TNA: Best of the Asylum Years
Location: TNA Asylum, Nashville, Tennessee
Commentators: Mike Tenay, Don West, Ed Ferrara
This is actually my first DVD review. TNA has put out a lot of DVDs on their Youtube page for kind of a preview weekend deal and this was voted as the one I should review. If the videos stay up I might do a few more of these. It’s a simple concept: the Asylum is the name of TNA’s old home arena in Nashville and this is a compilation of great matches from the venue. Let’s get to it.
Total run time:…..FIVE AND A HALF HOURS??? Now I remember why I don’t do DVDs.
Expect this to be kind of quick in some places as there isn’t much recapping you can do for a documentary. I haven’t seen a ton of the old TNA stuff though so expect some details to be missing.
We open with a basic history of the company and go into a discussion of the first PPV. Jeff Jarrett talks about how big a market Nashville has been for wrestling over the years. Dixie talking about it gets on my nerves as she feels like someone who won a fan contest to get on the DVD.
Thankfully the matches are interspersed throughout the DVD instead of being all at the end.
NWA World Title: Ken Shamrock vs. Sabu
From July 24, 2002 with Shamrock defending. There’s a ladder at ringside and Tenay quickly tells us this is grab the title or submission. That’s different to say the least. Ferrara goes on a rant about how this should be Jarrett or Malice getting the shot while Shamrock cranks on the leg. Sabu rolls him up and grabs a leg lock of his own but Shamrock is just fine on the mat. Apparently security has bailed over something that happened earlier in the night.
Ken works on a cross armbreaker but lets go for a rope break. A quick snap mare puts Sabu down and we hit the chinlock. The fans don’t seem pleased with this and Sabu going for a cross armbreaker of his own doesn’t help. Ken grabs a leg bar but Sabu gets out again as we hear Ricky Steamboat will be in charge next week. A leg lariat sets up the slingshot legdrop from Sabu and it’s back to the armbreaker. Now the fans want a ladder but get Shamrock charging into Sabu in the corner.
Sabu gets bored with the wrestling stuff and goes for the ladder but the champion baseball slides it into Sabu instead. They head up the ramp with Shamrock throwing Sabu into the dancers’ cage. Sabu is busted open so he sends Shamrock into the barricade at ringside. A table is set up in the aisle but Shamrock avoids a triple jump flip dive. Sabu’s back is all sliced up and the blood is literally flowing. The ladder is sent inside but the lights go out as Shamrock grabs the belt. The lights come back on and Malice is on the ladder and pounding on a Ken. A chokeslam sends Shamrock down and Malice pulls down the title for the no contest.
Rating: D. To clarify, the first match on this set has a screwy ending. Just throwing that out there. Anyway, the match was nothing interesting though some of the big spots weren’t bad. The problem though is how much of a ladder match can you get with less than ten minutes to work with? It didn’t help that the announcers talked about how Malice was going to do something throughout the match.
On to the X-Division with the typical X-Division stars saying the usual X-Division talking points. Jeff Hardy’s face paint looks ridiculous.
X-Division Title: Jerry Lynn vs. Low Ki vs. AJ Styles
From August 28, 2002. This is a ladder match with Ki defending. They circle each other for a bit until Styles drops down and grabs a ladder. Both other guys slide to the floor as well with Styles hitting Jerry with the ladder, only to have Low Ki kick the ladder back into AJ. They head back inside where Low Ki kicks Lynn off the apron. A handspring kick takes Styles down as well as Jerry comes back in.
Lynn hits a sweet spinning tilt-a-whirl backbreaker to take the champ down before pounding on Styles in the corner. Low Ki gets put in a surfboard but Styles breaks it up and stomps on Low Ki a bit. Jerry suplexes AJ down and puts him in a Liontamer, only to have Low Ki fire off kicks to break it up. Lynn won’t let it go and shouts to kick him harder. Low Ki is fine with that and kicks Lynn hard enough to break up the hold.
A running kick in the corner takes Styles down again before loading him into the Ki Crusher. Instead of dropping him though, Low Ki rams him into Jerry in the corner to put both guys down. The champ goes to get the ladder but Jerry baseball slides it back into Low Ki to take over again. Styles heads to the floor as well to kick the champ in the head before dropping Lynn face first onto the apron.
With the ladder bridged between the ring and the barricade, all three guys stand on top of it and slug it out before a big headbutt sends all three guys to the ground. Lynn is up first and sends a ladder into the ring which is dropkicked into AJ’s ribs and chest on the mat. Low Ki is up again and starts setting up the ladder, only to have AJ deck him from behind. The ladder is leaning against the ropes as AJ GOES OFF on the champ, only to walk into a punch from Jerry.
Lynn and Styles launch Low Ki into the ladder in a double hiptoss and it’s one on one. AJ does a Daniel Bryan backflip off the ladder and tries a tornado DDT, only to have Lynn counter and hit a northern lights suplex to send AJ back first into the ladder. Ki is back in and kicks Jerry down but realizes he can’t pin him. A charge in the corner is caught by Lynn but he ranas Jerry into the ladder to put all three guys down again.
It’s AJ back up first to ram the champ with the ladder before he tries to climb, only to get kicked by Low Ki. AJ is hung in a Tree of Woe in the ladder where Low Ki fires off kicks to the chest. Now Low Ki climbs but Jerry makes the save and suplexes him down off the ladder to put everyone down again. AJ gets up and hits the moonsault DDT on Low Ki to pop the crowd again. Jerry pounds on Styles and catches a jumping champion in a running Liger Bomb to take over yet again.
