Seeing as TNA/Impact Wrestling has somehow managed to survive a whopping 17 years, I decided I would set the way back machine to 2002 and watch the first ever event in the company’s history, seeing as it’s up on their official YouTube page and all.
For those who weren’t around or have expunged this period of wrestling from their memory, when TNA first started out it was as a weekly pay per view product, where they’d have a 2 hour pay per view event every week costed at a quarter of what WWE charged for its normal pay per view events.
The thinking was that, seeing as wrestling fans would pay the full amount for a 3 hour WWE event every month, they’d happily pay the same for 8 whole hours of TNA a month. It would also have the bonus of TNA not needing to have a pesky television show either, which is what wrestling had always traditionally needed to be successful.
The idea was a complete bomb and the company was pretty much dead on its feet mere months into its existence, with only investment by Bob Carter’s Panda Energy company saving it from the scrapheap. This in turn led to Bob’s daughter Dixie getting her mischievous fingers into the wrestling pie (Which led to a whole host of other issues) but TNA at least survived long enough to eventually be moved onto new owners.
Of course there were plenty of other issues too, such as Jeff Jarrett getting pushed as the top star in the company due to his dad’s involvement, even though he was a supporting player at best, and the hiring of Vince Russo to work on the creative end of things.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen this episode in full (Unless The Wrestling Channel put it on during its short period of existence and I just forgot about it) but it is cool that TNA has it up there for posterity. Hopefully there’s some good stuff on here.
The event is emanating from Huntsville, Alabama on the 19th of June 2002
Calling the action are Mike Tenay, Ed Ferrara and Don West
So we get a big pyro display to start, which brings Don West out in a bright green shirt that is possibly louder than even he is. Ed Ferrara then joins us, with horrible dreadlocks and a leather jacket making him look like a character from a terrible mid 90’s early 3D fighting game. I will say this, the set up looks great. It would get scaled down drastically once the budget got slashed. Mike Tenay hypes up the main event, which will be a Royal Rumble type match for the NWA Heavyweight Title. It’s over the top rope elimination until two are left, at which point it becomes a regular singles match. That’s a tad convoluted; why not just book a tournament?
We go to Jeremy Borash in the ring (Looking like a boyband reject with his frosted blond hair) as he introduces NWA legends down to the ring. Legends include Harley Race, Dory Funk Jr, Jackie Fargo, Bob Armstrong, Corsica Joe, Bill Behrens and Ricky Steamboat (w/ The NWA Title). Steamboat gets a mic and puts over the NWA Title, saying it’s the Title he’s most proud of winning in his career. It’s an excellent promo actually, and really makes the Title seem important. It just shows that belts really are more than just props if you present them correctly. Steamboat adds that when it gets down to the final two in the Battle Royal later he’ll become the special referee.
Jeff Jarrett interrupts things though; to say he thinks the Battle Royal is a stupid idea, which makes Tenay furious on commentary. This leads to Jackie Fargo grabbing a mic and yelling unintelligible stuff at Jarrett, which Tenay is thankfully able to translate into him making Jeff Jarrett entrant #1 in the match. Jarrett says he’ll still win regardless. This brings out Ken Shamrock, with wacky 70’s sideburns, and he hates the Battle Royal concept too. I mean, why even bother doing this match if you’re going to have all the wrestlers say it’s a bad idea? It is a bad idea of course, but there’s no need to rub it in people’s faces! Promo time is still not done though, as Scott Hall and his awesome entrance music enter via the crowd to a big pop. Say it with me, he thinks the Battle Royal is a bad idea, but he declares that he will win. Jarrett makes threats to Fargo and storms off.
Goldy Locks, the world’s most annoying backstage interviewer, is with Puppet “The Psycho Dwarf”, who has the interesting gimmick of being a midget killing dwarf. Goldy makes stupid faces and talks over him whilst he delivers a pretty decent promo, because she sucks as an interviewer.
AJ Styles, Low Ki and Jerry Lynn Vs The Flying Elvis’ (Jimmy Yang, Jorge Estrada and Sonny Siaki)
The Elvis’ have pretty catchy music, although the legends watching backstage don’t like their gimmick. Yang would end up doing another southern influenced gimmick in WWE as the Japanese Redneck. Ki, Styles and Lynn offer handshakes to start, so The Elvis’ jump them from behind. Maybe if the faces had offered a plate of cheeseburgers and a bag full of drugs they might have had better luck?
