Bracing for IMPACT: Sorry Mr. Jackson
By James Guttman
TNA Wrestling has seen its share of star athletes trying to transition into the elite club of two-sport athletes. Tito Ortiz, Pacman Jones and others have tried to step into an Impact ring and show what they can do outside of their first profession. But with Rampage Jackson, things are different. It's different. It's damn different.
Rampage learned that when he showed up to last Thursday's Impact. The MMA superstar arrived looking for applause and adulation. What he got was the ire of wrestling's most famous two-sport superstar - Olympic gold medalist, multi-time World Heavyweight Champion and (soon to be) TNA Hall of Famer Kurt Angle. What followed was a confrontation that Jackson seemed surprised by, but fans who were paying attention to Angle's plight weren't.
Kurt Angle has been beside himself for over a year now. With Aces and Eights invading Impact each week and trying to embarrass him at every turn, Angle is at one of the most frustrating points of his career. Unable to singlehandedly destroy the group before they can destroy the company he loves, Kurt has had no choice but to turn to others for help. Normally a loner, Angle has reached out only to have his supposed friends turn on him. First it was Wes Brisco and Garrett Bischoff, then it was AJ Styles. Now, we're left with a dangerous wrestling legend who doesn't trust anyone who comes bearing gifts and promises. Rampage was a casualty of that that thought process.
When Kurt Angle showed up and went nose to nose with Jackson, we all felt his pain. I'm sure Hulk Hogan was backstage watching the events unfold with an understanding grin on his face. Hogan has been burned as much as Angle has. Whether it's his daughter's confusing relationship with Bully Ray, his constant torment from unwelcome "hero" Matt Morgan, or his tumultuous relationship with Sting since the Aces and Eights came about, Hulk too must be frustrated by TNA's latest "hero". While the fans were all giddy over Rampage Jackson and the heavy chain around his neck, Hogan and Angle saw the chain as a weapon that could soon be used against them - much like Aces and Eights has done for months.
The good news is that frustration isn't limited to TNA stars. Well, it may not good news for Rampage, but for us. Look at Devon - Sergeant at Arms for Aces and Eights. Following his stunning TV Title loss to Abyss at Slammiversary, Devon was irate. Scheduled to face Joseph Park at the show, Devon was shocked when the night ended with Abyss's hand raised in championship victory. With the long reigning champion losing his title, it seemed to be the first real crack in Devon's armor. Eager to show his worth to a group that was so quick to punish D-Lo Brown for his losses, Devon has something to prove. That could spell trouble for Abyss, Joseph Park, or…if Devon really wants to make a point, Rampage Jackson.
James Storm and Gunner don't even have a chance to rest in TNA's chaotic environment. The newly crowned Tag Team Champions are scheduled to face Kazarian and Christopher Daniels in a Bound For Glory qualifier match. Will the tag team champions overcome the arrogant pranksters to advance to the big event? With Kurt Angle taking on AJ Styles in another qualifying match on Impact, it almost puts an unnecessary target on their backs. Do Gunner and Storm want to be another potential foe to the unstable Olympian? What about Bad Influence? Are they eager to be a thorn in Angle's side? What if Angle loses to Styles? Do either team want to get involved in AJ's world of uncertainty? Most importantly, with the winner of the tournament receiving a World Title match - do they even care about the repressions anyway? This just proves there's no escape from the intensity of TNA's top battles - even for the tag team division.
So welcome, Rampage Jackson. We're glad to have you here - well, most of us are. But this isn't a P.R. campaign or fodder for a highlight reel, this is Impact Wrestling. We're in the midst of a war. You have two choices - step up or step out. There's no room for smiles and waves anymore. It's time to fight. If you don't want to, there are plenty of angry stars in TNA who will make you.