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. 

World X Cup 2008 Round 3 – Elimination Tag Match
Team TNA vs. Team International vs. Team Japan vs. Team Mexico

TNA Victory Road 2008
July 13, 2008
Reliant Arena
Houston, TX

Throughout its 20-year history, Impact has never been shy about featuring international talent. Wrestlers from countries all over the world have found themselves on Impact programming at some point or another over the past two decades. This is certainly not a novel concept, wrestling companies have been doing this since time immemorial, but Impact is the first nationally televised wrestling company I remember watching that would bill these wrestlers as being not just from other countries, but from other companies. When I first became a wrestling fan and was only watching WWE, you had wrestlers from Mexico, Japan, England, places like that, but they were contracted WWE talent; they were WWE superstars who just appeared out of thin air onto my TV screen. In Impact, these were wrestlers from New Japan Pro Wrestling, from Dragongate, from CMLL, from AAA. It was so cool because it made the company feel like it was part of the greater wrestling world. WCW did the same thing in the 90s, AEW does it today, but TNA is where I experienced it on a national level for the first time.

There is no better example of Impact acting as an international, inter-promotional melting pot than the World X Cup. It was a four-team X-Division tournament where each team represented a different country. Teams wrestled each other for points in a series of rounds, and whomever had the most points at the end won the trophy. The World X Cup was only held on three occasions (2004, 2006, 2008), but it still managed to feature a host of names from outside companies like Jushin Thunder Liger, Hirooki Goto, Minoru Tanaka, Taichi, NOSAWA, Shocker, Héctor Garza, Abismo Negro, and others. The first two iterations had Team USA/TNA, Team Mexico, Team Canada, and Team Japan, while the 2008 version replaced Team Canada with Team International (with wrestlers representing Canada, UK, Russia, and Iran).

That 2008 World X Cup has one match in particular that acts as the entire third round: A twelve-man, four-team elimination tag match. It’s Team TNA’s Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, and Curry Man versus Team International’s Doug Williams, Alex Koslov, and Tyson Dux versus Team Japan’s Masato Yoshino, Puma, and Milano Connection A.T. versus Team Mexico’s Último Guerrero, Rey Bucanero, and Averno. A team is out when all members are eliminated, the last team standing will be the winner.

This match rules. It’s a shade over 24 minutes and it is total nonstop action (elbow nudge, elbow nudge) from beginning to end. Guys are tagging in and out, executing cool spots, pulling off big double- and triple-team moves, rest holds be damned. At one point Curry Man challenges Masato Yoshino, the fastest wrestler ever, to a foot race, then trips him at the start, steps on his back, and does his trademark Curry Man dance to the delight of the fans. It’s great.

Speaking of Yoshino, he is undoubtedly the star of this match. Most of the wrestlers get their chance to shine (Tyson Dux and Puma are eliminated within the first five minutes, so we don’t see much of them), and Milano Collection A.T. in particular comes across like a superstar in the short time he’s featured, but this match ultimately belongs to Yoshino. This is a guy who cut his teeth in crazy multi-team matches like these back in Toryumon and Dragongate, and he thrives here. Both of Yoshino’s partners are eliminated back-to-back early on, so he has to go it alone against the other teams. He manages to survive all the way to the final two, showing off his big signature moves like the Sling Blade, Torbellino, Sol Naciente, From Jungle, Another Space, the biiiiig dropkick off the top. The finishing stretch with him and Alex Shelley has the fans chanting “This is awesome” and rightly so. Shelley gets the win for Team TNA with Automatic Midnight, but if you watched this match and didn’t come away wanting to see more of Masato Yoshino, then you’re not only out to lunch, but dinner as well.

It’s not a perfect match by any means, but it’s a fun and exciting one, and the crowd eats it all up. Mike Tenay and Don West do a great job on commentary putting over all the wrestlers and not just the Impact guys. Best of all, the international talent are allowed to go out there and just be themselves; Masato Yoshino is Masato Yoshino, Último Guerrero is Último Guerrero, Doug Williams is Doug Williams. That’s all you need. Sure, this is the same company that a few years later would have Kazuchika Okada dressing like Kato from The Green Hornet, which would lead to Impact’s partnership with New Japan dissolving for many years. But that’s a story for another time.