I remember this simpler time in 2005 when TNA Wrestling was a viable threat to WWE.
In the early part of the 2000s, the Nashville based promotion moved to Universal Studios to record their episodes of TNA iMPACT and their PPVs. They would often be filled to the brim with fans clamouring for an alternative to WWE. Since we are currently in a global lockdown, I thought this would be a great time to reflect on the wonders of TNA during its early years and review their annual PPV, Lockdown.
For those of you who have not heard of this PPV, firstly, you’ll thank me later when you check these out on IMPACT Plus (thank you to our friends at IMPACT UK for access to IMPACT Plus!). Secondly, the premise is simple- every match would be contested inside a steel cage (or as it was known, Six Sides of Steel). This PPV was also the home of the Lethal Lockdown match, where two teams faced off War Games style, but once all the competitors were in, the weapon-decorated roof would be lowered for wrestlers to use at their disposal. Like all good history books, we will start at the beginning with the inaugural Lockdown PPV in 2005.
Apolo & Sonny Siaki vs Chris Candido & Lance Hoyt
This match is very awkward to watch now because it is the match that led to the passing of Chris Candido. There was an awkward encounter with Sonny Siaki, which led to Candido falling to the floor and tagging in Lance Hoyt. You can just about see Candido being led out of the cage, so it is left to Hoyt to compete in a handicap match against the newly formed team of Apolo and Siaki. Hoyt more than holds his own and he hits a nasty looking fallaway slam onto Siaki onto the cage and tries to escape for the win. However, Siaki gets him in time and hits a German suplex from the top rope. Somehow, Hoyt manages to land on his stomach- ouch! Apolo takes advantage and scoop slams Hoyt to set up Siaki’s splash for the win.
Post-match, Chris Candido’s team (The Naturals Chase Stevens and Andy Douglas) come out to tell Hoyt off for the loss and for injuring their manager. Hoyt grabs Stevens by the throat, but Douglas starts the attack on Hoyt to add salt to the wound.
Backstage, we are joined by “NWA Director of Authority”, Dusty Rhodes, Trinity (aka one of the best women to EVER be in TNA) and Traci Brooks. They are doing a Lethal Lottery to determine the order of Lethal Lockdown- Jeff Jarrett and Sean Waltman are going to start out Lethal Lockdown later on in the show.
Prince of Darkness 2 out of 3 Falls Match: Dustin Rhodes vs Bobby Roode (w/ A1 & Scott D’Amore)
When the voiceover said the name of this match, I was VERY confused. What does Prince of Darkness even mean?! Also, Dustin Rhodes had some funky country music as his entrance- did I mention this is like going through a Twilight zone? Bobby Roode was VERY quick to get the first fall, which angers Rhodes into getting the second fall. However, Roode is very methodical in his attack- he goes after Rhodes’ back a lot to try and get the fall before this mysterious Prince of Darkness stipulation comes into play. Rhodes does make a comeback and is able to take advantage of Roode setting up a German on the top rope by hitting his Bulldog finisher for the second fall.
Here is the moment we have all been waiting for. What does the Prince of Darkness stipulation entail? What innovative, wild thing was about to happen?!
Blindfolds. Bobby Roode and Dustin Rhodes are fighting with blindfolds on. I really should not have got my hopes up on that one. My face during this last bit was more embarrassed for both wrestlers than anything- Roode tries to use the audience to help him find Dustin, but then Scott D’Amore unlocks the cage to give Roode a steel chair. Because this is wrestling, Roode hits D’Amore with the chair, giving Dustin the chance to hit Roode for the final, decisive, pin.
Well that was a choice of a match. Let’s not dwell or try to analyse it and let’s get onto the first ever Xscape Match in TNA’s history! But before we do, we get a pre match interview with Christopher Daniels, who says he is going to beat the hell out of his former Triple X buddy, Elix Skipper. Shane Douglas (the interviewer) then rounds off the segment which leads us to…
Four Man Xscape Match: Shocker vs Chris Sabin vs Matt Bentley (w/ Trinity) vs Sonjay Dutt
First off, can I continue my appreciation for Trinity here? It is such a huge shame she left TNA for WWE when she did because her mad skills in the ring need to be talked about more. Also, baby Chris Sabin is amazing and I’m glad Don West and Mike Tenay hype this up. The match is a bit of a blur, but the idea is that two competitors need to be eliminated before the final two have to escape the cage in order to win. Sonjay Dutt is the first to be eliminated after Shocker hits a corkscrew elbow.
