A Brief History of TNA - Pt. IIby Corey Lazarus
Nov 4, 2005, 15:57
I wanted to expand on Pt. I's two chapters, but alas: I hit everything exactly how I wanted to. I wish I could have gone into more detail about the Lynn/Styles feud, but I posted it too soon as I was in a major rush (no pun intended, har-har-har) to get out the door and to band practice.
Also, if anybody has any questions or comments they want addressed, feel free to PM me them on the forums, leave them in the feedback thread, or e-mail them to me, and I'll answer them as best as I can.
The match was Ron "The Truth" Killings (again, the former K-Kwik of the WWF who amazed TNA audiences within its first few weeks and became the first black NWA World champion during the company's 8th show) and Jeff Jarrett. Jarrett, who had started off as a heel in TNA, became a face because of how well-booked his chase towards the NWA World title had been, and Ron Killings had thus become the de facto heel (that, and due to his quick overexposure in TNA, became similar to how John Cena is now in WWE, only with much better matches against the likes of Jerry Lynn and LowKi). The match was a decent brawl, but was basically the same thing that TNA main events featuring Jeff Jarrett were already: some solid in-ring action to start, lame crowd brawling with a few good spots, and then an overbooked finish. Oddly enough, this match would prove to be the archetype for ALL of Jarrett's singles main event's, even up to this day. Both men were hitting each other with everything they had, and then it happened: the ref bump.
(SIDENOTE: For a few months, a man wearing a gray hoodie, gray sweatpants, and a Mr. Wrestling mask would randomly attack Ron Killings' opponents during his title defenses, including the night that he won the belt off of Ken Shamrock, in order to help give him the win.)
"Mr. Wrestling III" came through the crowd. He entered the ring, holding Jeff Jarrett's trademark acoustic guitar. Both men stood up. The swing, the hit...ON RON KILLINGS. Jarrett quickly delivered The Stroke as the referee was revived for the 1-2-3, and became the third NWA World champion of the TNA era. Then "Mr. Wrestling III" took down the hood. He leaned forward, and pulled off the mask. While I could just type out who it was, I think I'll quote Mike Tenay instead:
Mike Tenay: "IT'S VINCE RUSSO! IT'S VINCE RUSSO! HOLY SHIT, IT'S VINCE RUSSO!"
Yes. Vince Russo, who at first had only been giving Jerry Jarrett some ideas (and had done what many believe was ghostwriting) for the booking and writing of the shows, was now in TNA. And immediately in the main event. The next week, Russo explained himself: in WCW, he and Jarrett were the best of friends. But what happened when Russo was given the pink slip? Jarrett abandoned him. When Jeff couldn't take advantage and abuse the privileges that came with being Russo's friend anymore, he no longer wanted to have anything to do with Vinny Ru. So Russo plotted the perfect revenge (in his mind): he would HELP Jarrett win the NWA World title. He would HELP put the title on him, only to take it away from him. While this is actually a good idea for a heel, the fact that it was VINCE RUSSO and not a WRESTLER that decided to do this made the feud that much worse. And so, towards the end of 2002, Russo debuted his stable of wrestlers that would help him not only take the NWA World title off of Jeff Jarrett, but also to take over TNA as a whole: Sports Entertainment Xtreme.
On the final show of 2002, SEX was in full gear. Russo had taken Jeff Jarrett out with the aid of his troops (off the top of my head, these were the members of SEX at the time: Glen Gilberti, the former Disco Inferno; Sonny Siaki; "Heavy D" Don Harris; "Big" Ron Harris; Mike Sanders, former leader of the Natural Born Thrillers in WCW; David Young; "The Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels, Elix Skipper, and most surprisingly LowKi as the three-man tag team known as XXX), handcuffs, and a belt (in what was actually some damn fine programming), and what did TNA have over SEX? X-Division stars. Three of the top X-Division talents in The Amazing Red, Joel Maximo, and Jose Maximo (collectively known as the SAT, all trained by ECW Triple Crown winner Mikey Whipwreck, and all blood relatives) went up against XXX in one of the more memorable matches of 2002. The match was filled with great highspots and intense action, and the drama of XXX outpowering SAT (along with SEX at ringside) helped to sell the belief that TNA was on the losing end of the forthcoming war. Perhaps the most memorable part of this match came when Don West, TNA's color commentator, stood on the commentary table while Red was on a fiery babyface comeback, taking out all three members of XXX sequentially as well as fighting off interfering members of SEX, chanting the now-famous (to TNA fans anyway) "GO, RED, GO!"
