Throughout the month of June, we will be celebrating 20 years of TNA/Impact Wrestling with our #Impact20 series of reviews, columns and podcasts. One particular series will look at a handpicked selection of the best TNA/Impact Wrestling Matches of All-Time.
Chris Sabin vs. Juventud Guerrera
NWA Total Nonstop Action #61 – Super X Cup Special
September 3, 2003
Tennessee State Fairgrounds
This meeting between Sabin and Juventud was to determine the winner of the inaugural Super X Cup. Sabin had come through the USA half of the bracket, defeating Jerry Lynn and Frankie Kazarian, while Juventud had seen off Nosawa and Teddy Hart in the ‘Rest of the World’ half.
The pacing of this match is crazy and there are a couple of NASTY head bumps from both guys (a Sabin powerbomb and then a Juventud Tiger Driver) but what struck me most on both occasions is just how little wasted motion there was. Everything was timed right and smooth as hell. Juventud was still mostly in his prime at that point so you’d expect that from him. Sabin, though, was barely two years into his wrestling career at that stage; they did call him “The Future,” after all.
There are a number of spots in this match that you’ll have seen a lot in recent years, such as the double missed dropkick as they size each other up or the lengthy, intricate roll-up sequence. This isn’t some sort of weird, nostalgic hyperbole but they are done differently here. Take the rollups for instance – there’s more pop than you’d normally see and they both collapsed with dizziness at the end. A lovely touch.
A small, weird thing I picked up on during my rewatch was the use of rest holds. Usually, these are a stalling tool in matches that drag the pace down but here they were used regularly and, more importantly, briefly. Both men reminded me of the Duracell Bunny at times during this match with their seemingly boundless energy, so these rest holds were almost like little recharge moments before another round of frenetic action began.
A note on the commentary too. Mike Tenay and Don West are so good here. You get proper narration from Tenay and genuine excitement (take note, JR) from West. Don shouting “DID YOU SEE THAT MIKE” encapsulated the relentless brilliance of the 14 minutes Sabin and Juventud shared, while Tenay nailed it when he commented that Sabin’s presence of mind to get his foot on the ropes to break a pin was so impressive for a man of his limited experience.
Moments before Sabin hits his patented Cradle Shock, Tenay says “You’re not breathing if you’re not enjoying this action.”
He’s right, because this match is what the X-Division was and should always have been about.