In 2001 there was a major shift in Professional Wrestling that was pretty earth shattering for the industry. In the wake of WCW going out of business in March of 2001 as well as ECW in April, the landscape changed dramatically.
I, as a fan, was so excited about the prospects of what was to come when I found out the WWF had bought WCW. I was enthralled every week watching the Television, wondering when all the top WCW Talent – Goldberg, Sting, DDP, Scott Steiner, Lex Luger – would be showing up to have dream feuds with the obvious choices. It was unfortunate because in the end, what my hopes and dreams were at 13 years old was simply unrealistic. The ego’s behind the scenes completely ruined the angle, as they refused to take their time with it and wait for AOL/Time Warner Contracts to run out, gave us a watered down version of WCW and ECW in the ‘Alliance’, which, despite Shane and Stephanie’s involvement, never made sense in the first place because ECW was always anti-WCW. The angle was a complete flop. How do you take the biggest potential money making angle that could have lasted YEARS and end it after… 174 days? It was something like this, that first let me down as a Pro Wrestling fan, feeling real disheartened over the fact they screwed up something so simple. Anybody would have been able to come up with an angle better than what they did!
I don’t mean to harp on it… but the nWo debuted in the WWE on February 17th, 2002. 91 DAYS AFTER THE INVASION ANGLE ENDED! How close could we possibly get? Scott Steiner’s contract was up the MONTH THE INVASION ENDED! November 2001. Sting’s contract was up in March of 2002. Flair was already available for the majority of the Invasion Angle. Goldbergs was up in May of 2002. They totally could have held off on this angle for some time, a slow burn. The gaps in these contracts running out would have kept something out there to look forward to.
Nonetheless, they screwed up the nWo angle as well. Hollywood Hogan was with Nash and Hall for 1 exact month, before they turned him Babyface and slapped the Red and Yellow back on him. By this point, this is when as a fan, I would start looking around trying to find something else to fill the void of the Pro Wrestling I used to watch that always did the right thing in the end, and kept me on the edge of my seat.
Companies like XPW, 3PW, and CZW attempted to fill the void during this time from the departure of ECW, as well as a little company called Ring Of Honor that was founded in February of 2002, and plenty of other companies came along to attempt “something” in rebuttal to there being no major #2 Wrestling company on the planet. Like MECW, which had a big mix of WCW/ECW talent that weren’t picked up for the WWF’s Invasion Angle. They lasted a cup of coffee.
Then there was Jimmy Hart’s XWF, with name talent like Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Sable, Jerry Lawler and Tony Schiavone on commentary, Curt Hennig, Vampiro, Buff Bagwell, The Nasty Boys – but that didn’t take off once the WWF scooped Hogan, Hennig and Lawler back up. Then there was Andrew McManus’ World Wrestling All-Stars, which ended up mainly being a touring wrestling show and not exactly what everybody thought it may be as a competitor.
Don’t worry, I’m getting there! What I am trying to say is, there were a few hungry Independent Wrestling companies attempting to fill that Philly void, but everything else we saw ended up being a bit of a disappointment that didn’t take off. Then in May of 2002, there were some rumblings about a new wrestling company starting up! Remember, this is 2 months after the WWF just broke my heart as a fan for the 2nd time, on such a grand scale. I was now dying for something to give me that feeling I used to feel. Don’t get me wrong, the 2002-2008 Ruthless Aggression era was still VERY decent in comparison to what we had been dealing with from about 2008-2020, but when you’re a Wrestling fan that was spoiled with the late 90’s of champagne Pro Wrestling viewing of the Attitude Era, the nWo angle, the brilliance and passion that was ECW – it’s still a blow to the heart strings when the major company continues to make decisions based on the opinion inside their Wrestling bubble, as opposed to doing what the fans want to see and not going against the grain.
The company in question that I am speaking of, is of course, NWA:TNA. The TNA stood for Total Non-Stop Action. The pairing with the National Wrestling Alliance gave them familiarity with a well known Pro Wrestling brand, despite the NWA’s struggles in the 90’s, it still had some name value, as did the lineage of their Worlds Heavyweight Championship.
Whilst being in Australia meant I couldn’t see the first NWA:TNA Weekly Pay Per View, their model at the time, I distinctly remember being on Wrestlezone.com that day, watching one of their writers who was watching the first show Live, and giving live updates. I was refreshing the page every 20 seconds to see what was happening! I was hooked already, because I was just hungry for something to give me the feeling Pro Wrestling is supposed to give me. I mean who wouldn’t be excited when you see that Psychosis, Konnan, Ken Shamrock, Lash Leroux, R-Truth, Gangrel, Steve Corino, Crowbar, Jeff Jarrett, Buff Bagwell, Lenny Lane, Allan Funk, Jerry Lynn, Brian Christopher, The Wall, Norman Smiley and my favorite pro wrestler, Scott Hall! All these guys who weren’t around for the Invasion Angle.
Every week for 104 weeks, we got these weekly Pay Per Views that eventually aired in Australia, and it was just so exciting! You never knew who was going to show up in NWA:TNA. Controversy was never far off when Vince Russo was writing the show. They focused on new stars like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, America’s Most Wanted – whilst also blending in legends that are always welcome on my screen. Things were pretty decent for a few years there for NWA:TNA, which eventually became TNA Wrestling when they finally got their first TV deal, and soon after the launch of its flagship, weekly television program, iMPACT! on June 4, 2004, the promotion began producing monthly, live, three-hour pay-per-view events; the first of these events, Victory Road aired on November 7, 2004. The hype was REAL!
I was more into this than WWE at the time in 2004. This would continue to be a trend for some time. This is where I got to see favorites like Kevin Nash, Sting, Scott Steiner, Kurt Angle, Rhino, etc, all get used to their full potential at that point in their career. The WWE had done a lot of damage to my fandom, especially with what I would describe as ‘Strike 3’ when they completely screwed up the return of ECW.
