Top 7 Impact Wrestling Memories

When NWA: Total Nonstop Action held its first PPV event on June 19, 2002, I doubt that many people in the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama thought that the promotion they witnessed that night would still be around in some capacity twenty years later. Whether you want to call it NWA: TNA, or TNA Wrestling, or its current name of Impact Wrestling, this company has had quite the rollercoaster ride to its current home as part of the Anthem family.

Impact has never been the top wrestling company in the world. It’s never been the most beloved wrestling company of the Internet fanbase. However, Impact has provided countless hours of entertainment and many memorable moments for wrestling fans everywhere. On a personal note, Impact was the first TV show I reviewed for 411mania.com, and helped lead to everything else I’ve done on this website over the years.

Today, as Impact Wrestling celebrates its 20th Slammiversary, we take a look at seven of the most magnificent memories I have of their existence. I’ll go ahead and warn you that I tend to use TNA when discussing the early years and Impact for the later years. Hopefully it doesn’t get confusing. What better way to open the countdown than by discussing what opened TNA PPVs for years?

7. TNA PPV Openings of the late 2000s

I’ve pointed out before that one of the main reasons WWE has outlasted everybody else that’s attempted to make a go of it in the pro wrestling business was their superior production. There isn’t a promotion that’s come along during my thirty-two glorious years of watching wrestling that I’d claim had superior production values to WWE. Perhaps a show did one or two unique things that made them stand out, but overall, WWE had that key advantage over everybody.

There is one thing where early TNA could claim superiority over WWE. Which was impressive, because WWE has always done a pretty good job with their hype videos and openings to PPVs. TNA had one thing that WWE didn’t have, that couldn’t be duplicated. They had a tremendously talented voice-over artist.

Barry Scott was his name, and he was one of the unsung heroes of TNA for many years. His voice-over work was especially useful for PPV opening, as Scott made every upcoming event seem like you’d just tuned into the greatest night in the history of our sport.

Scott passed away in 2020, sadly silencing one of TNA/Impact’s most important voices.

6. Don West’s Heel Turn on Mike Tenay

For the first seven years of TNA’s existence, Mike Tenay & Don West served as the company’s regular announce team. They called all the weekly & monthly PPVs & the first five years of Impact together. Ed Ferrara was on the first few PPVs, but after he left it was the Mike & Don show. Tenay was known for his service on WCW’s announce team during the later years of that company’s existence, while West had gained fame selling baseball cards & Beanie Babies on the Shop at Home Network. What Don lacked in encyclopedic knowledge of pro wrestling, he made up for with his salesmanship and enthusiasm for everything he saw.

Tenay & West had an increasingly rare babyface/babyface booth dynamic for most of their run, which was refreshing after years of announcers trying to be heels at the expense of the show they’re supposed to be calling. (This would get even worse in the 2010s, with both WWE & Impact having heel play by play announcers at various times.) Finally, the time came for a change. If they didn’t have anybody ready to replace West or Tenay, they could at least change the dynamic.

West would start siding with the heel wrestlers after this, turning in what most consider to be his best work at the broadcast position. Even though he had turned “heel”, Don became more popular with the audience afterward. He would step aside for Taz in August 2009 while receiving a promotion within the company to focus on merchandising & sales. Taz & Tenay had a decent five-year run together, but Impact has struggled to find an announce team with real staying power since Tenay was let go.

Best wishes to Don West, who is being treated for brain lymphoma as I type this. His contributions to this promotion were appreciated by many.

5. Steiner Math

It’s not that Sacrifice 2008 was a particularly memorable event. Larry only gave it a 6 out of 10. However, there was an interview during the build to Sacrifice that still rates as one of the most discussed & viewed things in the history of TNA/Impact Wrestling. Not surprising that it involved Scott Steiner, who was always entertaining during his stints with the promotion largely because nobody edited him. They were happy to let Big Poppa Pump do his own thing, which led to gold like this:

Steiner ended up being right about Angle knowing he couldn’t win and not even trying, as Angle missed the match due to a neck injury. Unfortunately for Steiner, Frankie Kazarian was added to the match instead, throwing all the math out of whack. Joe ended up overcoming the monumental odds and defending his title over Steiner & Kazarian.

4. The Final Deletion

Matt Hardy had two very different runs with TNA/Impact Wrestling. One, which took place in 2011 when he was at his lowest ebb after being fired by WWE, was an unmitigated disaster. The second, which started in 2014 and ended in 2017, featured one of the creative highpoints of his career. After a successful tag team run with brother Jeff and a reign as TNA World Champion, Matt became a broken man, blaming said brother for his station in life.

Matt underwent a transformation into something we hadn’t seen from him before, and the Broken Universe gave Impact more buzz than it had had in several years. Matt & Jeff’s issue culminated in Matt defeating Jeff in the The Final Deletion.

Afterward, Jeff would become Brother Nero and join Broken Matt’s side once again. It was a masterful way to give the Hardys new life. They would return to WWE right after Impact went through some management changes, and that new management would take issue with Matt & Jeff continuing to use the Broken gimmick. Everybody came to an agreement eventually, and all lived happily ever after.

What?

