I don’t think there ever was a time where people weren’t predicting imminent death for TNA Wrestling but when TNA’s poorly rated flagship, weekly show Impact Wrestling was canceled by Fox Sports Net in the Spring of 2005, death seemed closer than usual. With no other way to promote its monthly pay per views, the company began filming its shows in marathon, four hour tapings and offering the episodes through its website, using BitTorrent and then later RealPlayer (2005, ladies and gentlemen). These hardly seemed like fitting venues for a promotion aspiring to be the #2 professional wrestling in North America. Huh. People watching stuff on the internet? CRAZY! 2005!
However, a weird thing happened when TNA was in the hinterlands of the internet. They started listening to the internet wrestling community. Because…well, that was pretty much the only fans they had left. WWE’s ECW’s One Night Stand was an enormous hit amongst the IWC (and let’s be fair, it was a pretty big hit in general)? Let’s showcase the ECW guys that WWE didn’t want for their officially sanctioned reunion. ROH is building buzz? Let’s go after some of their stars. TNA even directly asked their fans who they wanted to see wrestle for the promotion and went out and signed some of the guys.
Of course, it wasn’t all hunky dory (some of the ECW guys that were passed over for One Night Stand, were passed off for a GOOD reason. Jeff Jarrett still insisted on shoohorning himself into the main event, and there were a lot of warmed over names leftover from the Monday Night Wars being showcased over younger talent) but there was a sense that TNA was listening and its no-frills presentation won over fans that had been alienated by the company’s Attitude era light presentation (RUSSO!).
Plus good news was on the horizon. TNA was debuting on SpikeTV, the network that had just severed its ties with WWE (and started its relationship with UFC), on October 1st, 2005. Plus it had debuted an unlikely star in portly, submission machine Samoa Joe. TNA was beginning to see a little light towards the end of the tunnel. But could it walk towards it without tripping over its feet? We’ll see….
September 11th, 2005
Live from the Impact Zone in Orlando, Florida
Announcers: Mike Tenay & Don West
Show opens with the James Earl Jones soundalike TNA loved to use in the mid to late ’00s narrating an ad for the show.
And we actually get the full pre-show for the show, as part of the main presentation. I’m guessing TNA didn’t have the funds to just edit this out and include it as a special feature. Jeremy Borash & Shane Douglas (who I forgot was a backstage interviewer at this point even though I just watched a PPV with him as a backstage interviewer a few months back!) are hosting. Borash looks like he’s spent way too much time in the tanning bed. They throw it to Larry Zbyszko, who had some sort of authority role. Director of Operations? *checks Wikipedia* Director of Authority.
Larry Zbyszko hits on backstage interviewer Traci Brooks and then announces that the NWA World Title match between Champion Raven and challenger Rhino will be contested under Raven’s Rules, which means, there are NO rules. Raven asked for the stipulation and he’s gonna get it!
Jeremy Borash hypes TNA’s debut on Spike on October 1st and it’s time for our first free for all match.
Pre-Show Bonus Match: Cassidy Riley Vs Jerrelle Clark
Speaking of Raven, Cassidy Riley is a
member of the Flock, a follower of Raven’s, which is an angle I don’t really remember. His Raven Cosplay sort of makes him look like a teenage lesbian from 1996. Speaking of forgettable, he’s facing “Mr. 630” Jerrelle Clark, a wrestler who doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page. I remember he main evented an indy show here in Maine and one of the local wrestling websites said Jerrelle Clark was WAY better than the current crop of ROH main eventers who were ruining the company like CM Punk, Colt Cabana, and Nigel whatshiface. I wonder if that New England indy fan is somewhere grousing that Mr. 630 should have had a 434 Day Run with the WWE Title.
Anyway, musings about the 2005 Maine indy scene aside, there isn’t much of a match here as just a minute or so in, Monty Brown runs in and pummels Jerrelle Clark causing the ref to call the back. Cassidy Riley tries to fight off Brown but gets POUNCED! I guess we’re gonna have to say NO RATING for this one.
Monty Brown cuts a promo, saying that he’s waited two years for a shot and he’s not gonna wait any longer. He wants a shot at the NWA World Title and challenges the winner of Raven Vs Rhino to a match at Bound For Glory next month. Jeff Jarrett storms out and berates Monty Brown. Monty just saw him in the back and Monty had to know Double J was gonna challenge for the title. Their buddy Kip James tries to stop their bickering. Jeff Hardy interrupts and says he’s the one who deserves a title shot and a brawl ensues.
