The Final Six
America, F@#% Yeah!
Last week, the UK finals were a unanimous hit as sixteen contestants became six. The heavyweights had what many considered to be the match of the night while suspiciously not getting the main event spot like they should have, the ladies made me wish TNA would dump some of the current Knockouts (I could tell you which ones if you like) to make room for all four of them and one of the best performers in the entire competition was eliminated so TNA could bring Grado to America instead.
That's right, America. Grado is now inside you. I hope you've had all your shots...
FTR, the promo for this episode was highlighted by Grado lying down in front of the Washington Monument so it looks like a giant erect penis. Dear lord... our nation's first president is rolling over in his grave...
|There are no words...|
There are two big changes to the show this week that almost feel a little jarring at first. (1) Starting here, the show scales down to half hour installments. Considering what a ratings hit season two has been so far, this baffles me. I would think Challenge would have demanded that these episodes be lengthened to 60 minutes like the audition rounds, but if they just want to stick to the meat and not pad things out too much, I can appreciate that.
(2) It appears they've now abandoned the X-factor format and gone back to the style of season one. It does seem odd to make a change like this halfway through, but I'm all in favor of it. Like I said, I was a huge fan of the original series and I wasn't crazy about how they changed it to conform to a format that's so familiar (and let's face it, overdone) these days. This way the show is less about the judges and can now be about more fully showcasing the contestants, who we actually get to hear from now. This is a big thing that I felt was missing from the first four episodes. We finally really get to know these people, so I'm very happy about this.
It's also a good way to assess how eloquently each of them can speak. First impressions: Mark Andrews seems to come off the best. Kay Lee Ray, Dave Mastiff and Rampage Brown seem a bit shy in the talking head segments, but at least I can make out what they're saying, whereas Grado and Noam Dar have very thick accents, making them hard to understand at times. That might hurt them.
I loved the opening, with each of the final six getting their own video package. A lot of the footage was recycled from previous episodes, but it did its job nicely in putting them over like stars. We're starting to get interview footage with each of them now, which was the most interesting part. Andrews sees himself as the underdog in the competition, but it's a role in which he's very comfortable. Ray knows that being the only woman competing against five men is going to be a big challenge, but believes this gives her something that will set her apart from the others. Brown acknowledges that he doesn't always come across as the most outgoing person, but he turns into a different animal when he's in the ring. Dar talks about how it was hard to open the show in the UK finals, but doesn't really tell us anything about himself. Mastiff says that he's in the competition based on merit unlike some others -- a comment probably directed at Grado. Grado says the bigger guys like to pick on him because he's the chubby one, but insists that he can go, though, based on what I've seen so far, that's being pretty generous.
It appears six will become three sooner than we thought. We're one six-person tag match away from cutting this cast in half. Does that mean Kay Lee Ray will be wrestling with the guys inter-gender style? Gail said she wouldn't be doing that in TNA, but if this is the case, it bodes well for her chances as she's had some fantastic matches working with men on the indies and she'll really stand out that way.
Unfortunately, it seems that only the final three will get to wrestle members of the TNA roster, which is a damn shame. Strange, though, that Dixie would whet our appetites here by announcing their opponents now when half those matches are apparently not going to happen. If they're going to tell us the matches ahead of time, they should just do all of them. I personally would be disappointed if we didn't see them all because every matchup sounds really interesting (not all for the same reasons). This makes me wonder about a show report for a live event that surfaced some weeks back; it seems that every teased match did end up taking place, so there may be a twist coming up.
My thoughts on the potential matchups:
Mark Andrews vs DJ Zema Ion: Andrews can probably outwrestle Ion and his ability to connect with the crowd might just overshadow his opponent who's saddled with the dead weight that is the Bromance gimmick. Ion's a definite Type-A, though, so Andrews will need to turn his character up to eleven here lest he seem generic by comparison, but I think Ion should be a little worried about getting shown up here.
