Monday, June 19, 2023

21 Years Ago In TNA - The First NWA-TNA Show Ever (June 19th, 2002)

Hello, kids.

This week, famed wrestling journalist Bryan Alvarez and his long-suffering co-host, Big Vinny V, will begin their revisiting the early days of NWA-TNA for some reason or another. And to celebrate the occasion, I will also revisit the early days of NWA-TNA... because the first five PPVs are available on Youtube at no cost for all to see. Yes, the first five weekly PPVs are made available for masses to watch and entice them to subscribe to their Impact Plus subscription service.


So I have already written about this show years ago. In fact, the great majority of this post is just a copy-and-paste of that old post (originally posted March 27th, 2016). I've rewatched the show and decided that the post as it was originally written still holds up for the most part, though I had changed a couple things around and even expanded on some stuff here and there, so don't think you're just getting a lazy copy-and-paste. You're getting lazy additions to go along with it.

This is going to be a weakly weekly thing for about a month or so and we'll see if I'm enticed enough to continue this journey onwards or if I decide to throw in the towel. At worst, the five freebies are all I touch. At best, I might keep going until "Oh shit! It's Vince Russo!" is a thing and that's when I'll drop out. Unlike Bryan and Vinny, I ain't suffering this shit for the long haul... but is it really as bad as I remember it or as others have claimed?

Well, let's find out...

Anyway, let's go back to 2002. The World Wrestling Federation is the only major wrestling promotion in North America and there's a big ol' void left by the demise of World Championship Wrestling that few have tried and failed to occupy. You had some companies that made more noise than most - the Australia-based World Wrestling All-Stars promotion that ended up lasted a year or two before shuttering its doors is one example. And theere was also the Jimmy Hart-endorsed XWF promotion that had a bunch of big names tied to it before they signed deals with the WWF and ended up fizzling out.

For the common American wrestling fan who just wanted to watch some good wrestling without going through whatever hoops to look up tapes from New Japan, AAA, or those other international waters, you were stuck with the WWF... which will get renamed WWE and then you were REALLY stuck with that.

Somewhere along the way, word on the Interwebs broke that the Jarretts - legendary promoter Jerry and former WWF/WCW star Jeff - were going to start up their own wrestling promotion. It would be associated with the National Wrestling Alliance - still a thing here and there, but no longer the massive entity it was during its prime years - and it would follow a somewhat unique concept. See, whereas WWE would have a TV show to promote their monthly PPVs, NWA-TNA would hold weekly PPVs that you could buy for about ten bucks a pop. This was the thing that they stuck with for a couple years before they eventually got Impact, but it was an interesting business model.

Needless to say that when I first heard about this, I was mildly intrigued by the idea. Four weekly PPVs for roughly the cost of a monthly one, with each one being roughly two hours long? That's actually not a bad deal... at least, as long as the shows were compelling enough to entice folks to fork down the dollars.

I did eventually purchase the first NWA-TNA show and I wasn't particularly impressed. There were a lot of talent that I recognized from the two WWA shows I saw months earlier, including some that had promise, but there was also things from those shows that carried over to this and those were the bits that I was less than enthralled with. Certainly didn't help that the main angle of the night involved all the major players in the promotion telling us that the show's main event was a stupid idea.

Shut up and take my money, indeed.

Money was tight back then and while I would buy a couple shows here and there, I had to get off that train sooner or later. Online reports as well as "other means" of distribution were my only means of following the happenings of this new promotion. I did show a bit of support by buying one last show and what did I get?

"Oh shit. It's Vince Russo."

From there, it was worked shoots up the wazoo, Sports Entertainment eXtreme (get it? S.E.X.?) running amok, rambling Roddy Piper promos, and Tony Schiavone in his only post-WCW appearance for a cup of coffee before he quit the business for eighteen years. And that pretty much drove me back to WWE, who felt so threatened by this upstart promotion that they gave the world HHH as World champion, gay weddings that weren't gay weddings, and Katie Vick.

Now fast forward some fifteen-ish years later and TNA has rebranded itself Impact Wrestling, promising a new fresh start - that, in and of itself, was another clusterfuck that is best saved for another time. I decided I'd go back and watch the first show and wrote the majority of the text that you're about to read. A few years after that, we're reposting that text and adding... much more than I was anticipating.

Anyway, enough waffle... let's go back and revisit the very first NWA-TNA PPV... and recycle some old musings while I'm at it.