There’s a second ladder in the ring now as Styles brings in another one. Low Ki slides out and brings in a third as this could get very messy in a hurry. The challengers stop fighting long enough to make a save of Low Ki as Styles and Low Ki fight on top. Low Ki hooks a Dragon Sleeper on top of the ladder (grab the title you dolt) but here’s Lynn again and all three are on a ladder.
In a pretty awesome move, Low Ki has his ladder shoved down but he gets his foot on the top rope and shoves himself and the ladder back to an upright position. AJ gets shoved to the floor and it’s Lynn vs. Low Ki. Jerry is like DIE YOU KICKING SPOT MONKEY and cradle piledrives him off the ladder. Lynn climbs up and wins the title to end the show.
Rating: B+. Solid, solid match here with all three guys beating the tar out of each other. It’s not on the level of one of the TLC matches, but for what we had here, this was one of the better ladder matches you’ll see in awhile. I’d have preferred just Lynn and AJ because I’m not a fan of Low Ki at all, but the shove back off the rope was good enough for me to overlook him. Solid stuff.
Next up: the world title, with Tenay talking about how this is a wrestling company instead of an entertainment company. Abyss in full gear, is a strange sight to see in a sitdown interview. The gist here is that things got big in a hurry and a lot of that was due to Raven vs. Jarrett.
NWA World Title: Jeff Jarrett vs. Raven
From April 30, 2003 with Jarrett defending. Raven has Julio Dinero with him but unfortunately not the more famous lackey: CM Punk. He also has his chick Alexis Laree, more famous as Mickie James. This is billed as the showdown with Raven wanting to claim his destiny. Feeling out process to start with Raven slamming the champion down and celebrating. A drop toehold ticks Jeff off even more so he erupts with right hands and a dropkick to send Raven out to the floor.
Raven is sent into the barricade but some interference from the Gathering (Raven’s stable) lets him take over again. Jeff knocks Raven down and dives on the Gathering as he foreshadows his lucha libre skills. Another drop toehold puts Jarrett into the steps as Raven has been busted open on something. Dinero has set up a table for Raven who lays a bloody Jarrett on the wood. Jeff gets inside before Raven can dive on him though and the fight continues.
Dinero slides in a chair for the third drop toehold from Raven for two. A knee to the ribs puts Jarrett down again and Raven kicks him in the head like the villain that he is. There’s a sleeper as the fans are behind Jarrett. Jeff comes back with a jawbreaker and a Diamond Cutter of all things to put both guys down. Some right hands block the Raven Effect and a nice dropkick gets two for the champ.
Dinero gets a dropkick as well and Jarrett slams Alexis. Another Raven Effect attempt is countered with an enziguri for two and a catapult into the corner gets the same. The Stroke hits from out of nowhere for another near fall but no real pop from the crowd. A sloppy Raven Effect gets the same but Jeff comes back with a Cactus Clothesline to send both outside. Raven is laid out on the table and Jeff drops a middle rope elbow to drive him through it.
Back inside and Jarrett lays Raven out with a DDT but Dinero makes the save. The referee FINALLY ejects the Gathering but Raven shoves Jarrett into the referee, knocking him into the barricade. Both guys kick each other low as the Disciples of the New Church come out to brawl with the Gathering. Raven calls out Extreme Revolution (your usual ECW guys) to destroy and handcuff Jarrett.
Saturn and Credible hit a Conchairto with superkicks on Jarrett but the lights go out. Back on and here’s Sabu to take out Raven and the rest of the ECW guys. Everyone else leaves and Jarrett ducks a chair shot, sending the chair into the ropes and back onto Raven’s head for two. Bill Behrens (boss) comes out to uncuff Jarrett but Raven grabs the Even Flow for two. Not that it matters as Jarrett pops up and hits the Stroke for the pin.
Rating: B-. I was really digging this until everything fell apart at the end. There had to be some insanity in there but based on this and this alone, giving Raven the title wouldn’t have been the worst idea. There’s chemistry here and a natural dichotomy between these two which makes for a good match like this one.
Next up: people saying TNA was going to die. I’ll give them credit for this: people have been saying that for over 11 years now and TNA keeps hanging in there.
Triple X vs. AJ Styles/D’Lo Brown
From May 7, 2003. Triple X is Elix Skipper/Low Ki and the winners go on to a #1 contenders match later tonight. Brown and Low Ki trade strikes to start until Brown grabs a slam and drops some elbows. A blind tag brings in AJ for a springboard missile dropkick and a knee drop for two. Low Ki has to kick someone before he explodes so he takes over with a cartwheel kick.
Off to Skipper but AJ nips up into a hurricanrana for two. Brown comes in and slams AJ onto Skipper’s chest but Low Ki comes back in for some chops. Skipper is back in almost immediately and gets suplexed down. A flapjack gives Brown even more of a breather and he dives into a tag to Styles. The good guys chop Elix down but he pulls Brown to the floor and sends him into the barricade.
Back inside and Low Ki kicks AJ in the head to stagger him again before Skipper comes in again for some forearms. Styles counters the Play of the Day and makes another hot tag to Brown. Everything breaks down and D’Lo hits a double shaky head legdrop. A Cactus Clothesline sends Brown and Skipper to the floor but Brown slides back in to catch a cartwheeling Low Ki in the Sky High for the pin.
