The current state of the Knockout division has been a cause of great concern for me lately. Frankly, it depresses me to see it in the state that it's been in. That's why I was looking forward to the Knockouts Knockdown One Night Only PPV more than any of the others, if for nothing else than we were finally going to get to see some different women in a TNA ring, which has been so badly needed.
When I read the spoilers months ago, I was a bit on the fence. I thought the company had done pretty well with the new talent they'd brought in, but I also thought they could have done a lot better. But I had to remind myself that TNA were most likely trying to get through these ONO shows as cheaply as possible, so hoping they would pay to fly in women from Canada, the UK, etc. wasn't realistic. Mostly they just used wrestlers that were in the area and probably within driving distance. On that note, thank goodness Shine is based in Florida or this might not have turned out nearly as well as it did.
On paper, I thought the show looked like it could go either way. After seeing it, I felt pretty positive about the whole thing. Was it a blow away show? Not exactly. But there was enough to feel good about that I was satisfied and optimistic about what this could lead to (and honestly, none of the ONO shows have been fantastic anyway).
Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. The commentary was agonizing. Once again, Taz made a complete ass of himself, showing zero regard for the line between kayfabe heel and irritating loudmouth -- not taking anything seriously, acting like he'd rather be anywhere else, making terrible jokes that only he was laughing at, talking about everything except the matches, disrespecting the wrestlers by refusing to pronounce their names correctly. I felt bad for Mike Tenay, who was obviously getting really fed up with Taz's infantile behavior by the end of the night. Quite frankly, TNA should be embarrassed by Taz's performance on these shows. Absolutely atrocious, insulting, and if I'm being completely honest, grounds for termination. Where are those cost-cutting measures when we need them?
But as offensively bad as Taz was, at least I knew enough to expect that by now. What I did not expect was the surprising amount of filler on this show. There were numerous highlight packages showing important moments in the division over the years and there was nothing really wrong with them, but when you added them all together, including the ODB/Eric Young wedding angle that was shown in its entirety (WHY?!), you're probably talking about close to half an hour of wasted time that could have been spent on something else.
They could have literally had 2 or 3 extra matches in the time it took to air this stuff or given additional time to the matches they already had, and it was frustrating that TNA threw in this much padding on a show they were charging money for when anyone could just go on youtube and watch these things for free. Maybe they did this to eat up time so they didn't have to book more matches and thus didn't have to pay for more talent, but this did not sit well with me.
I mean, did we really need to see the entire wedding angle again? Quick clips, TNA -- that's all you needed! It's one thing to respect your own history, but good grief, this part ground the show to a screeching halt.
Gail Kim vs Alissa Flash
I was chomping at the bit when I saw this in the spoilers. This had 'dream match' written all over it and I was baffled to see that TNA had this as the opener. Flash was someone who was criminally wasted during her last run and I had very high expectations for this one. Unfortunately, it fell a bit short.
Not to say it was bad at all. It was very strong, very solid. But I was expecting something off the charts and it never quite reached that level. It's possible I simply built this up in my head too much. Keep in mind, "strong and solid" by the standards I set for these two would be "spectacular" for most other women. The only reason I was slightly disappointed by this was because I've seen the bar raised so high by Kim and Flash in the past. A fine opener, just not quite the dream encounter I imagined.
Lei'D Tapa vs Ivelisse Velez
I think these two definitely topped their Gutcheck match thanks to the extra time they were given here. Ivelisse was especially impressive and really showed that TNA made a big mistake in not signing her back then; Velez is a total pro. Tapa shows potential and I do think she could become something in the future, but those who say she's ready to be called up to the main roster are jumping the gun a little bit. I still find her work to be rather sloppy and she had a several shaky spots in this match. Still, pretty good stuff from these two that really made me wish Ivelisse was on the roster right now.
Tara vs Mia Yim
One of my favorite bouts of the night if you disregard Taz completely crapping all over Mia Yim (he seriously owes her an apology. And he should apologize to Rubix and Jerry Lynn too while he's at it.). If he could have put aside how hysterical he thought it was to say "Yam" or "Ham" or "Him" instead of "Yim" long enough to act like an adult and actually do the job TNA pays him to do, he would have noticed that there was a really solid match happening here minus that one awkward spot off the ropes.
Tara showed a lot of class in allowing her opponent to get in so much offense and Yim took advantage. I really dug her hybrid style of martial arts kicks/high-flying. Mia has some nice moves! I especially liked that corkscrew maneuver she did at the end. Out of all the new girls we saw on this show, she emerged as my favorite and the one I was most hoping we'd see in TNA again. The Knockouts have been lacking a high-flyer for some time
Brooke Tessmacher vs Santana
The least impressive match up to this point. Certainly not bad, but not on par with what the previous matches delivered. Santana is beautiful, but while she seems to have some wrestling talent, she didn't look 100% ready for this IMO. There was nothing really dynamic about her moveset and aside from her nice handspring moonsault at the end, I wasn't terribly impressed. Plus, I've seen enough of her promos to think that her interview skills are actually quite poor. I would pass on her personally.