Alas, Red and Los Maximos were overwhelmed as SEX's numbers game got to them, and XXX picked up the win. Afterwards, Vince Russo walked up the entrance ramp and took an axe to the TNA sign, splitting it apart as the final show of '02 went off the air. As 2003 rolled in, the questions of who would help TNA stop SEX appeared, and two men were chosen: NWA World Tag Team champions "Wildcat" Chris Harris and "Cowboy" James Storm. The duo, America's Most Wanted, had been TNA's top tag team since early on, winning the Tag belts in a Gauntlet following the vacating of them after the first Tag champs of the TNA era, Jerry Lynn and AJ Styles, had started feuding. Following a pair of successful feuds with The Hot Shots (Cassidy O'Reilly and current half of The Naturals, Chase Stevens) and The New Church (in the form of "Killdozer" Brian Lee and Slash), AMW were part of a number of people hand-chosen by none other than NWA legend Dusty Rhodes (or, as he likes to say it, DUTHTAY WHODES) to represent the TRADITION of the NWA against the SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT of SEX. I do believe that those four were AMW, Jerry Lynn, and Jeff Jarrett. While I don't remember the exact people, I do remember the quote Dusty said about tradition and how it affects the future, and I actually believe it's an amazingly fantastic quote.
Dusty Rhodes: "Every man has an opportunity to take the tradition and turn it into something of their own."
The quote is very similar to that, anyway. America's Most Wanted then feuded with XXX, and XXX did the unthinkable: they defeated America's Most Wanted. Sonny Siaki was the X-Division champion, having defeated Jerry Lynn late in 2002 before the formation of SEX, so the only belt left to take? The NWA World title. This is where AJ Styles fit into the picture.
Before winning the X-Division title for the second time in October 2002 from Sean "Syxx-Pac" Waltman, but after losing it to LowKi in a Triple Threat match (the third man being Jerry Lynn) and failing to regain it two weeks later in a Triple Threat Ladder match (Jerry Lynn won it, with LowKi having lost the title in the match), Styles sought the managerial talents of one Mortimer Plumtree, who had started managing IWA Mid-South talent Ace Steel. Plumtree's goal was, of course, to take over the X-Division by managing one of its newer talents, Ace, and one of its top talents, Styles. Styles defeated Waltman to regain the X-Division title, and then lost it within weeks to Jerry Lynn in what could be considered the blowoff to their feud. Then, Lynn lost the belt to Sonny Siaki due to Siaki injuring his knee before the match and goading Lynn into defending the belt, making it an easy (and tainted) victory.
AJ had began wrestling his matches without the aid of Plumtree in early 2003. Plumtree would then be seen backstage begging AJ to listen to him, or begging others to get AJ to talk to him, but to no avail. Styles had somebody else in his ear: Vince Russo. Russo put it in Styles' head that he was above the X-Division title, and instead should be going for the BIG belt: the NWA World Heavyweight title.
In February 2003 (again, I forget the exact date), AJ and Jarrett squared off in their first one-on-one encounter. The match was very good, with both men going back-and-forth and playing to their advantages (AJ sped around Jarrett and was more resilient, but Jarrett was stronger and more experienced). During the match, SEX began interfering, but AJ Styles made something clear: he didn't want anybody's help in him winning the World title off of Jeff Jarrett. He fought of SEX alongside Jarrett, and then fell to The Stroke while his attention was towards SEX. While TNA fans began seeing Jeff Jarrett as a miniature version of WWE political main eventer Triple H more and more now, the idea of Jarrett going over Styles to retain the World title actually helped out the single biggest match in TNA's history so far: DESTINY.