Has there ever been a point in TNA’s history where it seems like it wasn’t uncertain? As it is today, ten years ago, TNA Wrestling seemed to be on very shaky ground. It was a promotion without much of an identity other than being Jeff Jarrett’s vanity promotion. In June 2004, it had transitioned from the era of weekly $10 pay per views into monthly pay per views and debuted a new weekly show on free TV called Impact Wrestling. Impact started with a disastrous, brief run on Fox Sports Net in a poor Friday afternoon time slot. Not only did it have a time slot but they made the weird move of having ten minute time limits for many of its matches and having Larry Zbyszko head up the judging committee. Its roster in May 2005 could be generously described as patchwork. A collection of up & comers, has-beens and never-weres. The move to weekly television afforded them the opportunity to go after some big name talent – which they used to bring on some of the major culprits in the Death of WCW. Around the time of this show, Fox Sports Net decided not to renew Impact for a second season. Things seemed pretty hopeless. But shortly we’ll see that as history has proved with TNA, the promotion seems to be most interesting once everyone has written them off.
TNA Wrestling Presents Hard Justice
May 15th, 2005
Live from the Impact Zone in Orlando, Florida
Announcers: Mike Tenay & Don West
Show opens with a ten bell salute to Chris Candido, who had passed away two weeks earlier.
A lot has been said about TNA’s WCW influence but it’s opening intro here really strains to emulate an Attitude era WWF PPV opening. I got say it’s not bad by TNA standards but they really could have tried to find their own voice…
We get a closeup on a sign that says “No Gimmics Needed” sign during the opening crowd shots.
Team Canada (with Coach D’Amore) Vs Apolo and Sonny Siaki
Team Canada is represented by Eric Young and Petey Williams here. The babyfaces enter to a knockoff of Santana & Rob Thomas’ “Smooth”, for some reason. Apolo and Sonny Siaki’s only common ground (besides both being singles wrestlers without anything better to do at the time) is they’re both guys who have a decent look but bring absolutely nothing else to the table. Apolo is like the Latino version of late ’80s Dino Bravo. Just a big charisma-less goof who gets a midcard push because—uh, he looks strong? He’s from another country? I watched this match a few days ago and I’m really trying hard to remember anything from it. EY and Petey Williams do a good job bumping for the babyfaces but Siaki & Apolo are too oafish to sell much of anything themselves. Needless to say, no one takes a Canadian Destroyer here. Team Canada wins after A1 runs in and suplexes Siaki and places Williams on top for the win. *1/2
Special Guest Referee for the main event, UFC star Tito Ortiz arrives. We then see the participants in the main event, AJ Styles and Jeff Jarrett arriving at the Impact Zone.
Mixed Tag Team Match: Chris Sabin & Traci Vs Michael Shane & Trinity
OK. Here’s the first of several instances of obvious overdubbing. WWE had trademarked “Mike Shane” for one of the Shane Twins (now that’s a forgettable gimmick) and forced TNA to change Michael Shane’s name to Matt Bentley. So the commentary for this match is (poorly) overdubbed. Michael Shane kind of represents the blandest period of the X Division. This is a pretty stereotypical mixed tag team match with a SWERVE ending as Michael Shane and Traci reveal they’ve been in cahoots all along. Traci low blows Sabin and Shane hits the Sweet Chin Music on Trinity. In terms of wrestling relatives, Michael Shane is closer to Vic Steamboat than Owen Hart. *
Mike Tenay and Don West talk about how Shane & Trinity SWERVED us all then throw in a plug for the first Slammiversary PPV next month.
Terry Taylor interviews Team Canada. Bobby Roode is PISSED about being first in the 20 Man Gauntlet for the Gold but Coach D’Amore reassures everyone that Team Canada hunts in packs and will work as a team to make sure one of them wins the Gauntlet. Taylor shows Bobby Roode who the #2 entrant in the match is and Team Canada laughs.
Director of Authority Dusty Rhodes talks to Tito Ortiz. Dusty insinuates that Tito Ortiz was picked to referee the main event over Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Dusty tells Tito Ortiz to call the match down the line and not be afraid to use force if things get out of line, daddy. Dusty Rhodes: TNA Authority Figure is another forgettable aspect of this era.
Terry Taylor interviews Raven. Raven’s opponent Jeff Hardy is a no show. HUGE surprise considering Jeff Hardy’s reliability in the mid ’00s. *eyeroll* Raven will be facing Sean Waltman instead. Raven referring to Waltman as Syxx-Pac (or X-Pac) awkwardly gets bleeped out. Raven cuts an enjoyably over the top promo that lets you know this next match is gonna be crazy.
Clockwork Orange House of Fun Match: Raven Vs Sean Waltman
Clockwork Orange House of Fun is one of those convoluted gimmick matches that TNA loves. It’s basically an ordinary street fight except TNA inexplicably puts one sixth of a steel cage up. This match takes a while to get going. Obviously, it feels sort of slapped together due to the fact that it was put together at the last minute. It sort of feels like an early precursor to the sad ECW reunion matches for the first few minutes. Luckily, things pick up towards the end and the match turns out to be a perfectly fine garbage match. Although there’s a weird moment where the match inexplicably turns into an I Quit match for some reason. Raven wins after hitting a back body drop onto Waltman onto the steel cage side, causing Waltman and the cage portion to come crashing down. Pretty impressive bump there. **1/2
Tito Ortiz talks to AJ Styles in his locker room.
