Opening Match, Last Man Standing: AJ Styles vs. Rhino.
The fact that this was the opening match should have told you something. Rhino chases AJ around the ring and jumps him before the bell. He knocks AJ to the floor and hits a pescado. AJ comes back with a dropkick, though. They botch an Irish whip for some reason, and AJ chokes Rhino out with his wrist tape. Referee Earl Hebner chastises him for it even though most Last Man Standing matches are "No DQ" just by logic. AJ goes low on Rhino and hits the springboard splash at 4:06. Rhino makes it up at around a seven count and hits an over-the-shoulder toss into the buckle. AJ tosses him to the floor and hits a no-hands tope con hilo. Back in, AJ goes for his flying forearm, but Rhino catches him in mid-air and spinebusters him at 7:53. AJ makes it up and counters a superplex attempt to a sunset flip bomb for two. Rhino comes back with either a botched Samoan Drop or a good neckbreaker and goes for a table. AJ sneaks up on him, though, and crotches him on the edge of the table. Ouch! Back in, AJ hits his springboard forearm, but it only gets two. He tries it again, but Rhino rattles the ropes sending AJ down to the mat. A stacked powerbomb gets two, but AJ avoids a charge and hits the Pelé. Oh! It just comes out of nowheeeere! Rhino shrugs it off and hits a weak gore. He sets up in the corner and hits a much strong one that flips AJ over. GORE! GORE! GORE! That gets the pin at 13:49. Rhino gets a table from outside while AJ recovers. Rhino sets up again, but AJ sees him and decides discretion is the better part of valor, intentionally taking the loss at 14:42. I know a lot of people are down on the JBL-ish ending, but it was a good opener until that. **3/4
Rhino chases AJ up the ramp and gives him a Rhinodriver (piledriver) on the platform. He sets up a table near the entrance and prepares to gore AJ, but Styles sidesteps and sends Rhino through the table instead.
Jerry Lynn gets defensive about his age and promises to make his opponents into his students.
X-Division Title Triple Threat: Christopher Daniels vs. Jerry Lynn vs. Chris Sabin.
This is supposed to be "past, present, and future" even though Daniels and Lynn are roughly the same wrestling age. The vets take turns armdragging Sabin around. Bullies! They do a weird three-way criss-cross, and Daniels hits an STO/reverse bulldog combo. He tosses Sabin to the floor and locks in a hanging figure-four headscissors. Sabin runs in and dropkicks him to break that up. That leaves Lynn versus Sabin for a bit. Lynn surprises him with an inverted DDT, but Daniels makes the save and hits Lynn with a Blue Thunder Bomb. Sabin breaks up the Koji Clutch and applies a nerve pinch. Then, he ties up Daniels' hands and gives him a Wet Willie! The tree-of-woe dropkick gets two, but Lynn makes the save. Lynn hits a dropkick on both guys and then fires off a pair of huracanranas. He calls for the Cradle Piledriver on Sabin, but Daniels saves with an STO. Lynn sets Sabin on the top, but Daniels quickly joins them, and they do a Flatliner/Bulldog spot. Daniels recovers first and hits the BME on Sabin. Lynn recovers, though, and hits Daniels with a Schwein. He also hits the Cradle Piledriver, taking Daniels out of the match, so Sabin sneaks up from behind and schoolboys Lynn for the win and the title at 11:43. Spotty but fun. ***
Kevin Nash talks about how proud he is of "his boys." He introduces the special judge -- Mr. Bob Backlund! Kevin Nash reminisces about all his times with Backlund before realizing it was probably Scott Hall that he traveled with. Eric Young runs in and bonds with Backlund because they're both so squirrely. Sadly, this segment was 20x as long as the Backlund vs. Diesel title match.
PCS Finals: Austin Starr vs. Alex Shelley.
The judges are Samolian Joe, Big Fat Oily Guy and Bob Backlund. They open with a decent little mat wrestling sequence, but the announcers are busy talking about Oily Guy and Kevin Nash winning the title from Backlund. Starr hits Shelley with his springboard back elbow, and they go back to the mat. YOU CAN'T HEADSCISSOR AUSTIN STARR! He hits Shelley with a dropkick, but Shelley comes back with a dropkick. He goes for the Contra Code (Sliced Bread #2), but Starr blocks. Shelley charges and crashes and burns over the ropes. Starr follows him out with the corkscrew pescado and then marks a point down for himself on Samolian Joe's notepad. Shelley catches him coming back in and hits a tope. Shelley marks down a point for himself on Backlund's notepad. Funny stuff. Back in, Shelley hits a quebrada, but Starr comes back with the CLEARLY CANADIAN MIST! Shelley hits the curbstomp dropkick and gives Starr the lungblower. He slingshots into a DDT for two and calls for the finish. He goes for another Contra Code, but Starr reverses to a facebuster and the Camel Clutch as time expires at 10:00. Joe scores it to Starr. Oily Guy votes for Shelley. Backlund rules it a draw, so Nash decides there should be sudden death.
