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The Death of the WWE


Chris the Human
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OOC Note: This diary is something of an experiment. The intention is for it all to 'fit together' once I take TNA to the top and the WWE dies, hence it's being written as a somewhat biased history of the period (in the same vein as the very good 'The Death of WCW' by Bryan Alvarez and R.D Reynolds). The WWE results I post (save for the pre-diary backstory) are taken from the game's own booking, hence their somewhat ludicrious feel.

You stumble across the book whilst you're making your way through the library's section on sport and recreation. You'd been hoping to find something you could use for your upcoming project but the faded dust-jacket reading 'The Death of the WWE' caught your eye. You remember that, as a child, you used to love watching guys like Ken Kennedy, Lashley, and Carlito on Monday nights. By the time the company had disappeared you'd lost interest, but part of you had always had that nagging curiosity about it. The WWE had always seemed infallible. What had happened to end that and where had this other company come from? Deciding that maybe you could kill two birds with one stone, you grab the book, check it out, and open it on the bus home

The death of the World Wrestling Federation was a long time coming. In a cyclical industry like pro wrestling, it was inevitable that the company that had revolutionised the business and created a monopoly at the top would someday fall prey to the same tactics and bad luck that had allowed them to put WCW out of business in the early years of the 21s century.

Some say that the World Wrestling Federation’s demise began as soon as they’d bought out WCW and ECW, effectively ending all competition for them at the top. Whilst this strengthened them in obvious ways, it also caused serious damage to the industry as a whole. No longer could fans pick and choose the style of wrestling they wanted – instead being fed the style that McMahon most liked. Gone was the unpredictability of stars jumping from company to company, and most importantly, gone was the need to provide compelling television and matches.

That’s not to say that the WWE simply stopped – well into the 21st century the company was still producing good pay-per-views and generating breakaway stars that caught the nation’s attention. The problem, though, was that talent could be misused without consequence – bad angles could be played out with the knowledge that the audience had to keep watching if it wanted to see its favourite stars. Ultimately, by killing the biggest threat to their existence, the WWE signed their own death warrant.

That’s not the complete truth, however, as this book will detail. Many other factors played a part in the demise of the company and the rise of a new generation of wrestling. The rise of Total Non-stop Action and its cutting edge style was a huge part, but not the only part. Just like the WWE did not ‘win’ the Monday Night Wars as much as they survived them – the same can be true of TNA. They were simply the right business at the right time, and they made sure to capitalise on every one of the WWE’s mistakes.

This book does favour TNA, but that is how history works – it favours the victors. Whilst I will endeavour to provide as unbiased a view as possible, no doubt my affiliation with TNA will bleed into the stories. I apologise to any fans of the WWE product who are offended by this.

2006

2006 was seen as a ‘make or break’ year for the WWE following an indifferent 2005. Whilst the company did quite well ratings wise on the USA Network, things had been going slowly downhill for the majority of the year. Champions who had become stale at the top, constant injuries to key performers, the untimely death of Eddie Guerrero, and a string of angles in tremendous bad taste threatened to sink the proverbial Titanic of the pro wrestling world.

What follows is a brief run-down of the pay-per-view results in the early months of 2006. Many consider Wrestlemania XXII to have been the last truly ‘great’ event from the WWE – and so this book begins there.

The WWE

WWE New Year’s Revolution (Raw)

Ric Flair © defeated Edge by disqualification to retain the Intercontinental Title

Trish Stratus © defeated Mickie James to retain the WWE Women’s Title

Jerry “The King” Lawler defeated Gregory Helms

Triple H defeated The Big Show

Shelton Benjamin defeated Viscera

Ashley defeated Maria, Torrie Wilson, Victoria, and Candice Michelle in a Bra & Panties gauntlet

John Cena © defeated Kane, Chris Masters, Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, and Carlito in an Elimination Chamber to retain the WWE Championship

Edge defeated John Cena © to become WWE Champion

The pay-per-view was considered to be mediocre at best, with the majority of matches sloppy or mismatched. The Shelton Benjamin vs. Viscera match, added to the card during the event, was a horrible mis-use of the one time Intercontinental champion’s abilities – as was Helms jobbing to a commentator and part time wrestler.

The sole saving grace of the event in many eyes was the swerve ending in which Edge, who had one a guaranteed title shot at Wrestlemania 21, using his contract to attack and beat John Cena following the Elimination Chamber. Cena had, for several months, been receiving heat from the fans following his stale run at the top. The other major note to come from the evening was the ‘coming of age’ of both Chris Masters and Carlito, who stood out in a rather lacklustre Elimination Chamber and cemented themselves as genuine title threats.

WWE Royal Rumble

Gregory Helms defeated Funaki, Kid Kash ©, Jamie Noble, Paul London, and Nunzio to become WWE Cruiserweight Champion

Mickie James defeated Ashley

The Boogeyman defeated John Bradshaw Layfield

Rey Mysterio won the Royal Rumble match. The final four were Randy Orton, Triple H, Rey Mysterio, and a returning Rob Van Dam

John Cena defeated Edge © to become WWE Champion

Kurt Angle © defeated Mark Henry to retain the World Heavyweight Championship

Much like New Year’s Revolution, the 2006 Royal Rumble would be remembered for one good match and a shoddy card surrounding it. The choice to have perennial underdog, Rey Mysterio win the event was met with mixed reactions. Whilst many were glad to see the close friend of the late Eddie Guerrero win the event, many questioned his ability to headline Wrestlemania. Others were unimpressed with the WWE’s continued use of Eddie Guerrero’s legacy as a storyline feature surrounding Mysterio. The two titles matches were both met with poor reviews, Cena’s regaining of the title after just three weeks crushed a promising heel title run from Edge, and the Smackdown main event saw a terrible match as Kurt Angle attempted to carry Mark Henry to greatness.

WWE No Way Out (Smackdown)

Gregory Helms © defeated Kid Kash, Paul London, Brian Kendrick, Nunzio, Funaki, Jamie Noble, and Scotty 2 Hotty to remain WWE Cruiserweight Champion

MNM © defeated Matt Hardy & Road Warrior Animal to remain WWE Tag Champions

Lashley defeated John Bradshaw Layfield

Chris Benoit defeated Booker T © to become WWE US Champion

Randy Orton defeated Rey Mysterio to become #1 contender

Kurt Angle © defeated The Undertaker to remain World Heavyweight Champion

No Way Out was what can be described as a solid but unremarkable show. Whilst no matches were present to drag down the quality, it was a card largely devoid of compelling storylines. The predictable defeat of Rey Mysterio angered many people, especially when Randy Orton again used Eddie Guerrero’s memory to garner heat from the fans. Mark Henry and The Boogeyman both assaulted The Undertaker and Booker T respectively following their losses, whilst Matt Hardy’s inexplicable turn on his mystery partner led to a rather indifferent reaction as he turned heel to join MNM.

WWE Wrestlemania

Rey Mysterio defeated Chavo Guerrero in an interpromotional Eddie Guerrero Tribute match with Dean Malenko as guest referee

Mickie James defeated Trish Stratus © and Ashley to become WWE Women’s Champion

The Big Show & Kane defeated MNM (with Matt Hardy) to unify the tag titles

Rob Van Dam defeated Shelton Benjamin, Carlito, Chris Benoit, Ken Kennedy, and Lashley in Money in the Bank II to earn a title shot useable any time in the next year.

Edge defeated Mick Foley in a Street Fight

The Undertaker defeated Mark Henry

Shawn Michaels defeated Vince McMahon

Triple H defeated John Cena © to become WWE Champion

Randy Orton © defeated Kurt Angle to become World Champion

The decision to break a Wrestlemania ‘tradition’ by crowning two heel champions in one night was met with a positive reaction, as was the decision to allow the Eddie Guerrero tribute match a full twenty minutes. Money in the Bank II failed to live up to the first of its kind, with Rob Van Dam’s win setting up the Triple H vs. RVD feud fans had been hoping for. The questionable move to have The Big Show & Kane take the tag titles to Raw (on which there was only one other tag team) was met with heavy heat, as it effectively killed Smackdown’s popular tag division.

Total Non-Stop Action

TNA Final Resolution

Generation Next (Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, and Alex Shelley) defeated Matt Bentley, Chris Sabin, and Sonjay Dutt

The James Gang defeated The Diamonds in the Rough

AJ Styles defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi

Sean Waltman defeated Raven

Bobby Roode defeated Ron Killings

Abyss defeated Rhino

America’s Most Wanted © defeated Team 3-D to remain NWA Tag Champions

Samoa Joe © defeated Christopher Daniels to remain X-Division Champion

Sting & Christian Cage defeated Jeff Jarrett & Monty Brown

Final Resolution was an ignoble way to begin what was supposed to be TNA’s boom year. A string of dusty endings served only to enrage crowds, with the ‘international showcase’ between AJ Styles and NJPW star Hiroshi Tanahashi effectively serving as an angle to allow for a meaningless Shannon Moore/AJ Styles feud. The main event debut of Sting was, for many, the sole highlight of a bad show. Sting would, like Hulk Hogan for the WCW, prove a key player in the advent of the second big pro-wrestling war.

TNA Against All Odds

The Naturals defeated Roderick Strong & Austin Aries

Jay Lethal defeated Petey Williams, Alex Shelley, and Sonjay Dutt

The James Gang defeated the Latin American Exchange

America’s Most Wanted © defeated Chris Sabin & Sonjay Dutt to remain NWA Tag Champions

Rhino defeated Abyss

Samoa Joe © defeated AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels to remain X-Division Champion

Team 3-D defeated Team Canada (Booby Roode & Eric Young)

Christian Cage defeated Jeff Jarrett © to become NWA World Champion

Huge progress was made at this event, with fans lauding the decision to take the belt off Jeff Jarrett and put it onto Christian Cage, whose decision to ‘jump ship’ to TNA following the conclusion of his WWE contract seen by many as the first ‘blow’ struck in the second world wrestling war. I should stress, however, that at this time it was not a war by any definition.

TNA Destination X

The James Gang defeated Team Canada (Petey Williams & Bobby Roode)

Shannon Moore defeated Matt Bentley, Austin Aries, and Sonjay Dutt

Monty Brown defeated Rhino in a Contender’s Match

Christopher Daniels drew with AJ Styles in an X-Division Contender’s Match

Samoa Joe © defeated Chris Sabin to remain X-Division Champion

Team 3-D defeated America’s Most Wanted © to become NWA Tag Champions

Christian Cage © defeated Jeff Jarrett to remain NWA World Champion

Destination X was largely an event to bridge the gap between a good Against All Odds card and what would be a showcase event at Lockdown. Cage’s defeat of Jarrett stunned many, who assumed that the popular babyface would receive similar treatment to Rhino (who had a brief title run late in 2005). The return of Sting post match to assault Jarrett set up something of a ‘dream match’ for TNA fans.

TNA Lockdown

The Latin American Exchange (Homicide, Konnan, and Machete) defeated Sonjay Dutt, Shark Boy, and Matt Bentley

Shannon Moore defeated Chris Sabin

Generation Next defeated The James Gang and Lance Hoyt

Team 3-D © defeated America’s Most Wanted and The Naturals

Samoa Joe © defeated Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles to remain X-Division Champion

Sting defeated Jeff Jarrett by DQ

Christian Cage © defeated Monty Brown to remain NWA World Champion

Lockdown was, by and by, an unremarkable event highlighted by very good matches in the form of the X-Division title match, a brutal three team tag tables match, and the clash between Sting and Jarrett. The Sting ‘victory’ by DQ set up a continuing feud with Jarrett, whilst the defeat of Monty Brown left the door open for another contender to the TNA crown. Many predicted that with the move to prime time and a ninety minute weekly show, TNA would make moves to secure some marquee talent to satisfy Spike TV’s grudge against the WWE.

The Annual Clean-Out

Just as Wrestlemania has become a staple part of the WWE year, so too is their a time honoured tradition of cleaning house following the event. In 2006 things were no different, with the WWE’s annual rash of releases including:

- Big Vito

- Chad & James Dick

- Johnny Swinger

- Lance Cade

- Matt Striker

- Scotty 2 Hotty

- Eugene

- Melina

- Finley

- Jonathan Coachman

- Theodore Long

The big surprises in the list were Finley, Coach, Melina, and Long – all of whom had been prominent on their respective shows over the previous year. Finley had worked a solid match against Birchall on the Heat immediately preceding Wrestlemania, and his release was something of an oddity given his push. Long and Coach, both key members of Smackdown and Raw respectively, were released by McMahon on camera as a ‘tantrum’ following his loss to Michaels – with the WWE’s reason for their release simply being ‘creative differences’. Melina’s release was not a move made by the WWE so much as the diva’s own choice. Rumours had been abuzz that her relationship with Joey Mercury (of MNM) had gone sour in a bad way and she needed time away from the business to recover.

In unrelated news, Stacy Keibler announced her retirement to pursue a career in professional dancing (ballroom, not the other kind).

Within a few short weeks Nick Dinsmore, Matt Striker, and Lance Cade would be receiving calls from TNA management intent on utilising their obvious talents. These three men, whilst seen as glorified jobbers in the WWE, would become key to the TNA revolution.

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In Summary...

Before this history truly begins, it's perhaps best to give a brief summary of the champions and the key players in each federation at the time. Whilst many may remember the big names at the conclusion of the war, some may not recall those who were there when it all started.

World Wrestling Entertainment

WWE Champion: Triple H

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'The Game' became WWE champion at Wrestlemania 22 after defeating John Cena in a brutal Street Fight. Many considered this to be the match that cemented Cena as a man truly committed to his work, whilst the fans celebrated the decision to take the strap off a stagnant Cena.

World Heavyweight Champion: Randy Orton

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Randy Orton's controversial pursuit of the title began at No Way Out when he defeated Royal Rumble winner Rey Mysterio to 'steal' his place in the main event. Orton's run to the top was dogged by criticisms of the WWE's decision to have him mock the memory of Eddie Guerrero.

WWE United States Champion: Chris Benoit

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Benoit scored a tenacious victory over long-time rival Booker T at No Way Out and then proceeded to do very little with the strap outside of a short feud with Finley.

WWE Intercontinental Champion: Shelton Benjamin

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Shelton Benjamin's resurrection after being paired with his 'mama' came to a peak when he defeated Ric Flair for the Intercontinental Title on the February 20th edition of Raw. At the point we begin this history, Benjamin had not made any noteable defences, beating jobbers such as Val Venis, Viscera, and Eugene to up his defence count.

