Total Nonstop Action Wrestling struggles to forge a positive identity for itself, due to a combination of the promotion’s mindless booking techniques, as well as the fact that they live in the shadow of WWE’s corporate leviathan. However, the promotion has had its share of positives in their nine years of existence, with the majority of these concepts remaining integral parts of TNA’s core.
One such concept has been Lockdown, TNA’s April pay-per-view offering. When TNA switched to three hour PPVs back in 2004, it seemed imperative to make some events stand out with a gimmick in order to entice buys, like the Royal Rumble, Survivor Series, WCW World War III, and the majority of WWE’s modern “themed” pay per views.
[adinserter block=”2″]TNA Lockdown is, as the name hints at, a show centered around steel cage matches. In fact, every match of the card takes place inside a cage, with some matches having modifiers that add shades of freshness to the three hour broadcast.
What Money in the Bank matches are to WWE’s upper midcard, the X Division Xscape is to TNA’s resident daredevils. Cram anywhere from four to nine of TNA’s X Division stars and let them try to steal the show with their innovation. X Division enthusiasts, who decry TNA for their lack of focus on the division, are thrown a bone with this annual spectacle. Chris Sabin is a two time winner of the match, while Jay Lethal and Homicide can each claim victory in Xscape matches.
Speaking of those of the purist persuasion, Lethal Lockdown is the closest concept to War Games that fans can find nowadays. However, unlike the feud-ending battle that fans will forever associate with 1980’s NWA, TNA’s version features only one ring, but also boasts an array of weapons that become available after every combatant has entered. Also, instead of merely submissions being a match ender, pinfalls count in War Games’ modern day offspring.
On Sunday, April 17, 2011, the seventh annual TNA Lockdown will emanate from the sizable US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio. As usual, Lethal Lockdown and X Divison Xscape will be a part of the festivities, as well as continued feuds with the likes of Kurt Angle vs. Jeff Jarrett, and Samoa Joe vs. “The Pope” D’Angelo Dinero.
Here, now is a look back at the five best matches in Lockdown history, as we head into this year’s steel cage extravaganza.
5. LETHAL LOCKDOWN: Sting, AJ Styles, Ron Killings, and Rhino vs. Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner, and America’s Most Wanted (April 23, 2006 – Orlando, FL)
Those who miss the heelish antics of the Four Horsemen may wish to track down this match. Chris Harris and James Storm’s double teaming of AJ Styles early on set the table for an exciting war to come.
Eras collided, as the NWA-like War Games of old met the modern TNA/ROH innovative stunt show. AMW, Killings, Styles, and Rhino would complete a tower-of-doom spot while brought the Impact Zone crowd to their feet, back before they became cynical.
Steiner would help Team Jarrett regain control in the classic War Games role of “muscled enforcer for the heel team”. Jarrett and Sting soon joined the fray, and Sting may as well have had blonde hair and colorful attire again for how “in place” he looked in the match, hitting Stinger Splashes with no end in sight.
But it was Styles who stole the show. After the weapons came into play, he and Storm fought to the top of the cage. Once there, Styles climbed a ladder (yes, on the cage) and put Storm through a table (yes, on the cage). It’s still unreal to see.
Sting would make Harris tap to the Scorpion Deathlock, capping off a once-routinely excellent TNA show.
4. #1 CONTENDERS’ MATCH: AJ Styles vs. Abyss (April 24, 2005 – Orlando, FL)
Styles and Abyss have one of the best dynamics I’ve seen from two TNA homegrowns: the ultimate cat and mouse game. For as many times as these two men have faced off since Abyss joined the roster in 2003, Styles has sold Abyss’ manhandling monster offense, while Abyss returned the favor by allowing himself to be outwitted by his fleet-footed rival.
With the winner getting Jeff Jarrett at Hard Justice the following month, Styles brought the air assault early, diving through the cage door onto Abyss outside the ring, and sending the big man through a loop with several hurracanranas.
After Abyss turned the tide by blasting Styles with the cage door, the masked maniac took over with his steel chain, trying to maim “The Phenomenal One”, who soon found refuge with a tornado DDT.
