The Nygma vs. The Deathman: Revisiting TNA Impact First-Ever Weekly Episode

On one side, Steph, the FrenchNygma, your Impact Wrestling specialist, with 35 years of wrestling, and a viper tongue when she’s decided. On the other side, John “Deathman”, the Deathmatch specialist, a fan of Japanese wrestling, with less than 15 years of wrestling. We may be the strongest team when it comes to news, we have decided to confront our opinions on past events, past wrestlers… but with the 2019 look. Well, we decide to collide, just for the pleasure of it…

If TNA was born in 2002, it started with PPVs before finally airing weekly on TV, as Impact, on June 4, 2004. To celebrate the 15th anniversary of this first-ever episode, The Nygma brought The DeathMan into her world and opinions will clash… Are you ready?

The Intro

Deathman: Well, this feels quite retro, doesn’t it? We open with a very SFX heavy intro with explosions galore and impactful (pun intended) moves as far as we can see. It’s a bold choice and certainly flashy for 2004. It’s also a nostalgic kick to see TNA referenced as TNA again. They have a stacked card, a hot crowd and a very familiar looking Impact Zone. I’ll now go match by match and pick apart the past in this fun little throwback to celebrate Impact’s anniversary.

Nygma: The six-sided ring had been TNA’s signature for a very long time. Like the entrance tunnel that some of you found out about while watching AEW’s Double or Nothing. Listening to the voices of Mike Tenay and Don West revived very old memories… I don’t really remember when Impact started to air in France but I know we were lucky to have it on TV very early. It was a great alternative to WWE at that time, mostly because of X-Division. The same way WCW was attractive because of Cruiserweights, TNA was engaging because of talents like AJ Styles, Chris Daniels, Samoa Joe, Elix Skipper, Chris Sabin… Those guys would tear the house down and you knew it. So you were watching…

Team Canada (Petey Williams, Eric Young & Bobby Roode) vs Amazing Red, Sonjay Dutt & Hector Garza

Deathman: The show started with an international six-man tag match that saw Team Canada, the dirty rotten heels, take on Team International. It started fast with all members of Team International taking flight and taking it straight to the Canadians whilst Scott D’amore looked on in shock. However, a cheap shot later saw Amazing Red being worked over by Team Canada as Petey and Roode took turns bullying him. A tag to Young saw Red make it to freedom by DDTing Young and tagging in Garza. From there the match picked up for the final three minutes or so and everyone hit a finish, we saw Young’s Wheelbarrow Neckbreaker, the Code Red, The Canadian Destroyer and eventually Garza winning with a Twisting Moonsault. It was a nice and fast way to start this televised debut.

Nygma: As the current Impact reviewer, I had a shock to see now EVP Scott D’Amore, young Bobby Roode, Sonjay Dutt, Eric Young and Petey Williams (he was only 21…) in the ring. Those guys undeniably cemented the legacy of the company over the years.
Non-title matches only had ten-minute time limits and title matches got thirty minutes. This match was fine for an opener with most of the guys busting it out. It’s the standard formula of throwing some fast-paced guys out there to open up a show and it still works as well as anything else. It’s always fun to see how big stars like Roode got their starts as he looked good here.

Shark Boy vs Abyss

Deathman: This was a blink and you’d miss it type match. This was pre shell yeah Shark Boy so he was a goofy cult icon and tried his hardest to bring some offence to Abyss. The Monster, Abyss had been on a warpath and continued that streak by squashing Shark Boy in less than three minutes. Abyss hit the Black Hole Slam and the 1,2,3 was academic. Poor Shark Boy just never stood a chance. He got a bite and a Dropkick but that was all. Abyss will always be a favourite of mine so seeing him so dominant was a joy. To top it all off Shark Boy got a hug from Popeye.

Nygma: Shark Boy goes after Abyss and bit his way out of a chokeslam. A high cross body was caught in an easy slam before the Black Hole Slam ended this quick. Total squash for Abyss who, at that time, had no idea he would become a Hall of Famer and a hardcore legend. Shark Boy had always been a steady presence from 2004 to 2015. Obviously a part of TNA/Impact history, he came back at Slammiversary XV when he helped Jeremy Borash and Abyss against Scott Steiner and Josh Matthews in their “War of Commentators”.

America’s Most Wanted (Chris Harris & James Storm) vs Kid Kash & Dallas

Deathman: This was like seeing a historical Enzo and Cass unit that could actually wrestle. Kash and Dallas were a very fun heel unit who played the big and little guy team incredibly well. The match started with Harris beating down Kash and evolved into a cheap shot on the ropes giving Kash and Dallas free-reign to work over Storm. After that, there was the usual hot tag and the match went by in a flash. Dallas ended up crotching himself across the ropes. Harris got the roll up and we had New NWA Worlds Tag Champions. It was odd to see a very young James Storm and the NWA titles being used instead of the TNA’s own brand titles or the pre-Beer Money James Storm. The match itself was a bit dry and interrupted by an ad break but it did what it needed to. It was also odd to announce a 30-minute time limit when the match itself didn’t go ten minutes. AMW beat Big Dallas and you can’t teach that.

