TNA Best of the Bloodiest Brawls
When TNA first began producing Wednesday night pay-per-views, I looked on with interest and even ordered a handful of the shows. I've downloaded several of the X Division matches that were highly touted. And while I don't watch TNA impact as frequently as I do Raw or SmackDown, I still do manage to keep up with the storylines.
When this DVD was produced, TNA was clearly capitalizing on ECW's sudden resurgence in popularity and rebranding.
We begin with a black and white video montage of various brawls, with bloodstains on the wrestlers accented in a bright red. Nice artistic touch. We're then sent to announcers Mike "Clearly my best work was ten years ago" Tenay and Don "I'm screaming, so it must be important" West.
True, they're not my favorite announce team (my least-favorite, actually). Tenay knows what he's talking about, but he's clearly better on color than he is play-by-play. And don't get me started on West. You'd think after three years of doing this, he'd at least know when to get excited, and when to let the action speak for itself. Someone getting bumped into a ringside barrier, for example, does not require shouting "MY GOD, MIKE! CAN YOU BELIEVE THE PUNISHMENT TO RAVEN'S BACK? ONLY IN TNA!!!". It's just too much, and it makes TNA seem minor league at times.
At least TNA used them to give a proper introduction; props for that. I can't tell you how many non-WWE DVD's just jump right into the first match, and it's a real turn-off. West warns us to get the children away from the television sets before this thing starts. Well, I was going to let my five-year old watch the barbed-wire match, but forget it now…
Abyss vs. Monty Brown vs. Raven: This is from Victory Road 2004, and is billed as a "Monster's Ball" match. Tenay and West don't really explain the rules here (they may have before the match started), but at least I receive a better explanation later on in the DVD.
Honestly, there's not much to say about this one. It's underwhelming. Not to mention, it's hard to tell who is the face and heel here among Brown and Raven; there's not just not a whole lot of storytelling going on.
There are a few decent spots, mostly by "The Alpha Male", but nothing to write home about. You see some sequences involving tables and thumbtacks (and giving credit where credit's due, Abyss sells the tacks like a champ). The finish comes when Brown pounces Raven through a table.
Winner: Monty BrownRating: 1.5/5. Really, I can't believe this made it to PPV. If they were going for an ECW vibe here, it didn't work. Not a good opening choice (though I realize they're just showing these matches in chronological order).
America's Most Wanted (Chris Harris and James Storm) vs. Triple X (Elix Skipper and Christopher Daniels): YES! I'd wanted to see this one for a while. This was at Turning Point 2004, the storyline being that, following a two-year feud between the teams, the losing duo was forced to split up.
This may be (from what I remember) the first "six sides of steel" match ever, as the six-sided ring was still in its infancy. It's kind of strange that TNA didn't go back further in its history to show some matches in the "regular" four-sided ring, but perhaps they're just starting from the newer history. What's notable about this match is how well both teams work together. There's also a lot of gradual storytelling going on here, as opposed to a bunch of meaningless spots, one after the other.
At one point, Skipper locates a pair of handcuffs (that had been concealed under a towel) so that he can tie up Harris while both Triple X members double-team Storm. It's a pretty unique twist on the traditional cage match, with Harris begging for his partner to bring him the key to the cuffs, instead of trying to make the "hot tag".
Unlike the previous match, this one gets legitimately gory, with blood spilling from pretty much everyone. SWEET! One production note: TNA has a camera perched high above the cage, which is GREAT for showing high-flying moves in a match like this. However, they have to remember to switch back to the ground-level camera for the other moves, because it's quite distracting when, say, a pin is being delivered.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the legendary move from this match, namely Elix's top-of-the-cage huracanrana. It is fantastic, and I admit to watching it at least three or four times in a row. That said, it's kind of telegraphed, what with the camera focused on Skipper seemingly forever as he prepares to scale the top of the cage and perform the move. Still, you can kind of forgive them, given the holy-shitness of the whole sequence. And the next few moves are equally awesome.
The finish comes when AMW handcuff Daniels to the rope and deliver Triple X's finisher to Skipper. Turnabout is fair play, and all that. Looking back, it sucks that Elix Skipper has accomplished so little since this, while Christopher Daniels has done so well.Winners: America's Most WantedRating: 4.5/5. Damn, that was great. That's the type of thing that would get me regularly watching TNA pay-per-views.