The second elimination comes with hijinks featuring the only two TNA Knockouts, Trinity and Traci Brooks. As Chris Sabin fights back, Trinity starts to climb the cage. Traci comes out to neutralise Trinity, but gets knocked off the cage. Then, Trinity hits a HUGE moonsault off the top, taking out all three men still in the Xscape Match- what a queen! Traci gets into the cage and fights with Trinity because that’s the only person she can feud with, but when Matt Bentley goes to split the cat fight up, a Cradle Shock from Sabin causes Bentley to get eliminated! We are now down to the final two…
Even though the door was wide open, both Shocker and Sabin choose to climb the cage to secure the win- they both fall onto the top rope groin first for their troubles. Ouch. Both guys fight on the cage wall, where Sabin rams Shocker’s head into the cage, causing him to fall off just seconds before Sabin does.
I enjoyed this match- there was lots going for Sabin to be the obvious winner, but they pulled out a shock decision. I’ll just see myself out with that one and segue way into…
Tables Match: Jeff Hardy vs Raven
Hardy starts swinging with the chair and goes after Raven’s leg with it. He then hits Poetry in Motion, using the chair as a stepping stool instead of his brother for obvious reasons. Hardy goes for it again, but this time Raven moves and Hardy goes flying into the cage. Raven throws Hardy into the cage twice and then proceeds to boot Hardy’s face into the cage. Raven Effect DDT connects early on so Raven sets Hardy up against a table in order to get the early win. He charges towards him, but Hardy ducks out of the way, sending Raven crashing through the wood.
Now even though Raven landed through the table, Hardy did not physically do it himself, so the match continues. Oy vey what a rule. Hardy takes advantage by beating up on Raven. Raven’s now bleeding as Hardy starts grinding his face against the steel. Hardy goes up to the top, but Raven follows him up. Hardy counters the Raven Effect into the Twist of Fate and sets up the table, putting Raven on top of it. Hardy goes to the top of the cage and the crowd is going bananas. He goes for the Swanton, but Raven gets out of the way at the last second causing Hardy to go crashing through the table. OUCH.
Raven (very slowly) gets to the top rope, but Hardy charges him and knocks him off. Repeated shots into the cage by Hardy. He then dropkicks him in the back. Raven with a desperation low blow. Raven now takes a piece of the broken table and starts driving it into Hardy’s face. Raven sets up the chair. Irish whip reversed and Hardy drop toe holds Raven onto the chair. Hardy going over the cage but Raven shakes the cage door, crotching Hardy on top of it. Hardy uses his legs to smash the door against his face. Hardy jumps off the top and Raven gets the boot up. Raven now stacks up four tables and starts going up to the top, dragging Hardy by the hair with him. Hardy fights back and puts Raven on the tables. Hardy then goes to the top of the cage and hits a leg drop through the table stack for the win.
That was as expected from two wrestlers who thrive from an extreme setting. I’m intrigued to find out what Hardy gains as a result of his victory, but that was a fun one!
NWA World Tag Team Championships, Strap Match: America’s Most Wanted (Chris Harris & James Storm) (c) vs Team Canada (Eric Young & Petey Williams) (w/ A1 & Scott D’Amore)
Storm and Petey battle outside and Harris chases Young to the top of the cage. AMW get Young and pull on his legs and crotch him further. Petey back up and it is 2 on 2. Harris gets nailed with the title belt by A1 and he is down on the floor. He nails Storm as well and AMW is in trouble. The cage is locked and Harris is on the floor still! Young and Petey work over Storm while A1 works over Harris on the floor. Petey steps on Storm and chokes him out with a little OHHHH CANADA! To cut this down short, AMW basically have their asses handed to them until Chris Harris climbs all the way to the top of the steel cage and hits a top of the cage dive onto Team Canada. Do wrestlers not like using the door or something? Harris has a new lease of life as he pounds on Young and Williams, which gives Storm enough time to reenergise to help Harris hit a Hart Attack to Young. That gets 2. Everyone then goes at 100mph an hour hitting all the crazy movies they can, but it is the Death Sentence that secures the win for America’s Most Wanted.
