Hey, Gatecrashers! My name is Barrett and I’ll be reviewing the early years of TNA and compare/contrast them with AEW. Twenty years of changes in the business and culture seems like a fertile ground for me making a lot of jokes about Jeff Jarrett and gushing about The Elite.
These first few Compare/Contrast articles will be pretty long; there’s a lot to set up here. Down the line I’m hoping to combine the TNA and AEW reviews into one big supercolumn.
So let’s get into the Good/Bad/Mid of TNA’s inaugural PPV, 06/19/02
Back in the early 00s I tape traded to get the first eight TNA PPVs on VHS so I could see one particular wrestler in action. Who will it be? Put your bets in now!
BAD: Vamp-pires everywhere!
During the dark match right before the show starts, the ring breaks.
The cameras go live. To buy time TNA had every person who came to the ring in the next 15 minutes have an entrance, and I mean EVERY person. Don West enters dressed like he’s ready to unwindulax. Ed Ferrara is next, looking like a Predator that owns a strip club. He spouts out the TNA double entendre as fast as he can, confirming that he is a in fact Predator that owns and DJs at a strip club. He probably hunted down and captured local dancers and put them in the TNA cages before taking them back to Planet Predator.
Tenay, who is too boring to get an entrance and is already glued to the announcer’s table, explains the Gauntlet for the Gold, which is a modified Royal Rumble. A new contender enters the ring every 90 seconds with over the top rope eliminations, but the last two competitors wrestle a regular 1 on 1 match. I think it’s a good concept! Nobody else will! The winner will be crowned the new NWA champion.
Real quick aside about the announcers; Don West is good on this show. He’s a bit lost but super excited. Tenay is the pro. He holds this shaky first show together. Eventually he becomes SUPER ANNOYING. Ed Ferrara is a poor man’s Jerry Lawler and I don’t like Jerry Lawler, so you can imagine what a bummer Ed is.
Borash introduces a bunch of legends to start the show off with a whimper. On the “My World” podcast, Jarrett let us know that the show was supposed to start with The Future ROH Champions If You Include The Pure Title Express vs The Flying Elvises… yeah, hang on, we’ll explain THAT shortly. All the Legends get an entrance to buy more time. This show is forced to vamp more than an episode of “What We Do In The Shadows.”
Dory Funk Jr
“Bullet” Bob Armstrong (Father of Scott, Steve, The Road Dogg, and Arachnaman)
and Ricky Steamboat with the NWA title. Steamboat gets a big pop. He worked the NWA and WWF during the 80s boom so everybody north and south of the Mason Dixon knows him.
Jarret’s “My World” theme hits for the first time. The guitar sounds like an annoying alarm clock which is appropriate for Jarrett. He’s irritating and I want to hit him until he shuts up.
Let’s get this out of the way. I was not a Jarrett fan at any point in his wrestling career. He stunk on ice. He was the first wrestler who gave me “go away” heat vibes. I never liked his promos or his matches. However, the “My World” podcast has turned me around on him as a person. He’s so amiable it’s hard to hate on him. But I will. I must. Podcast Jarrett is my guy. Wrestler Jarrett is my sworn enemy.
Jarrett trashes the Gauntlet for the Gold and runs down the NWA Legends. Jack Fargo, who was pretty drunk according to Jarrett, interrupts and tells Jarrett that he’s first rassler in the Gauntlet for the Gold. Fargo is on the NWA High Council and can unilaterally make match stipulations, I guess. Jarrett says he’s going to kick everybody’s ass. Ken Shamrock enters from the Face Tunnel, shits on the Gauntlet and then says he’s number 19. Scott Hall “Heyyo”s his way through the audience. Scott ALSO says the battle royal sucks. Hall’s promo is the best of the three; short, informative and character driven.
It turns out that only Jarrett was supposed to say the Gauntlet for the Gold sucked. Somehow wires got crossed and everybody crapped on the main event of the first show in a match they all would be in. This whole segment eats up 15 minutes. I know the ring needed a-fixin’ but woof, it’s boring.
