In Chapter Two, TNA had its first refocusing (after one episode) by giving wins to AJ Styles and James Storm, young stars who took embarrassing losses in Chapter One. Also, they continued to make their top stars look great by having popular hillbilly celebrities beat up their wrestlers at every turn.
In Chapter Three we’ll name new NWA World Tag Team Champions, say goodbye to our (current) favorite tag team of wrestling penises, and watch in amazement as TNA manages to misidentify their own parent company’s President.
If you’d like to keep up with these columns as they go, be sure to check out the NWA TNA Wrestling: The Asylum Years tag. Again, I’d give you a direct link to the shows but the Global Wrestling Network redirects everything to their main page, because they really want you to watch the latest episode of Impact.
And now, chapter three of the TNA Wrestling story for July 3, 2002.
We Know Where THAT Is, Taz!
Two important developments this week.
1. Don West has ditched the Hawaiian shirt and is trying to get over a zoot suit gimmick. Because when you hear the phrase “cherry poppin’ daddy,” you think Don West. I’d like to believe he saw The Mask for the first time on July 2, 2002, and screamed AWW LOOK AT THIS, THIS GUY HAS GREAT FASHION SENSE MIKE, UNBELIEVABLE!!!!
2. TNA is now in the original Impact Zone. After two weeks in Alabama — the longest period of time a person should spend in Alabama — NWA TNA has gone “home” to the Tennessee State Fairgrounds arena, aka the TNA Asylum, where they stay until September of 2004. It’s, and this is true, an old flea market built by South Dakota carpetbaggers in the 1920s. I’m legitimately surprised 2002 TNA didn’t create a tag team of lesbian pick-up artists to capitalize on this.
For The Third Straight Episode, New Champions Are Crowned
The first pay-per-view ended with Ken Shamrock becoming the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion and the second ended with AJ Styles becoming the first X-Division Champion, so logically episode three should be about naming tag champs. We are just hustling right the hell through this. One of the calling cards of a Jarrett wrestling promotion is, “it’s episode one, we need eight champions and we need them right now.”
Last week’s show featured a bit where the Dupps refused to wrestle a match so TNA had to scramble and make two random guys who happened to walk through the door at the same time team up to replace them because they only have like, three tag teams total, so this week we’re having a TAG TEAM TOURNAMENT.
Up first is the thrown-together “sure, we’re not homophobes” squad of Chris Harris and James Storm wrestling a pair of actual dicks. You’ve gotta love the plot escalation there. “Not afraid to touch gay wrestlers? What if their dicks were out, and they were HUGE?”
Sadly (?) it’s the final appearance of Richard and Rod Johnson, as they lose the match and beat up their manager for yelling at them. Such a shame to let those intricate, expensive, expertly-tailored tan bodysuits go to waste. The Johnsons would pop up (cough) in WWE has “The Gymini” and — SWERVE — reveal that they look exactly like Richard and Rod Johnson even without the suits. It’s like when Sting wears a Sting mask.
Mortimer Plumtree sticks around for a little while but mostly sticks to front office duties until he’s written off TV (and the company) permanently via a Vince Russo power-move. Man, what a dick.
One tag team breakup angle isn’t enough, so the two-match round one of the TNA Tag Team Tournament has two. The second comes when Buff Bagwell and Apolo lose to the Rainbow Express, and Buff decides to give up being Buff forever and quit the company because, and I’m affecting an accent here, he “lawst to a couple’a GAY GUYS.” To truly put over the character, Bagwell gives Ed Ferrara his airbrushed hat and Ferrara’s like, “ugh, I don’t want this.”
That sets up Storm and Harris in a rematch with the Rainbow Express for the tag titles, which would be perfectly fine pro wrestling storytelling if TNA could go 15 minutes without swerving and attacking someone in the back. Unfortunately, Goldy Locks stumbles upon Harris and Storm COVERED IN BLOOD BACKSTAGE and whoops, they’re out of the tournament.
Instead of the Rainbow Express just winning by default like you’d imagine (and Joel Getner frenching Goldy Locks to remind us that he’s extremely not gay), Jerry Lynn happens to be hanging around while Bill Behrens is on the phone and ends up in the finals of the tournament with a partner of his choice. SURE, WHY NOT.
Meanwhile, if you can get past the constant EVERYONE LOOK AT BOBCAT angle (pictured), new X-Division Champion AJ Styles defends his title against David Young. It’s not a bad match, because AJ Styles, and ends with a Styles Clash off the top rope because (1) we needed to go to the ultimate big match death move in Styles’ third match in the company (2) on the third episode (3) against David Young, a guy who lost last week and somehow earned a title shot. Young is also 240 pounds, but we’ll preemptively remind you that the X-Division isn’t about weight limits: it’s about no limits. Like Silkk the Shocker!
But yeah, Styles defeats Young in about 10 minutes. Why do I jam this into the middle of a bit about the NWA Tag Team title tournament, you ask?