The dramatic finish saw Abyss try to hang Styles with the chain from the top of the cage, but AJ fought his way free. Abyss then attempted a chokeslam off the structure and onto a pile of thumbtacks (laid out by Abyss earlier), but Styles somehow countered by powerbombing Abyss onto the jagged objects, scoring the pin, and a date with Jarrett three weeks later.
3. LETHAL LOCKDOWN: Kurt Angle, Sting, Samoa Joe, Rhino, and Jeff Jarrett vs. Christian Cage, AJ Styles, Tomko, Scott Steiner, and Abyss (April 15, 2007 – St. Louis, MO)
Because Lockdown was in the Gateway City this year, the legendary Harley Race served as “gatekeeper” for the match.
Angle and Styles began the match with the expected athletic exhibition, with Angle dominating until Abyss (Styles’ nemesis less than 100 words ago) provided 2-on-1 relief for AJ. As the bodies poured in (Rhino, then Tomko, then Joe, then Steiner), the match simply became a showcase of flashy moves and hard impact landings. Steiner even got into the spirit by busting out a top rope Frankensteiner on Rhino, which got well deserved cheers.
Sting entered next, followed by then-NWA Champion Christian, and Jarrett (in his big return) entering last. The high spots continued, featuring Rhino goring Tomko through the cage door, Joe diving onto Tomko through the doorway, and then AJ Styles diving off the cage onto the mass of humanity.
In the end, Christian took a double chokeslam onto a pile of thumbtacks (well, Abyss IS involved….), and then Jarrett filled his guitar with a few handfuls of tacks. With the modified weapon, Jarrett caved Abyss’ head in, allowing Sting to get the pin and a #1 contender’s opportunity against Christian Cage.
For once, TNA truly was ‘Total Nonstop Action’.
2. TNA WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT: Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe (April 13, 2008 – Lowell, MA)
And now, for something a little different. Angle and Joe’s modernized mat wrestling styles owe much to the proliferation of mixed martial arts, so why not book the match as a hybrid of professional wrestling and MMA?
Hell, you’re already having the match inside a cage.
Angle, for his part, wore fighter’s trunks instead of his Americana singlet, and UFC veteran Frank Trigg added insight on commentary. Joe made his entrance with his real life siblings performing a tribal fire-stick routine, which added to the main event atmosphere.
As one would assume, Angle and Joe ripped into each other with their typical fury, as Angle attacked the limbs early, adding the requisite strikes in what looked like an audition tape worth sending to Dana White.
The body of the match featured an incredible sequence of submission reversals, as Joe applied a Crossface, which Angle countered into his Ankle Lock. Joe got the Crossface again, but Angle managed to turn it into the Olympic Slam. After reapplying his Ankle Lock, Joe pulled the champion down into the Cocquina Clutch.
[adinserter block=”1″]Angle’s reign was not long, as a thrust kick from Joe led to the Muscle Buster, giving Joe the TNA World Championship.
1. ESCAPE ONLY: Kurt Angle vs. Mr. Anderson (April 18, 2010 – St. Louis, MO)
One year after a technical masterpiece, Angle was now engaged in a match that was anything but, but that’s not a bad thing.
The blood feud led to this blowoff, which stipulated that the only way to win was to leave through the door, which Anderson had won the right to carry the key for.
The story of the match is that Angle had several chances to escape, but decided he’d rather maul Anderson with nothing to stop him. With both men bleeding heavily, Kurt Angle dropped Anderson with the Olympic Slam, but, again, instead of exiting the cage, Angle refused. In fact, he hurled the key out of the cage and maniacally snarled at TNA’s resident “Asshole”. Anderson crapped the proverbial brick, and found escape futile with Angle bearing down.
Angle punctuated the mayhem with a moonsault off the cage onto Anderson. He then went to leave, but ol’ Ken goaded him into fighting more. Angle then fell victim to the Mic Check, which should seal Anderson’s win, with the key returned. However, Angle snared him with an Ankle Lock, and then choked him out on the apron. With Ken Anderson passed out, Angle stomped his groin, and exited to victory.
So, the question remains: will TNA give us something memorable this year?
Justin Henry is a freelance writer whose work appears on many websites. He provides wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture columns for CamelClutchBlog.com, as well as several wrestling columns a week for WrestlingNewsSource.com and WrestleCrap.com. Justin can be found here on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh and Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/cynicjrh.
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