The Crow's Nest - TNA One Night Only: X-Travaganza Review
Apr 13, 2013 - 9:32:22 PM
1) TNA One Night Only: X-Travaganza Review (04/13/13)
As most of you know, assuming you pay attention to the TNA related news that gets posted on this site, TNA has done away with the monthly PPV format as we know it. Rather than airing a big PPV event each month, TNA has cut their schedule down to four big shows and eight pre-taped "special event" shows, each one with a different theme. One will see the Knockouts of the past and present highlighted, another will see random teams put together in a tournament for $100,000, and many more.
About a week ago, TNA aired the first of these One Night Only shows, and the theme of this one was simple: highlight the X-Division. Back when the X-Division was in its prime, it truly was one of the major things that set TNA apart from WWE. It combined multiple styles of wrestlers, anything from your average spot monkey to a brawler to a technical wizard and everything in between. Some of the best matches in the history of the company have involved X-Division stars, and many of the wrestlers who competed on that roster have since moved on to bigger and better things.
Sadly, the X-Division as it stands now is nowhere close to that golden age. It seemed to be making a comeback when Austin Aries was the X-Division Champion as he single-handedly made that belt the official "#2 Championship" in the company, solidifying its status as a stepping stone to the World Championship. Very quickly that all changed, and now we're left with the occasional match featuring wrestlers that very few fans seem to care about. The rules keep changing (weight limit, number of competitors required in each match, etc.) and the matches are generally used as filler to take up time between the bigger storylines and feuds that are going on. It's not that there's a lack of talent on the roster, the main problem in my opinion involves (surprise surprise) the creative staff just not doing their jobs as effectively as they should be.
But all that aside, I'm very glad TNA decided to air X-Travaganza as their first One Night Only card, and I look forward to watching it. As I write this column, I am watching the show for the first time. I kept meaning to get on it sooner, but between work, school and preparing to move, my schedule has been insanely busy as of late. Better late than never though, so let's get on with it.
Match #1 (X-Scape Match): Christian York VS Alex Silva VS Jimmy Rave VS Lince Dorado VS Matt Bentley VS Puma VS Sam Shaw
To catch some of you up who may not know what the stipulation of this match is, allow me to explain. Seven men will start this match, with pinfalls or submissions causing eliminations. When two men are left standing, one of them must climb out of the cage to win the match. Got it? Good.
Right off the bat, what I'm noticing is that there's a good mix of names in this match. There's a couple names that most fans will have never heard of, a few current names, and a few names from the past. On top of that, there's a really good mix of styles here. Naturally there's a couple of typical indy wrestlers that rely predominately on flashy aerial/flippy moves, but there's also some power wrestlers as well.
It took a while for this match to get started, and a couple of early botches from Puma and Dorado interrupted the flow at times. Luckily both York and Shaw stepped their game up to get things back on track, and Bentley quickly did the same. Dorado and Puma were the first eliminations, and as soon as they were gone, the whole attitude of the match changed. The athletics we all expect from the X-Division were still there, but without all of the unnecessary flips and such. Shaw continued to impress after Silva was eliminated next, and considering he was left in the ring with three TNA veterans, that's fairly impressive. The crowd seemed to love him as well, which is even more impressive given his relatively unknown status. Rave eliminates Shaw from the match, and we're left with three.
Bentley employing the heel tactics of teaming up with Rave seemed to come out of nowhere, as he was wrestling a much more fan-friendly style throughout the match. The crowd seemed as confused as I am, and very quickly York became the only guy in the ring capable of getting them to react. Bentley gets eliminated, and Rave finally starts to elicit some boos from the crowd. Also, in case you missed my earlier explanation, one of these men has to now escape the cage to win the match.
Very near-disaster when it seemed like York was trying to superplex Rave off the top of the cage, but Rave didn't seem to be helping and almost got dropped on his head. For all of York's efforts though, I'm just not buying the chemistry between these two. It's far from a bad match, but it just seems as if they're going from spot to spot. York finally took the win, and the crowd gave him a very solid reaction.
