Hello, my name is Brian Bayless. I have wrote reviews for the past couple of years at rspwfaq.net and Place to be Nation has been kind enough to allow me to share my work on their site. I will take it back to 2002 when two new wrestling promotions opened up, NWA-TNA and Ring of Honor. Today, I start with the debut show of the NWA-TNA promotion. The first two years of this company started off as a weekly pay-per view show that aired for two hours on Wednesda nights that cost $9.99. Let us now look back just over twelve years ago at this debut show.
Bayless’ Look Back: NWA-TNA Weekly PPV #1
June 19, 2002
Live from the Von Braun Civic Center in Huntsville, AL
Jeremy Borash is the ring announcer.
Don West is announced first. Watching it live, I found it hilarious that the guy shilling sportscards on the “Shop At Home” network was on a wrestling show. Seriously, that show was the fucking funniest thing to watch late at night. You think he was apeshit in TNA then you haven’t seen him blow a gasket at opening up a pack of basketball cards to find a Chris Mullin rookie card. He does an alright job of pumping up the crowd though. Ed Ferrara is out next and billed as the “most influential man in wrestling.” Even more ridiculous than that is his hairstyle, which consists of awful looking dreadlocks. Anyway, he cuts a lame bit about being a fan of TNA but not necessarily a fan of Total Nonstop Action. The crowd doesn’t care about Ferrara. He then turns it over to Mike Tenay at the broadcast booth and refers to him as the “Professor of Vanilla.” Tenay puts over the history and tradition of the NWA. He goes on about respecting history and plugs the “Gauntlet for the Gold” tonight that will feature 20 wrestlers. He explains the rules, which is two wrestlers in the ring every 90 seconds and an opponent is eliminated when he goes over the top rope and on to the floor.
Jeremy Borash is in the ring to announce the legends of the NWA. Harley Race is out first and looks decent all things considered. Dory Funk comes out and still looks like he can kick some ass, even at age 61. Jackie Fargo is out next and Tenay brags about him being a first-ballot “Wrestling Observer Newsletter HOF” as Ferrara sarcastically pretends he has never heard of the publication. Bob Armstrong is out next to a decent reaction. Corsica Joe and Sara Lee are out next, looking ancient. At least Sara Lee seems to know where she is as Joe looks completely lost. Bill Behrens is out next. Exactly how is he a legend? Ricky Steamboat is out last and cuts a passionate but long-winded promo about the importance of the NWA title. He talks about his match with Flair in Chicago in 1989 to become champion and states the NWA belt means more to him than any other belt then proceeds to compare it to every other sport’s championship. He mentioned that the NWA representatives have picked 20 wrestlers for the Gauntlet and that he will be referee when the last two left. Jeff Jarrett comes out and Tenay is livid that he interrupted the festivities. Jarrett calls the gauntlet the biggest joke and runs down the legends while frequently stating how having a battle royal to determine the title is stupid. Fargo then incoherently cuts a promo, forgetting that you actually need to speak into the microphone. He makes Jarrett the 1st contender in the gauntlet, who states he doesn’t care and will win by kicking 19 other asses. Ken Shamrock comes out and also thinks the gauntlet is a dumb idea. Great, even the faces are shitting all over the idea of having a battle royal. He tells Jarrett that he can kick the other 18 asses in the gauntlet but not his. Shamrock is not that great of a promo guy and certainly wasn’t anything special here. Hall comes out from the crowd, and Tenay calls him “Wrestling’s Real Outlaw.” Hall also agrees with the other two about the gauntlet being a dumb idea, but says its going to happen and to quit crying and focus on one person, Scott Hall. Jarrett disses everyone and says Fargo will regret his decision of making him #1. This whole segment was idiotic. It begins by promoting the tradition of the NWA and ends with the three top contestants stating the gauntlet, which is the main event and going to determine the NWA champion, was a dumb idea. No one came off looking good here.