We get a crappy video package for DDP & B.G. James Vs Monty Brown and The Outlaw. Which makes an already confusing 3 Live Kru/Outlaw feud even more confusing. And really doesn’t explain why DDP is involved at all.
The Taylor Made Man talks to Diamond Dallas Page. DDP is pissed because BG James hasn’t shown up yet because he’s having travel issues. Ron Killings comes in and offers to take his stablemate’s place.
Diamond Dallas Page and Ron Killings Vs Monty Brown and The Outlaw
Diamond Dallas Page’s short TNA run was forgettable. Only good aspect of it is it allowed DDP to be able to say he walked away from wrestling rather than was forced to retire. Anyway, I believe this is last match for the company. He was pretty shot at this point. This is a goofy, overbooked match. At one point, forgettable tag team Phi Delta Slam (think the Nasty Boys dressed as male cheerleaders) run in and attack DDP. They go for—whatever their finisher was but DDP hits the
RKO Diamond Cutter outta nowhere on them. The Outlaw goes for the One and the Only but he eats a Diamond Cutter too. Monty Brown though hits THE POUNCE on DDP outta nowhere to win the match for the bad guys. *1/2
Mike Tenay talks to The Naturals, about the death of Chris Candido. The Naturals know that Candido’s looking down and managing them from above.
NWA World Tag Team Titles Match: The Naturals (c) Vs America’s Most Wanted
It’s funny to look back at a time when I thought Chris Harris would be the breakout star of America’s Most Wanted. The Naturals with their headbands vaguely look like a hillbilly version of The Young Bucks. I’m honestly sort of surprised that this match is so heavy on brawling in the crowd since Raven’s plunder match was just a few matches ago. Seems like a bad layout here. I got to give props to the commentary team here for doing a great job during this match. They do a great job of telling the story here; AMW is a superior tag team but The Naturals have their number. Don West got a lot of shit, especially early on, but I thought he was a pretty damn good color commentator. What he lacked in knowledge about the business, he made up for with genuine enthusiasm. We get a Tower of Doom spot, which causes some goofy dudes in the front to start slamdancing in celebration over. Naturals win when Stevens rolls up James Storm with a fistful of tights. *** The Naturals raise Candido’s towel in celebration. Nice ending that allowed The Naturals to retain their heelish tendencies while paying tribute to their fallen manager.
Tito Ortiz wants to talk with Jeff Jarrett. Jarrett’s bodyguard tries to shoo him away and threatens to fight Ortiz, which surprisingly, doesn’t go well. Jarrett then welcomes Ortiz into his locker room.
We get a crappy video package for Christopher Daniels Vs Shocker.
TNA X Division Title Match: Christopher Daniels (c) Vs Shocker
It’s kind of a shame that Daniels spent most of his career as a serious, brooding heel when his destiny really I think was to be a smarmy jackass heel. “The Fallen Angel” gimmick isn’t bad but it’s fairly generic. Shocker is attempting to become the first Mexican X Division Champion. It’s kind of weird to think that to this day that no Mexican wrestlers have been X Division Champ, considering lucha libre’s influence on the division (which West & Tenay reiterate a lot during the match). Then again, I can’t think of a done of truly great luchadores that had extensive runs in TNA. I suppose Tigre Uno might get a run one day. Shocker reminds me a lot of the luchadores that WWF brought in in the mid ’90s to try and catch up with WCW’s cruiserweight division. Just sort of bland. Daniels wins with the Angel Wings. **
Another crappy video package for the Gauntlet for the Gold match.
Twenty Man Gauntlet for the Gold for a Shot at the NWA World Heavyweight Title
Bobby Roode is our #1 entrant as we saw earlier. #2 is Zach Gowan, making his TNA return. Now we know why Team Canada was laughing earlier! Roode has to face a guy with one leg! Roode steals Gowan’s prosthetic leg for a bit. Eric Young is #3. Team Canada somehow can’t manage to eliminate Gowan before #4 entrant Cassidy Riley arrives. This match is a who’s who of who cares? #5 is Elix Skipper, who seems to be emulating Shelton Benjamin at this stage in his career. SHARK BOY comes in at #6. He qualified for the match by winning a pre-show match against David Young. Shark Boy eliminates Zach Gowan with a bite to the ass (Elimination #1). A1 is #7. Team Canada now has three men in the ring. Chris Sabin comes in at #8 and clears house. Petey Williams is our #9 entrant and now all of Team Canada is in the ring. A1 eliminates Shark Boy (elimination #2). Cassidy Riley gets tossed out by Eric Young (elimination #3). Sonny Siaki comes in at #10. Elix Skipper goes for the top rope rana, Bobby Roode tries to knock him out but botches it and then tosses Skipper anyway (Elimination #4).
