AJ Styles' TNA career as a whole holds a Crowning Record of Awesome — starting with Victory Road 2004 (November 2004; the first monthly pay-per-view from the promotion) and ending with Genesis 2009 (January 2009), "The Phenomenal One" had a match at every monthly pay-per-view in between (and including) those two events — if you do the math, he wrestled on 51 straight pay-per-views. It's a streak that is virtually unheard of in the pay-per-view era of pro wrestling, and will likely never be topped.
For the record, he wrestled 52 matches (he wrestled twice on a single PPV) during this streak, with a win-loss record of 26 wins, 25 losses, and 1 no-contest. During this period, he won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, the X-Division Championship twice, and Tag Team championships three times (the NWA Tag Team titles twice with Christopher Daniels, and the TNA Tag Team titles once with Tomko).
And counting Against All Odds 2009, he at least appeared on every monthly PPV the promotion put on up through Victory Road 2009 (he didn't appear at Hard Justice 2009 the next month, ending his incredible streak).
A moment that is often overlooked, and if it hadn't happened may have resulted in TNA never existing, was at the very first show on June 19 2002. During a dark match before the first show, Cheex, a 400 pound plus black man, hit the ropes and broke them and part of the ring. Dread goes through all the backstage and onscreen because if part of the Ring was broken then they'd have to limit the action or possibly cancel the show, especially since they were doing double tapings and the X Division guys would be showcased in it and they needed the ropes. Many, including Don West, were said to have been praying for a miracle to happen or packing up their things and getting ready to leave. The Ring Crew heads out to the ring and goes to work on it, and to stall for time, they rearrange the card and have a Legends Ceremony featuring Ricky Steamboat and others first. This manages to give the crew enough time to repair the ring just as they announce the opening contest. Thanks to them, TNA managed to survive and continue on to this day.
One of Elix Skipper's most well-known moves is to walk the ring ropes from one turnbuckle to another and deliver a Rana to the man sitting on the turnbuckle. At Turning Point 2004, he would pull this move off while both he and his opponent were on top of a steel cage. It has to be seen to be believed. (And this feat was matched - if not outright topped - by America's Most Wanted performing their finishing maneuver, the Death Sentence, from the top of the cage.) You can watch the full match here.
The X-Division has had its fair share of "holy s** t" moments and good matches, but the division's Crowning Moment is undoubtedly the "Unbreakable Triple Threat" — the main event match from the 2005 pay-per-view Unbreakable between AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Christopher Daniels for the X-Division Championship. It's still considered both the best X-Division match and the best match ever in the history of the promotion.
Four years later, this match would play out again as the main event of Turning Point 2009, with AJ defending the TNA World Championship against Daniels and Joe. The match, heavily anticipated by fans and smarks alike, ended up exceeding expectations; it's now considered one of the best matches of the year, and one of the best TNA matches in a loooooooong time.
Hulk Hogan signed on to TNA just a few weeks prior to Turning Point, and the popular opinion amongst smarks is that he'll end up destroying TNA. The fans at the Impact Zone made their feelings known on what they wanted to see during the Triple Threat Match by chanting "SCREW HULK HOGAN!" * clap, clap, clap-clap-clap*
Rhino had a CMoA at the inaugural Bound for Glory pay-per-view in 2005. Originally, he was only booked in the Monster's Ball no-disqualification match against Jeff Hardy, Sabu, and Abyss. Problem was, Kevin Nash had complained of chest pains the night before, taking him out of the main event. It was decided at the last minute that Rhino would step up as the number one contender for Jeff Jarrett's NWA heavyweight title. Not only did Rhino win the Monster's Ball match, he also won a ten-man gauntlet to determine Jarrett's challenger, then defeated Jarrett himself immediately after to win the title and close the show.
Bound for Glory was seen, in itself, as a CMoA for the entire company, as TNA weathered the loss of Kevin Nash from the main event quite well, and produced its most ambitiously booked (up to that point) and arguably best show to date. From top to bottom, the entire roster stepped up and delivered several CMoAs. For example:
In the pre-show match (an X-Division four-way match), Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, Sonjay Dutt, and Alex Shelley caught one another in one big simultaneous submission.
The aformentioned Monster's Ball match; not only was it the first of Rhino's three wins of the night, but Jeff Hardy damn near killed himself when he leaped off the top of the ring entrance tunnel for a Swanton Bomb and narrowly missed the edge of the stage. (It's also worth mentioning that the match was as violent as advertised. You can watch the full match here.)
AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels also held a classic 30-minute Iron Man match that went to the last second, where Styles nailed Daniels with the Styles Clash to snatch the only pinfall of the match.
Final Resolution 2005 showcased perhaps the greatest Ultimate X match of all time, between then Champion Petey Williams defending it against both Chris Sabin and AJ Styles. The three put on a classic and many of the highlights from that match would go on to be showcased (Especially Sabin dropkicking Styles as he hangs in midair and AJ doing a flip as he falls to the mat) in video packages. At the end, both Sabin and Williams are struggling to gain possession of the X Division title as both men have a hold of, when AJ who previously had been knocked out for the past couple of minutes and an injured arm as well springboards from the ropes and smacks the title out of their hands and it falls and he grabs it winning the title.
Speaking of Final Resolution, America's Most Wanted gets a CMOA in their match against Team Canada for the NWA Tag Titles a month after their classic cage match with Triple X. Team Canada's manager Scott D'amore has always been there to make sure his boys Eric Young and Bobby Roode have an edge and keep the gold. This time when he gets involved, Harris and Storm cuff Canadian Bacon to the Ultimate X Structure taking him out of the match. With the odds evened and thanks to Johnny Devine hitting Young with a chair without knowing it, AMW regains the belts becoming Six time tag champs.
