Eli Drake’s loud mouth and brash attitude immediately got attention when he debuted in 2015. From his time in The Rising to his run as King of the Mountain Champion to his rivalry with EC3 – people immediately identified him as a future World Champion. Lashley defeated Eddie Edwards to regain the title in a classic 30 Minute Iron Man at Genesis but a Gauntlet for the Gold in August for the vacant championship gave Drake his best chance yet. He overcame 20 men including former champions Eddie Edwards, Lashley and EC3 as well as the debuting Johnny IMPACT to become champion. Drake then immediately entered a rivalry with Johnny including main eventing Bound For Glory, but Drake would hang onto the title for the rest of the year.
Broken. No single word defines 2016 more. EC3 won the World Title Series to become World Champion for the second time but this would set Matt Hardy on a completely different path. After coming up short multiple times and having his crowning moment taken away from him at Bound For Glory, Matt Hardy turned to a different approach to capture the World Championship. Tyrus turned on EC3, helping Hardy capture gold and beginning the birth of “Broken” Matt Hardy. When Drew Galloway used his Feast or Fired case to take the World Championship from Matt, Matt lost it thinking his brother had betrayed him. Jeff Hardy beat Matt Hardy in an I Quit match after a Swanton Bomb from the very top of the IMPACT Zone and Matt was never the same.
From the moment he arrived in TNA in October 2013, EC3 was destined for greatness. Part of that was nepotism of course – he was Dixie Carter’s nephew after all – but the larger part was he could back it up in the ring. EC3 defeated everybody that was put in front of him – with legends like Sting, Kurt Angle, Jeff Hardy, Bully Ray, Rhino, Austin Aries and Eric Young all failing to defeat the cocky upstart. For all of this he had the loyal and steadfast Rockstar Spud by his side. Many of those victories came with an assist from Spud, but after Dixie Carter was powerbombed through a table the relationship between Spud and EC3 began to fracture. This culminated in a memorable Hair vs. Hair encounter in Wembley Arena in London as a bloody and resilient Spud fought with absolutely everything he had to take down his old friend EC3, but ultimately came up short. Spud’s head was shaved bald.
2014 started with two TNA World Heavyweight Champions: AJ Styles and Magnus. Both men had a claim to the title – Styles defeated Bully Ray at Bound For Glory while Magnus won a tournament in his absence. However, there could only be one true TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Styles and Magnus faced off in January to crown a true champion. After interference from all of Magnus and Dixie’s goons, Magnus was crowned the undisputed champion. Sting tried to school his old Main Event Mafia associate and was willing to put his TNA career on the line to get a title shot: in a similar story, with help from a lot of outside interference Magnus retained and cast Sting out of TNA.
Invading forces were nothing new to TNA – between Sports Entertainment Xtreme, The Main Event Mafia and Immortal, groups coming together seeking power and control was commonplace. What was unusual though was not even knowing the identity of the attackers. That was what made the masked Aces and 8s attackers so sinister – knowing they could attack from anywhere and could easily hide in plain sight made them all the more menacing. When Devon was revealed as a member of Aces and 8s, the pieces began to click into place. Over the coming months more and more members were revealed including Mr. Anderson, Knux, Garett Bischoff, Wes Briscoe, D’Lo Brown and DOC. The question of what they wanted in TNA still loomed large though.
Over the past week, I’ve interviewed a slew of people who played an incredibly important role in the history of TNA/IMPACT Wrestling for my books about the company’s history. One of those people is Jason Hervey, who you may know best for his starring role in The Wonder Years. Jason was a phenomenal interview. We talked about the early days of TNA, when he was working with HealthSouth, the wrestling promotion’s original financial baker, how he joined TNA in 2010, alongside Hulk Hogan and his former business partner, Eric Bischoff, and much more. Other topics discussed include his thoughts on Dixie Carter, Jeff Jarrett, lawsuits he was involved in with HealthSouth and TNA, and Aces & Eights, just to name a few. I was very impressed by Jason’s honesty and respect and admiration for those he’s worked with over the years.
I’ve now done more than 60 interviews for my books about the history of TNA/IMPACT Wrestling, including an interview tonight that I conducted with former Spike TV President Kevin Kay that lasted more than two hours. We talked about many topics, including the following: whether or not Spike TV paid for Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, among others, to join TNA, if Spike TV ever thought about buying TNA, how Viacom really felt about TNA, if Jeff Jarrett was a better leader than Dixie Carter, and a whole lot more. This was one of the most enlightening conversations I’ve had so far, and it’s going to make for exceptionally compelling content for both of my books. Keep it right here for many more updates to come!
Today, I watched The Wrestler for the first time since it came out nearly 11 years ago. It is still a fantastic movie. It’s very much the pro wrestling version of Rocky Balboa, an equally fabulous piece of cinema that is gritty, authentic, and overflowing with emotion.
Last weekend was a whirlwind of rock and wrestling. As you can see from the photo above, I saw Billy Idol live and met him and guitarist Steve Stevens after the show. The concert, as expected, was a high-energy, fist-pumping affair, and I followed this up by attending several meet and greets with professional wrestlers that were in town for the 2015 WWE Royal Rumble. For your enjoyment, below are photos from this epic weekend.