2004 was all about new eras of TNA. First, the iMPACT! television show launched on June 4 as TNA reached a whole new audience. TNA said farewell to The Asylum in September after calling Nashville home for two years, with iMPACT! emanating from the iMPACT! Zone in Orlando going forward. And in November, TNA presented its very first Sunday three hour pay-per-view event – Victory Road. With all those historic landmarks, Jeff Jarrett was more desperate for power and control than ever.
After months of waging war on NWA Director of Authority Erik Watts, Jeff Jarrett finally had the opportunity to seize control on January 28 as he backed Don Callis in a battle for control of the company against Erik Watts. The winner would have all the power in TNA, and Jarrett could finally fulfil his ambitions of total domination. Watts’ girlfriend Goldylocks stunningly betrayed him, delivering a crushing low blow that handed Jarrett and Watts victory. However just as Jarrett thought TNA was in the palm of his hand, the NWA board appointed made a last gasp decision – they appointed a brand-new Director of Authority to wrench control back from Jarrett. That DOA was none other than Vince Russo.
A reformed Russo had one goal: get the NWA World Heavyweight Championship off of Jeff Jarrett. Challengers began to line up – AJ Styles, Raven, Abyss, Chris Harris and Ron Killings all staked a claim to a shot. Harris tried and failed on March 17 after Raven cost him the match. Harris was set to have another opportunity on April 21, this time inside a steel cage to negate any potential interference but Raven injured Harris’ arm prior to the match. That left an opening for AJ Styles to step into and he capitalized to become champion for the second time.
His joy was short-lived however as Ron Killings ended Styles’ reign in controversial fashion only for Jarrett, Styles, Raven, Harris and Killings to enter a brand-new match type: the King of the Mountain match. The rules of King of the Mountain are simple: five people compete to hang a Championship belt and win the match, you can only hang the belt after you becoming eligible by pinning or submitting an opponent, if you are pinned or submitted you must go to the penalty box for two minutes. Jarrett earned his “King of the Mountain” moniker that night and regained the NWA Title. Jarrett would reign for the remainder of the year as not even the debuting “Charismatic Enigma” Jeff Hardy could wrench control of the belt from him.
While Harris flirted with heavyweight gold early in the year, he re-joined James Storm to redouble their efforts in the tag team division in the back half of the year. This was defined by two Six Sides of Steel cage matches. The first was against the plucky upstart team of Andy Douglas and Chase Stevens – The Naturals. AMW were the team in NWA-TNA and The Naturals knew the fastest way to make their name was as at the expense of Harris and Storm. The Naturals beat AMW for the Tag Team Titles before they settled their grudge in the first Six Sides of Steels match. Chase Stevens proved he was willing to go to any lengths to win including a dramatic moonsault off the cage as The Naturals scored the biggest win of their career.
While the Tag Team titles would bounce between The Naturals, 3 Live Kru and Team Canada for the remainder of the year – AMW’s grudge with Triple X continued to boil over. After an 18-month rivalry, they finally settled their dispute inside Six Sides of Steel in the main event of TNA’s second PPV Turning Point. More than tag team gold was on the line this time, the losing team had to disband – their very survival as a tag team was at stake. In a bloody, brutal, violent match defined by Elix Skipper’s legendary cage walk – a moment that will live on in pro wrestling history forever – AMW vanquished Triple X with their own Powerplex move to prove that they were the superior team once and for all. It still stands today as one of the best steel cage matches of all-time.
After the success of the Super X-Cup tournament in 2003, the international tournaments ramped up in 2004. The Americas X-Cup was introduced where two countries would send teams of four to determine who has the best X-Division competitors. Mexico’s Team AAA of captain Juventud Guerrera, Hector Garza, Abismo Negro and Mr Aguila faced the US’ Team NWA of Sonjay Dutt, Chris Sabin, Elix Skipper and captain Jerry Lynn in the inaugural competition on February 11. Team Mexico emerged victorious and would retain the cup in one-night challenges against Team Canada and Team UK. This culminated in the first World X-Cup on May 26 as teams from the USA, Mexico, Canada and Japan all battled in a one-night tournament. Mexico’s supremacy was finally toppled as Team USA captured the cup.
Chris Sabin became X-Division Champion for the second time in Ultimate X 2 on January 7, but an injury leading to having to vacate the title left an opening for Frankie Kazarian to swoop in and capture gold for the first time. When AJ Styles returned to the X-Division in June and won the Championship, Kazarian formed an alliance with Michael Shane designed to regain the title from the X-Division pioneer. Shane and Kazarian would become the only ever co-Champions in the history of the division after both men pulled down the belt in Ultimate X on July 28 but Team Canada’s Petey Williams would end the year as Champion after winning a 20-man Gauntlet for the Gold on August 11 to settle the co-champs issue.
Some other notes from 2004: “Macho Man” Randy Savage made his debut at Victory Road building to the final match of his career as he formed a dream team with AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy to defeat Jeff Jarrett, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash at Turning Point. Monty Brown returned to TNA and immediately dominated the heavyweight division, including defeating Abyss and Raven in the historic first ever Monster’s Ball match at Victory Road. As iMPACT! ramped up later in the year, Dustin Rhodes returned to the company and Diamond Dallas Page made his debut. However just like 2003, the year ended how it began – with a dominant Jeff Jarrett as NWA World Heavyweight Champion.