Welcome to a new series of reviews looking at the history of TNA's iMPACT (later Impact Wrestling) television show. We'll be moving episode by episode, starting with three episodes a week, following the storylines and giving opinions on the matches and moments. This first episode was broadcast on 4th June 2004 and comes at an interesting time for TNA as they had been running weekly PPV's on Wednesdays since June 2002 and an hour-long show called Xplosion had been syndicated since November of that year.
The company is also still affiliated to the NWA, using the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (held by Jeff Jarrett) and World Tag Team Championships (held by Dallas & Kid Kash) on their product, whilst they have re-branded the NWA X Championship as the TNA X Division Championship (held by Kazarian) just prior to the launch of iMPACT. In a questionable move, titles can change hands by disqualification and count-out. Vince Russo is the on-screen authority figure. When the show launched on FSN, time limits were used for all matches with title matches being allowed 30 minutes and non-title match 10 minutes. If the matches go to a draw then a judge will used to choose the winner, with Dusty Rhodes initially taking on that role. The show aired at 3pm on a Friday and held a TV PG rating. Mikey Tenay and Don West are our commentary team.
NWA TNA Xplosion #80 Results (29th May 2004) - NWA Total Non-Stop Action #100 Results (2nd June 2004)
The biggest match on the card see's "Wildcat" Chris Harris and "Cowboy" James Storm, known collectively as America's Most Wanted win their fourth NWA World Tag Team Championship, after sealing a victory over Dallas (Lance Archer, Lance Hoyt, Vance Archer) and "The Notorious K.I.D." Kid Kash. It's a great idea to have a title change on the first episode, as it gives the show some gravitas from the very start, telling us that despite the company still running weekly PPV's that they'll be taking their television product seriously as well. It's a fairly basically structure tag match with Dallas and Kash controlling the pace with a series of cool looking double teams. The heels look much better as a tag team than as they do as individuals, with Dallas especially looking very ropey in there on his own. The finish of the bout could have a been a little tighter as Harris rolls up Dallas after Dallas awkwardly gets back into ring after crotching himself on top rope. Special mention to Harris seemingly killing Kash with a spear in the closing stages.
In a great opener, Hector Garza, Sonjay Dutt and The Amazing Red went over Team Canada trio Bobby Roode, Eric Young and Petey Williams in a six man tag contest that showcases the X Division style brilliantly. Following some good heel work from Team Canada that saw Red in the face in peril role, the match would come alive with a spectacular breakdown sequence that saw all six men bouncing around the ring. Despite a slight timing issue in the closing moment involving Garza being out of position, the closing two minutes see Young nailing Youngblood, Red hitting Code Red, Williams busting out the Canadian Destroyer, Dutt turning a Crucifix Powerbomb from Roode in a lovely hurricanrana before Garza got the pinfall with a Tornillo. It's exciting and ridiculously pacy and act as strong hook for the rest of the show, as there's another multi-man X Division bout advertised to close the show.
iMPACT's first major talking segment is a bit of mess, as it begins with Mike Tenay interviewing Dusty Rhodes and some how segues to BJ James (Road Dogg) challenging Jeff Jarrett to a match with the entire 3 Live Kru (also including Ron Killings (R-Truth) and Konnan). Rhodes rambles on more than a little, but basically he was saying that Jeff Jarrett was disrespecting the history and tradition of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, with a cocky Jarrett then running Rhodes down for being old. By this point Rhodes is almost 60, so Jarrett does have a point! "Double J" then uses a weird ten paces and turn gimmick, only for "The American Dream" to hit with his hat a few times. It looks as ridiculous as it sounds. Killings would try to make the save, although ended up looking like a real chump as he takes a guitar shot to the head within minutes. I have no idea who this segment was supposed to get over, but we're left with Jarrett having to run a gauntlet of 3 Live Kru member on the next PPV.
The closing match of the show is a Four Way match with AJ Styles coming out victorious over Chris Sabin, Primetime (Elix Skipper) and Michael Shane for a shot at Kazarian's X Division title, after pinning Shane with a Styles Clash. For the final match on the first episode, this is lacking a big match feel, as only Styles receives an entrance with it being made very clear that the story was "The Phenomenal One" had returned to the X Division. The match however is fast-paced and spots based and makes for very easy viewing. There's a smashing moment where Primetime walks along the top rope and delivers a rana to Shane sending both men crashing to the outside. Although the time gimmick means we couldn't have seen much more action, the bout does feel a tad too short (just over 6 minutes) and lacks the excitement that the six man tag bouts closing sequence had.
In other action, Abyss would be victorious over Shark Boy in a squash match.
ATPW Scale Rating - 4.81/10
As first episodes go, this was a good effort from TNA with the in-ring action all being of a high quality. Choosing to focus on the X-Division and Tag Team ranks was a wise decision as we get to see some exciting action, that feels different from the other products available at this point. Talent likes AJ Styles, Chris Sabin, James Storm, Bobby Roode and Amazing Red shine bright across the card, however it's interesting that no one who a mainstream audience would have been previously exposed to has a match. The non-wrestling segment is the only real drag on the show, as it doesn't seem to have been thought through. This might be a case of the weekly PPV's causing irregular storytelling, we've got those running simulataneously with iMPACT until another three months though, so we better used to it!
Next time - Team Canada vs. Team Mexico