Jeff Hardy vs. Abyss:… and then we get this. It's from Destination X 2005, and the DVD bills this as "Full Metal Mayhem", which somehow means "Falls Count Anywhere". However, the commentators keep referring to last month's Hardy-Abyss match as "Full Metal Mayhem", so who knows?
I used to really dig Hardy's high-flying -- and to his credit, the guy still takes all kinds of risks and bumps like a madman -- but he reminds me of a dying fish, the way his body nervously flips and convulses about. The Orlando TNA fans actually give Hardy a round of Cena-like boos throughout the match; perhaps they're on to something.
It's clear that Abyss is at least trying to make this thing decent, but it's more awkward than anything else. A lot of dead air here, and the key to these gimmick matches is to keep hitting move after move. Hardy pins Abyss after a twist of fate on the ladder, yet the camera clearly shows Hardy's arms taking the brunt of the blow. Oops.
Post-match, Abyss opens his bag of thumbtacks, which would have been far more effective had I not seen it just two matches ago. He slams a bare-backed Jeff Hardy (heh) into a pile of tacks, and the idiot fans chant "T-N-A! T-N-A!"
Winner: Jeff Hardy Rating: 2/5. This reminded me of an extended version of the old WWF Hardcore matches. I kept waiting for Crash Holly to come out and steal the belt. Would have been fine had they kept it to seven or eight minutes, tops.
A.J. Styles vs. Abyss: Hey look, another Abyss match! This is a cage match from Lockdown 2005, the all-cage PPV. I find it hard to believe this match will be anything but a (ahem) style clash, but let's see… The winner of this match gets a title shot the next month.A FANTASTIC opening sequence, with Styles dive-bombing Abyss at ringside, sliding UNDERNEATH the guardrail and leaping over a large contingent of fans. Twice! I've always thought Styles had potential, but he's improved his game tremendously from TNA's early days.
Most of the match takes place outside of the ring, before they even get into the cage. Abyss tosses Styles around the arena like a proverbial rag doll and "The Phenomenal One" sells everything tremendously. See, this is turning into what Abyss-Hardy SHOULD have been. Abyss gets to look like a true "Monster" (instead of a poor man's Kane), nailing Styles with some unique and brutal spots.Styles is bloodied early, and then Abyss goes under the ring to find… THUMBTACKS! Wow, haven't seen that one before. To his credit, though, Abyss uses some other weapons, such as his chain and the cage walls, to bloody and beat Styles further. The tacks eventually become a factor, being spread out around the ring, but Styles is able to deliver a variation of the Styles Clash, with Abyss landing stomach first into dozens of pushpins. An incredible spot next, with Styles atop the cage. Abyss chokeslams the referee into a cage wall, knocking Styles backwards. Abyss tries to hang Styles over the cage with a chain around his neck. Styles reverses a chokeslam attempt with a sunset flip/powerbomb off the top of the cage that gets the win.Winner: A.J. Styles.
Rating: 5/5. Honestly, one of the best matches of last year (even though I saw it myself in 2006). What I really dug here how it helped both guys get over. Out of the three Abyss matches I've seen so far, this one makes him look the strongest by far. Styles reminds me of a cross between a young Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, which is definitely a compliment.
Raven vs. Sean Waltman: This is a "House of Fun" match from Hard Justice 2005, which means assorted weapons are hung from chains across one side of the ring, and one quarter of a steel cage is installed on the opposite side. Waltman, substituting for the "missing" Jeff Hardy, if memory serves, looks more like Syxx-Pac than X-Pac here (read: less muscular and more scummy).
As opposed to the previous Raven match, he is definitely on his "A" game here, slugging away at the Waltman with trash cans and other weapons. To his credit, Waltman looks great here, too, especially after a lengthy layoff from TNA. Neither guy is half-assing this.
Unlike the aforementioned Hardy-Abyss match, these guys manage to tell a story in between all the weapons spots. And there a ton of really cool spots to boot featuring ladders, a staple gun, a Singapore cane, the ramp and the chain-link posts that are holding the toys.