Winner: Christian York
(Overall, very good match to start the show. Lots of spots to get the crowd going, and York continued to build his fan support. Despite his fairly early elimination, I'd have to name Sam Shaw as one of the match MVPs, and I'd love to see him take on a bigger role with the main roster in TNA)
Match #2: Rashad Cameron & Anthony Nese VS Douglas Williams & Kid Kash
Nice to see Nese back in a TNA ring, I always thought he could have done more with the company. Kid's got a great look and reminds me of a more natural looking (and younger) Chris Masters. His partner's got that Forest Whitaker eye going on, mixed with a touch of homeless-chic. Also, it's great to see both Kash and Williams wrestling again, particularly Williams. It's too bad he never got to do much more with the company as he's immensely talented, but if he can do anything as a trainer in OVW to help the next crop of wrestlers, that's better than nothing.
This match was certainly a lot slower than the opener, but I think that was to be expected. Three of the four competitors are not exactly known for their high-flying tactics, but that's totally fine. The X-Division has always been about athletics above all, and each of these guys brings something different to the table. The announcers did a great job of hyping the "new school vs. old school" aspect of this match. Even more importantly though, Kash and Williams did a great job of making both Nese and Cameron look like superstars, and the crowd was consistently alive throughout this match, which is more than I can say for the opener.
Perhaps the best thing I could say about this match is that it would not look out of place on a "real" PPV card. Nese and Cameron are relatively unknown to the TNA crowd, but there was an excellent heel/face dynamic in this match with the "rookies" playing the parts of the underdog up-and-comers that made their lack of exposure on other TNA programming not really matter. Both of the "new school" guys showed that they should be regular competitors on the main roster. They may not have gotten the win, but with that impressive performance I'd love to see them both in the X-Division on a regular basis.
Winners: Kid Kash & Douglas Williams
(Another really solid match to start the show. Great chemistry between both teams, and an amazing exhibition of everything the TNA has to offer. There was power moves, there was high spots, there was technical wizardry…there was a bit of everything. It really reminded me of X-Division matches from back in the day, and that's truly a great compliment.)
Match #3 (Special Referee - Joseph Park): Chavo Guerrero VS Robbie E.
Not exactly what I would call a blockbuster match, but not every encounter on the card can be great. I've said for a while now that I think Robbie E. has loads of potential to become a bigger star, he just needs to ditch the goofy "bro" gimmick first. Chavo isn't a bad wrestler by any means, but he's not exactly a huge name. His performance in TNA so far has been fairly so-so, but if he's willing to use whatever veteran status he has to help Robbie get over, I'll be willing to give him his due props.
It took a while for the match to actually start, but during the pre-match promos, Robbie did a great job of getting the crowd going. Chavo came out to further exploit the Guerrero name, but to his credit he did get a fair crowd response. It didn't seem like a PPV-quality match, and a lot of the commentary involved Taz and Tenay arguing over whether or not Park deserved to be on the roster, but I could see this being a pretty standard match on Impact. Lots of playing to the crowd from Robbie and decent storytelling from both men, it just really lacked that big match feel.
The biggest surprise of the match had to be the pops Chavo got from the crowd, easily the biggest he's seen since debuting in TNA. The unfortunate part is that nothing was really done to make Robbie look good. I'm not saying he should have won, that's not always necessary to get a wrestler over, but it would have been nice to see him at least get a couple of near-win moments. Nice and short match, as it should have been considering the length of the two openers, and it did (somewhat surprisingly) seem to get the crowd even more fired up.
Winner: Chavo Guerrero
Match #4 (Ultimate X): Mason Andrews VS Rubix VS Zema Ion VS Kenny King
Ultimate X is a staple of the X-Division, so I'm sure many of you already know what this stipulation entails. If not though, it's pretty simple. Two wires cross overtop of the ring (forming an "X") and in the middle hangs a big red X, similar to how a belt would hang above the ring in a ladder match. First guy to grab the X wins the match.
Ultimate X has always been one of my favourite TNA stipulations, and more often than not many of the craziest spots are seen in these matches. This is a match made for the spot monkeys and risk takers, but there's a spot for everybody here. You've got to be at least a little insane to compete in this match given the possibility of serious injury.
More so than any previous match on the card, the early minutes of Ultimate X really looked like it could be anybody's game. No one wrestler dominated for too long, and on the flip side no one wrestler was on the receiving end of a beatdown for too long. King took a wicked shot to the…well, to a spot where no man wants to get hit… and it looked like it took him a minute to catch his breath and get back to the action. Andrews also looked to have injured himself after overshooting a dive to the outside and landing awkwardly on his ankle.
