I don't own many TNA DVD's for the simple reason that their product has - how do I put this? - sucked ass for many years. I'm sorry; I tried to find a nicer way to phrase that, but I have to be honest.
Nonetheless, TNA's humble beginnings make for a really interesting story. Think back to early 2002: WWE had absorbed both WCW and ECW, leaving absolutely no major competition on the horizon.
Dozens of well-known wrestlers were out of work, either sitting out their AOL-Time Warner contracts or not needed by the McMahon family for any variety of reasons. Jeff Jarrett, blacklisted by WWE (allegedly because he held them up for more money upon exiting the company in 1999) saw an opportunity to create a viable alternative.
TNA Wrestling Year 1 (also known as The History Of TNA: Year 1) focuses on, well, the promotion's first year in business, collecting comments from Jarrett, Dixie Carter, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, Raven, Chris Harris, James Storm, BG James, Elix Skipper, Mike Tenay, Don West, Jeremy Borash and others that were there at or near the beginning.
Giving credit where credit is due, the production was kept simple: sit-down interviews spliced in with event footage. The producers begin with the state of the wrestling industry in 2002 (although I prefer my explanation a few paragraphs earlier better) and move through mostly in a chronological fashion.
For the most part, the "TNA Originals" come across as honest and relatable, never suggesting the promotion was an overnight success story. In fact, they go into great detail about how even the company's top stars were concerned the promotion wouldn't last more than a few weeks.
The promotion was hatched on a fishing trip between Jeff Jarrett, his father Jerry Jarrett (who, despite co-founding the company, is barely mentioned on the DVD) and internet personality Bob Ryder. By featuring the promotion exclusively on pay-per-view at first, TNA would have a way around being spurned by television networks (as WCW was at the end of its life).
In addition to technical issues the promotion experienced (a ring collapsing minutes before the first PPV went on the air, lack of a suitable venue), they also delve into some of the biggest problems TNA faced in its first year. Namely, how the company wasn't able to turn a profit and turned to Panda Energy for financial backing.
This leads to a discussion about how, years earlier, Dixie lived in the same Texas apartment building as Double J. And, if I understood the story correctly, the two flirted in the building's parking lot. Lovely. Now we know why Dixie Carter got involved with TNA.
What they fail to mention is why TNA's original sponsor (HealthSouth Corporation) pulled out of the company. For those who don't know, it was because HealthSouth was in the midst of a major accounting scandal and was forced to cut back on spending.
Also omitted - the story of how PPV liasons Jay Hassman and Len Sabal allegedly misrepresented TNA's PPV revenue in the early days, leading to an ugly legal battle. There may have been restrictions on what they could say about these issues, but it may have been another Jerry Jarrett case where they simply didn't want to get into it.
In fact, there are a few minor things throughout the production that probably should have been added. For example, how did they end up with the name TNA? Part of the reason, at least, was because they were going to be more "adult" oriented than the competition, including foul language during promos and featuring dancing girls in cages (which they don't show any footage of). And while they introduce Don West as a color commentator, no one ever explains why he was selected (because he was a well-known pitchman who was going to give the "hard sell" for the next week's program.
But let's focus on what TNA did address. There are very thorough looks at how they assembled their initial roster; the X Division; tag teams; and even the importance of Raven showing up unannounced (as the first ex-WWE guy to show up on the program).
The biggest complaint I have about this DVD (similar to the Jeff Jarrett and Kurt Angle documentaries) is that the producer left waaaaaaaay too much of each interview in. I'll give you an example: the segment about the ring breaking took about 10 minutes, with full-length interviews from at least four or five people. Why? It's an interesting little story, but that could have been chopped down to maybe a minute, tops. This is why editing was invented; to cut out a lot of the extraneous commentary.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the final segment, in which they talk about lessons learned from the first year. Everyone from Jarrett to Styles to Ryder says roughly the same thing: "It was a tough year, we went through a lot of hurdles, but there would be no TNA today if we hadn't had that turbulent first year."
Definitely a valid point, but did we really need 10 different people saying that?
The collection of extras are surprisingly good. You have a four-person elimination-style match between Styles, Low-Ki (aka Senshi, aka Kaval), Jerry Lynn and Psicosis to determine the first X Division Champion which has to be seen to be believed. There's a return ladder match between Styles, Lynn and Low-Ki that is even crazier in some respects. And the World Title match between Jarrett and Raven has a "big match" feel, one of the few times TNA has been able to project that in their nine-year history.
Overall, would I recommend this? Mildly, but yes. Nothing on here is terrible or (dare I say it) overly TNA-ish, there are some interesting stories and a very collection of bonus matches. If you can pick it up on the cheap and you have a hankering to learn about the early days of TNA, I would say go for it.