Tenay puts over how the X-Division is about No Limits, as opposed to weight limits. Yang is by far the best worker of The Elvis team, with Estrada being just there and Siaki having a body but not much else. This is all action, with lots of big moves and very little selling. Low Ki eventually gets cut off and worked over for a bit, but replies by kicking the ever loving crap out of Estrada, leading to the hot tag to Styles.
Styles gets the awesome moonsault into a reverse DDT on Yang, which blows Tenay’s mind on commentary. We get the requisite Finisher Madness™ segment, with everyone coming in and hitting a big move of some kind, which ends with Yanag getting the Sky Twister Press on Styles for the wn.
WINNERS: THE FLYING ELVIS’
No sooner is the match winning pin counted then it’s TO THE BACK (Or in this case, TO THE CAGES WHERE SCANTILY CLAD WOMEN ARE DANCING). This was an enjoyably wild spot fest. I’m not sure how long they stuck with The Elvis gimmick, as Sonny Siaki was trying (And failing) to be The Rock by the time 2003 rolled around and Jimmy Yang had jumped to WWE to become Akio.
As a brief aside, I always kind of thought it was quite jarring that they did this big thing about “Tradition” and “Respecting Legends”, only to then have dancing girls in cages. It really felt like they were trying to have their cake and eat it too. Either you’re a serious wrestling company or you’re Attitude Era styled sleaze, there isn’t really a middle ground.
Hollywood Vs TEO
So this is a mini’s match, with two little people who appear to have come cosplayed as Eminem during different periods in his career. I remember going to a WWA House Show in Manchester in something like 2002, and TEO was on that show in a hardcore match and it got a pretty good reaction.
Rather than do stereotypical “midget wrestling” spots, the two guys actually go out to wrestle a normal match, with TEO even throwing some serious potatoes Hollywood’s way. Hollywood gets a splash from the top rope for two, but TEO goes him one better by getting a senton bomb for the win.
Short match (No pun intended) but both guys were working hard and the crowd appreciated it for what it was.
Again, no sooner has TEO won then its TO THE SCANTILY CLAD DANCING WOMEN. Bloody hell guys; let it breathe for a minute eh? We just saw a really small bloke hit a pretty death defying move from the top rope to win a match, how about you show a couple of replays and actually focus on him celebrating for a bit?
We go from that to Ed Ferrara and Don West in the ring, where they hype up a Lingerie Battle Royal for next week. You know, if you’re crowning the holder of the top Title in the whole company in a Battle Royal tonight, maybe you shouldn’t then hype up another Battle Royal for next week which will just be an excuse to see ladies in lingerie. If a Battle Royal is such an unimportant match type that you’ll give one next week such a stupid stipulation, then why on Earth does this week’s mean anything?
Anyway, Ferrara and West excitedly bring down the women, of which include Francine, Miss Jonie, Daffney, Alexis Laree (Yes, Mickie James was in this), Sundown, Eryn, Elektra, Taylor Vaughn and Dariza Tyler. Francine grabs the mic and insults all the other women in the ring, doing her classic ECW hyper bitch gimmick. Elektra is having none of that, and blames Francine for bankrupting ECW. Err, no, I think that was more down to Paul Heyman than Francine to be honest honey, but thanks for playing. Anyway, we get a catfight between Francine and Elektra, that sees Elektra lose her top and West cover her up with Ferrara’s jacket.
And, say it with me, it’s TO THE SCANTILY CLAD DANCING WOMEN, swiftly followed by, TO THE BACK, where Goldy Locks is with Mortimer Plumtree, who is your typical arrogant posh bloke, who says that he has enlisted his former childhood bullies to be a devastating tag team. He declares that they will do what he tells them, including wearing what he tells them to wear, because they need his money. That’s actually a pretty good idea for a gimmick actually, with the weedy rich guy essentially holding his tormenters to ransom.