At Against All Odds 2006Christian Cage won his first world title by defeating then NWA Heavyweight Champion Jeff Jarrett. Prior to the match Jarrett had boasted of the names he had beaten in his reigns as champ including Kevin Nash, Diamond Dallas Page, Rhino, and others. And before the match began Earl Hebner (of Montreal Screwjob fame) was revealed as the referee for the match. Despite this Christian fought back against Jarrett's attempts to stay champ, such as a Sharpshooter attempt and Jarrett ordering Hebner to ring the bell just like McMahon had done, including power bombing Jeff's manager Gail Kim when she tried to interfere, after withstanding a guitar shot and reversing Jarrett's attempts at his own finisher and The Stroke, Christian managed to hit the Unprettier and finally put his shoulders down for the 3 count. The crowd in the Impact Zone went ballistic as Pyro went off and they swarmed the ring and along with Rhino (who also has a CMOA as well with his falls count anywhere match with Abyss earlier in the show) hoisted him on their shoulders as they celebrated Christian's victory.
Slammiversary 2006: For The NWA Tag Titles, America's Most Wanted (Chris Harris and Wrestling/James Storm) defending against Christopher Daniels and AJ Styles. In previous encounters, Gail Kim had been the difference maker making sure AMW retained the belts against them but earlier in the show Daniels and Styles commented they had a plan to neutralize her. During the match Gail tries to interfere but gets caught and a giant muscular woman (Sirelda) appears in the ring and chokeslams her and carries her out of the arena evening the odds. Despite it Harris and Storm fought on proving why they were once TNA's greatest tag team, but in the end after a miscommunication and Storm hitting Harris by mistake, Styles and Daniels hit a Frog Splash Moonsault combo to end America's Most Wanted 8 month reign and Daniels would go on to say after they won the belts that was the loudest pop he's ever heard in The Impact Zone.
Kurt Angle's debut video. Not so much because of its content, but because in an era where every little thing gets leaked online and five or six journalists (including Dave Meltzer) are dedicated to being backstage reporters on the business, everyone was caught off-guard by it...including just about the entire TNA locker room.
And then there's his initial confrontation with then-reigning company badass Samoa Joe, where Kurt walks up to him and headbutts him right in the middle of the ring. What makes it even crazier is that, in wrestling, everybody knows that you just don't headbutt a Samoan, as you're likely to end up on the worse end of the deal. Kurt actually ended up getting the better of Joe.
And he'd get the better of Joe again in their first match together, when Angle handed Joe his first official loss in TNA after a staggering 16 month undefeated streak. Not only did he beat him, he beat him by making him tap out to the ankle lock.
No Surrender 2006 AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels take on the Latin American Xchange of Homicide and Hernandez looking to regain the NWA Tag Titles in the first ever Tag Team Ultimate X Match. Working together and combining their moves they take out Hernandez with a Frog Splash Best Moonsault Ever and Spiral Tap combo. Daniels goes to get the belts but Konnan LAX's manager gets involved threatening him with a Kendo Stick should he attempt to cross the wires so what does The Fallen Angel do? He climbs to the top of the structure and leaps across and lands on the X in the center of it and unhooks the belt winning the match and the titles. This was voted as TNA's 2006 Match Of The Year.
Gail Kim made history in the promotion when she was crowned the first TNA Women's Champion (or Knockouts Champion, if you prefer) at Bound for Glory 2007. She would be the standardbearer for the division (which garnered praise from both critics and fans of the promotion) for months, feuding with the top talent in the division—most infamously with Awesome Kong.
Also at BFG '07 was the night AJ Styles and Tomko of Christian's Coalition finally ended the Adam "Pacman" Jones sideshow in TNA by defeating Team Pacman for the TNA World Tag Team Championship, starting a reign which would become one of the longest in TNA history.
Final Resolution 2008 TNA Women's Knockout Champion Gail Kim defends against archrival Awesome Kong in a no disqualification match. These two put on a classic match that gathered high praise from even the heaviest critics of TNA. In the end Gail did what most people thought was not possible and pinned Kong cleanly giving her her first loss.
Taylor Wilde is full of this trope. At Victory Road 2008, she gave the gargantuan Awesome Kong a freaking armdrag from the top rope, sending her across the ring. At Sacrifice 2009, she gave Daffney a Death Valley Driver headfirst onto a trash can. And at Slammiversary 2009, she dove at Daffney through a table, and threw Daffney onto a pile of thumbtacks!
Victory Road 2008 was the stage for a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for Japanese wrestler Masato Yoshino during the opening match. It was the World X-Cup Elimination Match: a 12-man elimination tag match between the four teams competing in the World X-Cup tournament that was pretty much 20-plus minutes of nonstop action. The underlying story of the match was that Team Japan suffered early loses of two of its members, forcing Yoshino to go the rest of the match alone. Yoshino would make it down to the final two, where he would go down in defeat to Team TNA's Alex Shelley, but not before trading many near falls despite the fact that Team TNA was the dominant team in the match (two of the final four competitors were Team TNA's Shelley and Chris Sabin, better known as the Motor City Machineguns).
In a non-kayfabe ascept, this match was a CMoA for all twelve wrestlers in the match. It pretty much stole the entire show, as it was undoubtedly the match of the night in spite of the fact that both a Full Metal Mayhem match (TNA's version of TLC) and an Ultimate X match were on the card, and it did this despite the fact that nine of the twelve wrestlers in the match (including the aforementioned Yoshino) were virtual unknowns to 90% of the audience.
Against All Odds 2008 Jay Lethal with the fate of the X Division resting on his shoulders finds himself in a three on one situation against Team 3D and Johnny Devine after his partners The Machine Guns get taken out during the match. He fights well but gets overcome by them. But when they start to threaten his Love interest Socal Val, a fire ignites inside him and hs snaps with new found strength and takes all three of them out. Culminating in Hitting his Idol as a kid Macho Man Randy Savage's Flying Elbow Drop through a table and winning the match.
And shortly afterwards, Brother Ray (Before he became Bully) refuses to hand over The X Division Title so what does Lethal do? He dives out onto him laying him out and regaining the belt.