ODB vs Trinity
This is where the show started to lose me for a while. It took some doing to get back into it after they replayed the wedding angle (the whole thing, TNA? Seriously?), and it didn't help that this was the match that came next. It was nice to see Trinity again, but she looked rusty, ODB does nothing for me anymore and with the exception of Alissa Flash, I'm simply not interested in seeing the current Knockouts battle former Knockouts. I've had enough of rehashing the past. I prefer to focus on the future, which is the main reason why I was watching this PPV. The match was okay, I guess, but so what?
Jackie Moore vs Taryn Terrell
Jackie Moore over Taryn Terrell? Are you kidding me? No offense to Jackie; she's certainly earned her respect. And granted, this was taped before Taryn proved herself against Gail, but whoever booked this needs their head examined. From what I remember, the match was all right, but to be honest, I was so baffled by the finish that I'm kind of blanking on the rest of it.
Hannah Blossom vs Taeler Hendrix vs Sojourner Bolt
The jokers in the crowd during this match reminded me of how happy I am that TNA has put the iMPACT Zone in their rearview mirror. The only babyface in the ring is from Britain, so naturally they start a "USA!" chant. Sigh...
Taeler Hendrix was the most over woman in the match. I maintain that TNA had a potential star with her that they missed the boat on. However, I felt it hurt this somewhat that Hendrix and Bolt's characters were dialed up to the point where their arguing kind of took over and the focus on Hannah as the underdog babyface got lost at times. Still, not a bad match, the bit with the skirt was funny and I'll credit them for trying to tell a story.
I'm a fan of Hannah and her sister, and wouldn't complain if they got called up from developmental, but I'd like to see them work on being more outgoing and aggressive. When faced with big type-A personalities like Hendrix and Bolt, they tend to come off as too shy and reserved.
So long, Taeler. It was nice while it lasted...
Velvet Sky vs Jillian Hall
Jillian Hall? Seriously? Good grief, TNA, was Jessicka Havok in the bathroom when you were raiding the Shine roster?
Here's my issue with Jillian Hall. I've seen people on the interwebs say from time to time that TNA should sign her and I have always been dead set against this. She spent so many years in WWE as nothing more than a walking punchline. She was a joke, a jobber, a comic relief cardboard cutout that never accomplished anything (her 2 minute transitional title reign doesn't count). If TNA were to sign her after all that, they would have to do so much to rebuild her image in the eyes of the fans in order to get them to take her seriously that it would be much easier and probably cheaper to simply sign someone new and develop them instead.
Having said that, I tried to keep an open mind about this. I said to myself, "She's got one chance here. Once chance to prove to the TNA audience that she's not a joke, that she's more than the tired Britney Spears parody gimmick, that WWE missed the boat on her. Let's see what she does." And what happened? She went out there and did the exact same thing! The second she started singing, I completely checked out. That told me everything I needed to know: that this person doesn't mind that no one takes her seriously, is content being a punchline and isn't trying to be anything more than that.
While fellow former WWE Divas Ivelisse and Serena looked like they went to the ring with something to prove, you could tell this show just wasn't that big a deal to Jillian and that is not someone I care to see in the Knockout division. Never have I been so happy to see Velvet Sky win a match.
Mickie James vs Serena Deeb
Match of the night. Even more impressive that I believe this was Serena's first match back after a long time away from the ring due to concussion issues and she looked like she hadn't missed a beat. Just a terrific technical match that told a nice story of mutual respect turning into frustration when Serena couldn't get the best of Mickie. Great stuff in this one. Serena looked sharp and proved that her and Mickie deserved the semi-main event spot.
Gauntlet Battle Royal
Right after we just saw one on iMPACT. Weird timing with that...
I confess, I'm not a big fan of this type of match. I just find them to be messy and cluttered most of time time. This wasn't terrible, but Mickie/Serena was the real high point of the show. Gail Kim winning makes sense. There was no storyline significance to any of this, so if it's just about paying tribute to the division, then I suppose Gail had to go over. And Madison Rayne showing up only for Gail to blow her off and tell her to get lost once she forked over the crown made me laugh. I'm sure my long-time readers can appreciate what a wonderfully cathartic moment that was for me personally.
Could've been better. Could've been a lot worse. Some of the outside talent they chose to use left me cold, but there were enough exciting new faces to take me back to a time several years ago when the Knockout division was red hot and had the wrestling world buzzing.
Of the potential signees we got a look at, Serena Deeb, Ivelisse Velez and Mia Yim all made great cases for themselves, and each brought something different to the table. I'd say Velez was the flashiest, Deeb was the most technically sound, and Yim was somewhere in the middle and the most unique of the bunch. If I had to choose between them, I think I'd probably go with Yim because her style stands out and I felt her high-flying moveset would fill a particular hole in the roster. Also because I had a chance to talk to her at an indie show a few years ago and she's seriously one the nicest wrestlers I've ever met. But to be honest, I'd hate to have to choose. After this show I kind of want all three of them.