Finally home from my first TNA house show, which took place at the Tower Theater in Philly. They were still selling tickets at bell-time and the small theater was about half-full. The ring was set up on the elevated stage, with a small entrance set up to the left of the ring. All in all, a great fan experience, as the wrestlers often interacted with the crowd and several worked the mic (Kazarian, Bully Ray, and Devon being standouts). Jeff Hardy was incredibly over with the crowd.
They started the show with Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez defending the tag team titles against Robbie T. and Robbie E.
(1) TNA tag champions Chavo Guerrero & Hernandez beat Robbie E. & Robbie T. to retain the Tag Titles. Robbie T. is HUGE in person and looks to be a guy Vince McMahon would have drooled all over in the late '80s. Besides that, he's clunky at best. Chavo got the pin after a frogsplash.
Next up was some Knockouts action, with Tara defending her Knockouts Title against Mickie James, who was a fan favorite and wore her Daisy Dukes to perfection.
(2) Knockouts champion Tara beat Mickie James to retain the Knockouts Title. Tara was accompanied by her boyfriend, Mr. Pec-tacular, who surprisingly got great heat on the outside of the ring. An okay match ended with a schoolboy and a hold of the ropes by Tara.
Suddenly, Bully Ray made his triumphant return to Philly with microphone in hand. He received a strong "welcome back" ovation before he replied, "It feels good to be back in Killadelphia. As you can tell, they kind of know me in this town." He then turned his attention to Mr. Pec-tacular, challenging him to a match that promptly got underway.
(3) Bully Ray beat Jessie (w/Tara) via DQ. Tara had ample involvement in this match, with the finish being her distraction leading to Mr. Pec-tacular low-blowing Bully in front of the referee for the DQ. Flat finish that deflated a pumped-up crowd.
After the match, Mickie James came back out and DDT'd Tara and Bully Ray put his opponent through a table. A boy named Nathan was plucked from the front row and brought on-stage, where he was given a piece of the freshly broken table to take home with him. Bully Ray was very classy throughout the proceedings. Mr. Pec-tacular appeared to be as green as Robbie T., which says a lot about both wrestlers.
Next out was "the most controversial referee of all-time, Earl Hebner" to a tepid crowd response. He entered the ring and put on Bret Hart's classic wraparound shades and did some of his mannerisms, which got some laughs. They declared this his 100,000th match refereed and that he'd sign his novelty "YES I DID IT" t-shirt in the lobby. Naturally my brother and I got our picture with Earl after his line came and went. I'm the radiant young man on the left.
(4) X Division champion Rob Van Dam pinned Kazarian with the Five-Star Frogsplash. Possibly the match of the night, which isn't saying much, as the ring action was okay to start. If RVD's eyes weren't open during the match, I'd swear he sleepwalks through the majority of them at this point.
Next up was Aces & Eights, as Devon and D.O.C came in through the back of the theater and walked down the aisle to the ring, which was unique. Devon took the microphone and ran down the Philly crowd before Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle made their entrances for tag team action. Both Joe and Angle got strong reactions from the crowd.
(5) Aces & Eights (TV champion Devon & D.O.C.) beat Kurt Angle & Samoa Joe. Okay match that ended when Samoa Joe suicide dove onto D.O.C. on the outside, leaving Devon to hit Angle in the head with a hammer for the pin.
A short intermission took place so that the cage could be constructed for the main event: TNA champion Jeff Hardy versus Bobby Roode versus Austin Aries with special guest referee James Storm. Hardy took his time walking up and down the aisles slapping hands with all the fans before entering the cage.
(6) TNA World Hvt. champion Jeff Hardy beat Bobby Roode and Austin Aries in a three-way steel cage match with James Storm as special referee to retain the TNA World Title. The match started very slow for several minutes, with little action until about five minutes in. Roode and Aries both took turns beating down Hardy, with the occasional bickering between Roode and Aries. Eventually Aries talked smack to referee Storm one too many times and ate a superkick. Seconds later, Hardy ran Roode into the cage and followed up with a Twist of Fate. It was good for the three count in another successful title defense.
With the main event over, Jeff Hardy stayed on-stage for pictures with fans. Roughly 200 fans stuck around to get their photo with the champ, my brother and I included.
Jeff was incredibly friendly and seemed really down to earth. Earl Hebner was still in the lobby after the show, so I took it upon myself to get his autograph on my ticket and to ask him a few questions. When I asked when he would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, he looked me in the eye and told me he doesn't care if he's ever inducted, and "F--- WWE." I think it's safe to say that bridge is burned.
All in all, my $35 ticket was well-worth the price (and considering it was a free Christmas gift from my sister, it was especially worth it). TNA did a great job interacting with the crowd in such a small, intimate setting. The lack of Matt Morgan, A.J. Styles, Mr. Anderson, Christopher Daniels, or any X Division action for that matter was disappointing, but ultimately the show was mighty fun, wrapping up in roughly two-and-a-half-hours. One of the best house shows I've been to, highly recommended.