Rating: D+. Nice finish to a boring match. I’m not sure why this match was on the set as there were some much more interesting tag matches. There’s a good chance this was based on the name power instead of the match itself, which is understandable given how long it would take to watch every match.
AJ Styles was awesome in case you didn’t know that. He used the X-Division to get to the main event and had chemistry with everyone. That’s true actually.
NWA World Title: AJ Styles vs. Raven vs. Jeff Jarrett
From June 11, 2003 and Jarrett is defending. After some big match intros we’re ready to go and it’s one fall to a finish. Styles is quickly thrown to the floor but he runs back in to deck a talking Jarrett. Raven gets kicked down by AJ but Jarrett hits a picture perfect dropkick to take AJ down as well. Jarrett and Raven brawl to the floor and AJ hits a big flip dive to take them both out. AJ whips Raven into the barricade so hard that it’s knocked off the hinges, only to have Raven charge back over the steps with a clothesline to Jarrett.
Back in and AJ pounds on Jarrett in the corner but gets caught in a running powerbomb for two. Raven ducks Jeff’s enziguri and there’s an STF on the champion until AJ makes the save. Styles hits the moonsault into a DDT for two on Jarrett but Raven makes the save. Neither Jarrett or Raven can hit their finishers so here’s AJ with a chair to crack Raven’s head, busting him open in the process.
AJ and Jarrett form a quick alliance to double team Raven but Jarrett doesn’t care for AJ going for a cover after a springboard hurricanrana. The roles reverse when Jarrett slams Raven’s head into the mat as AJ makes the save. Now we get a combination reverse chinlock and half crab on Raven until AJ lets go and goes up for a guillotine legdrop. Raven sends Jarrett forward though and the champ is knocked out.
It’s Raven’s turn to take over now with a superkick to Jeff and a series of clotheslines to AJ. A chair is brought in but Raven gets caught in the drop toehold. AJ is knocked to the floor and Raven counters the Stroke into the Raven Effect for two due to Shane Douglas pulling Raven to the floor. They fight to the back, leaving AJ to blast Jarrett with the belt. Instead of covering though Styles goes up top for a Low Down (frog splash) for two.
AJ pounds away in the corner but gets caught in an Alabama Slam for two. Styles comes back with a powerbomb but can’t hook a Figure Four. Instead he sunsets flips Jeff into a Styles Clash but Jarrett rolls away and slams AJ into the referee in the corner. AJ breaks up a superplex attempt but his springboard 450 hits knees in a painful looking landing. Cue Vince Russo with a guitar to crack over Jarrett’s head, setting up the Styles Clash for the pin and the title.
Rating: C. This was much more of a collection of spots than a good match. It’s also a match that would have been better if I knew all of the backstory behind it. That’s a problem with most of this DVD: the matches have no context at all, meaning it’s hard to care about anything going on out there. It’s even worse when this isn’t a very well known time in the company’s history, meaning people aren’t as likely to know this stuff off the top of their heads.
Next up: tag teams, with various midcarders talking about how important teams are in wrestling. I do like Storm’s philosophy on winning: “I win so I can go home and sit in a big comfortable chair and drink a lot of beer.”
Tag Titles: Triple X vs. America’s Most Wanted
From June 25, 2003 and inside a cage. This isn’t the famous cage match these teams had but I’ve seen this one before and it’s awesome as well. The champions XXX are comprised of Elix Skipper and Christopher Daniels while the challengers are James Storm/Chris Harris. This is the fifth match but XXX has won via outside interference every single time. This is also TNA’s first ever cage match.
It’s a brawl to start but the referee makes them tag to get on my nerves. Harris bulldogs Daniels down before AMW picks up Skipper and launches him into Daniels. This is pin or submission only, meaning escape doesn’t count. Daniels and Harris are the official starters and the fans chant for the Fallen Angel. Skipper gets in a cheap shot from the apron before throwing him face first into the cage for two. Harris is already busted open.
The champions take turns stomping on Harris’ forehead until Daniels gets two off a springboard moonsault press by Skipper. Harris gets a lucky shot off a running clothesline but Daniels kicks his head off for two. Back to Skipper who sends Harris into the cage again but Harris comes off the ropes with another clothesline. There’s the hot tag to Storm who cleans house, sending Skipper chest first into the cage with a reverse suplex. A powerslam gets two on Daniels but he kicks Storm’s knee out to slow him down.
We get a Kill the Cowboy chant, which is hopefully a remnant from the early days of the company rather than the fans not liking Storm’s current work. The champions hit a suplex/cross body combo on the bloody Storm but Skipper’s ribs are injured from being sent into the cage. Back up and the two of them rams heads, setting up a double tag to Harris and Daniels. Harris takes over with the raw power by ramming Daniels head first into the cage over and over. Skipper’s ribs get reacquainted with the steel as well as Daniels is busted open too.
Harris loads up the Catatonic (spinning Rock Bottom) but Daniels counters into the Angel’s Wings (lifting sitout Pedigree) for a very close two. Everything breaks down and Daniels blocks a reverse tornado DDT by taking Storm onto the top rope for an STO to the mat. Skipper belly to bellys Harris down before sending him into the cage again. Elix goes up top for no apparent reason but gets powerbombed down in a HUGE crash to give Harris a near fall.
