Open Fight Night IMPACT Wrestling Wrestlers of the Week 5.24.12
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.
Open Fight Night IMPACT Wrestling Wrestlers of the Week for May 24, 2012
3. Austin Aries – for putting a damper on Joey Ryan’s Gut Check opportunity by defeating the independent wrestling star:
As the X-Division Champion and just generally one of the best TNA currently has to offer, Austin Aries is a natural barometer to measure the potential of all incoming hopefuls against. So when Joey Ryan received an opportunity to earn a spot on the TNA roster as part of Open Fight Night’s Gut Check, Aries offered the perfect challenge to which the judges deciding Ryan’s future could base their decisions.
Since the performance of the Gut Check contender isn’t critiqued entirely on a win or loss, Ryan simply needed to put forth an effort that would impress the judges in order to make this match a success. Whether he did that is debatable. A win over Aries, however, would have likely gone a long way in garnering that highly coveted contract with TNA.
Aries removed that element right out of the equation by preventing Ryan from picking up the “W.” Ryan tried very hard and even went for a few consecutive near falls in hopes of tiring Aries out. But the champion would not be outdone in this match and really turned it on when he elbowed out of a pump handle suplex by Ryan.
Aries ducked a closeline off an irish whip reversal and came back at Ryan with a spinning elbow shot. Ryan moved out of the ring when Aries tried to charge at him in the corner. And when Aries tried to grab him on the apron, Ryan delivered a headbutt to the midsection and went for a sunset flip pinning combination. Aries was able to roll through it, however, and connect on a basement dropkick.
Aries stalked Ryan a bit and then pulled him off the mat in hopes of hitting the brainbuster. Ryan rushed him all the way toward the turnbuckles and followed up with a right hand shot. Some reversals ensued out of the corner before Ryan was finally able to deliver a pump handle suplex that was not excellently executed and therefore only provided him a two-count on the ensuing cover. Ryan headed up top after the failed pin attempt and leapt off trying for a closeline. But Aries dodged it and then caught Ryan charging back at him with an arm drag that sent the challenger flipping against the turnbuckles.
Aries pretty much smelled the blood at this point and went full force into the corner with a charging high dropkick straight to the face of Ryan. He immediately pounced on Ryan with an impactful brainbuster that provided Aries a strong pinfall victory.
While this match was more so about showcasing Ryan than anything else, Aries still went out there and proved to be a hot commodity to TNA. While it obviously wasn’t necessary for him to impress anybody, he still did so by picking up that win and perhaps left a little seed of doubt in the judges minds about whether Ryan is truly deserving of a roster spot with the company.
2. Gail Kim and Madison Rayne – for challenging and scoring a victory over Eric Young and ODB in non-title tag team action:
In keeping with the concept of Open Fight Night, where challenges are made and have to be accepted, Gail Kim saw fit to open in the in-arena portion of this week’s program. She was joined alongside a distracted Madison Rayne, who is clearly still focused on some random dude she’s now smitten with. Regardless, Kim started out with the microphone and put herself on a pedestal by calling herself the most dominant Knockouts Champion in the history of TNA. She would then go on to consider herself the most significant woman in the company.
Despite her accolades, there is still one thing that sticks in her craw. And that’s the fact that the TNA Knockouts Tag Team Championships are being represented by the duo that defeated Kim and Rayne to claim them – ODB and Eric Young. After getting Rayne to focus, she then took the opportunity to call out Mr. and Mrs. ODB for a non-title bout.
Young and ODB happily obliged and promptly made their way toward the ring to accept this challenge. They started out pretty strong, with Young reversing everything Kim threw at him before ODB tagged in to unleash some more punishment on the Knockouts Titleholder. She even headed into a commercial break by delivering a fallaway slam to Kim before knocking Rayne right off the apron.
But during the break, Kim was able to take over the match by attacking ODB behind the referee’s back when he was taking Young back to his corner. Upon returning from commercial, Kim went for a near fall and then worked collectively with Rayne to try and keep on top of ODB, though Kim needed to wake Rayne up a couple of times along the way.