Bad but also Good: Goldilocks smells a fart/Backstage Storytelling
Woo, let’s talk about Goldilocks, the backstage interviewer. We never get a reason why she is named Goldilocks. I mean, Excalibur never came out and said “When I wrestled I was called Excalibur and when I was on Play by Play in PWG I was Excalibur and so I am still Excalibur which is why I wear a mask, this is my Excalibur mask. Also, I want to be left alone when I walk down the street.” so I can’t really get on this too much. But it bothers me! Why is that her name? HER SHOOT NAME IS MOON SHADOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
One of the big problems with Goldilocks is she only has three facial reactions to anything.
1. I smelt a fart.
2. WHO FARTED?
3. It was me and I’m all in on that fart.
She’s never engages with any promo. She grabs one of these three fart faces regardless of what’s being said.
She’s interviews “The Midget Killer” Puppet, who is working a hardcore violence gimmick. I’ll be saying this a lot… 20 years have gone by and the accepted term is “little people” so we say that instead of what Puppet is saying here. Puppet tries for intensity but it’s that cartoon wrestling version of intensity where he looks like he’s about to pop a blood vessel while yelling like Yosemitie Sam.
Suddenly Jeff Jarrett storms past, kicks over some chairs and rants about how he’s getting screwed. Here’s where TNA strikes gold; the backstage is alive. A promo might be interrupted by a fight. Someone could be looking for X wrestler for an interview but finds Y wrestler beat up on the floor. It helps tell the story of the ENTIRE show in an efficient, fun, and unexpected way. That doesn’t mean the backstage segments are GOOD, just well thought out..
Good: The actual start of the show
The Future ROH Champions If You Include The Pure Title Express (Jerry Lynn, Low Ki, AYY JAYY STYYYYYLES) vs. The Flying Elvises (Jorge Estrada, Sonny Siaki, Jimmy Yang). Why are they The Flying Elvises? Jeff Jarrett, noted podcaster, said “they needed a gimmick to get over, to give them personality”, but this isn’t a personality or a gimmick, it’s just three guys in white sequined jumpsuits forgetting to do anything Elvis-y. I guess it’s a callback to “Honeymoon in Vegas”, a 1992 romantic comedy starring Nicholas Cage and Sarah Jessica Parker. The movie made $10 million dollars but it was hardly a hit. I mean, why reference a 10 year old movie? If wrestlers need a gimmick then why is TFRCIYITPTE just two relative unknowns and Jerry Lynn? Slapping the same costume on people isn’t a gimmick, it’s a theme party.
The match is VERY much a spotfest with almost no downtime or storytelling. Most likely the match was shortened due to the vampire attack at the top of the show. There’s a lot of flipping around. TFRCIYITPTE definitely looks better but each member of the Airborne Elvi get their spots in. AJ, Ki and Lynn have great three-way timing together along with SCINTILLATING strikes and DANGEROUS dives. The finish is Jimmy Yang hitting the Yang Time on AJ Styles. JIMMY WANG YANG has a win over AJ STYLES and this will never be erased from the history books… or, really, cagematch.net. After retirement, Jimmy would open Jimmy’s Redneck Party Bus in Ohio. Nobody knows what happened to AJ Styles.
BAD BAD BAD AND IT NEVER STOPS: The Dupps
Backstage, Goldilocks runs into 2021 NWA champion Stan Dupp, his cousin Bo and sister Fluff. Stand Up, Bowed Up and Fluffed Up. GET IT? PUNS. EXCEPT BOWED UP WHAT IS THAT
The Dupps are horrific southern stereotypes; dumb, drunk, ignorant and incestuous. I’m not sure how this is supposed to appeal to the majority southern TNA wrestling audience. If they were the least bit funny or entertaining it might be tolerable, but they aint. Anyway, they say a bunch of dumb shit about how Fluff is Bo’s girlfriend but also Stan’s girlfriend. Bill Beherens tells them not to drink backstage. Stan says “Hey, Bo, who ever heard of getting drunk on beer” before he spits tobacco on the floor while Bo picks his nose. It’s Hee Haw with a head wound.
