TNA Open Fight Night IMPACT Wrestling Wrestlers of the Week 9.20.12
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.
TNA Open Fight Night IMPACT Wrestling Wrestlers of the Week for September 20, 2012
3. James Storm – for continuing to put a hurting on Bobby Roode for costing him his shot at the Bound for Glory Series win:
When Bobby Roode smashed a beer bottle over the head of James Storm at No Surrender and effectively cost him his semifinals matchup against Bully Ray, there was little doubt that the former tag team partners were going to go face-to-face with each other much sooner rather than later.
Storm managed to get his hands on Roode last week on IMPACT Wrestling, but it just wasn’t enough for The Tennessee Cowboy. He wanted more of Roode’s rear end and he made it perfectly clear that he intended to call out his ex-Beer Money comrade on this week’s Open Fight Night edition of the show.
When the time came during Thursday night’s broadcast, Storm did as promised and demanded Roode, who he deemed a coward, get down to the ring for the match. When Roode did appear in the IMPACT Zone, he was not dressed to compete. In a suit and tie, Roode informed Storm that he was not prepared to fight. He then told Storm that he would never be as good as him or duplicate his success, no matter hard he tries. He added that he would never be the World Heavyweight Champion before telling Storm that he was not going to fight him because this was over between the two of them, as far as he was concerned.
As far as general manager Hulk Hogan is concerned, however, this was just getting started. He told Roode that he had three minutes to get ready and get out there, otherwise he would essentially be suspended. That left Roode no other choice but to get out there and answer Storm’s challenge.
While a bell did ring to make this an official match, it was more of a brawl than anything else. It took place mostly on the outside and was eventually called by the referee since they stopped heeding his count out of a desire to simply punish each other.
While Roode got his fair share of shots in at Storm during this fight, it was clear that Storm was the bigger aggressor and stopped at nothing to deliver a heavy dose of punishment against his former partner. He used anything from the highly-expensive clothing Roode had to remove to the stationary objects placed around the IMPACT Zone and even the shoes being worn by fans in the front row.
Once the match was called by the referee, the action spilled toward the backstage area, where Storm proceeded to punish Roode with some right hands and a shot into the wall. The last thing we saw on TV was Storm grabbing hold of Roode’s head to slam it into the door, which sent Roode stumbling out of it with Storm following close behind him – much like the conclusion of Storm’s beating against Roode last week.
There was no winner in this and it’s clearly setting the stage for a match at Bound For Glory, which we were destined to see as far back as when Roode was the champion and Storm was the clear-cut favorite to win the Bound for Glory Series. Now it’ll be without the heavyweight title on the line, of course, but these two are still headed in that direction. And a betting man would have to side with Storm at this juncture based on how he’s gone at Roode since the man cost him his shot at the gold at No Surrender.
2. Douglas Williams – for making a rare appearance to take this week’s Gut Check contestant, Evan Markopolous, to task:
The Gut Check aspect of Open Fight Night is one of its most interesting because of the ability to watch several up-and-comers make a case for earning a contract with TNA. A win is not necessarily required for these youngsters to be successful. In fact, such a result is assumed to be unlikely when they are facing far more experienced competition. The main purpose is to put on a good performance while impressing the judges – Bruce Prichard, Al Snow and Taz – in such areas as in-ring skill and crowd appeal.
This week’s contestant was 18-year-old Evan Markopolous, who already had five years under his belt but had yet to make a name for himself in the business. The fact that he already had numerous years of in-ring experience was a definite bonus. However, it paled in comparison to the experience and know-how of the man he was slated to face in his Gut Check bout. That was the seldom used Douglas Williams, who serves mainly as a trainer for TNA at this juncture in his career.
Twenty-two years his senior, Williams was prepared to take Markopolous to task in their matchup and he did just that with an excellent brawling and ground-based attack. Markopolous got very little offense in during this match, as Williams cut short any rally Markopolous was hoping to string together along the way.
One of those brief attempts at a comeback came when he sidestepped Williams charging at him in the corner and he rebounded with a series of right hands. Williams eventually shrugged them off and delivered a devastating knee to the gut of Markopolous. He then sent the youngster face-first into the top turnbuckle and unleashed a series of right and lefts to his face. A kick to the side and then a throw took Markopolous down to the mat, where Williams slapped on a neck-wrenching submission. Markopolous tapped pretty quickly and left something to be desired before the judges decide his fate nexk week on IMPACT Wrestling.
