Welcome, cats and kittens, to yet another installment of the blog that is responsible for everything having an X in it in the 90s, Cewsh Reviews! We have a special treat for you tonight, as we take a fancy little ride down the East Coast to Orlando and once again enter a world full of color, wonder and ire.
Of course we could only be talking about Total Nonstop Action, and tonight we review what many are beginning to regard as the centerpiece of their wrestling year, Destination X. Tonight the entire show, (or most of it anyway,) is based entirely around the fabled X-Division, and at the top of the card, arguably the greatest X-Division champion of all time, Austin Aries, will do battle with Bobby Roode to not only become the World Heavyweight Champion, but also to bring the X-Division into manhood at last. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. We've got bitter feuds, a whole host of newbies and a beloved feud from the past to see on our way to the end. So kick your feat up, and start feeling EXTREME, and let's get this show on the road.
So without any further ado, let's do a motherfucking review!
Cewsh: So this is where I usually tell you about the opening video of the show and how it was, what it meant, etc, etc. It’s a good way to start of the reviews by giving me a chance to elaborate on the overall theme of the show before we dig into it, and it works well for us. But in this review we’re not doing any of that shit, because instead we’re going to focus on how FUCKING AWESOME THIS IS.
Cewsh: Okay, so here’s the deal here. With Austin Aries vacating the X-Division championship, (I’ll get into that more later on,) TNA has elected to have an 8 man tournament to determine the new champion, with the final four participants competing in an Ultimate X match here later tonight. Along the way, they’ve been giving guys from all over the indies a chance to win their way into the tournament, which Rashad Cameron and Flip Cassanova have already done. Now the other four try outs will have a match for the last spot in the tournament. If you’re wondering, they’re better known as PWG’s Scorpio Sky (Andrews), Chikara’s Jigsaw (Rubix), NWA: Hollywood’s Johnny Yuma (Lars Only), and Repo Man’s kid (the other one).
Now, I’m not going to split any hairs here. Dakota Darsow is really, really, really not good. I don’t want to go so far as to suggest that he sucks more balls than a vacuum at a ping pong factory, but he’s not far off. He doesn’t wrestle anything resembling an X-Division style, and isn’t good enough at any other style to compensate. He’s basically what you’d get if you shrunk Michael McGuillicutty down to 5’7, and took away more talent. Between Darsow and Lars Only seemingly forgetting that he knows how to have fun matches, exactly half of this match pretty much embarrasses itself. Luckily the other half of the match is comprised of the very solid Andrews and Rubix, who already made such a strong impression in his debut tryout match that the crowd explodes for him when he makes his entrance here. Now, I’ve been critical of Rubix in the past, but all of that went out the window here, as the man absolutely clutched it and was clearly, CLEARLY, the best performer in the ring, as he flew all over the place to genuinely wild cheers from the crowd.
Of course, this story can’t have an entirely happy ending, as despite overwhelming audience support and skills that would make him a valuable asset to the X-Division for years to come, Rubix does not win this match. Luckily, Andrews does instead, which is a pretty good deal if you consider the other two options. But this is pretty clear disappointment, and the crowd is visibly deflated by it. It’s wasted opportunity to use a guy with some genuine momentum that he built all by himself. And that’s putting it nicely.
65 out of 100
Cewsh: Immediately on the heels of Mason’s triumphant victory over the hopes of everyone watching, he is viciously assaulted by Kid Kash. This might have turned a lesser wrestler face immediately, but Kid Kash thinks likability is something to do with computers, and so he gets about the business of being a total dickhead. Kash chops Andrews so hard and so often over the next 5 minutes that if Kenta Kobashi were likely to watch TNA PPVs, even he would be wincing in sympathy. But somehow Andrews manages to stay in the match like the plucky young man he is, and after Kash takes a nasty top rope plunge directly onto Andrews’ knees, it appears for a moment like Mason may actually manage to get some decent offense in. That doesn’t last long, of course, but much to the wide eyed surprise of Kash, Andrews manages topull out a shock victory.
Well this match WAS better than the first one, if only because watching Kid Kash do harm to rookies is always a recipe for a fun time, (when did he become cruiserweight Bradshaw anyway?) And it certainly must be said that they’ve decided to give quite the one night push to Andrews, who has earned himself a spot in the Ultimate X match later on in the show. I’m not sure about the wisdom of taking some guy who is completely untested on this level and putting him over your established talent and in big time title matches, especially since we already have like 5 ways for new talent to get signed in this company and this circumnavigated all of them for no reason, but I have to at least give them credit for keeping things fresh. None of that really made this match stand out as anything you’d remember 30 seconds after if was over, but the word “inoffensive” certainly applies here.
