Retro Rewind: Curt Hennig debuts in NWA TNA, Syxx-Pac captures X-Division Title and Russo

Retro Rewind: NWA TNA #16
By Josh Boutwell

On this week’s “Retro Rewind” we are going to take a trip back to Oct. 9, 2002 from The Asylum in Nashville, TN as 16th ever episode of NWA TNA airs live on PPV.

Setting the table for this show, at the time I was in high school and as such I didn’t get to watch every single week of NWA TNA, though I was feverishly hoping for another promotion to succeed and give WWE a run for its money having been a lifelong WCW fan.

TNA grabbed my attention straight from the start because of the high flyers in the X-Division, just as WCW’s Crusierweight Division had grabbed my attention. Recently, Sean Waltman had debuted for TNA, as Syxx-Pac, and I was a huge X-Pac fan.

The reason I selected this as my first episode of NWA TNA to review on the “Retro Rewind” is because I watched this show over and over after taping it that night. Leading into the event, Syxx-Pac and BG James (aka Road Dogg) had been teasing a “former World Champion” that would be debuting that night as their mystery partner in a six-man tag team match and I personally was not disappointed as their partner was “perfect.”

Early on Mike Tenay makes the proclamation that “Hollywood comes to Nashville” tonight as Chris Rock will be in attendance. Rock was filming scenes from his movie “Head of State” during this show. I want to say this was the first big celebrity appearance outside of wrestling in TNA. I know Toby Keith appeared on the debut episode but Rock is certainly a bigger star. Brian Urlacher appeared at one point, too.

Footage of the mystery “Mr. Wrestling III’ attacking Ron Killings is shown, which brings the heel Killings out to the ring. Ron Killings’ heel work in the first months of TNA was excellent but sometimes very R-rated, as well. Killings gets cheap heel heat by dumping on the Tennessee Titans and Memphis Grizzlies before turning his attention to Syxx-Pac and Hennig.

Killings says he knows the masked man that attacked him last week is their mystery partner for tonight and demands they come out now. Don West and Killings also get into a bizarre argument about Killings being a hypocrite. Killings keeps calling him “Baseball Card Man” and threatens to “Sammy Sosa your ass.”

“I’ll take all of y’all white asses out tonight,” Killings says about James and Syxx. That little bit of racial tension brings the aforementioned DX alumni. James insults Killings and says that he will learn a hard lesson. “We don’t live in a perfect world or do we,” James asks and points to the tunnel as Curt Hennig walks out fresh off his release from WWE.

Syxx-Pac, BG James & Curt Hennig vs. Brian Lawler, Jeff Jarrett & Ron Killings

Jeff Jarrett and Brian Lawler attack the babyfaces on the entrance ramp and the match starts with a huge brawl. Pac and James clothesline Jarrett to the floor and then Hennig kills Lawler with a clothesline sending him over the top along with Killings.

Lawler demands that his girlfriend April list down at ringside. I believe at one point she was one of the dancing cage girls in TNA. All six guys get a chance to shine with Syxx and Killings seeming exceptionally motivated here, especially Syxx. During this point Syxx would have some weeks where he looked as good as ever and others where he was clearly under the influence or just simply didn’t want to be there.

James and Jarrett brawl all the way to the back as the other four square off in the ring. Lawler low blows Hennig and hits the Hip Hop Drop off the top only for Syxx to break up his pin attempt. Killings leapfrogs Syxx and then does a back handspring right into an X-Factor from Syxx. Lawler pulls the referee out and decks him.

Syxx and Lawler fight on the outside and the mystery man run out and Powerbombs Killings. Hennig then hits the Hennig Plex and gets the pin as the referee comes to.

This match was a fun opener that got the crowd hot – especially for the Hennig debut – but the finish was Russorific. The most hilarious thing is that the Mr. Wrestling III ends up getting revealed as Russo himself but the guy that interfered was clearly not him.

In the back, Goldylocks finds BG James laid out as Jarrett drops a pipe.

X-Division Champion Jerry Lynn comes out as he is scheduled to face AJ Styles for the title later in the night. Those two had been involved in a bitter, long standing feud in TNA and recently Sonny Siaki joined in on that feud. Lynn says that after he retains his title tonight he wants Siaki the following week.

Siaki comes out and says that if he wants to face him then he should come up the ramp and face him now. Lynn agrees and goes after him! Lynn and Siaki brawl on the stage and Siaki tosses Lynn off the stage and slams him into a guardrail where Lynn’s leg gets wedged in the rail and he falls. Mike Tenay points out that Lynn suffered a torn ACL the year prior when he was in WWE on that very knee.

EMTs come out and attend to Lynn as he yells out, “not again!”