WWE Cruiserweight Champion: Gregory Helms

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His original heel turn and Raw run was painfully forgettable, the lowlight being a job to Jerry Lawler at Royal Rumble. After winning the title at Royal Rumble as a surprise entrant in a cruiserweight invitational, Helms jumped to Smackdown and begin to reinvent himself and the division.

WWE Women's Champion: Mickie James

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Captured the title at Wrestlemania following a memorable and drawn out 'feud' with Trish Stratus. Many considered this to be one of the better feuds in recent WWE history. As we begin our journey, however, James' list of opponents is restricted to just Ashley - the only babyface diva left on Raw.

WWE Tag Champions: The Big Show & Kane

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The two big men of Raw controversially unified the WWE and World Tag titles at Wrestlemania in a memorable match against MNM. Many were confused by the move, which saw the titles move away from a Smackdown roster loaded with tag team potential.

Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling

NWA World Champion: Christian Cage

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'Captain Charisma' captured the gold at Final Resolution in a match that saw the TNA debut of former WWE senior official, Earl Hebner. The fans loved the victory, and Cage is credited by many as the man who began the slow turning of the tide.

TNA X-Division Champion: Samoa Joe

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After capturing the title in a brutal match against AJ Styles, Joe began to dominate the X-Division in a way that no previous competitor had. After a string of victories over both Styles and Daniels, it seemed Joe had nobody left to beat.

NWA World Tag Champions: Team 3-D

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The legendary 'Dudley Boyz' of ECW and WWE fame brought much needed credibility to the tag titles after finally beating long-time rivals, America's Most Wanted.

Other key players for each company included Shawn Michaels, John Cena, Kurt Angle, The Undertaker, Vince McMahon, and Rey Mysterio for the WWE and Sting, Jeff Jarrett, AJ Styles, Rhino, and Christopher Daniels for TNA.

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You've got me interested in this one CWB. I normally hate diaries with the death of the WWE coming in the future with the exception of TGC's (which doesn't count since he wrote with WWE) but this one feels a little bit better. I look forward to seeing what you can do with this.

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May, Week One, 2006

It is perhaps prudent to take a moment to quickly established the status quo of the time. For those reading this in the fallout of the destruction of the WWE it is probably difficult to imagine a time when Ken Kennedy was not one of the most famed workers the world over (in fact, at this point, he’d only just returned from a long term injury that had halted his impressive debut) or a time when TNA were struggling to produce truly competitive ratings on Spike TV. So, here’s a quick summary of how things stood as the beginning of the end…uh…began.

The WWE were lead by two television shows which operated under a brand split (an ill fated experiment to utilise the WWE’s copious amounts of talent). Raw took place live on Monday nights on the USA Network, featuring marquee talents such as Triple H, Kane, The Big Show, and John Cena. Smackdown, often referred to by internet fans as ‘the B show’ was on UPN on Friday nights and had been, largely, suffering from its lack of star power. The key players on the Smackdown roster were Kurt Angle, Batista, The Undertaker, Chris Benoit, and Randy Orton. Rey Mysterio, though probably the most well liked face in the entire company, was often booked to look second rate – especially against the company’s top workers.

Heat and Velocity (respectively tied to Raw and Smackdown) had been cancelled on television and were being offered as internet programming. Since very little of consequence ever happened on either of these shows, especially with regards to the tale I’m attempting to tell, I will not be covering them in here.

TNA, on the other hand, had just one television show – Impact! On Spike TV. The program had been in operation for under a year on Saturday nights when Spike moved it to Thursday nights in an ambitious prime time slot. Whilst Impact’s ratings had been better than Velocity had managed for the WWE in the same time slot – the move was still seen by some as premature. TNA had been sporadically doing ‘primetime specials’ on Spike TV, but the ratings had never been significant despite featuring near pay-per-view quality cards in some cases.

TNA’s true problem was the lack of name recognition. Whilst Christian Cage, AJ Styles, and Samoa Joe were world renowned in the eyes of the ‘smart marks’, the only really recognisable name in the company was Sting – a man whose involvement in the last Monday Night Wars had left him with a huge amount of name despite not having worked since the death of the WCW.

So, with the scene set, let’s begin with the first week of May, 2006.

The WWE

Wrestlemania had come and gone and in the eyes of many fans, the rest of the year was a slow downhill coast until January and the Royal Rumble kicking the road to Wrestlemania off once again.

Raw

Raw opened the week’s programming and the start was an innocuous one, with the team of Val Venis and Viscera (V2) taking on another slapped together tag team of Gene Snitsky and Tyson Tomko. V2 were able to pick up the win following an abysmal match, with Venis hitting The Money Shot on Tyson Tomko. This match, of course, was included to highlight the Raw tag team ‘division’. The Big Show & Kane would need credible opponents if they were going to ever defend the gold again.

Mickie James © drew with Ashley in a Women’s Title match. James’ title reign as Women’s Champion had begun with an entertaining win at Wrestlemania, and the storyline had written Trish Stratus out of the picture after she was ‘injured’ by a Mickie James’ superkick. This move was widely questioned, as Trish (alongside Victoria) were seen as the only two recognisable divas on the Raw roster. The draw was a double disqualification, with the two women’s long standing feud (which had been for the affections of Stratus in a pseudo lesbian storyline) brawling outside the ring.

Shelton Benjamin, who had gained the Intercontinental Championship for a second time by defeating Ric Flair in February, would begin defending his title against legitimate opponents. Benjamin was rumoured to be working with a minor injury following a botched spot in the Wrestlemania 22 ‘Money in the Bank II’ ladder match, yet still issued an open challenge on Raw. The first to come out was Chris Masters and the second was a returning Rene Dupree. Dupree had been something of a midcard fixture in the WWE, almost always playing a cocky French-Canadian anti-USA role. This time, however, Dupree returned with a new look and a far more bad ass persona. His French accent still drew him heel heat but the WWE chose to not play it up.

The three way match was something of an anomaly, with all three men involved being recognised heels (bad guys) at this point. Still, Masters had, for some time, been getting some support from the crowd with his Masterlock a popular finisher after the WWE painstakingly spent months making it appear to be ‘unbreakable’. In a surprisingly good match, thanks largely to the work of Benjamin, the champion was able to retain after hitting the T-Bone suplex on Dupree, who had previously been worn down by an extending period in Chris Masters’ Masterlock.

The Money in the Bank II match had been, whilst underwhelming in comparison to its predecessor, a success – as Rob Van Dam was given a guaranteed title shot that would hopefully set up a memorable feud between the popular former ECW star and Triple H. A match (called a rematch by commentators, despite not bearing any similarity to the Wrestlemania spot-fest) was booked that saw Carlito face off against Rob Van Dam. The two had been feuding in a passing way since RVD’s initial jump to Raw in the 2005 draft. In a top quality match, RVD defeated Carlito to retain his #1 contendership. This would not be the last time the Money in the Bank contract would be put on the line, a move that many think cheapened the title shot. Edge, who had won the previous shot, never once had to defend it. He simply carried a briefcase with him at all times to remind fans that he had the shot.

A rather odd tag team match was the next portion of the program, with Edge and his valet, Lita pairing off against Mick Foley and Ric Flair. Both veterans had been involved in feuds with Edge both prior to and after his World Title run – and despite their well documented dislike of one another in the real world, the WWE saw fit to pair them off. Foley was able to force Edge to submit following the Mandible Claw in a memorable clash – memorable due to Lita botching an attempted senton bomb and being sidelined for an extended period of time. Lita was, sadly, one of the few remaining talented female workers with whom Mickie James could have feuded with for the title.

The show’s main event was a non title rematch between John Cena and Triple H. Fans were, however, tired of seeing Cena at the top. The young star had enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top whilst on Smackdown in early 2005 – finishing as runner up in the Royal Rumble and embarking on a career high feud with John Bradshaw Layfield that culminated in a shoddy squash match at Wrestlemania. He had then jumped to Raw and, despite being pitted against the likes of Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle, continued to have poor matches. Triple H ended Cena’s right to challenge for the gold in an enjoyable but short rematch, the Pedigree following a blatant (but missed) low blow from the champion. Cena needed to be reworked somehow, but Vince McMahon seemed reluctant to turn the company’s #1 merchandise draw heel, a move which likely would have saved his career. Some say it would have saved the WWE.

Smackdown!

Smackdown made a strong showing in its first post Wrestlemania offering, the night opening with a fan pleasing US title clash between Chris Benoit and Lashley. Both men had been involved in the brutal Money in the Bank II at Wrestlemania, yet produced a solid match up here. Lashley, who had not been defeated in a singles match since debuting, finally had his streak ended when he was forced to tap out to Benoit’s Crippler Crossface. Whilst this went a long way to returning some credibility to the Canadian technical wrestler, many complained that ending Lashley’s streak on a throwaway Smackdown card was a stupid move.

Next up was a somewhat inexplicable match that saw Velocity stable Brian Kendrick defeating Johnny Nitro of MNM. MNM’s apparent squashing (with their signature valet quitting) had reached an all-time low. Many had considered MNM to be the best tag team that the WWE had created in years, and here was one of their members jobbing to a man who had been given absolutely no credibility since returning to the WWE in 2005. To save some credibility for Nitro, Kendrick’s tag team partner, Paul London did get involved.

The night of good match ups continued as Rey Mysterio followed up his card highlight Eddie Guerrero Tribute Match with a solid match against Booker T. The storyline wasn’t exactly established, but the former US champion and the former #1 contender put on a great match that highlighted just how underused some of the WWE’s talent was. Booker T was aided significantly in the match by his wife/valet, Sharmell, but Mysterio’s ‘push to nowhere’ continued with a victory via 619.

Fans were perhaps most confused by Matt Hardy in the early months of 2006. After returning to great fanfare in 2005 following a well documented public falling out with Amy Dumas (Lita) and Adam Copeland (Edge), Hardy’s push was halted following his selection in an interactive match at Taboo Tuesday. Many attribute his depush to the WWE being displeased that fans went with him rather than JBL, who they had tried to make the obvious choice for fans to vote in as Mysterio’s partner. Hardy’s confusing booking climaxed at No Way Out when he turned on mystery partner, Road Warrior Animal to join MNM.

Regardless, Hardy was challenged out of the blue by Angle for ‘disrespecting a legend’. Whether this referred to the former champion or to Animal was never really explained. Still, Matt Hardy had a career high singles clash with Kurt Angle and the two did produce a night highlighting match that saw Angle pick up the predictable victory by submission following an Angle Slam and an Angle Lock. Still, Hardy was made to look good in the clash. When compared to the WWE’s treatment of his MNM partners, it further muddied the waters. What did the WWE have in mind for their former tag team golden boys?

The night’s main event was a rather odd pairing as new champion Randy Orton faced off against Wrestlemania loser (and fellow bad guy) Mark Henry to make his first title defence. The WWE managed not to screw this one up, with Orton beating Mark Henry clean with the RKO. It was still a rather confusing state of affairs. Angle and Undertaker were nowhere to be seen on the title scene, yet Mark Henry (who had been squashed at Wrestlemania by The Undertaker) was given a title shot.

Overall, the first week since Wrestlemania was hard to judge. Some good matches did eventuate, but mixed in with odd booking decisions it was hard to decide exactly how to take the WWE’s direction.

TNA

TNA had just come off a memorable Lockdown pay-per-view (an event themed around cage matches) and were continuing to break into the prime time market on Spike TV in the early weeks of May. Impact was, for many, seen as an interesting turn of events for the fledgling promotion. A more detailed look at the card is below. I did say I was going to be biased…

TNA Impact!

TNA Impact got underway as the tag team champions, Team 3-D made their way out to the ring. The very popular veteran tag team had successfully defended the NWA Tag Titles in a brutal tables cage match at Lockdown against America’s Most Wanted and The Naturals (a team who had been inexplicably squashed and built up in the space of twelve months). The team cut a fairly generic promo for a non title rematch to take place later in the night which would see Team 3-D in action against America’s Most Wanted.

Segment Rating: C-

The first match of the evening saw Generation Next (Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, and Alex Shelley) taking on the teaming of Sonjay Dutt, The Amazing Red, and Shark Boy. This kind of six man tag action was typical of TNA at the time, designed to highlight the depth of talent in the X-Division. Generation Next’s momentum had been halted in February when Aries and Strong were suspended for putting a TNA pay-per-view in jeopardy (the two had chosen to work a Ring of Honour show despite instructions to the contrary) but it picked up again in this clash, with the three talented young heels going over the odd combination of babyfaces. Roderick Strong picked up the pinfall on Amazing Red following one of his many backbreaker variations.

Segment Rating: C+

Jeff Jarrett’s run at the top was widely considered the greatest hindrance to TNA – the founding member of the federation widely disliked and disrespected by the fans. He had thankfully been taken away from the title picture after losing to Christian Cage at Destination X, and was currently involved in a feud with Sting. His promo on this evening was typical of his style – rambling and not really getting anywhere. It made specific mention of ‘being held down’ and ‘TNA management holding him down’ before finally settling on blaming Sting for his current predicament. Rather odd, given Sting’s return came after Jarrett’s failure to regain his title at Destination X.

Segment Rating: C

A ‘turning point’ for TNA was set into motion at this point, as Director of Authority (similar to a WWE commissioner/general manager) Larry Zybysko announced that an eight man tournament would be held to decide on a contender to Christian Cage’s NWA World Heavyweight Title. The eight competitors were announced as Monty Brown, Jeff Hardy, Shannon Moore, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Abyss, and Rhino. In that field it was widely considered that Brown or Rhino would be the obvious choices to win the tournament – with Abyss and Samoa Joe considered upper midcard material by many at the time.

Segment Rating: C-

The first match of this tournament saw Monty Brown take on Abyss. Brown had gone from being a heel to being a tweener/face following his continued antagonism of then champion Jeff Jarrett and was, at this point, basically playing whichever side suited him in his match. With Abyss being a rather brutal heel, Brown played the cocky babyface in this clash. This was a great, brawling affair that showcased two talents who had yet to be utilised to the best of their potential by TNA, with Brown able to go over following two Pounces. The conclusion of the match left Brown looking strong without damaging Abyss’ credibility. Monty Brown would advance to the semi finals.