Nygma: America’s Most Wanted, aka Cowboy James Storm and Wildcat Chris Harris, had been reigning supreme on the NWA Tag Team Division history, being 6-Time NWA World Tag Team Champions together, a record for those championships. At that time, this match allowed them to become 4-time World Champions.
We had a basic tag formula here with a title change to give the show some historical significance. AMW continued to be the best team ever in TNA as they had that chemistry that you only see in great teams. Kash and Dallas were just placeholder Champions until AMW stopped their singles stuff over the last month or so.

Dusty vs Jarrett: Microphone Wars

Deathman: So, this was a bit of a time capsule. We had Dusty Rhodes giving a promo about the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Title when the mildest gun in the west, Jeff Jarrett came out to run down Dusty. They have a Wild West standoff then start brawling with Dusty trying to beat Jeff with a hat. Jarrett retorts and goes for the guitar when Ron “R Truth” Killings came and saved the day, well tried to. He crotches himself then takes a guitar shot to the head. Jarrett flees and Road Dogg and Konnan come to the ring to challenge Jarrett and see to Killings. This was an odd segment but even then, Dusty was magic on the mic.

Nygma: Dusty Rhodes was acting as the judge in case matches go to the time limit. Dusty talked about tradition and drops names like Thesz, the Funks, the Briscoes, AJ Styles and Ron Killings. Not quite the same level but nice idea. Now on to Jeff Jarrett, who slapped tradition in the face when he won the title back earlier that same week. Jarrett said he used to look up to Dusty but that was twenty years ago when Dusty was in the twilight of his career.
Jeff spoke in cowboy terms, talking about how Dusty is John Wayne and Jeff will give him five paces to get out of Dodge. Dusty slapped him with the cowboy hat and beat on the champion, only to have Jeff come back and load up the guitar until Ron Killings made the save. Jeff cracked his guitar over Killings’ head but BG James and Konnan made the real save with James swearing vengeance.
These segments make you become aware of the fact we’ll never get enough of Dusty Rhodes…

AJ Styles vs Chris Sabin vs Michael Shane vs “Primetime” Elix Skipper

Deathman: Who wants chaos? Well tough if you didn’t as this was a chaotic sprint of flips, Ranas, Dropkicks, Springboards and more as we got another slice of the classic X division formula. Sabin and Styles both looked so damn young in this yet showed signs of just how bigger stars they would become. There was no slack as bodies went flying from the get-go and the action continued to fly as the match progressed. Action wasn’t limited to inside the ring either as the wrestlers went wild brawling and flying around the ring. It was short but it was a total rollercoaster. AJ Styles won with the Styles Clash and looked set to retake his place at the top of the X Division. Also, shout out to Young Frankie Kazarian who was the current X-Division champion at the time.

Nygma: When now X-Division is a good opener for an Impact episode, at that time it was the main event. This match was a four-way match for a shot at Kazarian’s X-Division Title. Vince Russo, Director of the authority, refused to say who the fourth man was. In this wild brawl, you could find some of the best guys X-Division has ever had.
Of course, it was a nice insane X-Division match to show off what the X-Division was all about. Styles winning was pretty obvious but that didn’t make it a bad thing. He was one of those guys you have to showcase on the first TV show and they did a great job at it here. It’s also still weird to see Sabin as just another guy. As of today, Sabin still holds the record for the most reigns, with eight, and the longest combined reigns as X-Division Champion, at 432 days. It’s also very cool to see that, 15 years later, Sabin, Styles and Kazarian are still that damn good.

Overall

Deathman: This was quite the trip for me. I watched old Impact as a teenager but never quite this far back. It was a nice, packed episode to kick off televised tapings that got in almost everyone who was relevant at the time. The whole company seemed fired up and enthusiastic as they prepared for Impact’s new string of televised product. It covered plenty, reserved plenty and drew with reckless adandon from the archive footage they had built up before going to television. It felt like a strong debut and, honestly, it was just the start for a company whose existence would become a roller coaster of success, failure and pure wtf-ery. My only complaint was that there were none of the innovative hardcore matches that would secure my interest in the company in later years.

Nygma: This was a solid show actually. They covered a wide variety of stories and parts of the company as well as building up for future shows. That’s a really good job for a debut show, but the fact that they had two years of material already helped them out a lot.
There were not that many “big Superstars” at that time but, in fact, the guys that would become the Superstars of today were there. Their names were AJ Styles, Kazarian, Chris Harris, James Storm, Bobby Roode, Sonday Dutt, Petey Williams… plus all the ones who were not in that show, like Samoa Joe, Chris Daniels, Low Ki, Ron Killings and many more.
Pretty much the same way WCW did, Impact was there to make a statement, capitalize on young talents and show something WWE was unable to put on the table, this feeling of freshness and curiosity that brings the magic in the air.

You loved this, so watch it now! See you next month, this time the DeathMan will bring the Nygma into Death matches’ universe…

All pics, screencaps and videos courtesy of TNA/Impact Wrestling

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