This is the historic first episode of Impact. Prior to this TNA had just done weekly PPVs. There’s an opening montage of a bunch of exciting stuff from previous TNA events. We then get an off-camera Professor Iron “Mike” Tenay introducing the show as the camera pans around the Universal Studios Arena.
Match 1: Team Canada (w/ Scott D’Amore) vs. Sonjay Dutt, Amazing Red & Hector Garza
Team Canada is out first and consists of Bobby Roode, Eric Young and Petey Williams. Two of these guys are grizzled veterans in NXT now so it’s weird to see them here looking all young and fresh faced.
“Team International” as the opposing team is called all come out separately. Hector Garza was a WCW Saturday Night stalwart always battling dudes like Villano IV and the Texas Hangmen and shit. Since I last saw him (chronologically) he’s grown a sweet pornstache.
As the match gets underway Tenay says that those of us watching at home might notice the clock on the top of the screen and explains that on Impact non-title matches all have a ten minute time limit while title matches get thirty minutes. In the event of a draw a judge will decide a winner based on points or something. This is a solid concept and something that WWE will never do.
The match begins with Team International diving onto the Team Canada guys who were on the outside of the ring. We get back in the ring with Eric Young and Sonjay Dutt. Dutt hits a tilt-a-whirl scissors takedown and then tags in Red. He and Dutt do a double drop toe hold and a double head kick to Young.
Red’s in control, beating on Young until Roode tags in and starts pounding on Red. He slams Red into the corner and then hits a big elbow and a knee to the head that gets him a two count. The crowd is chanting “USA! USA!” but I’m not sure who they’re chanting at since Team Canada is Canadian, Garza’s from Mexico, Dutt was introduced as being from Bombay, India, and Amazing Red is Puerto Rican.
Petey Williams tags in and hits a middle rope bulldog for a two count of his own. Red hits a Russian leg sweep, but Scott D’Amore interferes from the outside and cheapshots Red.
Roode gets the tag and hits nice suplex on Red and then knocks Dutt and Garza off the ring apron out to the floor. Williams gets the tag and he and Roode do a double takedown. Red makes a comeback and hits a headscissors and a DDT simultaneously on Canadians allowing him to get the HOT TAG to Garza.
Garza comes in and takes out Williams with a powerslam, but Roode cuts him off with a tilt-a-whirl powerbomb. Everything breaks down now.
Dutt hits Roode with a hurricanrana off the top rope only to get suplexed by Young. Red goes for a sunset flip combination deal, but Young kicks out. Petey Williams ruins Red’s shit with a Canadian Destroyer. Garza takes out Williams with a reverse powerbomb. Roode goes for a Razor’s Edge, but Dutt counters it into a hurricanrana that sets up Garza’s twisting moonsault. One! Two! Three!
Winners: Sonjay Dutt, Amazing Red & Hector Garza
This was your basic show starting spotfest to get the crowd hot, but it served its purpose. I also think it was good to feature primarily home-grown talent rather then just putting a bunch of ex-WWE guys out there since it was a good way to show that they were something different rather than just a B-level WWE knockoff. [**]
Meanwhile With Mike Tenay & Don West…
Tenay and West talk about how TNA is two years old and how goddamn awesome the first two years have been. They then show a highlight video from the first TNA PPV.
Highlights for Children!
Country/Western singer Toby Keith is performing at the very first TNA PPV only to be interrupted by Jeff Jarrett. Tenay is disgusted by Jarrett’s lack of respect for shitty concerts that no one cares about during a wrestling event.
We go to later that night and see Keith enter the “Gauntlet for the Gold” match and hitting a big stalling suplex on Jarrett as Scott Hall looks on and then eliminating him from the match.
We then see a brief clip of Jonny Fairplay from Survivor fighting Brian Urlacher from the Chicago Bears. Why is this happening? Tune in next week for another flashback clip to find out! Tenay wraps it all up by saying throughout June they’ll be showing the most memorable clips from TNA’s first two years, all of which apparently feature some minor celebrity. “It’s Total Nonstop Action! It’s Wresetling Reinvented!”
Match 2: Shark Boy vs. Abyss
Shark Boy gets in some offense early, but Abyss quickly takes control. Abyss goes for a chokeslam, but Shark Boy bites Abyss’ hand to escape. Tenay talks about how Goldy Locks, Erik Watts’ ex-girlfriend has taken an interest in Abyss. She’s shown in the inset watching the match backstage.
