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Glorious Sprints – A Motor City Machine Guns Retrospective

Television demands a different style of wrestling. Rather than an independent show or a PPV, where people have generally plunked down their financial investment upfront and are more willing to be taken on a long form journey, television viewers are more flighty. They have near countless alternatives. There are hundreds of other programs and channels vying for their attention at once, not to mention the copious other things people could be doing. If a match is boring, they can simply change the channel at no cost. So television wrestling inherently has to be more dynamic, faster paced and shorter form. More explosive and energetic. If it’s not, people will find something else to watch.

There have been few more capable of making the absolute most of television time through the years than The Motor City Machine Guns. Partly because they had to – they were rarely afforded a considerable amount of time to work with – and partly because The Guns checked all the boxes mentioned above that makes for great television wrestling. I’m gonna go back and revisit a bunch of those matches – the best of the Guns’ TV sprints. This is by no means a retrospective of The Guns’ best matches, rather a look at them at their condensed rocket fueled best.

The Motor City Machine Guns vs. Jay Lethal and Sonjay Dutt – TNA Impact (May 10, 2007)

This was The Guns’ first match on TNA television. Well that’s not entirely true, they had a couple of Xplosion matches before this but since much of Xplosion has been lost to time this will have to do. Shelley and Sabin wowed unloading a series of double teams in the X-scape match the month prior at Lockdown and TNA in their infinite wisdom threw them together as a team and waited three years to actually push them. Lethal was full Black Machismo here, which is honestly still the most interested I’ve ever been in Jay Lethal. Sonjay was jealous of Lethal becoming Kevin Nash’s favorite X-Division son because of his awesome Randy Savage impression but he was the standout of this match. The Guns showed glimpses of the dazzling double team brilliance that would be their hallmark but Sonjay was just a giant ball of energy flying all over the place. The best part of this whole match was when Bob Backlund, yes that Bob Backlund, attacked The Guns because they jumped out of a tree at him and stole his book. The whole Guns/Bob Backlund program was very strange and rather delightful.

The Motor City Machine Guns vs. AJ Styles and Tomko – TNA Impact (December 27, 2007)

First of all, I must mention a brief moment earlier in this show where the audience was led to believe that Karen Angle had just walked in on JB and Kurt in a moment of intamacy because of her failings as a wife. Brilliant. Styles and Tomko were a really underrated team. Their big man/small man dynamic was a lot of fun. Though Styles teaming with anybody was a lot of fun because AJ is a fantastic tag team wrestler. Well, AJ is just a fantastic wrestler in general really. This was one of the many little teases we got through the years of what a full Chris Sabin/AJ Styles match would look like. All the teases were wonderful and yet it never happened. They were a treat together, though that is little surprise. AJ was repeatedly distracted by Eric Young, who was trying to help AJ choose between Christian and Angle in their war. Eric Young talked to AJ about how any cereal that has the word berry in it is good for you, that’s science. Goofy Eric Young was the best Eric Young. AJ would later kick TNA’s camera crew out of his granny’s house as he struggled to make that decision. Goofy AJ was the best AJ.

The Motor City Machine Guns vs. Christian Cage and Rhino – TNA Impact (April 24, 2008)

This is the closest to cheating here. Yes, it’s still a TV match but it’s not entirely a sprint (it went twelve minutes). It was worked like a sprint though so it counts. This is one of the random little fun TV matches that makes the TNA library so much fun. Rhino and Christian were a pretty short lived but really nifty team and pairing them with The Guns made for a perfect contrast. Christian and Rhino’s experience and power vs. The Guns’ teamwork and speed, accentuated by Christian’s top notch eye for constructing tag team matches. Full of inventive sequences and topped by an absolutely awesome finish (Rhino cut off the ASCS Rush with a Gore allowing Christian to put Sabin away with the Unprettier), this is the kind of match that makes me sad when people write off or dismiss TNA. TNA’s highest highs are fine. People will remember Angle vs. Joe and people will still talk about Styles vs. Daniels vs. Joe. It’s matches like this that people will miss because you’d have to actively seek this out. It’ll likely never appear on any top 50 TNA lists (it didn’t appear on mine) or come as the highest of highly recommended matches but it’s just a damn enjoyable TV match on every level. There’s an absolute boatload of this kind of gems buried in TNA history waiting for people to dig them up. I wish more people would.

