In The Impact Zone Vol. 15: Top Ten TNA PPV Matches of 2005

Inside the Impact Zone
Photo Credit: Impact Wrestling

December’s Turning Point event is in the books, meaning we’ve reviewed TNA’s entire 2005 pay-per-view catalogue in this series. As the promotion continued its growth in the year of iMPACT’s debut on Spike TV and the acquisitions of talent including Christian Cage, Rhino and Team 3D, they delivered a collection of classic PPV contests. Here are In The Impact Zone’s Top Ten TNA PPV matches of 2005:

10. Team Ministry (Samoa Joe, Alex Shelley, Roderick Strong & Christopher Daniels) def. Austin Aries, Sonjay Dutt, Chris Sabin & Matt Bentley (w/ Traci) in an Elimination X Match in 23:15 at Genesis:

“The ongoing story of Daniels and Joe’s evolving relationship provided the emotional hook. Angles that revolve around co-existing enemies are contrived, yet this one worked.”

The engaging Elimination X match, featuring eight of the X Division’s most talented competitors, was the highlight of November’s Genesis PPV. Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe co-existed effectively to systematically dismantle the babyfaces until becoming the last men standing. Whilst showcasing typical thrilling X Division action, this was anchored by an overarching storyline.

Despite their successful co-operation, the Samoan perceived Daniels to have figuratively stepped on his toes during Sabin’s elimination, triggering a memorably visceral post-match assault. It was a well-crafted story that developed a rare grey area – one could justify either man’s actions until the savage beatdown clearly crossed a line. The aftermath was a catalyst for both Joe’s rivalry with X Division Champion, A.J. Styles, and a babyface turn for the Fallen Angel.

Rating: ***3/4

9. A.J. Styles (C) def. Christopher Daniels 1-0 in a 30-Minute Ironman Match to retain the TNA X Division Championship at Bound For Glory:

Give these two half an hour on every wrestling card for the rest of time and they’d continue to entertain.

Bound For Glory hosted the second of two Ironman matches fought between A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels on TNA PPV in 2005. Their previous meeting required overtime to separate the two competitors and the replay was, likewise, evenly contested. Following nearly half an hour of deadlock, the defending champion executed a Styles Clash in the dying moments to score a decisive fall and retain his title. Arguably, this lacked the buzz of their initial encounter due to a more deliberate pacing, particularly within the opening ten minutes. Nevertheless, these remarkable wrestlers found a groove and rhythm as the match progressed. Their fantastic chemistry was once again evident, delivering the best pure wrestling showing of October’s showpiece event.

Rating: ***3/4

8. America’s Most Wanted (Chris Harris & James Storm) def. Team Canada (Bobby Roode & Eric Young) (C) (w/ Coach D’Amore) in a Tag Team Match to win the NWA World Tag Team Championships in 19:12 at Final Resolution:

Everyone played their part to perfection; the wrestlers delivered a physical, well-structured match, whilst D’Amore’s comically dramatic reactions enhanced the events unfolding in the ring. The drama progressively escalated, as did the atmosphere in the arena.

America’s Most Wanted entered 2005 as babyfaces, riding the crest of a wave. Chris Harris & James Storm gathered significant momentum in the wake of their main event victory over Triple X (Christopher Daniels & Elix Skipper) at Turning Point in December 2004, widely regarded as TNA’s match of the year. They capitalised upon said momentum at January’s Final Resolution, defeating the Team Canada duo of Bobby Roode & Eric Young to capture the NWA World Tag Team Championships for the fifth time.

As the escalating bout built toward an enthralling climax with a series of gripping near-falls, A.M.W endured a litany of Canadian cheating and interference which eventually backfired before Harris pinned Young to conclude an exciting contest. The sole two-on-two match featured (considered, even) on this list, few other tag bouts were afforded anything nearing an equivalent duration to deliver.