Shark Boy goes for a crossbody but gets caught and slammed. Abyss then gets him up for the Black Hole Slam to pick up the win. After the match a Popeye mascot comes out to congratulate Shark Boy on his glorious defeat. It’s Popeye’s 75th Anniversary and you can see him at Universal Resorts’ Islands of Adventure. Corporate synergy!
Just a squash match but again, I like that they are seemingly featuring their homegrown guys rather than dudes who made their names in the WWE or WCW. [⅓]
Match 3: Kid Kash & Dallas vs. America’s Most Wanted
This is for the NWA World Tag Team Championship. Kash and Dallas are the champs coming in. The winners of the match tonight will have to defend their championship against the winners of a fan poll next Wednesday night on the PPV.
Kash and James Storm start things off. They lock up and Kash hits a quick drop toe hold. Storm fights back and gets Kash in a headlock, but Kash gets another quick takedown. Kash comes off the ropes, but Storm get him in a monkey flip! There goes the monkey!
Chris Harris gets the tag and hits for a clothesline and bulldog on Kash for two but Dallas makes the save. Storm tags back in, but Kash hot shots him off the top rope and then tags in Dallas.
Dallas enters the ring and hits an awkward looking powerslam on Storm and then hits a rocket launcher, slamming Kash into Storm. As we go to commercials, Professor “Iron” Mike Tenay shouts, “TAPE MACHINES ARE ROLLING!”
We return from the break to find Kash and Storm in the ring. Storm superkicks the fuck out of Kash, but again, Dallas hits the ring and makes the save at two. Storm tries to reach for the corner, but Kash pulls him into the middle of the ring and gets him in a submission hold.
Kash then tags in Dallas who proceeds to sit on the top rope. Kash climbs up onto Dallas’ shoulders a goes for a goddamn moonsault, but misses when Storm rolls out of the way. HOT TAG to Harris!
Harris takes out Dallas with a crossbody off the top rope and thing hits a big jumping clothesline and goes for the cover, but Kash comes in to break it up. Things break down here and Dallas gets Storm up on his shoulders as Kash goes up top. Dallas hits the Black Out and then Kash hits a frog splash, but Harris spears the fuck out of him.
Dallas hits Harris in the face with a big boot and tries to do the same on Storm, but Storm pulls down the top rope and Harris rolls up Dallas from behind to get the win.
Winners: America’s Most Wanted
As a match this was mostly fine. Storm, Harris, and Kash are all decently good in the ring, and Dallas wasn’t in the ring long enough to stink up the joint. It makes sense to have a title change on the first episode of a new TV program so I assumed that would happen here before the match even began. I guess with the plot of Kash & Dallas being cowardly heel champs this win makes even more sense. [**]
As we head to commercial we see a pair of cowboy boots walking down a hallway. Well find out who tonight’s judge is after the break!
Meanwhile In The Ring…
We return from break to find Professor “Iron” Mike Tenay in the ring. He introduces the legendary “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Rhodes comes down to the ring and talks about impact and how tradition lives at TNA.
Tenay talks about the history of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship which causes Dusty to talk about people like Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers, Jack Brisco, and Terry Funk. Tenay mentions that this past Wednesday, Jeff Jarrett became the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion in a King of the Mountain match.
Rhodes says that he once considered Jarrett a brother in tradition, a guy who respected the old school ways. Jarrett’s music hits and he appears at the top of the ramp with the belt and his guitar. He is dressed all in white pants and a half buttoned white dress shirt. He looks like he’s getting married on a beach or trying out for a late 90s boyband.
Jarrett comes down to the ring and asks, “What are you even doing here Dusty?” He cuts a promo on Dusty saying that when he was 15 he use to respect him, but that was twenty years ago and Dusty was in the twilight of his career even then.
“ELBOW! ELBOW! ELBOW!” chants the crowd.
Jarrett says he is just trying to help Dusty from embarrassing himself over and over again and asks if he’s here for the payday. If he is, Jarrett can help him out. He says there’s a place for guys like Dusty in the business, but it isn’t standing in the ring next to the three time World Heavyweight Champion and the King of the Mountain.
He tells Dusty to imagine that he is John Wayne, a sheriff who just rode into town. Jarrett is the local villain. He says that he’ll give Dusty a chance to get out of Dodge, but if he doesn’t get, Jarrett will run him out of town.
Jarrett struts five struts forward while Dusty creeps behind him. Jarrett says, “Dusty, you’d better be gone,” and then turns around and Dusty smacks him around with his cowboy hat and then starts unloading with punches, but Jarrett fights back and backs Dusty into the corner. He then grabs his guitar and is going to blast Dusty with it, but R-Truth hits the ring.