Later that night the Dupps go up against another actual tag team, Joey Mercury and Christian York. Quick cagematch.net research shows that York had his last match in 2018. Matthews was recently run out of ROH’s training school due to erratic behavior and substance abuse issues.
York is absolutely jacked here and has a great look except for his dumb hair. I’ll be honest, Bo Dupp has some VERY crisp big man offense here. If he wasn’t saddled with such a stinker gimmick he might have gone further in the business. Anything where he’s not picking his nose and asshole.
The match gets all of 4 minutes. Fluff trips up York on the top rope, he falls into the ring and gets pinned by Bo. Not enough time to see anything worthwhile. Perhaps time was cut due to the ring repair, but if I was going to cut time from anything, it’d be what comes in the next few paragraphs.
Bad: NASCAR + Racism = Total Nonstop Action
Sterling Martin and Hermie Sadler, two NASCAR drivers make an appearance and get a SIX MINUTE SEGMENT. They both get big pops. The Venn diagram between Southern rasslin’ fans and NASCAR nerds is basically one big circle. People forget how HUUUUGE NASCAR was in the late 90s. Jarrett is pals with Sadler and Sadler is a big wrestling fan which is how they got the NASCAR drivers for the show.
K-Krush (aka R Truth) breaks up Sterling Martin’s less than sterling promo. He says NASCAR doesn’t belong here and that “his kind” are real athletes. Krush is on fire, despite the racial implications of his promo. The crowd fucking HATES him. I wonder why?
Hermie grabs the mic and does some surprisingly good trash talking. Krush prepares to beat the down when fucking Brian “Grand Master Sexay” Christopher sprints to the ring and just absolutely destroys Krush. The audience pops like Adam Cole just pointed his thumb at his head. I… don’t think the crowd reaction is for Christopher. It’s for seeing Krush get beat down, which is super gross.
Martin and Sadler throw Krush over the top and he flat back bumps on the floor. Christopher, still wearing his Too Cool gear with “Sexay” airbrushed on the leg, calls K-Krush a “mofo” and then says “Why don’t YOUR KIND come down here and pick on MY KIND right here, right now!” The ring has three white men in it. Chrisopher then makes a match for next week between Christopher, Sterling and Hermie vs. Krush and two TBAs. This whole thing is tinged with racist overtones and I hate it. It gets worse before it gets better. Whee!
BAD: Can’t have a johnson without the plums.
I’m not even sure how to talk about Richard and Rod Johnsons. College move antagonist and wrestling manager Mortimer Plumbtree was matched with the roided up Shane Twins. A real trio of “never-was’s” here. TNA wanted as many wrestlers as possible to have some kind of gimmick, so the Shanes were squeezed into flesh colored bodysuits and matching masks and called “The Johnsons”. The story was that Plumbtree had hired two of his schoolyard bullies, dressed them up like dicks and then made them wrestle in Nashville. The Johnsons look more like rubber inflation fetishists than penises. Which is apt, the Shanes are so roided out that their muscles are about to burst like balloons.
The Johnsons face off against a team I call “The Cowboys”; James Storm is a Cowboy and Psicosis is dressed like Kool-Aid Cow-Boy.
All cowpokes aside, this random pairing has identifiable, engaging gimmicks. Storm comes out in his 5 gallon hat, two six shooters, ten fingers and one pretty rad quickdraw show for the crowd. Psicosis’ gimmick is “Hey, everybody, I’m Piscosis from WCW, you know me, now watch me fling myself at two veiny dongs.”
This match ain’t much. The only real highlight is Storm whipping out a pretty sweet standing hurricanrana. The Johsons win in about 4 minutes, 2 of which were spent cutting to…
BAD: Sex Work is Work but can’t tell if Sex Work
… Alicia, aka Ryan Shamrock, standing in the entranceway. Her storyline is she takes money from men for several weeks before she disappears like Casper the Implied Sex Worker Ghost. Maybe she was supposed to be a madam or a sex worker who… works on credit or something? Misogynist garbage that mercifully went nowhere. Ken really should have talked to his sister about this.
Mid: “I like ‘Merican Music.”
