By John Moore
Welcome back to the second part of my look back at TNA in 2015 – “TNA Impact Wrestling End of the Year Superlatives.” Check my previous editorial submission for my TNA wrestler power rankings for 2015.
Match of the Year
Ethan Carter III vs. Rockstar Spud (March 13, 2015): Without any question, this was TNA’s best feud and it all culminated on March 13 with a meaningful Luchas De Apuestas with each wrestler’s hair on the line. The story leading up to this match stellar. Ethan Carter III played the major douchebag character, and he really laid the heat on thick to his former “best friend.” Spud’s breakout promo occurred on November 5, 2014, when he and Jeremy Borash drew sympathy for EC3’s entitled attitude. The promo that topped things off was a week before this match on March 6 where Spud evolved from just being a lion, gazelle, and fierce, he evolved to a “freakin’ man!” Combine all of the assaults, all of the attacks, all of the battles, all of the struggle between these two, and you get one of TNA’s best built feuds of all time because they simply stuck with it. The match had blood, it had gore, it had violence, but the violence was a result of a long feud that allowed for such extremes.
I was actually not expecting this to be that great, even though fellow Dot Net staffer Haydn Gleed was in attendance and told me this was the best match in the world. Of course, I thought it was overhyped. It started off average, but it ended up telling a story. Spud just kept trying and kept digging deeper that EC3 had to dig deeper to a more darker and violent place. This was the first time this year that I noticed that Ethan Carter III is TNA’s best match closer in the emotion he emits in his matches. His look of genuine remorse and sadness told a great story here and his genuine promo backed it up. EC3 is a heel and he didn’t forget that, because after his seemingly heartfelt promo, he took the great moment away from the fans by beating down Spud with a sadistic resolve in his eyes. Here’s hoping that TNA can make another story like this and know that it is possible to stick with a story and produce entertainment.
The Wolves vs. The Dirty Heels Matches 1, 2, 3, and 5: While TNA had a plethora of great matches throughout the year, none of them truly stood out as a match of the year contender individually. What did stand out, was Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards vs. Bobby Roode and Austin Aries in their best of five series for the TNA Tag Team Titles that’s why I’m cheating with four matches. The two teams had two tough hurdles to overcome. One being that we’ve already had several highly hyped gimmicks to crowd new tag champs, only to have the tag champs get injured shortly after winning the titles; Aries even called the titles “cursed” in the promo to start off the feud. The second hurdle is the expectations built between these two teams was immense with the added pressure of Aries and Roode as the established main eventers. Thankfully, these teams put on a stellar series of matches that is worthwhile to go back and watch.
Mike Tenay in his only commentary night of the year made a great call in comparing this series to the Motor City Machine Guns vs. Beer Money Inc. feud and using Bobby Roode as the link to this modern day series. The first two matches told great stories, with the Wolves proving that they were the better tag team. Match three had Aries get into the head of Roode and telling him to turn heel so that they can come back in the feud and turn heel is what Roode did and that got them over the hump in match three. I honestly can’t tell you what happened in match four because that was the most forgettable of the feud, but match five was a unique and different Ironman match that topped off this series very well.
Knockout of the Year
Brooke Tessmacher: TNA’s Knockout division was not the best that it’s been, mostly due to TNA not showing consistency in most of their feuds and storylines. The Knockouts have sadly started the year almost as regressed as the X Division. Luckily after the summer, the knockouts started to get more focus and a few knockouts stood out as being more developed. While the choice ended up being between two Knockouts, I believe that the standout winner of this superlative was Brooke Tessmacher. She was placed in a handful of multi-women matches and she showed that she improved dramatically since her first run as Knockouts champ. What put her over the top for me was this Awesome interview video piece that TNA did on September 30, 2015 where they took out all of the “booty” references in her theme song and she was interviewed on her motivations in TNA. She came off as a really endearing babyface and someone that you can build the division off of. Sadly, as of now, Brooke isn’t under contract to TNA, but with her in-ring and promo abilities, I hope that someone signs her soon because she is on the cusp of being a breakout woman’s performer of any company and in TNA she was the best built knockout of the year.