He lays out Jarrett with a clothesline but then nuts himself on the top rope after he misses with a jumping kick. Jarrett blasts Truth with the guitar and then bails quick when Konnan and Road Dogg hit the ring.
“YOU REMIND ME A LITTLE OF EDDIE VAN HALEN! WITHOUT YOUR GUITAR YOU’RE JUST A MORTAL MAN!” screams Road Dogg as Jarrett looks on from the stage. Dogg says that on Wednesday at the PPV Jarrett will have to answer to 3 Live Kru.
Oh fuck it’s Vince Russo. He comes out of his Director of Authority office while Professor Iron “Mike” Tenay says that after the break the newest member of their broadcast team, “The Franchise” Shane Douglas will interview Vince Russo.
Before the promised interview we get a video package where Jeremy Borash, Jerry Lynn, Scott Hudson, Professor Iron “Mike” Tenay and maybe some other people talk about how dope the X Division is and how you’ll see moves in X Division matches that you won’t see anywhere else. It’s a pretty solid package to show on a debut TV show to try and make a case for how your company is different from other wrestling companies.
Shane Douglas interviews Vince Russo about the big X Division match coming up next. Russo says that four wrestlers came to him and asked for a chance to compete in the match tonight to determine who the number one contender for the X Division championship would be. We all know who three of the competitors are, but Vince Russo knows who the fourth competitor is and he won’t tell us.
Match 4: Chris Sabin vs. Michael Shane vs. Elix Skipper vs. AJ Styles
The mystery competitor is AJ Styles. We find this out literally 20 seconds after Vince Russo refuses to tell us. Stupid as shit. You do that promo prior to this episode Vince…not twenty seconds before the dude comes out…
The other guys all got jobber entrances so once AJ comes down to the ring the match gets underway. All four guys do multi-man cruiserweight clusterfuck spots to start off until the ring clears leaving only Michael Shane (who is apparently Shawn Michaels’ cousin) and AJ Styles.
Styles hits a big dropkick on Shane and then goes off the ropes to take him out when Sabin gets up on the top ruins Styles’ shit with a springboard missile dropkick. Skipper then proceeds to take down Sabin and cover him for a near fall.
Shane is back unloading with forearms he then puts Skipper down with a German suplex. Before he can do anything though, Styles pulls Shane out of the ring. Styles is suplexed for his troubles.
Back in the ring, Skipper slams Sabin for two but Shane breaks up the pin. Shane hits Skipper with a jumping DDT. Styles then flips into the ring over Shane and hits some zany moonsault reverse neckbreaker thing and goes for a cover. Sabin breaks it up so Styles tries for a rollup only to get DDTed by Sabin. Sabin goes for a cover of his own, but AJ kicks out.
Shane comes back and hits Sabin with a belly to belly suplex and then gets crotched on the top rope by Styles allowing Elix Skipper to walk the top rope and hit a hurricanrana that kills Michael Shane.
In the ring, Sabin goes for a German suplex but AJ Styles flips through it and lands on his feet. Styles tosses Sabin out of the ring and then hits a dive to the outside that takes out Elix Skipper.
Back in the ring Shane whips Sabin into the corner and then warms up the band for some Sweet Chin Music. Before he can ripoff his cousin though, AJ Styles springboards into the ring and hits a sunset flip that he rolls through with and ruins Michael Shane’s shit with the Styles Clash, becoming the number one contender in the process.
After the match the X Division Champion, Kazarian comes out and he and Styles have a stare down to end the show.
Winner: AJ Styles
Another solid match from TNA that emphasizes something that made them unique and different from WWE, though now some ten years after the fact the WWE is starting to have matches like this with 205 Live and NXT.
It was pretty obvious that Styles was going to win from the second he came out, but that didn’t make the match any less fun. Not everything has to be a swerve, and it made sense to feature one of your biggest “homegrown” stars getting a big win on your first broadcast television show. [***]
I liked this show a lot. The matches were all pretty good by TV match standards and all the stories being told more or less made sense and the stuff that happened here made me want to see more. Also, there wasn’t an over-reliance on former WWE talent either, which is unfortunately kind of what TNA is known for. In fact, kind of the opposite was true. This episode was loaded with guys who have since moved on to NXT or WWE proper. So it’s kind of fun to see them before they made it to the “big time” so to speak.
All in all a really solid debut episode and definitely worth taking a look at.