67 out of 100
Cewsh: HOLY SHIT ITS KENNY KING WHAT?!
To elaborate on that awesome mark out moment, Kenny King is a former Tough Enough contestant and, up until pretty much the exact second before he stepped out of the curtain on the Impact before this show, Ring of Honor talent. He had been part of Ring of Honor’s big youth movement, and his team with Rhett Titus, the All Nite Express, had quickly become perhaps the most promising young tag team in all of professional wrestling. Knowing a good thing when they say it, ROH signed him to a written contract awhile ago, and that contract just recently came up. Now, for awhile now, King has been expressing discontent with how the new owners, Sinclair Broadcasting, had been doing their jobs, but all signs pointed to him resigning with ROH. But so much for that bullshit, because to the complete shock of the entire wrestling industry, here he is in TNA, which very clearly violates about everything it is possible to violate with his ROH negotiations. So the man will never work in Ring of Honor again, but it’s hard to really feel bad for him as he’s now finally arrived at the big time, (well, the bigger time.)
He and Williams proceed to have a great technical, mat based match which plays right to Williams’ strengths and really shows King’s versatility as a performer. They go hold for hold with one another, and Williams does a really tremendous job of making King look like a burgeoning superstar capable of beating him at his own game all the way through. Finally, after a counter fest that may have to be upgraded to a counterparty, King stuns Williams and hits him with a beautiful Rock Bottom variation that I will be more than happy to see every week on TNA television for years to come, (HINT FUCKING HINT TNA), and moves on to his rightful place in the main event.
The match here will inevitably be forgotten in the wake of the controversy surrounding it and King himself, but I really want to praise it quite a bit. It didn’t blow my doors off or anything, but to have King’s match be such a solid mat wrestling showpiece, really gives him some credibility to draw on when he moves on to whatever he does next. It was a great choice to take advantage of the fact that he was one of the most versatile and adaptable performers on the independent scene, and it opens the door to all sorts of wacky shit down the line. So full credit to TNA, full credit to Doug Williams, (who did a fine job, despite basically getting on a show for the first time in months just to job to a rookie,) and full credit to Mr. Kenny King for grabbing that brass ring. We will be watching his career with interest.
70 out of 100
Cewsh: For those of you out there reading this who are Combat Zone Wrestling fans, (I’m told those do, in fact, exist,) Rashad Cameron is Sabian from the weed and botch loving tag team BLK OUT. I’m not sure when TNA took the WWE approach to naming indy wrestlers, which is to saddle them with the most randomly bland name possible, but there you go. His opponent here is Sonjay Dutt, who is having his first match back in TNA in years after being released, and who now sports a shaved head that isn't a much better look for him.
Annnnnnd that’s about it. There’s really nothing to tell you about this match. These two had 8 of the least memorable minutes of wrestling that I have ever borne witness to, culminating in a totally awesome finisher from Sonjay which is at least 98% of the entire reason to watch this at all. I could dedicate more words to talking about how forgettable the rest was, but the more I try to think about it the less I remember about everything else too, as it may be some kind of memory sucking black hole. So since we’re about two sentences from erasing Battletoads and the full run of Quantum Leap, I’ll just show you the finisher and keep moving right along.
60 out of 100
Cewsh: Here, we get a video about Jesse Sorenson’s horrific neck injury from last year and his struggles to rehabilitate. Then Sorenson himself comes down to the ring to thank the TNA fanbase for being so kind to him and supportive all through his injury, and to say that he plans on coming back better than ever very soon. Now, we’re currently on the internet right now, and we’re all smarky smarks here, so obviously the very first impulse to find something here to mock and make a joke out of, but I’m really not going to. Sorenson seems like a really great guy and I don’t have a single bad word to say about him. He caught a tough break at an early point in his career, but some good may come out of it, because if anything it’s raised his profile in the company significantly. I wish him the best of luck coming back, and the crowd certainly seems to agree, and everyone present show him a ton of love…
…except of course, for the man who injured him in the first place, Zema Ion. See, Ion injured him by accident when a moonsault caused Ion’s knee to hit Sorenson’s neck and mess it all up. But as the storyline goes, Ion never apologized for it, and has even gleefully taken credit for it, leveraging it into a reputation as a dangerous man. So if this isn’t screaming “Sorenson’s comeback feud” to you enough right there, Ion comes out for his match just as Sorenson is leaving and gestures to his neck like “something wrong with your neck, champ?”