As Goldylocks was getting ready to interview Low-Ki earlier today, Syxx-Pac approaches Ki and apologizes for trashing him the prior week. Ki says he appreciates that but then AJ Styles walks up and trashes both of them. AJ says 15 years ago Syxx-Pac couldn’t do what AJ can do now and that he IS the X-Division.

NWA World Tag Team Titles: America’s Most Wanted (c) vs. The SAT

AMW was easily the most successful tag team of the early years of TNA but The SAT may have been the most underrated tag team in the world at this point. I think this was the first and only time the SAT got a shot at the titles in TNA. I almost forgot what James Storm looked like clean shaven. It’s bizarre to see now.

Great tag action from both sides in this one. They kept the pace going throughout the match. A crazy spot early in the match saw Jose Maximo setting up for a dive when Harris shoved him off the top right onto the other Maximo partner on the outside and then hit a Plancha of his own.

Another spot saw Joel hang Storm up in the ropes by his neck as Jose dove off the top with a Moonsault onto Storm! Storm kills Joel with a Superkick as he dove off the top rope with a springboard Cross Body attempt.

The SAT set up for the Spanish Fly but Storm cuts them off and they kill Jose with an absolutely insane Double Hip Toss flipped into a sort of Powerbomb for the pin.

This was a much different style match than what AMW had been competing in at this point as they had mainly wrestled against bigger teams like The Harris Brothers and The New Church up until now and was sort of a prelude to the classics they would eventually have with XXX. Both teams looked really good but it’s kind of crazy to go back and see AMW in their early days as they were still kind of finding themselves as a team. I don’t believe they had even come up with their Death Sentence finish at this point.

Goldylocks brings out Chris Rock and he wastes everybody’s time by saying and doing pretty much nothing. This was stupid.

TNA X-Division Title #1 Contenders 15-Minute Iron Man Match: Ace Steele vs. Kid Kash vs. Low-Ki vs. Tony Mamaluke

This is about as Russo of a gimmick match as you could get. “Why have an elimination match when you can just have a 4-way Iron Man Match… in 15 minutes, bro?!” it’s beyond hilarious to see Ace Steel come out to Abyss’ music before Abyss was a thing. Interestingly enough he is now a trainer in WWE.

Tons of fast-paced action in this one but a lot of sloppiness, too. Kash gets the first big spot of the match with a Springboard Plancha onto Ki and Steel but Mamaluke hits a Plancha of his own right after. Another wild spot occurs when Ki and Kash hit Springboard Lairats on each other in midair. Mamaluke hits a Guillotine Leg Drop on Kash, while Steel hits a Vader Bomb on Ki at the same time and both men earn pins.

Kash gets a pin on Mamaluke with a Brainbuster onto his knee and Ki taps Steel with a Hanging Octopus to tie it up with each man holding one fall. Kash tosses Mamaluke off the announce table and Mamaluke lands right on his shoulder and it looks like he dislocated it.

Ki injures his ankle on a springboard move and Steel targets it. With 20 seconds left Ki puts Steel in the Bite of the Dragon and then connects with the Tidal Kick. Ki sets up for the Ki Krusher but Mortimer Plumtree trips Ki and Steel rolls him up as the bell rings. The referee still counts the pin and claims he didn’t hear the bell.

Oh my, that finish was utter trash. The match was all over the place and was just an absolute mess.

Don West invites NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler out to the ring and we will take a look at Sadler’s relationship a little further next week. “Miss TNA” Bruce (aka Kwee Wee or Alan Funk) comes out and challenges Hermie to a match. Jeff Jarrett comes out and insults Sadler and complains about Sadler driving the TNA car at an upcoming race. Jarrett asks why TNA didn’t get a “real driver” to drive the car.

Sadler says there isn’t a damn thing about Jarrett he respects and then says some homophobic things about Bruce, which causes Bruce to attack Sadler. Jarrett attacks him from behind, as well. BG James runs out and lays both Jarrett and Bruce out. James says that he and Jarrett aren’t done yet by a long shot. That sucked too but at least Sadler actually did something with the wrestlers opposed to Rock just wasting our times. And speaking of wasting our time…

NWA Tag Team Titles #1 Contenders Match: Chris Michaels & Rick Michaels vs. Ron Harris & Sonny Siaki

This is how “deep” TNA’s tag team division was at this point as two teams that had literally never teamed before fight in a No. 1 contenders match. I don’t even remember this match at all and Tenay points out that the Michaels’ are not brothers and have never teamed before. Rick Michaels trained AJ Styles and I talked about him in the first “Retro Rewind.”

“Cocky” Siaki hits the Samoan Pop but Ron Harris stops the referee for counting because… Vince Ruso is booking I guess. Harris Big Boots Siaki by accident and Rick Michaels rolls him up for the pin. Ron Harris literally just stood there as the pin happened. This match sucked. I mean it was unbelievably boring and just a completely nonsensical finish. I have no clue how the Harris Brothers were able to get jobs for decades in wrestling.