Winners and STILL NWA Tag Team Champions: America’s Most Wanted
This is why I loved TNA back in the day. Their tag team division was solid and had great leaders in AMW. They had a great feud with Triple X back in the day, but alas the latter team disbanded, which leads us to our next match…
TNA X-Division Championship: Christopher Daniels (c) vs Elix Skipper
These two know each other so well, the first two minutes is them reversing literally every move they can and then have a standoff. Elix Skipper is one of those you probably slept on back in the day, but he shows why he is one of the best X Division competitors with his offensive against the Fallen Angel. Skipper hits a beautiful butterfly suplex to Daniels and is in control in the early going. Daniels manages to ram Skipper to the cage and the challenger favours his shoulder. Daniels steps back from a bit (cue commentary going on about how this is the most dangerous PPV in wrestling and reflects on Candido’s nasty leg injury in the first match).
Daniels takes advantage and works over Skipper’s arm LOADS- all the armbars in all the positions possible. Elix somehow manages to get some offense in one handed which includes a sweet spin kick. Daniels hits the BME for a two count, so Daniels ventures to the top of the cage. Uh oh. Elix follows suit, but then Daniels drops to the mat after falling on his crotch on the top of the cage. ELIX FLIES AND GETS A CROSSBODY FROM THE TOP OF THE CAGE! The ref bit it too but is back up to give Skipper a two count for his troubles. Elix has Daniels and tries the spinning Uranage, but Daniels escapes due to the bad shoulder. Angel’s wings reversed, Sudden death reversed. ANGEL’S WINGS and that is all!
Winner and STILL TNA X Division Champion: Christopher Daniels.
We need more Elix Skipper in our lives- what a fantastic match! This is Daniels in his prime as no one is as fluid as him during this time in the X Division. We get some more Dusty talk about Lethal Lockdown before the hype package to our penultimate match.
Lethal Lockdown Match: BG James (replacing Kevin Nash), Diamond Dallas Page & Sean Waltman vs Jeff Jarrett, Monty Brown & The Outlaw (Billy Gunn)
I’m not going to go into too much detail in this match but I will say this- Jeff Jarrett in this era of TNA is GOLD. I know most people remember the cowboy JJ, or the JJ who got beat by Chyna all the time, but this is the Double J I grew up watching on The Wrestling Channel. He plays the part of snarky heel to absolute perfection, which is why I loved Waltman going in on him for the first 5 minutes. The thing that worked well with this era of JJ was that EVERYONE was game to build up how hated he is- Tenay shouting support for Waltman is hilarious to listen to! However, because Jarrett’s Army has the advantage, The Outlaw comes out next and while Waltman puts up a good fight, Outlaw hits him with a trashcan to get the advantage for 2 minutes. DDP comes out next, and he spends longer than Undertaker getting to the ring- very helpful in this situation!
However, he brings kendo sticks into play and that’s when Waltman and DDP have some fun. It doesn’t last long because Outlaw hits a low blow to DDP and right on cue, the greatest wrestler to never be given a proper chance comes to the ring. That’s right- Monty Brown is out next! He brings out a baseball bat and lays out Waltman/DDP. God what a specimen. He just has fun for two minutes until it is revealed that BG James (Road Dogg) replaces Kevin Nash in this match. He hits all the opponents until King Monty Brown gives out pounces like Oprah Winfrey gives out cars. Unfortunately, Waltman botches the finish so has to victory roll Brown for the win. Sigh.
Winners: Sean Waltman, DDP & BG James.
The ending made me sad. In case you did not get the vibe, I think Monty Brown is great. It is a shame that he is the only new talent in this match, but you win some and lose some I guess. It is also weird that the NWA World Champion did not main event this PPV but it’s OK, because our main event involves two of the best original TNA talents fighting for a shot at Double J’s title.
