The Sears Center, Hoffman Estates, IL
Oct. 12, 2008
By Dr. Abner Mality

<!-- -- begin story --> In the words of Robert Plant, it's been a long time since I rock and rolled. Seems like ages since I've been to a big wrestling event. Actually, last year I caught a pretty decent lucha libre show in Loves Park, Illinois, of all places. But its been years since I've been to a PPV or TV Taping event. I refuse to pay money to visit McMahonland anymore.

TNA is a different story. The young upstart promotion has now entered its sixth year of operation and has hung in there pretty tough. The TV show often drives me crazy with nonsensical booking, over-gimmicked matches and Russo-approved soap opera, yet at its core, there is something exciting about all the great young talent TNA has on its roster and how the young guys keep pushing the veterans to levels they haven't been to before. It's a place where you can see wrestlers pushing themselves athletically without as much of a "corporate" feel as WWE.

Bound For Glory has emerged as TNA's answer to Wrestlemania and their biggest PPV show of the year. When I found out the show was to be held less than a hundred miles away in suburban Chicago, there was no way I could pass up attending it live. So I got myself a "thirty-seven dollar" ticket that wound up being more like fifty dollars by the time Ticketmaster put me through the mill with all of their scandalous fees and charges. Not only that, but the outrageous $20.00 parking had steam coming out of my ears.

Traffic was so lousy between Rockford and the Sears Center that I might have done better dressing up as the Headless Horseman and riding a steed to the matches. Stop and start traffic all the way in, causing me to arrive late and miss the first half of the first match. Goddammit!

But once inside the doors, I could already hear the thunderous oohs and aahs of the crowd as they saw the death-defying moves of TNA's daredevil X-division athletes in the fearsome Steel Asylum match! Oh, man, it's been too long since I've gotten that kind of rush! I made it to my seat just to see the last minutes of this wild twist on the traditional cage match. TNA loves to cram as many of their roster into "clusterfuck" matches as they can, just to get them their paychecks. Tonight this practice proved exciting instead of annoying, as X-division guys fought like mad demons to scale the sides of the dome-shaped cage and escape through the round hole in the top to secure victory. The Mexicans have been doing this kind of match for a while now, but TNA has brought it to the States in the form of the Steel Asylum.

The match featured an onslaught of risky aerial moves, as each of the wrestlers hit some tremendous high-impact spot. The line up included Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley of America's best tag team, the Motor City Machineguns, who surely deserve title gold at some point ; the masked "super heroes" of the Prince Justice Brotherhood, i.e, Curry Man, Shark Boy and Super Eric; former friends turned deadly enemies Sonjay Dutt and Jay Lethal; Jimmy Rave of the Rock N Rave Infection; Johnny Devine (who was actually wrestling his last match for TNA tonight and who hit the most devastating move of the contest) and former X-division champion Petey Williams.

A spotfest it was, but the red hot crowd reaction to each move pushed the excitement into the stratosphere. Chicago has always been a great wrestling town and tonight was no different. TNA had to be thrilled with the crowd reaction to virtually every contest, as it surely gives an extra level of energy to the proceedings. The craziest moment of the battle came when bitter rivals Jay Lethal and Sonjay Dutt hung upside down from the hole in the top of the cage while slapping each other silly. As crazy as that moment was, it would pale besides others later in the night. After a hard fought battle, the contest was won by "Black Machismo" Jay Lethal, setting him up as the #1 contender for the x-division title currently held by Sheik Abdul Bashir.

You cannot overestimate the importance of crowd mood to a wrestling event. The reaction of the fans means EVERYTHING to how a card is perceived. I've seen many big time PPV matches ruined due to apathy or outright antagonism on the part of the fans. On the other hand, I've been to cards with a poor turn out that were wildly successful because of the enthusiasm of those who showed up. Kayfabe era wrestling crowds were great because they BELIEVED. That's impossible in today's era, but it seemed like the crowd at BFG WANTED to believe. There was spirited yelling and chanting all night long and for the most part, the crowd sided with the "face" and booed the "heel". This is not all that common in today's wrestling world. It was a great crowd to be a part of and the enthusiasm was infectious.