Daniels hits Last Rites (Cross Rhodes) on Storm for an even closer two as Harris makes yet another save. Harris and Daniels go up top but Daniels backs away across the rope, allowing Harris to hit a diving spear for an even closer near fall. Skipper takes Harris down with the Play of the Day before going for a very big climb. Elix dives off the top with a high cross body but reinjures his ribs in the process. STORYTELLING BABY!
A delayed cover gets two so Skipper goes up again, only to be knocked down a bit and then out to the floor. Storm superkicks Daniels down and the Death Sentence (spinebuster/legdrop) mostly misses Daniels for two. Skipper tries to climb back in but gets knocked back to the floor. Harris goes up to the very top of the cage for a HUGE Death Sentence to crush Daniels for the pin and the titles.
Rating: A. There’s your price of admission right there. This was all about taking two teams and having them beat the tar out of each other for twenty minutes. On top of that we have the story of Skipper’s ribs in a good piece of psychology, a rarity in matches like these. The amazing thing is these four would top this effort in another cage match at Turning Point the following year. Great match.
Now we talk about people coming into TNA because they thought it was the next big thing. The problem is they’re mainly talking about retired guys like Rick Steiner and the Road Warriors, who do add name recognition but are there for quick paychecks instead of doing anything long term.
Raven vs. Shane Douglas
From September 17, 2003 and this is hair vs. hair. Shane is part of the New Church and has James Mitchell in his corner. The stalling begins early with Douglas arguing with a fan and Raven saying just bring it. No contact in the first minute but Raven cranks it up with rights and lefts to the jaw. Raven sends Shane to the floor but refuses to give chase as he knows what’s waiting for him if he charges back inside.
Shane runs to the floor on his own this time but gets whipped into the barricade and drilled in the forehead. They head into the crowd with Shane staggering away from Raven after being rammed into various hard objects. Raven drops a leg on a chair onto Shane’s face and hits him in the head with a garbage can. Thankfully the camera work here is really solid and there’s nothing blocking the view. That used to drive me crazy in ECW.
Back in and Raven puts on a Cobra Clutch to keep Shane in trouble but Douglas bails to the floor to avoid the Raven Effect. Shane comes back in and sends Raven to the floor again with a drop toehold. The brawl continues at ringside with Shane stumbling face first into the steps, busting him open. Shane sends him into the announcers’ table and the steps to come back though to give us matching cuts on the forehead.
They head inside again for a Hennig necksnap on Raven followed by an abdominal stretch. Raven counters the hold twice in a row before putting on one of his own, only to be hiptossed out to the floor. Back in and Shane looks to be vomiting in a disturbing visual. Raven kicks him in the face and grabs a chair but Shane comes back with a chain (signature weapon) shot to the head. It’s only good for two though and Raven comes back with a drop toehold into the chair for the same result.
A superkick drops Shane again but New Church member Slash pulls the referee to the floor. Raven takes out Slash but has a bulldog countered, resulting in a ref bump. Here’s New Church member Sinn (Kizarny/Sinn Bowdee) to help with the beatdown but the Gathering (Julio Dinero and CM Punk) come out to take the New Church to the back. Shane takes too much time loading up a table and gets caught by the Raven Effect for two. This DVD has made that move look so lame.
Raven goes up top but gets shoved through the table for another near fall. Another table is brought in and Raven hits the Effect through said table but the lights go out. It doesn’t help that Shane clearly kicked out before the arena went dark, but they come back on to reveal a mystery man who has been around for months. He pulls off a mask to reveal Vampiro who lays out Raven to give Shane the pin, costing Raven his hair.
Rating: C+. Overbooking aside, it’s amazing how much easier it is to sit through a Shane Douglas match when I don’t have to listen to him talk. Raven really did have a career rebirth in TNA and was having some awesome matches in this run. I’m not sure what the New Church deal was (I know it was a stable and all that jazz) but the blowff (I guess?) was good here.
Post match Raven is forced to have his hair shaved and then look into a mirror. Don West is furious and throws down his headset.
On to Sting who you knew was coming. Everyone was in awe of him showing up because Sting was the one big name free agent they ever got. That would be the case for the next several years.
AJ Styles/Sting vs. Jeff Jarrett/Lex Luger
From November 17, 2003. Luger alone could make this a trainwreck. Sting comes out first here which is a strange choice to say the least. It doesn’t help that JB calls Styles (accompanied by Jimmy Hart of all people) Sting’s opponent. Jeff is world champion because he’s Jeff Jarrett and this is TNA. Luger is heavily muscled but clearly not in the best of shape. Before the match, Jarrett’s manager Don Callis (Cyrus/The Jackyl) says that AJ doesn’t belong in the same ring as Luger and Jarrett. Sting of course disagrees and we’re ready to go.
Jarrett starts with Sting and is quickly shoved down and headlocked. A Stinger Splash misses but Sting puts on the brakes and clotheslines Jarrett down. Off to AJ for the drop down into a dropkick and a knee to the chest for two. The good guys both try Scorpions on the heels but Luger and Jarrett bail to the floor.
It’s off to Luger for his first match in America since WCW went under. AJ is easily shoved down and a gorilla press shows off Luger’s power. We hit the bearhug for a few moments before Lex drops him to tag Jarrett back in. A spinebuster puts Styles down again and it’s back to Luger. That goes nowhere so it’s back to Jeff who counters a hurricanrana attempt. AJ is stuck on Jeff’s shoulders but gets him into the corner for the tag to Sting, only to have Luger distract the referee so the tag doesn’t count.