TNA Wrestling was my #1 company, baby. Through 2008, 2009 – I was into it. 2010, things were still cooking with gas! In 2009, they were hitting near the 2 million mark for viewers every week, a number AEW Dynamite has never been close to. The problem that came after this unfortunately is what always tends to ruin Pro Wrestling. Politics. Whilst the idea of a Pro Wrestling company with Vince Russo, Ed Ferrara, Eric Bischoff, Jim Cornette, Hulk Hogan and Bruce Pritchard sounds like a dream team, unfortunately it doesn’t quite work that way.
It was a mix of oil and water. This is what I believe really started to mess everything up. As we get to 2012, things became a mess behind the scenes, which meant the product we got on TV ended up becoming a mess. It was just starting to get inconsistent! I remember my final straw after too much bad faith creative, Rob Van Dam had to relinquish the TNA World Heavyweight Title after an attack from Abyss backstage where he was covered in blood. In reality, RVD had worked too many dates. By the time he returned to TV, they hadn’t even crowned a new world champion yet, which is the kind of nonsense that pisses me off. I was over it. I was tired of being let down. I just don’t think it’s too difficult to make it make sense. That’s all I ask for – make it make sense.
The next few years were for me, some darkest years for my Pro Wrestling fandom, to make this about me. I was not interested in Impact Wrestling for a very long time. I’m talking 7-8 years! My faith had been completely severed. I still haven’t watched WWE’s weekly shows in years. When you lose me, you lose me. When TNA lost AJ Styles in 2013, that was a death blow. In 2014 when Sting, Chris Sabin, Christopher Daniels, Team 3D and Kazarian all left… their identity went with them. Spike TV were done, they channel hopped for a while, and over the next few years their identity continued to suffer, when the likes of Kurt Angle, Eric Young and Bobby Roode would leave.
Everything just seemed to get messier and messier with the Billy Corgan lawsuit after he got them out of financial peril, as Dixie Carter could no longer fund the company from her parents company, Panda Energy. Don’t get me started on the whole debacle of Impact being rebranded as Global Force Wrestling for a cup of coffee. All these things just kept Impact Wrestling at arms length for me!
I should get to the point, shouldn’t I?
Bound For Glory 2021. On my YouTube channel, I would watch and review WWE and AEW wrestling Pay Per Views. I figured I would give Bound For Glory 2021 a shot, considering Christian Cage was heading back there for what appeared to be one night only to defend the Impact World Title against this guy I had never heard of before, “The Walking Weapon” Josh Alexander. Plus, they had a bunch of people on the roster I was familiar with. When I saw Chelsea Green, Cassie and Jessie, the former Iiconics in the WWE now known as Iinspiration, Rhino, Heath, Matt Cardona, The Good Brothers, Mickie James…. I was pretty impressed! Then I got to see these new guys and gals I hadn’t seen before like Steve Maclin, Moose, Trey Miguel and Deonna Purrazzo. The show was tremendous.
Their Pay Per View in early 2022, Impact Hard To Kill – across the board for me, was 2022 Pay Pay View of the year in Pro Wrestling. I have been so impressed with their creative over the last 2 years! They’ve had some ups and downs don’t get me wrong, there have been people who have come and gone because of their short term contracts, but for the most part, they have been consistent in giving their talent stories to sink their teeth into. They have built up a lot of good faith, and whilst some wrestling fans scoff at Impact Wrestling in 2023, based off the bad faith that formed a decade prior – if you’ve been watching – you know this is a good product, and the company is a positive company, with a great locker room.
2023 has rolled along quite nicely for Impact Wrestling, and with the big changes in WWE, and the debacles that continue to come AEW’s way and the drama that has come with it – Impact Wrestling and their President Scott D’Amore knew the time to strike was NOW! At Bound For Glory 2023, they announced that in 2024, at their first Pay Per View of the year, Hard To Kill; will be the first show where they return to being known as TNA Wrestling. It just makes so much more sense. People have never stopped calling it TNA, unlike how people don’t keep calling WWE, the WWF. Some things change, but some things were never meant to. I was really pumped up to hear this, to see TNA Wrestling really start to push and challenge for that old #2 spot again. It will only do good for the workers, the fans, and pro wrestling in general! With how consistent their booking has been the last few years, I can’t see how this doesn’t go well.
I have some concerns though. Just a few. Whilst I completely understand seeking out different talent to be on some of these upcoming shows like Hard To Kill and Snake Eyes in January 2024, I do hope they aren’t hanging their hat too much on some of these talents they have announced. El Hijo Del Vikingo, Will Ospreay, Kazuchika Okada, as well as the signing of KUSHIDA.. don’t get me wrong, they are all very talented wrestlers, but at the end of the day, they all will only attract the Die Hard vocal minority wrestling fan, which is the mistake AEW has made when they should be trying to grow. If the goal is to just bring these guys in for a shot or two to try gain the eyeballs of some of those die hards who had given up on company, then okay, I completely understand. BUT THIS TIME OSPREAY BETTER LOSE TO JOSH ALEXANDER!
I’m making a big deal out of this because it’s not often 20+ years deep as a wrestling company, that after they hit the lowest of lows a few years ago – that they now get a 2nd chance. This is their last opportunity to truly make an impression to get them back in the game. I hope for an edgier product, likened back to days of old, but with a modern twist. They have all the pieces in place that are necessary. Great management, commentators, workers, production staff, referees, creative team – they just need to take this final shot at a new impression and give us exactly what the jaded, bored, and low attention spanned fan needs, and that’s Total Non-Stop Action.