The finish comes when Raven backdrops Waltman onto the cage wall, which collapses and sends Waltman outside the ring. Raven just rolls down the cage wall and gets the pin.Fun fact: I remember seeing these two square off at a house show here in Toronto more than a dozen years ago, though it was Johnny Polo vs. 123 Kid at the time. Polo won. Now you know.Winner: Raven
Rating: 4/5. A great brawl, with lots of innovative spots. If Waltman is able to get his personal shit together, I think he'd make a great permanent addition to either TNA or WWE right now.
Raven vs. Abyss: How about some variety here, TNA? Nothing against either guy, but I've seen both of them thirty times now inside of an hour. This is a dog-collar and chain match from No Surrender 2005. Wait, this was the MAIN EVENT of their PPV? Holy crap, that's not good.
Actually, I'm surprised again, as Raven and Abyss work quite well together. A lot of chairs get tossed in the ring early on, playing almost as much of a role as the chain itself. At one point, Raven staples a dollar bill to Abyss' head, causing instant bloodflow. Sick!
Raven is soon busted open as well after he connects with the corner post.At one point, Abyss tries to chokeslam Raven off the ramp (where several tables are waiting), but Raven reverses it and sends Abyss down instead. But then Abyss plays possum, and uses the chain to pull Raven through. Cool -- didn't see that sequence coming.
Later on, Abyss finds his bag of tacks underneath the ring. Yes, again. Raven is saved by follower Cassidy Reilly, who takes a monster chokeslam off the apron for his troubles.
Lots of quick action here towards the end, with both guys getting their finishers with no pinfall. Raven finally reverses a chokeslam into the thumbtacks to a DDT (into the thumbtacks) for the three-count. You'd think Abyss would have learned his lesson by now.Winner: Raven
Rating: 3/5. Definitely better than I'd expected it to be.
Raven and Sabu vs. Jeff Jarrett and Rhino: Speaking of shitty main events, this seems more like something from Impact than it is from a PPV (this one's from Sacrifice 2005). The announcers keep hyping that if Jarrett gets the pinfall, he gets a rematch for the title against Raven.
There's not much positive I can say about this. Sabu, not a great tag team guy to begin with, is off his game here, botching or missing a handful of spots. And the moves he connects with look pretty weak. Only Rhino is really motivated here tonight, staying energetic throughout.
The most exciting part of the match was actually when Abyss (sigh) and Jeff Hardy get involved. What does THAT say about the so-called main event? Eventually, Rhino gets tired of saving Jarrett's hide and gores Raven through the table for the three count. The announcers question who will get the title shot now, and Double J looks on in disgust.Winners: Jeff Jarrett and Rhino
Rating: 1/5. Although both Jarrett and Raven bled buckets, this match just didn't say "hardcore" to me. Probably the worst one on this DVD so far, in fact.
Jeff Hardy vs. Abyss vs. Rhino vs. Sabu: Are there, like, only six people in TNA?
Anyways, here's another "Monster's Ball" match, this one from Bound for Glory 2005. The rules are: all four wrestlers have been locked in a box for 24 hours without access to food, light, or water. Hey, wasn't that the premise for "Gremlins" as well? If, say, Sabu starting sporting green scales and horns, I'm outta here.
Pre-match, James Mitchell cuts an awesome promo on behalf of Abyss. I like him far more as a manager than I do Fat Team Canada Guy.
Fortunately, all four guys here are up for this match. Even Hardy is trying much harder than normal. This match goes all over the arena, with a bunch of crazy bumps and the ever-present "T-N-A! T-N-A!" chant early on.In a neat little sequence back in the ring, Sabu bent down and launched Hardy into Abyss, delivering a spinning heel kick (think the Hardy Boyz's signature spot). Then Hardy bends down to lets Sabu do the same thing, but Sabu kicks him in the gut instead.
For the second match in a row, Rhino probably works the hardest here. You know, I tend to discount whenever such-and-such a wrestler says they were "held down" by WWE from giving their all in the ring. But I'm starting to believe that they never really recognized Rhino's full potential.
A lot of weapons here, including the usual tables, ladders, chairs, Singapore canes and trash cans. Before Abyss can get the thumbtacks this time, Rhino gores him through a table. Good for you, "Manbeast!"
