Wow one year to the day since my first review on this site! It’s been quite a year and I’ve only scratched the surface of my TNA collection. I’d like to thank the team for bringing me in and of course I’d like to thank you the readers for coming back for every new review. The feedback has always been appreciated and I hope I’ll be able to thank you all again next February.
Now that the sentimental stuff is out of the way, let’s get to the review! Much like I’m celebrating my first year on the site, this DVD is a look back on TNA’s first year in existence.
Title: The History of TNA: Year One
Synopsis: This single disc set features an in-depth 1 hour and 46 minute documentary on how Total Nonstop Action wrestling began and how the promotion managed to survive their first year. Also included are four matches and an array of bonus clips. Due to the level of blood and violence in the last match, this DVD is rated 18.
Reasons to Buy this DVD:
The documentary featuring Jeff Jarrett, Dixie Carter, AJ Styles, Raven, Mike Tenay, Jeremy Borash, Bob Ryder and more dominates the entire feature. It begins with Jeff Jarrett (who does most of the talking) in 2001 contemplating life after the collapse of WCW, and goes through to the inspiration for starting his own promotion, to assembling a roster and the origin of the weekly pay per view format. The partnership between TNA and Panda Energy is covered when Dixie Carter explains how she convinced her father Bob Carter to finance the organization. Lengthy segments are devoted to the X Division and early tag teams of TNA. In between chapters are flashbacks from TNA’s first year which include Ken Shamrock winning TNA’s first NWA Heavyweight Championship, Ravens debut, and other famous clips.
The documentary is easy to watch and well structured for simplicity. Similar to the Rise and Fall of ECW (although obviously not as long, in-depth or good), the DVD covers pretty much everything of significance from the first year. It begins with the audio feed from the announcers when the ring broke right before the first Pay Per View event went live. A lot of detail is given to the story of the broken ring and how they were able to fix it in time. The risks of running weekly pay per views are acknowledged. It really does seem incredible that they got away with it for two years before being picked up by Fox Sports Net in 2004. They can thank the Carters for that one!
About 99% of the DVD is non kayfabe. The only offender is Raven who claims that his attack on Jeff Jarrett during his debut was his way of making a statement. The overall honesty is what makes the feature so valuable. For example Jarrett admits that wrestling is all about “good vs evil” and that without a weekly show there would be no way to tell the story. That may have been the case in 2002, but today with the rise of Youtube, and IPPV it’s actually easier than one would think. Furthermore both AJ Styles and BG James admit that they had no faith in the promotion lasting longer than a few weeks. Mike Tenay admits that he flat out hated the weekly pay per view strategy. Don West acknowledges that he was incompetent as an announcer during the early days of TNA. He later found his calling (no pun intended – unless it was funny!) as a heel in 2009, right before TNA replaced him with Taz for no reason other than Taz’s WWE background. West also reveals that he suffered a panic attack right before TNA’s first show when the ring broke. It really is an engaging DVD full of honesty and revelations. The detail in many chapters is amazing by TNA’s usual standards.
Bob Ryder provides valuable input in regards to the early days of TNA and the process behind starting the company and producing the pay per views. Dixie Carter’s presence is something of a gift considering the DVD was produced in 2007. That was before she was an on-screen character. Nowadays I’d prefer it if she weren’t included. Jeff Jarrett especially deserves credit for his contributions. He was absent from television during the production of this DVD after the death of his wife Jill and so this was the first that fans had seen of him since Slammiversary 2007. TNA also made the right decision to interview only people that had actually been around during the first year. It would have been easy for them to include Kurt Angle or Christian Cage or Sting and have them talk about watching TNA back in 2002, so I’m glad they resisted the temptation. Hell even referees Rudy Charles and Andrew Thomas get an appearance on the set!
Overall I was extremely satisfied with the documentary portion of the DVD. It’s detailed, yet kept simple, and a lot of fun to watch.
The match to crown the first ever X Division Champion is naturally included. This 26 minute four-way elimination match featuring AJ Styles, Jerry Lynn, Low Ki and Psychosis is an excellent display of high flying and fast paced action. It is exactly what was needed to establish the X Division as TNA’s premiere style, although Don West’s commentary really is awful. Also I refuse to believe that AJ Styles had a broken foot during this match. I’m not saying he wasn’t injured but nobody could pull off half of what Styles did with a broken foot!
The triple threat ladder match is even better. Styles, Lynn and Low Ki all deliver incredible performances and painful looking spots, the most jaw dropping of which was Lynn’s famous piledriver on Low Ki off the ladder. That was insane! Referee Andrew Thomas admits in the documentary that he thought Low Ki was dead. That might sound like an exaggeration but then again the risks involved with the piledriver should not be underestimated.
The tag team bout pitting America’s Most Wanted against the New Church is a wild and intense brawl, which is very different from the X Division matches, but rewarding nonetheless. Finally the heavily hyped Jarrett vs Raven match for the World Heavyweight Title is a mixed bag with too much interference, but since there are only four matches on the set, I can live with it.
The bonus features include a montage of TNA’s guest stars/legends during their first year. They range from worthy (Ricky the Dragon Steamboat, Vader, The Road Warriors and Chris Rock) to unworthy (Nelson “Mabel/Viscera/Big Daddy V” Knight, Dustin “Screech” Diamond and CM Punk, who was nowhere near the star he would become when this was released).
There is also footage from Chris Harris and James Storm’s Try-out match from 2002, an early commercial for TNA’s first ever show and a touching tribute to Curt “Mr Perfect” Hennig.
Reasons to Avoid this DVD:
Though the overall documentary was great, I had a few issues while watching it. Christopher Daniels talks out of character but he still has that ridiculous mark over his eye from his bizarre heel gimmick from 2007. James Storm is wearing sunglasses and a cowboy hat during his interview. I have no idea why! And for the record James, only Sting can get away with wearing sunglasses during DVD interviews. The chapter on the rise of the X Division borders on arrogance. I love the X Divison as much as anyone but we are constantly reminded during the chapter that the X Division wrestlers are the finest athletes in the world and that they put on amazing matches that you won’t find ANYWHERE ELSE. Someone needs to remind TNA that “anywhere else” is not just limited to WWE. The matches I’ve seen in Chikara, ROH and Dragon Gate blow all but TNA’s best X Division matches out of the water. Moreover it’s hypocritical that TNA would brag about how amazing the X Division is yet continue to feature it as an under-card attraction. Jeff Jarrett claims that during the early stages of starting TNA, “everyone doubted me!” Apparently nobody had faith in Jarrett’s idea and those who said they did secretly doubted him behind his back. Why then would so many people have come together and helped him start TNA in the first place? Jarrett alone did not get the promotion off the ground. Lastly the viewer is hammered over the head with the fact that “TNA was made to be” and that they survived despite so many obstacles and how they prevailed when nobody believed they could and again and again and again. We get it already! TNA faced a lot of challenges. They overcame them. It becomes tiresome about halfway through the DVD.
Only 4 matches?
The documentary takes up most of the disc and so we only get four matches. Good matches admittedly, but I wish TNA had just added a second disc full of matches to make the overall package more rewarding to the viewer. Not to mention that the Jarrett vs Raven match is already available on Nevermore: The Best of Raven, Jeff Jarrett: King of the Mountain, Best of the NWA Title AND Best of the Asylum Years. There is no excuse for having that match on five DVDs!
The documentary is an entertaining watch and a fascinating look into the origin and backstage stories of TNA. The interviews are genuine and revealing and the matches are worthy of being included, even the Jarrett vs Raven one. This would have gotten a higher rating had there been more matches, but at least what TNA did include is a more than adequate look back on their first year.