Vignette for Raven Vs Rhino.
Traci talks to AJ Styles, who cuts a promo about the main event Triple Threat for the X Division title that was probably not very memorable because I didn’t write any comments on it other than it happened. X-Division’s known for high flyin, not for talkin’.
Pre-Show Bonus Match: Shark Boy Vs Mikey Batts
Mikey Batts, third super forgettable wrestler of this pre-show. He wears a white full body suit that looks strikingly similar to what Seth Rollins wore last month at SummerSlam. It earns him a “White Power Ranger” chant from the crowd. There’s not much to this match either. It’s a truncated version of a half assed house show opener with Shark Boy catching a win three minutes in with the Deep Sea Drop. * Not sure how short, mediocre squash matches were supposed to entice people into buying the show.
Since this show happened on 9/11, we get a dedication to the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center & Pentagon and United Flight 93 to start the show.
This show also took place on Opening Day of NFL Season so we get an opening video package set to the Monday Night Football (or a very close soundalike… guessing the latter) with a not bad Howard Cossell impersonator narrating the action. OK then.
Six Man Tag: 3Live Kru Vs The Diamonds in The Rough
Diamonds in the Rough are comprised of Simon Diamond, Elix Skipper, and David Young. That’s a random grouping of wrestlers. Sometimes, when you stick a bunch of wrestlers together with nothing better to do, magic happens. Sometimes you get The Diamonds in the Rough. 3LiveKru are reunited after some tension in the group earlier in the summer. This is another match that is pretty basic and is just there to rev up the crowd. This must be nearing the end of Konnan’s career as he only comes in at the end to hit the FaceJam on David Young for the win. This just felt like a TV match but hey, the crowd enjoyed it. *1/2
We get a recap of the pre-show segment with Monty Brown, Double J, and Jeff Jarrett.
Austin Aries Vs Roderick Strong
This is a special showcase match between “Two internet favorites”, who weren’t yet technically signed with TNA. Aries had a won a Fan Poll to decide which “independent wrestling star” would face X Division Champion Christopher Daniels at the previous month’s pay per view, Sacrifice. This is an eight minute long, Cliff Notes version of a classic, twenty minute match. They do a really good job with the time given. Mike Tenay explains both guys’ background and their past history against each other on the indy circuit very nicely. Nice story of Aries not wanting to embarrass himself and lose his first two matches in TNA. He gets the win with the 450 Splash. ***1/2
Shane Douglas talk to Kip James & Monty Brown. Kip James thinks Monty Brown’s distracted bickering with Jeff Jarrett and angling for a World Title shot. Monty Brown thinks Kip James is distracted by him being distracted. They bicker for a bit. They got to find a way to get along because they’re facing Apolo and Lance Hoyt next.
Apolo and Lance Hoyt (with Sonny Siaki) Vs Kip James & Monty Brown
Apolo & Lance Hoyt come out with their injured friend, Sonny Siaki. Sonny Siaki is Apolo’s normal tag team partner but was attacked by James & Brown and is now in a neckbrace. Apolo & Lance Hoyt make him go to the back because it’s not save for him to be out here. Kip James & Monty Brown enter. James poses with a fan wearing a NIN shirt…that’s not Nine Inch Nails…that’s No Introduction Needed (you already know my name) shirt that Kip wore when he debuted in TNA. Basically to say “Hey. You already know that I’m Billy Gunn but legally, TNA can’t call me that!”
Lance Hoyt is really over with the fans in the Impact Zone, I think, purely because he’s a homegrown guy that worked his way up over the years. Cause he kind of reminds me of a less memorable version of Test. Actually, he’s the first of two guys I’ll use that descriptor for. My antipathy towards Apolo is mildly known amongst my rasslin fan friends. Somehow, he ended up being the top face for a local indy here for years. He just reminds me of a Latino Dino Bravo. Just a big, hulking galoot who isn’t particularly talented or charismatic but gets by just cause he’s kind of big.
James & Brown get the win, despite their bickering when Monty Brown hits the POUNCE on Apolo. Result was really never in doubt here. I think the James & Brown bickering bit was just a Mcguffin. Because I don’t see them losing to a pair of career midcarders when James was a recent big signing and Brown was trying to get in the World Title scene. At least not in TNA. Because “Geez, bickering team loses to team clearly inferior to them?” That’s CRAZY STORYTELLING! Makes too much sense! **
Traci talks to Team Canada. Eric Young acts crazy (remember, we’re just a few months away from the “Don’t Fire Eric!” angle and EY dressing in drag), Bobby Roode vows to beat Jeff Hardy later, and everyone yells at A1 for not picking up the slack.
