Mickie James challenges Tara for the TNA Knockouts Championship after returning from three months on the shelf.

The Background
• James earned her shot at the belt on the November 12 episode of Impact Wrestling by winning a battle royal. It was her first appearance on Impact since August 2 – she’d been out after having surgery to have a benign mass removed.
• Tara faced her challenger last Thursday on Impact, and was interrupted by the returning Velvet Sky, who made it clear that she wanted to regain the Knockouts belt in 2013.

The Match
• The two veterans started out with some mat wrestling, but quickly got more aggressive, with Mickie throwing Tara about by the hair and following it up with some quick pin attempts and a headscissors out of the corner.
• All the time, the challenger was keeping an eye on Tara’s boyfriend Jesse Godderz, though her concern with him gave the titleholder the opportunity to strike, and attacked her on the outside of the ring.
• Jesse’s interference also meant that a flash sunset flip pin by James was missed by referee Taryn Terrell, who was admonishing him for climbing onto the apron.
• James managed to mount a comeback with upkicks and clotheslines, as well as a big Thesz Press from the top to the floor. However, as she cut Godderz’s interference off with a kick, she was snared by Tara, who hit the Widow’s Peak for the pinfall.

Thoughts
• Thumbs up. It was a good match with a story that made total sense. Mickie James was concerned about the involvement of Godderz, which was warranted – considering it was his distraction which caused Tara to get the heat in the match, and also provided the opening for Tara to hit the match-winning Widow’s Peak.
• As you would expect for two women with a combined wrestling knowledge of around 25 years, the wrestling was nice and smooth with no awkward moments, and even some nice touches like Mickie landing on her feet when Tara attempted a hiptoss.
• However, there are a couple of nitpicks, and none of them are to do with Tara or Mickie. First off, I’m over the gimmick of Taryn Terrell as the Knockouts ref. With her tight top and hot pants, she is everything that a referee shouldn’t be, and that’s visible. You shouldn’t notice a great ref, but the commentators make a point of discussing her, and she is always kept in the camera shot. It distracts from what the wrestlers are doing, and that’s not right.
• Similarly, Velvet Sky was nowhere to be seen, so why was there such a big deal about her interjecting herself into the hard sell square-off on Thursday – as well as a video package recapping her return before the match last night? She could have returned on the upcoming show and interrupted Tara’s victory speech, but her return last week unnecessarily muddied the waters…

- Lee Burton