The Johnsons (Richard and Rod) w/ Mortimer Plumtree Vs “Cowboy” James Storm and Psicosis
So we get the payoff to Plumtrees promo here, as he has dressed The Johnsons in flesh coloured bodysuits to make them looking like literal giant Johnsons. See, they had a good idea there and ruined it by going for the big payoff in the first show. Why not have them in normal attire for the first few shows, but then they lose a match or mouth off to Plumtree, which leads to him pulling out the penis costumes as a punishment? It might actually lead to some sympathy for the guys, and you could build it up to them finally standing up for themselves, only for Plumtree to debut a whole new scarier team for them to feud with. Instead, its penis costumes on the very first show with zero build.
Storm does The Smoking Gunn’s gimmick of firing off a pistol during his entrance. One of the Johnsons works over Psi to start, as Storm tries to get the crowd behind his partner. Storm actually kind of looks like a beefier version of young Mark Haskins here actually before he grunged and bearded himself up. Ryan Shamrock, looking very different from her WWF stint, shows up to watch the action from the aisle way. I think she was Ken Shamrock’s missus at the time of this show.
The faces run wild for a moment, which causes The Johnsons to bail, where they get berated by Plumtree. Storm manhandles a Johnson, before tagging in Psi, who gets clobbered by the other Johnson, in what seems to be the cut off. The Johnsons work over Psi for a brief moment, but he channels his inner Kidman to counter a powerbomb into a face buster before making the tag to Storm.
Storm runs wild, looking good in the process, but The Johnsons ram the faces into one another and hit stereo suplexes. Psi fights with a Johnson outside the ring, which gives Plumtree an opportunity to trip up Storm, leaving him to walk into a TKO for the three count.
WINNERS: THE JOHNSONS
I could make a gag about how Psi and Storm found The Johnsons too hard to defeat, but I like to think I’m above such low hanging fruit (I’m definitely not), so I’ll just say that this was a decent enough tag match that could have done with some more time. You might say The Johnsons brought the match to its climax prematurely even (Told ya!)
Referee Slick Johnson gives Ryan Shamrock money post-match, but the announcers aren’t sure for what. Did they ever pay that story line off? It reeks of being one of those classic TNA story lines that happened for a couple of weeks but then was never spoken of again.
Then it’s TO THE BACK, where The Dupps (One of which is a young Trevor Murdoch) gross out Goldy Locks. They crack open some beers, which brings Behrens in to tell them that they don’t want drunk wrestlers in the ring. What about reviewers, are we allowed to drink? Because I could really use a pint right about now.
Back in the ring, Sterling Marlin (A NASCAR) race driver comes out to talk about how he’s currently leading the table. I can’t be arsed checking whether he won it in the end. Nothing against NASCAR in particular, I’ve just never been into motorsports that much, outside of rooting for Damon Hill in 90’s Formula One. Hermie Sadler is also with him, but before Borash can ask him a question, R-Truth comes out under his old gimmick of “K-Krush”. He says the NASCAR racers aren’t athletes and don’t deserve to be in a wrestling ring. Can’t say I disagree personally. Sadler insults Krush back, as the crowd full of drunken NASCAR fans cheer along. Krush threatens him, which brings down Brian Christopher for the rescue. Sadler and Marlin then team up to chuck Krush out of the ring. Next week on NWA-TNA, Michael Schumacher gets to pin Mike Sanders clean in the middle! Christopher challenges Krush for next week, and says he’ll bring the NASCAR guys with him.
No sooner has Lawler’s music hit, then it’s TO THE BACK, where Jeff Jarrett is choking out Jackie Fargo.
Christian York and Joey Matthews Vs Stan Dupp and Bo Dupp w/ Fluff Dupp
Stan is who would go on to be Trevor Murdoch in the WWF. The gimmick here is that The Dupps are massive rednecks who may possibly be inbred. Oh the hilarity! The Dupps jump start things, but York and Matthews fight back and hit Stan with a double vertical suplex. Matthews gets cut off however and worked over by The Dupps.
I never got The Dupps in any of their incarnations, and I have to question why they got so many bookings in companies like ECW and TNA. It’s not an especially great gimmick and neither man is an especially great worker, so why were so many companies willing to bring them in? Did they work dirt cheap or something? Did one of them have a Costco card that they didn’t mind sharing?
York gets the hot tag, as looks to be another short match, no doubt to accommodate the Battle Royal later. Matthews cross bodies Stan over the top rope to the outside, which leads to York setting up for a dive, only for Fluff to crotch him on the top rope, leading to Bo getting the pin.