Destination X 2008 had several for both Kaz and Eric Young. Kaz's gimmick was an extremely acrobatic and skilled guy with no fear whatsoever. Eric's gimick was that of a coward scared of his own entrance pyro. They had to face Black Reign and Rellik, two very strong and very scary monster heels. A few minutes in, Eric ran to the back, leaving Kaz all alone. For several minutes, Kaz continued to fight. When all seemed lost, Superman-like music started to play, and Eric came back, in a superhero costume! Ignoring his second entrance pyro, he stormed the ring and pwned the two monsters, winning the match by getting both of them on his shoulders and delivering a Death Valley Driver.
Backstage interviewer Lauren Brooke got one at Victory Road 2009, when she assisted Abyss by taking down Daffney, a very strong and scary woman, then warning Abyss about Dr. Stevie's stun gun. Her seeming to finally accept him as her boyfriend was icing on the cake. Even more welcome considering the rest of the night had basically been taken over by the Main Event Mafia.
Earl Hebner got one during a match involving The Beautiful People when he proved he was Not Distracted by the Sexy, but was smart enough to make out with Lacey Von Erich anyway before ejecting her from ringside.
Hamada holding her own against Eric Young in a match for the Legends Title that was, more-or-less, a Curb-Stomp Battle, only losing to a quick roll up.
No Surrender 2009. We're two months out from the Main Event Mafia's absolute takeover of TNA. They've held every championship, as well as put their bootprint all over an entire pay-per-view. AJ Styles in recent weeks had gone through a case of Heroic BSOD where he thought it was time for him to hang up the boots after a series of setbacks, only to be talked out of it by Sting and to earn his way into a World Heavyweight Championship match involving Sting, Matt Morgan, and Kurt Angle. Within the match itself, in the final stretch, Morgan's already-shaky alliance with Angle and the Main Event Mafia completely deteriorated, which ended in the Blueprint hitting Angle with a Carbon Footprint before being taken out of the ring by Sting. Sting and AJ exchanged a glance, and Sting went out to the apron and dove on the outside to take Morgan and himself out of the picture, allowing AJ to hit a prone Kurt with the Superman 450° splash and win the TNA World Heavyweight Championship!
AJ's celebration would be grand, almost a replica of the Christian Cage celebration as the guardrail was opened and the crowd rushed the ring to join their champion, with Christopher Daniels playing the role of Rhino. And that celebration was completely warranted, too. Not only was this his first world title since TNA became relatively mainstream. Not only did the man widely acknowledged as the face of TNA finally attain the world title with the company's actual name on it. Not only did he pin a long-time archenemy in then-champion Kurt Angle to get the strap, in the process launching a turn of the tide in the war against the Mafia which would never turn back (Angle disbanded the group a month later). But this was also the last Grand Slam and Triple Crown eligible championship AJ Styles had left to win. Yes, he already achieved both accolades, the Triple Crown at the end of year 1 and the Grand Slam a few months prior to this. Yes, there have been five other Triple Crown winners and two other Grand Slam champions since AJ. However, NO ONE had won all six titles that could count for such status in TNA before AJ's victory at No Surrender, and NO ONE has done it since. (In fact, since the NWA world heavyweight and tag team titles are no longer a part of TNA, Abyss is the only other man who's even eligible to follow suit.) This night gave documented proof that AJ Styles truly is Mr. TNA.
After Bubba the Love Sponge crossed the line by putting "Fuck Haiti" on his Twitter page, Awesome Kong punched him out. Granted, it ended up costing Kong her job, but kharma works in mysterious ways: a couple of months later, after ambushing Kong on a radio show and went on a racially-tinged tirade, Bubba himself was fired from TNA.
Even better: Bubba's last real appearance on TNA ended with Mick Foleypunching Bubba in the face.
Lockdown 2010 got TNA an early contender for Match of the Year with the "escape-only" Steel Cage Match between Kurt Angle and Mr. Anderson. It's considered to be Anderson's best match to date, and one of Kurt's finest performances (in a career filled to the brim with outstanding performances).
If anyone ever needs proof that tag team wrestling is capable of putting on certifiable Match of the Year-worthy contests, they should look no further than the Best of 5 series between the Motor City Machineguns (Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin) and Beer Money (Robert Roode and James Storm) for the TNA World Tag Team Championship:
To begin with, the whole feud started at Victory Road 2010, when Beer Money and the Guns fought over the vacant tag titles. After a double-pinfall counted by two refs, the match was restarted and the Guns won. But the dispute concerning the pinfalls would set up the series itself, which played out over the next month on Impact.
Beer Money would start the series strong. The first match in the series, a ladder match, would determine who would set the stipulation for the next match in the series (each successive match in the series would carry this stipulation as well). Beer Money trounced the Guns thanks to a shot from a beer bottle, taking the match and getting the Guns in a Street Fight the next week. Roode and Storm pulled off the same shenanigans and picked up the second match, choosing to face Shelley and Sabin in a Cage Match the next week.
The Guns were now in the ultimate pressure situation: they needed to win three successive matches to retain their titles. In the cage match, the Guns saw the beer bottle trick coming and let Beer Money screw themselves over by ducking out of the way, picking up the win. The next match was right up the Guns' alley: an Ultimate X Match. Beer Money fought hard, but the Guns had the edge and took the match, evening the situation up. The final match would decide who had the right to call themselves the tag champs. Initially, the final match was scheduled for Hard Justice 2010, but the PPV was changed to Hardcore Justice and the match was moved to the Impact following the PPV...
And that final match was a contest of sheer awesome: a Two Out of Three Falls Match that saw some amazing high-flying offense by both teams (though the Guns doled out more), as well as many dramatic near falls. In the end, the Guns picked up the final fall and retained their titles, legitimizing themselves in many fans' eyes after years of seemingly being ignored and held back from the top by TNA management. After the match, Mike Tenay asked Taz which one of the five matches in the series was worthy of Match of the Year candidacy. Taz's response? "Pick one. Any one." Match of the Year chants did break out after the 2-out-of-3-Falls match, so it's pretty clear which one the fans approve of most. But the whole series was an amazing testament to both teams' abilities and chemistry together, and is absolutely worth watching in its entirety.