Petey Williams Vs Chris Sabin
Petey Williams is a last minute replacement for Shocker, who wasn’t able to make it to the show in time after wrestling a show the previous night in rural Mexico. This is definitely a case of the replacement being way better than the original scheduled match. Sabin & Williams were both trained together by Scott D’Amore and it’s obvious that they’ve wrestled each other countless times and they have a nice, worn in chemistry in the ring. Story here is both wrestlers having finishers that are inescapable (Petey Williams with the Canadian Destroyer, which ten years later, is still one of the most innovative in wrestling. Chris Sabin with the CradleShock) which leads to a nice set of reversals at the end, leading to Sabin getting the win with the CradleShock. ***1/2
After the match, Matt Bentley runs in and superkicks Sabin then superkicks Williams. Well, way to make the last ten minutes feel like kind of a waste. Bentley says a lot of people thought he was going up North. No, no one thought you were going up North, Matt Bentley! If you’re Shawn Michaels’ cousin (who was also trained by the Heartbreak Kid) and you’re not already with WWE, WWE probably doesn’t want you for a reason! Anyway, Matt Bentley’s another guy that’s over with a lot of the crowd just on the basis of being a TNA guy. He proposes Ultimate X next month at Bound For Glory and Tenay & Don West flip the fuck out.
No DQ Match: Abyss (With James Mitchell) Vs Sabu
Sabu had returned in late July after surviving a near death illness with a virus (and brief retirement) and appearing at ECW One Night Stand. Him and Anything of a “dream match” with Sabu obviously being a hardcore legend and Abyss being, I guess, the closest thing TNA has to a homegrown hardcore legend. The crowd does duelling ECW and TNA chants. This is a Sabu match. As far as those go, this is not bad. Especially for one a few years after Sabu’s prime (and a year after Sabu nearly died). Abyss gets a mild upset win with Abyss hitting a Black Hole Slam on Sabu onto some thumbtacks. **1/2
Shane Douglas talks with Alex Shelley, who recently won the Chris Candido Memorial Cup with Sean Waltman to earn a NWA World Tag Team Titles. Sean Waltman’s nowhere to be found but Shelley says he’ll wrestle and win the World Tag Team Titles by himself if he has to!
Jeff Hardy Vs Bobby Roode
It’s amazing to think ten years ago, Jeff Hardy was well on his way to being a Marty Jannetty-esque burnout. Of course, the Summer of 2005, was probably the peak of his brother Matt’s relevance too so that didn’t help but during this era, it felt like Jeff Hardy was blowing it. Five years earlier, it seemed like Jeff Hardy was a strong potential candidate for Wrestler of the ’00s. Then he burned out of WWE and at this point, was well on his way to burning himself out of TNA. He wasn’t fooling anybody. He looks bad. Most of the fans that weren’t women and children had turned against him and he gets a heel reaction despite being supposedly one of TNA’s top babyfaces. In-ring wise, he was just barely holding it together but obviously a shell of his former self. Roode gets the win following a bunch of interference from Team Canada and Double J. Double J whacks Hardy with the hockey stick and Roode covers for the pin. **
Crappy WCW-esque video package for the Four Way Elimination match for the NWA World Tag Team Titles. The Naturals & America’s Most Wanted hate each other but they’re gonna have to work together if they want to be Team Canada. Alex Shelley though is S.O.L. since Sean Waltman no-showed though!
Shane Douglas is with The Naturals and Jimmy Hart. I don’t remember Jimmy Hart being an active manager in 2005. America’s Most Wanted interrupt and say the title is gonna be theirs in a few minutes!
Four Way Elimination Match for the NWA World Tag Team Titles: The Naturals (c) (With Jimmy Hart) Vs Alex Shelley Vs America’s Most Wanted Vs Team Canada
Chris Candido’s father Don and brother Johnny are in attendance for this match. Tenay and West bury Sean Waltman for no-showing an event dedicated to the memory of Chris Candido. Surely, Waltman would never work in TNA again (he was back in TNA four months later). That’s another sign of TNA’s status of the time, dudes were constantly no-showing their pay per views at the last minute. That’s only happened a few times in WWE (and not that much back when WCW was around) but it seems like every TNA pay per view in the Mid ’00s had someone deciding to no-show at the last minute.
