Josh Boutwell looks at the early days of TNA Wrestling

Chapter 3: The Asylum Era Pt. 2 (Tag Teams)
December 17, 2014
By: Josh Boutwell of Wrestleview.com

With TNA Impact Wrestling no longer airing new content on Spike TV for the rest of December, Josh Boutwell will be providing feature pieces looking at the history of TNA.

Much like the X-Division, TNA’s tag teams were one of the things that made “NWA TNA” stand out from the pack in the early days, and that had a lot to do with America’s Most Wanted and The Disciples of the New Church teams. In the beginning TNA used the NWA World Tag Team Championships as their title like they used the NWA World Heavyweight Championship as their primary title belt. The NWA Tag Team Titles brought prestige with the NWA name, but had been almost forgotten over time until TNA resurrected the title belts.

When TNA got control over the NWA Tag Team Titles the current champions, The Shane Twins, vacated the titles and in July of 2002 TNA held a Tournament to crown new champions. That tournament featured The Johnson Brothers (the previously mentioned Shane Twins wearing latex body suits that were intended to look like big penises, because… you know… Vince Russo…), the new pairing of Chris Harris and James Storm later known as America’s Most Wanted, the tandem of Apollo & Buff Bagwell, and The Rainbow Express team of Bruce and Lenny Lane. The most notable team, obviously, is Storm and Harris.

“Cowboy” James Storm and “Wildcat” Chris Harris had been feuding for quite some time on the American independent scene and were just thrown together a week earlier by TNA due to a team known as The Dupps of ECW fame refusing to face the controversial Rainbow Express in a tag match. Harris and Storm’s chemistry together, likely due to their countless battles against each other, was obvious from the beginning and they won their first outing against The Express. Because of this they were put in the NWA Tag Team Titles Tournament and they won the opening match against The Johnson Brothers to earn a shot at the titles, but moments after their win they were assaulted and beaten badly backstage. As a result of this Jerry Lynn and AJ Styles were made their replacements and ended up beating The Rainbow Express in the finals to win the titles.

Styles and Lynn as a team was a pretty fun dynamic for a few weeks with them being bitter rivals as well as tag team champions. Even with all of the bickering they still managed to retain the titles several times before being stripped of the belts because of their constant fighting. With the belts held up TNA decided to crown new champions in the second ever Gauntlet For The Gold which brought out some wild teams to The Asylum. The Gauntlet Battle Royal featured Harris and Storm, now known as America’s Most Wanted, Disciples of the New Church representatives Slash (formerly Wolfie D of PG-13) & Kobain, Syxx-Pac & Scott Hall, The S.A.T. (Jose & Joel Maximo), The Flying Elvises (Jorge Estrada & Sonny Siaki), Brian Lawler & Disco Inferno, Ace Steele & future WWE Champion CM Punk, The Harris Brothers, and others. The match ended up coming down to AMW and The New Church with AMW coming out on top and being crowned the new NWA Tag Team Champions.

AMW immediately began feuding with The New Church’s new incarnation of Slash and Brian Lee which led to several violent and bloody matches between the two teams. They exchanged title wins among them and then AMW moved on to their next challengers: Triple-X. Triple-X was a trio of young X-Division stars that had joined forces as members of S.E.X. to go after all the titles in TNA. The trios consisted of Elix Skipper, Christopher Daniels, and Low-Ki. Low-Ki & Skipper won the titles from AMW and then brought in the legendary Rock N Roll Express to stand in AMW’s way of a rematch. AMW and Rock N Roll had a series of matches before AMW renewed their rivalry with XXX, now which mainly was Daniels and Skipper due to Low-Ki’s repeated trips to Japan. This rivalry would take place on and off over the next year ending in the first Steel Cage Match in TNA history and one of the most well remembered matches of the Asylum years. Later on the two teams once again feuded during TNA’s initial run with Fox Sports Net.

After the Triple-X feud ended AMW began feuding with AJ Styles & D-Lo Brown, who had formed an awesome team together, and then other teams like Johnny Swinger & Simon Diamond and after a brief singles run from both men began feuding with The Naturals which led to the first ever Six Sides of Steel Cage Match after TNA switched from the four sided to the six sided ring. AMW was by far the most dominant tag team in TNA’s early days, hell the Asylum Years could be called the AMW Years in terms of tag team wrestling. During this era and the following couple of years Harris and Storm solidified AMW as one of the greatest tag teams in TNA history and later Storm would strike gold again with Beer Money.

During a lull between the AMW and XXX feud leading into the Cage Match XXX also began feuding against fellow X-Division stars Jerry Lynn & Amazing Red. This led to some of the most exciting tag team matches in TNA history with Red and Lynn combining for some incredible double team maneuvers. The previously mentioned Naturals team of Chase Stevens and Andy Douglas as well as the 3-Live Kru trio of BG James, Ron Killings, and Konnan were probably the most notable other teams during this era. Up until 3 Live Kru jumped in the tag scene it had been made up of mostly unknown and young teams but 3-Live Kru, BG James especially as a member of the New Age Outlaws, brought a ton of experience to the tag team division as well. James and Killings had previously teamed together in WWE as Road Dogg & K-Kwick and had good chemistry together from the start. The Kru would even use the old Freebird Rule for a time meaning that any two members could defend the titles on a given week something Triple-X had also done in the past.

Legendary teams like the Rock N Roll Express and The Road Warriors brought experience and legacy to the tag team division during the Asylum years as well but it was the young teams like The New Church, Triple-X, The Naturals, Red & Lynn, and of course AMW that truly made the tag team division stand out for NWA TNA. The other, more glaring, thing that made TNA stand out was the high flying, no limits X-Division which we will talk about next week!