In The Impact Zone Vol. 1: Victory Road 2004

Photo Credit: Impact Wrestling

Impact and I have a relationship best described as distanced. They’re like an eccentric relative living far away, whom I’ve encountered only sporadically. Among those occasions are the mesmerising Triple Threat at Unbreakable 2005, the shameful main event of Victory Road 2011 and the fascinating Final Deletion in 2016. Mostly, my experience is limited to reading stories of chaotic booking, poor management and WWE alumni appearing in the Impact Zone. Subsequently, despite being a keen wrestling fan of fifteen years, I haven’t immersed myself in their programming. I’ve never watched an Impact pay-per-view in its entirety. Well, that’s about to change.

Every Friday, here at Hooked on Wrestling, I will chronologically review each monthly Impact PPV, beginning with their inaugural showing from the TNA days: Victory Road 2004. Look out for additional content including lists, rankings and much more throughout our journey. I’m excited to dive into the story of one of the most controversial promotions in wrestling history. Sound good? Let’s go!

TNA Victory Road, November 7th 2004:

The opening video package immediately gives Victory Road an aura of significance. A.J. Styles, Monty Brown, Jeff Hardy and Jeff Jarrett are identified as key stars for first time viewers. That list has aged rather well, in fairness. We’re introduced to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, where a grown man is sporting a temporary TNA tattoo on his forehead. Mike Tenay is our play-by-play announcer and he’s joined by Don West, who pioneered the Seth Rollins “drip” gimmick long ago:

Photo Credit: Impact Wrestling

NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Jarrett arrives at the arena. He is set to defend the gold in a Ladder match against Jeff Hardy in tonight’s main event. As he steps out of a limousine, he is approached by backstage interviewer Shane Douglas. We’re introduced to an ongoing thread of the evening – Double J says Scott Hall will be in his corner tonight, whereas Kevin Nash, whose alignment is unclear, will not appear.

1: Héctor Garza last eliminated Kazazian to win a 20-man X-Division Gauntlet Match for the X Division Cup in 26:25.

Our opener is a Gauntlet-style Battle Royal, with competitors entering the fray every 60 seconds. Due to its rules and relentless pace, this felt like a Royal Rumble on fast forward. There’s a twist here though: the two finalists compete in a traditional singles contest to determine the winner of the most generic trophy imaginable. After starting the match, Kazazian endures the entire field, outlasting a host of X-Division names, including the likes of Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin and a young Matt Sydal. Regardless, he falls short at the hands of Hector Garza in the closing showdown.

The format is tried and tested, though a small graphic to indicate the entry number would have benefitted the viewer. A stream of relatively similar competitors, with few stand-out story beats, made the battle royal portion a tad repetitive. It all blends when replaying it in my mind. Nonetheless, we were treated to some impressive athleticism in a match that felt ahead of its time due to the innovation on display. This literally exemplified Total Nonstop Action, which suited the opening spot on the card. The crowd were engaged and enjoyed this nearly as much as the commentary team, who displayed an infectious enthusiasm throughout. ***

TNA are appointing a Director of Authority, which is determined by a fan vote. Dusty Rhodes and Vince Russo are the candidates. Backstage correspondent Scott Norton informs us there has been a web server breakdown in Stamford, Connecticut. What a coincidence! Long story short (because it’s not interesting), Dusty is announced as the winner before the main event. He’ll be the man in charge going forwards. Somehow, the voting is tight all evening, with roughly 10% separating the candidates. Apparently, Russo was yet to destroy his reputation in 2004.

2: Ron Killings, Erik Watts, Johnny B. Badd & Pat Kenney def. The Naturals (Andy Douglas & Chase Stevens), Kid Kash & Dallas in an Eight-Man Tag Team Match in 4:37.