Segment Rating: C+

In a rather odd match, Team 3-D fought to a double count-out draw with America’s Most Wanted in their rematch. Whilst this obviously set up a further rematch in the future, the booking of the match was again typical of TNA’s style at the time – with this ending in the proverbial ‘cluster-fuck’ after Team Canada and Gail Kim got involved. This preference to ending matches in messy situations was another reason TNA had not yet made any great impact on the market.

Segment Rating: B-

Shannon Moore’s stint in TNA had been largely forgettable thus far, embarking on a feud with AJ Styles that went nowhere and floating around in the midcard ever since. In many ways, Moore’s TNA run wasn’t a whole lot better than his stint in the WWE. He cut a generic promo here that highlighted just why he hadn’t gone places in his career.

Segment Rating: C-

In the second of the evening’s World Title Contender Tournament matches, Jeff Hardy took on Shannon Moore in a match as different from the Abyss/Brown affair as physically possible. The two former WWE alumni produced a very good high flying match. Hardy had been at odds with TNA management for some time due to no-showing pay-per-views and his well documented drug issues – but was given the win here following a Senton Bomb. This seemed to be an intelligent choice, as Hardy was still popular (mostly with the female fans) whilst Moore wasn’t getting the reaction TNA management must have hoped when they hired the ‘prince of punk’.

Segment Rating: B

The show really began to pick up following these matches, as the ‘big three’ of Cage, Sting, and Jarrett were given air time. First came a Christian Cage promo. The WWE had missed the ball with Jay ‘Christian’ Reso, who had been popular as a heel in the WWE but was never given the push the fans were obviously intent on seeing. In TNA he had been given a chance to shine and had seized it, his memorable babyface run rejuvenating the company’s main event. Cage would then join the commentary team (at this point of Mike TeNay and Don West, although that would change quite soon).

Segment Rating: A*

The main event of the evening saw Sting taking on Jarrett. This was a rather odd decision by TNA management, who had previously been reluctant to give away top quality matches such as this for free. Still, the ratings did spike at this point, with the legendary Stinger and his former WCW work-mate Jarrett turning on quite a good, old school match. Sting began to dominate in the latter stages of the match, but Jarrett ended the match prematurely when he used his signature guitar shot to cause a DQ finish.

Segment Rating: A

The blatant assault on Sting drew the ire of Cage, who quickly hit the ring and began brawling with Jarrett. It seemed that, in spite of the tournament to decide a #1 contender, Jarrett would remain a key player in the title scene. This was seen as a bad move on TNA’s part, but as it would later be shown, provided a memorable title match further down the road.

Segment Rating: A

Over all, the first week of May showed just why things were going the way they were for both companies. The WWE programming was marred by a string of confusing booking decisions, whilst TNA continued to not only push their emerging talent, but also focus on the men who would lead them into their most successful year to date.

OOC Note: Just wanting feedback on the format for results and such. Obviously I wanted more detail but histories such as this rarely provide in depth card reviews. I'll provide more detail in pay-per-views, that much is sure

Edited by The Misanthrope
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A Changing of the Guard

At the time the WWE was run almost entirely by the McMahon family. Vince McMahon, as the owner had complete control, whilst his daughter Stephanie was the head of the booking team. Many attribute the WWE’s long string of confusing or offensive angles to here writing ideas.

However, in mid May of 2006 the WWE made an odd business decision. With Stephanie McMahon and Paul LeVesque (Triple H) having their first child, Stephanie had to step down to focus on her family. Many assumes someone like Brian Gerwitz or Paul Heyman (who was rejuvenating Ohio Valley Wrestling at this point) to step in, but instead it was announced that former WCW head booker, Eric Bischoff would take the role.

Bischoff was both lauded and criticized for his stint in control of WCW, a time in which he both reinvented the company with the NWO and then buried it by having a stale main event scene and overusing the NWO idea. Bischoff’s on screen persona had been written out of WWE television earlier in the year, and so the one time runner of WCW suddenly found himself in a position of power within the very company he’d tried to bankrupt.

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Bischoff built and destroyed WCW yet the WWE put him at the helm. Could he be their answer?

On the other side, TNA were picking up the ‘scraps’ of WWE’s annual roster cuts. Garrison Cade and Nick Dinsmore would join the TNA roster, whilst their road agent ranks would be swelled by the additions of David Finlay, Ricky Steamboat, and Tommy Dreamer. Steamboat’s controversial sacking had come after WWE management turned his request for ‘one last match’ into a horrid angle involving an affair with Mae Young. When the legendary worker refused to work the final match (in which he would be beaten by The Boogeyman) he was fired. Dreamer’s own sacking came about after he allowed WWE developmental talent, CM Punk to work a Ring of Honour show involving TNA talent. Both men were immediately welcomed into the fold by TNA, who could use their experience and knowledge of the business.

WWE Backlash

The WWE’s first post Wrestlemania pay-per-view rolled around with what many considered to be a slapped together card.

The WWE effectively killed their women’s division when they made the questionable choice to have Ashley Massaro go over Mickie James in a women’s title match, taking the title from a woman they’d spent months establishing and putting it on a still green 2005 Raw Diva Search winner.

In his in ring return debut, Charlie Haas beat ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan in a bizarre invitational match in which Duggan called out any ‘cocky young buck’. Haas’ return was decent, but many were confused as to why it was wasted on a throwaway match when he could have tangled with former tag partner, Shelton Benjamin.

On that note, Shelton Benjamin defended his Intercontinental Title successfully against Chris Masters, who had lain down the challenge on WWE.com after not having been beaten clean on the previous week’s Raw. Whether Shelton Benjamin was a face or a heel at this point was open to debate.

The Big Show and Kane absolutely squashed V2 to further bury the tag team division, whilst in another odd choice of booking, Victoria defeated a returning Trish Stratus to add further confusion to the women’s title scene.

Shawn Michaels defeated Rob Conway after a short but interesting feud set up on the previous few weeks of Raw, whilst RVD and Ric Flair defeated Carlito and Gene Snitsky in another random tag team match. To cap off a night of odd booking decisions, Edge defeated Chavo Guerrero after having mocked Eddie Guerrero’s memory, and Triple H defended his WWE Heavyweight Title against the recently returned Rene Dupree, whose sole match since returning had been a clean loss to Shelton Benjamin. Of course, John Cena attacked Triple H post victory to continue their uninspiring feud.

In incidental WWE news, TNA talent Nigel McGuinness won the Ohio Valley Wrestling Heavyweight Title, casting doubt over his future in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Surely the WWE would not allow their developmental champion to continue working for the competition.

May Week Two, 2006

The second week of May started with many people questioning the decisions made at WWE Backlash. These were, again, not the fault of Eric Bischoff – whose official stint as WWE head booker would begin with the week’s edition of Raw. Below are the results from the week’s programming.

The WWE

In the aftermath of Backlash, fans tuned in in record numbers to see what would happen on Raw whilst Smackdown continued to plough along going largely unrecognised despite continually producing good matches.

Raw

The post Backlash Raw kicked off with the return of the Masterlock Challenge, the segment that had originally been used by the WWE to get Chris Masters’ finisher over. The general premise is that the challenger sits in a chair and allows Masters to lock in the Masterlock and, if they break it, they receive a cash prize. The surprise contestant for this edition was none other than Rosey, who had been off WWE programming since Gregory ‘Hurricane’ Helms had turned heel and dissolved their tag team. Masters was able to cinch it in for an easy win.

Goldust defeated Trevor Murdoch in a largely forgettable match up, with the two old school workers simply acting as card fillers.

Shelton Benjamin returned to defending his title against jobbers as he clashed with Val Venis in an Intercontinental Title match, the gold on the line against a man who was made to look like a joke in the previous evening’s tag title match against Kane & The Big Show. To the WWE’s credit, they should his loss as legitimate injuries sustained in the match, meaning the match was more a demonstration of the tag team champions’ dominance than of Shelton’s own quality as a worker.

In a Backlash rematch Ashley Massaro proved it was no fluke when she was able to defeat Mickie James for the second consecutive evening. Once again there was no sign of a storyline reason behind the title switch, and Trish Stratus (who had previously become the longest reigning women’s champion in history) continued to take a back seat.

In the main event fans were treated to an enjoyable eight team tag match that saw the team of Kane, Big Show, John Cena, and Rene Dupree take on Triple H, Gene Snitsky, Tyson Tomko, and Carlito. Dupree’s seemingly inexplicable push since his return continued, with the former French ‘Phenom’ picking up a pinfall victory over Tomko. Dupree’s bad ass gimmick was, frighteningly, getting over with the crowd quite fast. But the WWE have a long tradition of making stars out of the least likely people, and it seemed Dupree was to be the next to receive that treatment.

Still, the only match of any note on the card was the main event, with fans not entirely impressed with the rest of the show. The absence of Rob Van Dam again agitated fans, as the company continued to ignore their desire to see ‘Mr. Monday Night’ in action.

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Rene Dupree (or just Rene) was seen as the future of the WWE and pushed as such

Smackdown

Smackdown kicked off with a tag team match up that saw the re-assembled ‘Cabinet’ of JBL and Orlando Jordan teaming up to take on the very popular Mexicools (Super Crazy and Psicosis). In a move that again baffled WWE fans, the heel pairing went over following a dominant performance from JBL – who pinned Super Crazy following a Clothesline from Hell. The Mexicools had been touted for a tag title run since debuting, and with the gold no longer on Smackdown, were apparently no longer important to the WWE.

In an enjoyable match between two stars of the future, Rey Mysterio was able to beat Ken Kennedy following the 619. It was a great too and fro match that would, in the future, be the kind that could main event pay-per-views. At this point, however, Kennedy was still just a popular upper midcarder with a catchphrase.

Kurt Angle continued to be booked oddly, the champion from just two weeks prior pairing with Road Warrior Animal to take on (and beat, thankfully) MNM. Fans were up in arms about the prospect of Angle being wasted in a nothing tag team division whilst the WWE seemed intent on another ill fated Randy Orton face run at the top.

Said face run began with Orton publicly apologising earlier in the evening to Rey Mysterio for his atrocious behaviour prior to winning the title at Wrestlemania and had begun to openly criticise the heels on Smackdown. This set up the night’s main event, pitting Booker T against Orton. The WWE’s previous experiment with Orton as a babyface had flopped horribly, and smarks were bracing themselves for a repeat performance.

The US Title scene continued to be interesting, with Hardy’s push continuing as he pushed Benoit to the limit in an enjoyable title match that would be the night’s highlight. Hardy was not accompanied to the ring by MNM (who had been easily beaten by Angle and Animal) but came close after hitting the Twist of Fate. His second attempt at the move proved his undoing, as Benoit was able to turn it into the Crossface for a retention.

The main event saw a still unconvincing babyface Randy Orton defending the crown against Booker T, who was aided once more by Sharmell at ringside. Orton was able to pick up the win despite Sharmell’s interference, hitting the RKO and celebrating after the clash. Fans were still unsure about his face turn, but were apparently willing to give it a go.

TNA

TNA continued to go from strength to strength on the back of the emerging Sting/Jarrett feud and the mystery over who would be the next to face Christian Cage for the NWA World Heavyweight Title. The dominance of Samoa Joe also continued to grab the fans’ attention, and TNA added another factor to the mix when they debuted the near sixty year old Terry Funk – a man who had been key in ECW’s initial rise to success.

TNA Impact!

The opening match of the evening on Impact saw Generation Next (represented by Austin Aries and Roderick Strong) taking on The Naturals. No tag team has enjoyed (and endured) the same ups and downs as The Naturals did in TNA. Losing the gold shortly after the debut of Impact, the Naturals were squashed, built up again, and in this match – once more made to look like easy beats. Austin Aries eventually pinned Andy Douglas following a brainbuster.

Segment Rating: C

The James Gang (formerly the New Age Outlaws) were next in action, the veteran tag team taking on Petey Williams and Booby Roode of Team Canada in what was a good quality match. The introduction of The James Gang, Generation Next, and the Latin American Exchange had recently rejuvenated a usually stale TNA tag title scene. The Gang added their name to the contenders’ pile with a good win here, BG James able to pin Bobby Roode despite the interference of David Young and Scott D’Amore.

Segment Rating: C+

The true highlight of the evening was Sting’s time on the microphone. Age may have dimmed his in ring ability somewhat, but Sting still had the goods when it came to cutting a promo. He waxed lyrical about the despicable tactics of Jeff Jarrett, about how he was overjoyed to be in the ‘rebirth’ of professional wrestling, and proceeded to put over Christian Cage as a fine champion. The fans lapped it up and the heat Jeff Jarrett got when he interrupted the speech was probably the best legitimate heat he’d ever received.

Segment Rating: A*

Jarrett and Sting weren’t able to have a confrontation, however, as AJ Styles made his way down to the ring for his match against Jarrett. Styles had been largely forgotten with the conclusion of his three way feud with Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe, but the two put on an enjoyable match here that featured Styles at his best and Jarrett doing his best to stay focussed on the match whilst wasting time abusing Sting. The match ended with something of a shock, Styles able to hit the Styles Clash after Sting broke Jarrett’s guitar over his back as he came off the ropes. It was decidedly un-Sting like behaviour, but the fans lapped it up.

Segment Rating: B

In what appeared to be a throwaway match between Abyss and Sabu (who had an enjoyable if brutal feud late in 2005) turned out to be a fine tool to introduce Terry Funk to the TNA roster. In a short but brutal clash, Sabu added another notch to his belt after pinning Abyss in this short match.

Segment Rating: B-

Terry Funk hit the ring immediately after the win, blasting Sabu with a chair and splitting him open. In true ECW style the two hardcore wrestlers gave fans an enjoyable five minute brawl all around the ring – which Funk came out on top of following a back suplex that dropped Sabu spine first onto the security rails. Old school hardcore fans were already rubbing their hands at the prospect of some battles between these two, whilst others questioned whether or not TNA needed to pit two men synonymous with ECW against one another to get over. Surely they couldn’t offer anything new?

Segment Rating: C-

In a miniature main event, Christian Cage would take on Generation Next’s Alex Shelley in a non title match. Fans expected this to be one sided, and it’s what they got. Shelley was aided at all times by Aries and Strong but was ultimately buried with the Unprettier.

