TNA 2012 MAXIMUM IMPACT IV, Manchester date review (27th January)
I was already looking forward to seeing Sting on this tour – it’s been his first visit to the UK in a decade, and probably his last ever appearance here – but then days before the tour began Hulk Hogan announced he would also be making his first visit to the UK since 1994. This was going to be unmissable.
We set off to arrive at the MEN Arena in plenty of time, enjoy a beer and browse the merchandise before watching the show, but we ended up stuck in traffic just outside Manchester. The show’s starting time of 7:30 came and went, and although we were getting constant updates from friends at the show, sitting in the car waiting for the traffic to improve was painful. We eventually made it to the arena around 9, parked the car and rushed down to our seats, just as the interval was ending and the second half of the show was beginning. We’d missed four bouts, including Austin Aries, Crimson, A.J. Styles and Mickie James, but the real good stuff hadn’t happened yet.
The first main event of the evening was for the World Heavyweight Championship, with current holder Bobby Roode up against Samoa Joe. Roode was getting some big boos and Joe was getting just as many cheers, but Bobby managed to successfully defend his title in a well-paced match. Joe stayed in the ring for a while afterwards, pulling out an English flag and showing his appreciation for the fans’ support.
Next, TNA President Dixie Carter came down to the ring to speak. She talked about TNA’s relationship with the UK and thanked everyone there for making Impact Wrestling the most popular wrestling show on UK TV. TNA is enjoying a lot of popularity over here at the moment, and I think a lot of it is down to the family atmosphere the company create, both on TV and at their live shows. There were plenty of families in attendance at Manchester, and Dixie’s warmhearted approach goes a long way with that kind of audience; TNA are really positioning themselves as a brand that families want to get behind and support. Dixie also pointed out a grandma in the front row who had been invited to the show by TNA. Apparently she’s something of a hero after she refused to hand over her belongings to someone who tried to mug her. It’s little touches like this that make TNA seem like a real fan-orientated company.
The second main event of the evening was scheduled as a tag team match featuring Bully Ray and Kurt Angle versus James Storm and Sting. Bully Ray made his entrance and grabbed the mic, ordering announcer Jeremy Borash to leave the ring, then calling female announcer Christy Hemme a “slag”, which got a big pop from the audience. He also took a shot at all the Manchester United and Manchester City supporters in the audience and removed his buttoned-up shirt to reveal a Liverpool jersey underneath. It was completely unexpected and got a huge reaction of both cheers and boos from the crowd.
Next Angle and Storm entered, to much applause, and finally the lights dimmed before Sting’s entrance music burst out over the speakers and Sting himself walked through the curtain, dressed in a purple, sequined gown. The crowd went crazy and Sting was obviously humbled by the reaction.
Now the match was all set to begin, until Bobby Roode made his second entrance of the evening. Following Bully Ray in picking up a local colloquialism, Roode called the UK fans “wankers” and then announced he was going to join Bully Ray and Angle and make this a three versus two match. And that’s when I knew what was going to happen next. Storm and Sting needed someone to even up the numbers and that man was to be Hulk Hogan.
The iconic guitar riff of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” started up and Hogan strode through the curtain. The crowd gave him the biggest reaction of the night and he climbed up onto the apron to join Storm and Sting. Hogan was really animated and pushed the crowd even further, hyping them up with his poses and gestures.
Nobody grabbed the mic but the six wrestlers took their time pointing at each other and deciding who would kick this match off. I believe Bully Ray and Storm started things, but soon the crowd were chanting for Sting to get involved. Storm, realising he couldn’t carry on as he was on a tag team with two icons, soon tagged in Sting. Angle and Roode got involved, but then the crowd started chanting for Hogan. Little did they know he was about to deliver, big time.
After being tagged in he soon went to work, dispatching all three of the opposition with a combination of punches, clothes lines and even a Big Boot. He took Bully Ray down to where the grandma from earlier was sat, lined him up against the barriers and crashed into him. Next he borrowed the grandma’s walking stick and started brandishing it as a weapon. He went back to the ring to work on Angle and Roode, using the stick instead of his arm for a clothes line. With Bully Ray, Angle and Roode all beat up and cowering in front of Hogan, Storm took Roode for the pin. The two old hands, Sting and Hogan did most of the leg work, before providing the new blood, Storm with the chance to pin his former partner. It all felt right.
The 3 on 3 tag team match was a dream lineup – you couldn’t have picked six better wrestlers from TNA’s roster. Sting had joked on Twitter about him and Hogan teaming up in the UK, but no-one knew if it would actually happen or not. In the end the match was the perfect ending, continuing the storyline of Hogan and Sting as best buddies, and also building the rivalry between Roode and Storm. But the highlight of the evening has to be Hogan’s appearance and the extent of his involvement in the match. We were expecting him to show, but he did more in Manchester than he did versus Sting at Bound For Glory, and Manchester wasn’t even a taping. The only explanation for why Hogan put his health on the line here is because he loves wrestling in TNA and he wanted to give something back to his UK fans. When you look at his recent media appearances here in the UK he seems really content and happy to be involved in TNA, and it’s great.
The fans really couldn’t have asked for more in Manchester and they showed their appreciation. They were loud all night, and I mean LOUD. After the pinfall Storm, Sting and Hogan remained in the ring to celebrate. Hogan performed his trademark poses for all three sides of the ring, then began with his hand-to-ear gesture to see which side was the loudest. This competition went on for about five minutes as the crowd screamed at the top of their lungs and “Eye of the Tiger” looped over the speakers. Sting went down to the barriers and made sure to spend time shaking the hands of all his fans. What a performance.
After the show we headed to the merchandise stand and I grabbed a red Hulkamania t-shirt to commemorate the day.
It sounds as if Wembley got a different show to Manchester, and that one was taped for the next Impact. It’s the first Impact to be taped outside of the US, and it seems that TNA have big plans for the UK – Hogan has even commented on the possibility of a UK PPV event in the future. And if future tours are half as good as this year’s, I’m sure TNA fans on this side of the pond will be happy for a long time to come.
Tickets for TNA’s 2013 UK tour go on pre-sale tomorrow for seven days. Click here for more info.
Posted on January 30, 2012, in Rasslin' Reviews and tagged dixie carter, hulk hogan, impact, kurt angle, live, manchester, men arena, ppv, samoa joe, sting, TNA, twitter, wembley, world heavyweight championship, wrestling. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.