The second match was the one universally picked to be the low point of the night, a mixed 6 person match pitting The Beautiful People and their "fashionist" Cute Kip James against the team of Rhino, ODB and Rhaka Khan. Even this match was over with the fans and that helped make it at least watchable and even enjoyable in a couple of spots. Man, Velvet Sky of the Beautiful People is HOTNESS personified...what a slut! Rhino was over huge, as was ODB, but Rhaka Khan got a notably cool reception from the knowledgeable crowd. That being said, she is a real amazon to look at and she could stare straight into the eyes of Cute Kip, who is no small man. The match ended when Rhino gored Kip into oblivion. Rhino has got a real no-nonsense working-man's appeal and should get a bigger push.

Next up was the X-Division Title match with Sheik Abdul Bashir defending his title against the jacked-up challenge of Consequences Creed. Bashir's traditional anti-American heel gimmick makes him a heat machine. He got by far the most unanimous heel reaction of the night and the Sheik milked it for all it was worth. Last time a Sheik in Chicago got that reaction, it was Adnan al-Kaissie in the AWA days. Creed was introduced by a genuine Iraq war veteran, which was a nice touch. The crowd was really behind Creed. It was an excellent back and forth match with Creed hitting some spectacular moves while Bashir dished out some brutal punishment. The Sheik retained the title after a tough battle. This guy should be a big player for months to come because of the violent reaction he gets from fans. Creed is coming along really well and will doubtless be a champion himself in the future.

One thing that even its fiercest critics must admit about TNA is that it has brought a much different, more athletic face to women's wrestling. Whereas WWE seems to get its "divas" from modeling school and the ranks of Captain Morgan's Girls, the TNA knockouts are REAL wrestlers who are every bit the equal of their male counterparts. In the case of the glowering behemoth Awesome Kong, I'd say SUPERIOR to the men in some ways. Bound For Glory featured a 3 way battle for the Knockout Women's title held by Taylor Wilde. The brutal Awesome Kong is something to see in one of the CNA's who jab a needle into your butt at the hospital, she is big, black and enjoys pain! She has redefined women's wrestling in the 21st century. Taylor Wilde is the former WWE women's wrestler who upset Kong to come up with the championship. Also tossed into the mix is lanky, punky Roxxi, who has gone from being a voodoo queen to a brawling punk rock chick. She was my favorite to get the upset in this match.

The bout was short and really did not live up to expectations, though it featured some great moves from all participants. One thing's for sure and that's that Taylor Wilde is NOT over with the fans in Chicago. In fact, the only person who got more boos than her was Bashir...even Beer Money Inc. had more fans. Despite that, she is a very good wrestler who delivers some stiff shots. She wound up retaining her title after pinning Roxxi, who had been roughed up pretty thoroughly by Kong. I'm thinking that either Kong or Roxxi should have gotten the belt. Don't be surprised if you see a heel turn from Taylor based on the reaction she got here.

In my mind, no promotion will ever really surpass the OLD ECW in terms of hardcore insanity, even though indies like CZW and IWA-Midsouth try mightily. I'm talking the REAL ECW of the old bingo hall in Philadelphia, not the disgraceful pile of crap put out under that name by Vince McMahon. TNA is not shy of doing extreme hardcore and tonight they really outdid themselves with the No-DQ madhouse known as the Monster's Ball. The only rules here are...there are no rules. Four tag teams engage in all-out warfare all throughout the arena. The tag teams this time around were the giant young duo of the Monster Abyss (my favorite wrestler because of his snappy attire right out of the Cracker Factory) and Matt Morgan; the team that for many defines hardcore, Team 3D(known as the Dudley Boyz in the past); the popular gang of Hispanic hoodlums known as LAX and finally, the tag team champions Beer Money Inc. (Cowboy James Storm and Robert Roode). Now as much as I dislike Beer Money, I have to agree that it is hardly fair for them to put the belts on the line against 3 other teams at once in a match with no rules! Talk about having your backs against the wall!