Kid Kash is interviewed backstage in the moments prior. He wants his rookie partners (amongst them is Dallas, a youthful Lance Archer) to listen to him in the ring. More fast-moving competition here, in fact there’s barely an opportunity for the heat portion before the action breaks down. It’s all moves and no story, although I will never cease to be impressed by Dallas’ moonsault. The finish comes when Killings hits a Sit-out Pedigree for the pinfall. Unfortunately, it felt like the fast pace was a consequence of time constraints as opposed to a stylistic choice. The pre-match interview was inconsequential to the bout, which is especially disappointing given the contest was devoid of any story. This, combined with the brief run-time, gave the match a television feel. *3/4

Another limousine arrives, we don’t find out who is inside just yet. That’s a surprise for later. Angles that run throughout the duration of the show can weave an event together nicely. It’s working for me so far! How we’ll reflect upon it depends on the payoff, however.

Abyss, Brown and Raven are locked in separate rooms, as per the stipulation of their impending Monster’s Ball. Apparently, they’ve lasted without food or water for the previous 24 hours. My girlfriend turns heel within a fraction of that time, I dread to think what these men will do to one another tonight.

3: Mascarita Sagrada def. Piratita Morgan in 2:58.

Mini luchador action, hell of an unexpected detour! Unless the winner is about to prominently feature in the X Division (which would be fun), this feels unnecessary on PPV. Piratita is a Mexican pirate, he’s the larger man and works as a base for Sagrada’s offense. Following a twisting splash, Piratita and the referee determine Sagrada has died and mourn his passing. The babyface springs back to life, arm-dragging the official and somehow avoiding disqualification en route to a quick pinfall victory. Just a bit of fun which they kept … short. I won’t rate anything under 3 minutes, this is not sufficient time to meaningfully affect the show. N/A

Scott Hall is in the arena! He tells us Kevin Nash won’t be here this evening. Am I watching an episode of Impact? We’ve crashed into a wall of filler.

4: 3Live Kru (B.G. James & Konnan) def. Team Canada (Eric Young & Bobby Roode w/Scott D’Amore) to win the NWA World Tag Team Championships in 6:57.

James lazily does the New Age Outlaws gimmick following his entrance – get new material! Team Canada waste no time before isolating him for much of the match. The Canadians use classic referee distraction tactics to their advantage, which soon backfires, allowing Konnan to make the hot tag. 3Live Kru member Killings evens the odds when D’Amore continues to interfere, allowing Konnan to capitalise shortly after. He hits a lame facebuster for the abrupt finish and we have new champions!

Formulaic tag team action here, entertaining enough, but needed a longer duration to breathe. At least Konnan’s in-ring time was limited by consequence. The winners received celebration pyro, it’s an attempt to make the win feel important, which was undermined by the speed with which they moved on afterwards. I literally counted 34 seconds between the finish and the following segment. This title change should have felt more important than it did. **1/4

Raven created a clever rhyming promo during his isolation, whereas Monty Brown has gone nuts. He’s shirtless and sweating. Why don’t this lot just sleep? The Alpha Male cuts a promo that is as intense and passionate as it is hilarious: “Raven, no more mindless delusions, no more delusions of grandeur. Abyss (groans) no more constipation problems!” … moving on.

Photo Credit: Impact Wrestling

Roddy Piper enters the arena, he’s eager to settle a score with “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka; by which he means he wants Snuka to hit him with a coconut. Only in wrestling. Snuka comes out but despite Piper’s best efforts, that doesn’t happen. Kid Kash interrupts before long to talk trash. Proceedings soon turn physical and Kash is easily manhandled by old ass Jimmy Snuka. Michael Shane & Kazarian come to Kash’s aid, getting the better of Snuka until Sonjay Dutt evens the score. He clears the ring of the duo before a coconut strike from Kash stops him in his tracks. The heel follows up by … running away from 50-year-old Roddy Piper. Sure, Kid Kash garners a small degree of heat at the expense of Sonjay Dutt, but that is absolutely undercut when the legends both independently get the better of him.

5: Trinity (w/Johnny Swinger & Glenn Gilberti) def. Jacqueline in 1:50.

