NWA-TNA: The begining
June 19, 2002. The very first ever NWA-TNA joint show. The show now known as Impact was once under the umbrella of the NWA, the Grandfather of all wrestling organizations. All current promotions have either come from or been associated with the NWA, including AEW. This show was approximately a 2 hour weekly pay per view event, costing at the time a fairly steep $9.99. This was done to build revenue for the fledgling company, with the final pay per view show airing on September 8th, 2004. After 27 months and 110 PPV’s, TNA finally had the revenue and a fanbase to start their weekly shows. This week, we will look back at the very first show of NWA-TNA, as well as my personal gripes with it. I will try to make this weekly and cover the weekly PPV’s, but I can’t promise anything. But without any further ado, let’s dive in.
The show starts with the introduction of the announce team, which consisted of Don West, Ed Ferrara, and to me, a surprise, Mike Tenay (“The Professor). Shame Bobby Heenan wasn’t there for this.
My first gripe begins here. They talk about respecting NWA rules, they talk about how they’re going to respect the legends, and yet the very first match, they break that. In the NWA, a toss over the top rope was an automatic disqualification. Yet they have a gauntlet match, where it’s essentially a gauntlet battle royal. Which, you have to be tossed over the top rope to do? But that breaks the NWA rules. But I digress, a minor complaint. This was for the NWA World Heavyweight Title, previously held by Dan Severn on March 9, 2002 at Vast Energy in Tokyo, Japan. That was Dan’s second reign, and it lasted 80 days. The match ended with some controversy as the referee gave a fast count. Dan was stripped of the title because he did not make a title defense at NWA: Total Non Stop Action at their inaugural pay per view due to a previously scheduled MMA fight. Thus it opened the path for a new title holder to be crowned tonight at the PPV.
Moving on, next they have Jeremy Borash introduce some NWA Legends. True Legends, not WWE like “legends” where all you have to do is suck Vince’s di…anyways.
First out is “Handsome” Harley Race. Harley was an eight time champion in NWA beating some major named legends such as Dory Funk Jr, Terry Funk, Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair just to name a few during his reigns. He is ranked number 3 on the longest combined days as NWA champion list with eight title wins at a combined 1,801 days. He is topped only by Ric Flair with 10 wins at a combined 3,116 days, and Lou Thesz at number one with 3 reigns and 3749 combined days reign.
Next is Dory Funk Jr, brother of Terry Funk, son of Dory Funk, who had one Title Reign and is ranked number 4 on the list with only one title reign, lasting 1,563 days. That’s a staggering FOUR years as the NWA title, a longevity you will never see today.
Next is the original Fabulous One, Jackie Fargo. He had some accolade with the wrestling observer but we don’t talk about that in these articles. Anyone that knows me knows I have zero respect for that rag, and you can not change my mind, so don’t @ me. Jackie was not a NWA champion, but he invented the Fargo Strut, before Ric Flair.
“Bullet Bob” Armstrong was next, followed by the “First Couple” Corsica Joe and Sarah Lee. They were followed by the then NWA VP Bill Behrens.
Next was another true Legend. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. He is ranked 39 on the list, with 1 title reign spanning 76 days. He has wrestled over 20 years and over Six THOUSAND matches. Steamboat came down with the NWA title that was up for grabs that night.
Once they’re all in the ring, the Legends talk about the night, welcoming fans, and I gotta say, seeing all those LEGENDS in the ring was amazing. Ricky Steamboat then announces that he will be the special guest referee for the final part of the Gauntlet Match.
Towards the end, the music that we now all know hits. Of course at the time, no one really knew who it was being the first ever TNA show, but it was none other than Jeff Jarrett. Jeff gets on the mic and cries about how it’s unfair, and that it’s disrespectful to the belt. The man can really cut a great promo, and Jarrett looked so different back then. But after Jeff cries and bitches like a kid, it’s announced that he will be the very first participant of the match, and will have to beat 19 others.
We then learn Ken Shamrock will be number 19 in the battle royal when he comes out and confronts Jarrett. The next music, is a shocker, as I didn’t expect this, but out comes the REAL outlaw, Razer RA…oh wait. SCOTT HALL. They talk about how on Memorial Day 1996 he turned wrestling upside down, which he did, appearing on WCW Nitro. We all know that story though. Scott gets the cheap pop with “Hey yo”, tells Jeff to stop crying, and announces that he too is in the battle royal. So at this point we know number 1, 19, and one entry.
The show then cuts to a stupid backstage segment that I’m not even going to talk about because it’s completely irrelevant about Psycho Dwarf, and how the first match is going to be midgets.
However, thankfully, the first match is six man tag team match with the first team being AJ Styles, who looked so young, Low Ki, and Jerry Flynn. The next team is called The Flying Elvis’s, consisting of Jorge Estrada, Sonny Siaki and Jimmy Yang. We’re not going deep into the matches, but it was a fantastic opening fight with six amazing wrestlers. Quick tags, high flying, and an all around great opening matchup I thought. It was great to see an early AJ Styles, even though they lost to the Flying Elvis’s, it was a great introduction to the X Division.