Backstage, Goldylocks interviews Puppet the Psycho Dwarf. She is not good in her role at all. He says midgets are the true stars and came to TNA to see “midget blood.” At least Puppet can cut a halfway decent promo. Jarrett can be seen yelling about Fargo and kicking a barrel in the background.
Cage dancers are shown before the competitors are announced. They look quite skanky.
AJ Styles & Low Ki & Jerry Lynn vs Flying Elvises (Jorge Estrada, Sonny Siaki, Jimmy Yang)
Before the match, the legends are shown backstage looking at the monitor. They show them looking proud at the faces and shaking their heads in disbelief at the Flying Elvises. Tenay plugs the X Division, stating there was no weight limit and mentions the round robin next week to crown the first ever X Division champion. The faces get attacked from behind to start but quickly gain the advantage and dump Siaki & Estrada, leaving Yang and Styles in the ring. AJ gets a powerslam and knocks Yang down with a chop. Yang then pancakes Styles and nails him with a leg lariat for two. Styles breaks up a suplex with a forearm and tags Lynn, who lands a few stomps. Lynn reverses an Irish whip and hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for two. Yang charges the corner and eats a boot from Lynn. Lynn gets a tornado DDT but Yang pops right up and hits an enziguri. He then gets a moonsault kick in the corner and tags Siaki. He misses a somersault leg drop and Lynn comes back with a tilt-a-whirl headscissor takeover. Bulldog off a wheelbarrow gets two for Lynn, who tags Low Ki. He lands some chops but Siaki quickly regains control and hits a spinning neckbreaker for two. Siaki misses a charge but ducks a kick and gets a backbreaker for two. Estrada tags in and gets a split-legged moonsault for two. He puts Low Ki on the top turnbuckle and gets a running neckbreaker. Running shooting star press gets two. Low Ki manages to dropkick the knees of Estrada and kicks the shit out of him. Both men make the tag and its now Styles and Yang. Styles gets a flying forearm, which Yang sells quite dramatically. Styles hits the Phenomenon for two. Yang floats over on a German suplex attempt and kills Styles with a spinning heel kick, which gets two before Low Ki makes the save. Low Ki back drops Yang on the apron and takes him down with the tidal wave. Estrada comes in and hits a spinebuster on Low Ki and Lynn breaks up the pin attempt at two. He hits the cradle piledriver for two but is nailed from behind by Siaki, who gets a neckbreaker. Styles crushes Siaki with a kick. Yang comes in and Styles holds him up for Low Ki but he escapes and Styles eats the kick. Estrada comes off the top with a missle dropkick to the back of Low Ki and it allows Yang to go up and hit the Yangtime for the win (6:21) ***
Thoughts: A spotfest but a good way to showcase the idea of the X Division, which was plugged during the match as being “extreme.” All six men had a chance to shine and it made you intrigued to see what will happen next week.
Hollywood vs Teo
Hollywood nails Teo from behind and gets in some punches. Teo manages to duck a clothesline attempt and hit some really sloppy looking headscissor takedown. That looked awful. He gets Hollywood in the corner and pulls his shirt over his face before chopping his chest. Headbutt to the groin is followed by ten mounted punches in the corner capped off with pelvic thrusts to the face. The crowd loved that. Hollywood catches Teo in the corner and gets a Michinoku Driver for two, then yells at the ref for counting slowly. Teo manages a quick rollup for two but his immediately put back down by a clothesline. Hollywood goes to the top rope and gets a splash for two. Teo manages to gain the upper hand and hits a side Russian legsweep in another awful looking spot. He goes up top and overshoots the senton by a mile but Hollywood sells it anyway and Teo gets the win. (2:49) ¼*
Thoughts: Even as a quick match, it was terrible. The crowd did enjoy the comedy spots so it served somewhat of a purpose.