In an insane, Mick Foley-esque spot, Jeff Hardy climbs to the top of the TNA logo and sentons Abyss onto a table -- probably a good 20-foot drop from what I figure. The Orlando fans begin an annoying "This is awesome (clap clap clap clap clap)" chant. Methinks Abyss should start putting his thumbtacks on ringside seats, instead of using them as a weapon in the ring.
The finish comes when Rhino piledrives Jeff Hardy from the second rope. I vaguely remember him doing something similar to The Sandman in ECW. Very impressive.Winner: Rhino
Rating: 4/5. A wild match that actually reminded me of TLC in many ways. There were at least a dozen "Holy Shit" moves here, without seeming overly spotty.
Jeff Jarrett and America's Most Wanted vs. Rhino and Team 3-D: This is from Genesis 2005 (which I believe was Christian's debut show). I had started watching TNA Impact regularly by this point, so at least the backstory was familiar to me here.We start with a six-way fight in the crowd that the camera has a tough time keeping up with. Unlike the previous match on this DVD, this is a more of an old-school pier-six brawl.
That's not to say there aren't some more modern spots - Jeff Jarrett knocks Rhino off the bleacher stairs at one point and sends him tumbling down. I will say this about The Dudleyz… er, Team 3-D. They are FAR better off as heels than faces. Not to say they weren't over with the Orlando faithful; they just have a lot more potential as dangerous heels, I believe.
A cheese-grater eventually makes its way into the bout (finally, a new foreign object!) courtesy of Brother Ray, who cuts open Storm's forehead. Later on, Storm turns the tables and crotches Brother Ray with said grater. Yee-owch!
Unfortunately, the match goes unnecessarily long because out-of-the-ring brawling, and by the time Harris gets caught in a 3-D, it's almost too little, too late. A match like this has to have some sort of stipulation on it to work, other than just "petty revenge".Winners: Rhino and Team 3-D.
Rating: 2.5/5. Not awful, but again, it went on far too long.
Sabu vs. Abyss: Wow, good to see both of these folks making a rare appearance on the DVD. This a "Barbed Wire Massacre" match from Turning Point 2005, which means barbed wire instead of ring ropes, plus boards covered in barbed wire, chairs in barbed wire, and Don West's shirt covered in barbed wire (I wish).
Typically, if you've seen one barbed wire match, you've usually seen them all. A lot of sequences where the wrestlers (a) try to avoid the barbed wire and (b) shoot each other into the barbed wire. To their credit, they do try a few interesting moves on the wires, such as slingshots, chokeslams and flapjacks. A ton of blood and gore here.
Sabu's parachute-style pants get caught in the barbed wire at one point, ripping through his ring wear. The "Homicidal, Genocidal, Suicidal One" eventually traps Abyss between two barbed wire boards, and then hits his finisher for the three-count.
So once again I'm proven wrong, this wasn't your typical barbed-wire match. To make things a bit more interesting in the future, though, they may want toborrow a page from FMW, and turn this into an "electrified barbed wire" match. Or perhaps something that just provides electric shocks to the crowd; either way, I'm good. Winner: Sabu.
Rating: 3/5. A nice twist on an always barbaric match, and Sabu was looking much better here than he was in the previous tag team encounter.
Bonuses: We're first shown "alternate" footage of the Sabu-Abyss match, which is good because I hadn't seen Abyss on my screen in a good forty seconds or so. This was basically the barbed-wire being set up pre-match, several minutes of the match itself (shown from a different camera) and then backstage footage of the doctor cleaning up Abyss's arm. THAT'S probably the sickest thing you'll see this entire DVD. I'm cringing right now watching them surgically dig up his arm and remove the barbs.
Then they show about a minute of a 2003 hair vs. hair match featuring Raven and Shane Douglas. Although the announcers don't really explain much here, Vampiro and James Mitchell apparently cost Raven the match.
Mitchell begins shaving Raven's head (and you can see blood pouring out from his scalp as a result). Not sure why they wouldn't have shown us the entire match instead. Maybe because Abyss wasn't in it?
This probably wasn't a piece showcasing the "best" of TNA, nor was it meant to be. That said, I really enjoyed quite a few of these, and the surprises didn't usually come from the ex-WWE or ECW guys, but rather the homegrown TNA stars. That's encouraging.
Do you absolutely NEED this DVD to get a feel for the TNA product? Probably not. But I wouldn't necessarily pass on this one, either.