Lance Hoyt comes in at #11 and gets an inexplicably huge pop. Wha? There’s even a Lance Hoyt cheering section. He quickly tosses Eric Young (elimination #5). Michael Shane is #12. Him and Sabin eliminate each other (Eliminations #6 and #7). Sonny Siaki gets tossed by Bobby Roode and Petey Williams (elimination #8). Jerelle Clark is in at #13. He’s quickly eliminated after a ridiculous Canadian Destroyer (elimination #9). Mikey Batts is #14. Yeesh. This isn’t exactly the ’92 Rumble in terms of starpower. #15 is The Outlaw. Trytan comes in at #16. THE STARS ARE OUT TONIGHT! Outlaw tosses Mikey Batts (elimination #10). Trytan throws everyone around. #17 is Ron Killings. Team Canada gangs up on Trytan and tosses him (elimination #11). Apolo is #18. He throws everybody around for a second and then is eliminated by The Outlaw (elimination #12). B.G James comes in at #19. B.G. James has a staredown with his old pal The Outlaw before they’re jumped by Team Canada. Lance Hoyt tosses Bobby Roode (elimination #13). Hoyt then gets tossed out by A1 with some assistance from Roode on the floor (elimination #14). The tag team formerly known as The New Age Outlaws bands together and tosses Petey Williams (elimination #15) and A1 (Elimination #16)
Final Four: The Outlaw, Ron Killings, BG James, and
Our #20 entrant Abyss who immediately eliminates James and The Outlaw with a double clothesline (eliminations #17 and #18). This turns into a one on one match, won by pinfall or submission. Abyss dominates for the most part but R-Truth makes a comeback after waffling Abyss with a steel chair while the ref is distracted. Ref bump. Killings hits an axe kick off the top onto a steel chair but the ref is knocked out. Abyss hits a chokeslam onto the chair and then finishes Truth off with the Blackhole Slam.
I’m a sucker for Royal Rumble-style matches so I’d probably rate this one a bit higher than most. There was a total lack of starpower that hurt the match but I thought it was pretty good from B.G James entrance onward. ***
We get a video package hyping up AJ Styles Vs Jeff Jarrett. Some experts weigh in on the show match. I’m surprised to see Jimmy Hart amongst the talking heads. I guess he stuck around TNA after Hogan’s first aborted run with the company longer than I thought.
NWA World Heavyweight Title Match (Special Guest Referee: Tito Ortiz): Jeff Jarrett (c) Vs AJ Styles
Ortiz does not look happy to be there but that’s probably just his neutral expression. One thing worth pointing out is that at the beginning of 2005, UFC was almost in as bad of shape as TNA. They were hinging all of their hopes on new reality series The Ultimate Fighter, which was supposed to be boosted by the fact that it aired after Monday Night RAW.
Tenay & West kind of overhype the big match feel of this bout by ignoring Styles & Jarrett’s past history. They try to play it up as a once in a lifetime match when AJ Styles has beaten Jarrett for the title twice previously. It would have been smarter for them to build the match as AJ being the guy that has Jeff Jarrett’s number and the guy who is destined to end Jarrett’s almost year long title reign. Although that would have painted Double J in a mildly negative light, which is probably a huge no no in ’05. Jarrett dictates the pace of this match, which kind of hurts it. It kind of reminds me of the WrestleMania 21 main events with the savvy, veteran heel dominating until the babyface hits the comeback. Ortiz is a fairly unobtrusive celebrity guest ref for the most part. There’s a fun spot where Jarrett & AJ wrestle for the guitar and Tito tries to stop them from using it so AJ just smashes it against the ring post.
Monty Brown runs in and accidentally hits the Pounce on Jarrett. AJ tries to cover Jarrett while Ortiz is shooing away Brown. Rudy Charles runs in to try and make the count but Tito pulls him out of the ring. Only one ref in this match, jack! AJ and Tito argue a bit which leads to Double J hitting Styles below the belt. Jarrett places Style on the top. Double J shoves Tito Ortiz away a few times and Tito wallops Jarrett. AJ Styles busts on the Spiral Tap to get the win. **1/2 Styles celebrates his third NWA World Heavyweight title victory to close the show.
This show, like a lot of ’04-’05 era TNA, seems incredibly bland. Just the pro wrestling equivalent of plain mashed potatoes. Nothing on this show was egregiously horrible but nothing stood out as memorable, outside of AJ’s World Title victory. The night definitely had a lame duck, thanks to Impact Wrestling on Fox Sports Net ending a few weeks after this show. When your future is up in the air, it’s hard to put together a show that means much in the long run. It seemed like moving to the internet would be the death knell for TNA but luckily, it would just be a new beginning…
Next Time on Ten Years After… Smackdown! presents their first post ‘Mania Pay Per View, Judgment Day. John Cena makes his very first PPV title defense against former champ JBL in a I Quit Match for the WWE Championship. Plus Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero renew their classic rivalry in another one on one encounter plus Kurt Angle takes on Booker T.