Jeff’s Figure Four is blocked but AGAIN the referee misses the hot tag. Luger sends AJ to the floor so Sting comes in sans tag to clean house. A Death Drop gets two on Jarrett but Luger breaks up the pin. Sting escapes the Torture Rack attempt as AJ comes back in with a springboard cross body on Luger for two. In a HORRIBLE looking ending, Sting comes in with the ball bat and hits Luger twice in the ribs and chest. Luger, ever the great performer, TOTALLY NO SELLS THEM until Sting hits him in the jaw, knocking Luger into a rollup by AJ for the pin. Luger pops up after the pin and looks shocked instead of, you know, dead.
Rating: D. The ending drags this down even more than I expected it to. Luger was trying but it was the same act that was getting tired eight years before this match. I’m not sure how much you can blame Sting as he hit Luger with a freaking BASEBALL BAT but Luger wouldn’t sell the shots. That just looked ridiculous and nearly more comical than anything else.
We talk about Jarrett’s struggles as champion, meaning he’s fighting everyone in the company at once. This transitions into Dusty vs. Jarrett for control of the company which transitions into a discussion of how TNA has grown over the years.
Dusty Rhodes vs. Jeff Jarrett
From November 26, 2003 and this is for control of the Asylum, which I assume means control of the company. It’s also billed as Fans’ Revenge, meaning there are “fans” at ringside with leather straps to act as lumberjacks. Jeff is world champion but of course this is non-title. The fans come out to Hulk Hogan’s WCW theme music (American Made) which made my head snap back to the monitor.
Jarrett offers to beat up all the fans and save Dusty for last. Tenay dedicates this match to recently deceased NWA World Champion Dick Hutton, which is a name you probably won’t hear more than five times ever in modern wrestling. Dusty scores with a quick Bionic Elbow and Jeff instinctively rolls to the floor, only to run back inside to escape the straps. Now Jeff runs from another elbow attempt and takes his chances on the floor.
More strap shots send him back inside to face the Dream as the fans (the real ones, not the indy workers at ringside) are getting into this. That same sequence happens a few more times as Rhodes just stands in the corner. Jeff finally realizes he’s fighting Dusty Rhodes and punches him down with ease but Dusty starts shaking. The Flip Flop and Fly sets up the Bionic Elbow to send Jeff out for more strapping.
Dusty takes one of the straps for some shots of his own but the referee gets bumped. Jeff gets the strap and beats on Dusty but Jimmy Hart and Don Callis (managers) come in to fight. This draws out Director of Authority Erik Watts to chokeslam Jarrett…and that’s that. The DVD just goes to another history package, meaning I guess it was a no contest?
Rating: D+. This falls under the category of you know what you’re getting. Dusty was fifty eight years old and hadn’t been an active wrestler in over ten years. The match was about the lumberjacks getting in some shots on Jarrett and giving the fans something amusing to see. Dusty would stick around as an authority figure four years.
On to disc 2.
We hit 2004 and talk about how TNA is more than just another indy company and is really getting a reputation. Again, that’s true. Dixie talks about getting in big names like Sting and Scott Hall coming in, even though Hall was there when the company started. Abyss was thrilled with having Terry Funk and Sting as his co-workers after growing up watching them.
Julio Dinero/CM Punk vs. Raven/Terry Funk
From February 18, 2004. Punk and Dinero are still the Gathering even though they’re not under Raven’s control anymore. Apparently this is Raven’s big return from an unknown amount of time gone. Dinero blasts Funk in the back with a chair before the bell as things starts in a brawl. Raven puts on a right side up Tarantula on Punk before Dinero comes in to save his heel partner. It’s SO strange to see Punk with shoulder length dirty blonde hair and yellow shorts.
Everyone heads outside where Funk is busted open. Punk takes Terry back inside to talk a lot of trash but Terry comes back with a Stunner of all things to send CM to the floor. Dinero comes in but gets decked as well. There’s the spinning toe hold and a small package for two on Julio as Punk makes the save. Dinero’s top rope backsplash hits Terry’s eternally damaged knees and Funk crawls over to the corner….but gets punched by CM Punk because the blood has blinded him.
The tag brings in Raven a few seconds later and Bird Boy cleans house. We get the rag (don’t ask) on Punk’s face and a bulldog/clothesline combo takes the Gathering down. Another Funk Stunner puts Dinero down and we get the TUMBLEWEED (abdominal stretch into a rolling rollup) for two. Raven comes back in and hits a quick DDT for the pin on Dinero.
Rating: D. This was about having Funk in there and that’s about it. The Stunners were out of nowhere but almost ignored by the announcers. I’ll give Terry this much: he isn’t just out there throwing punches and nothing more. It’s also strange to see Punk as a glorified indy guy instead of one of the biggest stars in the world.
Post match James Mitchell brings in a taser to take out Raven but Funk takes the shot instead.
We talk about Abyss vs. AJ Styles who feuded multiple times over the years. Abyss gets the spotlight here for a change.
Abyss vs. AJ Styles
From March 17, 2004 and this is a ladder match for the #1 contendership. The brawl is on immediately and AJ hits the Pele (called a bicycle kick here) to stagger the monster. AJ tries to hit the ropes but Abyss hits a HARD clothesline to take his head off. A chop that would make Big Show cringe puts AJ down and Abyss goes to get the ladder. Abyss shoves AJ down with the ladder from the floor but AJ just rams into Abyss to knock him back to the floor. Styles goes up the ladder but hops down and moves the ladder closer to the ropes. It takes too long to set up though and Abyss shoves the ladder down.
