Armed with a near capacity crowd at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ontario, Sunday night, TNA tried to put their best foot forward in introducing their brand of wrestling to uncharted Canadian pay-per-view waters. Could TNA deliver the arena experience to some of the most consummate wrestling fans in the world? The answer of course, is in the details.
In an intelligent move, TNA President Dixie Carter earnestly signed autographs and interacted with fans in the pre-amble. Fans seemed to love mingling with her and her eyes beamed when told SLAM! Wrestling was present covering the show.
“It was great; I had heard good things about how nice she was,” beamed Justin Drysdale, 26, after posing with Carter. He traveled with his father and a buddy from Toronto after winning tickets on a radio station trivia contest.
Several fans were also tapped throughout the show with VIP backstage passes or upgraded to ringside seating.
So far, so good.
The crowd anticipation was decent, with many fans looking forward to “Four ways to Glory,” but wondering if Booker T would show, due to Hurricane Ike making landfall in Houston, Texas, Booker’s hometown. No announcement was made to the arena crowd about Booker T being there one way or another, however.
Hardcore TNA and Samoa Joe fan Richard Oliveira, 22, was also looking forward to the main event and had some interesting thoughts about the card, moments before it started. “The matches are not bad, but TNA needs to stop with the gimmick matches. Like ‘Ladders above,’ call it a ladder match but don’t call it ‘Ladders Above’ match. The MMA, we already saw that with Samoa Joe and Kurt angle at Lockdown. We don’t need to see it with AJ and Frank Trigg.”
The energy through most of the show had an ordinary quality, bobbing unevenly between good and bland. Sting’s opening promo were greeted warmly and Curry Man’s comical segments with Christy Hemme tickled the crowd. They also gushed over Petey Williams and his Maple Leaf Muscle, The Beautful People and Taylor Wilde, and the Jay Lethal versus Sonjay Dutt ladder match.
In those matches, the crowd came alive and actively participated throughout. The energy level was high.
Conversely, ODB and Kong’s match was a slow-paced affair, and Beer Money Inc. – LAX tag team title match was notable only for James Storm and Jacqueline’s coherent performances given their injuries at the TNA London house show the night before.
The Frank Trigg versus AJ Styles debacle annoyed the action-hungry fans, not wanting to endure the chess style patience that MMA can be known for. It was probably a harsh reaction, as the extremely small vocal minority thought the MMA chorography was well done, mimicking a good blend of both men trying to impose their style on the other. Ultimately, that opinion was squashed, symbolized by Styles beating Trigg with a kendo stick after the match.
Booker’s absence seemed to dampen any mystique “Four ways to Glory” had going for it. Accordingly, the main event was lacklustre, although Christian Cage’s entrance maintained an aura of the grand spectacle everyone was hoping the match would be. It was a solid match put on by the combatants, but one that was very familiar, prompting one fan to coin the bout “3 the Hard Way.” Even Jeff Jarrett’s run-in couldn’t get a notable rise out of the crowd. Not bad and not great.
It was hard to ignore the grumblings about the main event in the tunnels and down Athol St. Objectively, this card from a ringside experience perspective was hurt by the ordinary main event, turning a possibly good and memorable show into an average one.
Booker T, the nation turns its lonely eyes to you.