The next matchup is Teo vs Hollywood, two midgets. Hollywood looked like a small Eminem wannabe, while Teo calls himself the “Smallest extreme wrestler”. It was a short match, no pun intended, with Teo defeating Hollywood. The match was decent, a huge botch at the end but they recovered nicely and continued on.
The third segment starts with Ed and Don in the ring, and they announce a Lingerie Battle Royal. They talk about a sneak peak tonight, introducing Francine, and I can’t find a list of the participants and it was hard to hear, combined with the piss poor camera work showing the wrong people, so don’t complain if I get this wrong. Plus I absolutely hate this kind of match and find it degrading as hell, thankfully we’ve moved beyond it. Anyways, moving on, next is Jodie(?), then a massive botch as they say “You know her from ECW….” then corrected himself to say WCW, and introduces Shannon. Next is Alexis, Sasha(?), Erin, a Baltimore ravens cheerleader at the time, Elektra, Taylor Vaugn, and making her debut was, I have no idea, the audio is crappy, I want to say Sharissa? Again, it was hard to hear, and there were no bars at the bottom of the screen introducing them. Poor quality production, but it was their very first show so it can be forgiven.
Francine grabs the mic and calls them men in the ring “Pudgy”, claiming no one can win but her, as she’s the Queen of Extreme. Elektra, I believe it was, accuses Francine of bankrupting ECW, and the catfight is on between them. It’s ended when Francine rips her shirt open, exposing her bra that covered just as much as her shirt, but she acted like she was wearing nothing. Typical.
Next is a backstage interview with Goldilocks interviewing Mortimer Plumtree, a man in a sweater vest and a cricket bat, very Jim Crockett style. He introduces his tag team, The Johnsons, Richard and Rod, two men wearing some skin tight flesh colored outfits head to toe. I can’t make this up.
Next was a very strange team of Psychosis, unmasked, and a very young fresh shaven James Storm, who looked nothing like he does now. It’s interesting seeing wrestlers we know in 2021 and how they looked nearly 20 years ago. Turns out the Johnsons left TNA after a few short weeks. I can’t imagine why. Midway in the match, a WCW manager Alisha appeared ringside. Oddly enough WWF is actually mentioned here, something most places avoid saying the large crappy federations name. I still cant get over how James Storm looks in this. The match goes on with the Johnsons dominating the strange duo of Psychosis and James Storm, with the Johnsons pounding Psychosis. Pun intended. Eventually the Johnsons drive their way to victory, and as the ref starts to leave, Alesha and the ref have an altercation in which the ref pays her cash and they both leave. Strange, maybe we’ll learn next week what this was about.
We cut to backstage again with Goldilocks again, with Bo and his brother and their, yes, their girlfriend. We see the VP of NWA make a quick cameo again telling the two not to drink beer. After that they go to another in ring segment with Hermie Sadler and Sterling Martin. A rather out of place segment, interrupted by R Tru…er…K Krush. A brief altercation, and then Brian Lawler makes his NWA TNA debut, coming in and attacking K Krush. He’s ejected by the NASCAR drivers. Lawler, Christopher, whatever his name is now then challenges Krush to a match, right then and there. Then the next sentence out of his mouth, after saying “Right here and now” is that he’ll fight them NEXT week. Another great blunder. Another odd mention of the WWF, and another blunder, I’m so confused. They call him Grand Master Sexay from WWF, then Brian Christopher, after calling him Lawler. What?
Back to backstage again, where Jarrett is choking out Fargo, then they cut to the ring again, barely acknowledging it. Christian York and Jerry Matthews are next out, and the announcer botches the entry weight, saying 240, then correcting himself again. They’re opponents are the hillbillies from earlier, Stand and Bo Dupp, led by their cousin and girlfriend Fluff. The Dupp’s would go on to WWF developmental, but nothing can be found on Fluff really. Joey Matthews we of course know was Joey Mercury. This was a surprisingly good match between the four men, the Dupps weren’t bad, just a bad gimmick, though Fluff sort of made up for it. York and Matthews really showcased how good of wrestlers they were in this matchup even though they lost the match.
Some filler here with Toby Keith’s video How Do You Like Me Now, and then him performing live. Pretty impressive though, it was live, you could tell it was actually him and not dubbed, and it was just him and his guitar. Nice to hear something not dubbed over for once. Though Jeff Jarret interrupted him by shoving past Keith towards the end of the song. Why is Toby Keith even there?
We finally have the last fight, the gauntlet. Number 1 is Jeff Jarrett, and his opponent is Buff Bagwell. I’ll post down below who came in when and eliminated who. We also hear Rick Steiner is in the battle royal, the man who put Bagwell out of commission for a year. Jarrett eliminates Bagwell after about one minute.