Because immediately following the match, Jerry Lynn gets Styles to agree to be his partner for the finals of a tournament neither of them was in and they defeat the Rainbow Express to become Tag Team Champions. The Express try to attack them on the ramp before the match, because if everybody else is doing it, why shouldn’t they?
I really can’t overstate what a spectacularly Late Era WCW thing it is to hold a four-team tournament, break up two of the four teams in the first round, have the third team get mysteriously jumped backstage and have a fifth team of hastily thrown-together rivals jump into the finals for no reason and win. Especially when one of the winners is already one of your champions. Especially when the finals of the one-night tournament on your two-hour show isn’t the main event. All it needed to complete the circle was Scott Steiner showing up after they won to beat them up by himself.
Those Aren’t The Only Several Swerves In The Tag Team Division This Week
The actual main event of the show is Brian Christopher and Scott Hall teaming up against Jeff Jarrett and K-Krush, with [checks notes] [checks notes again] [squints] Christopher turning on Hall to help Jarrett and K-Krush win despite spending the first two episodes beating up K-Krush and making fun of him for not being white enough in Alabama. Got it.
The most interesting development here is that Jeff Jarrett has learned that he can curse on pay-per-view, so he drops both “bitch” and “ass” into a promo before attacking Hall’s bitch ass and delivers a fine post-match speech announcing that Hall’s “not worth a shit.” Go to Hell! Go to Hell! Kiss my butt! He also accidentally calls the NWA the “NWO,” and has to loop back around to pretend like he meant both.
Don’t feel good for K-Krush, though. They still find time to have him get humiliated by non-wrestling white folks as Hermie Sadler spears him to the ground and beats him up until his pit crew pulls him away. Because 4-foot-11 dainty southern dad Hermie Sadler should be able to kick R-Truth’s ass.
Join us next week when Sadler actually wrestles K-Krush, powerbombs him, and wins when the muscular pro wrestler has to cheat to beat a tiny NASCAR driver named after the dentist elf from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and doesn’t get away with it.
The Women’s Division Is Somehow Even Worse This Week
Francine, the woman who was upset to the point of tears at not winning a TNA contract in the lingerie battle royal, shows up a week later to have a TNA wrestling match against the winner, Taylor Vaughn. Because again, you can’t put 10 women in a division, announce you’re only giving a contract to one of them, and have a division.
The match doesn’t happen, however, because Francine immediately pulls a belt out of her boot (?) and attacks Vaughn. The match gets thrown out, so Ed Ferrara — the guy who thought he was going to get a blowjob in the middle of a battle royal in the aisle on a live wrestling pay-per-view because he grabbed a boob without asking — hits the ring to raise her hand. In response, Francine (swerve) puts Ed’s hand on her boob again so she can once again attack him with the belt. Some say Ed Ferrara started the Divas Revolution.
The Hardcore Midget Division Is Heating Up, Though
Before attacking Don West with a stick for trying to high-five him, Puppet the Midget Killer goes for that cross-promotional love by challenging Gary Coleman, Mini-Me and Beetlejuice from the Howard Stern Show to matches. None of that happens, but hey, like 10 years later they got Eric the Actor to feud with Bobby Roode, so … good job?
In a loosely related note because I’ll never get there, Roode threatening to tie balloons around a handicapped person and dropkick them “into the California sky” joins “Brock Lensar breaking a one-legged kid’s one leg in front of the kid’s mother and then pushing his wheelchair down a flight of stairs” as one of the most inappropriately hilarious ableist moments in wrestling history.
The NWA Can’t Properly Identify Its Own President
Meet Jim Miller, NWA President from 2001 until 2002 and the only man I’ve ever seen with a farmer’s tan on his face. TNA, a company operating under the NWA banner and featuring its President on their show, puts up this graphic calling him “Jim Wilson.” Probably not a good sign. He’s here to announce that puroresu journeyman and 1996 Royal Rumble entrant Takao Omori will appear on next week’s show to challenge Ken Shamrock for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
He then disappears for the entire episode until, get this, someone finds him beaten up backstage. That has got to be the least safe working environment I’ve ever seen. TNA would’ve tried to run a show in Harambe’s enclosure if they could’ve.
As For The Heavyweight Title Scene
Ken Shamrock manages to defeat Malice despite GET THIS, COMMA, Malice attacking and injuring him before the match. Pay-per-view #4 should’ve opened on a locker room full of unconscious bloody bodies and Mike Tenay being like, “sorry fans, tonight’s show is canceled, everyone on the roster was attacked before it started.”
And In This Week’s One Bit Of Good News
This week’s show does feature one bright spot: the debut of the “Alpha Male” Monty Brown, probably the most underrated and underappreciated star in the history of the company.
Prepare yourself to get extremely disappointed circa 2005 when TNA has a guy with a great look, an impossibly over finish with its own catchphrase, the ability to talk, the ability to wrestle, incredible intensity, real-life crossover appeal and a real sports pedigree including two Super Bowl appearances and feeds him to Jeff Fucking Jarrett.
In TNA, a company defined by stupid decisions, not pulling the trigger on Monty Brown as their top star is undoubtedly the worst one of all. Period.
(But we’ll get to that.)