Why you would need a referee for a match with no rules is beyond me, but we had one to night. In an attempt to beef up attendance, TNA selected legendary Chicago Bear musclehead and former WCW wrestler Steve "Mongo" McMichael as the ref for the Monster's Ball. I guess Mongo's only job was to count three (and he didn't do very well even at that). McMichael's put on a ton of weight and gotten a real bad hairdo since the Four Horsemen days but he's still real popular in Chicago. In fact, he came to the ring wearing a shirt with a referee's stripes on the front and his Bear colors and number on the back!

This match was off the hook. Almost impossible to follow at times, it really did go all over the place, though unfortunately it never came too close to my section. Every weapon under the sun was used by the partcipants. Brother Ray of Team 3D had promised unforgettable violence and he delivered, dragging a cheese grater not once buy several times across Abyss' forehead, until the Monster became a bloody mess. But that wasn't all for poor Abyss. Ray and Brother Devon later slammed the poor goof through a burning table! Now this is the first time I've ever seen a man set on fire. And yes, kids, he was set on fire...Abyss' jumpsuit from the insane asylum was ablaze and he had to be put out by a fire extinguisher. He staggered to the backstage area and never re-emerged...I understand he got second degree burns on the arms and shoulders.

The rest of the warriors weren't set on fire, but everybody suffered some kind of traumatic blast. Homicide of LAX, a man not known for peaceful restraint, dug open the head of Brother Devon with his faithful "ghetto fork". His partner Hernandez clobbered Robert Roode so hard in the head with a kendo stick that Roode was later diagnosed with a concussion. Trash can lids and the trash cans themselves got used with abandon. Matt Morgan grabbed a dry erase board from a fan and clobbered everybody with it.

Steve McMichael has to be the slowest, drunkest referee ever, making even Bronco Lubich look like greased lightning. His counts were pathetically slow all night long, but I'll give him this...they were slow for EVERYBODY, not just one team. Beer Money did take particular exception to Mongo's slowness though and challenged the ex-Bear to a three point stance faceoff. As you might expect, things did not go too well for Storm and Roode in this encounter. McMichael seemed to be having the time of his life during Monster's Ball.

Everybody got to hit one big move. Matt Morgan botched one move, which the crowd unmercifully hounded him for, but more than made up for it when he hit an INCREDIBLE flying body block from the top rope to wrestlers on the floor. This 7 foot giant can really go and he hasn't even hit his stride yet. But once his partner Abyss was out of action, Morgan's number was up. Equally impressive was the hulking Hernandez, maybe the strongest man in wrestling today. This dude flew like a lightweight around the ring yet he could manhandle even big boys like Brother Ray and Abyss. Am I the only guy who thinks that one day Hernandez could be a world singles champion?

The end to the mayhem came when Hernandez tried to put Robert Roode through a table covered with tacks. Team 3D got the drop on the big man and put him through the table himself with their patented 3D move. Somehow amidst all of this, Roode got the pin on Hernandez. So Beer Money beat the odds and retained their titles. I would have bet against it at the beginning of the match. In fact, since 3D just resigned with TNA for a couple more years, I was thinking they might get the titles as a reward. One thing that they proved for sure and that is that they are just as hardcore as they were 12 years ago at the smoke-filled bingo hall in Philadelphia.

You would think that the crowd would be exhausted after such an insane donnybrook, but tonight was special and the Chicago crowd kept up their high level of enthusiasm all night long. Next up was a 3 man match that I think many were expecting to steal the show...Christian Cage, A.J. Styles and Booker T squaring off against each other. With three wrestlers of this caliber, you simply can't go wrong and these guys delivered a great back and forth contest where each man got his moment to shine.

In fact, each of the wrestlers got cheered, despite Booker being an outright heel and Christian seeming to lean that way again. The word is going around that Christian may soon be leaving TNA and heading back to WWE. That would be a shame, as he is the best guy on the mike in the game today and a tremendous wrestler. I was hoping he would come out on top here, but it was not to be. The veteran Booker T got the win, which was obtained with the help of his "Queen" Sharmell and the mysterious briefcase she's been toting around the last few weeks. For a guy in his 40's, Booker is a terrific athlete and more than held his own here. But as usual, the show was stolen by the "Phenomenal One", A. J. Styles. Has this guy ever blown a move??? He is not only one of the best wrestlers I have seen, but one of the best athletes PERIOD and he delivered more of his breath-taking aerial offense in this match. It looks like A.J. may be taking on Sting in the near future, which would be a good match for sure, but lacking the intensity that Styles could deliver with the likes of Christian and Kurt Angle.

