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NWA-TNA Hard Justice 2006 8/13/2006

Written by: Mike Campbell

HARD JUSTICE
August 13, 2006

It’s another PPV from the days when TNA showed promise as a viable alternative (if not exactly competition) to the WWE. Sting challenges Jarrett for the NWA Title, and has a corner man that he completely trusts. What could go wrong there?

Abyss . . . turns Brother Runt into a living, breathing, pincushion.
Sirelda . . . makes me wish that it was the women’s match that was cancelled, instead of the 4-way tag match.
Homicide . . . looks like he needs to watch some tapes of himself from the last couple of years before this and find his inner heel again.

ERIC YOUNG vs. JOHNNY DEVINE
Had the fire not broken out in the arena, causing the fire extinguishers to go off during the match, then this would have been forgettable at best. It’s a testament to how over Young was at the time that the fans were so into the match, but there’s very little from him or Devine that made the match interesting on any level. For all of the promise that he supposedly showed during his time in Team Canada, Devine looks like the stereotypical heel right out of Memphis, substituting heel tactics for actual wrestling. Young just takes control when he feels like it, grabbing Devine for a big powerbomb and then they start rolling out near falls until Young hits the neckbreaker to keep Devine down. Normally I’d make a comment along the lines of the match not setting the world on fire, but it’s obvious they did!

This is followed by Tenay and West borderline bragging, for far too long, that the show has been stopped by the Orlando Fire Marshall, and then insisting that the show will resume “in just a few minutes.”

ALEX SHELLEY vs. CHRIS SABIN
Kevin Nash’s injury curse strikes again, and he’s not able to put over Sabin on the PPV himself. Shocking. This is actually a fun little match, although it’s more of an exhibition than it is anything else. Both Sabin and Shelley show off some cool stuff. Shelley’s busts out La Mistica and then segues into the Border City Stretch. Shelley also seems to focus on Sabin’s groin, first he catches Sabin on a springboard with the Grapefruit clutch, and then a few minutes later does a reverse atomic drop from the top. Sabin adds a nice dive to the floor as well as a high dropkick while Shelley in the tree of woe (complete with Shelley making sure to raise himself up so that Sabin hits him even higher).

The finish is stupid, but even that doesn’t totally ruin the match. Shelley manages to hit an Air Raid Crash, but the ref is distracted by Devine and Nash slips in a chair (yes, this is all while Shelley has hit his big move). The chair backfires and gets kicked in Shelley’s face and Sabin hits the Cradle Shock to win. I’d have actually preferred to see Nash/Sabin, if only for them to tell a story with Sabin fighting from underneath, but this was still fun.

ABYSS vs. BROTHER RUNT
Until Abyss brought out the tacks, this was every other David vs. Goliath match that Spike had in ECW. He fights from underneath and works in his usual two or three spots, and takes the usual bumps, right down to getting chucked into the crowd and getting body surfed back to the ring, then the tacks come out and Spike is finished. They don’t pussyfoot around either, Spike takes several bumps into the tacks culminating with the Black Hole Slam that finishes him off. This is still really short, but there’s really not much else they could have done other than a run-in or two, and those were being saved for the main event.

SAMOA JOE vs. RHINO vs. MONTY BROWN
They deserve credit for giving the fans what they wanted to see, even if Joe is capable of much better than this. This is a huge ECW-style brawl, going all over the arena, there’s plenty of intensity and hate to be found here, and all three are willing to take some big bumps, Brown’s butterfly suplex to Rhino on the ramp being the highlight, and the crowd is whipped into an absolute frenzy as a result. This falls into the usual rotation formula of three-ways with there always being someone conveniently out of the way, but the crazy spots make it seem perfectly logical that the odd man out needs some time to get his marbles together.

The finish seems to be a bit tacked on, but there’s nothing that really would have felt right with how much they did to one another. Rhino misses a Gore and goes soaring through some tables, and Joe takes advantage and STO’s Brown through another table off the stage to stay undefeated. When it comes right down to it, this isn’t all that different from Shelley/Sabin, it was quite the fun outing, but, at the end of the day, it was little more than a giant exhibition.

GAIL KIM vs. SIRELDA
Aside from a couple of good spots from Gail, namely the hotshot and the Tarantula, this was as uninteresting as it gets. I expected Sirelda to be bumping Gail around with ease, but she looked like she had no idea what she was doing, and Gail didn’t have it in her to cover for Sirelda’s lack of, well, everything other than looking imposing. Gail wins after an ugly blockbuster, and I’m going to go watch Kelly Kelly vs. Brie Bella to wash away the memories of this.