The award for craziest wrestler in this match has got to go to Rubix. He did not look afraid to hit all of the biggest spots, including a big cross body to the outside after climbing the steel structure that holds up the ropes above the ring. Andrews seemed to be the one guy in this match that didn't quite fit in, mostly because he got the weakest reactions from the crowd, but also because once the initial part of the match was over, he just didn't really do anything other than hit random spots. He did end up taking a wicked German suplex from Rubix though, and once again looked like he almost got himself killed. I can't blame him too much though, as it did look like that ankle tweak from earlier continued to bug him throughout the match.
I absolutely loved the finish of the match. Rubix had climbed across the wires and unhooked the X, but before he could fall down and touch the mat (which is required to win) King came out of nowhere to catch him, grab the X out of his hand, and steal the win for himself. Very "out of nowhere", and got a really nice reaction to the crowd.
Winner: Kenny King
(Great match, and certainly would not seem out of place on a Destination X PPV card. Rubix was easily the MVP of this match, and I'd love to see him as a regular feature in the X-Division. Dude seems to be extremely talented, and did a great job of connecting with the crowd. The pop he got when he almost won the match was great, and I hope somebody in TNA management was listening.)
Match #5: Bad Influence (Daniels & Kazarian) VS Petey Williams & Sonjay Dutt
MAPLE LEAF MUSCLE IS BACK BABY! I've really missed Petey Williams, particularly his finisher, which makes me cringe every single time. Both he and Dutt managed to cut very solid pre-match promos, and already I'm imagining what the X-Division could be today if guys like this were still around and being used properly. Daniels and Kaz are, as they have been for a while now, possibly the most entertaining part of the TNA product, and have managed to keep the same gimmick for what seems like forever now without it getting old. Great example of how over a tag team can be if they're just given the time and opportunity.
Williams gets a MASSIVE "WELCOME BACK!" chant from the crowd, and for a split second he falls out of character and you can see that he really appreciates the love from the crowd. Hard to believe he's been gone from TNA for four years now. In the current age of TNA, if you're getting a bigger reaction than Bad Influence, you know you're doing something right. Seriously, this match might as well be nicknamed "The Petey Williams Show" because he's dominating both in in-ring competition and reactions from the crowd.
Easily the match of the night so far, and if it weren't for the main event being what it is, I wouldn't be surprised if it became the overall match of the night. Daniels and Kaz were on top of their game as always, but Williams and Dutt were no slouches either. They competed like an actual tag team and, forgive me for sounding like a broken record, Williams' crowd pops added that extra something special. The crowd was already hot at this point, but they were explosive during much of this match.
A handful of very near falls added some drama to this match, and it really seemed like either team could believably take the win. Another match that would not seem at all out of place on a big PPV card, and TNA wisely gave them a lot of time to work with. It's the shortest of the longer matches so far, but both teams made the most of it. Enough spots to keep the crowd going, but even more storytelling that made it seem as though these teams had been feuding for weeks now. I wasn't surprised at the outcome, and I popped HUGE (as did the crowd) when Williams hit the Canadian Destroyer after the match ended.
Winners: Daniels & Kazarian
(PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let Petey Williams be back in TNA for good now. If that crowd was that hot for him after no build-up, imagine what he could do on the main roster? Yes please.)
Match #6 (No Disqualification): Rob Van Dam VS Jerry Lynn
I've made no secret of my dislike for Rob Van Dam, but any time he steps in the ring with Jerry Lynn, he seems to really bring his A-game. Throw in that No-DQ stipulation here, and I can only imagine what kind of match we're going to get. The crowd is a lot quieter for this one than they were for the last match, but I'm sure RVD and Lynn will have them on their feet by the end of it.
Much slower start to this match than I would have predicted, but once it got going, both guys looked to be right at home. These guys manage to tell that whole "we know each other's offence so well that we have to work extra hard to hit anything" story so well, and both Taz and Tenay are doing an excellent job of selling just how storied this rivalry is.