That left only the two main events to go. Already the card had delivered big time but the anticipation surrounding these two matches had reached stratospheric heights. The Olympic hero Kurt Angle had managed to goad former TNA champ Jeff Jarrett out of retirement with some low-class attacks on Double J's family. Out of the ring for two years following the tragic death of his wife due to cancer, Jarrett was bound to be rusty. He once dominated TNA so thoroughly that it was starting to hurt the promotion. I know I was pretty sick of the "King of the Mountain".

It was a different man that we saw tonight. In a pre-match interview, we saw a sobbing Jarrett dedicate the match to his three young daughters, who Angle had mocked previously. This interview didn't go over so well with the tough Chicago crowd. Which is a good place to bring up that the live crowd missed all the backstage interviews and comedy skits that TNA injected into the home version of the PPV. As far as I was concerned, it was much preferrable to concentrate solely on the matches and leave the goofy, Russo-written soap opera and low comedy behind.

An added X-factor and attraction to the match was the presence of the "special enforcer", Mick Foley, in his first TNA PPV appearance. What more can you say about this guy, except that he is one of the most beloved and unique characters in wrestling? Foley was never really much of a wrestler in his former guises of Cactus Jack and Mankind, but he was certainly one of the most charismatic...not to mention insane...performers in wrestling. Despite having the exact opposite of the body type preferred by modern promoters, Foley's used his ability to create a personality and his absolute disregard for his personal well-being to become an icon...somebody who has actually managed to transcend pro wrestling. His acquisition by TNA was a huge step forward for them. So far every "Bound for Glory" has brought somebody acting as "special enforcer"...which is basically someone who stands outside the ring waiting for the referee to inevitably get knocked out so they can jump in and confuse the outcome of the match.

With Foley standing rather quietly outside the ring after getting a huge pop, the long anticipated match got
underway. Despite Kurt Angle's heinous actions and callous disregard of the fans, he still had plenty of rabid supporters in the crowd. I guess Olympic heroes die hard. Or maybe people just remember Jarrett's interminable reigns as TNA champion. Double J got a mixed welcome from the crowd, but it was nice to hear a "thank you, Jeff" chant for the founder of TNA.

This was a great oldschool match with plenty of psychology and build-up. It started slower than most modern matches and reminded me of some old AWA title matches. There was tons of drama, high impact moves and solid wrestling. After being out of the ring for two years, Jarrett didn't look rusty at all. He hit a great drop kick and managed to exchange hold for hold with of the greatest pure wrestlers of all time. Again, the Chicago crowd was into the match even during the slower moments, with duelling chants for Jarrett and Angle filling the arena.

Hell inevitably broke loose when the regular referee was predictably knocked silly in a collision. Cue the entrance of Foley, who so far had been restrained to the point of invisible. Angle crushed the hardcore icon with a chairshot to the head that they could probably hear at the Sears made me cringe, especially thinking of all the head trauma Mick has endured over the years. As you might expect, Foley didn't take this lying down and managed to hit Kurt with his most dreaded finishing maneuver...Mr. Socko!

After a match that was mostly solid wrestling, the ending was a controversial train wreck as Jarrett blasted Angle in the head with his trusty guitar, leading to a three count and a win for the "King of the Mountain". Double J did indeed look good during the match, but I question having Angle lose another high profile match, especially to a guy who hasn't wrestling in a long time. It also brings up fears of replaying Jarrett's previous dominance, where the champion just happened to be the guy who ran the company. But despite the quibbles, this was a tremendous wrestling match that was entertaining from start to finish. Where they will go with Angle, JJ and Foley from here is anybody's guess...