TNA plays most of a Toby Keith video, then he sings a full song at the entranceway. If you don’t know who Toby Keith is, imagine a giant cowboy with a Van Dyke who loves ‘Merica. He had a lot to sing about 9/11 and how awesome the War on Terror was. Eventually he’d sing about red Solo cups and how awesome they are at holding liquid. He sings “Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue (The Angry American)” which is a sweet ballad about putting our collective American boot in Osama Bin Laden’s asshole.
Jarrett stomps out like a big baby and shoulder blocks Toby Keith just as the song ends. The crowd goes fucking nuclear. Jarrett says nobody wants to hear that song and Toby Keith needs to get out so Jarrett can win the title. I legit think Jarrett was putting his life on the line here. 9/11 was still super fresh in everyone’s head and, as much as I disagree with Keith’s jingoistic bullshit, he was connected with this crowd. Jarrett was basically saying that his title shot was more important than 9/11, which is about as dangerous a tactic for getting heat that there ever was.
I give this a Mid because, while I’m not into Toby Keith or his music or Jarrett, it is incredibly effective at making Jarrett the hottest heel in the company in a matter of seconds.
Mid: A Flair for the Gauntlet
Jarrett is first. He acts like a dickhead while waiting for ENTRY NUMBER TWOOOOOO
Marcus “Buff” Bagwell comes out to a “HEY I ‘MEMBER HIM” pop. Jarrett vs. Bagwell is the nadir of wrestling for me. Bagwell sucks, Jarrett sucks. I saw them wrestle in WCW once and I get a migraine just thinking about it. In an act of mercy for my cranium, Bagwell gets eliminated in under 90 seconds.
Next is WCW’s Lash Leroux. Last info I could find is that he retired and became a youth pastor in 2018. Jarrett also eliminates him in under 90 seconds.
“Screamin’” Norman Smiley hits the ring. Smiley was one of wrestling’s greatest grapplers, but I guess when you can switch to a low impact comedy gimmick, you take it. If you want to see his true brilliance, check out his UWF stuff on Youtube and Vimeo. He gets kicked in the yarbos when he tries the Big Wiggle and is also eliminated in under 90 seconds.
The big Puerto Rican Apolo hits the ring and beats the piss out of Jarrett. We can discuss Apolo at a later time. He’s about to gorilla press Jarrett to the floor when K-Krush joins the match.
And now the rest, in order of appearance with asides as necessary
Slash, former Wolfie D of PG-13, now satanist.
Del Rios, who gets a pop when people think he’s Scott Stiener. Why do they think he’s Scott Stiener? Take a look!
He’s fucking terrible and we never see him again. I don’t even know if I got his name right. I’m not even going to “where is he now” him.
Justice, who would be repackaged as THE MONSTER, LAWYER.
Konnan gets a “I MEMBER HIM TOOOOO!!!” pop. The difference between 1997 Konnan and 2002 Konnan is drastic. It’s like the 97 version is moving underwater.
Joel Gertner, aka ECW’s Max Caster, does some dirty rhyming and then introduces The Rainbow Express. This is some “fucking yikes” gay panic shit. The team of Lenny Lane and Bruce (formerly Kwiwi) walk arm in arm down the… wait, I think I just got a joke from 20 years ago. Lenny. Bruce. Lenny Bruce. UGGG THAT’S SO DUMB. Lodi is part of the Express but he’s out with an injury.
The whole thing is offensive. We can say it’s a product of it’s time but it shouldn’t have happened in 2002. What a terrible time for queerness in wrestling. Even the cool kids promotion ROH had The Christopher Street Connection where two straight guys would have over-the-top makeouts and then get their teeth kicked in by the “heroes”. I hated it then and I hate it more now. AND THIS SHIT GETS WORSE.
Ric Steiner and his Dog Face!
Malice, the former Wall, now satanist.
Scott Hall and his Normal Face!
WHOOPS THIS GUY AIN’T SUPPOSED TO BE HERE! Toby Keith runs into the ring and suplexes Jarrett. The crowd goes banana. He’s the most over babyface in the show!
