After weeks of hype and anticipation, a hero made his return to TV last night, ready to battle against villainy across the land. But enough about 24‘s Jack Bauer, I’m talking about Sting’s return to a national wrestling promotion at TNA Wrestling’s Final Resolution.
Indeed, the big question heading into the pay-per-view was how well Sting would perform in his tag team match pitting he and Christian Cage against Monty Brown and NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Jarrett. Fortunately, the answer to that is a positive one, as the veteran looked good in his triumphant return, and he was able to hold his own with the younger participants. Whether or not his return will have any long-term significance remains to be seen. But if his entire run is anything like this match, it could be entertaining enough.
On the other hand, with the exception of the TNA X-Division Championship match between champion Samoa Joe and “Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels, the rest of the card was somewhat middle-of-the road. It’s like the company didn’t want anything to overshadow the return of Sting, as it seemed that some of the guys were holding back a bit. The other problem, and this is becoming an increasingly-frustrating part of TNA, is that a lot of the matches were plagued with outside interference and screwjob finishes. Hopefully the company will resolve to reduce this kind of thing in the future.
The main event was certainly not immune to this sort of booking. Not that there was much doubt as to which look he would use for his return, but Sting decided to go with his “Crow” gimmick, complete with the white facepaint, trenchcoat and baseball bat. Though he looked a bit smaller than when most people saw him last, the crowd was completely behind the veteran. Cage started off hot, even getting into the head of Jarrett with some mind games, before tagging in Sting. Sting’s quickness and a well-executed dropkick earned him a “You’ve still got it” chant from the crowd, and their statement was validated as Sting cleaned house with a pair of face-smashes on Jarrett and Brown. Jarrett hit a low blow on Christian, and the shenanigans continued with a cheap shot on Cage by Gail Kim on the outside. This allowed Brown and Jarrett to maintain control over Cage when the action got back in the ring. Some more classic tag strategy employed, as Brown and Jarrett cut Christian off from his side of the ring where Sting awaited the tag. Out of options, Cage resorted to dirty tactics of his own to try to escape the onslaught, even biting Brown to get loose. Unfortunately, Jarrett pulled Sting off the apron before Cage could make the tag. Jarrett and Brown went to nail Christian with a con-chair-to, but he avoided the impact, and rallied to take the two of them out, and finally was able to make the tag to Sting. Sting took control, hitting Brown with a Stinger Splash, but as he went for one on Jarrett, he hit the ref instead. Sting had Jarrett tapping from a Scorpion Death Lock submission, but with the ref out, it was to no avail. Brown tried to divide the two, picking up Cage and dumping him on to Sting. Though Sting confronted his partner about the apparent hit, and thought about knocking out Cage with Jarrett’s belt, he eventually figured out what happened, and the two continued on as a unified front. Of course, like every other Jarrett match nowadays, the ending was overbooked and messy and it almost became another screwjob, with Team Canada and Gail Kim hitting the ring to help the champ. This time, though, they were easily dispatched, and weren’t a factor in the outcome. In the end, Jarrett was going to put Cage away with a patented guitar shot, but Sting saved his partner, smashing the guitar with his baseball bat. As Cage sent Brown out of the ring, Sting hit Jarrett with the Scorpion Death Drop, and covered him for the win.
Jeremy Borash welcomed the crowd to the pre-show countdown, before handing it over to Shane Douglas who was backstage with Christian Cage. Cage sends out a welcome greeting to Sting, and a warning to Jarrett and Brown on his partner’s behalf.
Pre-Show Match One: Team Canada (Petey Williams, A-1, and Eric Young vs. Lance Hoyt, Kenny King, and Jay Lethal
The Americans impress in the early goings of the match, mixing up Lethal’s high impact, Hoyt’s power, and King’s quickness, but the chicanery of the Canadians soon give them the edge. King feels the brunt of their arsenal for a while, including Petey’s Oh Canada crotchel serenade. King manages to escape their clutches, and tag in Hoyt, who cleans house, even hitting Young with a front-crucifix powerbomb. His momentum doesn’t last too long, though, and after Lethal crashes to the m at in a failed superfly splash attempt, he falls victim to Williams’ Canadian Destroyer and gets pinned.