The Motor City Machine Guns vs. Masato Yoshino and Naruki Doi – TNA Impact (June 12, 2008)

If you were to simply mention the words “TV sprint,” this is the match that would immediately spring to my mind. I love the World X-Cup. I loved when TNA formed a global coalition to bring together matches that you would simply never find anywhere else (and I’m incredibly happy GFW are reverting to that formula in 2017). It gave Impact a different energy, a unique flavor. This match was maybe the pinnacle of wacky TNA fly ins. This was just seven minutes of pure unadulterated action. This truly lived up to the Total Nonstop Action name. A legit dream match, this was two teams going absolutely bonkers nuts. Doi and Yoshino looked amazing. The Guns were The Guns. This was special. Two of the fastest paced teams of their generation unloading insane double teams and stringing together flawlessly executed intricate sequences. This is what all TV matches should strive to be. No nonsense, no filler, no stalling – an unbottled whirlwind of action. Raw kinetic energy unleashed onto the world.

The Motor City Machine Guns vs. Volador Jr and Hiroshi Tanahashi – TNA Impact (October 30, 2008)

I’ll be honest, I only included this because it was funny (and a little surreal) to watch Hiroshi Tanahashi work an utterly inconsequential three-minute mid-card tag match. Can you imagine ROH treating Tanahashi like that? Naito, Okada, Tanahashi, and Goto (Nakamura even worked a forgotten Xplosion match) have all worked this kind of match for TNA. It’s so weird. Tanahashi came out to High Energy though so you can’t really ask for much more. Also, Tanahashi and Volador would go on to team together on a bunch on Fantasticamania shows so TNA were clearly revolutionaries. Did I just suggest TNA invented Fantasticamania? Maybe.

The Motor City Machine Guns vs. Beer Money – TNA Impact (July 29, 2010)

We have reached the GLORIOUS part of this Glorious Sprints column. Bobby Roode has arrived. I love The Guns vs. Beer Money best of five series. I adore it. I watch that series at least once a year. And a huge part of the reason I love it so much is that the first four matches (the ladder, street fight, cage and Ultimate X matches) are basically sprints. In fact, you can actually watch the whole series (including the absolutely incredible climactic final two out of three falls match) in around an hour. Seamlessly blending a more traditional tag team style with a modern high impact touch (and a bunch of awesome spins on gimmick matches), the series was a stirring example of tag team wrestling at its best. Two of the best teams TNA have ever had to offer, two teams with superb chemistry in front of rowdy crowds firing off more double team moves than you can shake a stick at. Everything worked.

I could pick any of the first four matches to talk about but I settled on their cage match. More brutal than their other matches (Roode bleeds a gusher), the cage forced them to work a different sort of match. Still, jam packed with action but punctuated by a spike in physicality and cage dives – this was the pure distillation of everything these two teams had to offer.

I used to hate these sort of matches. I’d look at a seven-minute Guns vs. Speed Muscle match and question why it wasn’t seventeen minutes. I’d bemoan the lost opportunities and question what could have been. There is little point in neglecting what is or what was for what could have been though. What’s done is done. Why not appreciate a wonderful sprint, a glorious art form in and of itself, for what it is rather than upset you over what it isn’t. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t critique something for its flaws or call out something that is bad, simply that things can be enjoyable in many different ways. A seven-minute Guns match could be just as enjoyable as a seventeen minute one. And the Guns were damn good at seven-minute matches. Tied all that together quite nicely, didn’t I?

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