Dec 9, 2010. Velvet Sky Took a Level in Badass. Before their tag team match, Sarita gave her a Hannibal Lecture on how Velvet is dependent on her partner Angelina Love to win anything, until Velvet spears her so fast that it's like she did a Flash Step, then mercilessly beats her down. However, because Angelina got the pinfall, Sarita gloated that she proved her point.
The steel cage match between Mickie James and Tara, which ended with Mickie pinning Tara after hitting a Thesz Press from the top of the cage.
Against All Odds 2010 was D'Angelo Dinero's CMOA (Sadly among his few in the company) when he competed in the Eight Card Stud Tournament to become the number one contender to the TNA World Championship. Through the evening, Dinero had three excellent matches against Desmond Wolfe, Matt Morgan and Mr. Anderson (ANDERSON!) with him putting on a great performance in each match that culminated in Pope winning the tournament after overcoming a beating from the Band and Anderson himself. A great night for the Pope in general.
On February 3rd 2011, after Kevin Nash and Booker T jumped ship to WWE (and thus thwarted TNA's attempt to reunite the Main Event Mafia), TNA pulls an Author's Saving Throw and finally give the fans what they've been asking for since Immortal's first night of existence, that actually made a lot more sense than their original plan would've. Jeff Hardy is in a rematch for the TNA World Championship with new champ Mr. Anderson, and the ref gets knocked out; Jeff uses the opportunity to call down Immortal and have them whale on Anderson. Per usual, AJ Styles and the rest of Fortune came out to assist in the beating - but just before AJ lays a hand on Anderson, he pulls his punch and throws up the Fortune handsign. With that signal, Beer Money and Kazarian turn the tables on Immortal and eject them from the ring, then Robert Roode clotheslines Hardy and AJ nails the Styles Clash, effectively turning Fortune face and costing Hardy the match. AJ then spent the next segment putting his Ric Flair-taught mic skills to work, firing up the crowd in a pretty decent Flairesque promo. The best part is that Ric was gone that night, leaving AJ to sell the angle almost entirely on his own - which he did like a champ.
The following week, it got even better. When Immortal came out to address the fans, Jeff Jarrett demanded Fortune to come out. Once they did, Jarrett proceeded to browbeat them about being "ungrateful nobodies", since he gave them the opportunity they needed by signing them to TNA. Beer Money's Robert Roode (someone not really known for his mic skills) snatched the mic after a minute of this and flat-out told Jarrett to shut up and cut the horseshit. Roode then launched into an epic speech of his own, reminding everyone in Immortal that Fortune is the backbone that built TNA, yet all four of them kept on getting overlooked by the next "savior" to be brought in every few months by TNA management. This time around, they weren't about to stand by and watch their opportunity to build TNA up into something better pass them by. Essentially, the same character purpose that led Fortune to come together as heels (and administer bloody assaults to EV2.0) was carried over perfectly into the group's face turn against Immortal. Better yet, not one fan didn't go with it.
It would appear the entire Fortune vs. Immortal angle is just spawning one Crowning Moment after another. After Ric Flair betrays Fortune, despite his support of the group earlier, he comes out to the ring and gives a A God Am I speech before calling AJ Styles down to the ring. AJ responds to Flair's Hannibal Lecture with an EPICShut Up, Hannibal!, followed by a beatdown that left Flair near-naked and beaten half to death. Immortal's newest hired gun, Hernandez, tried to help, but AJ kept turning the tables, treating Hernandez like a mere nuisance. Yeah, Immortal eventually got the upper hand...for all of five seconds; Fortune quickly rushed the ring and chased them all off. The capper to this? Hernandez, while retreating, walks right into another beatdown - this one from a pissed-off Matt Morgan!
More impressive is that Flair's normal mic skills, despite being top notch as they always were, were overshadowed by AJ's. AJ Styles outdid the "stylin' and profilin'" Nature Boy at his own game!
Yet another on the March 17th episode. AJ is doing a promo on his upcoming #1 contender match when Ric comes in to try and start another Hannibal Lecture. AJ doesn't even let Flair finish his sentence and decks him to the ground, having gotten fed up with Flair's lectures. Crosses over into Crowning Moment Of Funny when he states how good it felt to do so and just walks off.
If this keeps up, Fourtune is going to need its own page! At the end of the March 31 edition of TNA, Immortal has lured Fortune into a beatdown locked in a steel cage. Just when it seems the episode will end in Immortal's favor, Christopher Daniels rushes out of the crowd, climbs the steel cage and takes out all of Immortal in one move! He caps it off by pulling out his best friend AJ Styles (who was recently taken out by Bubba) signature pose, as if saying "This is for AJ!" (which he then cuts a promo with Fortune saying exactly that). It's hard to tell which is more awesome, the fact Daniels is back or the fact he's with Fortune!
Another one the next week. Daniels comes out and demands to be put into Lockdown in AJ's place. Flair and Immortal come out to the ring and Flair begins another Hannibal Lecture and states there's no way Daniels can be in TNA because Eric and Hogan wouldn't dream of letting him. Daniels reveals he's already one step ahead of Immortal and went over their heads to the network in order to get himself a contract and inserted into the match. To cap it off, he leads Fortune in an attack on Immortal and drives them out of the ring.
When AJ returns to Impact!, he calls out Bully Ray. Being the Dirty Coward he is, Bully Ray tries to talk big and not enter the steel cage that AJ has prepared. So Daniels rushes the ring and locks Bully Ray in with AJ. Cue an extremely well deserved No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. If Ray hadn't got out of dodge, he'd have been put through a table by a flying attack from the top of the cage.
The opening segment of the May 5, 2011 episode of Impact saw Hulk Hogan and Immortal beat on three TNA officials only to come out on the back end of a brawl against Sting, Rob Van Dam, and Fortune. While Immortal was backing up the ramp, Bobby Roode called Hogan out and made sure he listened by ceaselessly calling him a coward, then finally said what everyone in TNA had been thinking about him, particularly over the firing of Jay Lethal, a personal friend of Roode's. Yep. Fortune is definitely going to need its own section by the time this is over.