Noam Dar vs
Kay Lee Ray vs Gail Kim: SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! This is a match I have been wanting to see for years! YEARS! Ray hit the jackpot here as Gail has a great talent for bringing out the best in her opponents, and on those occasions when the Knockouts nab the MOTN honors away from the men, Gail's name being attached is pretty much a given. Gail has never faced a woman in TNA with Ray's brand of high flying daredevil offense before, so this one is really exciting on paper. Expect this match to be a likely show-stealer.
Dave Mastiff vs Samoa Joe: This makes sense. These guys work similar styles, so I'd expect a lot of comparisons to Joe before he started wrestling a bit safer. But with them being so similar, Mastiff's task will be proving that he can deliver something that Joe doesn't already bring to the table.
Rampage Brown vs Bram: Same deal here. Brown and Bram seem cut from the same cloth, so Brown needs to show that he's got something that sets him apart. Much like with Noam Dar, however, he may end up getting outshined in the charisma department by his more outgoing opponent.
Grado vs Ethan Carter III: Grado in the same ring as Wrestling's Greatest Hero EC3 makes my soul hurt. Yes, EC3 is very adept at comedy, which seems to be the only thing Grado has in his bag of tricks, so in a way I can see why this might seem like a good idea. But I have a feeling that this will either be done strictly for laughs and nothing else or will be used to send a message that Grado's clownish antics will only take him so far. Will Grado outperform EC3? Um... no. He won't.
Once she tells them who their potential opponents will be, Dixie Carter says that their job is to steal the spotlight from these people. Considering their opponents, some of them should have a harder time with that than others.
Then, the best part. They're going to be driving across the country in a big van. Zoiks! Paint that thing blue and green, give them some mysteries to solve and this could be the greatest reality show ever!
[SIDE NOTE: That thing looks pretty cramped for six people to spend a week in. They couldn't spring for a bus? At least the season one cast got to cruise around in a limo. Just saying...]
The rest of the episode kind of felt like filler to me. This was mostly just about the cast taking a load off, seeing the sights and getting on each other's nerves at times. I could have done with a bit less of the stuff in the van as most of it was featuring Grado with his gut hanging out, picking his nose and generally acting like a slob. I found myself in complete agreement with Rampage's comments on him, and that's not a good thing. If Grado's goal is to win over the American audience, he's off to a bad start with this viewer. Him boasting about how he could take EC3 in a match certainly didn't help his case either. I'm suddenly half-hoping he makes it to final three, just so I can watch the Hardcore American Icon of Wrestling completely school this goober.
Not a lot to see here other than them goofing off and having fun on their road trip. Though I did like the part about them representing their countries and acknowledging that they need to kill it so they don't let down the UK fans back home.
We go out with the fun and games apparently coming to an end, however. Unsurprisingly, Grado is not endearing himself to everyone. The novelty of the road trip is wearing off for Mastiff, who's looking to get serious now. It seems he has a plan to encourage Grado's slovenly goofball schtick until it backfires on him. That shouldn't be too hard because (another non-shocker) outside of his speech about the UK fans, Grado doesn't seem to be taking this experience very seriously. I think this was supposed to paint Mastiff as the bad guy, but frankly, I'm rooting for him. I've only been watching Grado on my computer screen for one hour/half hour installments once a week and my patience with him is wearing dangerously thin, so I definitely sympathize with how Mastiff feels.
Supposedly, Grado is there mainly to help the show draw viewers in the UK since he has a big following over there, but I really don't see that translating to the US fanbase, who he now has to get over in front of. So unless TNA completely take leave of their senses, which, I admit, is not out of the realm of possibility, I can't see him winning this thing. At this point, I imagine he'll be on the show all the way to the end, he'll probably be in the final three, but it's likely just for fan service. The other five are the serious contenders, (if there's a god) and none of them are really distinguishing themselves outside of the ring yet, though Mastiff did seem to be inching ahead of the pack at the end of the episode.
An entertaining episode this week, but I'm looking forward to the pressure getting cranked back up next time. See you then.