This is a move so next level heelish that it’s insane, and the stare down between he and Sorenson is one of those situations where the eyes of any wrestling promoter in attendance turns into dollar signs like a cartoon. This one is going to good, boys and girls. Stay tuned.
Cewsh: To get it out of the way, Flip Cassanova is the creatively renamed Flip Kendrick from all over the indy scene, and Zema Ion actually works here.
Now, if you’ve ever read the name Zema Ion, (or Shiima Xion, for that matter,) on this blog, you’ve certainly also read huge praise right alongside of it. Way back through the mists of time in the long ago days of 2009, I saw Ion on an IWA:EC show that we were watching because we hate ourselves and both Vice and I openly proclaimed him to be a future star. At the time he was virtually unknown, and ever since he has blossomed into an absolute burgeoning star in TNA, much to our satisfaction. I say all of this, not to once again reference the Cewsh Push, (Ion, the Young Bucks, Brittany Knight, Orlando Jordan and Tenielle all signed within weeks of our endorsement,) but to really show how much charisma the man has. He had charisma on an awful show in a gym in West Virginia where they forgot to even play his music, so you know he has the goods.
After the intensely charged stare down with Jesse Sorenson, these two get started, and it’s basically the “Zema Ion Is A Huge Dickhead Show with Special Guest Flip Cassanova.” After every move, Ion infuriates the crowd further by preening himself, and every time Cassanova tries to get something going, Ion foils him in the most annoying way possible.
Between this and the 8 gallons, (gallons? Pounds? How do you measure a spray?) of hair spray he uses during the match, it takes no time at all for this crowd to fucking hate him. And considering that this is a TNA crowd, that is a truly marvelous achievement indeed, since you can name real heels TNA has had on two hands with some left over. Cassanova tries valiantly against the Crown Prince of Douchery though, and he very nearly steals this one with his wacky, flippy offense. But Ion isn’t having any of that nonsense, because dammit hairspray isn’t cheap and he needs that winner’s purse. Before long, that’s exactly what he gets, as he puts Cassanova way and struts his way to the back with the kind of expression of his face more commonly associated with sociopaths and dogs eating peanut butter.
70 out of 100
Cewsh:Backstage, Kenny King, Sonjay Dutt and Mason Andrews are all given about 0.6 seconds to explain why they're going to win the X Division title tonight. Of the three, only King regards the situation as if he has ever previously seen a microphone in front of him, but it's all kind of rendered null and void and Bobby Roode barges onto the set and mocks all three of them mercilessly for only being X-Division guys. Roode goes on to say that he'll destroy the figurehead of their precious division tonight and then gives them all mean looks. Now this is already mean enough behavior as it is, but serious, look at Andrews' chest after what Kid Kash did to him.
If anyone has ever been deserving of some sympathy and respect, its a guy who had to wrestle Kid Kash. And I mean that in pretty much any way you could possibly take it.
Cewsh: Okay, now this is the only match on the show that doesn’t have some kind of X-Division bend to it. This is an official Bound For Glory series match, and if you have no idea what in the shit that is, I’ll summarize. Basically, TNA takes 12 guys and puts them in a competition where points can be won by wrestling and beating someone else in the series by pinfall (7 points) or submission (10 points). Then come September the guys with the top four point totals will meet in a four way to determine who will face the champion at Bound For Glory. It’s like the Royal Rumble, except there are only 12 guys, and it lasts for half the year instead of just feeling that way. Got all that? Okay. So with that in mind, let’s check out the standings.
So this is definitely a significant match in the series. But I can hardly be bothered right now, because we’re getting to see Samoa Joe wrestle Kurt Angle god dammit. This is the feud that I named the greatest in TNA history, and for good fucking reason. These two colliding created the true golden age of TNA, and provided its highest crescendo. There will never, ever, be a time where I will not be excited to see their names next to each other.
Unfortunately, it isn’t 2007 anymore. Joe and Angle have a really good back and forth match here, that references their old matches in some ways and centers around Samoa Joe’s desire to get submission victories at all costs. He’s all over Angle all through the match, and looks more dominant and unstoppable here than he has in years and years. Angle takes a hell of a beating from Joe, even turning beat red from submissions more than once, and comes back with his own wrestling mastery. They create something good here, but I would be remiss if I didn’t make it clear to you that they seem to be holding something back. Maybe it’s just that they’re getting older and don’t have the abilities they once did, (though I don’t believe that for a second,) or maybe it’s because they’re not trying to tear the roof off of the place as this is really just another match in a long, long series, but if this match would have to be said to be lacking something, it’s urgency. Despite the good premise and good work, the match just kind of meanders along to its conclusion. It doesn’t SPOIL the match, as such, but it is a bit of a letdown, since it’s been years since we got this match up in earnest.
