Credit: Chris Shore and prowrestling.net:
I was cautiously optimistic as the wife and I headed to the LJVM Annex for my first ever-live TNA show. All of the reports we get from TNA live events are good, but those usually come from TNA fans, and sometimes fans can be blinded by their fandom. Not that I’m not a fan of TNA, but house shows are a horse of a different color than what you see on TV and PPV and you never know what you are going to get.
Roughly 700 people joined us for the show, a respectable showing from numbers I have heard from other house shows. Anybody in the area who has any idea about the size of the company doesn’t anymore as TNA runs in the Annex, or old coliseum, here in Winston. That’s not a knock on the company, but it does put things in perspective as to the difference in crowd sizes with both WWE, which fills the actual coliseum in the next town over when they come, and ROH which couldn’t sell enough tickets at this same venue and had to cancel the show.
My first reaction on sitting down was anger I did not bring my camera. Four house lights had been strung to hang just above the ring to light it, and the look was incredibly old school. TNA has a basic ramp with a few lights, but less lights than ROH travels with. The vast majority of fans were on the floor, which were VIP seating. VIP ticket holders also got to be part of a meet and greet earlier in the day.
Jeremy Borash’s voice introduced SoCal Val. I say his voice because Borash is in the UK. I don’t know if it was recorded in pieces and the sound guy waited for crowd response before playing the next, or if Borash just has a feel for how crowds would react, but it played out perfectly, a rare event for recorded audio. Val looked great and did a good job of getting the crowd hyped up. The crowd had decent energy, but held back a lot until the main event when they went nuts. More on that later.
Right out of the gate, Val did something strange, and it was my only gripe with how the show was run. She announced that four people would get to meet RVD later, and that to be eligible, you needed to head to the Direct Auto Insurance table, “right now.” As fans rushed over to the table near the entrance, Val announced the first match. It is a small error, but I can’t understand sending the fans away from the ring just second before the first guy steps through the curtain.
1. Mr. Anderson defeated Crimson. Crimson got little reaction, but Anderson got a big pop that turned to some boos. I’m not sure why. Anderson took the mic and did his asshole bit, which got a good reaction. He called Crimson a douchebag, and the crowd loved that. Anderson won with the Mic Check in a match that was good, but nothing special. Instead of repeating that line for each match, I will point out here that all of the matches were good, but not special. That’s exactly how a house show should be in today’s wrestling business. There is no reason to put your stars at risk for 700 people. You should go out there, put on a good, but basic match, let your star power carry you, and then go home. So while I will not rave about any match, do not think they were bad. They weren’t. They were what they should have been.
Perhaps the coolest moment of the show happened after the first match when Anderson started to do his name gimmick, which Crimson cut off before the match. He stopped and said he had been saying his name twice for 12 years and he was tired of himself, so he wanted someone to help him. He found a kid in the front row on the opposite side of the ring from us and had him say his name, both times, into the mic. The kid even held the “Mister” part for a long time and the crowd cheered him. The mic was cutting in and out all night, and the kid was far enough away so I couldn’t see him well, but it sounded like perhaps the kid had a speech problem or was even special needs. If he wasn’t, it was still a very cool move. If he was, then mad kudos to Anderson for creating a special moment for the kid.
2. Mickie James defeated Gail Kim. Kim got better heat than I would have thought, and Mickie James is till very over. She also held a concert after the show about two minutes from my house. I couldn’t make it this time, but what a smart idea. They also had a bus going from the annex to the concert venue for fans, a nice touch. My understanding is they are doing the same gimmick tonight in Raleigh. James won with her DDT.
3. Magnus defeated Samoa Joe. This is the “weird crowd reaction” match of the night. Joe was introduced and got very little reaction when he stepped out. Then we he played to the crowd in the ring, he got a good reaction. But it was when the match started and he began laying chops on Magnus that the crowd decided they loved Joe. It was strange to watch play out, but by the end, Winston was hot for Joe. I missed the ending trying to find Jonny Fairplay and Bruce Mitchell of PW Torch, but Magnus won, I think with a roll-up.
4. Eric Young and ODB defeated Robbie E. and Robbie T. My wife’s reaction to Rob Terry was my favorite moment of the night. She hit me with the steroid question and I assured her it that Terry was clean. She was impressed. She also liked this match, which was the comedy segment of the night, of course. It also rounded out the show nicely. TNA booked this show very well, with every match being different, and with the card hitting all the spots: women’s match, comedy match, hard hitting match, etc. The crowd loved this match, which started with both teams dancing, and ended with ODB kicking everybody in the nuts for the win.
Intermission was next, and Earl Hebner was the only person signing t-shirts at the table. The new shill guy who replaced Don West was very smooth in his delivery, but he wasn’t as “all over the place” like West has been in the past (from what I was told). It was also surprising to see there were no Aces and 8s shirts. I realize storyline wise they are still on the outside, but as Fairplay pointed out, about a third of the show each week is dedicated to the group, with more to come, why not go ahead and sell shirts?
5. RVD defeated Gunner (w/Kid Kash). Gunner is from Greensboro, which is the next town over, yet he didn’t get the reaction I thought he would. Maybe people don’t know. RVD got a good reaction though. Kash interfered again and again, right in front of the ref, and instead of disqualifying him he was ejected. That got a big pop from the crowd. It’s TNA, so we had to have a ref bump at some point, and it came in this match. Kash sneaked back out and hit his moonsault from the top rope, but RVD took him out too and hit the frog splash for the win. RVD played to the crowd for a long time while his music played. For the record, I do not think there is a worse theme in all of wrestling.
6. Jeff Hardy and James Storm vs. Bobby Roode and Austin Aries. Roode and Storm came out first, and Val announced that they each had mystery partners picked by Hulk Hogan. She let Storm open his envelope first. Storm got very excited and the crowd started chanting for Hardy. Storm had the best pop of the night until one second later when Jeff Hardy’s music hit. Gunner may have been from a closer city, but Winston-Salem acted like Hardy was the hometown boy and exploded when he stepped through the curtain. Aries got a decent reaction from the crowd when he was announced as Roode’s partner.
Aries cut a promo before the match about how he and Roode needed to put their differences aside and work together since they were facing two of the best in the business. This, of course, led to immediate squabbling between Roode and Aries over who would start the match against Storm. Finally, Hardy tagged in and Roode took the first go. All four guys hit their big spots, including one moment where everybody hit a signature move in a row. The finish came when Roode had the title belt and tried to hit Storm with it. Aries tried to stop him, which led to Roode hitting himself with the belt. Roode took the superkick from Storm and then the Twist of Fate from Hardy for the pinfall victory.
Aries cut a short promo on Hardy after the match about how at Bound for Glory they would find out who was the better man, but for now, they had no problems and he wanted Hardy to have his moment in his home state. Aries left the ring, and Hardy stayed to take pictures with fans for $20.
Once again, there was no match that wowed the crowd, but all six matches were solid and well done. Hardy was by far the star of the night, but Winston-Salem wasn’t a one man show either. TNA’s TV product continues to improve, as does their PPV product. On this night at least, their house show product was very good. TNA should just keep doing what they are doing. It’s working. If TNA comes to your town, give them a shot.