A September of Sabin is a month-long miniseries that will look back on five Chris Sabin matches from over the course of his career. Some of these matches will be singles matches, others will be Motor City Machine Guns tags, but the goal will be the same no matter what: To remind people that Chris Sabin is an awesome wrestler who deserves his due.

TNA World Tag Team Championship
Motor City Machine Guns © vs. Team 3D
TNA Turning Point 2010
November 7, 2010
TNA Impact! Zone
Orlando, FL

(Big thanks to Garrett Kidney for supplying the high-def photos. The blurry screenshots are obviously mine.)

We’ve reached the final installment of A September of Sabin. If you check the date at the top of the webpage, then it should come as no surprise as to why this is the final installment. It would be rather silly to continue a September-named series into October and November. So while I have immensely enjoyed writing about these Chris Sabin matches and sharing them with you, my adoring audience, it’s time to bring this sucker to a close. As such, it’s only fitting that the match I discuss for this last article is about an ending… well, technically.

In July 2005, the Dudley Boyz finished up with WWE after six years with the company. It was a good run for Bubba Ray and D-Von, holding three separate tag team championships (WWE, World, and WCW) for a combined 10 times and helping popularize the greater use of tables as weapons in the company. Their series of matches with Edge and Christian and the Hardy Boyz also took tag team wrestling to literal new heights, setting a standard for future ladder and TLC matches to come. A few months after their release from WWE, the duo signed with TNA Wrestling and assumed the new moniker Team 3D due to copyright issues (while also changing their own names to Brother Ray and Brother Devon). For the next five years, Team 3D became a staple of TNA’s tag team division, just like they had been in WWE and ECW before that. Sometimes they were babyfaces, sometimes they were heels, but they were always around as the top veteran team of the division.

At Bound for Glory 2010, Team 3D made a huge announcement: They were retiring. They believed that after close to 15 years together as a team, they had accomplished everything in wrestling that they could. And really, who could argue with them? At the time of their announcement, Team 3D were 24-time tag team champions across multiple companies. They became the only team to hold the WWE, TNA, ECW, WCW, NWA, and IWGP Tag Team Championships. In addition to winning titles in New Japan, Ray and Devon also won the Hustle Super Tag Team Championship and All Japan’s 2005 Real World Tag League tournament. There was no denying that they had carved a trail as wrestling’s most decorated tag team of all time. And since there were no more worlds left to conquer, it was time to leave. However, they wanted their final match to be for the TNA World Tag Team Championship against the title holders, the Motor City Machine Guns, at Turning Point. If Team 3D were going out, they wanted to go out on top as champions. It was only right that the button they put on their career was a gold one.

Of course, this was all a bunch of bullshit. Team 3D were not actually retiring; in fact, they had just signed new contracts with TNA! But we were not supposed to know that. To us, this was going to be the final hurrah for Brother Ray and Devon.

While Team 3D were supposedly winding down to the final seconds of their careers, the Motor City Machine Guns were riding high as TNA World Tag Team Champions. They had defeated Beer Money at Victory Road in July to win the belts for the first time, finally achieving their dream of being at the top of the tag team division. Sabin and Shelley were fighting champions, defending the belts against the likes of Beer Money and Generation Me (Whatever happened to those guys?) on multiple occasions. And now they were getting the honor of being Team 3D’s final opponents. Sure, them being champions probably had something to do with it, but in their announcement at Bound for Glory, Ray said that they wanted to wrestle the best tag team in wrestling today for their last match. Could you call the Motor City Machine Guns the best tag team in wrestling at that time? Damn right you could. And retiring the legendary Team 3D would only strengthen their case.

We come now to Turning Point. Team 3D are backstage with Christy Hemme for a pre-match interview. Brother Ray says that reality is finally smacking him in the face. This is it. He and Devon stepped into wrestling and wanted to become the best tag team of all time, and he thinks they’ve done a pretty good job at that. Now it’s time for Team 3D to go out there, win the TNA World Tag Team Championship one more time, and retire in style. And they’re gonna do it the same way they started: Together. The two clasp hands as Devon rattles off his famous catchphrase with appropriate gusto: Oh my brother, testify!

Mike Tenay goes over the bullet points of the match before the entrances:

  1. Just as Team 3D showed reverence for the Motor City Machine Guns, the Guns feel the same level of respect for 3D and all they’ve done for tag team wrestling.
  2. Regardless of whether Team 3D win, lose, or draw this title match, they have made a promise that they will retire.
  3. Team 3D want to finish their career as champions.