Vince Russo has selected a mystery opponent for Trinity who, immediately after her entrance, decides no one is showing up. She’s clearly noticed the time constraints too. Swinger & Gilberti raise Trinity upon their shoulders in celebration, before she is attacked from behind by her opponent, Jacqueline! The former WWE Cruiserweight Champion is a house on fire until the men interfere, condemning her to an anti-climactic defeat. Manner of defeat aside, a babyface who attacks a heel from behind and is pinned two minutes later is a bum. TNA’s Knockouts Division ultimately earned widespread respect in the 2000s – we’re far from a Women’s Evolution here but at least Jacqueline was dressed. N/A

6: Monty Brown def. Raven and Abyss in a Monster’s Ball Match in 9:05.

No time for entrances here as we suddenly cut to a brawl in the arena between Abyss and Raven. Brown sets up a table on the outside but is soon taken out by Abyss, who dominates early. He is essentially ever-present during this battle. There’s a hooded figure affiliated with Abyss in the rafters; I have literally no idea who that is so colour me intrigued. Thumbtacks enter the fray courtesy of the monster, but he effectively made his own bed, as Raven powerbombs him onto the tacks. Another big bump, this time through the aforementioned table, takes Abyss out of the match. Brown immediately follows up with a POUNCE on Raven, driving him through a table set up in the corner for the win.

Having the three competitors locked away beforehand was a fun, albeit hokey stipulation. Unfortunately, the bout didn’t quite carry the intensity to sell the effects, making the match feel somewhat disjointed from the events prior. There was only time for a couple of stand-out spots here involving thumbtacks and tables, which were visually impressive and popped the crowd. Thumbtacks always produce a shocking visual, whilst there are few sensations in wrestling quite like a satisfying table bump. Again, the time limitations are obvious, although a shorter duration arguably aided this contest. It worked well as a sudden car crash; I suspect more time may have diluted the action on this occasion. ***

Shane Douglas really wants an interview with the man in the limo, who he’s convinced is Kevin Nash. A dead giveaway that it’s not Kevin Nash.

7: Petey Williams (w/Scott D’Amore) def. A.J. Styles to retain the TNA X-Division Championship in 9:48.

Beforehand, D’Amore vows that he’ll quit and go home if Williams loses. It’s Canadian Destroyer versus Styles Clash – two unique manoeuvres that would become increasingly polarising over the years. This is excellent X-Division action, ten minutes bursting with high-paced, crisp offence from both wrestlers. Unfortunately, D’Amore becomes a prominent factor through multiple interferences. Styles had the match won before D’Amore distracted the referee, who had literally counted two before interrupting himself to admonish the manager. Rough. The repeated intrusion is too much for Styles (and me), who falls victim to the Canadian Destroyer.

The story of Williams having to prove himself against TNA’s first Triple Crown Champion was hinted at by commentary – I would like to have seen that explored further. The chemistry between both athletes is undeniable. Styles, particularly, is so sharp. The speed with which he executes the Pele Kick at this stage of his career is breath-taking. The repeated interference was frustrating as it detracted from the quality of some fantastic wrestling. Perhaps it would have been beneficial to swap the card positioning of this and the Tag Team Title match. The payoff of D’Amore being thwarted would have followed this and provided a more cathartic moment. Entertaining as this was, I was left wanting more. This was too short and somewhat tainted by interference. Top-tier wrestling whilst it lasted though! ***1/4

8: America’s Most Wanted (James Storm & Chris Harris) def. Triple X (Christopher Daniels & Elix Skipper) in an Elimination Last Team Standing Match in 11:31.

This is a blood feud between two rival teams. Triple X injured the right knee of James Storm in the build-up, which factors into tonight’s match. Daniels uses a chair to take out the injured knee, eliminating Storm from the contest early on. The rules are unique, to be kind: a pinfall must occur before the ten count and both members must be counted out and eliminated. America’s Most Wanted even the score when Daniels is eliminated, however the match goes off the rails somewhere around here. We later learn that Skipper was concussed – it absolutely shows over multiple incidents. Before long, Harris hits Catatonic on a chair for the elimination, mercifully concluding the bout. Daniels assaults Harris afterwards, resulting in a fight between the two teams, which ends with the heels standing tall.