Winners: Team Canada
Match Rating: 6/10 — decent little opener, but nothing jaw-dropping
Shane Douglas tells Borash that he is going to Sting’s locker room to help answer some of the big questions of the night, including which incarnation of Sting will show up tonight. Meanwhile, Don West and the Professor Mike Tenay run down the crowd.
Pre-Show Match Two: Latin American X-change (Konnan and Homicide) vs. The Naturals
Konnan gets in the ring, and explains to Ron Killings that his beef with the James Gang doesn’t extend to him, and that he should join Konnan’s new crew, the LAX.
The Naturals start off really quickly, taking it to Homicide with some of their combinations. Homicide stops their momentum, hitting Andy Douglas with a jumping spinning DDT, and LAX takes over. Konnan and Homicide continue the beat-down, until Douglas rolls away from Homicide and gets the hot tag into Chase Stevens. The Naturals hit their Natural Disaster, and it looks like it’s over. But Konnan, the wily veteran, distracts the ref, and uses his blackjack to waffle Douglas, who Homicide then rolls up for the three-count.
Winners: The LAX
Match Rating:6/10 — another decent if uneventful match
Backstage, Douglas enters Sting’s locker room to try to get an exclusive interview, only to find Team Canada scarfing down the food that TNA has left for him in his locker room. They’re upset that he has been welcomed with open arms by TNA’s management, and want to give him a reception of their own. Scott D’Amore tells them to grab what they can get, and they’ll deal with Sting later.
The opening video package, to nobody’s surprise, is all about Sting.
Match One: Roderick Strong, Austin Aries, and Alex Shelley vs. Matt Bentley w/ Traci, Sonjay Dutt, and Chris Sabin
I like what TNA is doing with the six-man division, and hope they keep it up — these matches are a great way to showcase the X-Division talent. The match starts off insanely quick, with lots of quick moves and counters by both teams. The bad guys get the advantage after a few minutes, by pushing Dutt down when he goes for his sprinkler, leaving him straddled on the top rope. They follow that up with a good combo, with two of them holding him on their shoulders, and the third jumping down and stomping on his gut, spiking him hard to the mat. Dutt takes a triple beating for some time, as outside the ring, Dave Hebner and Jerry Lynn are shown watching the action. Dutt hits a desperation DDT and makes the hot tag to Sabin, who’s now sporting a fancy new frosted hairdo. Sabin takes over on Shelley, nailing him with a pair of low dropkicks while hanging Shelley in the tree of woe. Sabin is a one man gang, knocking down all of the diabolical trio. Dutt hits a reverse somersault DDT, but gets caught while climbing to the top and gets thrown to the floor, where he gets flattened by Air Sabin. Bentley tries for the superkick on Shelley, but gets caught with a big flying dropkick from Strong. Traci distracts Strong, who then eats a superkick to the side of the face by Bentley. Before Bentley can capitalize, Shelley rolls him up from behind, and earns his team the win.
Winners: Roderick Strong, Austin Aries, and Alex Shelley
Match Rating: 7/10 — good action, but a bit sloppy at times
A video package details the recent breakup of the Three Live Kru and highlights how Ron Killings’ allegiance is still unknown.
Match Two: The Diamonds in the Rough (Elix Skipper and David Young w/ Simon Diamond) vs. The James Gang (BG and Kip James)
Tenay and West remark how much people have been demanding for a reunion of the team formerly known as the New Age Outlaws –- I am not one of those people. Not much to say about this one. Think about an old match from when these guys were in D-X and arguably good, and add subtract all of the best parts from that. Very little heat from the crowd, except for one moment when BG James double clotheslined the Diamonds over the top, eliciting a “New Age Outlaws” chant. Diamond’s distraction from the outside lets Young hit BG with a big twisting backslam and take control. That lasts for a while, until Young misses a moonsault on BG, who makes the hot tag to Kip. The match mercifully ends not too long thereafter and Kip gets the win with a pumphandle slam.