#1 Contender to the NWA World Heavyweight Title: AJ Styles vs Abyss
In 2005, I spent most of it swooning over two wrestlers: John Cena and AJ Styles. Hearing Styles’ old TNA music hit me in the feels and seeing him be a babyface with short hair filled me with Marie Kondo levels of joy. Abyss coming out to wrestle also fills me with feelings, only of fear as I flashback to my fear of being chased by Abyss and James Mitchell with an axe. I love this clash of style (haha I pop myself) so let’s get into the match.
As expected, AJ goes for Abyss before he enters the ring and hits a suicide dive through the ropes onto Abyss! AJ tries to toss Abyss, but the monsters throws him towards the guardrail. However, AJ uses his quickness to slickly slide under the guardrail to hit Abyss with a hurricanrana. He then jumps over 3 rows of fans and hit’s a flying forearm. We don’t get em like that anymore! Unfortunately, our fun ends when Abyss grabs Styles by the throat and tosses him against the fence wall at the top of the stands. The match hasn’t even properly started and I LOVE it. This crowd has woken up and is buzzing! They end up back to the ring area and Abyss is not letting up on Styles. Styles manages to fight back and regains advantage. He flings Abyss to the rail and goes towards the ring. Abyss flings the cage door into Styles…TWICE. The second one was NASTY! I think the corner of the cage door hit Styles’ beautiful hairless head! Abyss does it again! Abyss chucks a chair into the ring and starts punching AJ’s bloodied, beautiful, hairless head! Styles is chucked into the ring while Abyss throws in his chain and a bag of thumbtacks to the ring. They are now in the ring and the cage is locked…THE MATCH HAS FINALLY BEGUN.
Abyss is all over AJ Styles and tries to wrap the chain around Styles’ neck, but our Phenomenal One escapes in time. Abyss hits a vicious boot and regains the advantage. Abyss tries to nail Styles with the chain in the turnbuckle, but Styles puts his foot up in time to avoid the contact. AJ runs towards Abyss, but he is flung into the corner with the chain on headfirst. Good god, AJ was a sucker for punishment in 2005! Abyss beats on AJ mercilessly for a good five minutes before AJ manages to mount a comeback but reversing an overhead throw into a DDT into the steel chain on the ringmat! AJ mounts some offense and goes for a high risk move, but came crashing down and Abyss is back to having the advantage. Somehow AJ hits a stunning German suplex onto Abyss for a two count. AJ attempts a Styles Clash as the crowd goes nuts for the Phenomenal One, but Abyss reverses it with a chokeslam, which is then reversed by Styles into a victory roll to a very close two! AJ takes advantage for a moment, but Abyss hits a Black Hole Slam!
HE ONLY GETS A TWO COUNT AND THE CROWD GOES WILD. THE COMMENTATORS GO WILD. ABYSS HAS GONE WILD and has brought out the tacks! Abyss goes for the BHS again, but AJ gets out. He tries to kick Abyss into the tacks, but then Abyss sets up for a powerbomb. AJ REVERSES THIS INTO A STYLES CLASH INTO THE TACKS. OH MY LIFE THAT WAS AMAZING. He only gets a two count though!! Styles climbs to the top of the cage while Abyss tries to remove all of the tacks from his chest. Abyss chokeslams THE REFEREE into the cage which leads to Styles losing his balance and holding onto the side of the cage for dear life! Abyss climbs up and tries to wrap the chain around Styles’ neck again and is finally successful- AJ is hanging from the top of the cage with a chain around his neck. This is not comfortable viewing! AJ manages to fight it off by climbing back up and bites Abyss’ thumb! This sets up AJ doing a sunset flip powerbomb from the top of the cage INTO THE THUMBTACKS! AJ crawls to Abyss. The referee crawls to Abyss. AJ gets the three count and all is right with the world!
That has got to be one of the best steel cage matches I have ever seen. Just like what I said about Double J, AJ Styles in this era is gold and just…there are no words to describe him. Go and watch this back because my god it still holds up to this day.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @ShirleighShirlz. Thanks for reading!