Chapter 6: The Spike TV Era Pt. 1 (Kurt Angle, Sting & The Rise of the Knockouts)
January 6, 2015
By: Josh Boutwell of Wrestleview.com
As TNA negotiated a new TV deal following the end of the Fox Sports Net relationship many things were changing in TNA. Former ECW World Champion Raven was the NWA World Champion in TNA and him winning the championship finally after years of chasing it also saw the returns of former ECW rivals and allies in Sabu and Rhino, both former ECW World Champions as well. The three along with TNA original Abyss took part in a series of violent matches in the new few months. Eventually TNA got their TV deal when they worked out an agreement with Spike TV, formerly TNN and formerly home of WWE’s RAW and ECW in previous years, to bring Impact over to the network. TNA’s original timeslot on Spike was a pretty lousy one, Saturday nights at 11 PM (eastern).
Though the timeslot was not favorable, it was a start and TNA began bringing in more “names” in wrestling to add to the young talent like Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Daniels, AMW, and Abyss that were making a name for themselves in TNA. First it was Rhino and the return of Kevin Nash and then Christian Cage and Team 3D (formerly the Dudley Boyz) fresh off their WWE runs came to TNA. Christian in particular rejuvenated his career and put together a string of some of the best singles matches of his career during his TNA run. A big part of TNA’s Spike deal was the return of the legendary Sting. Sting being on Impact led to them getting a better timeline and less than a year later SpikeTV moved Impact to Thursday nights and then later in 2006 moved Impact to a primetime time slot. Before the primetime move TNA made a huge signing.
Fresh of his departure from WWE, former WWE World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle, made his TNA debut in a huge moment for the company. Instead of going after the more perceived “bigger stars” in TNA like Nash or Jarrett or Sting or Christian, Angle’s first feud was with Samoa Joe who was in the middle of a massive winning streak and had been built up by TNA as an unstoppable monster. The first altercation between Angle and Joe happened on Impact in Angle’s debut. In a moment that TNA fans will never forget Angle headbutted Joe in the middle of the ring with the Impact Zone crowd going absolute nuts leading to a fight between Joe and Angle. This led to a series of some of the greatest matches in TNA history including their Iron-Man Match. Angle gave Joe his first loss in their first matchup which a lot of fans had a problem with, but regardless having Angle doing battle with one of TNA youngest up and coming stars was a huge departure from the “status quo” that TNA had done in previous years where big stars would come in and just face other “names” rather than feuding with young wrestlers. That feud would be revisited just a few years later inside a Cage in one of my favorite TNA matches of all time where Joe finally won the World Title.
In 2007 Spike expanded TNA’s timeslot to two hours and 2008 was one of my favorite years in TNA history. AJ Styles and Kurt Angle put together a string of amazing matches against each other, Samoa Joe finally won the World Title, the X-Division gained steam once again with the 2008 World X-Cup, and most importantly TNA was delivering some incredible matches. During this time one of the most prominent stables in TNA’s history, The Main Event Mafia, was formed. In Las Vegas, one of my first weeks as a recapper for WrestleView in fact, the Main Event Mafia was formed by Sting, Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash, Booker T., and Scott Steiner. The first group ever formed completely of current or former World Champions. The MEM eventually went on a tear making “hits” on young stars and veterans alike which led to a group of these men to form a faction of their own called the “The Frontline” (not the Dog flea collar).
At the same time Sheik Abdul-Bashir formed a group consisting of international talent like Japanese stars Kiyoshi and No Limit (Tetsuya Naito & Yujiro) and the British Invasion (Doug Williams & Magnus) called the World Elite. Then, once comedy character Eric Young turned on the “Front Line” joining World Elite as the new leader and he started to become much more serious donning a suit and calm, serial killer like mannerisms. The World Elite then formed an alliance with the Main Event Mafia before feuding with them. While both the MEM & World Elite had some great moments and it had great potential, a lot of it ending up being overbooked and unfortunately Hulk Hogan and company came in and completely forgot about the angle and dissolved it as well as the MEM eventually.
The end of the pre-Hogan era isn’t really remembered fondly by TNA fans because of it being a bit of a transition time but the wrestlers were putting on some incredible matches, most notably the trio of AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Christopher Daniels. AJ had won the TNA World Title once again at the end of 2009 and began feuding with Joe and Daniels eventually having a sequel of their great 3-Way as well as singles matches with Joe and Daniels. Those feuds were tossed to the side as Hogan and Bischoff came in as well.
TNA’s Knockouts had become a mainstay at this point as well with stars like The Beautiful People, Gail Kim, Jackie Moore, Awesome Kong, Alissa Flash, Hamada, Tara, Madison Rayne, and others were putting on incredible matches from the beginning. Without question the greatest rivalry in Knockout history was the feud between Gail Kim and Awesome Kong. Those two put on some of the most incredible women’s matches of the last decade and they even had the first Knockouts match to Main Event an episode of Impact, their classic Street Fight. While Kong and Gail had the best in-ring action going on it was the Beautiful People that had the most entertaining segments playing the “mean girls” role bullying the rest of the Knockouts. The division quickly became yet another thing that separated TNA from the pack though the division has definitely had its ups and downs over the years.
Also at the end of this time we saw the debut of former ROH World Champion, Nigel McGuinness now known as Desmond Wolfe, in TNA and much like Samoa Joe years before immediately began feuding with Kurt Angle. The two put on a series of incredible matches including a 2/3 Falls Match and Wolfe seemed to be destined to becoming a huge star for TNA in 2010, but Hulk Hogan and company didn’t see that in the British star unfortunately and he would eventually leave wrestling completely just a couple of years later.
At the end of 2009 Dixie Carter announced that she had signed the legendary Hulk Hogan as well as well as Eric Bischoff to the company. It wasn’t known exactly what their roles were but regardless it brought a ton of buzz, both positive and negative, to TNA and was the start of the “Hogan Era” in TNA.
Part two will be posted tomorrow before the debut of TNA on Destination America.