Segment Rating: B+

What came next was one of the defining moments in TNA’s history. Some will look at WCW and say that the appearance of Scott Hall on an episode of Nitro changed the business, others would say the same of Stone Cold’s King of the Ring win, but Jackie Gayda’s announcement on that Thursday night would signal a change for TNA that would ultimately see them rule the wrestling world. Gayda, who had been attacking Jeff Jarrett seemingly inexplicably for several months, came out to announce that she had hired someone to uncover the truth about Jeff Jarrett so the world could see. Who this investigator would be immediately had the internet boards abuzz and, even though the segment was not world class, it will always be remembered as crucial to TNA’s eventual success.

Segment Rating: C

The night’s main event featured another clash in the World Title Contender Tournament, this time featuring former champion Rhino and current X-Division Champion, Samoa Joe. This was a clash of the big, bad brawlers and proved to be the best match of the evening. Whilst some still talked about who Gayda’s mystery ally could be, others lapped up a fifteen minute main event that saw Samoa Joe advance in the tournament following a brutal Muscle Buster.

Segment Rating: B+

Overall the show did a lot to continue TNA’s development. Samoa Joe’s push towards he world title was considered long overdue, whilst the Sting/Jarrett feud continued to capture the imaginations of fans. Moreso it pitted TNA’s two biggest names against one another in a feud that, to fans, felt like a legitimate feud – not just two unknown but talented workers fighting. On top of that, Gayda’s announcement had people buzzing over what TNA had in mind. Which recently signed superstar would debut? What would they uncover? What implications would it have in the long run?

Edited by The Misanthrope
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I'd like to take a moment out to remind people that the WWE is booked entirely by TEW, and I cannot be held responsible for their odd booking decisions. I try my best to interpret

The WWE Draft

Whilst the following weeks of WWE programming produced nothing remarkable, it was time for the WWE’s draft – a process that each year saw talent shifted between Raw and Smackdown to mix up talent and (hopefully) create some new stars. In the previous year the major moves had been the title holding Batista from Raw going to Smackdown and John Cena with the title coming to Raw. The ‘MVP’ for person most boosted by the switch was clearly Carlito, who came over to Raw with a bang to end Shelton Benjamin’s record Intercontinental Title run in 2005.

This year’s draft would prove different, with Eric Bischoff choosing not to shift any major stars and instead ‘mixing up the midcard’ as he called it in a WWE.com interview. The other highlight of this ‘draft’ was the storyline decision to deny Smackdown any picks. This was explained as the show not receiving any picks as it had no General Manager (with Theodore Long having been fired and not replaced). Many saw this as simply a way to move more talent to Raw amid rumours that Smackdown could be cancelled or moved to a less glamorous time-slot.

Joining the Raw roster were: Steven Richards, Gregory Helms, Funaki, Hardcore Holly, Nunzio, Paul London, Psicosis, Super Crazy, Sylvan, and Daivari.

This, of course, confused a great many people. Not only had Raw suddenly gained almost the entire Cruiserweight Division (with Kid Kash and Brian Kendrick the sole vestiges of the division on Smackdown) but they had also robbed Smackdown of much of its midcard ‘backbone’. Daivari’s move back completed what could be considered a ‘whirlwind year’ for the manager, who jumped from Raw to Smackdown in 2005, reappeared on Raw in late 2005, jumped to Smackdown with Kurt Angle in January of 2006, and now returned to Raw sans his current client (Mark Henry).

Whilst this didn’t cripple Smackdown, it did rob them of perhaps their most unique feature – the cruiserweight division. When you add this to the decision to shift the tag titles to Raw, it became clear that Smackdown’s status as a b-show was well and truly being cemented by none other than WWE management. Those stars on the show were reportedly depressed at this point, with Kurt Angle & Chris Benoit both publicly stating their confusion at the WWE.

Both men were severely reprimanded by WWE management but no further action was taken.

Jackie Gayda’s Secret Ally

Whilst it may have been a non-event as far as in ring action for the WWE, the third week of May in 2006 was far from uneventful in TNA. Fans tuned in in record numbers to see who Jackie Gayda’s secret ally would be and what secrets he would uncover about Jeff Jarrett. For many the night was the pay off for a long running but never particularly well done angle.

Rumours abounded as to who it would be, some more accurate than others. Particularly imaginative fans tried to convince others that it would be Bret Hart or Bill Goldberg or The Rock – whilst more informed fans made the correct assumption that it would be someone far less expensive and far less difficult to repackage. What follows is our first detailed run-down of an episode of Impact. This report was taken from the May edition of ‘Impact in Review’.

TNA Impact!

The night opened with Brother Ray and Brother Devon of Team 3D sitting backstage in front of television monitors. The commentary team hype the long history of bad blood between Team 3-D and America’s Most Wanted but inform the fans that the match we’re about to see is The James Gang in action against Generation Next.

Ray: Why the hell are we watchin’ this, Devon? We need to keep our eyes on America’s Most Wanted.

Devon: O, ye of little faith! It does pay to keep one eye on the enemy at the gate, but it is a fool who ignores the enemy in the distance.

Ray: In English, please?

Devon: It would be stupid of us to ignore The James Gang and Generation Next when they’ll be after our gold too.

Brother Ray seems to agree with this, and the two turn their attention back to the monitors.

Segment Rating: C-

Match: The James Gang vs. Generation Next (Austin Aries and Alex Shelley)

There’s only one team in the eyes of the fans here, as the ‘New Age Outlaw’ chants go up as Kipp James and Alex Shelley circle one another. Shelley makes his signature camera gesture before rushing in at James, who gets him to the mat with a drop toe hold and immediately goes for a side headlock. Shelley is able to get to his feet and a string of elbows breaks the hold, allowing him to rake James’ eye and come off the ropes in an attempted shoulder block. James has the weight advantage, however, and drops Shelley to the canvas. Attempted leg drop goes awry, and Shelley is able to tag in Austin Aries. Aries enters the match with a flurry, a springboard dropkick sending Kipp right back to the mat and allowing him to cover for two.

Aries continues to control things with his mixture of mat work and aerial attack, getting another near fall following a pendulum elbow drop. Kipp has been nicely isolated by the brash young pairing and Shelley’s return sees him further control things with a series of holds and a rather brutal looking side suplex. Shelley whips Kipp James into the ropes and catches him with a dropkick before attempting to lock in what looks to be a surfboard stretch. He’s got it, but BG James finally intervenes with a hard boot to Shelley’s midsection. Austin Aries rushes in to confront BG James but gets the Shake, Rattle, ‘n Roll treatment from the tag team icon. BG hasn’t got time to celebrate his victory, a running enzuguri dropping the bigger man to the mat. Shelley turns around right into a military press from a recovered Kipp James, who then lays out Aries with a pair of clotheslines. BG James has returned to his corner and the hot tag is made. James predictably clears house before hitting a reverse atomic drop on Shelley. Here comes the shaky legs knee drop! James hollers at the roof, meets an interfering Aries with a weak looking spinebuster, and tags in Kipp James. Shelley is to his feet…. FAME-ASSER! Cover. Aries attempts to get across to block it, but BG James cuts him off. 1-2-3! The James Gang have scored a pinfall victory over one of the hottest teams in the promotion!

Segment Rating: C+

The fans were next treated to a promo from ‘The Fallen Angel’ Christopher Daniels with regards to his contender tournament match against Petey Williams. It was standard of Daniels at the time, torn between the prophetic musings of his last heel run and the somewhat ambiguous role he’d been given as a babyface. The effect was as one would expect, promising victory.

Segment Rating: C

Match: Christopher Daniels vs. Petey Williams in the World Title Contender’s Tournament

Petey Williams was accompanied to the ring by ‘The Coach’ Scott D’Amore as well as Eric Young and A-1. Bobby Roode’s absence would be explained later in the evening. Christopher Daniels’ own entrance was given a mixed reaction, with fans still not entirely sure as to where he stood after a somewhat failed face turn in late 2005 (failed because it coincided with a Samoa Joe heel turn).

This clash was highlighted by a lot of spots, both men showcasing their considerable arsenals with some innovative things. Of course, both men feature heavily in the X-Division so it was no surprise that this clash was far superior to the night’s first bout (or, for that matter, the effort put forward by Moore & Hardy the previous week).

A lengthy fifteen minute encounter featured periods of control for both workers, although Daniels’ were the only periods that were ‘earned’ – whereas Williams’ was continually aided by his Team Canada stable-mates. The most notable interference saw Scott D’Amore crack a hockey stick across Daniels’ back – allowing Williams to set him up for the Canadian Destroyer. Daniels somehow got out of the predicament and hit the Angel’s Wings. The cover came but A-1 and Eric Young distracted the referee, allowing D’Amore to once more get into the ring. Daniels was expecting him, however, and put him down with his own set of Angel’s Wings. The distraction proved effective, though, and Daniels turned around right into a Canadian Destroyer! Cover.

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Kickout! Daniels somehow kicked out of the most devastating finisher in the business! Team Canada are clearly fed up with this, and A-1 and Young both storm the ring and begin to lay right hands into Daniels. The Fallen Angel holds on valiantly against the pair, but a low blow from Scott D’Amore turns the tide. Daniels is treated to his second Canadian Destroyer and Team Canada stand tall. Daniels has progressed through to face Samoa Joe in the next round, but he won’t be celebrating this evening!

Segment Rating: B

The fans were still cheering for the previous match when the commercial ended and the ‘The Original Playa from the Himalayas’ Sonjay Dutt strutted out for his X-Division title shot against Samoa Joe, who last week dismantled Rhino to progress to the semi finals in the contender’s tournament.

Match: Samoa Joe © vs. Sonjay Dutt for the X-Division Title

Dutt starts this one off by using his significant speed advantage to keep away from Samoa Joe’s arsenal of stinging kicks and chops, striking with quick ones of his own to keep the brutal giant at bay. His darting and dancing is eventually curtailed, however, Joe managing to corner him and drop him to the mat with a hard lariat. He then disdains Dutt with a Facewash before dragging him to his feet and hitting a brutal snap suplex. Cover, but somehow Dutt finds it in himself to kick out. Joe doesn’t look put off, and immediately kicks Dutt in the midsection and sets him up. MUSCLE BUSTER! Dutt has got to be dead, but Joe makes sure – locking in the Coquina Clutch. This one’s over! Samoa Joe makes an easy go of defending his title, beating Dutt in just three minutes!

Segment Rating: B-

Match: Konnan vs. Monty Brown

The order of the day must be making the contenders look great, as Monty Brown came out for a match against Konnan. The Latin American Exchange (Apolo and Homicide) were at ringside for this one, but Brown intimidated them early and they kept their distance. Konnan grabbed a mike as soon as he got into the ring.

Konnan: “Yo, yo, yo, lemme speak on this.... Orale! Arriba la raza!”

The speech is cut short as Brown attacks Konnan from behind with clubbing blows. The mike drops and Konnan staggers into the ropes, rebounding into a hard release German suplex that looked positively brutal! The leader of the LAX staggers to his feet after being caught unawares but is immediately sent back to the ropes with a series of stinging rights followed by a belly to belly suplex. A cover gets two, but Konnan’s found his bearings and manages to get a shoulder up. He doesn’t get any time to settle in, however, as Brown whips him and catches him with an Alpha Slam. Konnan is in a world of trouble as Homicide and Apolo hit the ring. Both men are levelled with a double arm clothesline from the Alpha Male, who turns around in time to catch a shoe in the chest from Konnan. It doesn’t have the desired effect, and a clothesline has Konnan on the mat as well.

Brown redirects his attention to Apolo for a moment, whipping him and… POUNCE! Apolo bounces hard off the ropes! Homicide quickly bails out, abandoning his Latin American Exchange leader to a similar fate. POUNCE! Cover. 1-2-3! Monty Brown has just dominated the entire Latin American Exchange!

Segment Rating: C+

After another commercial break we return to find Jeff Jarrett on his way out to the ring.

Jarrett: For the past few months I’ve been enduring hell and you all know it! The Championship Committee not only handed the title to their golden boy, flavour of the month Christian Cage by introducing a biased official for our title match back at Against All Odds – but they’ve since denied me the rematch a rightly deserve in favour of this nonsense dispute with a washed up old hack. You all know who I’m talking about. I’m talking about your precious Sting. Listen up, Slapnuts, I know you were cock of the walk over in WCW but I’ve got news for you – WCW is dead. You’re in TNA now and I’m the King of the Mountain. That means I do what I want when I want and what I want right now is to put you out of action permanently. So, Stinger, how about you come out here and we settle this? Just you and me, no baseball bats, no guitars – just two men sorting out their differences. What do you say?

There’s a pregnant pause before the arena blacks out and Sting’s music hits. Honouring the request of Jarrett, Sting is without his trademark baseball bat as he stalks down to the ring.

Jarrett: You know what? This is too easy.

Sting is blind-sided as Chris Harris and James Storm of America’s Most Wanted attack him from behind, bearing him to the ground. Sting begins to fight back with right hands, but Jarrett cuts off all resistance with a guitar shot to the back. Jarrett and America’s Most Wanted have beaten down Sting!

Segment Rating: C

As Jarrett and America’s Most Wanted celebrate, however, Sting defies the odds by stagging to his feet and gesturing for a microphone. The three heels look stunned at his tenacity as he lifts the microphone to his lips.

Sting: Jarrett, I honoured your request and came down here to sort this out like men, but instead you show your true colours – you show that you’re nothing more than an animal. If you were a man, perhaps I’d show you some mercy, but it seems clear that mercy is not a trait you hold in high regard. Tonight, Jeff Jarrett, you will experience the extent of my anger and there will be no mercy. I want you in a match tonight!

Jarrett: Hold on there, slapnuts, you’re in no position to be demanding matches. You’ve got no stroke here and you know it. I won’t be facing you tonight and I don’t…

The crowd erupt as Christian Cage’s music hits and the NWA Heavyweight Champion appears on the babyface ramp.

Cage: Sorry, did I interrupt you, Jeff? I heard something about stroke. Did you want to be alone? No? Good. Sting may not have the ‘stroke’ required to make that match, but I think that the Christian Coalition might have a little something to say about that. Who wants to see Sting kick Jeff Jarrett’s ass tonight? (The crowd pop) And who wants to see Captain Charisma kick Jeff Jarrett’s ass tonight? (Louder pop) Well, it seems like the people have spoken, Jeff. Find yourself a partner and get down to the ring. It looks like we’ve got a match!