Next out is “The Rajin Cajun” Lash LeRoux who I had never heard of before was number 3, and eliminated rather quickly.
Next up is “Screamin” Norman Smiley at number 4. Jarrett eliminated him about about 1 minute 10 seconds.
Next out is Apollo at number 5, who manages to survive the 90 seconds, and K Krush comes out as number 6, and another WWE reference. The screen oddly blacks out like a commercial break, but the timer is only one second down, so not sure what that’s all about.
Number 7 is Slash with James Mitchell, and still no eliminations. Four people in the ring at this point. There’s talk of some alliance between K Krush and Jarrett.
Number 8 is Del Rios, not the piece of shit from WWE who’s an absolute piece of gutter trash, but this one who looks like a smaller Scott Steiner, and the commentators even touch on this a bit.
Number 9 in this Battle Royale is Justice. Not Sid Justice, but just Justice.
Number 10 is a recognizable name at long last, Konan. Konan looks really good and in great shape, but the screen goes black again almost like a commercial, and when we come back he’s on the mat with no explanation.
Number 11 is introduced by Joe Dirkner, who blabs on for a bit before introducing “The Man they call Bruce!” A Hulk Hogan look alike in bright blue and rainbows.
Number 12 is another familiar face, The Dog Faced Gremlin, Rick Steiner, who comes out to a great ovation. I feel the Steiners really took off finally when they went onto singles action. Steiner eliminates Slash. Followed by the 350 pound Justice. Steiner looks to be in fantastic shape here.
Number 13 is Malice, 6’9 350 pounds, so they claim. I highly doubt he’s 350, or 6’9, but whatever. He eliminates Bruce and K Krush, followed by Del Rios and Konan, sadly, I wanted more Konan, he’s one of my favorite wrestlers. He then eliminates Rick Steiner by pulling down the rope as Rick ran at him.
Number 14 is Scott Hall, who was looking great here, and Kliq on his familiar red and black trunks. Scott nails Jeff with the Straight Edge, and another “Commercial break” with no time passed. Editing guys, editing…
Number 15 is Toby Keith. Why? Just, why? Toby does a
delay Vertical Suplex on Jeff, and him and Scott Hall eliminate Scott Hall. Toby then leaves the ring as he wasn’t part of the match? I don’t understand what’s going on here. If he wasn’t 15 then who was? If he was 15, wouldn’t he have won as he was never eliminated? Plot holes.
Number 16, but officially 15, Chris Harris. Or was it 15? This is more confusing than the Doctor Who regeneration cycle when they threw in a new number 9, but he wasn’t 9, but he was nine, but…anyways.
Number 17, but officially 16? I’ve lost track, Vampire Warrior, Gangrel just runs in and doesn’t wait the 90 seconds, or was he supposed to be?
18…know what, I’m going back to the “Official” numbers, so 17, is Devon Storm. I’m really confused at this point as to who’s who.
The “Official” 18 is Steve Corino, who takes his time getting to the ring, smart move.
“Officially” 19, which we already knew, is Ken Shamrock. Great sign in the crowd “Hall was framed!” and Vampire Warrior selling like his life depended on it.
“Officially” 20 is Brian Christopher, Grand Master Sexay, Brian Lawler, we don’t know, they can’t keep names straight.
Chris Harris, Vampire Warrior, and Devon Storm all get eliminated in a row by Brian Christopher, then he eliminates Corino. Next out is Christopher, then Apollo in a huge backdrop. Scott Hall is next out, which leaves just two.
This now turns into a 1v1 match between Shamrock and Malice for the NWA-TNA World Heavyweight Title, with the absolute LEGEND Ricky The Dragon Steamboat as the referee, and no time limit, despite NWA rules being a 20 minute time limit. After a lengthy match considering what they just went through, Shamrock comes out on top with a Bailey to Belly, er, Belly to Belly suplex. Shamrock would go on to enjoy a brief 49 day title reign, his only NWA title.
Overall this was a good PPV, or well weekly show, though there were really confusing elements of it that left me scratching my head. I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5. Jarrett would go on to cement himself as a heel, punching out Bob Armstrong, and Jackie Fargo coming out with Toby Keith at the end, with Fargo saying next week it would be Jarrett vs Scott Hall, and the show goes off the air as they brawl. Will we see them fight next week, or will we be, as a streamer I watch regularly called Saybin would say, be bamboozled? We’ll find out, stick around!
I am Lauren Conrad, no not the rich bitch from that trash reality show, and sadly not related to Conrad the mortgage guy that I’m aware of, but I write Wrestling articles, I think WWE is trash, and I love AEW and old school WWF, TNA wrestling. You can’t find me on social media, yet, I mean you can but until I fix a few things, I’m still social media dark. Wanna get a hold of me? Riley#8854 on discord!