Alex Shelley, Austin Aries, and Roderick Strong def. AJ Styles, Chris Sabin, and Christopher Daniels
January 7, 2006 (air date)
TNA Impact

Reviewed by Jeff Martin (VOW Author Pagefollow him on Bluesky, buy his wrestling comics, and check out his free webcomic Hell, Inc.)

Gifted by Will Young (VOW Author Page@CC_PW)

In the midst of a January, 2006 episode of TNA Impact we find a who’s who of wrestlers responsible for defining the turn-of-the-century American indies and shaping modern wrestling. It’s fascinating to think back on how stacked the TNA roster was – if this match was put on TV today, this lineup would still be an impressive collection of names. In 2006, this is a match that is exciting for nerds on paper, but is primarily intended to serve as the “X Division wrestlers are awesome” match on the show. The number of people who remember it could likely be counted on one hand, with half of them being writers for this very website (the other half are probably in the match). It’s an excellent microcosm of the frustrating nature of TNA, American wrestling, and the universal appeal of dudes going very fast and doing impressive athletic stuff.

Arguably the most enduring philosophy of WCW is the idea that a subgroup of the roster is responsible for having exciting matches. Their cruiserweights set the course for the X Division, which presaged the open challenges and workhorse belts common in the last decade of WWE and, now, AEW. The core of this philosophy is a fascinating look into the subconscious of American wrestling. If a subset of the wrestlers are responsible for exciting matches to keep the wrestling fans happy, what is the rest of the roster doing, and who for? I don’t think any American wrestling bookers have thought about this.

TNA tantalized fans with some of the most exciting young wrestlers in the world, but the promotion spent much of its existence with the stars of yesteryear as the featured acts. I’ll leave you to consider the number of promotions and eras that you could swap in for TNA and still have that statement be true. This begs the question of what these promotions think wrestling fans want to see on a wrestling show, but that is a much bigger question than I can get into in a Secret Santa review.

As a match, this is exactly what you want out of a TV trios match. It moves fast, gives everyone a chance to shine, and features some exciting spots. It’s engaging to watch and packs a ton into a short amount of time. The Impact Zone is going ape the entire time – they’re so loud that Don West is hard to hear on commentary. They’re amped up during the entrances, and the six men in the match ensure that they only get louder. This isn’t surprising, given the individuals involved. In 2006 it’s already extremely clear that AJ Styles is at the top of his generation, but it will be nearly a decade before he gets the recognition he deserves from the audience at large. He stands out, even in a match featuring six dudes in black trunks, which, side note, does nobody talk before they go out for a TV match? Could one of the teams not pick a different colour? It also reminds me that it’s criminal that Alex Shelley has never gotten a run on top on national TV.

I get TNA matches on a semi-regular basis in these Secret Santas, and despite that narrowing the field, I never guess the Santa correctly. I’m going to guess it’s one of the You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me lads… Liam? Sure.