Segment Rating: A*

Match: Jeff Jarrett and ?? vs. Sting & Christian Cage

The babyface pairing are still in the ring when we return from commercial. Jarrett and America’s Most Wanted are involved in a comical scene as the two former tag champions attempt to decide who will partner Jarrett by drawing straws. Harris draws the short straw and refuses to enter the ring. Jarrett’s anger is reaching boiling point when Team Canada’s music hits and Bobby Roode comes out despite Scott D’Amore’s protestations. It looks like Roode is volunteering to enter the lion’s den against Sting and Christian Cage!

Senior official Earl Hebner checks all competitors for weapons before signalling for the bell. It’ll be Christian Cage up against Bobby Roode here, a rematch of Cage’s Impact debut! It is, of course, mostly one way traffic in this early confrontation – the champion controlling Roode easily. D’Amore and America’s Most Wanted’s presence at ringside is telling early – D’Amore tripping up Cage as he comes off the ropes for a clothesline. This allows Roode to make a desperation tag to Jarrett, who seems a whole lot braver when the opponent is already down and out. Jarrett drags Cage to his feet and knocks him right back down with a standing dropkick before a crisp stalling suplex allowed for a two count. Jarrett took time out to abuse Sting, but the veteran didn’t bite, and Jarrett turned back around into a dropkick from the champion. Cage’s offence was short lived, however, a knee to the midsection allowing Jarrett to hit a second suplex before tagging Roode back in. This time the big Canadian fared better, nearly turning Cage inside out with a northern lariat. The cover got two before Sting made his presence felt by coming in. Hebner wastes time getting Sting out of the ring, allowing Jarrett and Roode to hit a double suplex on Cage. He turns around in time to see Roode covering, but this time Cage finds the strength to get a shoulder up. Jarrett is tagged back in and he whips Cage before locking in a sleeper hold. It’s been done before, and on the third check, Cage keeps his arm up and battles out. He drops Jarrett to the ground with a DDT and both men are out. They’re crawling towards their respective corners and it’s a dead heat! Cage tags in Sting at the same moment Jarrett reaches Roode! Roode doesn’t want any of Sting, however, and immediately tags out to the former champion! Jarrett is unable to return the favour as Roode drops off the apron and goes to talk with D’Amore. Jarrett turns around into a clothesline from Sting who then whips him into the corner. STINGER SPLASH! The fans are going nuts as Jarrett staggers out of the corner and falls on his face. Sting signals for the Scorpion Death Lock when D’Amore gets up on the apron, again distracting Hebner. At the same moment America’s Most Wanted hit the ring – attempting to beat down Sting. Cage cuts Storm off with an Unprettier, whilst Sting is able to lock the Scorpion Death Lock on Harris! The interference backfires! No! Roode is in the ring and, after spinning Sting around, near decapitates him with the northern lariat! Cage has tossed Storm and Harris out of the ring but Roode tackles him through the middle ropes as the referee returns. Jarrett drapes an arm over Sting! 1-2-3! Jarrett scores a win over Sting with his customary interference from Planet Jarrett!

Segment Rating: B+

Jarrett and his allies don’t have time to celebrate, however, as Jackie Gayda’s music hits and the diva appears at the top of the ramp.

Gayda: Bravo, Jeff, once again you’ve been able to cheat your way to victory. Last week I promised that I’d bring someone in to uncover the truth about you and take it to the people. Well, unlike you, Jeff, I don’t lie. Let me introduce, Gareth Cade!

A tall, handsome man in a long trench-coat appears at the top of the ramp. It is Garrison/Lance Cade of former WWE fame.

Jarrett: What is this? You bring out some loser in a trench-coat and you expect me to shake in my boots? You’re dumber than you look, Jackie.

The mystery man, Cade, begins to walk slowly, inexorably down towards the ring. America’s Most Wanted and Booby Roode look to Jarrett for guidance but the former champion seems transfixed. As Cade reaches the apron, Jarrett lifts the mike to his lips.

Jarrett: Wait a second, wait a second – there’s no need for this to get violent, is there? Look, you’ve clearly been brain-washed by Gayda and I don’t blame you, alright? I’ve been there and… well… I think most of the locker-room has been there, if you know what I mean. Don’t let a little on the side get in the way of your career. You go against me and you’re dead in this business. You’re a nothing. You’re another footnote on a long list of people I’ve put down and who have stayed down. Think about it real hard, Cade, do you really want to go against me?

Cade seems to pause and think about this, begins to turn back towards Gayda, and then slides into the ring. Almost immediately he is descended upon by Planet Jarrett and the arriving Team Canada – but Sting and Cage are back to their feet and together the three babyfaces are able to clean house. Whilst Sting and Cage play to the crowd, Cade seems content to leave with a sinister grin. What could he know about Jarrett?

Segment Rating: B

Whilst many were disappointed that a ‘bigger name’ was not chosen to go up against Jarrett, one must look at the state of the business at this point in time. Unlike the true Monday Night Wars, there were no high profile workers coming off contract go after – nor was there a promotion like ECW to raid. TNA already had the lion’s share of Ring of Honour talent and needed to rely on either ex WWE stars or aging WCW stars to build their reputation. Cade was, long term, an intelligent move as he was relatively fresh and hadn’t been an established WWE star. The angle, which would continue for quite some time, would eventually introduce more characters and capture the imagination of the fans.

In this week, a week in which TNA began to make serious ground, the WWE sacked an injured Amy ‘Lita’ Dumas and would face legal action regarding their wrongful dismissal.

Quick Raw and Smackdown Results

Raw

Trish Stratus defeated Mickie James

Big Show & Kane © defeated Murdoch & Daivari in a tag title match

Shawn Michaels defeated Edge

Tomko & Snitsky defeated V2

Shelton Benjamin © defeated Rob Van Damn in an Intercontinental Title match

Triple H © defeated Ric Flair in a World Title match

Smackdown

Rey Mysterio def. Chris Benoit in a non-title match

The Undertaker & Randy Orton defeated Mark Henry & Batista

Booker T defeated Brian Kendrick

William Regal defeated Birchall

JBL & Orlando Jordan defeated Lashley & The Boogeyman

The pairing of long term rivals Orton and Undertaker confused many, whilst the rushed return of Batista as a heel further confused. The monster pairing were, however, understandably impressive. The Boogeyman’s unbeaten run had an odd ending when he was pinned easily by JBL, a man he had squashed at the Royal Rumble earlier in the year.

On the Raw side of the equation the only real anomaly was the match between Mickie James and Trish, who had previously been a highlight of Wrestlemania and were now being pitted against one another in a meaningless match on Raw.

Things were, as they say, getting interesting in the brewing war.

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Allow me to offer both praise and props in this diary attempt my young friend. I came in here simply intrigued by the name, and wound up reading the entire diary thus far. Very well done, very intruiging, and very interesting. Some decisions were odd that YOU made in TNA, as opposed to ALL of WWE's decisions being odd seeing as how TEW makes said decisions, but I am willing to see where they go. Now if only WWE would release London and Punk so that the X Division could get some new(old) faces to rejuvenate it again.

All in all and overall I give the diary thus far a grade of B.

Well done.

TGC

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The Cade Fiasco

Many fans were justifiably angry at the selection of Garrison/Lance/Gareth Cade as the ‘surprise’ debut made by Jackie Gayda on that fateful edition of Impact. Many fans called it a low blow from the company, whilst others wondered if the company legitimately believed that Lance Cade was a ‘steal’ of the same calibre as Christian Cage.

To their credit, TNA had not originally intended for a one time WWE tag team champion and perennial jobber to be their ‘surprise’. Earlier in the week heavy rumours were floating around that up and coming star Ken Kennedy was dissatisfied with his current position in the WWE. We’ve made mention of Kennedy’s obvious talents before in this book, and TNA were already aware of his bright future. Talks were positive and Kennedy (to wrestle as Ken Anderson) was supposed to be the surprise. Unfortunately he had a change of heart and left TNA with the option of using Cade or an injured Nick Dinsmore. Cade was, perhaps, the worst possible choice at the time.

The reason this debut was seen as such a turning point wasn’t so much for the influence of Cade, but because of the backlash that would force TNA to make changes. Panda Energy, who had struggled to make the company turn a profit during their stint, finally accepted a lucrative offer from major sponsor, Morphoplex. The $20,000,000 deal was a huge injection of funds into TNA and a gamble on Morphoplex’s part. TNA’s booking team (at this point consisting of Bill Banks, Dutch Mantell, Jeff Jarrett, Jerry Jarrett, and Scott D’Amore) immediately began to reap the rewards of this new windfall – and over the next few weeks fans were appeased with an injection of talent both new and old to the promotion.

With Hard Justice, TNA’s May pay-per-view just a week away, the week’s Impact would finalise the card – but it would be the rumours of debuts and new talent that would see the PPV draw record interest. Names from as high up as Bill Goldberg right down to independent stars such as Chris Hero and Jimmy Jacobs were bounced around, whilst others were still intrigued by what role Gareth Cade would play in Jeff Jarrett’s affairs.

The Blurred Split

The roster split concept was introduced by the WWE following the conclusion of the hugely botched ‘WCW Invasion’ which saw a massive swell in the rosters to accommodate recently acquired WCW and ECW talent. The general idea was that the WWE’s two programs (Raw and Smackdown) would operate as separate ‘brands’ of the WWE – with their own rosters and (eventually) their own titles.

Eric Bischoff’s reign at the top effectively brought an end to this, a move which many considered brave on his part. Whilst the roster split had resulted in lower quality cards (in the eyes of some), it did ensure that talent was better utilised. By blurring the lines and allowing Raw and Smackdown talent to appear on rival shows – Bischoff was condemning some lesser lights to even less recognition.

The storyline behind this was decent enough, with Bischoff returning to head Raw and ‘taking Smackdown under his wing’ since they were still without a replacement for the sacked Theodore Long.

Raw Results

Funaki def. Simon Dean

Victoria defeated Ashley Massaro in a non-title match

Rob Conway defeated Nunzio

Shelton Benjamin © defeated Paul London in an Intercontinental Title match

Shawn Michaels defeated Ric Flair

Triple H defeated Rene Dupree

Dupree’s main event run continued unabated as Cena was taken off air to be ‘repackaged’ following the negative reaction to the latter stages of his face run. With the exception of this, Raw continued on unopposed as the business’ number one program.

Smackdown Results

The Big Show & Kane © defeated Rene Dupree & Chris Benoit in a Tag Title match

Undertaker & Randy Orton defeated Mark Henry & Matt Hardy

Chris Benoit © defeated Lashley to retain the US Title

Kurt Angle defeated Chavo Guerrero

Booker T defeated Joey Mercury, Viscera, and Hardcore Holly

Orlando Jordan & JBL defeated Paul London & Kendrick

Smackdown highlighted the immediate effects of the end of the roster split. Not only did the tag titles return to Smackdown for the first time since being won by Kane & Big Show at Wrestlemania, but fans also saw Kurt Angle clashing with Raw’s Chavo Guerrero in what was a memorable clash.

At first glance it seemed the WWE had found a recipe for success to fight the slowly rising popularity of TNA.

The Calm Before the Storm

TNA was on rocky ground following the backlash from announcing Lance (Gareth) Cade as their ‘surprise debut’ the previous week and, with Hard Justice on the horizon, needed to convince fans that they had a pay-per-view that they would want to see. Whilst the more informed fans would purchase the event in order to see which new talent debuted, the average fan had so far been given little cause to be excited. The final Thursday show before Hard Justice gave them some reasons, although not as many as TNA would have liked.

Impact Results

The program begin in fine style, with Sting coming out to the ring to a huge ovation from the crowd. He replayed footage of last week’s shock loss to Jeff Jarrett and Bobby Roode, highlighting the interference of America’s Most Wanted before laying down a challenge to Jarrett for Hard Justice. It would be Sting vs. Jarrett in a street fight! Jarrett, for his part, did not deign to respond immediately.

Segment Rating: B

The first debut of the new Morphoplex regime would be an unspectacular yet well received one, as Shark Boy made his way out to the ring for what would be a tag match against Team Canada’s Eric Young and A1. His partner was announced as El Generico, a popular Canadian babyface who posed as a ‘generic’ Mexican Luchadore and had developed a cult following due to his BRAINBUSTAAAAAH! In a good match, the new team showcased plenty of high flying, underdog assault before Generico was able to pin Young following his signature BRAINBUSTAAAAAH!

Segment Rating: C

Shark Boy & El Generico’s celebrations were cut short as The James Gang appeared at the top of the ramp. The former Outlaws cut their standard pre-match promo, announcing themselves as the ‘soon to be tag team champions of the world’. An odd segment that would foreshadow a later match.

Segment Rating: C

Next up was the first of two semi finals in the contender’s tournament, this one pitting Monty Brown against Jeff Hardy. Fans may not have known this at the time, but Hardy had recently turned up late to three consecutive Impact tapings and was out of favour with TNA management. Whether this had anything to do with the utter squash he endured in this match or whether it was designed to make Brown look impressive remains open to debate. In the end Hardy got off only token offence before being pinned following the Pounce. Monty Brown would face either Samoa Joe or Christopher Daniels at Hard Justice to decide which man would face Christian Cage later the same evening.

Segment Rating: B

Out next was Nigel McGuinness, making his on screen TNA debut despite having been hired by the company several months before. McGuinness carried a belt to the belt with him, one obviously designed to mirror Ohio Valley Wrestling’s own world title (which McGuinness had won earlier in the month). McGuinness cut a rather bland promo in a thick English accent issuing an open challenge to anyone from what he called the ‘minor leagues’. The challenge was answered by Sonjay Dutt.

Segment Rating: E

Thankfully McGuinness’ in ring performance was far superior to his embarrassing first up promo, and his clash with Sonjay Dutt would continue a night of well booked matches. Whilst McGuinness’ technical style did clash with Dutt’s own spot based arsenal, the two found a nice middle ground before McGuinness was able to pick up an impressive win on debut following the Tower of London. McGuinness then spat on the fallen Dutt before posing with his ‘OVW World Title’ belt, drawing solid heat and establishing him with the Impact fans.

Segment Rating: C+

Next out would be Gareth Cade who was, unfortunately for him, not met with a warm reception by the TNA fans. Whilst it was hardly Cade’s fault he had been selected to be the pariah for TNA’s odd booking choice, he made it worse by stuttering through his promo. The general idea was that he would reveal to the world that Jarrett’s entire career was based around lies, deception, and underhanded tactic. He eluded to Jarrett having had a part in WCW’s death, and said that Jarrett wasn’t as committed to TNA as he told people. The promo was not well delivered, not by a long shot, but the fans were intrigued. Even with a far from compelling protagonist, the story was one people wanted to hear.