Kim having to snap Rayne out of it eventually worked against them and ODB was able to spear Kim out of the corner, granting her the ability to get Young into the match. He didn’t want to fight the also tagged in Rayne, but he had no other choice but to drop his pants after taking some shots from the queen bee.
Young delivered a couple of hip tosses to Rayne and Kim before hitting a bodyslam to each of them right after. He was rightfully pumped up by this, but ODB scolded him for having his pants off and tagged herself back into the match.
She dropped Kim with a few running shoulders before hitting a powerslam that provided a two-count. ODB lifted Kim onto her shoulders following the failed pin attempt, but Kim was able to work herself off and nail a kick to the chest. Kim then headed for the ropes and leapt in hopes of knocking ODB down. But ODB managed to catch her and seemed ready to hit another fallaway slam when Rayne tripped her up from the outside. Rayne held onto ODB’s legs as Kim lay on top of her and the referee darted over to make the three-count.
Kim and Rayne couldn’t celebrate for long since ODB and Young chased them to the back. But the victory was still theirs. Kim gained some retribution for the one blemish on her record that bothers her. And while Rayne needed to be yelled at a few times in this one, she still pulled through in the end to get Kim out of a sticky predicament and transition it into a winning pinfall for her team.
1. Bobby Roode – for becoming the longest reigning TNA World Heavyweight Champion by pinning the previous holder of that streak, AJ Styles:
The big news heading into this second edition of Open Fight Night was the fact that Bobby Roode would have to put the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on the line in order to be deemed the longest reigning holder of that title in company history. He didn’t know exactly who his opponent would be. But based on matches from last week’s IMPACT Wrestling, the list of possible contenders was narrowed down to a group of four that included Bully Ray, AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy and Kurt Angle.
Throughout the evening, Hulk Hogan went through the process of whittling it down to one lone challenger. The first man out of the picture was Ray, who obviously failed to agree with Hogan’s opinion and then went on to embarrass Joseph Parks later on in the broadcast. Hardy’s recent close calls made him the second man eliminated from the bunch, which left just Angle and Styles as the final two possibilities to enter the ring against Roode in the main event.
Hogan chose to make this final selection after having Roode, Styles and Angle all hit the ring. And then he made the announcement that Styles, a longtime acquaintance of Roode and the man holding the record as longest reigning TNA World Heavyweight Champion to that point, would be the wrestler contending against Roode for the gold. Angle was not happy about the decision, but didn’t hold a grudge and wished Styles luck.
With so much time left in the program, this bout was guaranteed to be granted some heavy time. And it made for a great match as a result. But for as good as it was, Styles’ head was not completely in this one at any point during the contest.
It’s hard to blame The Phenomenal One based on how Christopher Daniels and Kazarian have constantly been involved spectators during most of his matches as of late. But constantly looking around and taking focus off of keeping on Roode clearly worked against Styles. And it was his downfall in the end.
Having Roode in perfect position to go for a springboard maneuver, Styles wasted a ton of time on the apron looking over his shoulder repeatedly that when he went to deliver a 450 splash off the ropes, Roode had little issue getting the knees up right into the midsection of Styles. Roode wasted little time going for the fisherman’s suplex pinning combination from there and was able to capture the three-count to retain the gold and become the longest reigning World Heavyweight Champion in TNA history.
Roode celebrated with some champagne and confetti raining down on the ring. He even called Hogan down to join him in celebration. But Roode was caught with a bit of a surprise when Sting made his return and ambushed the champion. When Roode was closelined to the outside, Hogan made the announcement that IMPACT Wrestling was moving to an earlier timeslot starting next week. He also announced that the top of next week’s show would feature Roode facing Sting in a lumberjack match.
That was not quite what Roode had bargained for and he’s going to face a tough task come next week’s program. But it’s also not the first time Roode’s back has been against the wall. He always has something up his sleeve to get out of these types of sticky situations. And for now, he can certainly take solace in the fact that he met this week’s challenge head on and stepped away with the TNA World Heavyweight Title he has now held longer than anybody else in company history.