Hey Yo Stud Muffins & Foxy Ladies,
Pro Wrestling Love vol. 35:
The Best of TNA Wrestling 2002-2009
Objective: Break up the Greatest Match Ever Project (hosted at http://gweproject.freeforums.net/) into more manageable chunks to help me build my Top 100 List for the project.
Motivation: Contribute to the discussion around these matches to enrich my own understanding of pro wrestling and give a fresh perspective for old matches and even hopefully discover great pro wrestling matches that have been hidden by the sands of time.
Subject: This thirty-fifth volume of Pro Wrestling Love is the Top 6 countdown of the best matches to take place in TNA Wrestling from 2002 to 2009. TNA Wrestling was founded by Jeff & Jerry Jarrett in 2002 as a response to closing of WCW and ECW in 2001. It began with a weekly PPV model on Wednesdays from TNA Asylum (Nashville Fairgrounds). Being on PPV only, it was supposed to be edgier pro wrestling and Vince Russo could realize all his perverted fantasies. Even though Jarrett & Russo dominated the main event scene, the X-Division (aka the workrate division) carried the show thanks to AJ Styles, Low-Ki and Amazing Red among others. AJ Styles, who I consider the greatest American wrestler of the 21st century, was booked as Mr. TNA showing that Jarrett and Russo did have some brains. He captured the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 2003. In 2004, they switched over to the weekly Free TV/Monthly PPV model. They had an amazing 2005 with the arrival of Samoa Joe and the push of Christopher Daniels to accompany the Phenomenal AJ Styles. My peak TNA fandom was from 2005-2007. In October of 2006, Jeff Jarrett needed to take leave to tend to his dying wife who ultimately passed away from cancer. I believe in 2008/2009 he lost complete control of the company to Dixie Carter. The reason this countdown stops in 2009 is because the arrival of Hulk Hogan & Eric Bischoff completely shifted the TNA landscape in January of 2010 thus 2009 is a reasonable stopping piint. You can revisit past Pro Wrestling Love Volumes at ridingspacemountain.blogspot.com. You can check out the full version of these reviews in ProWrestlingOnly.com by going to the forums and finding the folders associated with the date of the match.
Contact Info: @superstarsleeze on Twitter, Instagram & ProWrestlingOnly.com.
|The Three TNA GOATs|
AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe – Sacrifice 2005
X-Division Champion Christopher Daniels vs AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe – Unbreakable 2005
Samoa Joe vs Christopher Daniels – Final Resolution 2006
X-Division Champion Samoa Joe vs Christopher Daniels vs AJ Styles – Against All Odds 2006, TNA Match of the Year 2006
X-Division Champion Samoa Joe vs Christopher Daniels vs AJ Styles – Destination X 2006
TNA World Champion AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels vs Samoa Joe – Turning Point 2009
The Unbreakable Triple Threat is probably the most famous match in TNA history and is the most usual choice for best TNA match ever. I think it is a great spotfest, but AJ Styles & Co. out did themselves in plenty of singles matches. I think a lot of people forget that they ran the same triple threat three more times, twice in early 2006 and once in 2009. The other three are great too in fact I think you can make the argument that the Against All Odds triple threat is the best version of this trio because of how smartly it is worked with Daniels & AJ working together to try to defeat the unstoppable, undefeated Samoa Joe, but ultimately coming up short. In addition, this trio had three more classics that make the top 6 list, but AJ vs Joe Sacrifice 2005 (their first TNA encounter) and Joe vs Daniels Final Resolution 2006 (the marquee Joe vs Daniels encounter) should be watched.
X Division Champion AJ Styles vs Amazing Red – NWA-TNA 10/30/02
AJ Styles vs Amazing Red – NWA-TNA 12/11/02, TNA Match of the Year, 2002
AJ Styles is obviously the TNA GOAT and was pretty much the best wrestler on the roster from the very first show to his very last show. I love his matches with Low-KI, but his matches with Amazing Red in 2002 were his best output from that year. We don’t get to see AJ against a smaller opponent often so this a great change of pace and AJ is at his cocky heel best against Red.
AJ Styles vs Low-Ki – NWA-TNA 9/25/02 2 Out of 3 Falls
NWA World Champion AJ Styles vs Low-Ki – NWA-TNA 8/13/03 TNA Match of the Year, 2003
AJ & Low-Ki were two of the best wrestlers in the world in 2002 & 2003 and it is no shock they had some great matches. The only thing holding them back from that classic status is how TNA was run they just didn’t have the time and storyline that really allowed to put on a stone cold classic.
Alex Shelley vs Chris Sabin – Genesis 2009 Vacant X-Division Championship
I thought this was a terrific, avant-garde pro wrestling match. I love babyface vs heel dynamics, but I thought they wrestled this fantastically without babyface vs heel dynamics. It was not face vs face with a subtle heel. It was just two wrestlers who were friends and tag team partners that respected each other that were fully invested in winning the match and it never degraded into a spotfest. I definitely recommend this one.
