TNA returned to the Nashville Fairgrounds for the first time since they left this town and the weekly PPV concept behind for the lure of greener pastures in Orlando. The event was also billed as TNA’s final show at the building. Mayor Karl Dean, in his ultimate wisdom, wants to tear down the existing Fairgrounds structures and redevelop the property, but it’s not a done deal, at least not yet (see notes).
The show drew a standing room only crowd of over 1200.
This was the best of the four TNA house shows I’ve attended. All of them have been pretty terrific. The presentation walks a fine line between smooth and slick. For almost the entire evening, the atmosphere in the building was awe inspiring. It’s hard to beat a packed Fairgrounds Sports Arena, especially on such a special occasion with a crowd as amped as this one was. Among the highlights were were several heartfelt farewells. TNA did it up right by mainly booking wrestlers that had history in the building from TNA’s early days.
Jeremy Borash opened the show by whipping the already jacked up crowd into a frenzy with the backstage pass gimmick. I always marvel at the job Borash does. He received word from the back via referee Andrew Thomas that A.J. Styles was the villain blocking access. Styles came out and said he had surpassed the people at the Fairgrounds. Raven came out. Fans chanted his name. Raven appeared to be moved by the gesture. Raven said the passes would happen if he beat Styles.
(1) Raven beat A.J. Styles in 7:37. The quality of this match was a testament to the greatness that is Styles. Raven’s physical limitations were almost completely disguised. Styles took a bump over the top rope on Raven’s handshake lock. The crowd was behind Raven and at first, they didn’t want to get on Styles, but he got a “Styles sucks” chant with his heeling. Raven kicked out after taking the Pele Kick. Finish came when Styles tried for the springboard forearm. Raven kicked Styles low and hit the Even Flow DDT.
(2) Madison Rayne beat Velvet Sky in 5:09. The crowd (heavily 18-35 males) were pretty rabid for Sky’s entrance. Nothing wrong with quality eye candy in my book. The match was OK enough. Sky’s comeback fire was fun. Slick Johnson spanked Madison. Rayne got the pin with a roll through and handful of tights.
(3) Abyss beat Eric Young in 7:43. Good match. Strong “EY” chants for Young. Abyss fought off Young’s pesky opening attack. Young busted out the headstand into the flying headscissors. Abyss cut him off with a high boot and went to work. Abyss hit the chokeslam, but Young got a foot on the ropes at two. Young capped off a rally with a top rope elbow for a great false finish. The crowd totally bought into it. Abyss won it with the Black Hole Slam.
Young got a “thank you Eric” chant.
Jimmy Hart addressed the crowd. He reminisced about being brought into the wrestling business at the Fairgrounds by Jerry Lawler in 1979. Hart said Lawler told him that the Nashville fans were the best on the Memphis circuit – “they love you or they hate you and they don’t ever forget you.” Hart recalled the early members of his stable – “Dream Machine” Troy Graham, Jimmy Valiant and Dutch Mantell. Hart then rand down a list of current TNA stars calling them the future of wrestling. He included Jeff Jarrett on the list. Hart said it was the end of an era and advised fans to cherish the memories. “It’s hard to kill a memory.”
(4) Motor City Machine Guns (Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin) beat Beer Money (James Storm & Robert Roode) and Ink Inc. (Shannon Moore & Jesse Neal) to retain the TNA Tag Team Championship in 14 minutes. All three teams were cheered. MCMG didn’t get as big a reaction as the others coming out. Early part of the match was Guns vs. Beer Money. MCMG broke out on their rapid fire, spot on combo sequences, and the crowd was totally with them the rest of the way. Shelley and Neal took most of the heat. The Beer Money chant spot was over big time. This was a spotfest and really good one. All kinds of great moves. Everyone got a chance to shine. Match go the one and only “this is awesome” chant of the night. Sabin pinned Roode after the Skull and Bones.