Sudden Death: Shelley jumps Starr from behind and goes after quick rollups. Starr boots him in the head and calls for the Brainbuster, but Shelley counters to a rollup for the win around :30 into sudden death. The rest of the PCS comes down to celebrate the win, but Starr throws a tantrum about losing. He says he didn't come to TNA to resurrect Nash's career or hop on pogo sticks. He says he only respects Senshi and tells him to come along. Senshi refuses, so Starr slaps him in the face and confronts the judges. Backlund winds up putting Starr in the CFCW to shut him up. Call it ***1/4 for the whole thing.
James Storm (w/Gail Kim) vs. Petey Williams.
Kim is reluctantly in Storm's corner for this. Williams knocks Storm to the floor and tries a pescado, but Storm just shoves him into the apron. Sadly, while I've seen pescados for nearly twenty years, I can't recall ever seeing that simple of a counter. Back in, Petey comes back with a rollup but gets clotheslined. Storm hits the Eye of the Storm (Helicopter Toss) and leaves Petey on the ropes for Gail to slap, but Gail refuses. Storm argues with Gail about it, enabling Petey to come back with a DDT and a crossbody. Storm stays on top with a snapmare into a DDT. He goes for the Catatonic to mock Chris Harris, but Petey counters. Storm scoops him up and grabs a handful of ropes for the win at 6:40. Petey and Gail try to get the ref to overturn the match, but Storm jumps Williams and handcuffs him to the corner. Gail tries to make the save and gets grabbed by the throat. She goes low to counter and beats the everloving shit out of Storm until Jacqueline (renamed "Miss Tennessee") jumps her from behind. Storm and Miss Tennessee hit the Death Sentence on Gail. Average match, but add on another 1/4* for a good turn by Gail. **1/4
The Voodoo Kin Mafia declares victory on the war on Vince McMahon. BG sends a shout out to "Paul Levesque" and tells him to heal up. He rants about "Raw" and leads the fans in a Twisted Sister cover. A tearful Christy Hemme interrupts apologetically to get something off her chest (make your own joke). She sticks up for Chyna being part of the foundation of DX (which is probably more true than they realize). Christy rants about women in the business being thought of as disposable as the fans chant "Show your tits!" and "boring!" Classy. BG is sympathetic, but Kip goes the misogynist route. Christy slaps him and runs away as BG holds him back. I actually like the idea of the VKM segments on their own merits because it points out what the WWE does wrong and why TNA is superior (which is what you have to do when you're the alternative). Of course, you actually have to deliver after that, and that's where the debatable part comes in. The Christy part of the segment flopped big time for two reasons – 1) as independent as TNA fans think they are from the WWE, Vince still sets the agenda, and if he objectifies women for 10 years, that will be the image until someone can shatter it, and 2) because Christy just doesn't have wrestler credibility like a Lita or a Trish Stratus. She won the Diva Search contest, which is pretty much as "WWE" as you can get. So, while I respect her drive (if you've heard her shoot interview, you know her love for the business is legit), she's actually going to have a tougher road to legitimacy than most other women wrestlers.
NWA Tag Titles: LAX vs. Team 3D.
Hernandez and D-Von try a shoulderblock challenge early. D-Von gets a flying shoulderblock to win that battle. Homicide spits his gum at Ray, so Ray picks it up off the mat, puts it in his mouth and spits it back at him. Ew! That tops Colt Cabana repeatedly dropping his gum and putting it back in his mouth during his match with James Gibson. Homicide gets a double knee, but Ray comes back with the RAY BOTTOM! It only gets two. LAX team up to snap D-Von's throat on the top rope. Ray and Homicide brawl on the floor. LAX takes over, though, doubleteaming D-Von. It doesn't get much heat, though, because D-Von is never really in danger. Team 3D make the big comeback, hitting the "What's in your wallet?" drop and a 3D. Brother Runt drunkenly staggers out and attacks Homicide for the DQ at 10:10. See, you can't have VKM talking about the stupidity of the WWE and then doing drunken Runt. This did nothing for anybody because LAX – who are supposed to be monsters – looked like pussies, and Team 3D just looks stupid. Bad match as well. *1/4
30-Minute Ironman Match, #1 Contender: Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe.
Long feeling-out process until Angle hits a flying shoulderblock and lays in some uppercuts. Joe comes back with a running forearm and an enzuigiri. Nice. Angle goes after Joe's leg and hits a belly-to-belly suplex. Joe elbows out of a chinlock but gets kneed in the gut. Angle goes back to the chinlock, but Joe makes the ropes. Joe gets a desperation suplex and jabs his way back. He hits Angle with a top for a double KO spot. Back in, Joe hits a snap powerslam for two, but Angle gives him another overhead suplex. Joe goes for the Musclebuster, but Angle rolls through to a sunset flip. Joe rolls through that into the Coquina Clutch and gets the first win at 12:55.
Joe hits a running knee to open the next fall, but Angle fires back with rights. Angle goes back to the chinlock for a bit before trying the Olympic Slam. Joe reverses to an armdrag and hits a lightning legline. He goes for the Coquina Clutch again, but Angle reverses to the Anklelock at 16:02.
