very start, chairs and ring steps were used sparingly to make each "spot" feel all the more special. Good use of Kazarian, as well, as you had to know Daniels' tag parter would get involved at some point.
The ending of this match was something truly special. Normally I'm not a big fan of over-done violence in matches. Yes, the goal is generally two guys beating the hell out of each other, but there has to be some level of respect for the fighting arts and a good story being told. Senseless brutality for the sake of a cheap "E-C-Dub" chant is amateur league; TNA is above that, and doesn't need it. All that being said, the feeling throughout this match was that AJ Styles and Chris Daniels truly, deeply hate each other with every ounce of their being. When AJ picked him up for the "Styles Clash" you could see the intensity in his eyes. You knew, as he stood on the edge of that ramp with Daniels life in his hands, that he was going to jump. It was almost haunting how believable that moment was. If this were the end of the Styles/Daniels saga, it would have been a fitting conclusion. But, as we all know, it won't be...
Ultimate X for the X-Division Championship
Zema Ion def. Sonjay Dutt, Kenny King & Mason Andrews
What an incredible let-down for a match they spent an hour building up at the start of the night. Ultimate X was supposed to be the flagship event for a PPV centered AROUND THE X-DIVISION, and they just didn't deliver. It may have ever been my least favorite match on the whole damn card, and I find it hard to believe that's even possible.
Don't get me wrong, my frustration has nothing to do with Zema Ion winning the belt. For months I've known it was going to be Ion to eventually take the belt from Aries (in fact, I wrote an editorial not too long ago saying he was going to do it without Aries ever losing). He was only X-Division talent involved in this tournament that has been pushed on Impact with any degree of consistency, so I really wasn't that upset. Kenny King will have his shot, Mason Andrews will probably stick around and once Dutt recovers from the shoulder injury suffered in this match, he may even grace TNA with his presence once again.
My frustration comes simply out of not being impressed. Five matches preceded this Ultimate X, not counting all the qualifiers from the last few weeks of Impact Wrestling. There were some cool spots, some fast-paced exchanged, but nothing that really blew my mind. The ending was weak, and despite it going along with Zema's gimmick, it cheapened the feel of one of TNA's most unique match types.
TNA World Heavyweight Championship
Austin Aries def. Bobby Roode (c) - NEW CHAMPION!
I could just hear the words of good ole' JR in the back of my head last night: "Bah gawd, Austin did it!" This is the part where I have to eat my words, as just 24 hours ago I went out on what I thought was a very wide limb, and said "the title is not going to change hands tonight. Not at Destination X. And it shouldn't." I'm still not convinced this was the best PPV, in front of the best crowd to make the switch happen, but I'm damn sure glad I was wrong about the title changing hands!
Bobby Roode has had simply the best World title run in several years, for either company. Austin Aries has spent the last year resurrecting a dead X-Division - rather successfully if I may add. It's fitting that here at the showcase of that Division, Austin Aries would put everything he's worked for in TNA on the line for one shot at "immortality" (brother!). I should have seen this coming. Aries wasn't on the Bound for Glory series list, he had beaten everyone in the X-Division, and was being publicly endorsed by Hulk Hogan. I should have seen this coming a mile away.
The big accomplishment here was not only Aries and Roode following up a near-perfect match in Styles/Daniels, but actually doing justice to Roode's amazing Championship reign. The story told was spot-on, and they booked the ending to mimick all the other times Roode had cheated to win. It wasn't obvious that Austin Aries was going to walk away Champion in that match, and in fact most believed he wouldn't. When Roode hit him with the belt across the skull, I legitimately thought it was over. To my surprise, and to the surprise of those around me when I jumped out of my seat, he kicked out. And then he got back up, hit the brainbuster, and walked out of Destination X the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion.
Sure, there will be time to question the intelligence of this decision. There will be a place for pre-maturely judging TNA for mishandling Aries as the Champion, even before he wrestles his first match with the title. But my job here is to talk Destination X, not Championship reigns. Austin Aries and Bobby Roode tore the house down, refused to play second fiddle to anybody else on the card, and showed why TNA is truly the best name in professional wrestling right now.
Destination X suffered from a lot of small details that piled up to make my viewing experience a lot less stellar than it could have been.
1.) The X-Division tournament could have been handled better. Enough has been said on that.
2.) Mike Tenay and Jeremy Borash should never, under ANY circumstance, be alone on commentary. By the second hour we had already heard about JB "traveling with ____ and getting to know them" at least five times. They were boring as all hell, spotted moves incorrectly and stated facts that were simply wrong. The next time a PPV opens with this team at the table, I'm going to turn it off immediately.
3.) TNA can not continue doing pay-per-views at the Impact Zone. The live episodes of Impact are fine, but after the extraodinary Slammiversary crowd going back to the Zone cheapened the whole experience. The audience was flat the entire show, which made it hard for me to buy into any of the matches. The wrestlers don't deserve that, and more importantly, the fans actually paying to see the show don't deserve that.
If you get past these three major annoyances, Destination X was filled with great wrestling. AJ Styles and Chris Daniels stole the show (is anybody surprised?), but Joe/Angle and Aries/Roode more than held their own. Nobody was really out-shined or outclassed, save for maybe the whole of the X-Division after a rather poor Ultimate X match. I will say that TNA continued its string of great pay-per-views for the second month in a row, but they really need to fix the complaints I listed above to make the entire viewing experience worth the money.
OVERAL RATING: 8.5/10
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