Segment Rating: C-

The next match of the evening pitted Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels against one another. The two were far from strangers, have tangled several times since Samoa Joe became X-Division Champion late in 2005. This match against showcased just how much talented the X-Division possessed, whilst also further cementing Samoa Joe as the promotion’s premier bad guy. In a twenty minute marathon clash that many fans considered the best Impact match to date, Joe was able to choke Daniels out with the Coquina Clutch. Daniels was not made to look bad in losing, having come close to pinning Joe on two separate occasions. The match for Hard Justice was set – it would be Monty Brown vs. the unbeaten Samoa Joe with a title shot on the line.

Segment Rating: B

The final segment of the evening saw Christian Cage out in the ring with Team 3-D before their six man tag match against Jarrett and America’s Most Wanted. A fairly standard promotion followed, with Cage promising that he would beat either Monty Brown or Samoa Joe at Hard Justice. Team 3-D also made their challenge for Hard Justice official – it would be Team 3-D against America’s Most Wanted with the titles on the line in a ladder match.

Segment Rating: B-

The night’s main event was well received by the fans, as Cage and Team 3-D dominated the early going before Jarrett (with the aid of Team Canada) and America’s Most Wanted were able to get their own control. It ebbed and flowed for fifteen minutes before coming to its conclusion, Jarrett pinning Cage following The Stroke (and liberal interference) much to the crowd’s agitation. Team 3-D went one up on America’s Most Wanted, however, delivering 3-D to Chris Harris to end the night. Jarrett was celebrating, and rightfully so, a pinfall victory over the champion lifted him back towards the contendership.

Segment Rating: B

The night finished with Jarrett officially accepting Sting’s challenge, leading fans to believe he must have had something in mind for the match.

Hard Justice, to take place the following Sunday, would feature the below card:

The Diamonds in the Rough vs. The Naturals & Lance Hoyt

Monty Brown vs. Samoa Joe in a Contender’s Match

Nigel McGuinness vs. Jeff Hardy

Terry Funk vs. Sabu

Team 3-D vs. America’s Most Wanted in a Ladder Tag Title match

Austin Aries vs. Sonjay Dutt vs. Petey Williams vs. Chris Sabin

Jeff Jarrett vs. Sting in a Last Man Standing match

Christian Cage vs. Monty Brown or Samoa Joe in a World Title match

The promotion was on the eve of what would be a big pay-per-view and things were looking up. The recent signings of several big names had those close to the company excited about its future. Not one but three former WWE World champions were rumoured to have been swayed to the TNA cause and any day could see one of them debuting.

At midday on the day of Hard Justice, the bombshell dropped.

TNA Impact had been dropped

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Hard Justice and Redemption

Hard Justice was supposed to be the pay-per-view that would put TNA on the map, but the news that Spike TV had reneged on its commitment to ‘taking on the WWE’ was a serious blow to the company. In fact, loss of television was an indirect cause in the deaths of both the ECW and WCW, the last two promotions to go up against Vince McMahon’s WWE. A lot of people within the industry predicted a quick and painful death for TNA – and it certainly appeared to be on the cards. Within two hours of the news breaking, several big names set to debut at Hard Justice opted out of their contracts.

It took just two hours for Hard Justice to go from being TNA’s ‘Wrestlemania One’ to being a pay-per-view that could quite possibly be their last. With the benefit of hindsight and knowing how things will pan out it’s easy to dismiss this chapter in TNA’s existence, but I cannot stress enough just how close the WWE went to ‘winning’ the war before it could well and truly get underway.

The show, as they say, must go on – and Hard Justice went ahead as scheduled (although definitely not as planned).

The night began with Simon Diamond’s ‘Diamonds in the Rough’ (comprising himself, Elix Skipper, and David Young) set to take on The Naturals & Lance Hoyt. This was quite a common feature of TNA pay-per-views at the time, six man tag matches designed to highlight underused talent. In a fairly entertaining match (mainly because of Skipper and Diamond’s work), the Diamonds in the Rough picked up a victory after Diamond pinned Chase Stevens. For the face team, Lance Hoyt had looked particularly devastating at one point. The end contained the first debut of the show, as former TNA tag team champion Johnny Swinger (Johnny Parisi in his brief and unremarkable WWE stint) attacked Hoyt, taking him away from the ring and giving the Diamonds in the Rough a one man advantage. After the match Swinger slid into the ring and, after a brief moment of tension between the former tag team partners, Diamond & Swinger shook hands.

Johnny Swinger’s ‘debut’ was nothing that would be remembered as a turning point in the war, but it did bring back a talented former TNA worker to the fold. Too many had been poached and misused by the WWE in recent years.

The next match was the highly anticipated bout between Monty Brown and Samoa Joe to decide who would face Christian Cage later in the evening for the NWA World Heavyweight Title. This clash was a real clash of the titans, with two of the promotion’s hottest stars tangling and fireworks expected. The fans got them. Samoa Joe cut loose on Brown with a volley of stinging stiff kicks and blows the likes of which made people in the front row flinch. The word is that Joe was not happy with the way the match had been booked and was taking it out on Brown. The ending to the fifteen minute slug-fest came after a period of utter control from Samoa Joe. A familiar face rushed down the ramp and hit the top turnbuckle whilst the referee checked on Monty Brown following a brutal kick to the head. Samoa Joe turned around and was immediately knocked to the ground as a debuting Juventud Guerrera flew off the top rope and connected with a missile dropkick. Joe dropped to the ground and ‘The Juice’ went to the top rope one more time, hitting his trademark 450 splash. Monty Brown, who had since recovered and staggered to his feet, hit the Pounce on Joe as he stumbled to his feet. The cover got three. Now, whilst Samoa Joe had been booked as a heel during this time period, it’s important to know that the average TNA audience did not have such a black and white view of things. On many occasions workers such as Monty Brown, Samoa Joe, and Christopher Daniels had received face reactions as heels – more out of respect for their abilities than out of disrespect for the role they portrayed. So, whilst Monty Brown and Juventud Guerrera were the faces in this piece – the ending got booed.

Still, Guerrera had only recently held the WWE Cruiserweight Title, and had not been made to look bad in losing it to Kid Kash prior to being sacked for poor behaviour, so this debut was considered quite a big deal to TNA. After having had Samoa Joe seemingly dominate all comers in the X-Division, this new face gave it a little life.

The punishment of Jeff Hardy continued in the next match, as the former WWE Tag Team Champion was made the second ‘victim’ of Nigel McGuinness’ TNA push. Like the previous week’s Impact, McGuinness came out to gloat about how much better it was to work in the ‘big leagues’ than in shoddy, half filled arenas like this one. He scoffed at TNA for having lost their TV slot (a shoot comment that caused general disruption in the audience, who had not yet learned the news) and went on to run down the ‘so called stars’ in the business – singling out guys like Hardy as ‘someone else’s leavings’. This brought out Hardy.

Now, one would think that perhaps Hardy would be the one to defend TNA’s honour, but instead he was fed to McGuinness as TNA management continued to push a man who would eventually become one of the industry’s top heels. Whilst, at the time, it may have been a bad idea given TNA’s position – the fans lapped it up, booing McGuinness after he used the Artful Dodger to pin Hardy.

The next match-up was one booked purely for nostalgic reasons, as Terry Funk and Sabu tangled in a match reminiscent of the glory days of ECW. The match’s build up was scarce, and the two competitors had a combined age of your average pensioner, but they turned on one of the matches of the year thus far – brutalising one another in ways that Abyss & Sabu had failed to in a barbed wire match. Some saw the match as a wasted opportunity – putting two legendary hardcore workers against one another in a match with nothing at stake. These people would be shocked, however, when it only acted as a foreword to something more – an ECW reunion the likes of which fans of the defunct garbage promotion had been wishing for some time.

Of course, that was still some way off at this point. The match itself, a brutal affair that saw both men bleeding severely by its conclusion, ended after Funk had suplexed Sabu onto a pile of tacks before getting the pinfall from a Funksault.

The event, match wise, had been a success thus far – but fans hadn’t been really compelled by anything. That was all about to change as the next chapter in the Gayda/Jarrett/Cade angle played out.

Gayda came out to the ring alone, presumably to hype Cade and run down Jarrett. She’d barely had a chance to begin speaking when Abyss hit the ring with James Mitchell at his side. Mitchell directed Abyss, who immediately whipped Gayda into the ropes and drilled her with the Black Hole Slam. Before he could do further damage, however, Gareth Cade hit the ring and the two began to brawl. Gayda rolled to the outside, the bell rang, and it seemed we’d have a match. Of course, fans were already wondering – why did Abyss attack Gayda? He had no loyalty to Jarrett aside from their shared trait of being heels.

The match was quick and brutal, with Abyss making liberal use of Mitchell (and his cane) at ringside. Gayda, for her part, was being tended to be a ringside medic. Predictably, as it should be when someone is being pushed as a threat to a former title holder, Cade was able to pick up a win after avoiding the Black Hole Slam and taking out Abyss with a strong lariat. Cade didn’t celebrate his victory, instead helping Gayda up the ramp and presumably to where she would receive medical treatment. An agitated James Mitchell berated Abyss claiming he’d ‘let everyone down’. What did that mean? In time, fans would realise that the seeds had been planted for something big.

An unimportant yet entertaining X-Division showcase match was next, with Generation Next’s Austin Aries defeated Sonjay Dutt, Petey Williams, and Chris Sabin.

Christian Cage, now aware of who he would be facing later in the night, cut a promo that basically hyped up Monty Brown before ensuring fans he would be victorious tonight.

The tag title match between Team 3-D and America’s Most Wanted was next, and whilst fans still wanted to see the two world class teams slug it out, it was becoming obvious that Team 3-D needed new competition. The Naturals had been stripped of credibility and other teams (Team Canada, Generation Next, and LAX) had the feel of being ‘thrown together’ portions of a stable. The logical next choice was The James Gang, but even they had credibility issues after being so long out of their glory days.

The match itself was an enjoyable one, with AMW handling the more aerial portion of the workload whilst Team 3-D did their brawling best. The ending saw a brutal electric chair drop from Brother Devon to Storm from near the top of the ladder, allowing Brother Ray to ascend to the top and bring down the gold for the successful title defence. An enjoyable but, again, unremarkable match.

The fans were taken backstage next. Gareth Cade received his first genuine pop as a TNA superstar as he’s shown backstage with Gayda. As he’s talking to her a shadowy figure’s arm enters the frame, swings a sap, and Cade slumps forward. Gayda screams as the light goes out and the sounds of a struggle can be heard. Moments later the lights flicker back on. Gayda is a bloody, unconscious mess. Security flood the room too late to capture her assailant.

There was a quiet over the arena as the segment ended. TNA fans had not been embroiled in such a clear example of sports entertainment before and, thankfully for TNA, it was a silence of shock rather than disinterest. Who had attacked Gayda and Cade? Of course, Jeff Jarrett was the first name on everybody’s lips – but soon the debate started (and would later spill onto the internet forums). Was it one of Jarrett’s underlings? Surely not Abyss? Some new face? Fans were abuzz as Sting’s music hit and the legendary Stinger came out for his last man standing match against Jarrett.

Jarrett came out to legitimate heat, which was also a welcome surprise for TNA management (during his title run Jarrett had been accused of drawing ‘X-Pac heat’ which was a term used to describe genuine antipathy towards a worker. Jarrett was accompanied to the ring by Jackie Gayda, with America’s Most Wanted still recovering from their clash with Team 3-D.

The two tied up, and though they had met before, this clash had a little more electricity to it. Jarrett’s involvement (or perceived involvement) in the attack on Gayda had fans genuinely interested in him for the first time in a long while – couple this with working a match against an icon and you get a recipe for a character rejuvenation. The match itself was the best the two had had and would go down as the match of the night (it’s worth noting that the Cage/Brown match was diminished by Brown having worked a match earlier in the card). It started out with showboating and chest beating, devolved into holds, and eventually spilled out into a surprisingly good brawl on the outside. Jarrett controlled things for some time thanks to Gail Kim’s distractions, but the crowd went crazy as Sting produced his signature baseball bat and began to terrorise Jarrett. Without so much as swinging the bat at Jarrett, Sting was able to turn the match in his favour – almost picking up a pinfall after cornering Jarrett and hitting the Stinger Splash. Again Gail Kim got involved, dragging the referee from the ring as his count reached seven.

Jarrett gradually worked his way back into the match, but was never able to regain control. Eventually, as it often was in the case of Jarrett matches, interference played a part as Bobby Roode (who had tagged with Jarrett against Cage and Sting earlier in the month) got involved by hitting his northern lariat on Sting while the referee was again distracted by Gayda. Sting staggered to his feet, and Jarrett hit him with a guitar. Again, Sting got to his feet, and Jarrett hit him with The Stroke. Sting continued to fight to his feet. Roode handed Jarrett Sting’s baseball bat. Sting stays down this time. The referee makes the count and Jarrett wins it. The fans boo like mad, but Sting has the last laugh – again staggering to his feet and locking the Scorpion Death Lock on a surprised Bobby Roode.

The final match of the evening was the main event, pitting Christian Cage against Monty Brown. Brown and Cage had tangled earlier in Cage’s TNA stint, Brown being the first person Cage defeated on pay-per-view. Brown’s chances in this match were further decreased by the fact he’d worked a match already in the evening – a match in which he’d been controlled by Samoa Joe quite easily. In all, this was a bit of a dud main event as far as the stakes went. Whilst Brown and Cage’s chemistry was undeniable, the fact remained that the fans couldn’t buy Brown as a threat with the odds piled against him like so. True to form, Cage won an unremarkable match following the Unprettier.

The victory was modestly received. Cage was undoubtedly a more popular babyface than Brown, but fans felt justifiably robbed by the main event – which lacked both drama and a legitimate threat to Cage’s title. The trade off? Cage’s celebrations were cut short as a much slimmer Raven returned and attacked him with a Singapore cane. The fans were confused at first, as Raven had left TNA as a babyface following his ‘firing’ by Larry Zybysko – but it soon became clear that this was a darker, more twisted Raven. During his last run he’d been unfit and overweight, but now he looked like the Raven of old.

The night ended with questions buzzing in people’s heads. How would Cage react to Raven’s return attack? What would Samoa Joe do as retribution for Juventud’s interference? Who attacked Gayda? As any good event did, Hard Justice moved things along in some cases, and ended them in others. But without Impact to follow up, how could TNA continue viable storylines?