WINNERS: THE DUPPS
I don’t really see the point in doing two ultra-quick tag matches back to back with the identical finish of the manager interfering leading to the heels winning. Couldn’t York and Matthews have won here? The crowd seemed to like them and it’s hardly like The Dupps were going to usher in a new boom period, so just put the faces over for a pop and set up some opponents for The Johnsons.
More women dancing in a cage, which leads to a video of Toby Keith playing some music, as this debut episode becomes more southern by the minute. I mean, I like southern wrestling, but isn’t this supposed to be a NATIONAL wrestling company? I get having some NASCAR drivers out to pop the locals, but did the show really need Toby Keith as well? The video involves Keith serenading an exasperated woman in the bleachers of what looks to be a football stadium. She makes lots of annoyed facial expressions, because she’s ACTING.
This leads to Keith doing a concert. Again, this is all fine for the live crowd as they seem to enjoy it, but couldn’t time from this have been spent on the previous two tag matches (Preferably Psi/Storm Vs The Johnsons as that actually looked like it could have been decent)? Was Toby Keith selling ANY pay per view buys? If you want to be a moderately successful southern Indy then that’s one thing, but if you’re trying to have national appeal then you need to vary things up a bit. Anyway, Jeff Jarrett barges past Keith to interrupt the concert, drawing INSANE heat from the live crowd. Wow, the women in particular were FURIOUS at Jarrett putting a stop to that.
Gauntlet for The Gold for the NWA Heavyweight Title
Dan Severn was the NWA World Champion going into this show, after winning it over Shinya Hashimoto in questionable fashion in something I’ve never gotten a clear answer on as to whether it was a fake fast count or a shoot fast count. Anyway, he either wasn’t booked for this show or couldn’t actually make it, so they stripped him off the Title and put it up here. He doesn’t even get a mention on commentary, which is a bit snide if you ask me.
So as we all know, Jarrett is #1 thanks to Fargo earlier, whilst Buff Bagwell comes down as #2. This has 90 second intervals. Buff tees off on Jarrett as the crowd cheers along, including getting the Buff Blockbuster. However, he makes the mistake of charging at Jarrett and gets back body dropped over the top.
1st Elimination – Buff Bagwell via Jeff Jarrett (1)
Entrant #3 is Lash Leroux
Lash certainly isn’t a cruiserweight any more, that’s for sure. Jarrett easily clobbers Lash and hits The Stroke before casually chucking him out
2nd Elimination – Lash Leroux via Jeff Jarrett (2)
Entrant #4 is Norman Smiley
Norman looks great and gets a positive reaction from the crowd. However, he stops to wiggle instead of trying to throw Jarrett out, which allows Ol’ Double J to hit him with a mule kick and bounce him from the ring
3rd Elimination – Normal Smiley via Jeff Jarrett (3)
Entrant #5 is Apollo
Apollo appears to be repping Puerto Rico here, as Tenay puts him over as a six time Champion down there. Apollo manages to survive Jarrett’s onslaught and bumps him around. He tries to chuck Jarrett out, but Jarrett manages to hang on.
Entrant #6 is K-Krush
Krush surprisingly rescues Jarrett from being chucked out by Apollo and stomps away on the big man from Puerto Rico. Jarrett and Krush team up on Apollo, but can’t throw him out.
Entrant #7 is Slash
Slash was one of PG 13 I believe, although I couldn’t tell you which one. Apollo lays Slash out with a DDT, but Jarrett stops him from throwing him out.
Entrant #8 is Del Rios
I have no idea who Del Rios is, but he seems to have come to the show cosplaying as Scott Steiner, down to the bleached blond hair and shorts with an “S” on it. No one gets eliminated.
Entrant #9 is Justice
So Justice would go on to greater fame in TNA as Abyss, but he was looking more like Hugo from Street Fighter 3rd Strike here. He actually hits Del Rios with the move that would become known as The Block Hole Slam. Meanwhile, Jarrett tries to eliminate Apollo, but he hangs on.
Entrant #10 is Konnan
Konnan gets a big pop and looks great. He unloads on everyone with rolling clotheslines, before laying out Justice with an X-Factor. We could probably do with some people getting chucked out here, as it’s getting a bit crowded in there.