“The Wildcat” Chris Harris knocks on the door and is let into the ring.
The Vampire Warrior (Gangrel © White Wolf Studios) fucks up his entrance and comes in about 30 seconds after Harris. God, he must have loved all the vamping at the top of the show.
“Dangerous” Devon Storm (Crowbar © Valve Studios), not yet a satanist.
Zero-1’s Steve Corino!
Ken Shamrock! INTENSITY!!!
Bryan Christopher and his “too cool” goggles are back to complete the Gauntlet. Thanos snapped his fingers and suddenly half of the jobbers in this match were turned to dust, never to be seen again.
Wrestling happens. People go over the top rope, the Gauntlet portion ends, leaving Malice vs. Shamrock to face off. A WWF main event gatekeeper vs a WCW midcarder. Shamrock sniffed around the World Title scene but Vince McMahon never pulled the trigger. The Wall was an accurately rated big man, neither over or under in the ratings. Their one-on-one match gets 10 minutes and, despite it’s alright-ness, it is the best thing on the show. Shamrock’s believable offense goes a long way. It finishes with Shamrock countering a chokeslam goozle into a Belly to Belly Suplex, making Shamrock the first NWA TNA champion! HOLY SHIT IT’S NOT JARRETT! IT’S NOT JARRETT!!!!
Bad: “A little bit of everything!”
A piece of Jarrett’s booking philosophy is that wrestling is a three ring circus and you need something for everyone. This ends up leading to a disjointed show with a lot of boring, half assed or straight up offensive segments. Let’s blitz through a few.
1. The Hollywood vs.Teo little people match is surprisingly inoffensive, both in wrestling content and shitty Ed Ferrara commentary. Mike Tenay spams commentary, calling every move he can so that Ed Ferrara can’t get out more than one or two short jokes. Hollywood hits a very nice looking frog splash from the top, but Teo (which stands for Total E Outstanding if you can believe that) picks up the win after a twisting senton.
2. The Lingerie Battle Royal sneak peek. This is a set up for next week’s pre-Pornhub perv content. PrEDator Ferrara skeezes it up as the MC while looking for new employees to work at his combination strip club/starship. Every single woman gets their own entrance, but the cameramen are focusing on the wrong entranceway about half the time, so you get a shot of some poor lady just standing there waiting to hear her name called.
WHO WE GOT?
Alexis Laree (Mickie James)
Sasha I think
Francine and Electra cut promos on each other, bringing up ECW and how Francine somehow bankrupted the company. Must have been some Freaky Friday thing where Francine and Heyman swapped souls. This really pisses off Francine for some reason, so they catfight and Francine rips Electra’s shirt off. Everybody else just stands there. The only one with any personality is, no surprise, Shannon. She never drops character even when all this stupid shit is happening around her.
3. Cage dancers so the show has some T and A.
“Free me before the Predator comes back!”
4. The main event seems to end too early. The announcers drink the blood of the innocent for a minute until we cut to Jarrett yelling at Keith backstage, coming to the ring, yelling more, getting into another altercation with Keith before Scott Hall pops him in the chops as the show wraps up.
Yeah, so, this show was pretty bad. It did not make a good impression. The booking seemed to pick up where 99-00s WCW left off. Characters with no direction, half-assed gimmicks, mediocre wrestling, women = eye candy,, a dickhead on commentary and Jeff Jarrett as a top star.
It takes TNA about 4 years to find it’s identity, then lose it about 2 years later, then find another crappy identity about 2 years after that, then meander through moments of brilliance until the shift to Impact where they have been in a solid groove for about 5 years. It’s nuts to think that WCW lasted 12 years and TNA is just a few months away from 20 years!
The wrestler I bought the tapes to see wasn’t on this show! Keep guessing!
Please join me next time for our Compare/Contrast with AEW’s first PPV, All Out!
2 replies on “Compare and Contrast TNA and AEW: TNA’s First PPV, 06/19/02”
[…] the early years of TNA and compare/contrasting them with AEW. Please go check out my review of the 1st TNA weekly PPV, especially if you like some jerk dunking on 20 year old wrestling […]
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