Thursday, 28 February 2019

PPV REVIEW: NWA-TNA: Weekly PPV #1

NWA: TNA - First Ever Event - NWA-TNA logo
June 19th, 2002
Von Braun Civic Center, Huntsville, Alabama

At the time that I first sat down to write this review, All Elite Wrestling had just announced their arrival on the pro wrestling landscape.

In the eyes of many fans, the new promotion looked to be the biggest threat to WWE's global dominance since World Championship Wrestling's game-changing run at the height of the Monday Night Wars.

Indeed, while many companies have come and many more have gone, Vince McMahon's sports entertainment empire has gone relatively unchallenged for the better part of 20 years.






Though it wasn't always this way.

A year after the company's demise, WCW's former World Champion Jeff Jarrett found himself without a job and without any chance of getting another run in WWE thanks to a falling out with McMahon a few years earlier.

So he teamed up with father Jerry Jarrett to form a new start-up promotion, NWA: TNA.

Though the future would prove to have other ideas for them, TNA at first looked to be the best chance any company had of replicating WCW's success against WWE and establishing themselves as the number two -if not number one- pro wrestling company in America.

Over 15 years later, and despite countless management and roster changes -not to mention countless rumours of their imminent demise- TNA are still alive and kicking, now formally under the name of Impact Wrestling.

Though no longer a threat to WWE, and though their status as America's number two has likely already surpassed by All Elite Wrestling, Impact do still have a healthy following, and to celebrate passing two million YouTube subscribers, the company posted the company's first ever show online in its entirety.


And so, with nothing better to do on a rainy Sunday morning, we head back to 2002, when it was NWA: TNA, and not AEW, who were the Next Great Hope for professional wrestling.

History in the Making 

NWA: TNA - First Ever Event - Don West, Mike Tenay, and Ed Ferarra call the action
After all the pomp and fireworks, a rather svelte (compared to later years) Don West came bursting down the entrance way and welcomed us to the show as two strippers gyrated in cages at either side of the entrance.

West next introduced us to one of his co-announcers for tonight's show, Ed Ferrara. Last seen on TV doing a terrible and ill-received impression of Jim Ross back in WCW, Ferrara came out doing a new impression:

That of a sleazy, middle-aged man in the throes of a mid-life crisis. Sporting long dreadlocks down to his ass and wearing leather pants and a leather coat, Ferrara looked ridiculous.

He sounded even more ridiculous when he told us that he was here for TNA, not just Total Non-Stop Action but, you know, TNA.

Finally, Ed and West took their seats either side of lead announcer Mike Tenay who had opted not to draw attention to himself like Ed and Don had (West was wearing a garish Hawaiian shirt) but rather to don the traditional uniform of the pro wrestling pay-per-view announcer: The tuxedo.

Tenay, whose familiar voice already leant an air of credibility to proceedings, told us that tonight was all about history. It was about respecting the history of the National Wrestling Alliance, and also about creating history with the first TNA broadcast.

Iron Mike talked to Ed and Don about tonight's Gauntlet for the Gold match in which we'd crown a new NWA Champion. From the way Tenay explained it, the match was basically a convoluted Battle Royal, a bit like a Royal Rumble that would turn into a singles match between the last two men standing.

The Legends are Here...And the Main Event Sucks

NWA: TNA - First Ever Event - Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat and the NWA legends present the TNA title
With the intros out of the way, we next went to the ring where Jeramy Borash and his bleached-blonde highlights were on hand to welcome the legends of the National Wrestling Alliance to the ring.

Harley Race, Dory Funk Jr, Jackie Fargo, Corsica Joe and his wife, and NWA committee member Bill Behrens were all introduced before, finally, Ricky Steamboat came out with the NWA Championship.

Taking to the mic, Steamboat did an incredible job of making the title seem like the most important thing in the world, putting over its heritage, history and what a valuable prize it was in the world of pro wrestling. If you were ever going to get fans excited about your main event title match, this was the way to do it.

Of course, one way not to get fans excited would be to have some of the biggest stars competing in that main event come out and tell everybody how stupid the match was...

Which is exactly what TNA did net.

First up, Jeff Jarrett interrupted Steamboat. In kayfabe, Jarrett was just another member of the roster. Jarrett's very first on-screen act in his new company was to tell us all what a bad idea the main event was. Irrate at the introduction, Jackie Fargo took to the mic and, in his capacity as a member of the NWA Championship Committee (or something to that effect), declared that Jarrett was to be the first entrant in tonight's Gauntlet for the Gold.

NWA: TNA - First Ever Event - Ken Shamrock promises to win the TNA Championship
Next, Jarrett was interrupted by The World's Most Dangerous Man, Ken Shamrock.

Receiving a rousing ovation from the crowd, Shamrock agreed with Jarrett, even going so far as to tell us that the main event "sucked."

Still, despite it sucking, Shamrock had entered the match and told us that he'd drawn number 19.

Finally, a healthy-looking Scott Hall strolled through the crowd and repeated Shamrock's statement that the main event sucked but that he was entering anyway.

Having spent the very first real segment in TNA taking a huge dump over their own main event, everybody kind of just left as we cut backstage.