Rating: ***3/4

7. Rhino def. Sabu, Jeff Hardy & Abyss (w/ James Mitchell) in a Four-Way Monster’s Ball Match in 12:20 at Bound For Glory:

Just look at the stipulation and the participants, it’s a recipe for destruction that met high expectations. At twelve minutes, the relatively brief duration was appropriate given the degree of damage dealt out.

Previously, I described the Ironman match from Bound For Glory the best pure wrestling of the night. Well, this was an entirely different genre of action. Task fans with composing the wildest match-up imaginable in the 2000s and the consensus would resemble something alike. Naturally, tables were broken, blood spilled and Jeff Hardy, not to be overshadowed amid the mayhem, performed a Swanton from a reckless height.

Remarkably, this was the first of three bouts that Rhino competed in (and won) at Bound For Glory. Abyss, Sabu and Hardy joined the Man Beast in a Gauntlet match to determine a number one contender for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship prior to him beating Jeff Jarrett in the main event to win the gold for the first time. Regardless, on TNA’s grandest stage, the Monster’s Ball was the memorable match of the evening.

Rating: ***3/4

6. Samoa Joe def. A.J. Styles to win the 2005 TNA Super X Cup in 15:15 at Sacrifice:

Joe’s offense is hard-hitting and always looks lethal regardless, that combined with Styles’ consistently untouchable selling, as well as their incredible chemistry, is a fantastic combination.

Get used to seeing the name A.J. Styles, who miraculously features in each of the coming entries, producing an outrageously consistent match quality comparable, in the mid-2000s, to Shawn Michaels or Kurt Angle. Awaiting the winner of TNA’s second Super X Cup Final: an X Division Championship opportunity against Christopher Daniels, who reigned over the division for much of the year. With Samoa Joe a relatively fresh face in the promotion as of August, his phenomenal opponent proved his toughest challenge thus far, rocking the undefeated Samoan frequently in a physical and athletic bout, typical of both men.

Like Sonjay Dutt (at Slammiversary) and Chris Sabin (at No Surrender) had previously, Styles fell victim to the Coquina Clutch shortly after Daniels’ involvement had disrupted proceedings. As a result of the interference, both finalists earned a title shot at Unbreakable nonetheless, though it was Joe who left Sacrifice in possession of the Super X Cup.

Rating: ****

5. A.J. Styles (C) def. Christopher Daniels 2-1 (after overtime) in an Ironman Match to retain the TNA X Division Championship in 31:42 at Against All Odds:

The drama was particularly excellent in the closing minute of regular time, with Styles struggling in the Koji clutch as the seconds ticked down.

Although their Ironman sequel was wonderful, the first-ever TNA meeting between A.J. Styles and Christopher Daniels was unforgettable. The two X Division cornerstones clashed for the championship at February’s Against All Odds PPV in the champion’s first defense. The challenger earned the 1-0 advantage after executing his Angel’s Wings finishing manoeuvre, however Styles equalised minutes later via a pinfall of his own.The Fallen Angel looked likely to finish the bloodied champion as remaining time declined, chiefly when he locked in a Koji Clutch with a minute to spare. Nevertheless, the resilient champion withstood the punishment to earn a score draw before defeating Daniels with a Styles Clash in overtime, which was granted at the challenger’s request.

Rating: ****1/4

4. A.J. Styles def. Abyss in a Six Sides of Steel Cage Match in 18:00 at Lockdown:

“it’s a testament to these two competitors that they successfully made this interesting by upping the ante in terms of grittiness, brutality and intensity.”

Following an evening of seven consecutive cage matches, the hallmark of Lockdown PPVs, A.J. Styles and Abyss collided over an NWA World Heavyweight Championship opportunity at stake. These contrasting opponents together electrified Universal Studios with a relentlessly paced battle that started swiftly. Although physically outmatched, the X Division star utilised his athleticism spectacularly, executing a somersault dive through the opened cage door. The underdog’s resilience was equally valuable, as Abyss callously punished A.J., utilising both the steel surrounding the ring and a chain to his advantage.

