The game changed on January 4, 2010. Hulk Hogan arrived in TNA. In one of the most hotly anticipated episodes of IMPACT ever, the world was watching as “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan stepped inside the IMPACT Zone for the first time. On the same night as “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair also made his debut and “The Charismatic Enigma” Jeff Hardy returned for the first time since 2006, Hulk Hogan walked out to both an explosive reaction from the crowd and an explosive amount of pyro. TNA would never be the same again as Scott Hall and Sean Waltman confronted Hogan, which drew out Kevin Nash and yet another new face – Eric Bischoff. Unresolved issues from the past 15 years of wrestling were once again rearing their head and it would dominate TNA for the years to come.
As Hulk Hogan brought in new names like Sean Morley, The Nasty Boys, Mr. Anderson and Orlando Jordan while reverting back to a four-sided ring, one man watched on from afar. Even through the Main Event Mafia, “The Icon” Sting stood for integrity and respect. However, he seemed to take a particular interest in Hogan as he leered down from the rafters. On March 8, Sting made his intentions known as he finally descended to the ring and took out Hulk Hogan and Hogan’s partner Abyss. This was extremely out of character for Sting but The Stinger insisted that Hogan had deceived everybody, that Hogan was only out for himself in TNA. Despite everybody insisting otherwise, Sting was steadfast in his belief that he had to stand opposed to Hogan.
AJ Styles continued into the year as World Champion but saw a stark attitude shift at Genesis when he aligned with “The Dirtiest Player in the Game” Ric Flair in order to retain the title against Kurt Angle. Styles would then defend the title against Abyss, Samoa Joe and “The Pope” D’Angelo Dinero before losing to another new arrival in TNA – Rob Van Dam. RVD took TNA by storm, quite literally, by defeating James Storm, Sting and Styles in short order and becoming World Champion only six weeks after debuting. RVD would continue to reign defeating names like Sting, Styles, Matt Morgan, Samoa Joe, Mr. Anderson and Abyss but would have to vacate the title after a brutal assault by Abyss and his nail bat Janice.
Despite an association with Hogan early in the year, “The Monster” Abyss would become more violent than ever as the year progressed. Constantly insisting “They” were coming, Abyss’ path of destruction left nobody safe. When this culminated in the attack on RVD, Dixie Carter stepped in and took action – she signed papers that empowered Hogan and Bischoff to do anything necessary to remove Abyss from the company and with that every step of the plan was in place.
All three of these stories – the vacant World Championship, Sting’s mistrust of Hogan, and Abyss’ ominous warning – converged at Bound For Glory as the “They” Abyss was warning about formed. Abyss reunited with Hulk Hogan along with Jeff Hardy, Eric Bischoff, and Jeff Jarrett to create Immortal. Hardy won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship and Immortal joined forces with Ric Flair’s Fortune team of AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, James Storm and Kazarian to form a supergroup that would dominate TNA. Everything Sting had warned about had come to pass and Hulk Hogan was firmly in control of TNA, having wrenched power from Dixie Carter.
A single feud defined the tag team division in 2010 – after three years as a team in TNA, The Motor City Machine Guns captured the TNA World Tag Team Titles at Victory Road kicking off an extended rivalry with Beer Money. The Guns and Beer Money couldn’t have been more polar opposites – the tough bruiser heavyweights against the fast-paced all-action X-Division stars. They moved into a Best of 5 Series that created tag team magic. Both teams battled across Ultimate X, Steel Cage, Street Fight and Ladder matches culminating in a dramatic 2 out of 3 Falls finale with The Guns emerging victorious in one of the best tag team matches of all time. Sabin and Shelley would also engage in a rivalry with some young bucks named Generation Me. They faced Max and Jeremy Buck in fondly remembered Ultimate X and Full Metal Mayhem classics throughout 2010.
Two Knockouts dominated the division for all of 2010 – Angelina Love and Madison Rayne. As The Beautiful People stable introduced Lacey Von Erich and moved on, they were left at odds with Angelina Love. Madison Rayne finally stepped out from under the shadow of Angelina and Velvet to take the Knockouts Championship for herself. Angelina and Madison would trade the title back and forth a number of times – with Tara also winning gold – but the bigger threat was yet to come. In the lead up to Bound For Glory a new phrase would become synonymous with TNA – Hardcore Country! Mickie James arrived in TNA and was coming for the Knockouts Title.
Amazing Red’s X-Division Championship run came to an abrupt end as Douglas Williams cashed in Feast or Fired to become champion. Williams then felt the X-Division needed a stylistic shift, a more technical wrestling focus. He decried the high-flyers of the division and their lack of classic wrestling fundamentals. He would trade the X-Division Title with Frankie Kazarian but fore eventually being defeated by Jay Lethal. A unique obnoxious character then emerged in the division as the abrasive and loud Robbie E arrived straight from the Jersey Shore to end the year as champion.
Other notable events from 2010: Kurt Angle and Mr. Anderson’s grudge culminated in a memorable steel cage match at Lockdown where Kurt Angle moonsaulted off a cage. Hulk Hogan made his in-ring debut on March 8 teaming with Abyss vs. AJ Styles and Ric Flair. Flair and Lethal would feud through the summer including their iconic Woo Off. Stars of the extreme past reunited at Hardcore Justice.
Mick Foley and Ric Flair faced off in a brutal violent Last Man Standing fight between two legends on October 7.