Entrant #11 is Bruce from The Rainbow Express (Complete with an intro from a positively svelte Joel Gertner)
Bruce looks a lot like Super Machoman from Punch Out actually. I believe it’s the artist formerly known as Kwee Wee.
Entrant #12 is Rick Steiner
Steiner clotheslines the crap out of everyone, including Del Rios in a funny moment. He then suplexes Slash over the top to the outside with reckless abandon to eliminate him.
4th Elimination – Slash via Rick Steiner (1)
Justice tries his luck with Steiner next, but gets promptly powerslammed and clotheslined out.
5th Elimination – Justice via Rick Steiner (2)
Entrant #13 is Malice
So Malice is the artist formerly known as The Wall, coming out dressed like a cross between Van Hammer and Aleister Black. Malice choke slams everyone in sight, before flinging out Bruce, Krush and Del Rios in quick succession
6th, 7th and 8th Eliminations are Bruce, K-Krush and Del Rios all via Malice (3)
Konnan is next to go as well, as he gingerly heads out via Malice
9th Elimination – Konnan via Malice (4)
Malice still isn’t done, as he low bridges Steiner out next.
10th Elimination – Rick Steiner via Malice (5)
Malice and Jarrett team up on Apollo, but he skins the cat.
Entrant #14 is Scott Hall
Hall is going by the nickname of “The Outlaw” here, following his leaving the WWF a month or so earlier. Hall delivers The Outsiders Edge to Jarrett, but doesn’t throw him out, instead waiting for the next entrant.
Entrant #15 is Toby Keith (At least, I think it is)
Keith comes in and vertical suplexes Jarrett to a big pop, before teaming up with Hall to throw him out.
11th Elimination – Jeff Jarrett via Toby Keith (1) and Scott Hall (1)
Keith leaves and stalks Jarrett up the aisle, which either means he was never a real entrant or he’s just forfeited his chance to be NWA Champion. Either way, I’m not too bothered to see him leave.
The real Entrant #15 is Chris Harris
Harris runs wild on everyone, but he’s interrupted by #16 Entrant The Vampire Warrior, who decides to come down early, which is strange because Vampire’s aren’t often considered early risers.
Entrant #16 is The Vampire Warrior
Nothing much happens, as the crowd are now unsure whose going to win seeing as Jarrett has been dumped.
Entrant #17 is Devon Storm
Storm doesn’t appear to be doing the old Crowbar gimmick here, and instead just comes out all intense and such. Storm and Harris trade some stiff chops, whilst Hall hangs back and lets everyone else fight one another.
Entrant #18 is Steve Corino
Corino surprisingly never worked that often for TNA, despite him being someone that you think would have fit in well there and probably could have gotten over with the southern wrestling crowd due to his penchant for cheap heat and psychology.
Entrant #19 is Ken Shamrock
In a funny bit, Corino goes to a shoot wrestling stance in preparation for Shamrock, only for Shamrock to swat him aside immediately. Shamrock run wilds on everyone except for Malice, who manages to stop his onslaught. Corino is of course quickly over to stomp away at Shamrock once he’s down.
Entrant #20 is Brian Christopher
Christopher is basically just doing Grand Master Sexay here in all but name. He chucks Harris, Storm and Vampire Warrior almost right away.
12th, 13th and 14th Eliminations – Chris Harris, Devon Storm and Vampire Warrior via Brian Christopher (3)
Corino tries his luck with Christopher, but that ends badly for him and he gets clotheslined out.
15th Elimination – Steve Corino via Brian Christopher (4)
Christopher stops to dance, but gets choke slammed by Malice and dumped out by Shamrock.
16th Elimination – Brian Christopher via Ken Shamrock (1)
Final Four: Malice, Scott Hall, Apollo and Ken Shamrock
Apollo and Hall try to team up on Malice, but Malice back body drops Apollo out to eliminate him.
17th Elimination – Apollo via Malice (6)
Hall tries for The Outsiders Edge next, but he’s right next to the ropes and that ends how it usually does, with Hall getting back body dropped out of the ring.
18th Elimination – Scott Hall via Malice (7)
So with it now down to two men, the bout morphs into a singles match with the Title on the line. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but is this really a better way to crown a Champion instead of getting, say, Jarrett, Hall, Shamrock, Christopher, Krush, Malice, Buff and Corino and just putting them all in one night single elimination tournament? Were the other 12 guys really necessary?
