The National Wrestling Alliance (or NWA for short) is one of the most influential wrestling promotions of all time as the brand has helped to establish names like Sting, Vader and Ric Flair but it’s also helped in giving future companies like WCW, ECW and of course TNA the credibility needed to be taken seriously.
From the very first event TNA back in 2002 until 2007, the NWA legacy was connected to the company we know today as Impact Wrestling due in large part to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and in today’s article, I’ll be mentioning the NWA championship matches have proven to be the most important in TNA Wrestling.
The Gauntlet For The Gold (NWA TNA PPV #1)
It only makes sense we start this list off by mentioning the very first NWA title match to occur in TNA history by talking about the first TNA Wrestling event and the story behind it all is very interesting.
On June 19th 2002 (the day of the first-ever NWA TNA event), MMA legend and professional wrestler, Dan “The Beast” Severn was scheduled to appear as he was the reigning NWA World Heavyweight Champion at the time however due to other obligations that needed to be dealt with, Severn was stripped of the title weeks before the show.
In order to make sure that the event ended on a high note, the main event saw a handful of wrestlers including future TNA stars like Abyss, Christian York, Konnan and Scott Hall competing in the “Gantlet For The Gold” match to be crowned the new NWA Champion.
The two finalists: Malice (aka The Wall in WCW) and former King Of The Ring Winner and Intercontinental Champion, Ken Shamrock then competed in a one-on-one match after the last elimination occurred and after going at it for five more minutes, Shamrock was able to make Malice tap out which led to special guest referee Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat ringing the bell and making the world’s most dangerous man, Ken Shamrock not only the new NWA World Champion but the first world champion in company history.
While Shamrock’s reign with the belt only lasted for 49 days, he did battle names like Malice, Tako Omori and Sabu before taking part in some history upon losing the title but more on that later.
Abyss vs. Sean Waltman vs. Monty Brown vs. Raven: King Of The Mountain Match (Slammiversary 2005)
Mere days after his contract with the WWE came to an end, former ECW champion Raven came to TNA on the January 22nd 2003 event where he attacked Jeff Jarrett after a match and ran up the entrance ramp with the NWA Title to close out the sho
From then on, Raven would appear in the TNA Asylum proclaiming that it was his ‘destiny’ to become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, however his road to the top wouldn’t be easy thanks to a number of obstacles including his arch rival and the man he had real life heat with during this time: Jeff Jarrett.
After multiple attempts at the title and failing to win them, Raven’s opportunity for championship success came at the very first Slammiversary pay per view in 2005 when he took Jeff Jarrett’s spot in the King of The Mountain match for the NWA Championship after Jarrett ‘assaulted’ a fan in the crowd which led to him ‘going to jail’.
Raven would be up against the reigning champion, AJ Styles as well as “The Monster” Abyss, Sean Waltman, and “The Alpha Male” Monty Brown in the second ever KOTM match and despite the odds stacked against him, Raven would climb the ladder and finally fulfilled his long awaited destiny and become NWA World Heavyweight.
What makes this match so significant is not only did this occurred at very first Slammiversary PPV or the fact this became one of the definitive moments in TNA golden era, but it helped to cement the legacy of an ex WWE wrestler who was never going to become a world champion in Vince McMahon’s company.
Christian Cage vs. Jeff Jarrett: Against All Odds 2006
Continuing the theme of ex WWE wrestlers finding a much more successful run in TNA while also becoming champion, we look at perhaps one of the biggest moments in the singles career of Christian Cage
Much like Raven, Christian Cage’s debut in TNA was treated as a major deal as he came to TNA with the aim of finally doing something he never could in WWE and that’s win the world title and be treated like main event star in the process.
At Against All Odds 2006, “The Instant Classic” Christian Cage faced off against Jeff Jarrett in the main event with the fans in attendance ready to explode in cheers for Christian’s win or erupted into boos if Jarrett somehow retained the title, which should give you an indication as to how many fans were feeling about Double J and his strangle hold on the world title.
While the match was overbooked in places (as it tended to be for TNA), the final moments of this match saw Cage hitting his Kill Switch manoeuvre onto Jarrett for the three count and as a result, the Instant Classic became the new NWA World Heavyweight champion as explosions rang out in the Impact Zone and fans began to storm the ring holding Christian as their conquering hero.