Winners: The James Gang
Match Rating: 3/10 — only because Elix looked like he was trying
Backstage, Shane Douglas interviews Christopher Daniels who warns Samoa Joe that he will be ending his undefeated streak and taking the X-Division Title.
Match Three: AJ Styles vs. Tanahashi
Tenay educates the fans by running down a full career history of Tanahashi, earning his moniker of The Professor. Tanahashi scores first with a good-looking front somersault flip dropkick. Styles fires back with a high dropkick, sending Tanahashi to the floor. The chops start flying back and forth, and the two start clobbering each other with slaps and elbows. Tanahashi hits a release German suplex, and scarily, it ooks like Styles landed right on the back of his head, though Styles seemed uninjured. Tanahashi wears down Styles, clamping on a dragon sleeper, even swinging him around by his head with the hold still applied — holy cow! Styles escapes a senton attempt, and slows Tanahashi down further with an enziguri. Styles runs him over with a pair of clotheslines, and connects with a big springboard flying forearm smash. Tanahashi cools down Styles’ momentum with a full nelson slam, a kick to the head, and a flying clothesline. There looks to be some miscommunication here, as there are a few sloppy moments during this one. Tanahashi tries for a belly-to-back suplex off the top rope, but Styles shifts his weight and lands on top of his opponent. The two jockey for position, when suddenly Shannon Moore hits the ring. He tries to hit AJ in the head with the Mr. TNA plaque that he stole the other night, but misses and waffles Tanahashi by mistake. Styles disposes of Moore, and then puts the dazed Tanahashi away with the Styles Clash.
Winner: AJ Styles
Match Rating: 6/10 — personally, I found this a bit disappointing, given what we’ve seen Styles do in the past
A video package details the history between Raven and Larry Zybysko. Afterwards, Shane Douglas gets comments from Raven who will either beat Larry’s hand-picked opponent for him or leave TNA forever. Raven puts over how important TNA is to him.
In the ring, Larry Z introduces Raven’s opponent, the returning Sean Waltman (who, interestingly, he calls X-Pac). Not sure when these two had any history together — anyone out there know?
Match Four: Raven vs. Sean Waltman
Raven brings his shopping cart full of plunder, and in a no-DQ environment should seemingly have the advantage. But he gets distracted by Larry Z early, and X-Pac takes advantage of the situation, hitting Raven with a Singapore Cane, and busting him open. X-Pac takes further control to Larry’s delight, hitting Raven with a flying press outside the ring. Funny moment where X-Pac rams Raven repeatedly with the shopping cart, chasing him up the ramp. Raven comes back, and stuffs Waltman into the cart. They go for what might be the coolest spot ever, but it looks like it goes wrong. Raven tries to push the cart, with Waltman in it, off the ramp and to the floor, but the cart falls backwards as it hits the edge, and Waltman lands hard on the edge right on his tailbone -– ouch! Back in the ring, the referee takes an accidental clothesline, just as Raven hits Waltman with the Raven Effect, forcing Larry Z to take over as the third man in the ring. His objectivity is put into question, particularly with his slow counts whenever Raven tries for the cover, earning disapproving looks from Dave Hebner who’s watching from ringside. In the ring, Raven sets up a ladder on top of a table, and sets up Waltman for something that will no doubt hurt Waltman significantly. Larry violates every rule of refereeing by getting involved, yanking Raven’s leg and giving Waltman the chance to capitalize. Waltman sends Raven crashing down through the table and, despite Raven getting his foot on the rope, Larry counts the pinfall. After the match, Larry gleefully reminds Raven that his loss means he will have to leave TNA forever. Raven devotee Cassidy Riley comes out to protest this miscarriage of injustice, but Raven waves him off, dejectedly accepting the consequences of his loss.
Winner: Sean Waltman
Match Rating: 7/10 — would have earned a 9 if the shopping cart spot would have gone as planned
Backstage, Shane Douglas interviews Ron Killings. Konnan comes out to ask Killings if he will join his new gang, pointing out that he has never done anything to Killings that would question his friendship and loyalty. Killings, for his part, isn’t sure what to think, and considers himself as a lone wolf.
