The period known as the TNA Asylum Era which ran from 2002-2004 was a time when the company had just busted its way onto the scene while at the same time airing their content as weekly pay per views as they weren't on television just yet and their partnership with the NWA was going pretty strong.
This era in the company's history is often forgotten by many, which isn't too surprising as the company rarely talks about this point in their history on the current product; Regardless, the asylum days were filled with moments that have helped to define the legacy of the former TNA Wrestling even to this day.
I've already covered some the best, the greatest and even strangest moments to come from this era, but this time I'll be focusing on some of the most underrated asylum era moments to occur in TNA Wrestling.
10. The Return of The Alpha Male
Monty Brown was one of the best rising stars in the early days of TNA Wrestling but by mid 2002 he went on to wrestle in other promotions like All World Wrestling and Big Time Wrestling meaning his appearances in NWA TNA was minimal.
This all challenged on the March 10th 2004 edition of NWA TNA when Glen Gilberti, David Young and Kid Kash of Sports Entertainment Xtreme aka S.E.X. competed in the main event in six man tag team action.
Their opponents in this tag match was a wrestler by the name of 2 Tuff Tony and his partners were Shaggy 2 Dope and Silent J of the Insane Clown Posses, who were no strangers to competing to the wrestling as they competed in the WWF, WCW, ECW and ROH before showing up in TNA.
Towards the end of the match a stunned Mike Tenay and Don West saw a large individual stepping into the ring who was soon recognized as Monty Brown began pummeling ICP before lifting 2 Tuff Tony up for a powerbomb onto the ladder in the middle of the ring before a frog splash by Kash led to the three count.
When asked on the next edition of NWA TNA, Brown was asked about his actions and he responded by demonstrating a level of humor that balanced out his intense promo delivery and this not only saw Monty Brown return to Impact on a full-time basis but also paved the way for what would eventually be his new animalistic gimmick as 'The Alpha Male'.
9. Goldy Locks Turns on Erik Watts
Long before the names of Gia Miller, McKenzie Mitchell or Gabby Loren took over the as the female backstage interviewer in the company there was Goldy Locks who first appeared in the inaugural NWA TNA show and became a no sense interviewer who didn't take any crap from the men or women of the locker room.
One person Goldy Locks had to deal with on an almost weekly basis was Erik Watts who was the then authority figure in the promotion and who also had some affairs with TNA's blonde-haired interviewer. While their "relationship" was complicated at best, the same can't be said for Watt's tumultuous time as an authority figure whose power was constantly nullified by a new onscreen authority figure and future Executive Vice President of Impact Wrestling, Don Callis.
Things came to a head on the January 28th 2004 edition of NWA TNA with a match between Callis and Watts being set to take place with the stipulation being that the loser of this match would be stripped of their authoritative power in TNA.
As the match went on Watts was able to fight back against all of the advertise that Callis through his way, until the moment came when Goldy Locks walked down to the ring and cheered on her 'boyfriend' to chokeslam Callis which leads to her hitting Watts with a low blow before getting rammed in the skull with Jeff Jarrett's NWA Title as commentators Mike Tenay and Don West could be heard screaming from their desk saying: "Goldy Locks!...You Whore!!!".
Just like that, Callis pinned Erik Watts to not only win the match but release him of power as an authority figure, meanwhile this heel turn by Goldy Locks would lead to her transitioning from interviewer to manager for wrestlers like Alex Shelley and Abyss.
8. The King of Deez Nuts
During the Asylum Era, many legends from the NWA era would show up in order to make things interesting and one person who certainly did that was 'The American Dream' Dusty Rhodes.
Rhodes' early time in TNA saw him fighting to protect the honor of the NWA as a group of wrestlers consisting of Erik Watts, Brian Lawler and David Flair carried around Ric Flair's replica version of the NWA World title and Dusty felt that the trio were not only disrespecting him but the legacy of the NWA brand.
During an in-ring segment, Rhodes is confronted by Lawler and Flair as Dusty goes on to tell the young Lawler that he has a future in this business and that his damn good which leads to Brian feeling pretty great about himself and asks Dusty to give him five.
Dusty responds to this by giving Lawler five fingers to the face which gets a pop from crowd and leads to 'The American Dream' telling Brian Lawler: "Oh you can be the king...King of the DEEZ NUTS."
While his time in TNA is often overlooked, this moment is certain one of the funniest.
7. The Debut of The Monster
Regarded as one of the most hard-working big men of his era, Chris Parks aka Abyss spent the majority of his career working in TNA as the 6 foot 8, weapon of mass destruction while also being the company's go to guy when came to trying out various hardcore matches like the monster's ball.
