The Contentious Ten 6.18.12: Greatest Slammiversary Matches
Posted by Gavin Napier on 06.18.2012
From Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles and King of the Mountain 2005 to Beer Money vs. Team 3D, Daniels & Styles vs. America's Most Wanted and more, 411's Gavin Napier counts down the top 10 TNA Slammiversary matches!
Welcome to another fine edition of The Contentious Ten. I sincerely hope that after last week, you decided to come back to see what I could follow it up with, because I'm going to respond to the volcano of criticism that existed in the comments section. Why? Because there are few things in this world I enjoy more than professional wrestling, but being right is one of them. So before we get into the Top 10 Slammiversary Matches of all time, here's why most of the people complaining last week were wrong.
There were a great many people that insisted that WCW began in 1988. This is technically correct, which as we all know is the best kind of correct. It was in 1988 that Ted Turner purchased the ailing Jim Crockett Promotions, which was at the time, the face of the NWA. The National Wrestling Alliance, as correctly pointed out by several people, was a conglomeration of territorial promotions that operated (in theory) as one unified body for wrestling. Due to the national television deal with Turner and TBS, Jim Crockett Promotions became synonymous with the NWA, and rightly so. It wouldn't have done much good to headquarter the NWA in St. Louis, away from cameras and crowds. Ted Turner, however, didn't buy out the NWA. He simply purchased and renamed Jim Crockett Promotions.
Now, several people also pointed out that "the NWA never produced a single tv show, pay per view, or event." This is, well, wrong. Remarkably, my information doesn't come from Apter mags. Instead, it comes from reality, and having a firsthand knowledge of how the NWA works. In order for NWA champions to appear on a show, or for a show to promote itself using the NWA name, there must be approval from the NWA Board of Directors. Without that approval, the NWA name can't be used. Even now, when the NWA has become greatly devalued in comparison to its position within the industry in the 70's and 80's, they still take this very seriously. Unless you're an honest to goodness NWA affiliate, you don't get to use the NWA name. Period.
That brings us back to WCW. From 1988 until 1990, WCW was just that – an NWA affiliate. Turner bought the main affiliate – Jim Crockett Promotions – and renamed it, but didn't break away from the NWA until about two and a half years later. The WCW World Heavyweight Championship did not exist until January 11, 1991, when Ric Flair defeated Sting at a house show in East Rutherford, NJ. It was at that point that NWA ceased to affiliate themselves with World Championship Wrestling, and Ted Turner's promotion truly broke away and became a separate entity.
In this regard, TNA is the spiritual successor to WCW (some would argue in more ways than one, not all of them positive). For the first five years that it existed, TNA was an affiliate of the NWA. It was known as NWA: TNA. That made it similar to the dozens of NWA affiliates around the country. Like WCW, it just happened to be the biggest one. After a few years, TNA and the NWA parted ways, and now TNA is a standalone organization.
As for the "WCW era", I chose to start that at the time that WCW became an entity unrelated to the NWA. Could I have included the other Great American Bashes before that? Sure, I could have. But I didn't. You know why? Because they were shows that were promoted by an NWA affiliate, and so fell under the banner of the National Wrestling Alliance. At some point, there will be a Contentious Ten that features the Top 10 NWA Great American Bash matches, and you can all get pissed off over something else. This week, though, you're going to have to get mad over TNA stuff, because it's all about Slammiversary. Here is my criteria for The Top 10 Slammiversary Matches so that we're all on the same page:
-I don't care if it was NWA:TNA or just TNA, as long as it was at Slammiversary.
-Anniversary shows in 2003 and 2004 weren't considered, because they weren't called Slammiversary.
-If it happened on a Slammiversary pay per view, it's eligible.
-Matches are ranked according to historic significance, quality, crowd reaction, and how much I liked them because this is my list.
-Because it amuses me that a lot of people won't read this and will find something to get mad about, I'm going to say it one more time – if it happened at one of the actual Slammiversary pay per views, for NWA TNA or TNA, that was actually called Slammiversary, then it's eligible. If it didn't, then it's not. That means 8 pay per views. .
That eliminates every pay per view in history that wasn't named Slammiversary. I'm sure some of you are still confused, but I'm just going to move on to the list. One new thing that I'll be adding is that I'll link to as many of the Honorable Mention matches as possible for your viewing pleasure.
Matches that just missed the cut: Senshi vs. Shark Boy vs. Petey Williams vs. Jay Lethal vs. Alex Shelley vs. Sonjay Dutt from Slammiversary 2006(Part 1Part 2),Austin Aries vs. Samoa Joe from Slammiversary 2012 (sorry no video yet), Kurt Angle vs. Jeff Jarrett from Slammiversary 2011, The X Division King of the Mountain match from Slammiversary 2009)
I'm a complete mark for the British/European style of wrestling. -X Division Title Match
-No Chaos Theory
Of all the talents that TNA has misused – and there have been quite a few, to be sure – I feel like Douglas Williams is the most criminal of these offenses. I don't care to admit that I'm a complete mark for the British/European style of wrestling. Guys like Douglas Williams and William Regal are so much fun to watch, because their style both blends and clashes with virtually everyone they wrestle. Everything looks realistic, like it has a purpose, and like it would be inherently effective. With a guy like Kendrick, who is a more typical American cruiserweight, Doug Williams is a perfect fit. His ground based attack and thudding strikes play perfectly against the aerial tactics and high speed offense from a guy like Brian Kendrick. The result is a really fun match from a couple of guys that TNA could have gotten a lot more mileage out of.