Don West and Ed Ferrara are in the ring to bring out the contestants for next week’s Miss TNA Lingerie Battle Royal. Francine is introduced first and the crowd reacts to her a bit. Miss Joni is out to next to no reaction as she is a complete unknown. Shannon is out next as West screws up and mentions how she was known as Daffney in “ECW” before correcting himself. Alexis Laree (Mickie James before the cosmetic enhancement surgery) is out next to a decent little reaction. I should mention how the camera work is just awful here. They keep panning to the wrong girl as they are being introduced. Sasha is out next and I have no clue as to who she is either. Erin Bray is the next unknown to be announced. Elektra is next and gets a bit of a pop from the crowd. Taylor Vaughn is out next and actually looks like someone who could be a star, despite only having brief cups of coffee with WWE and WCW a few years prior. Rebecca Briggs is out next and I have no clue as to who she is either. Francine grabs the mic and calls West “pudgy” before running down her competition. Elektra steps up and mention how Francine bankrupted “another company” and that there is no “extreme” here. The two have a catfight and Elektra gets her shirt ripped off and gets covered up by West. Francine goes outside and mentions how she will be crowned “Miss TNA” after winning the battle royal. Between the shitty camerawork, the lackluster competitors, and the general overall presentation, the whole thing came off as third-rate garbage. I mean, compared to what the WWE Divas consisted of at this time, it was like night and day.
Goldylocks interviews manager Mortimer Plumtree. He goes on about how his team, The Johnsons, does whatever he says. A generic promo that introduced the new team. Plumtree did fine in his role.
The Johnsons w/Mortimer Plumtree vs Psychosis & “Cowboy” James Storm
Before the match, Storm stands on the top rope and fires off cap guns, prompting Ferrara to mention how he thought cowboy gimmicks were outlawed in 1992. The Johnsons, named Richard & Rod, are the Shane Twins (Or the Gymini if anyone remembers that uneventful run in the WWE with Simon Dean) under masks and generic looking body full costumes. They are impossible to tell apart under the masks. Johnson #1 starts by booting Psychosis. Double underhook suplex get two. Snap suplex gets two. Psychosis ducks a chop and manages to get a spinning heel kick. The other Johnson comes in and gets nailed with an enziguri. Tag to Storm who hits Johnson #1 with a missle dropkick. The Johnson’s regroup outside as Alicia (Ryan Shamrock) comes down the ramp. The camera continues to focus on Alicia as Storm and one of the Johnsons lock up as West and Ferrara make god-awful penis jokes. He takes Storm down with an armdrag and tosses him over the ropes, who skins the cat and stars firing away. He gets a bulldog and makes the tag to Psychosis. Basement dropkick on Johnson is followed by a few chops. Psychosis boucnes off the ropes but gets pulled down by the illegal man, allowing the Johnsons to hit a few double team moves. Psychosis gets beaten on for a while until he gets a facecrusher off of a powerbomb attempt. Both men make the tag and Storm is on fire. The crowd is completely silent during all of this. Storm manages to get a hurricarana and all four men are in the ring. The Johnsons hit stereo belly-to-belly overhead suplexes. That looked good, actually. Storm and one of the Johnsons are left in the ring. Storm gets a roll-up but is tossed while attempting a tornado DDT. Plumtree distracts Storm by tripping him up, allowing one of the Johnson’s to hit the TKO for the win (4:49) *1/4. Post match, referee Slick Johnson is stopped and harassed by Alicia as he walks up the ramp. After some pestering, he gives her a wad of cash.
Thoughts: The Johnsons did some decent power stuff and Storm showed something here despite no one having a clue as to who he is. However, the ending was lame and the match itself was meaningless. The Alicia bit was a waste of time.
Goldylocks interviews the Dupps backstage, who are drinking beer. The Dupps consist of Bo, Stan (later known as Trevor Murdoch in the WWE), and Fluff. Bill Behrens comes out and says how there is no “beer drinking” allowed in the locker room and that he does not want intoxicated wrestlers in the ring. He couldn’t have possibly sounded like a bigger dork in this segment. We learn that Bo and Stan share Fluff and Goldilocks walks away, disgusted. Another bush-league segment.
