We go again! Previously, I reviewed TNA’s inaugural monthly pay-per-view, Victory Road 2004. Despite being a historic night for the promotion, their show was ultimately disappointing. Nevertheless, I enjoyed documenting that event and I am excited to get stuck into Turning Point 2004 today. There’s cause for optimism regarding this card: America’s Most Wanted (Chris Harris & James Storm) take on Triple X (Christopher Daniels & Elix Skipper) inside Six Sides of Steel and Petey Williams defends his X-Division Championship against Chris Sabin. Can TNA improve upon their last outing? Let’s find out:
TNA Turning Point, December 5th 2004:
The opening video package (click the links to follow along, if you fancy it) features the trio of NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Jarrett, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, they’re now known as the Kings of Wrestling – a bizarre Elvis-inspired gimmick. I understand that Elvis was the “King of Rock and Roll”, but this is hardly contemporary even in 2004 and doesn’t carry a main event vibe, in my opinion. They face A.J. Styles, Jeff Hardy and a returning Randy Savage later tonight. The younger competitors explain their respect for the Macho Man in the video package, which unifies the team nicely.
We’re greeted with pyro at Universal Studios in Orlando, where Mike Tenay and Don West are once again our announcers. The pairing has already grown on me through their infectious enthusiasm, both appear to genuinely love being there. Before we get to the action, Mr. McMahon and Triple H impersonators arrive in a limousine when Abyss, who is holding balloons, growls to scare them off. There’s more to come on that front, unfortunately.
1: Team Canada (Eric Young & Bobby Roode) (w/Coach D’Amore) def. 3 Live Kru (B.G. James & Ron Killings) in a Tag Team Match to win the NWA World Tag Team Championships in 8:30.
This is a rematch from Victory Road, where 3 Live Kru defeated Team Canada to win the titles. Previously, James had teamed with Konnan, who is replaced by Killings tonight. Like their previous encounter, it’s formulaic, however the action moves along quickly, with the crowd firmly behind 3 Live Kru. That makes this a solid selection for the opener. The match benefits from Killings’ athleticism (as opposed to the less mobile Konnan); he has a fun exchange with Eric Young that results in Truth executing a slick rope-assisted Axe Kick. D’Amore D’Istracts the referee for the finish, when returning Team Canada member Johnny Devine breaks a hockey stick over James’ back, allowing the Canadians to re-gain their titles. I enjoy Team Canada’s ring work – both Roode and Young already look experienced beyond their years – the predictable interference in the stables’ matches is tiresome, though. **1/2
Shane Douglas interviews Director of Authority Dusty Rhodes backstage. Rhodes vows to air the footage from “cookiegate” later tonight. It’s essentially a video of TNA talent showing up at a WWE production to loiter. A clear case of little brother syndrome.
2: Sonny Siaki, Héctor Garza & Sonjay Dutt def. Kid Kash, Michael Shane & Kazarian (w/ Traci Brooks) in a Six-Man Tag Team Match in 11:01.
This issue stems from Kid Kash disrespecting Jimmy Snuka at Victory Road. Sonjay rescued Snuka that night but was struck by Kash with a coconut. Dutt is worked over by the heels for much of this match – perhaps a tad too long. Regardless, his team pick up the win when Traci inadvertently wipes out Kazarian, leading to a beautiful Tornillo from Garza for the pinfall. The X-Division has quickly become my favourite part of the show, they have a talented roster of innovative athletes. I appreciate the sparing use of the outside dive here, it maximised the effect of Siaki launching Dutt impressively high over the ropes, taking out Kash and Shane prior to the finish. As a quick aside, I love the aerial angle used on Garza’s moonsault, it’s a unique perspective that makes top rope manoeuvres even more impressive. ***
Scott Hudson interviews Randy Savage backstage before he is joined by X-Division Champion Petey Williams and Coach D’Amore of Team Canada. They set up a couple of key themes for tonight’s X-Division Championship match: Williams points out the similarities between himself and Sabin, before saying he’s not a “one-move wonder”. This is, of course, referring to the Canadian Destroyer, which Sabin has countered multiple times in the weeks prior.
3: Monty Brown def. Abyss in a Serengeti Survival Match in 12:17.
The Alpha Male defeated Abyss and Raven in a Monster’s Ball match last month, leading to Abyss attacking Brown prior to a title challenge on iMPACT. Ways to win a Serengeti Survival match include pinfall, submission or… slamming the opponent into thumbtacks, which is how lions and zebras settle their disputes on the Serengeti. Brown cuts his entrance short on the ramp, he invites Abyss to join him and the brawl is on. The Monster gains control by attacking the injured mid-section of his opponent, a consistent theme throughout this match. Brown successfully executes the POUNCE on his second attempt after the first is nicely countered by Abyss with a well-executed Black Hole Slam. Abyss moves on the third try, sending Brown flying into a table that is leaning on the turnbuckles. It’s a nice idea that the table unfortunately no-sells. Likewise, the finish doesn’t quite come off. Brown executes an Alabama Slam next to the bed of thumbtacks and is awarded the victory, however Abyss clearly falls short – he’s pierced by what, three tacks maybe?