Tenay and West still can’t get over the fact that Raven has to leave, while, Larry Z is outside the building, making sure he does. Jackie Gayda arrives at the building, and insults Larry, saying he’s part of the conspiracy that’s keeping her out of TNA. She tells Raven that they have a common bond, that they were both screwed by TNA.
Match Five: Ron Killings vs. Bobby Roode w/ Scott D’Amore
Killings frustrates Roode early with a couple of quick rollup attempts. Roode goes outside to clear his head, and gets hit with Air Truth, a big flying somersault press by Killings to the floor. Roode turns the tide by smashing Killings into the ringpost, and takes the match back into the ring, using his power, and some help from D’Amore on the outside, to keep the advantage. Killings gets his second wind, and fights back with a missile dropkick, a series of punches to Roode’s head, and a big flying kick. Roode counters a superplex attempt, but can’t put Killings away. Konnan comes to the ring, and climbs to the apron, presumably to show his support for Killings. Killings gets distracted which allows Roode to pearl harbour him with a clothesline to the back of the head, which is enough to give him the win.
Winner: Bobby Roode
Match Rating: 7/10 — decent story to the match, though an anti-climactic ending
After the match, Konnan tries to talk with Killings, who doesn’t seem to have anything to say. BG James comes out to stir the pot, but gets attacked by Homicide. Killings leaves, clearly not wanting to get involved, and Konnan and Homicide beat down BG until Kip makes the save.
James Mitchell cuts a nasty promo on Rhino, telling him that he should focus on the beating that Abyss is going to give him, instead of worrying about his personal family troubles, referencing the video promos on Rhino that were recently aired.
Match Six: Rhino vs. Abyss w/ James Mitchell
The big men start off brawling hard and heavy, and it’s clear this one isn’t going to be a technical classic. Rhino impresses with a flying press from the ring, landing hard on Abyss on the floor. They continue brawling on the floor, and it isn’t long before Abyss brings out the hardware in the form of a chair. Rhino fights back, but the power of Abyss whips him hard into the corner, smashing his head against a chair that’s wedged between the ropes. Abyss continues to pummel Rhino, stopping all of the man-beast’s attempts to mount a comeback. He finally finds the strength to pick Abyss up on his shoulders and then drop him, kind of like a face-first Samoan drop. That, and a few chair shots, are enough to slow down the big man, but before he can put Abyss away with a GORE, James Mitchell distracts him from the outside. Though this saves Abyss temporarily, Rhino still maintains control. His attempt at a piledriver off the top is similarly thwarted by Mitchell, and frustration finally gets to Rhino. He goes for a GORE prematurely, but runs into the Black Hole Slam onto a pile of chairs, and gets pinned.
Match Rating: 6/10 — decent hard hitting affair, but for some reason, it seemed like they toned down the violence
Shane Douglas interviews Team 3-D, who are challenging for the NWA Tag Team Championship tonight. Team 3-D run down some of the history of the belts, mentioning legendary names like the Funk brothers, Anderson and Blanchard, and the Road Warriors. They’ve done a really good job, making the tag belts seem like a really big deal. (You paying attention, WWE?)