The Fortune vs. Immortal match at Lethal Lockdown had it's fair share, including Daniels hitting a crossbody from the top of the cage to Matt Hardy and Abyss. However, the crowner has to be AJ Styles returning to help Fortune pull out the win and taking a measure of revenge on Bully Ray for taking him out. Bully Ray reacting like he just saw a ghost is the best part.
May 19th begins with Immortal in the ring, bragging, but are then interupted by Brain Kendrick leading the X Division, who have been royally ticked off at Immortal for overlooking them. After Eric gives each a match with stacked odds, they respond with a resounding "Bring It On". Afterwards, Immortal ends up on the short end of a major beatdown from both the X Division and Fortune. The sight of these two groups uniting to beat up Immortal is as great as one would expect.
After a couple months off as the show focused on Slammiversary and Destination X, the campaign for Fortune to get its own "Awesome" page went springing back in full. Sting had a rematch against Mr. Anderson for the World Heavyweight Championship set for July 14 after Anderson had beat him at Slammiversary, but Anderson had made a Deal with the Devil by joining Immortal the week before the rematch. So during Anderson's welcoming party at the start of the show on the 14th, Sting reveals that he's got a group of friends that are going to have his back tonight to ensure he gets Anderson by himself, in the form of four Monster Clowns. Each of the evil clowns goes beating up an Immortal member, which continues throughout the night until Bully Ray and Gunner are the only ones left. Gunner goes looking for a fight with the clowns in the parking lot (Bully Ray chickened out) and gets summarily beaten down. Then they finally unmask themselves, discuss Bully Ray, and say he's taken care of. Who are the four evil clowns? You guessed it. Fortune.
As for Bully Ray being taken care of? He tried to interfere in the Sting-Anderson title match after a ref bump, only to find himself cleared from the scene by lighting games and a fifth evil clown, which allowed Sting to get the clean win on Ken to take the title. That fifth clown? Number one contender Kurt Angle. Who, let's remember, was the main guy that kept Bischoff off of Fortune's trail when they originally turned on Immortalby making the entire "anti!Them" operation look like a Main Event Mafia revival. Between this, the parking lot comment, the clown suit worn by Angle, and the fact that there were lighting games and a fifth clown suit in the first place, it's heavily implied Fortune got Kurt in on the big plan and/or Sting anticipated his and Bully Ray's run-ins and timed it perfectly. At the same time, he doesn't look like a hypocrite for saying earlier that night that he was interested in facing and beating either Sting or Anderson, primarily because he never touched Anderson.
The following week on July 28, Beer Money finally shut up MexicanAmerica. After Anarquia called out Beer Money in his usual grating voice from Latin hell, they came out to the ring. He continued to drone on in Spanglish, being booed all the while, until finally James Storm took the mic and told him to "SHUT. UP." The crowd couldn't have been happier. After a bit of would-be racist hypocritical humor about Mexican America cutting grass ("would-be" because they really are that bad), Storm decided to "reintroduce" Beer Money by putting Roode over as a money-making take-no-nonsense ass-kicker and listing every country American thing about himself in the long-winded catchphrase style made famous by Ric Flair and The Rock. He then promises to kick their ass not only for the fans in the Impact Zone and at home, but also the great luchadores (like the Guerreros) and all the other Hispanics effectively disgraced by Mexican America. After a bit of green card Red Forman humor (again appropriate in this case because of the targets' character bents), Storm turns it over to Roode, who puts the cap on it with Storm's catchphrase before Beer Money's music comes back on. Mexican America was just effectively silenced in a promo AT LONG LAST.
Even better, Beer Money defeated Mexican America and lived up to their talk!
Arguably the best match at Hardcore Justice was the Fortune vs. Immortal six-man tag, but the real moment that could be classified as awesome was the finish. Gunner tried to throw AJ over the top rope through a table set up at ringside, but Daniels (who over the past few weeks had been trying to talk to AJ about…something, to the point it even cost him a match once) got on the apron, pushed AJ back in the ring, and fought Gunner, taking the table bump in AJ's stead as Gunner grabbed him and dove through it with him. Aside from being a refreshing twist in the usually-predictable "trouble in paradise" storyline, this self-sacrifice led to AJ hitting Abyss with a springboard Pelé kick in order to get the pin.
In a meta sort of way, AJ Styles and James Storm's World Heavyweight Championship main events matches against Bobby Roode in November achieve this status as well. Because even though Roode turned selfish in order to take the title from Storm, the fact that Roode is main eventing against Styles and Storm in title matches essentially means that the entire mission of Fortune is a success - they are the top of the card now.
Mr. Anderson gets one on the April 7th edition of Impact!. He apparently makes a Deal with the Devil with Hulk Hogan to be made special ref of a match between Sting and RVD. After using his position to take revenge on them both, he seemingly joins Immortal, getting paraded around by two of their members and getting boos from the crowd...then smashes one of them in the ribs with a steel pipe and gives them both a Mic Check and rubs it in Hogan's face that he played him like a fiddle. Though then again, what do you expect from making a deal with a self proclaimed Asshole?
Mickie James got one on the April 14th episode. While Madison Rayne was arguing with her Dragon, Mickie, despite having been run over by a motorcycle and having her shoulder dislocated, comes out and delivers a very convincing "World of Cardboard" Speech, swearing to tear every hair out of Rayne's head and beat her within an inch of her life. The real Crowning Moment Of Awesome here comes from her delivery of the speech, which made her seem to be an absolute Badass despite having her arm in a sling.
The match itself would only reinforce that image, as Mickie would demolish Madison in around 35 seconds with her arm still in the sling.
