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.
If you thought I was done with heavy hitters for my books about the history of TNA/IMPACT Wrestling, think again! I spoke with Ken Anderson, a two-time TNA World Heavyweight Champion, at length about his time with the company. We covered his feuds with Sting and Kurt Angle, including Angle’s crazy moonsault off the top of the cage at Lockdown 2010, as well as his time in Immortal, working with legends like Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. I got Ken’s thoughts on AJ Styles, Rob Van Dam, Jeff Jarrett, Dixie Carter, and more. We also talked about Aces & Eights and why he was let go from TNA, among many other topics. It was an absolute pleasure interviewing Ken. He’s always been one of my favorite wrestlers, and he’s criminally underrated. I look forward to his future in the business, and I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to speak with him for my book project.