Josh Boutwell looks at the early days of TNA and the X Division

Chapter 4: No Limits (The X-Division)
December 25, 2014
By: Josh Boutwell of Wrestleview.com

You really can’t talk about TNA Wrestling, especially the early days of TNA, without mentioning the X-Division. The X-Division is really what set TNA apart from all of the other wrestling in America at the time. There had many incarnations of Light Heavyweight and Cruiserweight Championships in multiple companies, but there was never a belt that was all about “no limits.” The point of the X-Division was to showcase the high flying, fast paced style of wrestling which had become very popular due to WCW’s cruiserweights in the 1990’s which is why I immediately fell in love with the division. The X-Division also gave birth to a new type of match, the Ultimate X. Over the years there have been many X-Division stars that have come in and out of the organization but we are going to look at the most memorable men and moments of the decade plus of this division.

In the early days Low-Ki, AJ Styles, and Jerry Lynn dominated the X-Division and these three men put on a slew of one-on-one matches and 3-way matches that captivated audiences each and every week. We already talked about the incredible Round Robin Match to crown the first X-Division Champion which also involved former WCW Cruiserweight Champion Psicosis but the match most TNA fans probably remember about those early days is the insane, brutal Triple Ladder Match the three had early on in TNA’s run. AJ and Lynn also had a Best of 3 Series which saw the two fight each other in a Falls Count Anywhere Match, No DQ Match, and an Iron Man Match in the same night.

The first man not named AJ Styles, Low-Ki, or Jerry Lynn to win the X-Division Championship was a pioneer of the X-Division style of wrestling in America, Syxx-Pac. Syxx, probably better known to fans as the 1-2-3 Kid or X-Pac, became known in the early 90’s for his daredevil, high flying style of wrestling which wasn’t seen near as often at the time. Lynn was forced to vacate the title and it was put up for grabs in a wild Ladder Match which saw Syxx come in at the end of the match and toss Styles off the ladder before retrieving the belt for himself. This short title reign was primarily done just to give AJ Styles another win over a “name” and he did so after a series of fantastic matches between he and Syxx-Pac, the best matches Syxx had in years at the time, before resuming the feud with Lynn.

Other names in that first year of TNA that became known were Sonny Siaki, former ECW TV Champion Kid Kash, The Amazing Red, Michael Shane, Chris Sabin, and Frankie Kazarian. Red amazed the audience and drew comparisons to the legendary Rey Misterio Jr. with his amazing athleticism and daredevil moves. He had some remarkable matches with Lynn, Styles, and Kash in the early days. Over the years knee injuries stalled his career but a few years ago he shocked everyone by returning to TNA and looking just as good as he ever did even winning the X-Division Championship once again, defeating Samoa Joe in the process.

Sabin, Kazarian, and Shane are most known for those early days for having competed in the very first Ultimate X Match. All three were extremely young wrestlers at the time and relatively unknowns, Shane being most known for being the cousin of the legendary Shawn Michaels. The Ultimate X was a new match concept which was designed to take advantage of the high risk, high flying nature of the X-Division. Rather than simply being able to climb a ladder and reach a title (or a hanging X in some cases), a wrestler would have to scale across cables to reach their prize hanging above the ring. That first Ultimate X Match definitely had its miscues as the title belt fell from the cables on multiple occasions, but the bloody match was still looked at as a success and the match has become a staple even to this day in the X-Division. Indy promotions all over the world have even copied the match in recent years. Probably my personal favorite Ultimate X Match was the first tag team Ultimate X between AJ Styles/Christopher Daniels and L.A.X., and if I had to pick an MVP of Ultimate X Matches it would have to be Daniels or Kazarian. They have been a part of some of the most insane moments not just in Ultimate X history but in TNA history as well.

One of the cooler parts of the X-Division for me was always the incredible international talent that TNA always brought in to be part of the division. As a big lucha libre fan that was always one of my favorite parts of TNA. One storyline that involved Konnan and Jerry Lynn saw Konnan bringing in several luchadors to face Lynn because he saw Lynn as the leader of the X-Division and claimed that the X-Division was a rip off of lucha libre. Over the next few months Lynn faced off against Super Crazy, Juventud Guerrera, Mexico’s Most Wanted (Damian 666 & Halloween), and Konnan himself. The biggest thing that came of that angle was Juventud Guerrera’s performance against Lynn in the matches they faced each other in. Juvi, the former WCW Cruiserweight Champion, showed the world that he was every bit as good as he was in WCW and TNA brought him back for the first ever Super X Cup Tournament to crown the best X-Division style wrestler in the world.

That first Super-X featured the likes of Teddy Hart (the youngest member of the famed Hart Family), Johnny Storm of the UK, Juvi, NOSAWA of Japan, and TNA’s own Jerry Lynn, Chris Sabin, Kazarian, and Michael Shane. This tournament led to one of the greatest shows in TNA history and one of the greatest tournaments in wrestling history in my opinion. Juvi and Hart, Sabin and Kazarian, and Juvi and Sabin put on some of the most incredible matches of the year that night. This also led to further tournaments including three America’s X-Cup Tournaments and the World X-Cup. The America’s X-Cup saw Juvi lead a team of luchadors from AAA with Abismo Negro, Mr. Aguil, and Hector Garza against a team of TNA stars representing the USA. Team Mexico won and then successfully defended their crown against a contingent from Canada and then the UK. These one night tournaments were full of exciting fast paced matches featuring stars that America audiences were mostly not aware of leading to some awesome moments, and then the first World X-Cup featuring teams from the USA, Mexico, Canada, and Japan.

TNA held two more World X-Cup’s in 2006 and 2008 with the 2008 version being the best of the bunch in my opinion. The international talent, much like WCW’s Cruiserweights, also brought a flare to the X-Division and made it seem truly like a “no limits” type of division, and TNA got away from that international flare for a few years. Now TNA has Tigre Uno from Mexico and The Great Sanada from Japan along with possibly TNA’s most recent “British Boot Camp” winner Mark Andrews in the division. This and hopefully more international talent being brought in could definitely help bring the division back up to the level it was once, along with “Option C” of course.

Back in 2012 Austin Aries started “Option C” which allowed the X-Division Champion, whomever it may be at this time, cash in the title for a shot at the World Title at Destination X. That led to Aries and Chris Sabin both winning the World Championship in consecutive years. This helps give the X-Division more importance and mean more than it just being a great title for high flyers. It is the stepping stone that can lead to a World Title, but TNA has to do a better job at making the belt mean something BEFORE June comes around when they start putting more importance on it right before Destination X. Samoa Joe and Low-Ki have really done a good job in recent months at that.

TNA first got noticed by wrestling fans, mostly because of the X-Division, it was one of the things that made TNA stand out from the WWE as a true alternative. Now WWE is stockpiling their developmental league, NXT, with some of the best high flyers in the world (Kalisto/Samuray del Sol/Octagon Jr., Sami Zayn/El Generico, Finn Balor/Prince Devitt, Adrian Neville/PAC, and KENTA) so this is something TNA is going to have be aware of and step their game up for. The X-Division is TNA’s baby and they have to get back to their roots with it being a big focus of the promotion before WWE out X-Division’s the X-Division.