Christian’s win and title reign as NWA World Champion helped in ushering in the company’s Golden Age from 2005-09 but it also helped in establishing Christian Cage was more than a tag team wrestler or a mid-carder but he was in fact main event star material.
Raven vs. Jeff Jarrett (NWA TNA PPV #43)
Double J is back again on this list but this time he’s taking on his nemesis raven in one of the highest profiled matches in early TNA
As mentioned previously, Raven made his debut attacking Jarrett and spent the majority of his first few months in the company going after the NWA World Championship, well now after jumping through numerous hoops to get to this spot, the former ECW star finally takes on the TNA Founder in the main event of episode 43 of NWA TNA’s weekly pay per views.
To give you an idea of how much fans really wanted to see this match, the venue for where this match took place at was packed to the brim with so many ruckus and energetic fans that the company had to allegedly turn away paying customers because the place was so stacked with attendees…Bare in mind this was almost a year into the company’s existence and they weren’t on any television network that’s how anticipated this match is.
Much like his match Christian Cage, Jarrett’s NWA title bout with Raven with filled will screwy moments like use of weapons, outside interference, ref bumps and a lot of close calls; However, the finish came when Jeff Jarrett hit his signature move “The Stroke” onto Raven after everything that occurred in the match to get the three count and to say the crowd is angry would be an understatement.
When the match first started, the fans were 50/50 when it came to cheering Jarrett and Raven but by the end of the match is was more 80-90% of people were supporting Raven as chants of “Bullshit”, “Super Jarrett”, “Triple J” rang out through the crowd while at the same time garbage came be seen getting thrown into the ring.
While it would take some time for Raven to become world champion, his match with Jarrett and the hype surrounding it showed that in terms of the rise of TNA Wrestling this is just the beginning.
Ron Killings vs. Ken Shamrock (NWA TNA PPV #8)
Remember earlier when I said that Ken Shamrock would be a part of a historic moment upon losing the NWA title, well now it’s time to talk about that very same moment.
Ron “The Truth” Killings maybe best known to fans the world over for his run in the WWE as ‘R-Truth’ but between 2002-07, he was a more serious wrestler who became one the companies best home grown stars.
After weeks of explaining that the reason his been held down in the grand scheme of things is due to his race and his been demanding his opportunity to proven himself as more than just a wrestler but as a world champion. On the August 7th 2002 event, authority figure Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat calls out Killings for his actions for the last number of weeks and tells him that he needs to explain himself in front of everyone.
What follows is perhaps the single greatest promo in R-Truth’s/Ron Killings career (look it up it’s that amazing) and long story short, the promo resonates with Ricky Steamboat so much that he gives Killings a shot at Ken Shamrock’s NWA world title.
Following a competitive and hard fought match, Ron “The Truth” Killings became the first and to this date only African American wrestle to be recognized as NWA World Heavyweight Champion, I say recongized because there were other Black wrestlers who won the title but for one reason or another they were never recognized.
Killings reign would lasted for 105 days before losing it Jeff Jarrett in a typical screwy finish but he would regain the title two years later as part of the Three Live Kru.
Sting vs. Kurt Angle vs. Christian Cage (Sacrifice 2007)
On May 13th 2007, the wrestling world was shocked to discover that the NWA was separating from TNA Wrestling after a five-year partnership due to the fact that names like Team 3D and Christian Cage had not defended their titles in NWA territories and thus ending the association between TNA and the NWA.
While the announcement of this partnership may have been made, there was one small little problem and that was TNA Wrestling had a pay per view set to take place the day this announcement was made with Team 3D and Christian Cage set to defend their titles on this night. Realizing that they didn’t have time to make new titles and the fact they still have the physical belts, the company went on with the event and the title matches stayed the same although the company would have both of those title matches end in screwy finishes which were used a way to write the NWA lineage out of the company.
While Team 3D was awarded the new TNA World Tag Team titles, Kurt Angle, who won the NWA championship as part of that screwy finished at the PPV was not recognized as champion due to his reign occurring after the announcement of the TNA/NWA partnership coming to an end; So, what the company did instead was create new world title and crowning a new world champion in a King of The Mountain match in the main event at Slammiversary 2007.
Angle would win the match and become the very first TNA World Heavyweight Champion in the first of six times he would be champion; By creating their own world title making Angle the new champion, helped to signal the end of the NWA /TNA partnership and led to the company developing its own title lineage for years and years to come.