Hard Justice will be remembered as the pay-per-view of ‘what ifs’? What if it was Chris Jericho debuting to interfere in Samoa Joe’s match? What if it had been Brock Lesnar or Bill Goldberg debuting to attack Christian Cage instead of a returning Raven? What if Chris Benoit, who had been on the verge of making a ‘jump’, hadn’t decided it was better to stay in the security of the WWE? Those questions will never be answered, but sometimes it’s fun to imagine. Could TNA have reached the pinnacle far earlier had it not been for Spike TV’s withdrawal? Or was it this withdrawal and the consequent salvation that lifted TNA to the place it is today?

Yes, of course there was a salvation. This story would be brief were that not the case. Less than twenty four hours after being dumped by Spike TV, TNA management got a call from a rival network. They got a call from one of the world’s biggest broadcasters.

Some would have called it a deal with the Devil.

TNA was moving to Fox.

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Aside from the Jarrett/Sting match having mistakes such as Gayda and Gail Kim being interchanged in various parts of the match, this is another strong entry. I like how we came close to seeing Benoit and Jericho and maybe even Goldberg, but instead got Swinger, Juvi, and Raven. I do not like Samoa Joe's undefeated streak ending in a nothing match like that though, especially to Monty who does not need the push such an event would give the winner. In fact, it seems like you totallyu glossed over the first big loss for Joe in TNA, and with it being a major part of his character that's bad. Still, it's the first major mistake I've seen you make thus far.

Grade as of now is a B-.

TGC

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Ah, yeah, that was a severe oversight on my part. I had a paragraph typed up about his streak but it must have been deleted in the editing, which was a huge cock-up on my part. In fact, in short hindsight, I don't know why I did it - even if it does set up a Juvi/Joe X-Division program.

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I saw this title on the first page of the boards a few days ago. I was more than half expecting a domination scenario but reading the first few paragraphs intrigued me. Unfortunately I never managed to get further and forgot about this. So I was pleased to see it there on the first page again today to remind me to read it.

So far it has certainly been worth the time to read it. Probably one of the most entertaining diaries I've read on here. The particular interest in this for me seems to come from the author knowing what happens and what could have happened such as Nigel McGuinness becoming a top heel or Kennedys popularity. As well as the hints at little things I would have otherwised glossed over or forgotten about such as Mitchells words to Abyss have left me intrigued as to what it's all leading to. So far it seems all roads lead to one massive storyline and giant revelation. I certainly hope so.

The realism is also there, how many diaries would have had Y2J on the first show or WWE releasing huge names for them to turn up a day later. You made reference to them, you've even stated how close they were to turning up but they never did. Further adding to my curiousity. Without these big names that it would seem impossible for TNA to defeat the WWE but apparently they do and I'm looking forward to finding out how they do it.

What you have managed to do is stay true to reality. Both in your booking of TNA with numerous 6 man matches and more clusterfucks than two can tell but also with the introduction of famous Indy or not so famous WWE talent.

My only slight concern is that allowing TEW to book the WWE will lead to it simply becoming farcical. I would have probably preferred you to make a few timely interventions in what the results were, changing the odd outcome here and there to make it more believable. Already I'm worrying that WWE having Trish v Mark Henry for the world title will cause them to commit suicide rather than your own splendid booking delivering the deadly blow to the WWE but maybe that's because I'm so caught up in your story of how TNA will topple WWE.

Long may this story continue and with the same depth that lends itself to the style of a book but also to keeping the action coming thick and fast.

Overall, top notch. Hard to fault you so far and I look forward to seeing more.

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The possibility of who Gayda's attacker could be is something I'm looking forward to finding out. Hopefully it will be something a bit bigger than Cade though. Raven returning and going after Christian is a good move too, the movement to Fox is the biggest thing though. Great job so far CWB.

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OOC: If this seems at all disjointed it's because my computer crashed last week and I had to piece the database back together (again).

Impact on Fox

TNA’s debut on Fox can be looked at as one of the true turning points in the rejuvenated war in professional wrestling. Whilst it wasn’t as groundbreaking as Nitro’s debut on prime time back in the real Monday Night Wars, it was a big deal for the still emerging promotion to win a primetime slot on one of the world’s most widespread networks. What many considered a dangerous move on TNA’s part would prove to be one of the most fruitful and mutually beneficial arrangements in the history of professional wrestling.

Fox had been known, for some time, as a network whose impatience often saw promising or well liked shows axed before they could reach their true potential. Programmes such as Arrested Development, The Family Guy, and Firefly had all fallen prey to Fox's short sighted business model. The same impatience was a major factor in turning TNA from a 'distant second' to what would eventually be the new benchmark in professional wrestling. By placing immense pressure on TNA's management, Fox forced them to try new things and recruit bigger names. With the backing of Rupert Murdoch's billion dollar empire (to an extent), TNA suddenly had the means to well and truly take the fight to the WWE.

Unfortunately for TNA's debut, the week's episode had already been taped and, in the interests of ensuring storyline flow, the post Hard Justice episode of Impact was aired on Fox. It may have lacked the drama and fanfare of a debut programme, but TNA felt it necessary to air the episode in the interest of ensuring none of their long term faithful were left confused following the pay-per-view. Some within the industry would remark that this was a stupid move - debuting a programme on a new network without taking time to introduce the key players.

These people were right.

The first major cock up by TNA management under their new Fox partnership was a near fatal one for the company. The show did a poor rating, first time watchers were confused as to why the "WWE didn't use their big names", and heads rolled. Following the first episode of Impact on

Fox, several members of the booking committee would be axed and a new generation of bookers would be called into the breach. These weren't Hollywood screen-writers nor were they experienced old heads looking out for their best friends - these men would ultimately take a lot of the credit for TNA's watermark year.

TNA's debut on Fox, as mentioned, was nothing out of the ordinary as far as Impact episodes went. The storylines continued on after Hard Justice and there weren't any big surprises. This was, of course, a big mistake given the program's desperate need to connect with its new audience. Should TNA's then bookers have chosen to appease their new audience in favour of alienating some of their loyalists? Probably, yes.

The wrestling industry is not one in which loyalty is a particularly useful character trait. What person during the Monday Night Wars benefitted from loyalty? Not Bret Hart. Not Vince McMahon or Eric Bischoff, and certainly not the fans. By showing loyalty, TNA's booking team showed weakness. Fox's "cut the crap" attitude would kick into gear almost immediately.

The episode itself started with Gareth Cade taking on Johnny Swinger, who had debuted at Hard Justice. A re-dubbed commentary did take the time to establish Cade's presence in the company, mentioning the brutal attack on Jackie Gayda. In what was a relatively short match, Cade was able to win via submission after debuting what would appear to be his new finisher - a Tazzmission like rear-naked choke. Swinger's Diamonds in the Rough allies watched on as he lost, evidently too afraid of Cade to get involved.

The next match of the evening saw the very popular James Gang taking on the Team Canada partnership of Eric Young and A-1. The fact this match had been taped was a huge stroke of luck for TNA, who captured the casual fans' attention when they tuned in to see the former New Age Outlaws dismantle the inexperienced Team Canada pairing - showing off all of their signature moves. Whilst BG 'Road Dogg' James and Kipp 'Billy Gunn' James may not have been TNA's most talented workers, in these early days as a mainstream product - they were invaluable.

Following the victory the two veterans cut a vintage promo, issuing a challenge to Team 3-D for the NWA Tag Titles. The fans lapped it up. Sure, it might have been the WWE four or five years ago, but the average fan didn't have a memory span that long. They just saw two tag teams that were legendary in the business, and they sensed a great match on the horizon. TNA would do its best to deliver.

Monty Brown was out next, cutting a promo that nicely established his character as the popular tweener he'd been playing for much of his career. He talked about how it was unfair that he had been forced to work two matches in one night but he gave credit to Cage for playing the hand he was dealt. The Alpha Male respects that in the animal kingdom, on the Serengeti, you have to contend with your enemies no matter how tired you may feel. A true Alpha Male defends its pride and its territory against anyone, regardless of how badly hurt he was. That was the mark of a true champion, and that was why he demanded a rematch. Cage had beaten him fairly, but he hadn't beaten him at full strength.

This brought out Raven who, despite his heel status, got a pop from the fans. People at home again looked up as another familiar face graced the screen. Raven mocked Monty, saying he was only ever there to fill the space between an inevitable Jarrett/Cage rematch that would see the gold go back to the son of the owner. He said that TNA was run by idiots who were content to let the same tired old stars sit at the top. He compared it to the WCW (ironic, given that TNA would be playing the role of the upstart promotion much as WCW had done) and said that Brown needed to settle into his 'guy to beat on the way up' role and quit hogging the mike. Brown said if Raven wanted to shut him up, he could come down to the ring and fight him. Raven shied away, saying that he was saving himself. He had a feeling that Cage would let stupid pride get in the way of business sense - and that he'd call him out. When that happened, Raven would be on hand to ensure that Cage felt the full extent of the Raven Effect. He'd been robbed last year in Canada, and it seemed poetic that now a Canadian held the gold. Quoth the Raven.

Raven's promo solidified him as the threat to Cage's gold, which angered fans of Brown, but was a smart move from TNA (even if they hadn't known it at the time) - as it kept a familiar face in the main event rather than another largely unknown (albeit talented) home grown star.

The segments continued as Director of Authority Larry Zybysko strutted out to the indifference of the crowd. Apparently his earlier feud with Raven had been forgotten. Zybysko replayed footage of Abyss' attempted attack on Jackie Gayda at Hard Justice. He said that Abyss needed to be punished for his attack, just like whoever had brutally beaten Gayda later in the show would be. Nobody takes the law into their own hands around here. He then informed Abyss that his opponent would be... Rhyno.

Rhyno vs. Abyss had been done before but, again, it was another familiar face in action. Rhino had been out of action with a quad tear for several weeks, and his return was seen as the high point of the evening by many. Rhino proceeded to brutally beat and dismantle Abyss, further establishing him as a man beast and legitimate threat. Whilst Abyss wasn't squashed, he certainly was made to look punished as the former ECW World Champion pinned him after just six minutes following the Gore. Zybysko's point had been made.

We cut backstage next to where Gareth Cade, back in his detective gear, is about to enter Team Canada's dressing room. He kicks open the door and Petey Williams, Scott D'Amore, and Bobby Roode leap to their feet. He doesn't waste any time, demanding to know where all of them were at the time Jackie as attacked. Roode says he was with Jarrett and, if Cade feels like it, he can go ask. D'Amore and Williams say they were

together the whole time. Williams makes a crack "Why would we do something to mess up a pretty thing like Gayda anyway?". Cade slaps Williams in the mouth and the inventor of the Canadian Destroyer launches himself at him. Only D'Amore's timely intervention prevents it from devolving.

"Look, Cade, I told you we weren't there. Now, clearly you've already annoyed someone a hell of a lot. Maybe you need to reign it in a little? Or did all that juice they gave you up north mess with your ability to reason?"

Cade did back off, but not before warning Team Canada that - if they had been involved - he would make their lives a living hell.

Next up we saw a very enjoyable match between Austin Aries and the debuting Juventud Guerrera. This was a big deal for TNA, with Juvi's very recent WWE run being very successful. The casual fan didn't know that Juvi had been sacked, and instead assumed he was a big name signing for the upstart promotion. He and Aries turned on the match of the evening, reminiscent of the strong undercard bouts that had been a feature in WCW during their heyday. Aries was given liberal help by Strong and Shelley at ringside, but ultimately The Juice was able to pick up the 1-2-3 following a Juvi Driver.

The Fox public were then introduced to the Samoan Submission Machine, Samoa Joe, who was in the middle of a fierce off-screen dispute with TNA management at this point after he had been jobbed out to Brown at Hard Justice. At the time Samoa Joe had not lost a single match since his debut in TNA and to end it with a throwaway match not only hurt his credibility, but also angered Joe - who had recently received heavy interest from the WWE. Still, Joe remained professional on screen, hitting the ring to assault a celebrating Juventud - nailing him with the Muscle Buster as revenge for Juventud's interference at Hard Justice. Shelley and Strong made a show of back-slapping with Joe, who proceeded to beat down both Generation Next members. Samoa Joe was pissed off (quite literally, although fans didn't know it at the time) and Juventud was to be the focus of his rage.

The evening's main event was again a stroke of luck for TNA, who had earlier booked the match to feature Sting in action against Booby Roode (who had cost Sting his match against Jarrett the preceding night). Sting's presence was a huge boost, and the ratings spiked at a night high for Sting's match (which had been liberally hyped all night and in TV advertisements). Roode was made to look good in the match with liberal assistance from Jarrett, D'Amore, and Williams - but ultimately it was the Stinger's night - the legend hitting the Stinger Splash and locking in the Scorpion Death Lock to get his revenge. As the night ended and the fans mulled over what had occurred - Sting pointed at

Jarrett with his baseball bat. Clearly the Stinger wasn't done with the King of the Mountain.

The WWE

Up north at the WWE, the world's #1 promotion handed out more of the same. Smackdown was headlined by a title match between Randy Orton and

Matt Hardy, an odd move in many eyes given Hardy's late 2005 jobbing to anyone and everyone following his refusal to take a chokeslam. On Raw

the main event saw Rene Dupree team up with Shawn Michaels to take on Triple H and Edge. Full cards were as follows:

RAW

Big Show & Kane © defeated The Mexicools

Mickie James defeated Ashley © to become Women's Champion

Paul London defeated val Venis

John Cena defeated Goldust

Shelton Benjamin © defeated Charlie Haas

Triple H & Edge defeated Shawn Michaels & Rene Dupree

SMACKDOWN

Captain Paul Birchall defeated The Boogeyman by DQ

Ken Kennedy defeated Bobby Lashley and Brian Kendrick in a US Title Contender's Match

JBL & Orlando Jordan defeated MNM

Booker T defeated Batista

Randy Orton © defeated Matt Hardy

The noteable occurences on Raw were the quick return of the strap to James, the return of John Cena as his former edgy heel persona, and the sudden singles push of Paul London. Many believed the latter was an attempt to placate London's wanderlust - with it widely reported that he was eager to return to the indies.

Smackdown was largely unremarkable save for the odd choice of main event, MNM's Hardy seemingly immune to the depush his stable mates were getting. Batista's much hyped return, which was the focal point of the show, was somewhat stifled when he lost to Booker T (albeit uncleanly) in his return bout.