Team 3D come out first to a big reaction as ring announcer Jeremy Borash calls them “the most decorated tag team in wrestling history” in his introduction. The commentary duo of Tenay and Taz (no Don West this time, unfortunately) keep quiet as Team 3D make their entrance, an appropriate mood-setter and show of respect given the weight of the match ahead. Taz says he’s at a loss for words because this is the last time they’ll see Team 3D walking the aisle for a wrestling match. Given Taz’s longstanding relationship with Ray and Devon dating back to the mid-90s in ECW, his own connection to this match is a nice little emotional bonus to the proceedings.

A September of Sabin #5 - Team 3D entrance

The Motor City Machine Guns come out next to a great reaction of their own, and THANK THE LORD they’ve stopped using “Party with the Motor City” as a theme song. Now they’re using their vastly superior and iconic third theme “Motor City,” which they still use to this very day.

The bell rings as the crowd chants for Team 3D. Both of these teams are babyfaces, but it’s 3D’s retirement match, so of course they’re gonna get a more favorable response from the fans. Just looking at the two teams from the outset, it’s clear that this will not be the same kind of match as Motor City Machine Guns vs. Apollo 55, where both teams are of similar size and style. In this case, the dynamic of the match will be 3D’s size, strength, and experience advantage vs. the Guns’ speed and technique advantage.

Devon and Shelley start the match off with a handshake, showcasing the respect they have for each other, before engaging in some standard back-and-forth chain wrestling. Taz questions what the Guns have to gain by putting their belts on the line in this match. After all, it’s Team 3D. Even though they’re retiring, they could still win the titles pretty handily. Tenay counters that with the Guns being the fighting champions that they are, they wouldn’t want to be seen as ducking from defending their titles in a big match like this. “You know what’s better than a fighting champion? A champion,” Taz retorts.

Shelley dropkicks Devon in the knee, then tags in Sabin and climbs the top rope. Sabin cranks Devon in a hangman’s neckbreaker position. Wow, the Guns are trying to end this really quick because they’re going for one of their tag finishers, Skull and Bones. That’s where Sabin hits the neckbreaker at the same time Shelley comes off the top with a diving splash. “Move! Move!” yells Ray as Devon escapes Sabin’s clutches and takes out both Sabin and Shelley with a double clothesline. Devon tags in Ray, who frantically calls for the 3D on Sabin right off the bat. This time it’s Sabin who wisely evades the tag team finisher, grabbing the top rope and slinking to the outside to avoid the 3D. If 15 years of Team 3D/Dudley Boyz matches have taught us anything, it’s that once you get hit with the Dudley Death Drop, the match is over.

Now it’s Ray and Sabin who test each other out in the ring. Sabin stings Ray with some forearms, then hits a big springboard crossbody for a two-count. Sabin tries to keep the speed going against Ray, but eats a big boot to the face for his troubles. Devon gets tagged in and they hit a sidewalk slam/running leg drop double team on Sabin for their own two-count. A blind tag from Shelley makes him the legal man for the Guns, as they take down Devon and hit their own combo, the front chancery/running dropkick to the face. Shelley heads up top and looks for a double foot stomp, but Devon rolls out of the way and Shelley seemingly jams his knee. Ray tags back in and like a shark smelling blood in the water, he immediately pounces on Shelley’s leg. He drops a big bulky elbow, leaning all his weight on his opponent’s knee joint (and that’s a lot of weight, folks), then lifts Shelley’s knee up as high as he can and SLAMS it right down on the mat. Ray goes for a running splash, but Shelley moves out of the way and Ray belly flops the canvas. I harken back to the Juventud Guerrera match where neither Sabin or Juvi were able to gain control of the match for extended periods of time. So far this is the same idea, but the circumstances are much different. In the Juvi match, the idea was the hot up-and-comer Sabin being on Juvi’s level despite his limited experience. Here, Team 3D are at the end of their careers, while the Guns are in their prime. Maybe Sabin and Shelley are the best tag team in the world… or maybe Team 3D are retiring at the right time because they’ve lost a step.

