James Storm is, pretty undeniably, one of the greatest tag team wrestlers of the last twenty years. Between America’s Most Wanted (AMW) and Beer Money, he has delivered memorable classics that have stood the test of time among the very best matches in the history of TNA Wrestling. In recent years, however, one of those teams seems to be remembered more fondly while the other has faded somewhat into the background.
Beer Money is the team more people think of when they think of James Storm. That is likely because Beer Money was around during the peak of TNA’s viewership on Spike, their series with The Motor City Machine Guns helped immortalize them and they both went on to have memorable singles careers (with Roode getting the signal boost of a WWE run). Full of personality with a banger theme song and memorable rivalries against Team 3D, LAX, The Guns, The British Invasion and more—there is certainly no shame in the team being people’s prevailing memory of Storm. You cannot write the history of TNA without heavily discussing AMW though. They were foundational to the company in a way that Beer Money never quite was.
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AMW was never meant to be a team. They were far from an established tag team, in fact, they had never teamed before prior to TNA. On a June 1, 2002, USA Championship Wrestling show headlined by Jerry Lawler vs. Dusty Rhodes, James Storm and Chris Harris stole the show on the undercard. As it happened, many TNA executives and announcers were in the building that night testing their set up and working out some early announcing chemistry between Mike Tenay, Don West and Ed Ferrara. Harris and Storm impressed so much that they earned themselves a spot on the first-ever NWA-TNA show. Storm formed an unlikely team with Psicosis that night teaming against the short-lived Johnsons (yes, the men in large penis costumes managed by Mortimer Plumtree) while Harris had a forgettable effort in the Gauntlet for the Gold. On the second show, Harris and Storm were thrown together and the rest was history.
Initially skeptical of his cowboy pal, Harris would eventually learn to like and trust Storm and they developed immediate chemistry. AMW was a throwback team without any of the pretenses. No sermons about the tag rope or pretentious grandstanding about flips, Harris and Storm evoked memories of the masters of the southern tag team style while standing as their own unique act. Their early rivalries with Slash and Brian Lee of The Disciples of The New Church, Simon Diamond and Johnny Swinger, and The Naturals showed their potential but their matches with Triple X truly fulfilled that promise.
On the June 25, 2003 weekly PPV AMW and Triple X settled their score in the first Steel Cage match in TNA history. After months of Low Ki being the difference-maker through outside interference, AMW finally defeated the Triple X combo of Elix Skipper and Christopher Daniels in the best match in TNA history up to that point. Physical and violent with crossbodies and Death Sentences off of the cage, it was everything you could hope for from a feud ending match. Except it didn’t end the feud, 18 months later they’d end their rivalry once and for all inside Six Sides of Steel at Turning Point 2004.
While most notable for Elix Skipper’s daring, incredible cage walk – this was the conclusion to the greatest rivalry in the early years of TNA. The two teams had faced eleven times over the prior two years and this was their final encounter; the losing team had to disband. An ultra-heated war managing even to vastly exceed the quality of their excellent 2003 cage match, you simply couldn’t help but be sucked inside that steel cage with them. The main event of TNA’s second-ever monthly PPV, main eventing over Randy Savage’s final pro wrestling match – this was brutal, violent, disturbingly bloody and emotionally charged, showcasing the very best of TNA Wrestling; young talented pro wrestlers simply given a platform to be the very best they could be and delivering in spades. Triple X disbanded and AMW were made men.
AMW would go on to find even better foils than Triple X—the dastardly Team Canada led by Scott D’Amore. The foes from the north were the perfect counterpoint to the heroes of Nashville – delivering one of the most heated tag team matches in company history at Final Resolution 2005 as AMW became champions once again. After three years as a babyface tag team though, AMW was beginning to lose steam. It came time to either break them up or turn them heel. Thankfully they opted for the latter as Harris and Storm helped Jeff Jarrett become NWA World Heavyweight Champion and Planet Jarrett was formed, with the winning addition of Gail Kim as their valet.
It was during this period that James Storm began to come into his own. For their first three years as a team, it was very clear that Harris was seen as the star of the team. Storm was by no means bad, far from it, but Harris was tall, jacked and a great wrestler. He screamed the future of the company. The heel turn brought out personality in Storm that wasn’t seen before. He was funny, charming and thoroughly entertaining – most notably shown in his scene-stealing performance in the Team 3D funeral.
AMW became the natural first opponents for the debuting former Dudleys and delivered another series of genre-defining matches against the newly formed X-Division dream team of AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels.
After a babyface turn and a flat feud with LAX, it was clear that AMW had run their course. After four and a half years, it was finally time for Harris and Storm to spread their wings and try to fly as singles stars. Their singles careers got off to a disastrous start in a Steel Cage Blindfold match at Lockdown 2007 that stands among the worst matches in company history, a match stipulation so bad it bordered on deliberate sabotage. They quickly redeemed themselves the following month in a gory Texas Deathmatch that should be studied in wrestling schools as a textbook example of how to settle a blood feud – the image of James Storm covered in blood looking to redefine the Muta scale will stay with you. After a TV rematch, AMW would go their separate ways.
Harris left the company six months later for a failed run in WWE that tragically defines his legacy. Chris Harris is so much more than Braden Walker and if my words here haven’t convinced you of that, go back and watch the matches I’ve mentioned and they certainly will. He was a great pro wrestler and should be remembered as such. Storm went on to Beer Money with Roode, that team exploded too giving Storm a World Title run on his way to 1000 matches in IMPACT history, more than any other wrestler that has graced a TNA or IMPACT ring.
AMW was a foundational pillar of TNA’s early years. Along with AJ Styles, they were what made TNA different from every other indie filled to the brim with the WCW and ECW leftovers that WWE didn’t want. They were the anchor of the tag team division for four years, the young wrestlers that defined the promise of TNA’s future. As so much around them changed, as random names like Lex Luger or Perry Saturn came and went, they were the constant – there every single week delivering solid performances, learning and growing until they became one of the best teams in the world. The outpouring of love following their reunion after 15 years last night shows the impression they left on those watching at the time.
The history of TNA would be considerably different and the quality of those early Asylum shows a whole lot worse had Harris and Storm not happened to be booked together on a random Nashville indie in early June 2002. That was a stroke of damn luck nobody should be sorry about.