The use of weapons in this match was fairly conservative, which is not at all a bad thing. Both men let their high-impact offence do the work, and foreign objects were only used to really put an exclamation point on certain spots, such as RVD being thrown on to a chair from the top rope or getting speared through a table. It's really too bad that Lynn wasn't getting more chants from the crowd, because he put in a hell of a lot of work into making this match something special. Don't get me wrong, RVD was in rare form in this match, but there was something special about Lynn's performance, really selling the fact that he's retiring from the industry.
As I expected though, the crowd was on fire by the end of the match. RVD got a massive pop at the finish when he leaped damn near across the ring to nail Lynn with the Five Star Frogsplash for the win. Both men put on a hell of a match, and it's really too bad we're not going to ever see them face off ever again.
Winner: Rob Van Dam
(Great to see the TNA roster come out on the stage to give Jerry Lynn his props. He definitely didn't seem to expect it as he was nearly in tears as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. If he had to retire, this was a hell of a way to end his "big stage" career.)
Match #7: Austin Aries VS Samoa Joe
Now do you understand why I said the Bad Influence match couldn't be MotN? You don't even have to watch this match and you know it's going to be something special. Both men are great individually, but you put them in the ring against each other? Nine times out of ten you're going to get a classic. Two of the best X-Division names in the history of the division, and a very fitting end to this PPV. Aries echoed those sentiments in his pre-match promo, doing an amazing job of putting over both himself and Samoa Joe as great competitors. No gimmicks here folks, just some straight-up five-star wrestling action.
Once again, Taz and Tenay did an incredible job of selling this match. Both men got hyped up for the records they hold in TNA (Aries as the longest reigning X-Division Champion, Joe for having the longest undefeated streak), even going so far as to talk about Joe's 21-month undefeated streak in Ring of Honor which, interestingly enough, was ended by none other than Austin Aries.
Not surprisingly, both men "brought it" in this match. Very back-and-forth with Joe utilizing his power and technical skill and Aries using his sneaky tactics to pick up the advantage. The crowd was an integral part in making this match special, and from the outset they were very into the match. Chants broke out for both men, and there didn't seem to be any real crowd-favorite.
The ongoing story in this match was Aries struggling to be able to lift Joe in the air for any sort of impact move, having to rely instead on mostly strikes and submissions. That sort of thing isn't rocket science, but it's one of those simple additions to a match that can really make things special. If Aries is able to hit lifting moves all throughout the match, his brainbuster finisher becomes just a simple finisher. But if he's struggling to lift Joe at any point in the match, but is finally able to do so to hit his finisher and win the match? Much bigger deal.
This was exactly the kind of match that proves that the X-Division doesn't have to be made up of only mid-card nobodies. Both of these men are former World Champions and could be plugged into the main event at any point, but at the same time they create the perfect main event to an X-Division themed PPV. The X-Division in its prime was structured just like any roster, with "main event" and "mid-card" guys. This is the kind of thing that needs to make a comeback if TNA ever wants the X-Division to become something notable again.
Picking a match MVP is impossible in this match, because both men were on fire. Was it the best match of either man's career? Far from it, but with repertoires like theirs, it's going to take something epic to earn that title. The finish came out of nowhere, abruptly ending a fast-paced back-and-forth exchange that saw Aries eat a couple of power moves from Joe. It's too bad Aries didn't end things with his brainbuster finish, but he did manage to counter a muscle buster into a pin for the win. Hell of a match, and most certainly the match of the night.
Winner: Austin Aries
If there's one thing I can say about this PPV, it's this: that's more like it. TNA PPVs are often hit or miss, usually either ending up to be great shows or miserable failures. This was a great show, and if the rest of the "One Night Only" PPVs are on this level, I'm going to be a very happy fan. I'm still not sure about airing PPVs on a Friday night, but time will tell if it's going to be an effective strategy.
The next pre-taped show is going to be on May 3, and it will be called Joker's Wild. 24 men will compete in a tournament for $100,000, initially in a series of 6 tag team matches (where the teams were randomly put together) ending with the 12 winners competing in a battle royal main event. I may not be able to watch it live, but you can be sure I'll be catching it at some point.
I absolutely recommend checking out X-Travaganza if you have the opportunity. It was a great exhibition of X-Division talent, and because none of the matches were really connected to a current storyline (aside from Taz mentioning his Aces & Eights affiliation from time to time) you'll be able to just enjoy some wrestling action instead of worrying about what the outcomes will mean.
Until next time, thanks for stopping by.
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