A September of Sabin #5 - Elbow drop

The Guns take out Ray with a Poetry in Motion elbow in the corner, then send Devon off the apron with a similar move. Shelley charges like a rocket through the ropes with a suicide dive to Devon’s heart, but Ray manages to evade a plancha from Sabin, who crashes and burns on the floor. As Sabin gets to his feet, Ray charges at him and PING! He hits the corner post headfirst when Sabin moves out of the way. Ray immediately drops to the floor and sticks his head under the ring out of camera sight. Now as a learned wrestling fan, whenever I see a wrestler take a weapons shot or hit the post and then cover their head like that, I think of two things: They’re either trying to enter the Little People’s Court, or they’re taking a razor blade and slicing up the ol’ forehead. Indeed Ray emerges from under the ring with his forehead looking like a ketchup taste test.

“We want tables! We want tables!” The crowd chants as Sabin and Shelley work over the bloodied Brother Ray, focusing on his head and neck. Sabin even digs his fingers into Ray’s open wound. The blood stains his hands. He stares at them for minutes on end, his gaze getting lost in the crimson abyss. “Why am I so violent?” Sabin asks to the horrified crowd. Nah, just kidding. Sabin doesn’t do that because he’s not a giant melodramatic geek. Instead he and Shelley continue to beat up Brother Ray. Ray desperately tries to crawl over to make the tag to Devon, screaming his partner’s name in pain, but the Guns keep Ray in their control. Team 3D made a living being the big bullies of the ring; now the tables have turned in the twilight of their run. No pun intended.

A September of Sabin #5 - Bloody Ray

Brother Ray has been kept grounded during this Guns control period, but he’s able to elbow Sabin and maneuver himself up to sitting on the top rope. Sabin though quickly scampers up to meet Ray, perhaps looking for a hurricanrana or superplex. He does the Michigan hand taunt, but his cockiness allows Ray to scoop him up and hit a HUGE sitout powerbomb off the top rope! It’s a Brother Ray signature that we usually see through a table, Ray’s eyes becoming glazed over in an orgasmic trance. There’s no tables here, and no orgasmic trance either. Just a wrestler badly needing to capitalize on this big move. Ray drapes an arm over Sabin. 1… 2… 2.9!

As Sabin crawls back to his corner with Brother Ray’s blood on his chest, Ray scoots his way closer and closer to Devon. He’s almost there… he’s almost there… mere inches now… and then Shelley tags in, sashays over to Team 3D’s corner, and knocks Devon off the apron again. The crowd boos as Shelley wears a nice shit-eating grin on his face. There’s the asshole we know and love. Screw respect, the titles are on the line. Shelley delivers a kick to Ray’s chest, but Ray fires back with a BLISTERING slap to Shelley’s chest. “Come on!” Ray yells, egging Shelley on for more. Shelley hits another kick, only to taste another slap. Another kick, another slap. Shelley goes for another kick, only for Ray to catch his leg. An enzuigiri from Shelley leaves Ray woozy, but as Shelley jumps off the turnbuckle for a move, Ray catches him with the Bubba Cutter!

A September of Sabin #5 - Bubba Cutter

Ray’s second chance for a hot tag pays off as Devon finally comes in like a house of fire to meet Chris Sabin. The crowd comes alive as Devon takes Sabin down with various strikes, a sidewalk slam, and a big powerslam. The thing about Devon is that he may be a big dude, but he can move, and that deceptive speed can come in handy against a smaller team like the Guns. Devon hits Sabin with a neckbreaker and covers, but Shelley breaks up the pin and, in a callback to the Apollo 55 match, pokes Devon right in the eye. With Devon half-blinded, the Guns hit another Poetry in Motion elbow on him in their corner. They try to double up and hit another one, but oopsie daisy Devon catches Shelley and SLAMS him right onto the prone Sabin. Devon turns Sabin inside out with a lariat and heads up top for a big diving headbutt. 1… 2… Shelley breaks the count. Devon may be wrecking shop, but he’s only one man and the Guns are two. He needs Brother Ray back in the fight.