Both guys are back inside now and Abyss whips Styles hard into the ladder. The monster climbs up VERY slowly so AJ makes an easy save before bulldogging him onto the ladder. A springboard dropkick sends Abyss to the floor and Styles follows out with a dive. Now it’s AJ going up but Abyss blasts him in the back with a chair before wedging it between the ropes in the corner. Shock Treatment puts AJ down again and Abyss pulls out another ladder. This one stays outside though as he bridges it between the ring and the barricade.
AJ blocks a chokeslam by biting Abyss’ fingers but the monster throws him head first into the chair in the corner to knock Styles loopy. Abyss throws in some more chairs but AJ counters a powerbomb into the Styles Clash (really a pancake due to the legs not being wrapped around Abyss’ arms but close enough) in a very surprising power display. AJ goes up the ladder for a 450 splash, drawing a well earned THIS IS AWESOME chant.
They both climb again but AJ slows Abyss down with some kicks to the head. AJ can’t reach the contract so he busts out a sunset powerbomb to put Abyss through two chairs set up in the corner. Cue Raven to distract AJ for no explained reason, allowing Abyss to shove the ladder over, sending Styles FACE FIRST into the bridged ladder. Abyss easily gets the contract. Apparently Raven was trying to get Russo’s attention or something.
Rating: B+. They had my favorite match ever in TNA so it’s no surprise that I liked this too. It’s the David vs. Goliath formula which is going to work almost every time, especially when you have two people that can work at a high level. The ending felt abrupt but the big spots almost all worked here. Really good stuff, as expected.
We finally go back to the X-Division and talk about all the guys that came in to fill out the division. The expert on this subject:….Abyss? Oh never mind as he’s talking about all kinds of new guys coming in and not just X-Division people. The new guy in focus here: Monty Brown.
Sabu vs. Monty Brown
From April 14, 2004 and this is under hardcore rules. For you old guys, Brown is basically an intelligent Ahmed Johnson but about 10 years older. Sabu tries to jump Brown but gets sent into the corner with ease and pummeled like he stole something. Brown sends him into the ropes but gets caught in a springboard tornado DDT for two. A quick arm tie neckbreaker gives Brown control again but Sabu comes right back with a springboard middle rope huricanrana for another near fall.
It’s already chair time with Sabu pelting it at Brown’s head and staying there in a great visual. A stiff right hand sets up an overhead double underhook suplex from Monty but he takes too long going to the middle rope. Brown comes back again with hard right hands to the face and ribs. He wasn’t all that well rounded at this point if you didn’t notice. The Pounce (basically a hard shoulder block/spear) sends Sabu flying through the ropes and out to the floor.
That’s fine with him as he’s able to pull out a table, only to have Brown punch him in the face yet again. Sabu rams him face first into the table and hits a springboard dive to take Monty down. Another chair is pelted at Brown’s head for two (remember falls count anywhere) but he easily whips Sabu into the crowd. Brown hits a series of backbreakers across his knee before throwing Sabu into a pile of chairs.
A third chair is pelted at Monty’s head and Sabu drags a table out from behind the stands. They head into the locker room but Sabu comes flying back out. Abyss walks through the door before powerbombing Sabu through the table. Brown comes out of the locker room and squares off with Abyss but some dark haired chick comes out to calm Abyss down and take him away. A quick Pounds ends Sabu.
Rating: D+. This was just there to get a hardcore match on the set. Brown was a guy that seemed to have a ton of potential and would have been great as an over the top Scott Steiner style character. He never got pushed to the top though and I can see why that never happened. Sabu was his usual self here.
Back to Jeff Jarrett who talks about feuding with a ton of people and thinks the work came out well. I can’t say I disagree, but Jarrett did have the title more than he should have.
NWA World Title: AJ Styles vs. Jeff Jarrett
From April 21, 2004. Jarrett is defending inside a cage and AJ is a surprise opponent, even though the DVD graphic shows that it’s AJ. Jarrett thinks it’s going to be Raven but Director of Authority Vince Russo runs through other challengers for about five minutes before announcing Styles, sending West and Tenay into their usual frenzy. Pin/submission only here. Feeling out process to start with AJ outworking Jeff on the mat to frustrate the champion. A shoulder block gets AJ nowhere so he chops the skin off Jeff’s chest.
They trade armdrags and chops until Jeff jacks AJ’s jaw to take over. Styles avoids being rammed into the cage and drops down into a loud dropkick. The running knee drop gets two but Jeff comes back with some nice right hands. AJ nips up into a hurricanrana and gets two off a powerslam. They’re only in second or so gear at this point.
Styles gets two off a delayed vertical suplex but Jeff comes back by ramming AJ into the steel twice in a row. Rolling belly to back suplexes get another near fall for the champion and he stops an AJ comeback by avoiding a missile dropkick. It’s time to go after the leg but AJ counters the Figure Four into a small package for two. Instead it’s a Sharpshooter from the champ but AJ is quickly in the ropes. Jeff doesn’t let go of the hold and AJ counters into a Sharpshooter of his own, but Earl Hebner is nowhere in sight so we keep going.