I’ve always wondered what TNA’s idea was with these two. Ever since their gigantic feud in 2007 that put TNA definitively on the map, TNA has flirted here and there with giving us the matchup again, most notably during the Main Event Mafia/Frontline feud that wound up having Joe join forces with Kurt’s team. But they’re almost sporadically seemed to remember that there was something here that people wanted to see. Imagine if The Rock and Stone Cold had had one feud and then interacted about twice for the rest of their careers. It would be bizarre, just as this is. But regardless, here they gave us some fun nostalgia and good ride, without really producing anything special. It’s a disappointment, but it’s better than no Joe/Angle at all.
77 out of 100
Cewsh: This match was very good.
What's that? Elaboration? My friend, if you haven't seen at least 47 AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels matches already, it can only be because you were either born earlier this afternoon, (in which case, congratulations on being the smartest baby in human history,) or because you have never seen a TNA show before, and came here thinking we were going to be reviewing some porn with really tremendous productions values and a serious lack of women. As such, you know exactly what this match was. They had great chemistry, they did some neat spots with chairs and on the stage, and the match ended by AJ Styles doing something batshit crazy. Namely, giving Christopher Daniels the Styles Clash off of the stage through a table.
The whole thing was like mashed potatoes. You've had them a billion times, they always taste the same, and they're still you favorite part of the meal. Even if, on this occasion, they got served next to the brussel sprouts of Frankie Kazarian.
83 out of 100
Cewsh's Download Seal of Approval
Cewsh: If you’re keeping track, only one of these people actually work for this company officially. I apologize if that serves as a spoiler for you. To try to keep track of things, let's go to the Cewsh Notes:
- Kenny King is like a foot taller than everyone here.
- Zema Ion, though I love him, may be the most conspicuous guy at setting up spots that I have ever seen. He'll be all sneering and hanging in the tree of woe one minute, and earnestly making sure his feet are in the right place the next, all in the same camera shot.
- Sonjay Dutt, not content to only fight humans, attempts to elbow drop the ring itself in the middle of a running Shooting Star Press.
- Sonjay is led away to the back, but returns like 30 seconds later and immediately uses his bad arm to climb the scaffolding. The man is a trooper.
- Ion quickly follows him up the scaffold, and when they get to the top, they are absurdly high off the ground. Like, the-camera-has-trouble-getting-them-and-the-ring-into-the-same-wide-shot kind of high.
- From some mysterious place, Ion pulls out a can of hairspray and sprays it right in Dutt's eyes, which seems like a bad idea when you're 20 feet off the ground and actively holding onto each other.
- Dutt falls down, and takes about 5 minutes to finally hit the ground.
- Wait. Wait, do you know what that means?! No, it can't be. No way...
- YEAH FUCKERS ITS ZEMA FUCKING ION AND HE WON THE FUCKING TITLE HOLY SHIT THIS IS AMAZING I NEED TO LIE DOWN GETTING LIGHTHEADED BUT STILL SO HAPPY AND AHHHHHKJQELKJ:WKJT:
You probably guessed before this even got started that it wasn't going to be some kind of slice of greatness or anything. Of these guys, only Sonjay is really suited for matches like this, and when he hurt himself, things kind of ground to a halt until he came back. But as always, this is just a fun concept that produces fun matches, and this was no exception. AND ZEMA ION YESYEYEYSYEEYSYESYSES...ahem. Yes.
76 out of 100
Cewsh: It's this guy.
If you are that guy, and you decided to heckle Zema Ion throughout his entire victory speech by chanting "Fruity Pebbles" loudly while a big goofy fucking grin was plastered all over your face, then allow me to speak on behalf of everyone everywhere who was not the dipshit behind you who was cheering you on: please dangle your testicles over a tank of sharks with jetpacks and broken glass for teeth.
Cewsh: Before we get started, it’s important that you understand that there are two backstories to this match. In the first, Austin Aries has been dominant in the X Division, and Hulk Hogan has given him the opportunity to compete for the World title. The caveat was that he had to give up his X Division title and officially become a heavyweight, so if he loses this match he winds up with nothing. He accepted the offer and ever since he and Roode have been engaged in a rivalry that has quickly grown bitter, with Roode being completely dismissive of X Division wrestlers in general and claiming that he will easily beat their best guy in Aries. That’s the first backstory, and it’s been a nice, interesting feud like many others before it. But the much bigger and more significant backstory here is really the feud that has been building since the very first day TNA was in business. The X Division vs. the Heavyweight division.
