A Brief History of TNA - Pt. I
by Corey Lazarus
Oct 29, 2005, 16:46

Well...I guess it's me and Dames as the TNA guys, haha. Hopefully somebody else will start adding stuff as well (bps, I'm looking in your direction), because I know a lot of the people that post on the TSM forums did so because of reading Dames' TNA Diatribes. So, without further ado...
Chapter One
In 2001, two of the darkest events in the history of professional wrestling occurred: the closing of ECW, and the sale of WCW. While the former promotion started off as a hardcore-based company with compelling angles and workers that made the Big 2 (WCW and the then-WWF) begin to change how they produced their television programs and was filled with monetary problems throughout its 8-year existence, the latter was a wrestling promotion formed by a billionaire (Ted Turner) as competition for the WWF and had enough backstage drama to put any soap opera ever aired on television to shame. The closing of ECW meant that independent workers looking to get a break and hopefully get signed by WCW or the WWF now had to work that much harder, and it also meant that the ECW contracted workers now had to hope that WCW and/or the WWF were interested at all in them. The closing of WCW put many workers out of mainstream competition because of either burnt bridges with Vince McMahon or just a general lack of interest from the WWF as a whole.
Now, why am I explaining this? Because the closing of ECW and WCW is the entire reason TNA formed. Jerry Jarrett, one of the main guys in the old Memphis territory (along with Jerry "The King" Lawler), is the father of former multi-time WCW World Heavyweight champion Jeff Jarrett (believe me, this is worth noting if you're too stupid to realize the relation right away), who burned his bridges with Vince McMahon in November 1999 by holding out for more money to drop the title to Chyna. (Aside: Technically, Jeff was in the complete right to do so. WCW was interested in signing him, and since his contract expired the day before he was set to drop the Intercontinental title to Chyna, he wanted to make sure he would be paid for it. What resulted was venom towards him from the WWF as a whole, and the best match of Chyna's entire career, as well as the defining humiliation in Jeff Jarrett's career.)
While touring with the short-lived WWA promotion throughout Australia and Europe, Jeff Jarrett and his father Jerry had a plan: to begin their own promotion as a way to both give fans an alternative to WWE (by this time the Wildlife Fund suit had been settled) and also place Jeff Jarrett back into the main event spotlight on a (somewhat) national level like he was in WCW throughout 2000 and the three months WCW was open in 2001. The company was formed, NWA Total Nonstop Action, and the broadcasting was awkward: weekly Pay-Per-View's. Vince McMahon had once pondered whether or not fans would purchase more than one PPV a month with his Tuesday in Texas experiment, which had failed, so this idea was preposterous (and, in truth, it didn't work so well in the long-run). The first edition of TNA programming was rather forgettable aside from one match. That one match contained two of the men that would make TNA a rising promotion to be reckoned with for the rest of 2002, and was proof-positive that something new was going to happen. That match was the debut of the X-Division, a division based around the style of work as opposed to weight limits: a 6-man tag between the teams of AJ Styles, Jerry Lynn, and LowKi and the debuting stable The Flying Elvises (Jimmy Yang, known as Yin-Yang in WCW; Jorge Estrada; and Sonny Siaki).
While the match itself was nothing special, nor was the finish, it did help set the tone for what TNA was going to be: something different than what WWE was offering at the time. Around the same time as TNA was debuting, another new promotion, Ring of Honor, was putting on their fifth show. Featuring much of the same talent as TNA's X-Division, RoH was the company to turn to for GREAT wrestling, while TNA was the company to turn to for GOOD wrestling but better availability and more storylines. Basically, RoH was a WRESTLING company, WWE was a SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT company, and TNA was IN THE MIDDLE. That's the best way it could be put, honestly, and that situation is still like that today.
Over the next few weeks, Jeff Jarrett's chase for the NWA World Heavyweight title, then held by former WWF Intercontinental and Tag Team champion, as well as the UFC's first Superfight champion, Ken Shamrock, developed while the X-Division flourished. A feud was ignited between AJ Styles and Jerry Lynn, the first NWA World Tag Team champions of the TNA era (they won a one-night feud, defeating the Rainbow Connection of Lenny Lane and Bruce {Alan Funk, best known as Kwee-Wee} in the finals), over AJ's, the rookie, lack of respect for Lynn, the veteran. And one Mr. Ron Killings, then working as K-Krush in TNA and best known at the time as K-Kwik from the WWF B-shows, was quickly rising up the ladder. In fact, on the 8th edition of TNA weekly PPV, Ron Killings (who had dubbed himself "The Truth" in his racially-charged promo's about being discriminated against because he's a black wrestler, the same promo's that made TNA fans take notice) defeated Ken Shamrock to become the first black NWA World champion. The match itself was forgettable, and the finish seemed botched, but one thing was for sure: TNA was going to continue trying new things.