3. Styles vs. Daniels vs. Joe gets 5 stars

Everybody says they hate star ratings. Especially when they come from the man that’s become the bane of Conrad Thompson podcast subjects’ existence, “Uncle” Dave Meltzer. As much as people proclaim to not care about what Dave or anybody else rates a match…people really do care about those pesky asterisks. I’m not saying everybody does, but a lot of fans, a lot of wrestlers & even those backstage folks care a lot more about star ratings than one would think.

AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels & Samoa Joe are among the best wrestlers to ever set foot in a TNA/Impact ring. Styles was the company’s best performer far longer than they gave him credit for. Daniels was a key part of the X & tag team divisions for many years, and Joe dominated wherever he went. Any combination of these three men would result in an incredible match through the 2000s & most of the 2010s. September 11, 2005 saw the three men come together to have the most critically acclaimed match in company history.

This was the second North American match since 1997 to receive the vaunted five-star rating from wrestling’s most well-known giver of stars. These days, it seems like one North American match per week gets five stars. While stars are seemingly given out like candy these days, Styles vs. Daniels vs. Joe from Unbreakable 2005 is still the only TNA/Impact match to receive the full monty. I’m not sure Meltzer watches Impact these days though, so if there’s been a five star match there recently he probably missed it.

It should be noted that Larry only gave the match ****3/4. And people thought he was a TNA homer back in the day.

2. Monday Night Impact

TNA spent much of its early existence in somewhat of an existential debate with itself. Was the promotion going to serve as an alternative to WWE, or were they going to directly compete? Impact bounced around different networks and had different timeslots, but never directly competed with the WWE juggernaut. Not until January 4, 2010, a night that featured one of the most eventful Impacts in history. A three-hour show on a Monday night!

-Hulk Hogan debuted
-Ric Flair debuted
-Eric Bischoff debuted
-The Nasty Boys debuted
-Bubba the Love Sponge debuted
-Sean Morley debuted
-Orlando Jordan debuted
-Jeff Hardy returned
-Jeff Jarrett returned

Probably a few debuts/returns I missed there. The show also featured a classic match with AJ Styles & Kurt Angle, if you got through the endless talking segments to get there. Meanwhile, WWE Raw featured the return of Bret Hart. Raw destroyed Impact in the ratings, but TNA’s numbers were still well up from their average on Thursday night, so they went ahead with plans to move the show to Monday night in March. This lasted two months, and Impact returned to its usual method of avoiding days with WWE shows on them.

This show serves as one of the prime examples of a promotion throwing everything they had at one night. It might not have been the company’s greatest night, but it was among its most memorable.

Bonus Material: Live Event Memories

I’ve been able to attend three TNA live events, all occurring from 2007-11. Here are the cards from the events via thehistoryofwwe.com, along with some thoughts.

TNA @ Louisville, KY – April 20, 2007
Included Jim Cornette conducting an in-ring interview with Eric Young, with Young saying someone backstage was supporting him; moments later, Robert Roode attacked Young, with Jeff Jarrett then appearing and smashing a guitar over Roode’s head
Sonjay Dutt & Petey Williams defeated Eric Young & Robert Roode
Christopher Daniels defeated Senshi
Homicide & Hernandez defeated Chase Stevens & Andy Douglas
Rhino defeated Damaja & Doug Basham in a handicap streetfight
Chris Harris & Gail Kim defeated James Storm & Jackie Moore
Samoa Joe pinned AJ Styles with the Musclebuster
NWA World Champion Christian Cage pinned Kurt Angle; after the bout, AJ Styles and Cage double teamed Angle until Abyss made the save

This was the only event I attended at the Louisville Gardens, a historic venue that hosted weekly wrestling shows for decades. WWE held two In Your Houses at the Gardens, and Ohio Valley Wrestling held a number of events. This TNA event was one of the last events of any type to take place at the Gardens, which the city uses for storage these days. Not only did Roode eat a guitar shot from Jarrett, but poor Traci Brooks, who never did anything hurtful to anyone, got one too. Shocking and appalling.

TNA @ Cincinnati, OH – June 22, 2008 (1,750)
Consequences Creed defeated Johnny Devine
Roxxi defeated Velvet Sky
Eric Young defeated Kip James
Abyss & Frankie Kazarian defeated Scott Steiner & TNA X Division Champion Petey Williams
Curry Man defeated Robert Roode
TNA World Champion Samoa Joe defeated AJ Styles

Speaking of Gardens, the Cincinnati version hosted this event. Joe vs. Styles was a good match for TNA to have at their disposal for house shows, those two could practically wrestle each other in their sleep. Hard to believe that we got to see Curry Man in person, truly one of the legends of the business. Wonder what happened to that guy.