The Network Executive that's been making Immortal's life miserable was finally revealed on May 12. Who was it? Mick Foley! And he came out to put Immortal in their place and reveal he'd been the one screwing over Immortal this whole time. He also changes the show's name from TNA Impact to Impact Wrestling, with the new catch slogan of "Wrestling matters again" specifically targeting WWE's insistent de-emphasis on wrestling as well as Immortal's politics in TNA. But, the icing on the cake, he introduces Kurt Angle's "mistress", who Angle had been saying for weeks ago would be taking Karen out. Who is it? Chyna. The reaction of Immortal was absolutely priceless!
Sacrifice 2011 clinched it when Angle and Chyna put Jeff and Karen Jarrett in the ankle lock at the same time and they both tap out.
Foley continues to prove himself a perfect Chess Master on the May 26th edition. Hogan leaves the meeting with the Network, thinking he'd won and gotten full control of TNA while Eric thinks he's destroyed the X Division. Then, on the actual episode of Impact Wrestling, Foley interupts them by coming out and revealing that was exactly what he wanted Hogan to think. After Hogan left, Foley changed the Network's minds completely and regained their favor, allowing him to revive the X Division and get the Network furious at Immortal at the same time.
June 2, 2011: Eric Young as The "Not So Great" Muta pwning Mr. Anderson with Muta's classic moves, including the green mist.
June 16, 2011: The return of Jimmy Rave, Kid Kash, and Austin Aries. Sting assaulting Hulk Hogan in his office. Gunner pinning Mr. Anderson cleanly. Kurt Angle announcing that he will compete in the Olympics again at age 43 and beating Jeff Jarrett in a Parking Lot Brawl to force him to move to Mexico.
Destination X 2011: All of it. From Brian Kendrick finally winning the X-Division title from Abyss, to Alex Shelly winning the Ultimate X match (doubles as a [[Sugar Wiki/ since he specifically stated he was fighting for his injured tag partner, Chris Sabin, in that match), to Austin Aries beating Low Ki, Zema Ion, and Jack Evans and returning to the X-Division, to the intense RVD/Jerry Lynn match, and, of course, AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels putting on a near-30 minute clinic to close out the show.
July 28, 2011: Sting's entire plan. He spends the entire night playing Immortal like puppets, saying he was a Network rep, giving him complete control of Impact. By the time Eric finds out, it's far too late to do anything and Sting locks him in his office with an angry bird he scared the crap out of him with. All the while acting like The Dark Knight version of The Joker.
Velvet Sky giving a "World of Cardboard" Speech against ODB and Jackie Moore and calling them out on their hypocrisy. She actually earned some undisputed babyface points that night.
October 6, 2011: Sting's Dangerously Genre Savvy quest to get Hulk Hogan to face him at Bound for Glory and/or turn the company back over to Dixie Carter has produced several terrific moments, but none quite as gratifying as the night he finally got it done. Hogan, a week ago, had announced his "retirement", and on this night was making his formal "final address", giving personal tribute to Hulkamania and to the fans "on the way out". Sting never bought it for a second; he'd seen thisplay out before. So instead of leaving it be, he came out in a red suit and Hulkamania shirt to call question to the whole thing and then to expose it as a lie through video footage of Hulk and Eric laughing about their elaborate hoax. Hogan finally had his meltdown and got so pissed off he agreed to everything Sting had been asking for this whole time on the double. The Open Mouth, Insert Foot look on Hollywood's face...the crowd rejoicing at the fact that Hulk's reign is finally really about to come to an end after he tried to play them for fools...Sting laughing at Hogan as he walked up the ramp with his music on to end the show. All freakin' priceless.
October 20, 2011: Even if was marred by a lousy setup and a short, worthless match, "Cowboy" James Storm winning the TNA World Heavyweight Championship is still a great moment for him and for TNA fans.
Against All Odds 2012 featured at least three moments.
The awesome X-Division title match between Austin Aries and Alex Shelley that harkened back to the older days of the division with high impact athleticism and technical wrestling.
Magnus and Samoa Joe finally ascending up the card by winning the tag team titles from Matt Morgan and Crimson.
June 21, 2012: We finally find out what AJ Styles and Dixie Carter were hiding, that they were helping a former drug addict clean up and didn't tell anyone to protect her, not having an affair like Christopher Daniels and Kazarian had been saying. The delivery of this all comes across as an utterly Narm-tastic way to kill a storyline and the potential foreshadowing for a Kaz and Daniels breakup doesn't do the tag division any favors, but when the two heels have a Villainous Breakdown and come up to try and salvage the situation, the awesome begins. AJ proceeds toutterly demolish both of themin a brutalRoaring Rampage of Revenge they both (especially Daniels) had coming.
Leading up to Destination X 2012, Austin Aries was granted a shot at Bobby Roode for the event by Hulk Hogan, on the condition that he forfeit the X Division title prior to the event. Aries agreed on the condition that every year the X-Division Champion heading into Destination X would get the same opportunity, and would hold his own in altercations with Roode heading into the event without the typical help from Hogan or Sting that made Roode the cunning bastardwith a point against most of his challengers. At Destination X, with the crowd solidly behind Aries, they both put on an absolute classic, with Aries, a guy who six months ago would've tried to out-cheat Roode and lose, managing to not only survive all of Roode's attempts to cheat his way to a victory (including kicking out of a shot to the head with the title belt), but to reverse Roode's finisher into the Brain Buster for the clean victory, ending Roode's tenure as the longest reigning TNA World Heavyweight Champion in the company's history. The crowd goes utterly ballistic, and Aries is crowned world heavyweight champion amidst the roars of the crowd and a sea of confetti. Considering the initial fears of many fans that Aries would be misused upon signing with TNA, only to culminate in a dominant reign as X Division champion and finally being pushed as the company's top star, it only makes it all the sweeter.
August 23, 2012: Aces and Eights finally gets a little karmic retribution for their actions when half the locker room unites, beating the living crap out of two of their members. Later that night, three members corner Sting back stage, who called them out to face them. After a few minutes acting crazy, he throws his bat over their heads...right into the waiting hands of a verypissed offHulk Hogan who proceeds to knock all three out in one swing.