The “Serengeti Survival” name and stipulation don’t mesh well together at all; however, the two competitors do. This was a fun brawl, both men are athletic for their size and the weapons are utilised smartly, only enhancing the match. Regrettably, the ending was an obvious misstep. When an entire contest builds up to one spot, that spot must deliver. In these situations, the finish serves as the overriding lasting memory of the bout (see Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley’s Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch – not that this was nearly as embarrassing). **3/4
There are multiple backstage segments spanning the evening involving “Mr McMahon” and “Triple H”. They’re unsuccessfully attempting to track down and destroy the cookiegate footage. Naturally, this concludes with McMahon beaten and hospitalised by a little person. In my Victory Road review, I wrote about enjoying the storyline threads that ran throughout the evening, but this ain’t it.
4: Pat Kenney & Johnny B. Badd def. The New York Connection (Johnny Swinger & Glenn Gilberti) (w/Trinity) in a Tag Team Match with Jacqueline as Special Guest Referee in 7:50.
The NYC cost Jacqueline her match against Trinity last month which, of course, qualifies her to be the impartial official tonight. Johnny B. Badd looks and moves like an action figure, which is deeply unsettling. He’s a white meat dancing babyface, who carries a frisbee that reads “I’m a Badd man”. Pat Kenney, formerly known as Simon Diamond in WCW and ECW, is the Empire Saint because of his sportsmanlike demeanour in baseball. They’re as interesting as they sound and consequently there’s no heat to the bout. The action was fine, sure, yet this undeniably felt like a television match. In case you hadn’t guessed, Jacqueline cost Swinger and Gilberti the contest. *1/2
We cut to the parking lot, where the Kings of Wrestling kidnap Randy Savage, he’s thrown into a limousine which races away! I suppose we’ll take their word for it – we don’t see the Macho Man at any point during the short scene.
5: Diamond Dallas Page def. Raven in 12:03.
These two have been feuding over a personal issue, however we don’t know what that is. The only man who knows is Erik Watts and he is on guest commentary. They appropriately start off with a physical brawl before Page kicks the ref in the head unprovoked! Although a new official enters the ring, we learn that countouts and disqualifications are out of the window, allowing Raven to use his helmet (not that one) as a weapon. They’re evenly matched throughout, both kicking out after finishing moves. Following Page’s Diamond Cutter, two hooded men approach the ringside area. Watts climbs into the ring and fights them off as they enter. He hugs Page … and predictably betrays him. The crowd are indifferent, by the way, they either saw it coming or simply don’t care. Watts’ heel turn may be dead on arrival though, as his Chokeslam attempt on Page is surprisingly countered into a Diamond Cutter! This is followed by another Diamond Cutter, this time on Raven, for the pinfall victory.
Raven and Page displayed decent chemistry at WCW’s Spring Stampede in 1998, which continued to an extent here. A high intensity was maintained across their entertaining brawl, which the personal nature of the feud demanded. The Erik Watts heel turn felt underwhelming due to both its predictability and execution – who comes up short in their own heel turn?! This completely undercut Watts but who cares? He’s not particularly interesting anyway. Still, it’s a shame that this made Raven look weak, as he had assistance yet was soundly beaten. **1/2
6: Petey Williams (w/Coach D’Amore) def. Chris Sabin to retain the TNA X- Division Championship in 18:11.
As mentioned previously, Sabin has countered the Canadian Destroyer into his Cradle Shock finisher several times in the build-up. Sabin’s early attempts at the move are unsuccessful, nonetheless he nails a brutal powerbomb onto the guardrail, followed by a dive from amongst the fired-up crowd. Both wrestlers attended the same wrestling school, both training and graduating together – the similarities are explained by commentary and illustrated in-ring by an evenly-matched contest. The crowd are back and forth and so are the wrestlers. It’s a great atmosphere and a great match. Williams nears victory with a Sharpshooter but struggles to put Sabin away without hitting the Destroyer. Sabin scores a near fall after a spike piledriver and, shortly after, D’Amore decides he has seen enough. He averts the referee’s attention before Williams strikes Sabin with brass knuckles to retain via pinfall.
The action was comparable to something we’d see on AEW Dynamite, whilst the sport-style nature of the story exhibited shades of a modern New Japan main event. It’s a fantastic combination. Add a crowd that are split like they’re watching John Cena and we have a recipe for wonderful wrestling. Williams claimed to not be a one-move wonder, although he cheated to win when he couldn’t hit his move. That was a noteworthy detail which elevated the contest a notch. Unlike Williams’ title defence against A.J. Styles at Victory Road, the competitors were provided ample time to tear the house down. Unfortunately, the finish was sudden and continued the theme of interference in Team Canada’s matches. I understand that this generates heat, however it sucked the air out of the arena in the moment, providing a far from a satisfying conclusion. ***3/4
7: A.J. Styles, Jeff Hardy & Randy Savage def. The Kings of Wrestling (Jeff Jarrett, Kevin Nash & Scott Hall) in a Six-Man Tag Team Match in 17:52.