Lockdown 2011 – Cincinnati, OH – U.S. Bank Arena – April 17, 2011 (4,000; 3,500 paid)
Pre-Show: Devon pinned Anarquia in a steel cage match; after the bout, Devon led Anarquia up the entrance ramp and twice dropped him with a suplex
Pay-per-view bouts – included a promo by Eric Bischoff where he predicted Immortal would wipe out Fortune and regain the TNA World Title in one night:
Max Buck won an Xscape match; Other participants included: Brian Kendrick, Jay Lethal, Suicide, Chris Sabin, Robbie E. (w/ Cookie), Jeremy Buck, and Amazing Red; order of elimination: Robbie pinned Suicide; Red pinned Lethal; Sabin pinned Red after a clothesline; Max pinned Sabin with a neckbreaker; Max pinned Jeremy with a rollup; Kendrick pinned Robbie after a dropkick (Lethal’s last match)
Jesse Neal & Shannon Moore defeated Eric Young & Orlando Jordan, Scott Steiner & Crimson, and Douglas Williams & Magnus in a steel cage match when Moore pinned Magnus after hitting the Mooregasm; Young thought he had won the match when he climbed over the cage and hit the floor, but the match could only be won via pinfall or submission
Mickie James pinned TNA Knockouts Champion Madison Rayne to win the title in a steel cage match after hitting a jumping DDT to win at around the 40-second mark; before the match, Rayne told Tara to remain backstage; stipulations stated James would be shaved bald if she lost
Samoa Joe defeated D’Angelo Dinero via submission with the Coquina Clutch in a steel cage match
Matt Morgan pinned Hernandez (w/ Anarquia & TNA Knockouts Tag Team Champions Sarita & Rosita) after hitting the Carbon Footprint in a steel cage match; after the bout, Sarita & Rosita took the mic and insulted the crowd and the Knockouts division, prompting Velvet Sky to come out and clear them from the ring
Jeff Jarrett (w/ Karen Jarrett) defeated Kurt Angle in a Best 2 out of 3 falls match; fall #1: Angle won a submission match with the ankle lock; fall #2: Jarrett won a pinfall match with a roll up; fall #3: Jarrett escaped the steel cage after Karen slammed the cage door on Kurt’s head; during the third fall, Angle was about to escape through the cage door but was stopped by TNA TV Champion Gunner, who was later chased off by Scott Steiner; Angle then nearly escaped through the door again, but Karen sprayed something in his eyes; Karen later slid a guitar into the ring for Jarrett to smash over Angle’s head
TNA World Champion Sting defeated Rob Van Dam and Mr. Anderson in a steel cage match by pinning Anderson after hitting the Scorpion Death Drop; late in the match, Hulk Hogan came out and gave RVD a pipe to use as a weapon, with RVD refusing; moments later, Anderson hit RVD with the weapon and gave Hogan the middle finger; after the bout, Sting and Hogan had a staredown
Christopher Daniels, TNA X Division Champion Frankie Kazarian, TNA World Tag Team Champions James Storm & Robert Roode defeated Ric Flair, Matt Hardy, Bully Ray, & Abyss in a Lethal Lockdown match when Flair submitted to Roode’s armbar after AJ Styles interfered; order of entry: Kazarian, Abyss, Hardy, Daniels, Flair, Storm, Ray, and Roode

I wrote about this event in the much beloved News From Cook’s Corner column back in the day. Sometimes I make the mistake of reading my old work, then I wonder why 411 has kept me around all these years. I remember the online reviews around the time seeming pretty fair and Angle vs. Jarrett being my favorite part of the night.

Impact recently came to my area for a couple of events, but I was working one night and the other was on Mother’s Day so I couldn’t attend. Tonight is my family’s Father’s Day celebration, so I’m begging this company to run events on days where I don’t have to do family stuff.

1. Gail Kim & Awesome Kong put the Knockouts on the Map

TNA did feature women intermittently throughout the first several years, but a select few proved to have staying power and could be taken seriously in spite of early storylines that put the T & A in TNA. Traci Brooks & Trinity come to mind as women that stuck with the company longer than most, and Gail Kim became one of those talents that excelled far more in TNA than in WWE. 2007 finally saw the company establish an official women’s division, and Gail was crowned the first Knockouts Champion at Bound For Glory.

It became apparent that TNA had designs on making its Knockouts Division more serious and athletic than WWE’s Divas division at the time, which largely consisted of swimsuit models and a couple of workers that were entrusted with handling the on-the-job training. WWE wasn’t featuring anybody like Awesome Kong in 2007-08. Kong immediately became Kim’s top challenger, leading to a memorable series of matches that established TNA’s Knockouts Division as the most credible women’s division on mainstream US television.

Kim & Kong had great chemistry together and told the timeless story of David vs. Goliath,
somehow it never got old. While WWE had previously dipped their toe into legitimate women’s wrestling with the likes of Trish Stratus, Lita, Molly Holly, Victoria and others, they weren’t doing that when TNA started featuring the Knockouts. Kim & Kong were joined by Velvet Sky, Angelina Love, Madison Rayne, Mickie James, ODB, Taylor Wilde, Daffney & countless others. Knockouts segments became the highest-rated segments of Impact for quite some time, and are still a focal point of today’s programming with stars like Deonna Purrazzo, Rosemary, Taya, Tasha Steelz & others looking to make their name as big as Gail Kim or Awesome Kong’s in Impact Wrestling history.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to hit me up on the social media and chime in with your favorite TNA or Impact Wrestling memories in the comment section. Until next time, true believers…

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