Despite being with the promotion for more than a decade, it would be hard pressed for some TNA/Impact fans to even recall how the monster made his first appearance in the company that would make him famous.
While I've already discussed in detail about how Abyss made his debut in another article (linked below), but here are a few details:
On the June 11th 2004 edition of NWA TNA, Kid Kash was set to take on Erik Watts, Goldy Locks and Trinity in an intergender handicap match but Watts was taken out by a blue shirt and black mask wearing Abyss during a backstage interview.
Abyss would reveal his alliance with Kid Kash as he helped the former X Division champion defeat Goldy Locks and Trinity later that night was also hitting the first of what would be many blackhole slams on his opponents.
6. The Gathering Turn On Raven
Raven's time in TNA is often considered the best run in his career post ECW and while most of his feuds in the future Impact Wrestling may not get the same recognition as his wars with Tommy Dreamer or The Sandman, he certainly had a fantastic rivalry with one of TNA's most dastardly managers in Father James Mitchell.
After losing an important main event match to Shane Douglas (more on that in a little bit), Raven declared war on the Sinister Minister and vowed to make his life a living hell; To do this, Raven formed an offshoot version of the Flock in TNA that he called 'The Gathering' which included Alexis Laree (aka Mickie James), Julio Dinero and a young CM Punk.
The Gathering would help the former ECW star in his war with Father Mitchell leading to the December 17th, 2003 edition of NWA TNA where main event would see Raven and The Gathering competing in a six man steel cage tag team match against Abyss and Redshirt Security (Joe Legend and Kevin Northcutt).
While the match itself was jammed pack with over the top booking, violence and a lot of blood (as most TNA matches were like at the time) it's the final moments that stunned a lot of people when a bloody face Raven was getting ready to hit his signature DDT onto Abyss when Dinero and Punk blasted their leader in the head with steel chairs before rolling Abyss on top for the victory and the show ends with a bleeding Dinero and Punk doing the signature raven pose all while Mike Tenay chastises the two of them.
It's later revealed that the person responsible for influencing the Gathering's sudden turn was none other than James Mitchell himself, but this of course wouldn't be the worst thing that Mitchell would do to Raven, that dishonor goes to...
5. Raven Gets His Head Shaved
Back in the mid to late 90's, Shane Douglas and Raven had been a memorable feud in the original ECW which all began after 'The Franchise' returned to ECW and attacked Raven, who was the ECW World Champion at the time.
Fast forward a number of years and Shane Douglas is seen debuting for NWA TNA and costing Raven his destiny to become NWA World Champion. After a few weeks of exchanges between both men across multiple weekly PPV's and the franchise aligning himself with Father James Mitchell and The Disciples Of The New Church, Douglas and Raven would culminate their feud in an infamous hair vs. hair match on the September 17th 2003 edition of NWA TNA.
Despite his best efforts to survive, Raven was defeated by Shane Douglas thanks in large part to the interference of Mitchell, The New Church and a debuting Vamprio (who was revealed to be the mystery attacker who's been assaulting Raven for weeks). When the time came for the head shaving, James Mitchell took it upon himself to grab the clippers and shave his rival bald...however there was a problem during this whole process that affected Raven years after he stopped competing.
I mentioned earlier that this Hair vs. Hair match was infamous and there's a good reason for that; You see Father Mitchell used sheep trimmers to cut Raven's hair, however he was holding the sheep shears in such a way that it caused Raven's head to bleed like crazy and caused a lot of agony for the ECW Superstar.
In a YouTube video posted in 2018, Raven mentions that the reason why sheep trimmers were used instead of traditional clippers or scissors was due to the fact that the amount of sweat after competing in a wrestling match would cause the clippers to not work properly so sheep shears were used because it could get the job done without issue, but this would lead to his hair thinning in the center of his head and his decision to get a hair transplant.
Raven would wrestle with his new look for the rest of the year but he would get his revenge on Vamprio on the next weekly PPV before defeating the members of the new church and ultimately beating and hanging a bloody James Mitchell in a match weeks later.
4. The Ron Killings/Ricky Steamboat Promo
I've talked about Ron Killings/ R-Truth's win against Ken Shamrock to become the first recognized African America NWA Champion on a number of occasions, but I haven't gone into detail as to how he got that title shot in the first place.
On the July 31st, 2002 edition of NWA TNA then authority figure, Ricky 'The Dragon' Steamboat told Ron 'The Truth' Killings to come down to the ring and air out all of his grievances that his been talking about for weeks. Upon entering the ring and being given the microphone, Killings mentions how his been denied an opportunity to succeed in this industry because those in charge don't want him to see people like him thrive although Killings' discusses this with more subtly to Steamboat.