Siaki attacks Harris after the match after Harris blamed him for the loss. Don Harris runs out and takes Siaki down and backs him down.

NWA Representative Bill Behrens says that Jerry Lynn cannot compete tonight and will be stripped of the X-Division Title. Lynn will get a shot at the title in a match of his choosing when he is healthy. Behrens says that Steel will face AJ Styles in a Ladder Match for the title, but Low-Ki comes out to dispute that decision. Ki

Ki bitches about Steel getting the shot and suggests that Plumtree tried to buy him off earlier, but Mortimer Plumtree comes out with Steel and calls Ki a liar. Plumtree stands behind Steel as he talks trash to Ki and talks about a backstage incident that supposedly happened one time between Low-Ki and Tammy Sytch to the confusion of literally everyone.

Ki calls Plumtree a “nerd” and says that he is exactly what Ki hates about wrestling, outsiders trying to worm their way into his business. Bob Armstrong – who was as close to an authority figure in the early days of TNA as there was – and says that Ki and Steel will face each other now and the winner faces AJ.

Low-K vs. Ace Steel
Steel goes right after Ki’s injured ankle. As Steel distracts the referee, Plumtree hits Ki’s ankle with a chair. Ki is counted out but then the referee inexplicably changes it to a DQ with no reasoning.

Bob Armstrong comes out and says that if everyone wants chaos he is going to give them chaos. He says the X-Division has given him nothing but headaches, so he is letting every single X-Division wrestler in the back to come out and jump in the Ladder Match and get a shot at the title.

TNA X-Division Title Ladder Match: AJ Styles vs. Ace Steel vs. Syxx-Pac vs. Joel Maximo vs. Jose Maximo vs. Kid Kash vs. Tony Mamaluke

The SAT, Kid Kash and Tony Mamaluke all run down to join Steel in the match. AJ Styles is the only one that gets a proper introduction. Ki gets taken to the back by EMTs.

The SAT pull out a pair of ladders early and kill Mamaluke by sandwiching him in between the ladders. AJ pulls out the first big high spot with a Shooting Styles Press to everyone on the floor.

Styles takes out everybody with big moves and then grabs a ladder to try and get the title but Mamaluke Spears him. Mamaluke climbs up the ladder but Joel Maxmo hits a Missile Dropkick causing Mamamluke to crash and burn grabbing his injured shoulder.

Styles Suplexes Steel onto a ladder and Kah hits a Slingshot Rana onto Jose Maximo on the floor. AJ sandwiches Joel between two ladders and then he and Kash Powerbomb Jose into the ladders with Joel still sandwiched between them.

Kash hits a crazy Moonsault off the ladder onto Steel and one of the Maximo brothers. Kash and AJ set ladders up and both climb up at the same time. The SAT climb up with them and go for a Spanish Fly. AJ knocks Jose off the ladder and then Kash hits a Diving DDT on Joel! AJ goes back up the ladder but Steel pushes it over.

Kash hits a Plancha off the top onto Jose Maximo, while and Joel punch each other on the top of a ladder. Mamaluke pushes the ladder over and Joel takes a wicked bump. As Mamaluke and Steel are fighting on the top of a ladder Kash hits a Springboard Missile Dropkick knocking both guys off.

Kash climbs up the ladder but the SAT climb up with him and hit a Spanish Fly off the ladder! Styles and Steel fight on the top of the ladder again and AJ hits an insane Sunset Flip Bomb off the ladder! Mamaluke grabs the belt but AJ climbs up and both men crash to the mat.

AJ hits Kash with an Avalanche Brainbuster and then climbs up the ladder, but Syxx-Pac runs out and Suplexes AJ off the ladder! Syxx climbs up and pulls the title down to win it to a huge pop.

That match was absolute insanity and it was just spot after spot with little to no selling or psychology at all. It was still entertaining, though the finish was trash with Syxx coming out at the very end to win. Waltman has gone on the record to say he hated the finish himself. It did lead to some fantastic matches between he and AJ, though. One thing that I didn’t remember, however, is that West hyped up that AJ and Syxx would face each other in a Ladder Match for the title the next week, which never happened.

I get what they were going for with all of the chaos leading to a wild Ladder Match but man, it really seems like they did a lot of really unnecessary booking to get there. The injury angle to Lynn – which kind of stalled the feud between he and AJ – combined with the overbooked and just sloppy Iron Man Match that had no business being an Iron Man Match, the match between Ki and Steel which was also unnecessary.

Overall, this show certainly doesn’t hold up to my nostalgia for it but the tag title match was really good and both the Main Event and opener were entertaining. It was just littered by a lot of the frustrating things about Russo booking in the early days of TNA here.