20 Years of IMPACT: 2006

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Sting arrived in TNA to rapturous applause at Final Resolution. The building absolutely exploded as Sting teamed with Christian Cage to face Jeff Jarrett and Monty Brown. The iMPACT! Zone erupted into chants of “You’ve still got it!” as The Stinger looked like he was never gone. That match would be the springboard to help Christian defeat Jarrett to become NWA World Champion the following month at Against All Odds. The fans rushed the ring to hold their new hero on their shoulders as the iMPACT! Zone truly became the Peep’s Zone.

Christian would make successful title defenses against Abyss and Monty Brown but Jarrett once again conspired to reclaim the title in King of the Mountain at Slammiversary. Sting took it into his own hands to defeat Jarrett for good and finally did so in front of a raucous crowd in Plymouth, Michigan at Bound For Glory – the first three-hour pay-per-view to be held outside the iMPACT! Zone in Orlando. Sting would not reign for long though as James Mitchell mastered a plan for “The Monster” Abyss to finally become champion at Genesis. Sting lost his cool and got himself disqualified for a nasty attack on Abyss. Under NWA rules at the time the title could change hands on a disqualification and Abyss ended 2006 as World Champion.

After Christian Cage arrived in 2005 and Sting in January 2006, Scott Steiner followed in March. Aligning with Jarrett, Steiner destroyed his old foe Sting and made a statement to the entire roster. Steiner would go on to face Samoa Joe in a memorable encounter at Slammiversary. Undoubtedly though, the biggest acquisition of the year – and the biggest acquisition in TNA history – came in September. Kurt Angle coming to TNA was real. Damn real. Immediately people began to consider dream matches, wondering what matches like Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles or Kurt Angle vs. Sting would look like. But one dream match quickly became a reality and Angle found his first rival in TNA. 

It was touted as the dream match of the decade: Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe. Samoa Joe was undefeated in TNA – having spent the 18 months prior smashing through all the competition in his path from X-Division stars like AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels to heavyweight contenders like Sabu, Rhino, Scott Steiner and Monty Brown. Joe was unstoppable. Until he met Kurt Angle. Their encounter when Angle debuted is now legendary. Joe laid the NWA World Heavyweight Championship between them and dared Angle to cross the line. The tension was palpable as the iMPACT! Zone exploded. Angle and Joe went nose to nose before Angle delivered the headbutt heard around the world. As Angle took time to pose with the NWA Title, Samoa Joe rose up behind him bleeding but undeterred. Countless security spilled out desperately trying to separate the two. Tensions were ready to explode.

Angle and Joe battled for the first time at Genesis. It was the kind of atmosphere you only get once in a generation, two of the very best in the world facing off for the very first time. A match nobody would have ever thought possible happening right in front of their eyes. Full of stiff strikes, supreme suplexes and sumptuous submissions – the physical encounter was everything fans had hoped for. Angle emerged victorious, ending Samoa Joe’s undefeated streak, but a rematch was quickly scheduled for Turning Point with Samoa Joe coming out on top. A rubber match would have to wait until 2007.

The X-Division continued to revolve around AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe. Joe crossed a line intentionally trying to injure Daniels and put “The Fallen Angel” on the shelf permanently. The X-Division was built on the spirit of competition and this violated those values. Daniels returned for revenge at Final Resolution, a three-way Unbreakable rematch went down at Against All Odds before all three entered Ultimate X at Destination X. Following the culmination of their rivalry, a new generation of X-Division stars like Chris Sabin, Low Ki, Sonjay Dutt, Alex Shelley and Jay Lethal stepped up. Kevin Nash declared war on that era of the X-Division as they battled the belittling and arrogant Nash. This formed the basis of Paparazzi Productions as Shelley sided with Nash to produce a series of fondly remembered skits lampooning the X-Division, culminating in the hilarious Paparazzi Championship Series at the end of the year.

America’s Most Wanted continued to dominate the tag team division until an X-Division dream team stepped up to oppose them. AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels formed a bond over their opposition to Samoa Joe and left the X-Division to pursue tag team gold. Gail Kim’s interference was a difference maker in their match at Sacrifice, but Styles and Daniels introduced Sirelda to even the odds and become Champions at Slammiversary. Styles and Daniels celebrated in the audience with the iMPACT! Zone faithful in a feelgood moment as AMW’s nine-month reign came to an end.

Another force quickly emerged in the division. After a tumultuous end to 3 Live Kru set about by Kip James’ debut, a bitter and jealous Konnan formed his own group – the Latin American Xchange. Konnan’s team of Homicide and Hernandez quickly made an impact in TNA, defeating Ron Killings and Sonjay Dutt at Victory Road and putting themselves into title contention. LAX would win the World Tag Team Titles twice in a vicious rivalry with Styles and Daniels spanning Ultimate X, Border Brawl and Six Sides of Steel matches. Homicide and Hernandez instantly cemented their place as one the most memorable teams in TNA history.

Some other notes from 2006: The World X-Cup returned as Team TNA (Sabin, Lethal, Dutt and Shelley) defeated Team Mexico (Jushin Liger, Hirooki Goto, Minoru Tanaka and Black Tiger), Team Mexico (Shocker, Puma, Magno and Incognito) and Team Canada (Petey Williams, Eric Young, Johnny Devine and Tyson Dux). Hiroshi Tanahashi made his TNA debut facing Styles at Final Resolution. Two legendary tag teams faced off as The James Gang battled Team 3D at Slammiversary.

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