This edition of The Two Sheds Review sees us taking a trip back in time to the early days of Total Non-Stop Action to look at some of their early NWA title matches in “The Best of NWA-TNA Title Matches”. Our hosts for this collection are TNA regulars Mike Tenay and Don West.
Disc one looks at the NWA World title, and begins with the first weekly pay-per-view, and the Gauntlet for the Gold. It’s basically a Royal Rumble styled of match, with wrestlers entering every ninety seconds, and when it got down to the final two, it became a normal bout, refereed by Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Featuring the likes of Jeff Jarrett, Buff Bagwell, Konnan, Rick Steiner, Scott Hall, Steve Corino, Ron Killings and many more, we only get a highlights package for this one, not the entire match, which saw Malice and Ken Shamrock outlasting the others to get to the final match. This bit was actually quite good, and saw Shamrock almost getting disqualified for refusing to break the ankle lock while Malice was in the ropes. Malice came back, and was about to choke slam Shamrock, until the UFC star countered with a belly-to-belly suplex to get the winning pinfall. A good start to the collection, although it is a little disappointing that the entire match wasn’t show.
We then skip forward five months as Jeff Jarrett challenges Ron “The Truth” Killings for the NWA World title. For me Jarrett has always been something of an underrated wrestler, and the same could be said for Killings for that matter. So with that in mind we have quite a good match up here, with Jarrett playing the part of the hometown hero, and playing it well. Each man had their moment in this match, and Jarrett almost got the pin after clobbering Killings with a chair while the referee was temporarily blinded. Jarrett then began to bleed for his art after getting rammed into the ring post, before we got the obligatory TNA brawl through the crowd, which involved Killings splashing Jarrett through a table. Then, after the referee took another accidental hit, the masked “Mr. Wrestling III” came down and clobbered Killings with a guitar, and as the referee came to, the first thing he saw was Jarrett pinning Killings, and a three count later Jarrett was the new champion. The masked man then came into the ring and revealed himself to be Vince Russo. Again, a good and enjoyable match between these two.
Jarrett then defends the title against A.J. Styles. The distinctively different styles of these two didn’t make this match look very good on paper. But then again, unless you’re playing in an e-fed, wrestling matches aren’t played out on paper. This match was great, with Jarrett representing the NWA, and Styles representing Vince Russo’s SEX faction. Jarrett and Styles had great chemistry, and the situation with SEX added to the overall tension, which saw Larry Zybysko come down to ringside and almost cost Jarrett the match on a couple of occasions. We then saw two referees getting knocked out, interference from the Harris Brothers, who were chased away by Vader and Dusty Rhodes, Styles attack Sonny Siaki as he interfered on his behalf, before Jarrett got the winning pin after a stroke from the second rope. The best match of the collection so far!
Then came the match I was looking forward to seeing, with Jarrett defending the title against Raven. Joining Raven in his corner is Alexis Laree, now going by the name of Mickie James in WWE, and Julio Dinero. This was just as good as the last one, as Jarrett didn’t just have Raven to contend with, but Dinero and Alexis as well in what was one part brawl and one part wrestling match, and when you’ve got the likes of Raven in a match, you just know it’s going to have great psychology. This match had everything - tons of wrestling, a lot of brawling, blood, chairs, tables, outside interference, a knocked out referee, an appearance from the Extreme Revolution faction, Sabu appearing and saving the champion’s bacon, and two good performances from Jarrett and Raven. And after all this, it was Jarrett who emerged victorious, countering Raven’s second DDT attempt by putting him away with the Stroke. Some may say this was overbooked, but it was damn entertaining to say the least.
Next was a three way dance featuring Jarrett defending against Styles and Raven. A totally different kind of match here with three distinctive styles made for an often fast-paced and very interesting contest. Raven once again put in a great performance, and it was kind of weird to see Jarrett and Styles double up on him, even though their moves looked smooth and crisp in their execution. Raven was soon taken out of the equation though, as Shane Douglas appeared from out of nowhere and attacked him, dragging him through the crowd and out of the match. This left Jarrett and Styles in the ring, and they took up where they’d left off before with their tremendous exchanges. Of course, as is the custom in these matches, the referee took another snooze while Vince Russo made an appearance and clobbered Jarrett with a guitar, giving Styles the chance to put the champion away with the Styles Clash for his first title win. Some great drama in this match, capped off with the somewhat controversial ending.