Speak of the devil, Ray makes a blind tag and takes the Guns out from behind with a double clothesline. The fired up Ray stumbles around in an adrenaline rush, his face bloodier than a vampire’s picnic. Team 3D pick up Sabin and hit the 3D-B, but it only gets a very close two-count. The veteran duo turn their attention to a woozy Shelley. Ray slams Shelley down and he and Devon point their fingers to the sky. Anyone who has seen a Team 3D match knows what’s coming next. Devon climbs to the top rope as Ray splays Shelley’s legs open. “WHASSUP!!” shout Ray, Devon, and the crowd as Devon flies off the top rope with a headbutt straight to Shelley’s gooch. And I’m not talking about Ryusuke Taguchi, folks. Keep in mind the “Whassup” reference is 11 years old at this point, but hey, the crowd loves it. With the Whassup Drop complete, it’s time to take things to the next level. And there’s only one way for Team 3D to do that, the way they’ve been doing it for 15 years. “Devon!” Ray yells as he shoves his partner in the chest. He soaks in the buzz of the fans as he holds up his fingers to count everybody down. 1! 2! 3!

GET THE TABLES!!!!!!

“One final time,” says Mike Tenay as Devon goes under the ring and brings out a table. “Tables! Tables! Tables!” the crowd chants in unison. Brother Ray has a wild look in his eyes as he tags in Devon and sets up the table in the corner. Referee Brian Hebner tries his best to wave them off. Is this a No DQ match? It is not. If Team 3D put Sabin or Shelley through a table, will they get disqualified? In all likelihood, yes. But this is their retirement match, and if they want to put someone through a table, god dammit they’re putting someone through a table. And it looks like poor Chris Sabin will get the honor of being Team 3D’s final victim. With the table leaning against the corner, Ray and Devon each grab one of Sabin’s arms and fling him towards the table.

Except Chris Sabin doesn’t go through the table. Instead he runs up the face of the table, backflips over, and lands on his feet. I’m gonna repeat that. He runs up the face of the table, backflips over, and lands on his feet! It’s absolutely incredible. The crowd gasps in amazement as a confused Ray doesn’t know what to do. He charges towards Sabin, but Sabin dodges him and Ray goes CRASHING through the table in a bloody heap. 

The Guns capitalize with a double superkick to Devon. Sabin covers 1… 2… Devon kicks out! Sabin is perplexed at the kickout, while Shelley rallies him to focus. They set Devon back up for the Skull and Bones and this time they hit it! Sabin covers again as surely now they’ve retired Team 3D. 1… 2… 2.9!!

The crowd erupts with “3D! 3D! 3D!” chants. Sabin and Shelley can’t believe it. They’re the younger, faster guns (again, no pun intended) in this match, Brother Ray is taking a table nap in the corner, they’ve just hit their big finisher on Devon, and they STILL can’t put the tally in the win column. Toughness and the drive to end on top go a long way. The Guns try for a third killshot with an assisted Shiranui, but Devon counters, kicking Sabin in the face and backing Shelley up in the corner. Sabin runs towards Devon, who moves out of the way, leading Sabin to accidentally wipe Shelley’s face off with a disgusting Yakuza kick. As Sabin realizes his mistake, he doesn’t realize that Brother Ray is back to his feet. He’s spaghetti-legged, but he’s standing. And better yet, he and Devon are in prime position. Sabin turns around and walks right into it: The 3D! Brother Ray exerted all his remaining energy to hit the move, but like I said, all it takes is one because nobody gets up from it. Devon makes the cover. “That’s it, baby! New champs!” exclaims Taz. And he’s right. Team 3D are retiring as TNA World Tag Team Champions.

1…

2…

Sabin kicks out.

Sabin kicks out.

Sabin kicks out of the 3D.

A September of Sabin #5 - 3D Kickout 1 A September of Sabin #5 - 3D Kickout 2

The crowd gasps and screams. Devon looks perplexed. Hell, Brian Hebner looks perplexed. Commentary can’t make sense of it. “Has anybody ever kicked out of 3D?” asks Mike Tenay. “I’ve never seen that before,” adds Taz. When Brother Ray comes to his senses, he literally can’t believe that the match is still going. “What do you mean?” he asks Hebner who tells him Sabin kicked out. “No no no.” Devon meanders around the ring with his hands on his hips. Everyone involved does a great job selling the weight of the moment. This is the benefit of protecting finishers to such degree.