Angle goes back to the chinlock, this time with a bodyscissors. They try to do the armdrag out of the Olympic Slam again, but Joe just falls to the mat, and Angle has to go for a pin to cover. Angle locks in the Scissored Anklelock for another tapout at 18:56.
Angle goes right back after the ankle, but Joe catches him with a clothesline as he's charging in. A running knee nearly knocks Angle cold, and Joe goes for the Muscle Buster again. Angle rolls through to a sunset flip again. You'd think Joe would learn. Angle hits the Olympic Slam, but it only gets two. Joe reverses the Anklelock this time and hits the Muscle Buster (albeit in a fallaway, Sylvester Terkay fashion). I guess persistence pays off. Joe ties it up at 22:20.
Joe moves in for the kill, but Angle ducks a swing and clips Joe's knee out from under him. Angle locks in the Scissored Anklelock but lets it go for the normal kind. Joe is able to kick him away. Joe catches Angle in mid-air, but Angle is able to counter to a rollup for the pin to make it 3-2 at 24:41.
They take it to the floor where Angle stalls for time. Back in, Angle charges into the corner, and Joe is able to hit the STJoe. Angle drops to the floor and wraps Joe's leg around the post. Back in, Joe jabs away. He sets Angle on top and hits an enzuigiri. MUSCLE BUSTER! ONE, TWO, THR-Angle gets his foot on the ropes. Joe goes for the Coquina Clutch, but Angle turtles and rolls him away. Joe applies the Scissored Anklelock, but Angle holds out for the 30:00 time limit. Angle taps after the bell, but of course, it doesn't count. Angle wins 3-2. I think this match showed the weakness of the Ironman match when it comes to submissions. Normally, you submit because you just can't continue anymore, but the stipulations demand that you continue meaning you have to no-sell your injuries to a certain extent. That means you have problems coming up with a story outside of "let's all hit our finishers!" Styles and Daniels were able to work the stipulations much better because of their flashy style. That's not to say this wasn't a good match, but people are expecting ****+ matches from these two, and this wasn't it. A step down from "Turning Point." ***1/2
Sting says he's being patient with Abyss because he knows James Mitchell is pulling the strings. Mitchell interrupts him and makes fun of Sting's faith.
NWA Heavyweight Title, Three-way Dance: Abyss (w/James Mitchell) vs. Sting vs. Christian Cage (w/Tomko).
You can tell Russo is booking here, but in a good way because everyone has some sort of involvement other than being there to collect a paycheck. Sting is trying to save Abyss' soul from James Mitchell, but Tomko knows some sort of deep, dark secret about Abyss. Tomko is locked in a cage at ringside, but Mitchell is allowed to roam around. Abyss gets knocked to the floor in a hurry, and Sting pummels Christian in the corner. Abyss hauls Sting out, and Christian sends him into the cage. Now, Cage and Abyss go at it. Abyss counters the Unprettier to the Shock Treatment for two. Christian dropkicks the knee and goes up for a splash, but Abyss catches him with a chokeslam (a spot lifted from Chavo and Kane on "Smackdown"). Tomko reaches through the bars and chokes Sting out, distracting the referee as Abyss has Christian pinned after a Black Hole Slam. Christian recovers and goes low, but Sting knocks him to the floor and hits the Scorpion Deathdrop to eliminate Abyss at 5:37.
Abyss grabs Sting by the throat but thinks better of chokeslamming him. Mitchell berates Abyss all the way to the back. Meanwhile, Christian hits Sting with a missile dropkick for two. Things slow down as Christian grabs a chinlock and then slaps Sting around. Oops. Sting hulks up and hits a superplex as Mitchell returns. Sting stops to jaw with Mitchell, allowing Christian to hit him from behind. Sting avoids a dropkick and locks in the Scorpion Deathlock as Mitchell lets Tomko out of the cage. Mitchell distracts the ref while Tomko hits the Dickdriver on Sting. It only gets two. Now Christian distracts the ref while Abyss returns and takes out Tomko and locks him in the cage. Sting hits Cage with his own Unprettier, but it only gets two. Christian accidentally takes out the ref with a clothesline. Abyss and Sting corner Mitchell in the ring, and Sting puts Mitchell in the Sharpshooter. Of course, Abyss double-crosses Sting and knocks him out with the chain. That's becoming a TNA cliché, but then it's also a Sting cliché that he falls for it, so it evens out psychologically. That allows Christian to hit a frogsplash for the win and his second title at 13:17. Way overbooked, and it feels like their using the match to build a storyline instead of using a storyline to sell a match (one of Russo's worst traits). **
The 411: For the most part, they seem to have worked out a system where Russo handles the TV and major storylines but they reign him in during PPVs. Outside of the main event and drunken brother Runt (two recycled Russo faves), they let everyone go out there and do their thing. Nothing was actively bad outside of Christy's attempt to jumpstart a women's division. Hopefully, that doesn't kill the idea before it even starts.