IMPACT Wrestling’s Wrestlers of the Week 12.15.11
By Neil Borenstein
Each week here at 1wrestling.com, I will select three of the top wrestlers from TNA’s IMPACT Wrestling and present them to you in inverse order as the show’s Wrestlers of the Week. In choosing the show’s top three superstars, performances from that week’s IMPACT Wrestling and any relevant preceding programming – such as Pay-Per-Views – will be taken into consideration.
IMPACT Wrestling Wrestlers of the Week for December 15, 2011
3. Jeff Hardy – for picking up a meaningful win over Bully Ray as he prepares for a TNA World Heavyweight Title Match at Genesis:
Jeff Hardy was in an interesting situation last Sunday at Final Resolution. In facing Jeff Jarrett in a Steel Cage Match, he was putting his TNA tenure on the line. A loss would banish him from TNA – something Jarrett longed for ever since Hardy returned to the company. But a victory would allow Sting to fire either Jeff or his wife, Karen, along with granting Hardy automatic No. 1 Contendership to the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
To help matters for Hardy, Sting was on the outside of the cage handcuffed to Karen. And Sting was still able to prevent her from getting physically involved even after she managed to get the cuffs off. A Twist of Fate by Hardy put Jarrett down for the three-count and moved The Charismatic Enigma into the main event of Genesis.
Hardy came out during IMPACT Wrestling to address the crowd concerning his title opportunity. He promised a championship victory on January 8 and to make 2012 memorable. But this heartfelt speech was interrupted by Bully Ray. Ray told Hardy that they were fighting later on in the broadcast and that he was not going to be a stepping stone. Hardy’s personal issues prompted his inclusion in the Immortal faction and he was going to deliver the same punishment he’s been dishing out to Hardy for 15 years.
Now, Ray would have the opportunity to do something along those lines. He controlled the early portion of the main event against Hardy and even put an end to decent rally from Hardy with a side slam after kicking out of a Twist of Fate. But Hardy’s resilience would win out, as he pounced on Ray after a missed splash to deliver another Twist of Fate. Ray was unable to kick out of this second one and Hardy scored an important victory over a very tough foe.
Hardy would pay the price after the match with a two-on-one assault at the hands of Bobby Roode and Ray. He even got put through a table with a powerbomb from Ray that prompted Sting to come to his aid, and subsequently get beaten down by Ray and Roode too.
So that ending was certainly a wake-up call for the Charismatic Enigma that his road toward Genesis is not going to be an easy one. But between getting this title shot at Final Resolution and snagging a good win over a tough opponent in Ray, Hardy has quickly worked his way back into main event status with TNA since taking time off to face his demons.
2. Madison Rayne – for coming up with an aggressive win over the defiant Traci Brooks:
Madison Rayne has been an excellent stooge for Karen Jarrett since she took over running the Knockouts Division. And her presence has helped make Gail Kim an instant sensation since returning to TNA. Between being one-half of the Knockouts Tag Team Champions with her to helping her defeat perhaps her toughest foe at Final Resolution in Mickie James to retain the Knockouts Title, Rayne has been a solid suck up for Karen and her crew.
But with Karen’s job in jeopardy after her husband lost to Jeff Hardy at the pay-per-view, being that lackey might no longer be an option for Rayne. The time may have come for Rayne to earn her stripes again on her own inside the ring like she did when becoming a three-time Knockouts Champion.
Rayne’s first challenge of the possibly post-Karen era of the Knockouts Division came against the woman with an agenda to settle, Traci Brooks. Brooks spent countless hours taking crap from Karen and her cronies. She refused to lay down to Kim last week on IMPACT Wrestling and would look to gain some extra redemption this week when squaring off against Rayne.
Brooks wasted little time getting this match underway by attacking Rayne on the ramp and sticking on her while she brought her to the ring, as well as while they were in it. But Rayne was eventually able to get control when she forced Brooks into the ropes and choked her against them. A spinning neckbreaker onto the middle rope sent Brooks to the floor and allowed Rayne some time to wave to the crowd. Rayne slammed Brooks face-first into the mat after she crawled back into the ring and then rolled over for a pin attempt that went to two. Rayne put Brooks in the corner and choked her with the boot before picking her up for a charge in the corner. Brooks moved out of the way of it, however, and came back with a jawbreaker that put her back on top. Some knees to the back and closeline pumped Brooks up. But Rayne took back over with a knee to the gut and then one to the back of the head for another cover. Rayne was not happy when Brooks kicked out yet again and set her sights on delivering a vicious kick to the head. It connected and Rayne was finally able to cover for the three-count.
Out of the shadows steps Rayne to prove she’s a lot more than just the stooge. She is as dangerous as any other female on the TNA roster when she steps in between the ropes and proved it against a foe that certainly would have liked to deliver a heavy dose of punishment against her. Karen being out of the picture may be a huge benefit for Rayne, who was able to return to her vengeful form.
1. Bobby Roode – for keeping the TNA World Heavyweight Championship with a sudden death win over AJ Styles before appearing at the end of the evening to take out his next challenger:
Ever since becoming TNA World Heavyweight Champion by going the cheap route against his former partner James Storm, Bobby Roode has made it clear that he will do whatever it takes to be the man atop the TNA roster. The self-proclaimed leader of the selfish generation doesn’t care how he needs to hold onto the title, so long as it remains around his waist. So it should come as no surprise that when the 30-minute Iron Man Match against AJ Styles at Final Resolution went into the final minute at a 3-3 tie, Roode decided to bail from the ring and simply let the clock run down to zeros that he could leave the pay-per-view still champion courtesy of a draw.
The fans called for extra time and Styles seemed to be looking for Sting to grant him that. Though they would not get their wishes granted Sunday night, this week’s IMPACT Wrestling opened up with that very scenario. Styles and Roode took part in a five-minute sudden death overtime, where the first fall would declare a winner. Unfortunately, this match came to an end much like the one at Final Resolution did, with Roode leaving the ring just as time was clicking off the clock. Styles caught up to Roode and hit him with a Pele from the outside. But a springboard move back inside the ring missed and time ended up running out anyway, so the draw remained.
Sting was a lot quicker this time rectifying the situation and immediately came out to tell Roode that they could do this all night. There would have to be another winner. So, Roode took that call as a reason to take things up a notch. Roode went right after the leg of Styles and locked on a single leg crab to The Phenomenal One. A bum knee forced Styles to reluctantly tap out in about a minute’s time and kept the gold around Roode’s waist.
Roode wasted little time moving on from Styles and turning focus to his next opponent – Jeff Hardy. Roode joined Mike Tenay and Taz on commentary during the main event match involving Bully Ray and Hardy. And after Hardy won the match, he made his way down to the ring to join Ray in a postmatch assault over his Genesis opponent. Roode even nailed Sting with the championship belt when he tried to make the save for Hardy.
Attacking Sting may not have been Roode’s best move, as he already has the man in charge of TNA PO’d for what he’s done to Dixie Carter and it could very well come back to bite him at some point down the road. But that level of confidence and win at all costs attitude has granted Roode the most successful run of his TNA tenure. It could make a big difference as he approaches his next title defense against Hardy about three weeks.