Gail Kim: I was close to putting Gail over the top, but she’s been on top before and the start of her year wasn’t that great. Gail Kim’s forgettable beginning of the year was mostly due to TNA’s lack of focus on the knockouts. Where Gail Kim shined, was after Taryn Terrell broke her ring finger and they rebooted her character as this badass matrix chick. I remembering WWE giving her the huge matrix push to start off her wrestling career, but they never did it as good as TNA did in 2015. While they did job out their huge heel faction to her single-handedly, the Doll House was going nowhere and building the division around Gail Kim and great matches was the way to go. The things that kept her from being put over the top in my list was her husband Robert Irvine from Restaurant Impossible being put in the spotlight whenever TNA had the chance to over what Gail Kim had going on. Also, as an Asian American, I find it eye-rolling when you generalize all people of Asian descent who fight as “ninjas”. I’m namely talking at the commentary pushing that and that lame Madison Rayne video on Gail Kim. Ughhhhh….
X-Division Wrestler of the Year:
TJ Perkins (Manik): This was a tough one because the X Division was and still is pretty pointless in that all they do is have pointless three way matches on a weekly basis. I had to pick the person that stood out in-ring wise from these pointless spotfests. Rockstar Spud can be considered a standout, but once he won the X-Title he was put on the backburner and we can all see him as above the X-Division anyway. The one that stood out while still being stuck in these pointless matches was TJ Perkins.
TJ Perkins wrestles all over the place for a lot of promotions and his in ring style reflects his travels. His in ring style reminds me of a more dynamic James Gibson (Jamie Noble) with more Lucha Libre flips. The guy is very smooth in the ring and can have a match against anyone to make them look good. He also has very sticky hands in grabbing ropes and walls that make him a TNA version of Superman. He even improved his look slightly from being the TNA-Create-A-Wrestler, to a hooded luchador. Perkins was so good that while James Storm was the only thing that mattered in the Revolution, Perkins was almost turned Babyface from the crowd because of how good he was performing in that cannon-fodder group. Hopefully TNA sees what TJ can offer and he can get a nice push out of the X-Division as a strong singles performer.
DJ Zema Ion: Zema Ion has my vote as a potential breakout star in 2016 for TNA if they allow him to revert to more of the Zema Ion character that showed so much promise early on his career. Bro Mans annoyed the hell out of me, mostly due to Zema and Robbie being pointlessly overbearing. Zema first impressed me when Robbie E was out injured and he teamed with Jessie Godderz to make a Bro Man team that I actually liked because they toned things down a bit and played off each other very well. Zema Ion also received a nice push coming out of the World Title Series where he was given promo time and a surprise win over X-Champ Tigre Uno. If TNA gives him more promo time and he trades the DJ shades back for his aerosol hairspray can, Zema Ion can be a great undersized heel leader that TNA can count on.
Tag Team of the Year
The Wolves (Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards): There is no runner up to this one, Davey and Eddie survived the year as tag team champs and it was tough for them to do so with those belts seemingly cursed. The belts were vacated first by the wolves due to Eddie getting injured. The Hardy Boys had to vacate the titles shortly after winning it themselves due to Hardy’s dirt bike tragedy. Luckily after the latest gimmick of crowning new champs, the Wolves survived and can be counted on to have a great tag team match against anyone. Their strength mostly stands out in their combo moves that almost come straight from Marvel vs. Capcom in the fluidity of how they execute them. They are also great singles performers that only makes them stronger as a team. The wolves are a great tag team, but sadly they don’t have any tag teams to work with. The Hardy’s got hurt, the Dudleys went to WWE (by the way, TNA FINALLY! took off Bully Ray and Magnus from their Roster page), and The Revolution was disbanded. The Wolves had a strange feud with GFW’s Trevor Lee and Brian Myers, but that entire GFW thing sucked as a whole. Hopefully we get some tag teams built up and it would be good to give some of the lost-in-the-shuffle guys something to do.
