It’s gimmick match overload time again, with every match inside the six sides of steel as Total Non-Stop Action present the 2008 version of Lockdown, shown on a three day delay here in Britain on Bravo 2. As always, our hosts for the evening are the Professor himself, Mike Tenay, and once again the man with the awful dress sense, Don West.
We begin with the first title match of the evening, as Jay Lethal defends the X Division championship against Curry Man, Johnny Devine, Consequences Creed, Sonjay Dutt and Shark Boy. The first part is fought under elimination rules, with pins and submissions counting - until it gets down to the last two, when normal cage match rules apply. It’s the usual fast-paced and well executed stuff from the X Division boys here, with the eliminations coming thick and fast until it got down to the final two - champion Lethal and the X Division traitor Devine. The Canadian came up with a novel way of stopping Lethal from escape, by using the tape from his own wrist to tie him to the top rope. However, he found his path blocked by Dutt, who blocked the cage door, meaning that Devine had to climb over the top to win. So while Devine was doing this, Dutt quickly found a knife and threw it into the ring to Lethal, who soon cut the ties that bound his wrist and dived through the cage door, landing on the floor just seconds before Devine did. As always, the X Division is a great way to open a show, but special mention must go to Curry Man for his performance here. Clearly the best of the bunch in this one.
Then it’s time for the Queen of the Cage match, featuring Christy Hemme, Salinas, Jacqueline, Traci Brooks, Angelina Love, Velvet Sky, Rhaka Khan and Roxxi Laveaux. This is another one with somewhat daft rules, as all the knockouts start the match outside the cage, with the first two climbing the cage into the ring competing in a normal match, with the winner getting a shot at the Knockouts title. So after a couple of minutes of fighting, it’s Love and Laveaux who get into the cage first, and once it gets down to a normal match, it’s actually quite good, one of the best women’s matches I’ve seen recently. Love is starting to play the bitchy heel to perfection, and as for Roxxi, well, there’s just something about here that you can’t help but like. But back to the matter at hand. After about five minutes or so of great action, Roxxi took Angelina down with her trademark Voodoo Drop before getting the pin, winning the Queen of the Cage title, and a date with Awesome Kong.
Grudge time follows, with former partners Kip James and B.G. James going at it in a match that is something of a departure for this show - it’s fought under normal rules. This one was fought at a much slower pace than the previous two matches, and even though this was meant to be a grudge match, it just seemed to lack any form of intensity, although technically it was okay, with each man doing their thing and doing it well. B.G. came out on top here, pinning Kip with a schoolboy roll-up after he missed a corner attack. Afterwards B.G. offered the hand of friendship, which Kip accepted, and for a moment it looked like the Voodoo Kin James Gang Mafia or whatever they call themselves were back together, until Kip clotheslined B.G., signalling that the ten second reunion was over. The sad thing about this match was that what happened afterwards was the only thing that had any form of intensity.
Tag-team action follows in a Cuffed in a Cage match, where the rules are that when all the wrestlers are hand cuffed to the cage, the winning team wins. Yep, it’s another one of those overblown gimmick matches featuring the Rock and Rave Infection, Kaz and Eric Young (although Young was attacked backstage by Black Reign and Rellik during the entrances and doesn’t make it out at first), Rellik and Black Reign, the Motor City Machine Guns, LAX, and Scott Steiner and Petey Williams. It’s basically a massive brawl where everyone fights each other, with people getting handcuffed every so often, and it’s hard to watch at times because there’s so much going on. Young made a brief appearance, but was scared off again when Rellik and Black Reign blocked his path into the ring. However, when it got down to the final two teams, Young unfortunately made a return appearance as Super Eric, and proceeded to clean house, quickly cuffing the Rock and Rave Infection, fooling Rellik into cuffing himself, before finally cuffing Black Reign to win the match for his team. He then proceeded to break the cuffs that were hold Kaz. So we’ve got an overblown gimmick match combined with an overblown gimmick that I really can’t stand. I think you know how I feel about this one.