Storm talked about starting out at the Fairgrounds training under Wolfie D and Jerry Jarrett. He said TNA had the world’s greatest tag team division and put Guns over huge.
Don West did his magic with the gimmicks during intermission.
(5) Jeff Jarrett beat Samoa Joe in 10:55. Excellent heat. The thing this match had going for it was a true heel/face dynamic. Jarrett stalled. Fans chanted “you sold out”. They were popping for all of Joe’s high impact moves. Jarrett got heat on him. Joe hulked up and started hitting his trademark moves for near falls. They worked a really nice reversal into the Kokina Clutch. Jarrett donkey kicked Joe in the nuts and pinned him with the Stoke.
Dixie Carter thanked the Nashville fans for their support of TNA. Borash was holding her hand during this. Fans chanted “TNA” and “Thank you, Dixie”. There’s something extremely likable about Carter, her unfathomable loyalty to Vince Russo notwithstanding.
Mr. Anderson was introduced as the special guest. He got the star treatment. He got exasperated when no mic dropped from the ceiling. That got the “asshole” chant. Borash stood on a chair and dropped a mic into his hand. Anderson said he came to the show with the understanding that he was going to get retribution on Hardy for lacing his head open. He said it was the hardest shot he had ever taken and that wasn’t storyline. Anderson said he wasn’t medically cleared. He said TNA was showing unprecedented concern for their wrestlers (on the concussion issue). Anderson reminisced about making the drive from Green Bay to work the Tojo Yamamoto Memorial show for Bert Prentice and get his butt whipped by TNA originals at the Fairgrounds. Anderson introduced Pope as his replacement versus Hardy.
(6) Jeff Hardy beat Pope D’Angelo Dinero to retain the TNA Heavyweight Championship in 15:03. Hardy got a thoroughly mixed reaction. More boos than cheers. He was introduced as “The Self-Proclaimed Antichrist”. Pope was over, however not to an earth shattering degree. There were dueling chants at the start, then a brief “Hardy sucks” chant erupted. Pope blocked the Twist of Hate Hardy responded with double middle fingers. Hardy started bailing. When Pope chased, Hardy cut him off with a hotshot stunner. Heat died during Hardy’s sleazy, lazy offense. Pope made an aerial comeback. Dueling chants again with the kids behind Hardy. They traded near falls. Pope kicked out of the Twist of Hate. Hardy missed Whisper in the Wind and Pope hit the double knee facebreaker, but Hardy kicked out. Fans had no illusions about Pope winning. Pope couldn’t convert on the Dinero Express. Hardy hit the Twist of Hate and finished with the Swanton. Crowd was popping for Hardy’s signature finishers. A very average main event and if it was indeed the last match in the building, it was not one to create the kind of memories Hart was talking about earlier.
Afterwards, fans were invited into the ring for $20 Polaroids with Hardy (no swerve). Borash said they would be the first fan photos with Hardy holding the title. Jarrett and Sky did $10 Polaroids at the gimmick tables.
NOTES: Among the notables sighted: Karen Angle/Jarrett (television doesn’t do her justice), Jason Hervey, Former Memphis Wrestling booker Randy Hales, Hot Rod Biggs (SAW on occasion), Scott Barry (NWA Top Rope), Shawn Shultz, Tony Lucassio, Shane Eden, the infamous Chicken Hat Charles, Scott Hensley (Ultimate NWA) and obscenely hilarious TNA blogger The Bro… The TNA crew included Terry Taylor, D-Lo Brown, Bob Ryder and Jason James…Carter was seated in the bleachers for much of the show…Nashville City Councilman Duane Dominy has introduced an ordinance to restrict the use of the Fairgrounds property to its current purposes (state fair, flea market, stock car racing, wrestling, etc – a total of 277 events annually) until a suitable replacement property in Davidson County is in place. The second reading of the ordinance is set for 6pm November 16 at the courthouse. For more info go to fairgroundsheritage.org and savemyfairgrounds.com.