NASCAR drivers Hermie Sadler and Sterling Martin are in the ring. They go on about their upcoming races as K-Krush (Ron Killings) comes out and runs down the drivers for not being athlete’s like “his kind” are. He goes on for a bit and grabs Sadler until Brian Christopher comes in for the save. The drivers toss K-Krush out of the ring and Christopher issues a challenge for next week, stating how his kind will be there. He appears to be coked out of his mind. A stupid angle that hinted a racism while bringing in celebrities.
Backstage, Jeff Jarrett is choking out Jackie Fargo until refs and officials make the save.
The Dupps w/Fluff Dupp vs Christian York & Joey Matthews
Fluff distracts York & Matthews, allowing the Dupps to get the advantage. They beat on Matthews for a bit until York gets back in the ring and hits a springboard dropkick on both Dupps. Double suplex on Bo. Stan gets a full nelson slam and tags in Bo, who boots down Matthews and hits a splash for two. Stan tags back in and lands a few chops before getting caught with a neckbreaker. Both men make the tag and York cleans house. Bo blocks a sunsetflip but misses a sitdown splash. York with mounted punches to Bo in the corner and hits a back elbow smash on Stan, who was trying to make the save. York with a fireman’s carry slam and he yells a lot before hitting a senton. Stan breaks up the pin attempt at two. Matthews comes back in the ring, only to go right back out as he takes out Stan and himself with a crossbody. York gets a tornado DDT on Bo and does some more posing and yelling. He comes off as incredibly annoying, not a good idea when you are the face. He goes up top and stands up there for way too long before Fluff crotches him and Bo gets the pin for the win. (3:39) ½*
Thoughts: Bad match. The end looked terrible and there was no flow at all. Another meaningless tag match that the crowd sat through silently.
20 Man Gauntlet for the Gold
Jeff Jarrett is #1 and Buff Bagwell comes out as #2, getting a nice pop from the crowd. He beats on Jarrett for a while and hits the blockbuster. He charges at Jarrett but ends up getting backdropped to the floor and eliminated. Lash Leroux enters at #3 and immediately gets destroyed. He is carrying about 30 lbs more in his gut than when he was last seen in WCW. Jarrett tosses him through the middle ropes and beats the shit out of him before throwing him back in the ring. He hits the Stroke and tosses him over the top rope and on to the floor. Norman Smiley is #4 and the crowd reacts favorably towards him. He immediately is met by stomps. He tries the Big Wiggle but is clotheslined down. Smiley manages to get a scoop slam but plays to the crowd for a bit too long, allowing Jarrett to get a low blow. He hits the Stroke and eliminates Norman by tossing him to the floor. Apolo enters at #5 and catches Jarrett with a spinebuster. He tosses Jarrett over the ropes, who manages to land on the apron. He comes back in and Apolo has him up for the press slam when entrant #6, K-Krush, comes in and breaks that up as the announcers go on about how stupid that was and hint at a possible allegiance between K-Krush and Jarrett as the two take turns beating on Apolo. Slash, with James Mitchell, enters at #7. Quite the different look than when he was Wolfie D. He does nothing of note and just blends in with everyone else. Del Rios is in at #8, looking like a Scott Steiner rip-off. He even has the Superman logo on the back of his trunks. He gets bitten by Slash and also does nothing of note. Justice (Abyss) enters at #9. He boots down Jarrett and Rios. Jarrett attempts to eliminate Apolo but falls short. Konnan enters at #10 and hits rolling clotheslines on everyone, capped off with a jumping armbreaker to Justice. He actually showed some fire here. Joel Gertner comes out and rhymes about himself before introducing Bruce of the Rainbow Express, who is led to the ring by Lenny Lane as entrant #11. He does nothing of note and blends right in with the rest of the dead weight. Rick Steiner comes in at #12 and clotheslines the shit out of everyone. He eliminates Slash with an overhead