This fails to fulfil its potential. The injury to Skipper mainly derailed the bout. Everything following the injury came off poorly and in 2021 it rightfully wouldn’t have even happened. Additionally, the stipulation was unnecessarily convoluted. The pinfall rule did not benefit the match at all, it only served to interrupt the flow (even more so than the usual ten count seen in Last Man Standing matches) and therefore detract from the drama. Clearly these are four talented competitors who were unfortunate to experience a bad day at the office on this occasion. *1/2

After being announced as the new Director of Authority, Dusty Rhodes declares that America’s Most Wanted will face Triple X in a Six Sides of Steel Cage match at the next PPV as his first act. I eagerly await that because both teams are capable of better than tonight’s offering and they’ll look to redeem themselves.

9: Jeff Jarrett def. Jeff Hardy in a Ladder Match to retain the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 18:37.

So, we’re expecting the presence of Scott Hall (who is in the building) and Kevin Nash (who is allegedly absent). Someone remains awaiting outside in the limo. There’s also a World Championship main event taking place, by the way. It’s the battle of Jeffs, as Jarrett defends against Hardy, who looks like a witch. They build up nicely until Scott Hall intervenes and this essentially becomes a Handicap match. Hardy is borderline dominant regardless. The competitors manage to botch two sunset flip powerbombs before Kevin Nash arrives soon after. I suppose he’d seen enough. He’s holding two guitars and he’s heading for the ring, where Jarrett and Hardy are atop the ladder. Nash hands a guitar to Scott Hall and they play Wonderwall both strike Hardy, sending him crashing to the canvas and costing him the title. Jarrett wins and there’s a new heel trio atop the promotion, how original! A.J. Styles and the 3LiveKru all step up to the heels and catch a beating. Wait, there’s more, the man in the limo is here! He makes his way to the ring and it’s… Randy Savage! Dressed like The Undertaker!

The match starts off unremarkably, but the action is passable. I enjoyed the innovation on display: they safely execute the see-saw ladder spot (regrettably made famous by Joey Mercury), the earliest instance of this move that I can recall. Additionally, Hardy sets up an upside-down ladder, sliding Jarrett beneath the hinges before standing on them, jamming the hinges into the helpless champion. Watching in 2021, rarely do I see a unique spot in a Ladder match, so credit where it’s due.

Photo Credit: Impact Wrestling

Nevertheless, it’s hard to avoid sounding like a broken record when the same occurrence limits the match quality – the repeated interference is once again overbearing. Nonetheless, Hardy dominated the offense, which foreshadowed the result. Rarely does a face dominate and march to victory, particularly in the main event. The finish evoked shades of Bash at the Beach 1996, with Jarrett playing the role of Hulk Hogan. Not only is this markedly unoriginal, but it’s an ego-trip that would make the Hulkster himself jealous. The entire presentation of the main event is wildly over-booked, at least the match itself received time. **1/2

SCORE: 3.75/10

During the evening, TNA referred to Victory Road 2004 as the biggest event in their history. Surely, by that metric, it failed to measure up. That is not to say there were no redeeming features of this card – the Gauntlet match, Monster’s Ball and X-Division championship matches all reached a high standard. Nonetheless, the latter two of these bouts had potential to be great with better time distribution on the night. The poor time management was one of two harmful recurring themes, the other being outside interference. This hampered several matches, namely the main event, by which point it had become especially tiresome.

Given that this was a genuine landmark event for TNA, their debut monthly PPV, the show felt unremarkable. I suspect that is because there were no memorable matches or moments, although we had excessive amounts of filler. Perhaps the debut of “Macho Man” Randy Savage carried greater significance for the live viewer, however retrospectively he feels like an anachronism in 2004. His debut was less CM Punk in AEW and more Ultimate Warrior in WCW. WCW had crushed their promising young talent under the weight of fallen stars in the late 1990s and there are early signs of TNA doing the same here.