The moonsault out of the corner into the reverse DDT gets two for AJ but the referee gets his eye poked. Powder in AJ’s eyes sets up a backslide for two but AJ comes back with blind kicks. The referee checks on AJ’s eyes but Jeff pulls out a chain and lays out Styles for two. Why Jeff has to hide these things in a cage is beyond me but the match has been good so I won’t complain. Jarrett has his Styles Clash countered and the real version gets two.
AJ goes up to the top of the cage but Jeff sends the referee into the wall to knock AJ down a bit. A flying shot into the cage knocks AJ to the floor (pin/submission only remember) but the referees get him back in. Jeff uses the opening to get a guitar but Vince Russo comes out for a distraction. AJ kicks the guitar to pieces and rolls Jarrett up for the pin and the title.
Rating: B. This continues the old theory of talented guys can have good matches no matter what rules they’re fighting under. To go back to what Jarrett was talking about, this is the kind of thing that you need veterans for in fledgling companies. Seeing AJ vs. a bunch of other guys fans have never heard of means nothing, but seeing AJ beat former WCW World Champion Jeff Jarrett for the title makes the fans think something of AJ.
Raven is livid.
On to some unique stuff from TNA: the six sided ring (unique for America at least). The theory seems to be that the number of sides doesn’t matter as long as the action is good. I can go with that idea.
X-Division Title: AJ Styles vs. Frankie Kazarian
From June 9, 2004 with Kaz defending. This is one of the first matches in the six sided ring which debuted six days earlier on the first episode of a show called Impact. It’s strange to see Kaz in Antonio Banderas form nowadays. Feeling out process to start with AJ taking the champion down into a front facelock. Kaz counters into an armbar as the fans tell him that he still sucks. An armdrag gets AJ free and they stare each other down again. Styles grabs the arm for a wristlock but Kaz gets in a shot to the jaw to escape.
Another armdrag sends Kaz out to the floor but he comes back with a wristlock of his own. AJ starts firing off some kicks to the thigh before peppering Kaz with forearms. Kaz sends him into the ropes but AJ drops down to set up the dropkick but the champion wisely heads outside. Back in and Kaz has to escape a Styles Clash attempt so now AJ hits the dropkick and a knee drop for two. Kaz gets sent out to the floor again and the frustration sets in for the champion.
Things start to pick up with AJ throwing Kaz back inside but getting caught by a slingshot DDT onto the apron. Back inside and Kaz suplexes Styles down and pounds away with right hands to the head. AJ tries a sunset flip but Kaz rolls through into a nice spinning neckbreaker for two. An ax handle to the back has AJ in trouble but he comes back with a running forearm in the corner but only hits turnbuckle on the second attempt. Kaz scores with a slingshot dropkick in the corner to knock the wind out of AJ after the miss knocked the senses out of him.
We hit a chinlock for a bit before going outside again with AJ being sent ribs first into the apron. Back in and Kaz snaps AJ’s throat over the top rope but misses his slingshot splash. This has been very good back and forth stuff so far which doesn’t leave me much to talk about. Both guys go to the corner and AJ superplexes Kaz down to the floor for a sick sounding thud.
Both guys are slow to get up and back inside but it’s Styles getting all fired up for forearms to the head. Kaz loads up a spinning downward spiral but AJ spins out and nails him with the Pele. The Styles Clash is countered with a kick to the head into a rollup for two and a kind of jumping superkick gets a very close two. Kaz puts him on the top rope but has to escape a middle rope Styles Clash. Instead it’s Kaz with the downward spiral (his finisher) for another near fall.
Kaz loads up a Clash (popular idea against AJ) but AJ gets free and takes the champion down with a discus lariat. Styles goes up again but another jumping superkick puts him down. AJ shoves him down and TOTALLY misses the Spiral Tap but covers anyway. Since there was literally no contact Kaz kicks out at two but the referee counts the pin anyway. The announcers are as confused as I was but we have a new champion.
Rating: B+. This was REALLY good stuff until the ending screwed things up. I mean there were literally nine inches of mat between AJ and Kaz on that Spiral Tap attempt but the pin counted anyway. Still though, I can easily accept nineteen minutes of awesome in exchange for thirty seconds of horrible.
We talk about the roster strength going into the TV deal on Fox Sport Net. The focus here is Jeff Hardy.
Jeff Hardy vs. Monty Brown
From July 28, 2004 for the #1 contendership, I believe for the first Victory Road PPV. Feeling out process to start with Brown easily shoving Hardy across the ring. Jeff comes back with a few standing switches and a leg trip to send Brown to the floor. Hardy does some Hogan-esque poses to tick Brown off. Back inside and Hardy hits the legdrop between the legs followed by the seated dropkick for two.
Brown is tired of this selling thing and starts choking and stomping on Jeff to take over. Three straight belly to back suplexes put Hardy down and the awesome selling begins by Jeff. Brown cranks on the arm a bit after working on the ribs for the last three minutes. Off to an STF which is a little bit better but Hardy makes it to the rope. Back up and Hardy has to hurricanrana out of a powerbomb before getting two off a clothesline.
Hardy runs the ropes but gets caught in a the Alpha Bomb (body slam position but Brown swings him up into a powerbomb) for two. Brown calls for the Pounce but Hardy counters into the most telegraphed Twist of Fate I can ever remember. He loads up the Swanton but Jeff Jarrett pulls Brown away. Monty doesn’t want it that way though and yells at Jarrett. Back inside and Monty misses the Pounce, allowing Hardy to get a rollup for the pin and the title shot.