throw and Justice with a clothesline. Malice comes in at #13. He was the Wall in WCW and is noticeably lighter here. He chokeslams just about everyone then eliminates Bruce, K-Krush, Del Rios, and Konnan by tossing them over the top rope. Steiner charges at Malice and he gets backdropped to the floor. Scott Hall is #14 and gets a nice reaction. He hits the Razor’s Edge on Jarrett after cleaning house on everyone else. Country star Toby Keith comes out wearing a bandana and gets a good looking vertical suplex on Jarrett, then Hall joins him and they toss Jarrett over the top rope and on to the floor. Toby then casually leaves the ring. Apolo and Hall join up to beat on Mailce. “Wildcat” Chris Harris enters at #15, looking lean and in shape, basically the exact opposite of what he looks like now. He shows some fire but the crowd couldn’t care less. Vampire Warrior enters immediately after at #16. I guess the 90 second rule does not apply to him. He stomps on Apolo for a bit. Devon Storm is #17 and him and Harris take turns chopping each other. Hall begins to rest in the corner and then perches himself on the top turnbuckle. Way to collect a paycheck. Steve Corino is #18 and he teams up with Storm against Hall. Not a whole lot going until Ken Shamrock enters at #19. He kills everyone until he jumps at Malice, who catches him in mid-air and slams him down. Brian Christopher is #20. He immediately throws out Harris, Storm and the Vampire Warrior. He then eliminates Corino via clothesline before walking into a chokeslam by Malice. Shamrock, Malice, Hall, and Apolo all stare each other down until Shamrock runs over and tosses Christopher, eliminating him from the match. Apolo charges towards Malice and gets eliminated via backdrop. Hall attempts to get Malice up for the Razor’s Edge but gets backdropped and eliminated, leaving Malice and Shamrock as the last two contestants. (30:35) **
Thoughts: A dull battle royal. The competition was weak but the formula of the match seemingly consisted of a guy coming in, hitting a move, and then blending right in. The eliminations were not memorable and the confrontations were forgettable. Apolo came out of this looking somewhat decent but overall, a waste of time.
NWA World Title Match
Special Guest Referee Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
Malice vs Ken Shamrock
Malice boots Shamrock and gets a sideslam for two. Vertical suplex gets two. Shamrock’s attempt at a sunsetflip is blocked but he manages to block a chokeslam with a cross armlock. Malice eventually makes it to the ropes. He makes a brief comeback with chops but misses a clothesline. Shamrock catches Malice’s foot and turns it into an anklelock. Malice makes it to the ropes as Shamrock and Steamobat argue about breaking he hold. Shamorck kicks Malice in the legs but gets booted down. Malice again tries for the chokeslam but Shamrock blocks that and hits a belly-to-belly suplex for the win (6:22) *1/2. The camera cuts out back to show Fargo and Keith being held back from Jarrett by security. Jarrett makes his way down the ring and continues to bitch about the gauntlet being a ridiculous idea. He punches Armstrong, knocking him on the announcers table before Scott Hall runs for the save and brawls with Jarrett. Ferrara plugs Hall vs Jarrett for next week.
Thoughts: What the fuck was that? The promotion debuts by having a champion win the title with a belly-to-belly suplex. Gimme a break. As for the match, it wasn’t good and you could actually hear Malice call a spot at one point. The end of the show focused on Jarrett, the heel, and him being screwed out of the title.
Final Thoughts: A terrible start for NWA TNA. This did not come off as an alternative to the WWE as it was third-rate sports entertainment for Southern stereotypes. You had midgets, Country Music singers, NASCAR drivers, Elvis impersonators, rednecks, and a tag-team made to look like penises. The production values were subpar and the whole overall presentation of the product was poor. Hell, even the WWA shows at this time were better. Besides the opening match, there was nothing worth seeing.