Killings also talks about how he and Steamboat aren't too different as The Dragon put on a classic bout for the Intercontinental title against Randy Savage at Wrestlemania 3 but after that he never was given any more chances to succeed or even win the WWF Championship and all that Truth was looking for was a chance to succeed in an industry that didn't allow people of color to go far that.
Understanding what Killings was referring to, The Dragon decides to give Killings a shot at Ken Shamrock next week for the NWA World Championship...and the rest as they say is history.
3. AJ Styles Wins His 1st NWA World Championship
Even before TNA made the jump to FS1 or Spike TV, AJ Styles was already a grand slam champion in the company as he was the first X Division champion, won the tag team titles for a little bit with Jerry Lynn and then he won the first of many world championships throughout his prestigious career on the June 11 2003 edition of NWA TNA.
On this night, Jeff Jarrett was set to defend his NWA World Heavyweight Championship against Raven and AJ Styles as both men have been positioning themselves to get an opportunity at the title for weeks.
As the action was reaching its conclusion, Vince Russo came out and walloped Jarrett over the head with a guitar allowing AJ to hit the Styles Clash before scoring the pinfall win and becoming the youngest man at that time to win the NWA World Championship.
While his reign would only last 133 days before he lost the belt back to Jarrett (lol), it did show that the promotion had faith in Styles to be the top guy as AJ would win back the NWA title on two different occasions before winning the TNA World Title a few years later in 2009.
2. The Super Powers Reunite
I previously mentioned that Dusty Rhodes calling Brian Lawler the King of Deez Nuts was one of the funniest to involving 'The American Dream' during the Asylum Era but this next moment is arguably one of the best and most overlooked in the history of professional wrestling.
A quick history lesson before discussing the moment in question: On October 24th, 1986 Dusty Rhodes was in desperate need of a partner in order to take on the Four Horsemen's J.J. Dillion and Ole Anderson in a steel cage and that partner came in the form of then NWA United States Champion, Nikata Koloff who slowly walked to the ring and soon aided Rhodes in his fight against the horsemen leading to one of the biggest wrestling face turns of the 1980's and also occurring around the same time Russia and the U.S. were easing relations following the end of the Cold War.
Fast forward almost 20 years later and Dusty Rhodes is surprised to discover his former ally in Nikata Koloff has joined the Vince Russo inspired stable, Sports Entertainment Xtreme aka S.E.X.
However, it's on the April 9th, 2003 edition of NWA TNA when some history was being made as Rhodes took on Brian Lawler in a ladder match for the replica NWA World Heavyweight title, During the match an all black wearing Nikata Koloff stunned the crowd when he attacked Brian Lawler and grabbed the NWA title.
After grabbing the title, Dusty and Nikata look at each other with Koloff offering the belt to a bloody and battered Rhodes who is hesitant at first but soon grabs the title thereby winning the ladder match before embracing Nikata in a massive hug signaling that the Super Powers (the name given to Rhodes and Koloff during the 80's) had finally be reunited after all of these years.
It's a great moment not just in Dusty Rhodes' time in TNA but it's also one the best wrestling moments period...however with all of that said, there's at least one more moment that tops it when it comes to the history of the Asylum Era.
1. Matt Bentley Wins The First Ultimate X Match
Ultimate X match is easily one of the all-time best gimmick matches in the history of TNA/Impact Wrestling but the origins of the very first Ultimate X match can be traced all the way back to the Asylum Era.
On the August 13th 2003 edition of NWA TNA, then authority figure Don Callis appeared backstage with the X Division title and claimed the best way to determine who should be the new champion between Frankie Kazarian, Chris Sabin and Matt Bentley will determined in a brand new match.
Accompanied by a whiteboard carrying Scott Hudson, Callis discusses the new match his created which sees two cables set up on four metal structures located near the ring posts and the cables would be linked in a way that resembles an X and in the middle of that X would the X Division Championship and the only way to win was to grab the belt and land on the floor...and thus Ultimate X was born.
The very first Ultimate X match occurred on the following edition of NWA TNA on August 20th, 2003 where Bentley, Sabin and Kazarian fought for the prestigious X Division title. According to Chris Sabin during an interview with Chris Van Vilet, the spots that occurred in the match were not planned and the risks regarding how well structure itself would be able to hold up was also something the competitors and management also worried about which added more to unpredictability of the bout.
In the end though, Kazarian would kick Sabin off of the ropes before attempting to go after the belt until a lighting fast Matt Bentley made his way to the belt where he grabbed it and became the winner of the very first Ultimate X match.
While the match and moment itself isn't talked about all that much for whatever reason, the concept of the Ultimate X would continue on for many years to come in the company's history and which is why this moment easily deserves the number one spot on this list.
For articles talking about the TNA Wrestling's Asylum Era, check out the links down below:
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