The first segment was a standard introductory piece where we get introduce to our commentary team of former WCW announcer Mike Tenay, pitch man Don West, and former WWF/WCW writer Ed Ferrara, who grew dreadlocks for this show because sure, why not? Ferrara would stick around for a month or so before taking a hike, leaving us with Tenay and West to do commentary duties... which I have to say was a good move, as Ferrara started to feel a bit grating after a while... that and a possible backstage encounter with a certain loudmouth might've tuned him out of the business.

Once that's settled, ring announcer Jeremy Borash begins to introduce some of the NWA legends; Bullet Bob, Jim Cornette and others. Rounding out this group was former NWA World champion Ricky Steamboat carrying the ten pounds of gold in his arm (the "ten pounds of gold" being the NWA World Title that continues to be featured in the current NWA product and not the Big Gold Belt that WCW used as a World Title and would eventually be acquired by WWE). From this came the announcement that there was going to be a new NWA World champion crowned in the main event of the program.

For most fans, the NWA stopped being a thing after Shane Douglas through the NWA title on the ground during a rather notable ECW segment. But it did exist in a much smaller capacity and it did crown a number of World champions. One of those was noted mixed martial arts legend Dan "The Beast" Severn, who held the title for four years and was actually in the midsts of his second reign as champion before TNA became a thing. The story I often hear was that Severn was supposedly scheduled to appear on the show, but couldn't make due to prior commitments. And so the decision was made to strip him of the title and crown a new champion at this inaugural PPV.

So the way they're going to crown a new champion is by booking what they call a Gauntlet for the Gold; essentially a Royal Rumble-style match where you start off with two guys in the ring and a new guy enters the fray every so often until all twenty-ish participants have entered. This is standard over-the-top eliminations like a traditional battle royal until two guys are left, at which point it becomes a standard one-on-one match where you win by pinfall or submission. I didn't think this was a bad idea at the time and honestly, even today, I'm like, "Sure, why not?" I go back to that one Royal Rumble where Shawn and Undertaker were the last two guys and they were having a match within a match... or maybe that one time when Randy Savage tried to pin Yokozuna during a Rumble match and everyone called him an idiot for it... maybe that's why Vince stuck him behind a desk.

So yeah, you know what? I like that Gauntlet For The Gold idea. And because I like an idea, we gotta have a bunch of big stars come out and tell me how much of a stupid idea this is.

First up, we have Jeff Jarrett coming out, talking how much of a stupid idea this battle royal is. And then comes Ken Shamrock (sporting ridiculous sideburns) also chiming in about how much of a bad idea this is. And then, look, Scott Hall's in the crowd - seemingly sober and fresh off getting shitcanned from WWE for that whole plain ride incident - and yes, he thinks the match sucks too! Hey, that's a great way to put your new company over; have three of your biggest stars show up and say flat out that your main event is shit.

Your first match was a six-man tag match between the team of the future phenomenal AJ Styles, ECW legend Jerry Lynn, and independent mainstay Low Ki going up against The Flying Elvises; three guys dressed like Elvis and source of many Elvis jokes from Ferrara and West. Well, what did you expect from a team called the Flying Elvises?

It's a nice little match to get the show going a bit, with the guys doing their spots and getting a bit of action in there. It's hard seeing AJ in this match, who looks so babyfaced here it's unreal. The match ends with one of the Elvises pinning AJ... which is fine. AJ can give Elvis a win; he'll just get a few good matches and maybe a couple World titles along the way and he'll be a really big star... just not in TNA.

And from there, we have a midget match - oops, sorry - a little bastard match between two little bastards that I've never heard of. I recall watching this match and was wondering if this whole NWA-TNA promotion was just a rebranded WWA show, because like I said, a lot of talents from the two WWA shows I've seen made their way over here, including - apparently - the little bastards. The only thing that TNA has over the WWA shows was that production in TNA was higher quality - smaller arena in the Nashville Fairgrounds, but the lighting was good, the camera work was surprisingly competent, and the cuts to different angles weren't as sloppy. And that's probably why TNA lasted longer than WWA.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, the midget little bastard fight. Anyway, they both beat the crap out of each other with objects and nobody seems to give a shit. I can't say I blame them.

Next up, we have Ed Ferrara (former writer and current professor at Full Sail... no, really) and Don West bring out some ladies in skimpy clothes (including a couple future familiar faces whose names I can't recall) and also former ECW personalities Francine and Elektra, who start to bicker with each other. Well, you figured TNA stood for something other than "Total Nonstop Action," didn't you?