Then at the end of the night, there's a huge all out battle between Aces and Eights and pretty much the entire roster. And while they do beat down Aries in the end, that's only because the rest of the gang is getting the tar beat out of them by everyone else.
At Bound For Glory 2012 James Storm and Bobby Roode faced off against each other in a street fight with MMA fighter King Mo as special enforcer. With nearly a year's worth of heat built between them, the two didn't disappoint as they did everything possible to one another. Both men had donned the proverbial crimson mask by the end of it, and when it was all said and done, after a year's worth of ups and downs, thinking he may not have it in him, and questioning himself, Storm finally gets revenge on his former best friend, the man who stabbed him in the back and cost him the world title, by giving him the Last Call superkick and knocking Roode out to win the match.
January 03, 2013: Aces and Eights is beating down Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle inside a steel cage. Sting, who had been taken out by Aces and Eights not long before, appears and proceeds to beat the living Hell out of the entire group with his baseball bat even before Kurt and Joe get back in the fight. They follow this up by unmasking a member of Aces and Eights.
On the February 28, 2013 edition of Impact, Sting interrupted Devon's promo to announce his team for Lethal Lockdown to fight Aces and Eights. He has chosen James Storm, Samoa Joe, and Magnus, who all have scores to settle with the gang which had injured or cost them matches. As for his last pick, none other than Eric Young, who was last seen in November being stretchered out after his ankle had been broken by them, comes through the crowd and ambushes the group from behind to start a skirmish in which Team Sting ends up clearing the Aces and Eights out. The real awesome part: for the first time since hitting his head against Suicide in 2010, Eric Young was completely serious, with no goofy antics from him as he wanted revenge on them for what they did.
Team TNA may have won the battle in "Lethal Lockdown" with Eric Young's top-of-the-cage elbow drop, but Aces & Eights won the war:
Speaking of Lockdown, Knockout referee Taryn Terrell gets one during the title match between Gail Kim and Velvet Sky at the show. After Velvet kicked out at two from a pin attempt, Gail not only resumes her usual pattern in the weeks leading up to the show of accusing and bullying Taryn for supposedly "helping" Velvet get/stay on top as champion, she takes it one step further, backs Taryn into a corner, and proceeds to slap her and dare her to ring the bell and disqualify her. Wrong thing to do, as Taryn instead snaps and spears her into the mat bashing her head and beating her down, before allowing Velvet to hit her with In Yo Face and counting the 1-2-3.
Granted, Gail can still complain that Taryn helped Velvet beat her, because technically, she did. But not only was Taryn clearly provoked and even physically attacked first, Gail had no case for her gripe this time as the two-count was completely fair.
April 25, 2013 episode of Impact; Aces & Eights have taken out everyone who opposed them, it's TNA's Darkest Hour. Bully Ray calls Hulk Hogan to the ring to finish up by taking him out as well. Even Hogan thinks there's no hope left, but is determined to go down fighting. As Bully confronts him in the ring, believing he'll be easy pickings, Hogan Hulks Up and drives Bully from the ring, much to Bully's shock. As Aces & Eights surround the ring, Hogan prepares to be Defiant to the End and go down swinging...when the lights go off. Sting reappears for the first time in weeks, holding Hogan at bat point...until he turns on Bully Ray and proceeds to help Hogan clean house and hand Aces & Eights their first decisive defeat in weeks when TNA needed a hero the most.
Slammiversary XI has contained a few Moments of Awesome
Chris Sabin after coming back from two back to back torn acls wins Ultimate X becoming a five time X Division champion. After the match Hogan comes out and personally congraulates him and offers him a shot at the world title in exchange for it.
The promo segue'd into right after that, with Hogan being confronted by Aces & Eights members Mr. Anderson, Wes Brisco, and Garett Bischoff, and the three's subsequent match with Samoa Joe, Magnus, and a returning Jeff Hardy. Not only was this the beginning of a night full of problems for the Aces & Eights, the particularly pleasing part of this was the singling out of the resident NepotismScrappy Garett Bischoff—with Hogan telling him to shut his mouth via rare outburst of profanity, a spot where Samoa Joe mercilessly stomped him in the corner for 15-20 seconds on end, and him generally getting his ass kicked all throughout the match.
Taryn Terrell and Gail Kim's Last Knockout Standing match climaxing in Taryn performing a Cutter off the rampway onto the concrete! It's being hailed as one of the most ferocious Knockouts Matches in history.
A Dangerous Forbidden Technique of pro wrestling, the piledriver, is often enough to put regular wrestlers down in one go. Yet during the Sting vs. Bully Ray World Heavyweight title match, Sting did the unheard of and kicked out of TWO—even though Bully did the second on the wood underneath the mat of the ring!! While Bully Ray is still the Champ at the end of the night and Sting can no longer compete for the World Title, it took the entire group interfering to do so (which also gave us one more spot of Garett Bischoff being tossed around). Furthermore, he is the only member of Aces and Eights to have won as the group has lost much of its momentum and no longer has the Aura of invincibility they had before.
At the June 27th show Austin Aries snuck in and won the X Division title by attacking Suicide (TJ Perkins) backstage and stealing his costume to pose as him during the match and later unmasks and claims he's going to do what he did a year ago and trade the belt for a title shot against Bully Ray. However Hogan the following week at the July 4th show in Las Vegas tells him he's not getting it like that and he has to defend it against both Chris Sabin and Perkins (now going as Manik) in the Main Event. After an attempt by Aces and Eights is foiled by The Main Event Mafia, Sabin regains the belt back not only surviving a Brainbuster and The Last Chancery and hits a Cradle Shock off the second rope Turnbuckle to win and get the opportunity to challenge Ray at Destination X.
The Ladder match between Generation Me and Bad Influence at Hardcore Justice 2.
Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell's ladder match at the July 11th show, highlights included a Gail applying a Figure Four leglock across the ladder and Taryn applying a Dragon Sleeper on the top of the Ladder! It ends with Gail tying Taryn's hair to the ring rope to stop her long enough to grab the contract.