Chapter Two
Of course, that's not to say that everything TNA tried worked. The company was booked by Jerry Jarrett, formerly the MEMPHIS booker, and rumors at the time circulated that Vince Russo was ghostwriting for him secretly due to Russo's contract with WWE (which lasted all of a couple of months due to Russo pointing out the writing team's obvious mistakes), so naturally there were a lot of miss's. For instance, the character of Bruce was possibly the biggest MISS TNA (no pun intended) has done so far. Bruce, as mentioned earlier, was portrayed by Alan Funk, the former Kwee-Wee in WCW. While Kwee-Wee was extremely flamboyant and rather ambiguously gay, nothing was ever flat-out said to make Kwee-Wee gay, and Alan Funk did a good job of making him into a flamboyant pushover one minute and a dangerous madman the next. If Kwee-Wee was flamboyant, then Bruce was downright FLAMING. He wore a dress, a tierra, and a sash that said "Miss TNA" that he "won" after pinning some female talent (I forget who, honestly, because I tried to not watch anything involving Bruce) in an "impromptu match." The angle was so bad, especially since they continued doing it with Lenny Lane returning from injury to attempt to steal the Miss TNA "title" from Bruce that I've actually blocked it out of my memory.
Another big miss was the Midget Division. This was never an OFFICIAL division, but it might as well have been, since every show for the first month and a half or so had a midget match on it. Meatball, Teo, and Puppet the Midget Killer were the only ones in it, and Meatball just continued eating all throughout his "match," so that goes to show just how DEEP of a division it was (deeper than the WWE Women's division in 1999, at least). Puppet was entertaining for the most part, though the only lasting impressions he ever made were when he was, ahem...RELIEVING SOME STRESS in a trashcan out back as TNA personality Goldilocks attempted to interview him. And then, of course, Puppet's final TNA moment, where he was sick of people making jokes about him (I do believe it was Jeff Jarrett making quips about him), and then pulling out a gun. He was then distracted by somebody and taken out by Malice (again, this is purely off of memory, so I'm likely wrong), never to seen again.
Speaking of Malice...the Harris Brothers were somehow employed as wrestlers again. "Heavy D" Don Harris and his younger brother "Big" Ron (yes, they're actually NOT twins) were notorious for being employed for various companies simply based on who they knew. They were friends of Vince Russo, which is how they got their jobs in the WWF as Skull and 8-Ball of the DoA, and likewise how they got their jobs as Standards & Practices in WCW (and, later on, as themselves). The job in TNA was through Jeff Jarrett, and to be honest? Heavy D was actually fairly entertaining for quite some time. As head of TNA Security, he made on-air appearances simply to help break apart brawls. In doing so, he had his first feud in TNA with Malice, as Malice (a member of the demonic-themed stabled the New Church, which consisted of Slash, formerly Wolfie D; Tempest, formerly Crowbar and Devon Storm; Kobain, some nobody who apparently loved the idea of suicide; and managed all by Father James Mitchell, best known until that point as the Sinister Minister of ECW, where he managed Mikey Whipwreck and Yoshihiro Tajiri) was a part of a wild brawl, and the two started duking it out because Malice didn't want to be restrained. This lead to a pair of matches that weren't technically good, but weren't that bad either.
Unlike the atrocities known as the Dupp Cup. Bo and Stan Dupp were rednecks, you see, and...yeah, they were rednecks. Neither were particularly good in the ring, but as far as playing retarded rednecks goes, they were perfect. At first, they were entertaining, but TNA let the joke go on for far too long a few too many times. The Dupp Cup was a match all about wackiness, really. There was a points system devised, where certain moves were worth one point, and others made you lose one point, and the way to win the match was to get to 10 points. Sounds decent enough, right? Wrong. One of the rules was that you had to goose TNA color commentator Don West, and another was that you could knock out Sarah the ticket lady (which always lead to whatever Dupp brother was in the match being beaten by Sarah with a broom). Of course, there were some good rules, such as if you lit a table on fire and put your opponent through it it was an instant 10 points...or that if you knocked out TNA ring announcer Jeremy Borash (best described by Bo Dupp as "that Kermit the Frog looking feller right there") you were awarded 2 points. The Dupps disappeared right before the midgets did, as Teo took them up on the challenge to win the Dupp Cup and then both disappeared.
Outside of that? Most of what TNA was doing was fairly good. Some angle developments were bad, and some matches were the drizzling shits, but for the most part? Everything was damn fine, and MUCH better than what WWE was offering (that is until Paul Heyman took over creative for SmackDown in late '02). The feud between Jerry Lynn and AJ Styles had been named the "best feud on television in quite some time" by none other than Dave Meltzer, and was the reason that many fans began ordering TNA PPVs. The matches themselves exceeded prior expectations set by the famous Jerry Lynn/Rob Van Dam series, as Styles has always been a much better worker than RVD could ever hope to be, and each match grew off of the last one. Were they spotfests? Yes, but did they have some basic sense of psychology (ie. the same spot not working twice)? Yes, and were they entertaining? Yes.
And while Jerry Lynn vs. AJ Styles was coming to a close with AJ Styles moving on to feud with various others and Jerry Lynn feuding with Sonny Siaki over the X-Division title, the second big angle, possibly the biggest angle to hit TNA in its entire 3 and a half year history, started: the debut of VINCE RUSSO.

Look out for the next edition, sports fans.
-The L-A-Z