Styles’ unrivalled selling, in addition to a variety of striking visuals, enhanced the brutality of Abyss’ offense throughout. A sunset flip Powerbomb from the top of the cage walls settled, arguably, one of the greatest steel cage contests of the 21st century. Subsequently, the Phenomenal One headlined Hard Justice against Jeff Jarrett and was rewarded with his third NWA World Heavyweight Championship triumph.

Rating: ****1/4

3. A.J. Styles def. Chris Sabin & Petey Williams (C) (w/ Coach D’Amore) in a Three-Way Ultimate X Match to win the TNA X Division Championship in 19:55 at Final Resolution:

The unique layout of the ring, with steel structures and overhead ropes, allows for incredible moments of innovation here. This is a brilliant variation of the ladder match and the performers worked incredibly well within the framework.

Having retained the X Division Championship over both A.J. Styles (at Victory Road 2004) and Chris Sabin (at Turning Point 2004) via cheating, the Canadian was forced to defend his gold under Ultimate X rules at Final Resolution. This was a chaotic, show-stealing twenty minutes, packed with awe-inspiring athleticism. Though a multitude of risky high-spots electrified the crowd, the competitors seemed primarily focused on seizing the title, as opposed to constructing contrived stunts.

Styles, whose commitment to bumping once again stood out, captured the X Division Championship by capitalising on Williams and Sabin’s tussle for the title, springboarding into the ring and retrieving the belt. Despite the inconsistency of the main event scene throughout the year, the X Division staked its claim as the hottest in the world at the time; this match epitomised the brand of action that TNA’s heavyweight headliners simply could not deliver.

Rating: ****1/2 (upgraded upon rewatch)

2. Samoa Joe def. A.J. Styles (C) to win the TNA X Division Championship in 18:58 at Turning Point:

This had the aura of a big fight, exemplified by the “Let’s go Cena/Cena sucks” dynamic amongst the live crowd, who were split in support of each man. Styles is undoubtedly popular, however the live TNA fans always eat up Joe’s offense, who earns reactions through his emphatic delivery of basic manoeuvres.

Representing the division as its champion, A.J. Styles took issue with Samoa Joe’s vicious post-match beatdown of Christopher Daniels at Genesis, claiming the Samoan had violated the X Division’s code. This straight-forward yet effective angle offered an insight into both men’s motivations, adding character depth to two of the planet’s leading in-ring talents. Additionally, it stoked the flames for their Sacrifice rematch, heightening the intensity and stakes of the aforementioned Super X Cup Final.

The champion once again appeared likely to become the first man to pin or submit Joe in TNA, especially after a Styles Clash deep into the contest. Nevertheless, the challenger survived and emerged the decisive victor and new X Division kingpin. This was, for my money, the year’s greatest regular singles bout on TNA PPV, rivalled solely by their prior collision at Sacrifice. Daniels returned to prevent a repeat of the Genesis assault in the aftermath. His intervention reunited the very same three-way scenario, entering 2006, that produced 2005’s greatest match.

Rating: ****1/2

1. A.J. Styles def. Samoa Joe & Christopher Daniels (C) in a Three-Way Match to win the TNA X Division Championship in 22:50 at Unbreakable:

Every sequence was expertly executed with intent and precision in equal measure, without a foot put wrong. The action is perfectly paced, resulting in zero dull moments.

Anyone on nodding terms with TNA will probably have guessed the outcome of the first In The Impact Zone top ten. The three-way main event of September’s Unbreakable PPV was, of course, the TNA match of the year for 2005. This was the epitome of X Division excellence, exemplary of the physical, aerial and technical wrestling hybrid style that habitually stole shows and dominated “match of the night” plaudits throughout the year. There are few superlatives that do this brilliance justice.

For the first time in his TNA tenure, Samoa Joe tasted defeat, though his unbeaten record essentially remained in-tact, as he was not involved in the finish. Having countered Angel’s Wings, Styles pinned Daniels to win a fifth X Division Championship and conclude the only fabled Wrestling Observer Newsletter 5-star rated contest in TNA history – few would dispute Dave Meltzer’s assessment here.

Rating: *****

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