Bully Ray tries to scare Chris Sabin into not cashing in the X-Division title for a shot at his title, but Sabin reminds him about how he has beaten him before and even kicked out of the 3D and cashes it in. The Main Event Mafia promises to prevent Aces and Eights from interfering in the title match and introduces their fifth member: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson!
On the July 18th Destination X episode of Impact, Chris Sabin is confronted by Austin Aries backstage just minutes before coming out for his chance at Bully Ray's World Heavyweight Championship. Aries starts to talk about how Sabin owes this opportunity to him, which sounds like he's about to bitterly self-aggrandize in order to save face for his failed attempt at highway robbery as seen above. Instead, he says he's not talking about how he started Option C, but about how he gets the best out of other wrestlers, and points out that by beating him, Sabin proved his own worth. Aries even stated that, since he's beaten Bully Ray before and Sabin just beat him, Sabin has an equation to finish—and even finished by saying he's pulling for him! Cocky heel Aries just genuinely supported and put over babyface Sabin without ever losing any of his moxie or sounding forced at all in the process. As backstage talks go, it was truly a sight to behold.
About thirty minutes or so later, Chris Sabin finishes that equation and becomes the NEW TNA World Heavyweight Champion by defeating Bully Ray. What arguably makes it sweeter, though, is that during the match Bully gets a hammer and goes to hit him but Sabin ducks it and knocks it out of his hand. Bully later goes to finish Sabin off, only for Sabin, who just grabbed the hammer ten seconds ago, to bash Bully in the head with it and pin him for the win. Considering how many times Bully and Aces and Eights had used the hammer on their opponents it's a fitting finish.
August 22nd: The second part of Hardcore Justice, The Main Event Mafia is set to face Aces & Eights in a match where the one who takes the fall must leave TNA. Down a man thanks to Kurt Angle's stint in rehab the group looks like they are ready to go down fighting when AJ Styles's music hits and he comes out through the entrance wearing his leather jacket and appearing like he has been the past several months. He comes down the rampway and halts and the music stops and suddenly Get ReadyTo Fly! hits for the first time in over half a year, and, AJ, the original AJ, The Phenomenal One, hits the ring and leads the Mafia in taking the fight to Aces & Eights.
Even further: he gets the pinfall and eliminates Devon from TNA.
No Surrender 2013: AJ Styles wins the Bound For Glory series defeating both Austin Aries and Magnus in one night including busting out the Spiral Tap in his match with Magnus to win it. Also a CMOA for Magnus as well despite coming up shy as he beat Bobby Roode to make it to the finals and had an excellent match with AJ and showed that he's a future Champion as well as he's improved leaps and bounds.
Bound for Glory 2013. After three and a half long and painful years, AJ Styles, the conquering now-dark hero, despite interference from Aces & Eights as well as Dixie Carter herself, finally dethroned Bully Ray to become the TNA World Heavyweight Champion once again!
November 21st 2013: The End of Aces and Eights once and for all as Mister Anderson defeats Bully Ray forcing the group to disband.
The 1/9/14 edition of Impact opened with AJ Styles, Dixie Carter, and Magnus putting out arguably some of their best (in terms of being emotionally charged) mic work to date—especially AJ, who leveled yet another "The Reason You Suck" Speech in Dixie's direction, even unflinchingly cussing at least twice in the process. Considering the importance of this night (title unification match between AJ and Magnus, potentially AJ's last night in TNA), nothing less would suffice.
On 1/16/14, Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards, known to indie wrestling fans as the American Wolves, make their debut in a backstage segment. This was awesome enough by itself, but also set the stage for another moment when they reveal to Dixie that they've bypassed the tryout match, having signed contracts with TNA through a new investor.
January 30, the first Impact episode on TNA's 2014 UK tour, was a collective moment for the investor storyline.
We open with a Magnus heel promo setting the seeds for dissension between him and Ethan Carter III, which is interrupted by Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle as they express their regrets for ever inviting Magnus into the Mafia and not killing him on the spot. This eventually leads to a tag team match being set up between the two sides where Kurt and Joe put both their careers on the line, but if they win the man who scores the fall gets a title shot.
Dixie's chief of staff Rockstar Spud demands that the Wolves come to the ring and reveal who their investor is. He increasingly puts his foot in his mouth acting way too tough for his own good, which was only hilarious because what came next was obvious: the Wolves eventually beat him down swiftly yet viciously, before restating that the investor will reveal himself tonight and adding a new twist to the tag team main event: if anyone interferes, they will be fired.
With Dixieland cut off from the match, Angle and Joe defeat Magnus and EC3, with Joe making Magnus tap out to become the #1 contender. The winners take the mic after the match, during which Joe makes it perfectly clear that he intends to destroy Magnus for that championship and Angle declares that now that he's got his momentum back he's ready to be inducted into the TNA Hall of Fame.
Tigre Uno (who'd previous been seen in recent Xplosion matches as Ultimate Tiger) and Manik (who hasn't been seen in awhile) competed in a pretty cool one-on-one athletic showdown.
Gunner took on the man who betrayed him by costing him the world title, James Storm, in a heated Last Man Standing fight which had everybody talking, proving once again that Storm vs. a man he hates is a winning combination and further establishing Gunner as a legitimate big time player.
During the Lethal Lockdown match between Team MVP vs. Team Dixie/Roode, with the winning leader(s) gaining complete control of wrestling operations, Dixie brought out Bully Ray to be the special referee in order to fix the match in Team Roode's favor. However, Bully Ray would officiate the match right down the middle, up to the point where Bobby Roode sets up a table to put MVP through…only to step in Roode's way and instead attack him, allowing MVP to capitalize and beat Roode for the win! Not only do we close out a damn good night of wrestling by finally getting rid of Dixie Carter and solidifying the company's new direction, we just set up a feud between two of the most intense guys in the company in Bully and Roode!
April 10th, 2014: Eric Young dethrones Magnus for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, not only finally winning the World Title after 10 faithful years in the company, but becoming a Grand Slam Champion in the process.