Richard and Rod Johnson defeated Psychosis and Cowboy James Storm, who would eventually win numerous tag-titles and eventually even a World title. For those wondering, the Johnsons are twins, they wear flesh-colored spandex, and yes, a lot of dick jokes were made courtesy of our old buddy Ed. I generally wonder if the person who thought this idea up was immature, borderline stupid, or clinically retarded, but then I decide against it, lest he somehow reads this and decides to turn it into a talking point on his branded podcast, bro.

And then there's a bit where you have NASCAR drivers in the ring for some reason... and then the future R-Truth (here called K-Krush) shows up and insults them for a bit before getting pummeled by Brian Christopher... because sure, why not?

There's a backstage bit where Jeff Jarrett is beating on NWA legend Jackie Fargo, who I was unfamiliar with and thought he was a bit of an old kook. Fargo passed away a few years ago.

Stan Dupp and Bo Dupp (two hicks whose cousins are their girlfriends... so they're from Shelbyville?) defeated two guys who don't matter because Stan Dupp. Get it? Stan Dupp? One of these days, I need to find a wrestler to groom and rebrand him as Fuh Kov.

Yeah, in all seriousness, the match blew chunks. I'll give it this much; it was short, but even the couple minutes this match felt like an eternity watching such a horrible act like the Dupps. On the bright side, though, Stan Dupp would show up on WWE a few years later as a less horrible hick act with a less stupid name, Trevor Murdoch, and would go on to become a 3-time tag champ with the late Lance Cade... oh and he would also win the NWA World title twice.

Yes, kids. A guy who used to work under the name Stan Dupp would eventually become the NWA WORLD'S HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION. If you told me that would've been the case twenty years ago, I'd call you a fucking loon. What's next? Brodus Clay is gonna be NWA Champ too? Surely, you jest!

Oh goody, a music video featuring some country singer I've never heard of. And then to top things off, we get a little mini concert with Toby Keith, the aforementioned country singer I never heard of... who gets cut off by Jeff Jarrett because we really need more Jeff Jarrett on this NWA-TNA show... which makes it all the more baffling that I'm revising this text in 2023 and Jeff Jarrett is still a featured act on national wrestling programming... AND he's actually entertaining. Go figure.

I suppose I should probably mention the intermissions where the commentary team is just talking and they're showing scantily clad women dancing in cages, sort of eluding to the original idea behind the TNA name. They'd do this for several shows and drop the concept altogether. All I will say is that I hope those ladies were well compensated for their efforts.

Gauntlet for the Gold time!

Jeff Jarrett comes out first and his first opponent is Buff Bagwell, who sticks around long enough to hit his moves (both of them) before getting tossed over the top. Next we have former WCW guy Lash LeRoux, who also gets tossed pretty quickly. There's a bunch of names in there and no, Jarrett doesn't make it to the end. After some time, Jarrett gets ousted by country singer Toby Keith. When all is said and done, the last two remaining names are Ken Shamrock and Malice, formerly known as The Wall in WCW (As in That's DA WALL, BRUTHA! DA WALL!!!!)

And so after about five minutes of a short match (with Ricky Steamboat as referee), Ken Shamrock beats Malice with a belly-to-belly suplex to win the vacant NWA World Heavyweight Champion and end the PPV on a somewhat good note... except not really, as Jackie Fargo (god bless him) wants to fight Jarrett, who wants to fight Toby, who wants to fight Jarrett, who gets into a fight with Hall, who I'm sure just wants... actually, you know what? Never mind. The original text is still there and you could pretty much guess where I'm going.

That was the first ever NWA-TNA show; the one that sets the table for what to expect going forward. It goes without saying that it hasn't aged particularly well. Like I said, there are some parts of the show that I enjoyed; The opening match with the younger guys was basically a sampler of the eventual X-Division that would become TNA's signature division, seeing Ken Shamrock win the NWA title - his first World title in wrestling, pretty much - was a cool little moment, and color me shocked; I am actually looking forward to where they go with this Jeff Jarrett/Jackie Fargo feud. I hope it lasts the rest of this free run.

The rest of the show, however, left much to be desired. The main event match that everyone said sucked... well, it wasn't all that great until it came down to Shamrock and the Wall, the goofy gimmicks and the little bastards didn't help the cause much, either. Honestly, looking at this first show, it's amazing that was anything here that enticed people to buy the next one.

All in all, I wouldn't call this show a complete disaster. Like I said, there's some bright spots... but there was also some less than stellar bits as well. I can only hope that next week's show improves on this a little.

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