Beer Money vs. Team 3D (2009)
The idea that you'd see two of the best teams ever on pay per view now is almost laughable. -Great tag team wrestling
-Don West's British accent
-TNA World Tag Team Championship
What a difference three years makes, no? 36 short months ago, TNA's tag team division hosted Team 3D, Beer Money, The British Invasion, The Motor City Machine Guns, and more. It was a throwback division, to the days when the WWF featured the British Bulldogs, The Hart Foundation, The Killer Bees, The Islanders, The Dream Team, The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, and more; or when the NWA featured The Midnight Express, The Rock N Roll Express, The Road Warriors, Rick Rude and Manny Fernandez, The Russians, and The Minnesota Wrecking Crew. The idea that you'd see two of the best teams ever on pay per view now is almost laughable. TNA's tag team division has fallen into the same state as WWE's, with makeshift teams ruling the day. It makes watching a match like this bittersweet.
The transformation of Bully Ray is one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen in wrestling. -Last Man Standing
-We've got color!
Anyone who watched the glory days of ECW knows that Mark Lamonica, aka Buh Buh Ray Dudley, aka Brother Ray, aka Bully Ray can incite a crowd. He's always been an excellent heel. With his thick New York accent, willingness to say anything, and generally obnoxious personality, he's custom made to draw heat. Anybody that's ever seen an AJ Styles match knows that he's capable of putting on a classic any given night. Bully Ray, though, was always a tag team wrestler, and was still trying to break through as a legitimate singles threat here. The transformation of Bully Ray is one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen in wrestling. He went from one half of one of the greatest tag teams of all time and has become not just the most consistent heel in the sport over the last two years, but is in the best shape of his life at an age where most guys are starting to decline. This match delivered above and beyond all expectations that just about anyone had for it, and solidified Bully Ray as a legitimate upper card singles player.
A classic performance from three top names of TNA's deepest era of the X Division. -X Division Championship
For what it's worth (which is admittedly not much), I preferred the smaller X Division title to the larger version that TNA uses now. It just seems more suited to the style that most of the competitors use. This match is a shining example of how good the X Division can be with a little bit of attention. This is a classic performance from three top names of TNA's deepest era of the X Division. Christopher Daniels is one of the guys that is almost immediately associated with the division, Chris Sabin has been a TNA staple through the years, and for all of the problems that he brings with him, Matt Bentley is as talented of a worker as you'll find. Daniels' X Division title was on the line in this match, and all three men stepped up their games to deliver one of the standout matches of the X Division's history. It's been a long time since the X Division got this type of focus with three guys of this quality, but hopefully we get back to angles and matches like this soon.
Kaz was so close to breaking through here that it's almost painful. -Part of Angle's quest to beat all top 10 contenders
-Great opening match
-Almost a star making performance from Kaz
For some guys, superstardom just isn't meant to be. I'm not saying that Kaz will never break through and become a single star in the world of professional wrestling. The guy has a good look, can work good matches, and always feels like he's just about to break through into something bigger. Somehow, though, it just hasn't worked out for him. Kaz has been an X Division champion, he cut his hair so people would stop confusing him with Triple H, and he's had legitimately great matches. Kaz was so close to breaking through here that it's almost painful to watch. Kurt Angle has volunteered to put a lot of people over and try to make them stars. He wanted to put over Amazing Red, and TNA vetoed the idea. I don't know if he wanted to put Kazarian over in this match, but even in the loss, Kazarian was made to look like a million bucks. That's just what Kurt Angle does, though. If Kazarian never breaks through and becomes a star like Robert Roode has, you won't be able to blame Kurt Angle for it.
For every rule, there is an exception. -TNA World Tag Team Championships
-Biggest "Holy Shit" moment since Elix walked the cage
-Complete lack of overbooking
For every rule, there is an exception. This match proved to be the exception to more than one rule. It's generally accepted that TNA can't resist overbooking things. In a match where the driving angle is a soap opera style mess featuring Dixie Carter, TNA managed to keep Dixie and her husband out of the picture and just let these guys do what they do. It's also generally thought that the plethora of mish-mash tag teams don't provide as high quality tag team wrestling as we got in the 80's and early to mid 90's. Well, these four guys blew that out of the water. It was a perfect example of a match playing to everyone's strengths and not dragging on too long. The temptation is always there to stretch things out a little longer when you've got talent like this match had, workers you can trust to go for 20 or 25 minutes without losing a step. In this instance, the ending was perfect. It came suddenly but not abruptly, and didn't leave any room for letdown after AJ Styles pulled off a springboard shooting star press to the outside.
Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles (2008)
This was so close to being my favorite match in TNA history that it's not funny. -2 of the top 5 workers in the world
-Yet another AJ Styles soap opera angle
-An unfortunate Karen Angle appearance
There was a pretty good stretch where AJ Styles was far and away my favorite wrestler. He's since been bumped down a notch or two by Chris Jericho and Christian, but he still ranks pretty high. During this series of matches with Kurt Angle, though, he was tops. Take my favorite worker and pair him up with Kurt Angle on multiple pay per views, and this was so close to being my favorite match in TNA history that it's not funny. The problem is that TNA did what TNA does, and overbooked things. Rather than let a match go to a logical, relatively clean conclusion at a major pay per view, we had to shoehorn Karen Angle in. For a guy that admittedly struggles with mic work and isn't the greatest actor, TNA sure does seem to enjoy putting AJ in angles that require acting and promos. Unnecessary Karen Angle appearance aside, this was a great match that isn't ruined by the ending. It's just not quite as good as it could have been.
King of the Mountain 2005
Too little, too late. -NWA World Heavyweight Championship
-Signature gimmick match for TNA
-Multiple Jeff Jarrett victims in one match
TNA has this habit of beating a dead horse. Recently, 411's Larry Csonka chastised TNA for "always going back to Sting", and it's a valid criticism. Despite being in his 50's and appearing unmotivated at times, TNA has pushed Sting and placed him in main events at the expense of younger talent. Before Sting, though, it was Jeff Jarrett. Raven chased Jeff Jarrett and the NWA World Heavyweight Championship for a long time in TNA, and while Raven finally won the strap here, it was too little too late. He never beat Jeff Jarrett for the title, and his reign was brief after winning it here. TNA pulled the trigger nearly 2 years too late on a Raven title reign, and while it was a nice gesture it just wasn't the same. As an added bonus, Monty Brown is in this match as well. He's another guy you can file under "People Jeff Jarrett should have put over but didn't." He had all the makings of a legitimate homegrown star for TNA, but they never followed through on a title win for him.
Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles vs. America's Most Wanted (2006)
One of the best tag team matches of the last ten years. -NWA World Tag Team Championship
-TNA's greatest tag team vs. TNA's two best "homegrown" talents
There have been moments in TNA's history, both as an NWA affiliate and on their own, that you feel like they're really putting things together. It invariably falls apart shortly thereafter, but matches like this continue to give me hope for the future. It's been six years, but this match is composed of four "homegrown" TNA talents, and is one of the best tag team matches of the last ten years. Again, this was during a time when there was a heavy focus on the tag team division, and it wasn't considered a step down for guys like AJ and Daniels to challenge for the titles. Storm and Harris had great chemistry together and it would eventually translate into a decent feud for both men, but they were better together than apart. As good as Beer Money was, America's Most Wanted remains TNA's greatest team for my money. Seeing them in their prime like this makes me wonder what the hell happened to Chris Harris. Either he stopped caring after AMW ended, or he was just performing way above his natural level during the AMW run. It's hard to say which one is more accurate.
King of the Mountain 2007
Kurt Angle was a natural choice for the first TNA World Heavyweight Champion. -TNA World Heavyweight Championship
-Signature gimmick match for TNA
-I was there!
This is arguably the greatest collection of talent that TNA has managed to put in the ring at one time for a pay per view. Kurt Angle and AJ Styles have long been in the discussion for the best wrestler in the world, and Samoa Joe and Christian Cage aren't slouches by any stretch. Chris Harris was…well, he was there. I was in attendance for this match, and while the overall Slammiversary 2007 pay per view was a disappointment (accented by Tomko and Abyss falling through cardboard boxes), and while I was originally disappointed by Angle winning the match, this is by far the best Slammiversary match TNA has ever put together. Despite my disappointment, Kurt Angle was a natural choice for the first TNA World Heavyweight Champion after splitting from the NWA. Sure, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Chris Harris were "TNA guys", but for what amounted to a relaunch for the company, they needed a recognizable face. As much as I love Christian now, he wasn't that guy in 2007. Kurt Angle was. Not only did he provide name recognition, but he was arguably the best wrestler in the world. I'd like to see the King of the Mountain match make a return in some form, and the Slammiversary pay per views would be as good of a place as any. They were a little convoluted in terms of rules, and having 5 men in the match seemed a bit arbitrary and odd, but the matches almost always delivered. Who knows? We may get another classic like this one out of it.
I'm sure you'll disagree with some, most, or all of these decisions. I'd be disappointed if you didn't find something to nitpick over the next week until I return. Leave your comments, your questions, your complaints, and your own lists in the comment section below. Feel free to message me your rage on Twitter @GavinNapier411 or send me an email. Next week, we'll be looking at the Top 10 WWE June PPV matches of all time. I know that seems vague, but it's easier than saying the Top 10 King of the Ring/Bad Blood/One Night Stand/Great American Bash/Vengeance/Extreme Rules/Fatal 4 Way/Capitol Punishment/No Way Out Matches of all time. Until next week you can read more of my textual offerings in the Games section with This Is The End(ing) and I'll be back here on Friday for Handicapping the News. I'll be back here in 7 for another countdown.