Anyway, the other three teams beat down poor Alex Shelley before Johnny Candido decides he’s had enough and enters the ring to help him out. Tenay reminds us that Johnny Candido is a trained wrestler. He clears house. I guess just jumping in the ring during a tag team match where one of the guys’ partner isn’t there makes you that guy’s partner. I appreciate the sentiment and attempt at a feel good moment but that is D-U-M-B. Of course, it’s all moot because Johnny Candido gets low blowed by Andy Douglas then rolled up for the pin.
America’s Most Wanted gets eliminated after A1 hits Chris Harris in the back with the hockey stick. It’s down to Naturals and Team Canada. Team Canada shoves poor Jimmy Hart to the ground but he dusts himself off and Naturals retain the titles after they hit the Natural Disaster on A1. **
Shane Douglas talks to Rhino. Rhino spends as much of the promo, badmouthing his time in WWE as he does talking about his match with Raven. HE SPENT THE LAST FOUR YEARS IN WRESTLING HELL! WHERE PEOPLE TOLD HIM HOW TO SHOW EMOTION! WELL NO MORE! This was sort of bush league to me, even if there was a good point in there.
Raven’s Rules Match for the NWA World Heavyweight Title: Raven (c) Vs Rhino
Even after all of the video packages for this match, I’m STILL not sure who is supposed to be the face and who is supposed to be the heel. I guess they’re both tweeners. Anyway, again, I actually think TNA was smart to push the ex ECW guys at this point because in 2005, ECW was arguably bigger than it was when it was actually in existence. TNA pushing the ECW guys in 2010? Not as smart. But at this point, even though these guys were a bit past their primes, they could still go and were fresh people’s mind. This is a lot like their really underrated match from WWF Backlash ’01, just a step or two slower (and not quite as good). ECW years like dog years. Even though that aforementioned match took place four years earlier, it might as well have taken place ten years earlier. Just a really solid, no frills hardcore match. Cassidy Riley is a dope and almost costs Raven the match but Raven eventually gets the win with the Evenflow DDT. *** Props to these guys for taking a backseat and props to TNA for recognizing that there’s no way that this match would be able to top what we’re about to see next. Even though the match was for a secondary title and with guys who weren’t as big names as these two, they had to know which match was gonna steal the show.
Video package for Christopher Daniels Vs AJ Styles Vs Samoa Joe.
Three Way Match for the TNA X Division Championship: Christopher Daniels (c) Vs AJ Styles Vs Samoa Joe
My first observation is man, almost a decade’s worth of crappy TNA booking has kind of aged these guys. These three just look so young & eager. This is one of those matches that is electric from the word “go” and you know seconds in that you’re going to witness something special. Just like Owen Hart Vs Bret Hart at WrestleMania X or some of the Steamboat-Flair matches. Just a case of right match, right crowd, right moment. X-Division was ready to go from being a side show to the main event. This showed that these guys could hang with any main eventer. I got to say the level of energy in this crowd is jarring after watching current TNA shows from the Impact Zone. I think, at times, they’re almost too enthusiastic but I think their level of appreciation is appropriate for this match. Everything is executed flawlessly. Samoa Joe gets knocked out of the ring after Daniels kicks the belt into his head. Styles gets the win after blocking the Angel’s Wings from Daniels and pinning him with a bridge. This is almost definitely Match of the Year for 2005 and a defining moment for TNA. *****
Even though the undercard was mostly inoffensive and featured some fun, little matches, this is essentially a one match show. But what a match. It really seemed like TNA was turning a corner and shifting the focus away from Jeff Jarrett & Friends and towards the X Division with the close of this show. Of course, Jeff Jarrett would win the NWA World Title just four days after this show (and then again at Slammiversary 2006) and Samoa Joe wouldn’t win the World Title until 2008. It’s gonna be interesting to see the struggle in trying to find TNA’s direction as I rewatch these shows. It seems like they alternated between being a modern day version of WCW, a modern day version of Attitude Era WWF, and a glossier version of ROH. Sometimes, they found the right balance and ended up seeming like a legit, exciting alternative. Most of the time….well, it was TNA. There is a deluge of crap but stuff like the main event here makes the last thirteen years of TNA Wrestling worthwhile. Well, maybe.
Later this week on Ten Years After… John Cena defends the WWE Title against the man who defeated him back in Cena’s very first WWE match, the Olympic Gold Medalist and Four Time WWE Champion Kurt Angle! Plus Shawn Michaels battles the undefeated Chris Masters and 16 Time World Champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair goes for his first Intercontinental Championship against Carlito! I look back at WWE Unforgiven 2005 as part of “Un” Week at Culture Crossfire!