Disc two begins with the final singles match of the collection, and features Styles defending the title against former tag-team partner D-Lo Brown in a ladder match. This was the third match in a best of three series, with each man having gained one victory each. Styles was accompanied by the lovely Trinity for this encounter. Now, when I say this was a ladder match, it was more a tables, ladders and chairs match, as those other two tools of the profession were used as well. Mind you, that seems to be the way with most ladder matches these days. Both guys take some crazy bumps in this one, with Brown’s frog splash off the top of the ladder onto a prone Styles through a table at ringside being the best thing about this match. Brown almost gets his hand on the belt, but the interference of Sonny Siaki sends him flying off the ladder and on to another ringside table - which didn’t break. The end was shrouded in controversy, as both me came off the top of the ladder with the title belt in their hands. It was then that Styles’ buddy Vince Russo came down to the ring, and after intimidating the referee, the match was ruled a draw, which meant that Styles remained as champion. Not the best ladder match I’ve ever seen, but still good entertainment.
Then it’s tag-team title matches all the way, beginning with America’s Most Wanted, Chris Harris and James Storm, challenging the New Church team of Slash and Brian Lee for the NWA Tag-Team titles. Of course, James Mitchell is at ringside to guide his team, as is Belladonna. Before I go any further, I was a huge AMW fan, and they’re definitely one of the best tag-teams I’ve seen in the past few years. But anyway…..this one starts out as a wild brawl around the ringside area, before it eventually gets into the ring. Once there Slash and Lee totally dominate Storm, using their size advantage to good effect, until Storm comes back with a double DDT. Then Harris cleans house for about two seconds, until Slash takes him down with a neck breaker. Then we got the mass brawl, during which Storm made Slash tap with the sharpshooter. The only problem was though that the referee was being occupied by Belladonna, so that one didn’t count, and Storm got a spike in his head from Mitchell anyway. A series of near falls followed, until AMW took Slash out with their Death Sentence finisher. A three count later, and AMW won the titles. Another good match here with tons of great action.
Next up, AMW face the challenge of the Triple X team of Elix Skipper and Low-Ki. This was a totally different match to the last one, and the sort of tag-team match you just don’t get to see too much of these days. Storm and Harris’ double team work was excellent here, especially some of the early exchanges with Low-Ki. Triple X put on some good doubler team moves as well, but they just didn’t seem as crisp as those of their opponents. What followed was tons of great action and good performances from both teams, with Triple X getting the win after Skipper clobbered Harris with one of the title belts, and then dragged the prone Low-Ki on top of him, all of this happening while Christopher Daniels distracted the referee. As he turned his attention back to the action, he made the three count. A really good and very enjoyable match, one I will definitely watch again.
Triple X, comprising of Skipper and Daniels, then defended the titles against Jerry Lynn and Amazing Red. Another great moment for this Jerry Lynn mark here. With these four involved, it was obvious that this one would be filled with tons of fast paced action and high flying moves - which it was. In fact, it was more like an X Division match than anything else. Lynn, as always, looked great, and the other three weren’t that bad either as they put together what was a very exciting match, and after an eternity of great action, which saw a strange masked man take out Red, Lynn got the win with a roll-up on Skipper. This was a tremendous match, the best tag match on the DVD so far.
After Triple X regained the gold, D-Lo Brown and A.J. Styles challenged Daniels and Skipper for the titles. After the last match this one had a lot to live up to, and even though it was quite good in it’s own right, it just didn’t match the excitement of the previous encounter. Styles and Brown looked good as a team, putting together some great double team moves, and we even got to see the big man fly. But sadly, the interference of Glen Gilberti caused the downfall of Styles and Brown, as his attack on Styles saw Daniels make the title retaining cover.
The final match of the collection sees AMW challenge Daniels and Skipper in a steel cage match, which was actually the first steel cage match in TNA history. A completely different encounter to their previous match on this collection once again showed the great chemistry that these two teams had as they put on another barn stormer here. Both teams used the cage to good effect, even if it did look a little flimsy compared to some of the other cages I’ve seen. Skipper was the only one here who didn’t let the claret flow in a match that started off under normal tag rules, but by the end finished as a all-in-one brawl with some spectacular moves off the top rope, the best being Harris spearing Daniels as both of them were perched on the top strand, and in a pre-cursor to their later encounter in the six sides of steel, it was Skipper who climbed to the top of the cage and came down with a cross body block. However, it was Skipper’s attempt at a second move of this kind that proved to be Triple X’s downfall, as he was pushed off the top and onto the floor outside, and as the cage was locked he couldn’t get back, and when he tried, he found his path blocked. It was then that AMW took Daniels out with their Death Sentence finisher, with Harris executing his part of the move from the top of the steel cage. A great match to end the collection with.
Only one extra on this collection, an exclusive interview with Sting.
In conclusion - I kind of miss those good old days of the weekly TNA pay-per-views. Sure, there were quite a few turkeys back then (anyone remember the Flying Elvis’s?), but this collection proves that with the bad came a lot of good, and it’s all here, and although there’s varying degrees of goodness here, this is still a collection worth owning, especially if you’re a relatively new TNA fan and you want to find out more about their past.
With thanks to Mark Sloan at A-Merchandise, official sponsors of The Two Sheds Review, for supplying a copy of this release, which you can buy online by visiting www.a-merchandise.co.uk.