At Victory Road, Hall and Nash cost Hardy the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in a Ladder match against Jarrett. Styles and Savage both stood up to the heel trio on that night and here we are. Remember, Savage was kidnapped earlier in the evening so it’s a handicap, for now. Fortunately, this gives Styles and Hardy the spotlight and they each have strong showings, providing much needed mobility against the slower opponents, Hall and Nash. Both babyfaces are isolated at points, having succumbed to the numbers game of the heels. As expected, they fight back and the match breaks down, leading to a ref bump courtesy of Nash. The in-ring competitors are down when Randy Savage finally resurfaces! He tags in, nailing a few punches before all three faces lock the heels in sleeper holds. Jarrett fights out of Savage’s submission; nevertheless, the Macho Man scores an awkward looking pinning combination on the champion for the win.
The finish was abrupt as Savage had only interjected himself moments prior. Surely that puts him in title contention. That seems an odd choice as the contest was laid out to protect Savage by severely limiting his in-ring time. His re-emergence shared similarities with Erik Watts’ heel turn in terms of its predictability and the impact it had upon the match. Like D.D.P vs Raven, the action here once again felt like a prelude to the inevitable payoff. The heat segment dragged as a result; much of the bout had an air of unimportance ahead of Savage’s return. *3/4
A promo for Final Resolution is shown (TNA’s upcoming PPV, their first of 2005), which features multiple stars, including Jeff Jarrett, A.J. Styles, Jeff Hardy, Monty Brown. I previously highlighted that these wrestlers received spotlight in the opening video package at Victory Road. It’s telling that they are once again featured here, undoubtedly indicating that TNA are positioning these as their biggest stars at this point.
So, it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Dusty Rhodes is in the production truck and demands the footage from cookiegate is played. Shane Douglas, 3 Live Kru, Abyss and Traci show up to the site of a WWE production in Orlando. They talk to blurred out WWE Superstars and backstage crew, asking to speak with Vince McMahon himself. Douglas has a shit eating grin on his face as these grown men act like teenagers. I’m glad we witnessed five segments of build-up (on a PPV, no less) for Killings to grab some food from WWE catering.
8: America’s Most Wanted (Chris Harris & James Storm) def. Triple X (Christopher Daniels & Elix Skipper) in a Six Sides of Steel Match in 21:01
It’s the end of the road for either America’s Most Wanted or Triple X in our main event, as the losers will be forced to disband. This is the blow-off to a heated rivalry and there’s no disqualifications, of course. Nonetheless, both teams adhere to regular tag team rules, politely awaiting tags on the apron. All four men display the required intensity though, resulting in Daniels pouring blood in the opening minutes. Thankfully, the tag rules don’t last long, and chaos ensues until Triple X re-gain control of the battle, handcuffing Harris to the ropes and isolating Storm in the process. The bloodied Cowboy eventually manages to overcome the numbers disadvantage and free his partner. Despite Harris’ momentum, he falls victim to the Death Sentence (A.M.W’s finisher), at the hands of Triple X. A series of remarkable spots follow: Skipper is powerbombed from up high, Daniels lands a diving elbow drop off the top of the cage, a tower of doom launches the Fallen Angel over halfway across the ring. Those moments are eclipsed, however, when Elix Skipper literally tightrope walks the cage wall, before transitioning into a hurricanrana from the top! A.M.W play the reverse Uno card for the finish, as Triple X’s deeds come back to bite them. Daniels is handcuffed, as A.M.W isolate Skipper, allowing them to execute the PowerPlex (Triple X’s finisher) to win the match.
What an incredible, gruelling main event! The consequences here were hugely significant, elevating the drama of the action taking place. The stakes justified the bloodshed and the incredible risks taken by the competitors involved. Of course, I say that with Elix Skipper’s cage walk at the forefront, he provided a legitimately unforgettable moment through a breathtaking display of athleticism and danger. The cage was utilised masterfully – it appeared an imposing prison of pain because of the bloodshed yet provided an unrestrictive apparatus for an amazing sequence of moments toward the end of a bout that reached its crescendo perfectly. ****1/2
A substantial improvement upon November’s Victory Road; it appears TNA had learnt from the prior PPV. Turning Point was much better paced, with fewer time devoted to filler, allowing the feature matches the necessary time to excel. The X-Division impressed again through an enjoyable undercard tag team effort, as well as the excellent championship match. Petey Williams and Chris Sabin would have stolen many shows but not this one, with America’s Most Wanted and Triple X providing a memorable conclusion to the card.
Sadly, there were incidents of questionable booking and finishes, particularly in the cases of the Team Canada matches, the Erik Watts heel turn and the handling of Randy Savage. Too many endings were predictable, relegating the bulk of those bouts to inconsequential formalities. Additionally, the cookiegate segments, which poked fun at WWE and the McMahons, only served to highlight TNA’s inferiority and provided little entertainment value. These were unnecessary, as TNA’s young, talented stars enable the product to speak for itself, tonight they were given a platform and shined.