It was nearly nine years ago when a young Suit Williams became a wrestling fan.
It was the summer of 2008. CM Punk had just cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to win the World Heavyweight Championship, Edge was caught cheating on Vickie Guerrero with their wedding planner Alicia Fooooooooox and Cryme Tyme were feuding with The Miz and John Morrison on WWE.com.
But shockingly, none of that is what got me into the Sport of Kings. It wasn’t even WWE that got me into pro wrestling. Instead, that honor went to TNA, the black sheep of professional wrestling.
TNA got me into wrestling.
I remember wanting to watch Pros vs Joes on Spike TV, but it wasn’t on yet. I couldn’t find anything else worth watching, so I just flipped over to Spike in hopes of getting a head start on Pros vs. Joes. Then I saw some guy named AJ Styles do an insane dive to the outside, and I was hooked.
I watched as AJ and his partner Christian beat Team 3D. I watched as Frank Trigg yelled at AJ Styles while Kurt Angle attacked him from behind. After that, I had to watch the whole show. Why did Kurt cost AJ that match? Why were Team 3D such jerks? Who is Frank Trigg? But most importantly, I had to see AJ Styles again.
Here I am, nine years later, ready to watch that first show, my pro wrestling entry point, again.
TNA IMPACT ON SPIKE TV
JULY 3, 2008
We get a recap package that highlights the Beautiful People beating up Karen Angle, Christian Cage going through a glass table, and Samoa Joe accidentally costing Kevin Nash a match against Booker T. Again, Christian going through the glass table is one of the first vivid memories of wrestling that I have. I had never seen anything like that before, and it just drew me in. The title of this episode is “The Mating Game.”
Mike Tenay and Don West run down the show before AJ Styles makes his way to the ring with Karen Angle. AJ calls out Kurt Angle, but Team 3D comes out. Tenay and West are motormouths here, just spitting out story points too quickly for anyone to really understand. Brother Ray says that Kurt isn’t here because he’s “scoring really hot chicks” and calls Karen “a soap-opera bimbo”. Vince Russo writing at its classiest here, folks.
Ray calls Karen a “puttana” before AJ beats up 3D. Another vivid memory here, as I never forgot that puttana is the Italian word for whore. Bully Ray Vocabulary, hitting Wal-Mart shelves this fall!
AJ fights both Bubba and Devon before 3D get the advantage. They go for a table, but Rhino returns from injury to make the save. Rhino challenges Team 3D to a match at Victory Road, 3D and Kurt Angle vs AJ Styles, Rhino, and the soon-to-return Christian Cage. He says that the fans should pick the stipulation, either a tables match or Full Metal Mayhem. Just a flood of memories here.
I remember asking my mom not if we could order the Victory Road PPV, but drive the five hours from New Orleans to Houston to see Victory Road. She didn’t understand, Mike Tenay said that I had to see it live!
We get footage of Kurt Angle on his first of three blind dates. Jeremy Borash is manning the camera, because of course he is. They’re at the gym, so obviously his date is going to be in shape. Except she isn’t, she’s fat! HEY EVERYONE, LET’S LAUGH AT THE FAT WOMAN FOR BEING FAT!
We also get footage of fans auditioning to be a part of the Fan’s Revenge Strap Match at Victory Road between Beer Money and LAX. These people are the type you would find on YouTube reviewing RAW, and the video has like 40 views. LAX and Hector cut a promo “live via satellite from Houston” before Beer Money come out for their match.
The Motor City Machine Guns def. Beer Money
Aww, here we go! I was just starting to think this wasn’t a good idea. These two have the best four-minute TV match you could ask for. The Guns were so great, and Roode and Storm were already gelling well despite their inexperience as a team. This is TNA though, so you can’t have a match without shenanigans. Jackie Moore goes to spit beer in Shelley’s face, but he ducks and Storm gets sprayed. Guns win with a roll-up. They get to celebrate for ~10 seconds before Beer Money handcuff them to the corners and beat them with straps.
The guys go strap crazy by hitting refs, security, Don West, and even Dave Penzer with straps. You can beat up security, and you can kill the actual wrestlers, but you touch Dave Penzer and Jim Cornette will run you out of town. Cornette comes out, makes cowboy puns, and books Beer Money against two of the angriest wrestlers he can find. The match was fun, but by the time this segment was over, I legitimately forgot that the Guns won. ***
Kurt Angle’s second blind date is…A MAN! ….Russo.