The New Order

A New World Order ushered in WCW's glory days, and so it would be that a new order would also be required to usher in TNA's. The old heads had certainly done plenty to be admired, but with TNA now on one of the world's most widely viewed networks - it became clear that things needed to change at the top.

TNA's well documented working agreement with New Japan Pro Wrestling was of immediate benefit to a company on the lookout for new bookers, with NJPW's Simon Inoki offering to step in as an 'advisor' for the company. Whilst he would remain in Japan working as president of NJPW, he would also provide advice and suggestions to the TNA booking team as they sought to carve out a niche on American television. In a major coup for the company, they also managed to acquire the services of booking prodigy - Gabe Sapolsky.

Sapolsky had currently been under the employ of Ring of Honor, the nation's most respected (but unfortunately, not most successful) indy fed. Unlike TNA and WWE, Ring of Honor focussed on wrestling ahead of 'sports entertainment' and created many unforgettable matches along the way. TNA mainstays such as AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Samoa Joe had all been regulars in the company at one point. Considered by many to be the brains behind Ring of Honor, Sapolsky had been mentored by legendary ECW booker, Paul Heyman, and was seen by many as one of the brighest bookers on the scene at the time. TNA's agreement with Sapolsky did not end his affiliation with ROH, but did substantially decrease his time with the company.

Finally, TNA had a huge signing coup to laud over the WWE, although casual fans would perhaps not be aware of it. Johnny Ace, the man responsible for talent relations at WWE (and the man who had been trying to lure Samoa Joe from TNA) had recently had a bitter falling out with the McMahon regime over a series of mishaps. Whether it was CM Punk working a Ring of Honor show or simply talent backstage expressing their

dissatisfaction with the state of the company a little too vocally - Ace's status as vice president of talent relations meant he copped a lot of flak.

His signing with TNA was met with heavy criticism within the company. Ace had earned huge heat late in 2005 when he had attempted to recruit TNA workers at the funeral of Eddie Guerrero, even going so far as to lure Charlie Haas back to the WWE. Ace's 'hoss' obsession was also seen as a huge negative by TNA fans. TNA had become unique in its pushing of workers based on talent, whereas Ace's booking style in the WWE had been one based around big men in favour of talents such as Shelton Benjamin. Christian Cage's own lack of a push in the WWE had been attributed to Ace. In fact, Ace's signing was made without the knowledge of many within the company - with Fox itself orchestrating the move.

After all, if Ace was one of the key man in the biggest company in the world - surely he could bring something to TNA as it strove to become great?

Fans were furious, several workers called it the stupidest move in the company's history. But, in the long run, Ace's presence was a huge benefit to TNA. In one fell swoop TNA had apparently gained a huge player in the new war and prevented one of their top stars from jumping ship. At first it didn't show, but he had a lot of friends back in the WWE - and a lot of those friends weren't happy.

Edited by The Misanthrope
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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest HardKore06

Dont let this die! I want anothe update. I just read through the whole thing and its amazing. Really great stuff. Please keep this up.

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It's not dead by a long shot, I've just been very busy with work and University lately. I've got the next lot of shows from both WWE and TNA ready to write up and will endeavour to do so as soon as I have some spare time.

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I read a similar diary somehwere else and loved it. Can't wait to see where this goes. keep it up.

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The First Wave

It was inevitable that following a change in leadership, TNA would experience a changeover in terms of talent. TNA's roster was bloated by any standards, with many workers appearing to occasionally serve as 'squash fodder' before disappearing for several weeks at a time. Names such as Lex Lovett and Bilvis Wesley had since been dropped by TNA, but the new management made a point of releasing talents who were seen as 'extraneous'. Apolo, Cassidy Riley, Jerelle Clarke, Lance Hoyt, and Shannon Moore were all released in one fell swoop. Most were unsurprising - Apolo had never set the world afire whilst Clarke andRiley had been essentially jobbers for the company. Hoyt, who had debuted in a tag team with WWE star Kid Kash, had attained some level of popularity with fans and his release was something of a surprise. Johnny Ace, himself obsessed with big men, was said to have been against the move - but later developments would show that he would continue to indulge his 'hoss' fascination in TNA. Shannon Moore's release was, to many, a surprise - given his credibility following a run in the WWE as Matt Hardy's protege and then as a cruiserweight competitor. Apart from a failed feud with AJ Styles, Moore's run in TNA had been anything but successful.

Of course, the firings weren't the only major changes to take place on the TNA roster, with the new booking crew going on a Fox funded signing spree in an effort to bring more mainstream credibility to the promotion. Although Christian Cage and Sting were seen as credible draws, names such as Raven, Rhino, and Jarrett had either lost their lustre or had lost mainstream credibility following lacklustre WWE runs. Every major player from the Monday Night Wars was mentioned - from Randy Savage right down to Dennis Rodman, although (thankfully for TNA fans) the latter was never formally approached. But Fox demanded that no stone was left unturned in the pursuit of ratings - even if it meant signing potentially 'dangerous' talent. It's no surprise that names such as Scott Hall and Ultimate Warrior were soon being whispered amongst TNA enthusiasts. Was their truth to these rumours? Time would tell.

Raw and Smackdown Results

RAW

Mickie James defeated Ashley Massaro © to become Woman's Champion

Shelton Benjamin © defeated Rene Dupree to retain the IC Title

Ric Flair defeated Rosey

Shawn Michaels defeated Carlito

Steven Richards defeated Trevor Murdoch

Triple H © defeated The Big Show to retain the WWE Title

Steven Richards, as part of the build up to ECW One Night Stand, was given a win over Murdoch in an 'ECW Pride' match, whilst Rene Dupree's loss came as a result of John Cena interfering.

SMACKDOWN

Shane McMahon defeated Captain Birchall

The Undertaker & Mark Henry defeated JBL & Booker T

Ken Kennedy defeated Animal & Brian Kendrick

Chris Benoit © defeated Funaki to retain the US Title

Josh Matthews defeated William Regal

Batista defeated Randy Orton in a non title match

The two major results here concern Shane McMahon and former backstage announcer, Matthews. McMahon's own in ring return came as he was announced as the commissioner of Smackdown and immediately showed his heelish ways by mocking the increasingly popular 'Captain' Paul Birchall. Matthews' own in ring debut was something of a lucky stroke by the WWE. The storyline itself was of Matthews being mocked backstage by Regal (Matthews often got mocked by WWE workers at the time, both heel and face) and so laid down a challenge. Of course, Matthews had competed in both Tough Enough and the XFL - so could work a passable match, particularly when his opponent was an accomplished technical wrestler. Amazingly, Matthews began to get over almost immediately.

The Return of Hardcore

The week's episode of Impact, their first taped exclusively for Fox - was designed to highlight some of the promotion's stars - with a huge main event promoted to pit Christian Cage & Sting against Raven and a 'mystery opponent'. Obviously TNA fans were skeptical following the revelation of Lance 'Gareth' Cade as the last mystery debut, but TNA's new booking team assured fans the debut would be something worthy of excitement.

The episode began with Raven in the ring delivering his standard gothic promo reiterating his challenge (which had been made via TNA's website) to Christian Cage and Sting. He promised that his partner would be 'extreme'. At the time the WWE were building towards their ECW branded show 'ECW One Night Stand', and many saw this move as a subtle attempt by TNA to remind the WWE that they had many of ECW's biggest names (including Sabu, Raven, Shane Douglas, The Dudley Boys, Terry Funk, and Rhino) on their pay-roll.

The first match of the evening saw The James Gang clashing with America's Most Wanted, continuing the slow build towards a James Gang/Team 3-D confrontation. The match itself was typical of AMW matches - with Gail Kim getting involved on behalf of Planet Jarrett. Whilst she distracted BG James, James Storm struck him with a chair. The referee managed to catch it despite the interruption, giving The James Gang a win by disqualification.

The next match of the evening was twofold in its purpose. Firstly, it allayed fears that Terry Funk would be Raven's surprise partner as the veteran hardcore worker came out to the ring to mock TNA's style and ts young stars who were 'afraid of getting dirty'. This brought out Lance Hoyt who, in his farewell TNA match, would be taken to school by Funk. Whilst Hoyt had never been popular with TNA fans on the whole, he did have a very vocal supporters' group who were most displeased with the way he was sent off. It was Johnny Ace, Hoyt's biggest supporter, who suggested the move. Unable to keep Hoyt on the roster, Ace made the business move to crush his credibility to ensure that the WWE wouldn't be able to pick him up and make immediate use of him.

Whilst it may seem ludicrous due to TNA's low ratings at the time, one must remember that the promotion had just been picked up by one of the largest network's in the world - and even the most casual of wrestling

fans now had access to ninety minutes of primetime TNA on a Thursday night. If WWE picked up Hoyt, chances are fans would remember him as the guy who an old man had beaten senseless.

The matches kept on coming as TNA brought out a trademark six man X-Division match that saw Samoa Joe, Shannon Moore, and Nigel McGuinness up against the team of Juventud, Sonjay Dutt, and Chris Sabin. The match itself was a memorable affair full of spots and near falls, and many were surprised to see Moore getting a solid send-off rather than a simple one on one squash. The brewing feud between Samoa Joe and Juventud, slated as a possible X-Division title affair at the upcoming pay-per-view, gained momentum after Joe pinned Juventud following the Muscle Buster. To further the point, Samoa Joe bloodied Juventud with series of blows before locking him in the Cochina Clutch until he went blue in the face. Many had been put offside by the ending of Joe's streak, and TNA management were doing the best they could to placate both the fans and the man himself.

The popular Gareth Cade storyline also gained momentum on the night, as Cade confronted the most likely suspect in the assault on Gayda, cornering Jeff Jarrett in his dressing room and demanding answers as to Jarrett's whereabouts. Ever the cocky heel (and getting genuine heel heat after several months away from the title) Jarrett mocked Gayda and Cade, but assured he hadn't been involved.

The next match further muddied the waters as Jeff Jarrett took on AJ Styles in a great showcase of two of the company's more recognisable faces. Styles came out looking strong but soon Jarrett and his heelish ways saw him gaining control. Even with momentum on his side, Jarrett couldn't get Styles to stay down for three and inevitably went for his trademark guitar shot. As he swung however, Gareth Cade was on hand to disarm him. Jarrett was momentarily distracted and this allowed AJ Styles to hit the Styles Clash for an upset victory. Cade backed up the ramp as Jarrett vented his frustration by slamming his guitar across Styles' head.

Jarett then took a microphone and set up the next major TNA debut, putting a bounty on Cade's head. The bounty? $100,000 to the man who puts Cade out of action - by any means necessary. Some names were immediately on the lips of wrestling fans as to possible people to cash in on the bounty - whilst others simply saw the move as a way to isolate Cade from the entire TNA roster and further his 'hero' status.

The main event rolled around and fans (and ratings) went up as Sting made his way out to the ring. Although he'd only signed on for a swansong year, the TNA booking team were hard at work trying to secure Sting's signature for another few years. Christian Cage's own entrance was further indication of his status as a genuine draw. The WWE (and, ironically, Johnny Ace) hadn't seen it - but each week Christian Cage was looking more and more like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock had for WWE when they had desperately needed stars. Of course, in a cyclical industry, it was inevitable that a cast-off would become a major player in the next major wrestling war.Raven skulked out next and the commentary team debated over who his partner would be. Rhino? Sabu? Terry Funk? Shane Douglas?

(Coincidentally, Shane Douglas had requested that he be used in the angle but TNA management thought that fans might not be able to buy TNA's backstage interviewer suddenly being a force in the ring again).

The expectation built, the crowd chanted, and Tommy Dreamer made his TNA debut.

Dreamer, as iconic of ECW as Raven or Rhino, came out to a huge pop waving a Singapore cane and ready to fight. Of course, Raven and Dreamer's relationship in ECW had been one almost entirely based on antipathy - but here they were united. The fans chanted 'ECW' as the two veterans of the legendary company made their way down to the ring. Dreamer and Raven were, despite TNA's best intentions, getting babyface reactions out of a mixture of nostalgia and respect. They had two choices - try and contradict the fans (a move that almost single handedly destroyed John Cena's credibility in late 2005) or go with it.

Thankfully, they went with it.

Tommy Dreamer and Raven proceeded to bust out every old school ECW move in their repetoire, as the match became a no DQ affair featuring weapons of all kinds. Of course, this favoured the hardcore pairing - but the class of Sting and Cage showed throughout, as the company's two most over babyfaces played underdogs brilliantly. In particular, Cage took a beating - 'paying his dues' by getting good and bloody at the

hands of Raven. Sting's hot tag came and got the fans really pumped - as for the second week running a Sting appearance marked the highest point in the night's ratings. The conclusion came with Cage about to nail Dreamer with the Unprettier, only to have Raven blast him across the face with his own championship belt. The Raven Effect followed and Raven - the legal man - covered. Sting was cut off with a stinging Singapore cane shot, and the night ended with the fans alternating between ECW and TNA chants.

It's important to note that, through this, TNA did not make mention of ECW themselves. But, with ECW One Night Stand on the horizon (and already being built towards on WWE television) - TNA simply reminded fans that they had the heart and soul of ECW. Sure, the WWE had Rob Van Dam and Paul Heyman on their books, but the lion's share of ECW's big names were right there on Fox. It was a masterstroke. Casual fans didn't know that TNA wasn't affiliated with WWE and just assumed that it was all one big cross promotional event. Whilst this did mean added interest in WWE programming, it benefitted TNA far more. Every episode of Raw and Smackdown was, in its own way, reminding fans of ECW and how great it was - and they'd tune in every Thursday to see the guys they used to love watching doing battle on a rival promotion.

"It was spitting in the face of Vince McMahon," Paul Heyman revealed in an interview on the topic years after the fact, "Because Vince was pouring money into 'resurrecting' ECW and TNA were giving it away for free. They were saying 'Why buy One Night Stand? We've got the best of ECW right here, and we won't make you see JBL or John Cena'. I loved it".

Over the coming weeks, TNA would continue to ride the nostalgia attached to the ECW, cashing in on the WWE's publicity whilst continuing to provide fans with the kind of matches and stars that had made the extreme promotion great.

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Tommt Fuckin' Dreamer! I love it, really nice history book feel to it, especally with the heyman comment towards the end. The reults are detailed whilst bieng easy to read.

Can't wait to see where this goes.

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