See, right from the beginning in TNA, the X Division was the thing that won over new fans and brought wondering eyes to the fledgling promotion. The exciting styles of Chris Sabin, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels and others really helped to revolutionize the way wrestling would be shaped in the new century, and for the vast majority of fans, it was the crown jewel of TNA, and the thing that set them apart. Despite this, though, the division always struggled to escape the stigma of just being another cruiserweight division. The heavyweights always got top billing over the X Division guys except for a bare few exceptions, and X Division guys who went after the World title left the division firmly in their dust before getting there. It was treated as a nice diversion, but not the REAL thing by the company, and the X Division guys were largely treated as expendable. So fast forward to 2012, and now the X Division at last has a champion that is both proud to be X Division champion AND a threat to any heavyweight he comes across. As such, Austin Aries has taken the entire X Division concept on his shoulders into his fight against Bobby Roode, and while their fight will be a personal one, in a very real way it represents so much more. This is the X Division’s one shining chance to see one of their own truly stand up and show what they can do, and it’s the Heavyweight division’s chance to finally silence the critics who say they can’t keep up. It’s a match 10 years in the making, and it….is…ON.
The atmosphere is tense and buzzing in a way rarely seen in TNA as Roode and Aries enter and when they get started it becomes very clear that the fans are heavily invested in this match. They are rabidly behind Aries to win, and if that comes as some sort of surprise to you, then your name is probably Bobby Roode.The fans never stop making noise all through the match as Aries uses his speed and toughness to frustrate Roode time and time again, as the bigger man tries to end things as quickly as possible to prove his dominance. The go back and forth and back and forth, with Aries refusing to give up, and Roode seemingly becoming more concerned by the minute that he may have underestimated the X-Division's warrior. Finally, Roode pretty much says, "balls to this" and immediately starts trying to find every possible way to get out of this match with his title intact. He tries to cheat every way he knows how, but Aries keeps foiling him, until finally a ref bump gives him a chance to land a devastating nutsack uppercut. Roode just keeps delivering the hurt to Ariestown, and while Roode is obviously winning at this point, he seems to be at a loss about what to do next. The referee revives as Roode decides to try to make an end for it once and for all. He rushes Aries like a freight train, with the intent of ending this X-Division threat and the dreams of Austin Aries once and for all.
A dodge, a move, a kick and a brainbuster later and we not only have our winner, but we have crowned a brand new World Heavyweight Champion. A man who was told he was too small. A man who was never given a chance. A man who was the beating heart of a division robbed of its credibility. A man who is now king. Let's see how the fans feel about that.
Yes, Austin Aries is the new champion, and it provided the first moment in a very long time where the fans both at the arena and at home got something they really, truly wanted from TNA in dramatic and satisfying fashion. And to add on to that, it was a great match, and so much credit needs to go to Bobby Roode for being just unbelievable at his job as the smarmy, bully champion who loses his nerve and, ultimately, his title. It's just one of those perfect feel good moments in wrestling. All the stars turned, all the planets lined up, and TNA made it's fans happy. And boy did they ever.
85 out of 100
Cewsh’s Download Seal of Approval
Cewsh: While it wasn’t nearly as satisfying as last year’s incredible Destination X, this was still a very fun show it a lot of ways. Seeing so many fresh faces to start the show was exciting, the main event delivered hugely, (which wasn’t true last year,) and TNA showed remarkable restraint by really letting this be a showcase for a certain kind of fan rather than just making it another PPV on their calendar. For the second year in a row, Destination X felt like a truly special and unique experience and I can’t say enough about how far TNA has come in the past year to make that be the case. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you should be handing out money to TNA left and right expecting things to always be great now, because that would plainly be insane. But the veil of fail is lifting little by little and letting the fun and interesting promotion underneath is finally coming back to life after all these years. So to any jaded former TNA fans out there who are still on the fence about giving the promotion another chance after being burned in the past, I’ll tell you this. Have hope. Things are looking goddamned bright ahead.
Well that'll do it for us this time, boys and girls. We hope you enjoyed our review of TNA Destination X, and hope you didn't think it was too eXcessive or lacked in eXcitement. NeXt up on the review slate is our special coverage of WWE's 1,000th episode of Monday Night Raw. Did it live up to our lofty eXpectations? Did LeX Luger show up? What about X-Factor? There's only one way to find out. So tune in neXt time, and until then, remember to keep ready and be eXcellent to one another.
*Gifs courtesy of Wrestling With Text.