TNA World Champion Kurt Angle vs Samoa Joe – Lockdown 2008, TNA Match of the Year 2008
Oh what could have been! The idea of this match is for the bout to resemble a shoot fight. What makes it different from RINGS or other Japanese shoot-style is this incorporates a lot more Jiu-Jistu. At the time of RINGS & other Shoot Style, Catch Wrestling & Judo were the kings of Martial Arts. However, due the success of the Gracies in the UFC, Jiu-Jitsu caught as the premiere Martial Art. This match is wrestled shoot-style but very different from in Japan as there is a lot more guard positioning, full mounts and ground & pound. They do work pro-style moves, but there are no Irish Whips and no rope running. So it feels really distinct and I think this would be a great way for a pro wrestling match to stand out in today’s landscape. I would love to get more people’s take on it because I think it is a really unique match in American pro wrestling.
TNA Knockouts Champion Gail Kim vs Awesome Kong – Turning Point 2007
TNA Knockouts Champion Gail Kim vs Awesome Kong – Final Resolution 2008
It pains me to leave these two matches off. If you believe the WWE, women’s wrestling didn’t get good until 2014, but Gail Kim and Awesome Kong prove them wrong having two amazing back to back matches on PPV. Really great David vs Goliath stuff. Kong is the female Vader, hard-hitting, athletic and fearsome. Kim to her credit never dies. He is always scrappy and always fighting back. These matches are the last cuts and I implore everyone to watch them it is really great stuff!
Top Six Matches of TNA Wrestling, 2002-2009
#6. America’s Most Wanted vs XXX (Christopher Daniels & Elix Skipper)
Turning Point 2004 Six Sides of Steel
TNA Match of the Year, 2004
There have been a lot of crazy spots in the history of pro wrestling, but I still think this one is the craziest. Skipper really could have died in the spot that made this match iconic and I think everyone knows the spot I am talking about: the tight rope walk across a top of the cage into a hurricanarana. I mean that was a narrow pipe we was walking across. I dont blame TNA one bit for constantly replaying that for the next five years. That was truly incredible and insanely dangerous. If he lost his balance, it was over man. They were chanting "Please Dont Die" and you know what it was earned. Probably the single most iconic spot from TNA. It is funny the match is so known for that spot that you forget there is a great match going on before and after the spot. I thought this was a great combination of spotfest and bloodbath. Daniels gets busted open early during the shine. AMW take him to task. Skipper ends up saving him and they work over Harris. Nice little mini-comeback for AMW where they go for the Death Sentence (badass name for the move)n but settle for the high crossbody. The match goes to the next level when they use AMW's handcuffs to cuff Harris to the turnbuckle. I have seen this match before and my recollection was that this kinda drags, but it was shorter than I remember. I really love Daniels jabbing the key into Storm's head. AMW are both bleeding at this point. Good heel miscommunication and then spear by Storm to get the key. Then it is a lot of great double team moves and cage spots. XXX hits both the crossbody/suplex spot and the Death Sentence. When that does not work, Daniels wants Skipper to go all the way up and this leads to the iconic spot. After that, Daniels hits a top of the cage elbow drop which would be insane if it was not for what just happened. Nice barrage of highspots and nearfalls ensue. They cuff Daniels in retribution and then XXX's finish to pin Skipper, win the match and XXX can never team again. One of the best non-AJ Styles TNA Matches of all times and a great confluence of blood & guts with highspots and of course it will never be forgotten due to that insane Skipper spot.
#5. X-Division Champion AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels
Against All Odds 2005 Ironman Match
#4. Chris Harris vs James Storm – Sacrifice 2007 Texas Death Match
TNA Match of the Year, 2007
To me, this epitomizes the power of pro wrestling. Take two guys I dont care about. I am not being mean. I dont have positive or negative feelings about the Wildcat or Cowboy. Great pro wrestling transcends that. You invest when the wrestlers are invested. I have generally enjoyed James Storm during my strong TNA fandom from 2005-2009. My memories of Chris Harris are fainter. This is a hellacious bloodbath stands up there with some of the best Southern brawls of the 80s. Two plot points is all you need to know they were a tag team called America's Most Wanted and James Storm turned heel and blinded Chris Harris in one eye. Bang! Im sold. Lets do this. I thought the early brawling through the crowd was great and heated. Chris Harris as the babyface dominated, he was pissed and his emotion was carrying the day. My two favorite parts of the shine were Storm throwing the drink in the face, but Harris responding with a hard Irish Whip. Then Harris guzzling a beer before doing a top rope splash over the railing onto Storm for the first fall. That was totally unexpected! Harris' nonchalant demeanor worked there. Traditional Death Match rules here as it is a pinfall that precedes the 10 count. I actually prefer this to current Last Man Standing rules. We will get into this later in the match. Wildcat gets hung up in a tree of woe and Storm blasts him with a chair. Harris gigs himself. Wildcat is a really cool nickname for a pro wrestler. Harris tries to valiantly fight back. He catapults Storm into the underside of the table in wicked spot and Storm is busted too. Double juice! Storm has a five alarm bladejob. Storm punts him in the balls as his only recourse to stem the metaphorical bleeding and Harris succumbs to the Eye of the Storm through a table! I thought the table bumps were great in this match. Well setup and use for