SENSHI © vs. PETEY WILLIAMS vs. JAY LETHAL (X-Division Title)
Here’s some great logic, Petey earns the title shot by winning an elimination match, which included Lethal, and then Lethal just gets put into the match anyway. This would have been a good match if it wasn’t so damn boring and predictable. As far as structure goes, it’s just like the Joe/Rhino/Brown match, only without the crazy spots to pop the crowd. There’s no meaningful limb work and no story or structure to the match. There is a nice moment when Ki has to forgo his big stomp to Lethal to go after Petey, and Lethal uses the time to recover and hit both of them with a big dropkick, and there’s a fun exchange of near falls toward the end with all three of them trying to win by cradle. But other than that, it’s the same tired formula with the same tired finish. Petey hits the destroyer on Lethal and Ki swoops in to steal the pin, nothing that hasn’t been seen 1,000 times before.

AJ STYLES/CHRISTOPHER DANIELS © vs. HOMICIDE/HERNANDEZ (NWA World Tag Team Titles)

Despite the fact that these two teams show some chemistry, it’s hard to not walk away from this feeling disappointed. The big reason is the fact that LAX simply don’t get to look that good during the match. Their control segment is dull as dishwater, there are several extended chinlocks from Hernandez, and it’s lacking the fun cheating tactics that makes the tag team formula so much fun to watch with the right heel team. Hernandez is big and strong enough to literally throw AJ all over the ring, but he only uses one suplex on AJ. One only needs to look at Homicide’s ROH work to see that he obviously knows a thing, or twelve, about heeling things up during a match, but he doesn’t show it here. You know something isn’t right when the crowd barely murmurs when AJ makes the hot tag.

The hot tag is only about the halfway point to the finish though, which is both good and bad. It’s good because it gives them the chance to wake up the crowd, but they decide to drop the whole ‘working a match’ idea and just toss out spots for near falls to get the crowd excited. The crowd DOES start making noise though, so it’s hard to fault the workers too much for it. There are a few communication issues, which makes some of their spots come off ugly a times, but nothing seems to be outright blown. They do deserve credit for a smart finish though, with AJ throwing ‘Cide into Hernandez and the champions quickly taking advantage with a lariat/sweep combo while Hernandez is still stunned, it’s just too bad the rest of the match couldn’t be worked as smart, and that LAX couldn’t play to their obvious strengths when they had the chance to.

JEFF JARRETT © vs. STING (NWA World Heavyweight Title)

Much like I harped on during most of the 2005 TNA main events, this isn’t how “The New Face of Professional Wrestling” needs to be headlining major shows. Not even the fact that it’s Sting and Jarrett headlining a PPV in 2006 (which is a whole other tangent), but that the work is straight out of a late 1990’s/early 2000’s WWF PPV. There’s little wrestling to be found, and the match itself is clearly focused on run-ins, ref bumps, and prop shots. The icing on the cake is the booking, with the swerve that didn’t surprise anyone other than Sting, Don West, and maybe a five-year-old watching their first wrestling PPV.

There is some wrestling to be found, but it’s nothing special. The best stuff is Jarrett working over Sting’s leg to soften him up for the figure four, he doesn’t have the showmanship of Flair or the nasty edge that Mutoh, Tanahashi, Danielson, or any number of better workers would show when trying to take out a knee, but Jarrett stays on task and the work itself looks fine. Of course, as soon as Sting gets the ropes to break the figure four, he forgets all about it until later on when it’s suddenly the reason that he can’t keep Jarrett in the Scorpion. Probably their best idea was Sting countering the Stroke into the Scorpion Death drop, but they mucked it up by doing it so slowly that it was obvious Jarrett wasn’t doing the move. There’s another exposing moment early on when Sting tries for the Scorpion early on and Jarrett makes it to the ropes, and by ‘makes it to the ropes’ I mean Sting nearly drags Jarrett to them.

Other than that, any other wrestling is hard to come by, Sting and Jarrett mostly trade punches while Christian Cage and Scott Steiner take turns interfering and fighting with each other. The ref throws them both out, the ref gets bumped on a Stinger Splash, and they both come back. Sting’s even willing to play a little dirty, using the belt after Christian throws it to him and being willing to take the title after Christian clocks Jarrett with a chair. Of course, the joke is on him because just when he seems to have things well at hand Christian cleans his clock with the guitar to give the match to Jarrett. The match itself was harmless fun, but it’s not the ideal way for the supposed alternative to be headlining a PPV.

Final Thoughts: It’s a fun show, at times, only the women’s match is completely skippable. But I expected more with two highly regarded matches on this show (the Samoa Joe match and the tag title match). This isn’t anything to avoid at all costs, but nothing to make a big priority either.

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