We have about 10 minutes of pay per view time left, as Ricky Steamboat comes down to referee. Malice is sucking wind something fierce here, but he boots Shamrock down right away and starts working him over. Malice gets some two counts with generic power moves. Malice goes for a choke slam, but Shamrock counters it to a cross arm breaker in a cool moment. Malice lies in the hold for ages however, with his arm fully extended, which makes a mockery of the whole thing.
Malice makes the ropes and then unloads with strikes, but Shamrock gets another cool counter by turning a big boot into the ankle lock. Once again Malice is in the hold for a veritable age, but refuses to tap and makes the ropes. Shamrock just pulls Malice back into the middle however, which Steamboat allows, but Malice manages to make it the second time and force the break.
Shamrock doesn’t break the hold, so Steamboat counts to 7 before finally pulling Shamrock off. My word, what a terrible referee Steamboat is! Steamboat and Shamrock argue, which allows Malice time to recover. Malice goozles Shamrock, but before he can get the choke slam Shamrock counters to the belly to belly suplex to pick up the win and the Title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: KEN SHAMROCK
MOST ELIMINATIONS: MALICE (7)
This was fine as something to crown a number one contender with or something, but it was a rotten way to crown a new World Champion for a supposedly national based company. Why did they even HAVE to crown a new Champ on the first show anyway? AEW didn’t feel the need to do that and their first show was much better for it. What’s the rush? They could have built up to crowning a Champion for a least a month, thus giving everyone a chance to get over first and actually build some anticipation as to who the first Champion would be. As it was, this felt pretty throw away and was not the way to go about making a World Title seem prestigious or important.
The legends come down to celebrate with Shamrock. I do like the irony of long time Dan Severn rival Ken Shamrock being the one to take his vacated title. Meanwhile, Jeff Jarrett is yelling at Toby Keith and Jackie Fargo backstage. He then comes out to the ringside area to complain, where he punches Bob Armstrong. This brings Fargo and Keith down to the ring, where Fargo says that Scott Hall will be fighting Jarrett next week. This brings Hall down for a brawl with Jarrett, which is at least a match between two guys who are over, even if it isn’t likely to be an especially good one.
Let’s face it, had it not been for Panda Energy this company wouldn’t be alive today, because they lost a frankly horrific amount of money in the early stages and this show was an absolute disaster. It genuinely is one of the worst debut shows for a major company I’ve ever seen.
The wrestling was in short supply, nothing was given any time to breathe, the writing and booking were targeted to a narrow subset of the population and the main event may rank as one of the worst ways to crown a New Champion in history (Although it still doesn’t top Triple H just getting handed a Title in 2002)
My alarm bells were getting set off right away in the first segment when all three wrestlers complained about how the main event was a bad idea. If even the two top babyfaces think the gimmick for your main event sucks, then why shouldn’t we as an audience think that as well? It would have been so easy to have heel Jeff Jarrett hate the idea (Because he’s a coward who doesn’t want to have to beat 19 other men in a strenuous bout to be Champion) whilst Shamrock and Hall were all for it because they were relishing the challenge.
It still would have been a stupid idea, but it would have at least presented it in the best light possible and might still have salvaged it. The two tag matches were too short to mean anything and had basically the same ending, the mini’s match advanced nothing and the opening X-Division 6 man was fun, but also had the serious wrestlers lose to The Elvis’, making the division look like a joke.
The live crowd loved the NASCAR guys and Toby Keith, but anyone not into motorsport or country music wouldn’t have had any real reason to think it was cool to see the wrestlers getting beaten up like they were here. At least with guys like American footballers they have mainstream crossover appeal. NASCAR and country music have their fans and are hardly small endeavours, but there’s very little juice you’d get from having guys like that show up when it comes to a national audience, which is what this show was supposed to be for.
If it had been a southern wrestling territory aiming to just scratch an itch for that type of fan base then that would have been one thing, but this was supposed to be a genuine rival to WWE, which even on its worst day did more to reach a more variant group of wrestling fan than this show did.
It’s cool that TNA have put this up on their YouTube page, as they aren’t trying to hide from their past or anything, but this is not a good show and it’s a minor miracle in some ways that the company is still going today, even if it’s seen much better days.