Wrestling has always played a special role in my life. I first discovered wrestling in late 2004 after my grandfather died. There was something about these larger-than-life characters that drew me in, captivated my attention and got me hooked. There were bits I didn’t get but I still regularly tuned in to watch RAW and SmackDown. At that time I had no idea what TNA was, with seven-year-old Andrew assuming the WWE was the entirety of the wrestling universe.
My relationship with wrestling continued to develop and grow over the next few years and it was one day during the school holidays that I stumbled upon Total Nonstop Action.
A search on our TV’s on-demand service showed the typical WWE fare but there was also this wrestling show called TNA Genesis 2009. It looked interesting so I give it a watch and from then on a relationship was born. That pay-per-view really does represent the good and bad of TNA, but I enjoyed every moment and it opened my eyes: it made me realise that there was a whole world of wrestling to discover.
From then on I have more or less watched every episode of TNA/Impact and with a few exceptions. I’ve even watched all their PPVs since. There have been highs and lows—generally more of the latter—but I have kept coming back. I have always had hope for the company, a hope that they could provide a genuine alternative, and with the new ownership those hopes have been revitalised.
When I saw that VOW were running a TNA week, I wanted in. There were a few things I could have written but I wanted to highlight my favourite TNA/Impact matches. This isn’t an exhaustive list, indeed there are numerous excellent AJ Styles matches and that memorable cage match involving Elix Skipper that I’ve left out (I only watched them later on, having already received recommendations from friends and they didn’t quite have the same buzz as the matches I’ve picked), but this list features the matches that have influenced my relationship with TNA/Impact Wrestling the most.
10. Bobby Lashley vs Drew Galloway – Slammiversary 2016
TNA have a habit of wasting big-time matches. There have been numerous times where title matches or big feuds have been built and then the big blow-off match is done in the midst of the tapings and comes to nothing. They broke from tradition with this bout though, building it carefully over a couple of months and managing to give it a big-fight feel. You had Lashley, the MMA star, and Galloway, the man who’d embraced the crowd and been a real breath of fresh air since his debut the previous January. The match was hard-hitting, full of big spots and a desire from both men to win the title. Galloway gave as good as he got but in the end Lashley just had too much. ****
9. Matt Hardy vs Jeff Hardy – Final Deletion, 5/7/2016
So this is a weird one. Obviously the Broken Hardy’s storyline was one of the hottest topics in the wrestling world last year and this match has been poured over numerous times. I personally really enjoyed it and whilst I thought some of the later Hardy stuff was too hokey, this match was great. It was unique, different and incredibly engaging. For a company that was a penchant for being disappointing, this was something I was incredibly grateful for. ****
8. EC3 vs Rockstar Spud – Impact Wrestling, 13/3/2015
EC3 is one of Impact’s biggest success stories. The former Derrick Bateman, released from NXT, was rehabbed into an entitled heel. He had an incredibly catchy theme tune but was utterly despisable, a real old-school heel. His feud with Spud was one of the most underrated in 2015 and this match, taped in London, was the perfect conclusion. The match was dramatic and the visual of Spud, covered in blood, struggling to his feet only to be nailed with another One Percenter was superb. This match cemented EC3 as a bonafide star, and showed Spud was more than just a plucky underdog. ****
7. MCMG vs Beer Money – Impact Wrestling, 12/8/2010
I love tag team wrestling. There’s something about a hot tag that never gets old and when it’s done right, I genuinely think it’s the most exciting form of wrestling. When I first started watching TNA, Beer Money stood out to me. They were great entertainers and I loved their tag team moves. Their best-of-five series (one of many concepts TNA have done to death) with the Machine Guns was exceptional and remains my favourite series of all-time. This match, two-out-of-three falls, remains my favourite Impact tag team match. ****¼
6. Chris Sabin vs Alex Shelley – Genesis 2009
Talking of the MCMG, this was the first singles match I ever witness in a six-sided ring and it played a key role in getting me interested in the company. The story was simple, tag team partners battling over the X-Division title. They were friends and knew each other’s games inside out. Fought at a great pace, the match was full of great counters and innovative offense I’d never seen before. Shelley’s victory felt like a big moment and it’s a travesty he only won the strap once. ****¼
5. Kurt Angle vs Jeff Jarrett – Genesis 2009
Another match from that Genesis show, this match was the other major hook that made me an Impact Wrestling fan. I’d despised Angle when I first watched wrestling, he was so cocky and arrogant but he was also very good and he always one. He was a heel and at a time before I realised kayfabe was a thing, he was the big bully who I always wanted to see lose. By the time I watched Genesis I was more clued up, but this was the first time I’d seen him wrestle since leaving WWE. I loved this match – the psychology and drama made up for any deficiencies in-ring and I was on the edge of my seat throughout. ****½
4. Desmond Wolfe vs Kurt Angle – Turning Point 2009
Wolfe was only with TNA for a little under two years, but he certainly made an impact (pun intended). I do wish that Nigel McGuinness could have had a longer run in Impact or even a WWE stint and the fact his career was cut short in his prime still upsets me. He did have some excellent matches though and whilst many prefer their match from Final Resolution, I love this encounter. Wolfe was a nasty heel and he had Angle so well scouted, but Angle showed some excellent variation. A great statement performance from Wolfe, it just sadly never led to anything. ****½
3. Samoa Joe vs Kurt Angle – Genesis 2006
Samoa Joe’s recent run on RAW as No.1 contender to Brock Lesnar, is very reminiscent of his excellent programme with Kurt Angle. As someone who had never seen the early years of ROH, discovering this match and their feud was an eye-opening experience. This match was so heated and so physical and whilst some questioned the wisdom of Angle winning, everything about this match felt right and was a star-making performance for Joe. ****½
2. Austin Aries vs Bobby Roode – Destination X 2012
Bobby Roode’s current NXT run is doing nothing for me, but he was someone I always enjoyed in TNA. The story arc from Aries’ debut with the company, his title win over Brian Kendrick and almost 300 day reign with the belt to his victory over Roode at Destination X is easily one of TNA’s best bits of booking.
Roode had been the smug champion and whilst a lot of his defences were full of shenanigans (TNA’s default booking trope), this match was built like a big occasion. Aries isn’t a natural babyface but in this match he played the role to perfection and when he finally pinned Roode, I popped for that moment in a way I would have when I first started watching wrestling. Storytelling at its finest. ****½
1. AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe vs Christopher Daniels – Unbreakable 2005
This one was always going to be obvious wasn’t it?
Easily the best match from an in-ring standpoint that TNA have ever had, it showed the potential that the company, and more importantly the wrestlers they employed, had given the opportunity. Triple threats are very hit or miss for me but this struck all the right notes and every man played his part in an excellent match. One of my favourite matches of all time, from any promotion, I eagerly anticipate the day Impact are able to produce something of similar quality. *****