Puppet the Psycho Dwarf Wants Midget Blood

NWA: TNA - First Ever Event - Goldy Locks interviews Puppet the Psycho Dwarf
Out in the back, Goldy Locks introduced us to a man she called a "midget killer," Puppet The Psycho Dwarf.

Clearly, out his mind, Puppet ranted and raved about how midgets were the true backbone of America and as such he wanted to see them in the opening match so that he could see some "midget blood."

Before things could get any more insane, Puppet and Goldy were interrupted by a pissed-off Jeff Jarrett, who was seen storming past and kicking things over while cursing to himself about Jackie Fargo.

I've no idea what that was.

Six Man Tag:
AJ Styles, Low Ki, and Jerry Lynn vs. The Flying Elvises (Jorge Estrada, Sonny Siaki, and Jimmy Yang)

NWA: TNA - First Ever Event - AJ Styles, Low Ki, and Jerry Lynn face The Flying Elvises
More than living up to their name, Total Non-Stop Action delivered with their first ever televised match, a lightning-fast six-man battle designed to showcase the company's X-Division.

After a refusing a handshake, The Flying Elvises firmly established themselves as heels by attacking their opponents in the opening moments, but it was AJ Styles, Low Ki, and Jerry Lynn, especially Lynn, who were the real stars here.

The babyfaces looked mightily impressive as they each took turns to showcase their unique offence, battling Jorge Estrada, Sonny Siaki and former Jung Dragon, Jimmy Yang, in a very exciting opening contest.

Yet despite their best efforts, it just wasn't to be for Styles, Ki, and Lynn. After an exhilarating match, Jimmy Yang came flying off the top rope to hit AJ with the Yang Time and picked up the three count, earning him the distinct honour of being the first man to score a pinfall on any TNA televised broadcast.
Your Winners: The Flying Elvises 

After a brief clip of TNA's sexy dancers sexy dancing inside stripper cages, it was onto our next match.

Midget Match
Hollywood vs. Teo

NWA: TNA - First Ever Event - Teo beat Hollywood
To be honest, your writer wasn't expecting anything more than a farcical comedy routine here and was pleasantly surprised when Teo and Hollywood used the two or three minutes they were allotted to deliver a surprisingly fun bout.

Though I'm trying desperately to avoid using the word short, there's no way around it. This was a very short match, but also very enjoyable, and ended when Teo hit Hollywood with a twisting senton for the three count.
Your Winner: Teo

After more dancing ladies we got...more ladies.

Francine Vows to Become Miss TNA

Out in the ring, Don West and Ed Ferrara introduced the ladies who would be competing in the following week's Lingerie Battle Royal. The competitors included, among others, ECW stars Francine and Electra, Daffney and a young Alexis Laree, better known to you and me as Mickie James.

NWA: TNA - First Ever Event - Alexis Laree (Mickie James) looks on as Francine reminds us she's the Queen of Extreme
With all the girls in the ring, Francine grabbed the mic to remind us that she was the Queen of Extreme, and that, as such, nobody else was worthy of being in the ring with her.

That prompted Electra to stand up and accuse Francine of "singlehandedly bankrupting another company (ECW)". Irrate at the clearly false accusation, Francine lunged after Electra and a small catfight ensued, resulting in Francine ripping Electra's top off to expose her bra. Finally, as she left the ring, Francine vowed that she would win the battle royal next week and be crowned our first Miss TNA.

I'm not sure if this was supposed to be sexy or just entertaining, but it ended up being neither.

Mortimer Plumtree Introduces The Johnsons 

Out in the back, Goldy Locks was standing by with manager Mortimer Plumtree.

NWA: TNA - First Ever Event - Goldy Locks interviews Mortimer Plumtree
Plumtree told us that he had complete control over two men who he was bringing to TNA. Those men?

The Johnsons.

Though the whole idea of The Johnsons was stupid (their whole thing was quite literally one big dick joke), Plumtree was actually pretty compelling as the wimpy manager with delusions of power who gets others to do his work for him.

It's such a shame they combined his natural charisma with such a terrible, terrible gimmick.

The Johnsons (Richard & Rod w/ Mortimer Plumtree) vs. Psicosis & Cowboy James Storm

Imagine having it on your resume that at some point in your past you were a wrestling penis.

NWA: TNA - First Ever Event - Mortimer Plumtree celebrates with The Johnsons
As Richard and Rod (puns very much intended) made their way to the ring, the camera shot to two very young children giving them the thumbs down. I don't need to tell you how troubling that shot is.

Here, the masked dicks took on former WCW star Psicosis and long-time TNA mainstay, Cowboy James Storm in a decent though occasionally sloppy match.

The young, clean-shaven Cowboy James Storm looked a million miles away from the grizzled, beer-drinking veteran we know him as today, especially when he brought out two pistols and fired a couple of blanks in his best impersonation of The Smoking Gunns.

Together with Psicosis, the future TNA champion looked impressive in his debut but sadly wasn't able to avoid a good pounding from a couple of Johnsons.

