**Edited on October 1st 2018. Removed broken videos.**
See the first edition (2002) here. Hi everyone, I’m here to share TNA’s key moments and major players in 2003. This is the second edition of a series highlighting the history of TNA Wrestling from 2002-2016. The first edition includes a more detailed introduction.
The new year kicked off with Jeff Jarrett in his first world title reign,and Vince Russo’s stable S.E.X (Sports Entertainment Xtreme) trying to take TNA over by targeting the babyfaces. The first title change came when Triple X defeated America’s Most Wanted for the tag titles; Christopher Daniels, Elix Skipper and Low-Ki were recognized as champions by the Freebird rule. Two weeks later, the title was vacated (for over a month) following a double-pin in a match with The Disciples Of The New Church.
On February 12th, Sonny Siaki (member of S.E.X) lost the X-Division title to former ECW wrestler Kid Kash. In March, Triple X made their presence known by defeating America’s Most Wanted to claim the tag titles for a second time, sparking a feud which lasted til the winter of 2004. April was truly an amazing month for the young exciting prospect known as Amazing Red. First he won the tag titles with Jerry Lynn, then two weeks later Red defeated Kid Kash to take the X-Division title and become the first double champion in the history of TNA. Amazingly phenomenal match.
In the spring of 2003, Dixie Carter was appointed President of TNA by owners Panda Energy to oversee business operations. Jerry Jarrett remained a key figure in the business side, while Jeff Jarrett and Vince Russo clashed over booking decisions. In March, Russo went on hiatus to become a better father, leaving S.E.X with no official leader; Glenn Gilberti and Sonny Siaki fought over who would lead.
Change In The Air
May and June saw many promising changes. On May 7th, Triple X defeated Amazing Red and Jerry Lynn to become the 1st three-time tag team champions. Chris Sabin claimed his first X-Division reign on May 14th by defeating Amazing Red and Jerry Lynn in a triple threat. Russo returned to the promotion in late May, helping S.E.X pick up a number one contenders match (against Jarrett) by hitting Raven with a baseball bat. RUSSO SWERVE! One week later, Russo turned on S.E.X by helping Jarrett to retain; leaving S.E.X to quietly disband.
On June 11th, history was made as AJ Styles won his first World Championship by defeating Jeff Jarrett and Raven in a Triple Threat. And yes … there’s another RUSSO SWERVE! — I couldn’t find any decent videos with good sound so I included a highlights package with music from Paramore: not my choice of music! Turn your sound down if it’s not your cup of tea. (video removed)
On June 25th, America’s Most Wanted also became three-time champions by defeating their rivals Triple X in a steel cage. August crowned some unlikely champions. First off, Michael Shane defeated Chris Sabin and Frankie Kazarian in a Ultimate X match to become the X-Division champion, and held it 140 days, making him the longest reigning of the time. Former ECW guys Simon Diamond and Johnny Swinger feuded with America’s Most Wanted before beating them for the titles in late August. Vince Russo continued on as AJ Styles’ manager.
Russo Out? Hogan In? / Dutch Mantel Steps In
On October 1st, Russo was involved in his first pro wrestling loss as AJ styles took the pin in a tag team match with Dusty Rhodes and Jeff Jarrett. On the 15th, he made his last appearance of 2003 in a street fight with Jarrett before being “thrown out of the building”. Hulk Hogan was made available to TNA, but due to issues with Russo (stemming from the “Bash At The Beach incident”) he would not sign unless Russo was gone. As a result, Russo was written out of the company. One week later, Jarrett defeated AJ Styles to become the 1st two-time World Champion in TNA.
Following the termination of his WWE contract by Vince McMahon, Hogan expressed interest in TNA. To hype a NWA World title match on TNA’s first three-hour PPV, Jarrett went to Japan to confront and attack him. In the end, Hogan did not appear due to recurring knee and hip problems. Jarrett held the title for the rest of the year.
In September 2003, Dutch Mantel (AKA Zeb Colter in WWE) started working as a writer, producer, and agent. This began a healthy relationship between him and TNA which lasted til 2009. and was instrumental in many of TNA’s successful ideas, most notably the Knockouts Division. He can also be credited with recruiting Awesome Kong to the company.
Rise Of The 3LiveKru / CM Punk & The Gathering
Throughout 2003 the 3LiveKru (B.G James AKA Road Dogg, Ron “The Truth” Killings, and Konnan) gained notoriety for their promos and portrayals of stereotypes. They wrote a few songs together and performed live in 2003 and 2004. In November, 3LiveKru won the tag titles and defended them under the freebird rule. They were the last new champions crowned in 2003.
I decided not to mention CM Punk for 2002 as he only worked two matches, and they were on the same night as part of a tag team series with Ace Steel. In 2003, Punk was working for ROH in a critically acclaimed feud with Raven which lasted most of the year. But while the feud steamed on in ROH, Punk joined Raven’s new version of “The Flock” in TNA. Now named “The Gathering”, Punk joined the stable with Raven as his leader alongside Julio Dinero (tag team partner) and Alexis Laree (Mickie James).
His first televised singles match was in a losing effort to Shane Douglas with “Clockwork Orange House of Fun” rules (Raven’s creation). A few weeks later, he debuted in a match with The Gathering by teaming with Raven and Julio Dinero. Alexis Laree left the stable and promotion at the end of June to be signed by WWE. The Gathering spent the rest of the year feuding with Shane Douglas, James Mitchell, and ECW alumni. The stable gained dominance in late 2003, and early 2004. More on The Gathering and CM Punk in the next piece.
Another important year. AJ Styles became World Champion. Amazing Red, Chris Sabin, 3LiveKru, and The Gathering made themselves known. Alexis Laree was so impressive she ended up in WWE as Mickie James. TNA almost had Hulk Hogan challenging for the NWA title; imagine if he was cleared to wrestle? And Dutch Mantel found himself a comfortable position to be creative for the next six years.
All the while, Russo was spending more time with his family and Dixie Carter became president. It was important to build the company in to something which could survive .. and here we are thirteen years later. Thanks for reading everyone! See you soon.