Williams still has plenty of juice left in the tank, even if he doesn’t compete on a weekly basis. Giving these young wrestlers a run for their money is a key area of his role with the company and it’s helpful in evaluating the readiness level of the young talent when we see them stack up against somebody the caliber of Williams. There was little doubt the Brit would win this contest against Markopolous but the relative dominance he showed from bell-to-bell was still highly impressive.
1. Bully Ray – for scoring a win, as unethical as it may have been, against Austin Aries after the World Heavyweight Champion called him out:
While the Bound For Glory main event is set to be Austin Aries against Jeff Hardy with the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on the line, it should be no surprise that Bully Ray is not yet ready to take a backseat to either of those two men. Last week, he strived so hardly to categorize Hardy’s Bound for Glory Series victory as a fluke that he annoyed the No. 1 contender enough to grant him a shot at the championship opportunity last week on IMPACT Wrestling.
The two former-tag team specialists went one-on-one in the evening’s main event just 24 hours after doing it one night earlier at No Surrender. On the line was the heavyweight title match against Aries at Bound For Glory, which was a risky proposition on the part of Hardy. He made good on his confidence, however, and came away with the win after hitting a couple of Twist of Fates before finishing the big man off with a Swanton Bomb.
Two consecutive victories against Ray over the course of a week was more than enough to give him the confidence and momentum needed to make that run toward the heavyweight title against Aries.
Although Hardy can be proud in how his previous week went down, it did not quite sit right with Aries. So much focus has been placed on his challenger at the next pay-per-view that Aries wanted to make it clear he is the one gunning for Hardy. And he wanted to replicate, if you will, what Hardy managed to do when he defeated Ray twice. Aries already has one victory over the bully and he was seeking another when he called out Ray for the Open Fight Night main event.
Ray came out to the arena a bit stunned that Aries was the one calling him out. That’s usually his M.O. Before he could go too far into his diatribe, however, Aries dove to the outside and took him out as a way to shut him up and get the match going.
Aries capitalized on capturing Ray off guard with that move and kept control of the contest until he was knocked off the ring apron and into the guardrail by a big boot from Ray. From there, Ray took over with a smothering attack that kept Aries grounded and hurting. It was only when Ray took his eye off the ball and decided to argue with referee Earl Hebner that Aries really started to fight back.
The two traded shots at each other until Ray put the back-and-forth on halt with an eye rake. Ray tried to follow up with a closeline, but two dodged attempts at it left him vulnerable to a discus forearm from Aries. The champion was lifted to the apron when he charged toward Ray, but he landed and dug a shoulder into his gut through the ropes. Aries dropped Ray’s throat across the top rope and then ascended the turnbuckles, leaping off for a nice missile dropkick that netted him a two-count.
Aries signaled for the brain buster, but he could not get Ray up and got flipped onto his back instead. Ray hoped to drop on the chest of Aries while he was underneath, but Aries moved out of the way and hoped to whip Ray into the corner. Ray reversed and sent Aries straight into the referee.
After Aries checked on the referee, Ray went at him with a closeline but it was ducked and met with a low dropkick instead. Aries locked on the last chancellery, but the lack of a conscious referee basically negated Ray’s tapout.
Not really piecing that together, Aries let go of the hold and chose to once again check on the referee after realizing he had not yet won the match. As he did this, Ray grabbed his chain from out of the corner, wrapped it around his fist and nailed Aries in the head with it when the champion charged in at him. With Aries knocked out cold, Ray covered up and the referee, still barely aware of what was going on, counted to three to give Ray an upset victory of sorts over the World Heavyweight Champion.
In his celebration, Ray took hold of the heavyweight strap and not just raised it as if it belonged to him, but he also looked to nail Aries in the head with it. Before he could, Hardy ran down to the ring for the save and cleared Ray out of it. Hardy then picked up the title and raised it just as Aries got back to his feet and turned around, leading us to tense close to IMPACT Wrestling.
Despite the arguing that ended this week’s show between Aries and Hardy, it’s clear to see that Ray’s time in the spotlight in not yet over. He seems very involved in this title picture. His win over Aries leads me to believe there’s still a shot, even if it’s only a slight one, that the bully might just finagle his way into the World Heavyweight Title Match at Bound For Glory somehow.