Back to women’s action, in tag-team form, as Gail Kim and ODB face Knockouts Champion Awesome Kong and Raisha Saeed. Sadly, no cheerleaders for this one. Knowing how Kong has stolen various shows in the past few months, I was expecting a lot from this one, and once again the Knockouts delivered, putting on a hell of a match with great storytelling, great action great intensity, and four great performances, especially Gail’s hurricanrana on Raisha off the top of the cage. I really can’t speak too highly of this one, which was won by ODB. After Kong accidentally connected with a spinning back fist on Raisha, ODB connected with a frog splash off the top rope to get the winning pin for her team. Raisha put in a good performance on her TNA debut, and hopefully we’ll see more of her wrestling in the future.
The tag action continues with a mixed tag/grudge affair pitting Robert Roode and Payton Banks against Booker T and Sharmell. Has this rivalry really been going on since the beginning of the year? It seems much longer than that. Anyway. The action between Roode and Booker really can’t be faulted. It was technically excellent in every way, and they put on a good wrestling match. But then the women got involved. Sharmell tagged herself in, attacked Roode, who then held her while Payton tagged in and promised to slap Sharmell. But Mrs. T worked her way free, and Payton accidentally clobbered her boss. A roll-up and three count later, and Sharmell and her old man had the victory. A good match, up to a point.
Lethal Lockdown is next, with Team Cage (Christian Cage, Rhino, Kevin Nash, Matt Morgan & Sting) facing Team Tomko (Tomko, A.J. Styles, James Storm & Team 3-D). It’s basically a War Games match but with only one ring and in six sides of steel, with two wrestlers starting off the match, and a new man being introduced every few minutes. The beginning of this one was quite ingenious. After Christian Cage came to the ring for his team, Tomko came out, but when he was about to enter the ring, it was revealed that A.J. Styles was already in the ring, and he attacked Cage from behind, and as both teams build up their resources in the ring, the brawl goes on, until all ten men are in the ring and the roof comes down onto the cage. So it’s basically ten guys beating the hell out of each other, and damn entertaining to watch, and this year it’s the turn of Styles and Cage to take the crazy bump on top of the cage, after Storm pushes them both off a ladder and through a table, and after all that went on, Rhino got the win for his team, taking Storm out with a gore just after the cowboy had clobbered Morgan with his trademark beer bottle. I’m glad they only do this match once a year, because this is probably one of the best gimmick matches that TNA has right now.
Main event time, as Kurt Angle defends the TNA title against Samoa Joe, and if Joe loses, he has to retire. Interesting to see that Angle is decked out like an MMA fighter for this one. Before the match even begins, Angle spotted his wife Karen sitting at ringside, and insisted that security remove her from the building. As with the Awesome Kong match earlier, I was expecting a lot from this one, and like the Awesome Kong match, this one delivered as well. I’ve only ever seen one match like this before, about six years ago at a WAW show, and for me this was the perfect marriage of professional wrestling and mixed martial arts. This match had me transfixed from the moment it started, and that’s something that doesn’t happen that often. It was awesome, and had so much great action it would literally take me too long to describe everything, and in the end, Joe took Angle down with the muscle buster to get the winning pin and the TNA title victory. I will tell you this now - if this isn’t a match of the year candidate then there really isn’t any justice in this world.
In conclusion - the 2008 version of Lockdown is a perfect example of how they can do things perfectly in one instance, and then spoil it by over-complicating things in another. For me, the excessive stipulations in the Cuffed in the Cage, X Division and Queen of the Cage matches spoiled things a little, and it’s about time that TNA realised that if something is made simple it could become a whole lot more enjoyable.
But this was more than made up for with the main event. Samoa Joe v Kurt Angle is for me already a match of the year candidate, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins a stack of awards when voting time comes around. Some have heavily criticised this style of match, but I don’t care, because when I see matches like this I remember just how great it is to be a professional wrestling thing. Kudos to Joe and Kurt for putting on such a great match, and kudos to TNA for having the guys to go through with it.