maximum impact. Believe the hype, match has been absolutely tremendous thus far. Hate-filled, blood, punches, big time spots. Storm is looking to add weapons to meter out more punishment. He wants to hurl Harris over the top rope through a table, but that is blocked and instead Harris goes all Big E and spears Storm off the apron through the table! HOLY SHIT! Wow! Jacqueline (in a Confederate Cowboy Hat I might add) stops the Wildcat from getting a pin. Now this is the part of the match where I think traditional Death Match rules shine. They trade nearfalls. Storm hits a wicked desperation Van Daminator (Harris was about to take his head off with a chair) and Harris hits the Catatonic on a trash can. Both cases both men kickout at two out of pride. This is saves the audience for another long 8-9 count. Also, the pinfalls give a clear delineation of when a knockdown count should begin. It also saves us from the silly double knockout finish. I had never given much thought to this before, but I think traditional Death Match rules are superior to today's Last Man Standing. Jacqueline tries to save Storm after that Catatonic and thats when Gail Kim comes down and drags her out. If I remember correctly, Gail Kim was AMW's manager in late 2005/early2006 so good callback there. The finish is short and sweet, both men have a beer bottle. It is back to the OK Corral who has the quicker draw. Storm goes to spin Harris around, but BANG! Harris cracks him with the beer bottle for the pinfall and knockout victory. DAMN! Thats how you do a Southern-Fried, Revenge Bloodbath match! I love the efficiency of this match. Every highspot is so meaningful and so sticky. Hate, efficiency and blood you cant beat that! I think I am kinda underrating this right now, but just doesnt feel Top 100, but its damn close. Definitely a contender for best TNA match ever!
#3. TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels – Final Resolution 2009
TNA Match of the Year, 2009
This match unlike most TNA matches actually followed the story of the angle. It was two wrestlers pissed off at each other trying to prove they were better than the other. Daniels was great at heeling it up and he left most of the goofy moves at the door. He was out to use his guile and experience to best AJ. He started off really working the arm well before zeroing in on the back with ferocity rarely seen in TNA. AJ is such a great babyface at both selling and those fiery comebacks. His punches were really on point and he too did not work all his usual offensive spots and instead focusing on executing moves that fit the match and would finish his opponent. I liked the finish a lot because it combined smart escalation (Top Rope Styles Clash) with Daniels going to the well once too often (2nd attempt at Super Frankensteiner). I think this is one of the grossly underrated matches in the history of pro wrestling and easily the Match of the Year for 2009
#2. X-Division Champion AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe – Turning Point 2005
#1. AJ Styles vs Abyss – Lockdown 2005 Six Sides of Steel
TNA Match of the Year, 2005
I thought the arena brawling was good. I liked Abyss' response to AJ's defiance, goozling him and then hurling him back first into some steel fencing. The match really kicks into the next gear when AJ decides he will die for our sins. AJ takes like 8 million ridiculously awesome bumps in this match. First it is the crazy snap back bumps after Abyss whips the steel cage door into his face, which causes AJ to bleed. Then in the ring, AJ just get ridiculous elevation on all sort of bumps as Abyss hurls him. The best part of this match is AJ never dies. He keeps fighting back and he keeps letting us know he is there. I loved how AJ spun out of cover instead of kicking out. Great way to sell within a cover. Once in the cage, Abyss did some great power offense and a classic Southern-style, bloodbath cage match developed with AJ timing each hope spot for maximum effect. I loved how the hope spots were all about driving Abyss' head into hard metal objects and they were also a taste of his own medicine because Abyss was setting these spots up but AJ was countering them. Really good shit here. AJ was averting disaster but it looked like his nine lives ran out when Abyss finally wrangled him in the Black Hole Slam, which was a great nearfall from Abyss, the first really strong nearfall of the match. Abyss understands he needs to up the ante so he pours out the thumbtacks. Loved the struggle and drama of who would go into the thumbtacks. It is AJ hitting a Styles Clash into the thumbtacks! I love how both men sell. My only nitpick is that really should have been the finish. I thought the finish was a little overwrought. AJ realizes he needs to up the ante so he ascends to the top of the cage. Abyss throws the ref into the cage and this causes AJ to lose his balance, which by the way is insane. Like AJ could have killed himself there, he is a nut. What I didnt like was the whole hanging with the chain it didnt feel like much and didnt like how AJ was able to survive, climb back in and hit a sunset flip powerbomb on the tacks for the win. It was a literally perfect match up until the chain hanging spot.
If someone wanted to argue this is the greatest David vs. Goliath match, I would listen. AJ shined throughout this match. He came in with an excellent gameplan, he bumped like a madman, wrestled a smart counterwrestling match, hit two massive moves late. Really awesome performance. Credit to Abyss for not just being an imposing monster, BUT not wrestling small. He resisted the Irish Whips early and he did not let himself look vulnerable at all until he started having head bashed into steel. Abyss made himself a mountain to scale. That made AJ's victory all the sweeter. My pick for the best match of 2005 anywhere in the world (have watched Low-Ki vs KENTA since and now it is very close)! *****