Now doing a little digging, that is NOT the first time someone has kicked out of the 3D. The first was Masato Tanaka at ECW November to Remember 1998. There’s also a story floating around a few sites that when the Dudley Boyz and La Resistance were feuding on Raw 2003, Rene Dupree had to kick out of the 3D because his tag partner Sylvan Grenier missed his cue. But even just taking that second story out of it, there is documented proof that Tanaka kicked out of the 3D. Still, while Sabin may not be the first man to kick out of the move, it’s still a mighty big feather in his cap. Think of all the Dudley Boyz and Team 3D matches that took place between 1997 and 2010. Think of all the wrestlers who got hit with the 3D and lost the match right there and then. Chris Sabin is one of a few men in history who can say he wasn’t one of them.

Brother Ray tags back in, but the explosiveness and fire that he and Devon had is now gone. “It’s like it’s taken them completely out of their gameplan here,” notes Tenay. The two of them are lost, and when you’re lost, you look for a landmark to guide you home. What is Team 3D’s landmark? The 3D. Screw it, just hit another one, right? That should put the Guns away for good. But this time they don’t shoot Sabin off into the ropes and catch him on the rebound. Instead Devon tries to lift Sabin up from a deadlift standing position, which backfires when Sabin counters with a spike DDT to Devon. All that time worrying about the 3D seemingly gave Sabin enough time to recover. Ray tries to elbow drop Sabin, but he misses and eats a superkick to the face from Shelley. Shelley scrambles to the top rope as Sabin puts Ray in the neckbreaker position. Skull and Bones. 1… 2… 3.

A September of Sabin #5 - Superkick

The Motor City Machine Guns retain the TNA World Tag Team Championship. Team 3D must retire as losers.

As the Guns celebrate with their titles, Devon hangs his head in the corner. Brother Ray looks like a murder victim. Replay highlights are shown, including the shocking kick out of the 3D. Eventually Devon comes over and raises the Guns hands. Sabin and Shelley then help Ray back to his feet and raise his and Devon’s hands. Respect may have been thrown out the window during the match, but the match is now over. It’s time for Team 3D to recognize that the Motor City Machine Guns are the better team and will carry tag team wrestling into the future, and it’s time for the Motor City Machine Guns to give Team 3D their due as a legendary tag team who went out with their boots on. And both teams do just that.

A September of Sabin #5 - End

Closing Thoughts

I wouldn’t call this the best match of A September of Sabin from an in-ring standpoint (in fact it might be the weakest) but it didn’t need to be. It’s a retirement match, and like all retirement matches the hook is in experiencing the finality of a wrestler’s career. We want to see how it all comes to an end. I think that’s true for a lot of things in life. I remember a few years ago watching the final season of Dexter, and while I recognized that the show had fallen off a cliff, I stuck with it because I had to see how it ended. Spoiler alert: It sucked.

This match is definitely better than the final season of Dexter. The wrestling is good, the story is easy to follow, and it hits all the necessary emotional beats of a retirement match. It also plays wonderfully into the subsequent feud between Brother Ray and Devon. During their retirement ceremony on Impact, Ray turned heel and attacked Devon. Why? Because Chris Sabin kicked out of the 3D. The Turning Point match was supposed to be Team 3D preserving their legacy and leaving wrestling as champions, but that didn’t happen because Sabin kicked out of the move they built that legacy upon. That meant someone in Team 3D was weak, and in Ray’s mind it wasn’t him, it was Devon. Brother Ray changes his name to Bully Ray and the rest is history.

Next Time on A September of Sabin

Sorry folks, we’ve reached the end of the trail. I can’t express enough how much fun it was to watch (or rewatch) these matches and share my thoughts on them in this medium. Of course, it helps that the matches were all good. Don’t get me wrong, I like ragging on bad wrestling as much as the next guy, but it shouldn’t be the main focus of anyone’s fandom. You should primarily watch wrestling that makes you happy, and with a wrestler like Chris Sabin, there’s certainly no shortage of matches in that regard. And now that he is back in the ring, is a tag team champion, and has a steady gig with Impact as both a wrestler and producer, well that makes me really happy too.

So whomever your favorite wrestlers are, take the time to appreciate them. Watch their matches, share them with your friends, tell the world why you love them. They won’t be around forever, including Chris Sabin. Sooner or later he’s gonna hang up the boots and call it a day. It happens to everyone. But even when that day comes, and all the days beyond it, Chris Sabin’s legacy will no doubt be intact. It’s a legacy of Cradle Shocks and hesitation dropkicks, of X-Division and Tag Team Championships, of Alex Shelley and the city of Detroit, Michigan. It’s a legacy that you can boil down to just two simple, iconic words:

Hail Sabin.