Knockouts Bimbo Brawl
Moose def. Roxxi
This was not the Moose you will see on Impact today, rather this Moose was IWA-Mid South regular Mickie Knuckles. Moose’s music starts with her yelling, “I HATE BIMBOS!” Can you tell Vince Russo hates women? This was a garbage brawl. There were a bunch of weapon shots to the head only a year post-Benoit. Crowd was behind Roxxi a lot, but Moose got the win with a DDT on a sign that busted Roxxi open. This turned out to be Moose’s last match with TNA, as she broke her leg in a match later in the week. In usual TNA fashion, they promised her a roster spot, only to yank it when there were complications with the surgery. Stay classy, TNA. **1/4
Backstage, Jim Cornette convinces both Kevin Nash and Samoa Joe to team with each other tonight against Beer Money. Nash was fine with it, Joe…not so much.
Angle’s third blind date is next. They tease that she’s bulimic, but she just has a stomach condition that makes her poop a lot. I am just speechless at this point. Angle says he’s gonna kick Brother Ray’s ass for setting him up like this.
World X Cup Second Round
Rey Bucanero (Team Mexico) def. Alex Kozlov (Team International)
This match was going well before Bucanero dropped Kozlov right on his head. Bucanero then went to the top and hit a twisting senton for the win in 2 minutes. Team Mexico takes the lead in the World X Cup with 3 points. The wrestling is the only good stuff on the show, unfortunately it comes 2-3 minutes at a time. *
Hooray, EVEN MORE Kurt Angle. He’s really been batting 1.000 here tonight. He calls out Team 3D. Bubba apologizes for the dates, and offers Kurt a leggy blonde woman. Kurt yells at her, makes her cry, and has the Beautiful People put a brown bag over her head. BECAUSE VINCE RUSSO FUCKING HATES WOMEN.
Karen Angle comes out and shoves the Beautiful People down. All five heels surround Karen before AJ Styles, Rhino, Gail Kim, and ODB make the save. You couldn’t cut this and give MCMG/Beer Money five more minutes? Horrible segment.
Borash is with Booker T in his pimped-out dressing room. Booker is happy about the main event tag match because it means Samoa Joe’s eyes are off the prize, that prize being his upcoming World Title defense against Booker at Victory Road.
We get a TNA Rough Cut with Matt Morgan. He talks about brief run in WWE, and what he learned from it. Kurt Angle and Jim Cornette talk about how he had potential but it just wasn’t seen by the people in charge at WWE. I love these types of sitdown interviews with people. It can add a layer of depth that can’t really be added through a regular wrestling storyline.
World X Cup Second Round
Milano Collection AT (Team Japan) def. Curry Man (Team TNA)
CURRY MAN! Oh my god, this guy and Jamie Noble were favorites of mine when I got into wrestling. If I’m ever at a party, I will bust out the Curry Man dance on the floor. I’ve got a pretty good Dude Love knee shuffle down too. Unfortunately, we don’t get Milano’s awesome music, but that may be a good thing. If we had both Milano and Curry Man’s music at once, I’d be blown up before the match starts.
This was the longest match on the show so far, but only by about 30 seconds. Milano did the split to avoid a clothesline, and he did a matrix to avoid another one. Curry Man got control and went to hit the Spice Rack, but Milano sent him into the ref and hit Curry below the belt. A Lionsault with a twist scored Milano the win. Team Japan slides into second place with 2 points in the World X Cup. If any of these matches on tonight’s Impact had 5 more minutes, they’d really have a chance at being great. **3/4
Taylor Wilde def. Raisha Saeed
I love Taylor Wilde and I still don’t know why. I just remember her being awesome. The stip for this match is that if Taylor wins, she gets another chance to answer Awesome Kong’s 25,000 Fan Challenge, and a shot at the Knockouts Title. Another fun little match. Taylor’s gimmick was basically Rocky, the no-name challenger going after the vaunted champion. She fought with fire, and the crowd ate it up. Kong almost blew a spot where she had to pull the ref out of the ring, but she got there. Taylor hit Kong with a baseball slide and beat Saeed with an arm-trap German. **3/4
We get a video package that builds a Gail Kim/Angelina Love feud. I don’t remember if that goes anywhere.
Samoa Joe and Kevin Nash def. Beer Money
A very tame tag team main event. TNA World Champion Samoa Joe is the babyface-in-peril, because Kevin Nash ain’t bumping on free TV. There was so much logistically wrong with this match. The champion is the face-in-peril, Nash makes a hot tag despite Joe not tagging in, and the team fighting the tag champs lose twice in one night. This was such a dumb match. Oh, and Sting was in the rafters again. *1/2
The wrestling on this show was fun for the most part. The main event wasn’t bad, it was just put together in a confusing manner. All the other matches were fast and fun. The problem is that the matches were sandwiched in between a bunch of stupid garbage. This will sound blasphemous, but Kurt Angle was detrimental to the show literally every single time he was on screen. The blind date segments, and that horrible segment with him making some random woman cry were all completely unnecessary. This was a fun look at my first full wrestling show, but I can and will rest assured that I will never watch this show again.