Match Seven: Team 3-D vs. America’s Most Wanted w/ Gail Kim — For the NWA Tag Team Championship
Good start to this match, as neither team gets an early advantage, but rather they go a good, old-school feeling-out process to build up the pace. After a while, 3-D gain the edge with some solid teamwork and their power game. They go to the well too early, though, and as they try to bring a table into the ring, Chris Harris dropkicks it into their faces, and AMW takes over. They beat on Devon for a bit, but he eludes a charging Harris who rams his shoulder into the corner post. Still, AMW has the teamwork expertise to avoid trouble for too long, and soon they regain the advantage. After some more jockeying, Team 3-D nearly put an end to things with a Doomsday Device. Some miscommunication on the part of AMW also nearly end things, when Storm accidentally blasts his partner with a chair shot to the head. Things continue to go poorly for AMW, when Brother Ray sends him tumbling from the top rope through a table on the floor. Gail Kim comes in and gives a handful of powder to Harris -– this was pretty stupid, since she did this right in front of the referee and he didn’t do anything about it. Brother Ray turned the tables on them, though, and knocked Harris’ arm, sending the powder into the eyes of Harris, Kim, and the ref. Team 3-D hit their namesake move, and the ref, seeing Harris’ shoulders down, counted the pinfall, presumably giving us new tag team champs. But that wasn’t the case. As the ref went to get the belts to present them to the winners, Team Canada rushed the ring. They nailed Team 3-D, and put Harris on top of Brother Ray. The ref saw Ray’s shoulders down, and awarded the match to AMW. See, apparently, he was blinded and didn’t know whose shoulders were down for the pin. I guess he was also too blind to notice that the shoulders that were pinned were bare, while on the other hand, Ray was wearing a T-shirt. Either way, AMW keep their belts via another screwjob.
Winners, and still NWA Tag Team Champions: AMW
Match Rating: 7/10 — a stupid ending marred what was otherwise a good tag match
Backstage, Shane Douglas interviews Jeff Jarrett and Monty Brown, who again put the verbal kicks to Sting
Match Eight: Samoa Joe vs. Christopher Daniels — For the TNA X-Division Championship
I like how TNA does the introductions for the title matches, waiting until both participants are in the ring–– like they do for boxing matches. Somehow, it seems a lot better than WWE, who do their announcements when the wrestlers are walking to the ring. It reinforces the significance of the match, though I’m not exactly sure why.
Daniels starts off really hot, hitting the bigger champion with a series of kicks and clothesline. But it’s not long before Joe uses his submission mastery to lock on a painful reverse armbar, and then takes over with his stiff slaps, chops and kicks. Daniels stuns Joe with an interesting variation of a jaw-breaker, ramming both knees into Joe’s lower jaw, and then follows that up with a huge Death Valley Driver type move. But the ever-resilient Joe locks on a submission squeeze, slowing down Daniels. The Fallen Angel powers up and goes for a powerbomb, but Joe, unbelievably turns it into a hurancarana. Back and forth match, and neither man really has a decided advantage. Daniels hits the Best Moonsault Ever and after Joe rolls outside, Daniels follows that up with the first real “holy s***” move of the night, springboarding himself out of the ring and dropping an elbow on to Joe who’s lying on the floor. Joe is tenacious, though, and though that should have put him away, he still takes it to Chris, busting open Daniels and pounding him unmercifully in the ring. Daniels fights back valiantly, as AJ Styles comes out to the ring to cheer him on, but to no avail. Joe hits the bloodied Daniels with the Muscle Buster and then applies the Kokina Klutch. Daniels has the fight to grab the rope to break the hold, but Joe is undaunted. He hits another Muscle Buster, this time on a chair laying in the ring, and rather than go for the win, decides to continue the punishment, dropping hard knees onto Daniels’ head, pounding him into a bloody pulp. Styles, concerned about the punishment Daniels is receiving, particularly given his recent concussion, climbs to the apron and throws in a towel on Daniels’ behalf, mercifully stopping the beating. Tenay and West commend Styles on the decision, noting that the championship is not worth the health, safety, and possible life of Christopher Daneils.
Winner, and still NWA X-Division Champ: Samoa Joe
Match Rating: 8.5/10 — good match which reinforced Joe’s dominance, and left the door open for another match with either Daniels or Styles
After a video package for the main event, Shane Douglas interviews Christian Cage backstage. Cage tells Sting that it is their shared dislike for Jarrett and Brown that makes him a trustworthy partner tonight.
Match Nine: Monty Brown and NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Jarrett w/ Gail Kim vs. Christian Cage and Sting
Winners: Christian Cage and Sting
Match Rating: 7/10 — Sting looked good, but it remains to be seen if his return will be a turning point for the company in the long run
Overall PPV Rating: 6.5/10
Bob Kapur was late for work on Monday since after watching this PPV and filing this report, he stayed up and watched his tape of the season premiere of 24. [Editor’s Note: Bob, you’re a hero too.]