Oh, you didn’t know? The latest interview for my book about the first 20 years of TNA/IMPACT Wrestling was with the legendary Brian James. As someone who grew up watching Brian as The Roadie with Jeff Jarrett, Road Dogg in The New Age Outlaws and D-Generation X, and B.G. James in TNA, I was thrilled to have the chance to speak with him at length.
On April 26, Scott Fishman, a well-respected pro wrestling journalist, reached out to me, asking if I’d provide him with a quote for a story he was working on for Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) about the 20th anniversary of IMPACT Wrestling. I was blown away by this request because I grew up buying and reading PWI (which I still do), and it’s widely considered the greatest publication in the history of the industry. Nearly two months later, the October 2022 issue of PWI including Scott’s IMPACT article is now available. How is it, how much of my quote made the cut, and how can you get your hands on a copy? Read on for all those answers and more.
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.
Austin Aries won a TNA contract at Destination X in 2011 and the whirlwind year to follow was beyond anybody’s expectations. Having overcome Low Ki, Jack Evans and Zema Ion to get a TNA contract before swiftly beating Brian Kendrick for the X-Division Title – Austin Aries quickly ruled the roost in the X-Division. With successful title defenses against Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, Kid Kash and Zema Ion – Aries was looking to step it up a level and prove he could compete with the very toughest in TNA. A dispute with Bully Ray resulted in an intense match at Sacrifice where Aries improbably dropped Bully with a Brainbuster to win. Aries then made a successful title defense against former TNA Champion Samoa Joe at Slammiversary, proving beyond all doubt that he was ready.
Sting, feeling TNA didn’t heed his warnings about Hulk Hogan and Immortal in 2010, vanished for much of the start of 2011. The tide began to turn in February when Fortune broke off from Immortal to stand alone and oppose them. This time Scott Steiner was the harbinger of change announcing “They” were coming as AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, James Storm and Kazarian stood up for TNA. They were soon bolstered as the returning Sting defeated Jeff Hardy to become World Champion in March. Immortal would maintain momentum with new members like Matt Hardy and Kurt Angle but the core dispute to be resolved centered around Hogan and Sting. The two legends of pro wrestling facing off was inevitable.
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.