Rating: C-. Not bad here but the lack of psychology on Brown’s part got on my nerves. The ending a showdown in the future but I don’t think it was for Victory Road. Why Hardy never won the title at this point was beyond me but that’s another story for later. Brown continues to have a great look but nothing to back it up with for the most part.
AJ talks about how the X-Division wrestlers will do stupid stuff to give the fans their money’s worth. Sabin and Shelley think about the same way.
AJ Styles vs. Kid Kash
From August 18, 2004 and this is a street fight. Kash smacks AJ in the face to start but gets thrown to the floor, setting up a big flip dive from Styles. AJ sends him into the barricade and kicks at the ribs before heading inside so Kash can beg for mercy. The breather lets Kash score with a jawbreaker and the fight heads back to the floor. Some chair shots put AJ down and Kid talks trash.
AJ slides under the guardrail and launches himself at Kash before throwing him into the crowd. A chair shot to the back sets up a backbreaker on the bleachers but Kash comes back with something resembling a DDT to get a breather. They head over to an opening next to the bleachers where a table just happens to be waiting. Kash goes into the scaffolding but AJ follows him as the camera has troubles keeping up.
They slug each other back and forth in front of a group of fans before Kash tries to throw AJ over the scaffolding. AJ hangs on but Kash follows him down before both guys fall about eight feet through the table onto the concrete. After some laying around they get back up for a trashcan shot to AJ’s back.
AJ headbutts Kash through the crowd and throws him into a wall. Back to the ring now where Kash escapes the Styles Clash and gets two off a standing hurricanrana. AJ comes back with a wheelbarrow suplex for two but his neckbreaker is countered into a suplex to give Kash his own near fall. Kash’s goon Dallas shows up to interfere but accidentally sends Kash into a rollup for the pin.
Rating: B-. This felt like a better version of an ECW brawl but it doesn’t make the match great. Kash is a guy that has never done anything for me other than the time he threatened to stab various people. The idea was to show physicality in the X-Division which worked, but it kind of takes away the aspect that made the division special.
We finally talk about the move to Orlando as the Asylum Era comes to an end. Mr. Anderson pops up above five hours into this thing to talk about hearing horror stories from when WCW taped at Universal Studios.
NWA World Title: Jeff Hardy vs. Jeff Jarrett
From September 18, 2004 with Jarrett defending. Hardy jumps Jarrett before the big match intros but referees hold them back so JB can do his thing. JB introduces championship committee member Larry Zbyszko but apparently Jarrett is a Sammartino fan as he goes after Hardy again. Hardy is introduced and runs Jarrett out of the ring again but JB WILL NOT BE DENIED. He gets the entrances done as security is holding a busted Jarrett down on the floor.
Security lets them go and the bell rings. It’s a brawl to start until Hardy armdrags Jarrett down. Monty Brown is watching from the stage. The champion goes after the knee but Hardy kicks him into the buckle to escape. Jarrett crotches him on top but his Stroke is countered into a middle rope bulldog for two. Jarrett bails to the floor so Hardy drops a top rope ax handle to the back of the head.
The champ gets backdropped into the crowd and Hardy follows him out with a Whisper in the Wind. Jarrett is able to get in a chair shot to take over as Abyss is also watching from the stage. Hardy blocks being thrown off the balcony because it would, you know, kill him so Jarrett hits him with a chair and takes him back to ringside instead. The referee went down somewhere in there so the Jeffs are all alone in the ring. Hardy hits the Swanton for two as the referee was late getting back in.
Now the Figure Four goes on and Hardy is in big trouble. Raven is watching as well as Hardy turns the hold over. Hardy comes back with a leg lock (Sharpshooter without his legs intertwining with Jarrett’s) but the champion makes the ropes and bails to the floor. Dusty Rhodes beats up Jarrett due to reasons not mentioned, drawing out Director of Authority Vince Russo. Hardy hits a bad looking downward spiral but misses the Swanton. One guitar shot later and Jarrett keeps the belt.
Rating: C. This was another garbage brawl that belonged in 2000 WWF more than here. The ending was the same stuff we sat through with Jarrett for years with Dusty and Russo taking up more screen time. The match was nothing great but these two never did have the best chemistry together.
One last thank you to the Asylum fans wraps us up.
Overall Rating: B. For a five and a half hour DVD, this was actually really solid stuff. There are some very good matches on here with the cage and ladder matches standing out above the rest. That being said, there’s at least an hour that could have been cut out of here without anything being missed. You could pretty easily drop the D’Lo/AJ vs. XXX match, the Dusty vs. Jarrett match and Raven vs. Shane and tighten this up a lot.
Overall this is more accurately titled “Remember When Jeff Jarrett Wouldn’t Go Away And AJ Styles Ruled The World”, which isn’t a bad thing as those were some good times for the top of the company. That being said, the lack of Ron Killings is pretty bizarre as he held the title for about four months combined. Other than that and a low level of Jerry Lynn, they covered the top of the card around this time quite well.
This set is available for $20 on TNAwrestling.com and is worth the cost if you’re a fan of what TNA used to be. I’ve even seen it on sale for five bucks, meaning you’re getting wrestling at a buck an hour and you can’t top that. Good set to start this off with but the idea of going nine hours is rather terrifying.
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