Only one bout was left to cap off the evening, the "Battle For Respect" between TNA Heavyweight Champion Samoa Joe and the iconic veteran, Sting. And what a controversial battle it was. This explosive confrontation had been building for several months, with the mysterious Sting tongue-lashing TNA youngsters like Joe and A.J. Styles for their lack of respect for the veterans. Sting put his bat where his mouth was by helping veterans like Booker T get wins. Samoa Joe was hardly impressed with Sting's actions and pretty much proved Sting's point by acting like a bargain basement thug in the confrontations between the two. Everything built towards tonight's match, which had one blockbuster stipulation: there would be no rematch for the loser. If adhered to, that was a pretty strong stip to add.

I've been a Sting fan since the late 80's when he burst onto the scene with classic battles with Ric Flair. Many have felt his recent actions were suspect, but I'm of the opinion that Sting has EARNED the right to make his point known. He could have easily become a full-fledged heel but avoided that trap pretty well. His arguments for respect were well-reasoned and his respect for the fans was obvious. And that respect was returned in Chicago tonight, as Sting got the lion's share of fan support against a popular champion. Samoa Joe is a phemomenal athlete and at this stage of his career, he is clearly stronger, faster and more brutal than Sting. But he is NOT a better champion and he proved it tonight, playing the arrogant heel and mugging to the crowd. I think this is the better role for Joe...a bonecrushing thug in the mold of Big Van Vader. Joe certainly had some supporters in the crowd tonight, but at every point he seemed to affirm Sting's opinion of him as a man without respect.

The early match was TOTALLY dominated by Joe, who used size and quickness to master the veteran Sting. Joe took Sting into the crowd and smashed him from pillar to post. The referee was lax to the point of being non-existant as Joe dragged Sting up the stairs to the top of the arena, where he unleashed one of the most devastating moves I've seen in my 35 year + history of watching wrestling. With a dazed Sting standing on the steps, surrounded by a howling crowd, Joe got on top of one of the luxury boxes and launched a missile drop kick onto the icon, flying probably 15 feet through the air. A "HOLY SHIT!" chant started ala ECW and I couldn't disagree. This was an AMAZING offensive move that I thought was reckless to the point of insanity.

Naturally, this was where Sting started his comeback. Striking with kicks and punches, Sting managed to get Joe back into the ring, where he started to launch his offense. No doubt Joe was shocked at the fact that Sting was not only still standing, but fighting effectively.

Joe eventually got the better of the Icon again after several intense minutes of equal combat and once more, he used brutal tactics such as slamming Sting into the guard rail. Once again he showed disrespect by refusing to pin Sting and instead taunting him. There was no doubt Joe was going the total heel route in Chicago tonight. With the match again peaking in intensity, a visitor made his way to ringside...Kevin Nash.

The aging big man had been considering returning to WWE, but his appearance here obviously announced he was staying with TNA. For most of 2008, Nash had a voltaile relationship with Joe as a mentor, trying to teach him the ropes of being a champion. And it looked like he would be helping Joe again tonight. When Sting reached for his trusty baseball bat to rattle Joe's cage, it was grabbed out of his hands by Nash. Then the controversy started....when Joe was tossed into the ropes near him, Nash used the baseball bat to level his former pupil, leaving him ripe to be pinned by Sting. The ref hit the 1-2-3 and Sting had once again won the TNA title at Bound For Glory, as he had during the previous two BFG events.

Nash's swerve wasn't a surprise to me. The question is, was it a good idea for Sting to win the title due to outside interference? Many armchair quarterbacks think that Sting should have "passed the torch" to Samoa Joe tonight. I disagree...I thought Sting showed terrific endurance for a guy pushing 50 and he definitely deserves another run with the belt. Joe's time will come again, but I'm thinking it will come as a heel. Yes, I would have liked to have seen Sting pin Joe clean, but that might have made Joe look too weak. The no-rematch clause means Joe cannot challenge Sting for the belt again. Let's see Sting defend the title a couple of times and Joe earn his way back to the big match.

It was a super dramatic ending to one of the best TNA pay per views ever. Any complaints about the booking were slight, as far as I was concerned. All the hassles getting into the arena (and also getting out of it) were worth it and "Bound For Glory" revived a lot of my faith in TNA. Yes, the TV show can sometimes be really stupid, no doubt about it, but live, they delivered big time. I'm hoping the great response tonight ensures that Bound For Glory will return to Chicago next year. If so, I will definitely be there!!!