Yeah, I'm sorry, I went there.
Your Winners: The Johnsons 

Part way through the match, Aleesha (better known as Alicia Webb/Ryan Shamrock) came out to watch the proceedings. Post-match, she had a word with referee Slick Johnson (no relation to Richard and Rod), who then gave her some money and walked off.

Out in the back, Goldy Locks caught up with The Dupps, were told off by Bill Behrens for drinking beer in the locker room.

This is Pro Wrestling, Not NASCAR

NWA: TNA - First Ever Event - K-Krush (R-Truth) confronts some NASCAR drivers
Up next, Jeramy Borash introduced NASCAR drivers Hermie Saddler and Sterling Marlin, interviewing both men about NASCAR racing. Having heard enough, K-Krush (Ron 'R-Truth' Killings) came out and said what we were all thinking:

"Nobody cares about NASCAR, this is pro wrestling."

An angry Krush got into it with Saddler and threatened to attack him, only for Brian 'Christopher' Lawler to run out and see off K-Krush, challenging him to a match on next week's show.

Out in the back, a gaggle of referees and jobbers in security T-shirts had to stop Jeff Jarrett from choking out Jackie Fargo.

Christian York & Joey Matthews vs. The Dupps (Stan & Bo w/ Fluff) 

The story here is that Stan, Bo, and Fluff were all cousins, but Fluff was also both Stan & Bo's girlfriend. OK, so it was another dumb idea on a show that seemed to have many, but I won't lie, if Fluff was my cousin, I'd at least be tempted.

NWA: TNA - First Ever Event - The Dups
Here, they went up against Christian York and future Straight Edge Society member, Joey Matthews.

Though not a great match by any stretch, there was nothing particularly bad about this. It was perfectly acceptable mid-card filler which came to an end with a victory for the incestuous cousins.
Your Winners: The Dups 

As if the NASCAR stuff wasn't enough to give the show a decidedly southern feel, we were next shown a clip from a Toby Keith music video before the man himself was introduced live to the arena by Bleached-Blonde Borash.

Though musical interludes rarely work in pro wrestling shows, the fans were big-time into Keith's song, mainly because it was all full of Eagles and Liberty and Going Murica All Over Everybody's Asses.

One person who clearly wasn't a fan was Jeff Jarrett. Possibly having flashbacks to WWF In Your House 2, Double J stormed out, shoved Keith aside and headed to the ring, claiming that nobody wanted to hear the country music star singing.

Keith had to be held back by officials whilst Jarrett circled the ring, ready for our main event.

NWA World Heavyweight Championship Gauntlet for the Gold Match 

Featuring: Jeff Jarrett, Buff Bagwell, Lash LeRoux, Norman Smiley, Apollo, K-Krush, Slash, Del Rios, Justice, Konnan, Bruce, Rick Steiner, Malice, Scott Hall, Vampire Warrior, Devon Storm, Steve Corino, Ken Shamrock, Brian Christopher

And so it was on, a 20-man battle royal with the last two remaining competitors going at it in a singles match for the title.

Jarrett started off in Hulk Hogan/John Cena mode, making quick work of Buff Bagwell, Lash LeRoux, and Norman Smiley and singlehandedly eliminating each man, one after the other. Honestly, anybody would think Jarrett himself were booking the match or something.

Seeing Jarrett do the superhuman thing was very boring, and the match didn't get much better when Apollo came in and put an end to Double J's reign of terror. Still, the former Intercontinental Champion stayed in the match all the way until the 15th or 16th participant, when Toby Keith put in a cameo appearance.

Looking to get some revenge, Keith hit Jarrett with a suplex before he and Scott Hall tossed him out of the ring.

If there are some names you don't quite recognise here, let's go through them.

Del Rios was an exact clone of Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner (albeit smaller) who had famously had one match in the WWF as wrestling magician Phantasio. Justice would become Abyss and Bruce was Allen Funk in a "we're gay so we're heels" gimmick with Lenny Lane. Malice was The Wall from WCW.

I say all this because it's more interesting than just about anything that happened in the match itself, outside of Malice killing everybody and Konnan being just as super-over as he was at the height of his WCW run.

After a lengthy battle, Ken Shamrock and Malice were the last two remaining, at which point Ricky Steamboat stepped in as our special referee.

A short, forgettable match later, Shamrock got the win.
Your Winner and NEW NWA Champion: Ken Shamrock

After Shamrock's celebration, Jeff Jarrett stormed back to the ring, still complaining about the stupid idea of having a battle royal to determine a world champion.

bought Jackie Fargo and Toby Keith back out, with Fargo telling us that he'd have somebody take care of Jarrett next week. That somebody happened to Scott Hall, who stormed out and got into a brawl with Jarrett as the show came to an end.






And so that that was that.

Picking up right where WCW had left off with a cringe-worthy version of the Attitude Era product, if NWA: TNA really were the company to challenge WWE's dominance, they certainly didn't show it on their first outing as a company. 

Sure, there was some good wrestling, particularly in the opening contest, but it's fair to say that this show really hasn't aged well over the past seventeen years. In fact, watching this show, it's amazing to think that TNA, in some form or another, has made it this far. 



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