Jessie Godderz: Someone I totally had off my radar early in 2015 has impressed me every single time he competes. The guy gets a lot of flak for being TNA’s Miz being a reality star who is trying to “play” pro wrestler. But like the Miz, Godderz put in a lot of work as a character and in the ring to bury those negatives and earn respect as a performer. One stand out performance was a “Best-of-five” parody where Robbie E beat him three times in one minute. Both he and Robbie had one of their best performances of the year with Robbie being the sly veteran, and Godderz being a jealous narcissist. Godderz had a great match against Awesome Kong a few weeks ago where he made Kong look strong while also building his heel scumbag character by having to cheat to beat her (props to Pope and Josh for pointing out grabbing the tights). Godderz put in another great performance against Matt Hardy where he actually dominated the match and targeted Hardy’s back to lead to his finisher. Godderz has the potential to be the next EC3 once he ascends to main event status. Hopefully TNA doesn’t continue the path of making him TNA’s Chris Masters, which stood out when they had Chris Masters on the same episode of Impact as him.
Mr. Ken Anderson: Mr. Anderson’s TNA career has been marred with lack of focus and more heel/face turns than Bobby Roode (though Roode did pick up a few more this year). People just got tired of the guy’s shtick that he really got buried in the background in 2015. Mostly due to TNA keeping him in the mid0card in a solid spot, he was able to bring the best out of everyone he faced. Anderson also took a lot of loses, but came out as teflon as none of those loses stuck and he was able to move on to good matches with his next opponent. You can say that EC3, Lashley, and even Bram came out in much better places after they fought Mr. Anderson. Anderson has developed into that reliable hand that TNA can count on. Hopefully he has one more good push in him and TNA doesn’t turn him heel, or else he becomes TNA’s Big Show.
Robbie E: Before the year started I had Robbie E pegged in to be TNA’s breakout star and future World Heavyweight Champion due to the entire package he brings as a performer. He’s a good talker as he showed in non-bro-man promos and he can go in the ring. Coming off his run in CBS’s Amazing Race, the crowd was about to accept him as a scrappy babyface. Sadly he spent most of 2015 as a Bro Man. Where he got back on track was that feud with Jessie Godderz, that was sorta rushed, but in no fault to him due to the good work he was doing. He shined best in the World Title Series where he had great matches against Matt Hardy, Davey Richards, and Eddie Edwards and turned it into a story that he was trying to shed the Bro Man stank. I still see this guy as a future world champion and hopefully 2016 is a start to his ascension. TNA just has to continue to bury that Bro Man past.
“Vintage” TNA Moment of the Year:
Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards breaking submission holds in an elimination match: TNA is famous for having bad moments. While they toned down those moments in 2015, things still popped up from time to time. The standout one was Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards both having Lashley and Drew Galloway in a predicament by having submission holds on them. The Wolves both let go of their opponents to have a match of “respect” against one another. What makes this dumb was it was an elimination match where they would have reached that end by eliminating Lashley and Galloway. The announcers didn’t know how to sell this and the Wolves looked like idiots when this allowed Galloway and Lashley to win ahead of them.
The TNA Cage Holes: TNA decided to be “innovative” by cutting huge human sized holes in their steel cages so they can get better camera shots. Where this hurts them that wrestlers can go through these holes with ease, which goes against the whole idea of the wrestlers being trapped inside the cage together. Many funny announce calls were had as we had Josh Matthews and Taz even riffed on the idea that cage matches in TNA are pointless due to giant holes. Where they could have mitigated this problem, is not have the wrestlers use the holes, but you had people walking through them and handing weapons through them. It was just hilarious. I actually hope these holes stay in 2016 because of the unintentional comedy it brings.