Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Random Match Reviews #11 (3/28/17) - A Look At Lethal Lockdown: Part 1

I take an extensive look at a longtime staple of TNA Wrestling!!

Over the years, TNA has given up a plethora of different, and unique, stipulation matches. Some of them have been pretty awful (The Reverse Battle Royal, The Last Rites Match, The Electrified Six Sides Of Steel, etc...), but on the other hand, they've also produced some pretty cool concepts that have come to define TNA throughout it's long and tumultuous history. This includes Ultimate X Match, King Of The Mountain Match (which is a match that I probably enjoy more than most), and the match that I'm looking at here in this post, the Lethal Lockdown Match. 

Now the basic layout of this match isn't an original TNA concert. It's essentially a variation of the WarGames Match that was made famous in the late 1980's, and throughout the 1990's, first by the NWA, and then by WCW. The general concept was still the same. Two guys started out the match, and then after five minutes, another competitor would enter the match (alternating between teams, of course) every two minutes. This would continue until everyone on both teams had entered the match. Only then could the match be won by pinfall or submission. When looking at Lethal Lockdown, the main thing (and the most obvious thing) that differentiates it from WarGames is that it only uses one ring instead of two rings. However, what really separates Lethal Lockdown from WarGames is what happens once everyone has entered the match. After the final competitor gets inside the Six Sides Of Steel (or the regular Steel Cage, once TNA changed to a regular ring), a roof was lowered onto the cage. This roof had all sorts of weapons either hanging from it, or sitting on top of it. Usage of these weapons were encouraged, and often, led to some spectacular and memorable stunts.

This will the first in a two-part series looking at TNA's Lethal Lockdown Matches. Here, I will be looking at the Lethal Lockdown Matches up to 2010. All of these matches (as well as A TON of TNA PPVs) are available to watch on The Fight Network app on Roku. To be clear, I'm not doing this because I'm a massive fan of TNA. For these posts, I decided to use Roman Numerals when referencing the Lethal Lockdown Matches (just because I feel like it's more organized, and helps each match stand out a little more). I won't be discussing the first Lethal Lockdown, which occurred at Lockdown 2005, because I personally feel like the Lethal Lockdown that occurred a year later was true start to the match that we are familiar with today. Additionally, I'll briefly mention the order of entry and the start of each individual match review. With any further ado, let's get this going!

1.) TNA Lockdown 2006 (4/23/06) - Lethal Lockdown II - Jarrett’s Army (Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner, & America’s Most Wanted [Chris Harris & James Storm] with Gail Kim & Jackie Gayda) vs. Sting’s Warriors (Sting, AJ Styles, Rhino, & Ron “The Truth” Killings): ****

AJ Styles & Chris Harris started the match off for their respective teams. Jarrett's Army would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was James Storm, Rhino, Jeff Jarrett, Ron "The Truth" Killings, Scott Steiner, and finally, Sting. I feel like when people think of Lethal Lockdown, this particular match is one that comes to mind a lot. It took place during TNA's golden years, and even thought it was technically the second Lethal Lockdown Match, it was the first time that we got the involvement of the roof with the weapons. This was honestly a lot of fun to watch. You had some cool moments in the first portion of the match, including a massive Tower Of Doom spot involving many of the competitors involved. I also liked how the order of the entrants was handled, particularly on the heel side. Of course, you had AMW as the first two guys for Jarrett's Army, which makes sense, as you immediately have an established tag team in there to pick apart AJ Styles. It seems odd (at first) that Jeff Jarrett would be the third entrant for his team (since he's the team captain), but having Scott Steiner as the last entrant from Jarrett's Army was smart, since out of the four guys on his team, he's clearly the most limited (although I'll give him credit for busting out a Frankensteiner).

Sting was the final entrant in the match, and he took on all four members of Jarrett's Army for a good minute or two, hitting some Stinger Splashes after he stacked all of them in one corner, before calling for the roof to be lowered. One thing I've always found odd about these matches is that the roof never lowers immediately. They always waited a minute or two before bringing the ceiling down on top of the cage. Once the roof did come down, everyone scrambled for the weapons that were hanging from the ceiling of the cage. The match turned into a big hardcore schmoz, which is something that is very common in this match once the roof gets lowered. I should mention that Gail Kim (who was the valet for AMW) tried to climb the cage, but Jackie Gayda (who I guess was being forced to work with Gail Kim) pulled down Kim's skirt to reveal her panties, and she chased her to the back. It's at this point (in these early versions of Lethal Lockdown) when a big spot occurs, and the one that happened in this match is probably the most memorable spot in the history of this match. AJ Styles and James Storm climbed to the top of the cage. They brawled for a little bit, but then a ladder and a table (which were sitting on the roof) were set up. Styles then put Storm on the table, climbed the ladder, and then grabbed onto (what I guess was) a lighting truss that was several feet above the roof of the cage. Styles hung from this truss for a good few seconds before dropping onto Storm, putting him through a table. That was a spot that still amazes me to this day. Absolutely crazy. The match eventually came to an end when Sting got Chris Harris to tap out to the Scorpion Deathlock. I consider this to be the original Lethal Lockdown, and when the dust settled, it was definitely one of the best.

2.) TNA Lockdown 2007 (4/15/07) - Lethal Lockdown III - Team Angle (Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, Rhino, Sting, & Jeff Jarrett) vs. Team Cage (NWA World Heavyweight Champion Christian Cage, AJ Styles, Abyss, Scott Steiner, & Tomko with James Mitchell): ****

2007 saw a slight increase in the field of competitors, as the two teams went from four members to five members. Additionally, there's a unique twist to this match, as whoever scores the fall will receive a shot at the NWA World Heavyweight Title at SacrificeAJ Styles & Kurt Angle started the match off for their respective teams. Team Cage would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Abyss, Rhino, Tomko, Samoa Joe, Scott Steiner, Sting, Christian Cage, and finally, Jeff Jarrett. They also had Harley Race at ringside as a special enforcer, of sorts. The big story surrounding this match was the sudden return of Jeff Jarrett, who aligned himself with the babyface Team Angle. I thought this was just as good as the Lethal Lockdown from 2006, but not quite as memorable. We did see some of the same spots we got last year, as we had a Tower Of Doom spot along with Scott Steiner (once again) busting out the Frankensteiner. Even Harley Race got physical, as he attacked James Mitchell at one point. I think what helped this match a lot, once everyone had entered, was the fact that certain guys were brawling in different areas. Of course, we got the usual hardcore schmoz when the ceiling lowered, but the fighting soon became a little more spread out. AJ Styles & Kurt Angle (who had started the match) made their way to the roof and started brawling there. Rhino hit a Gore on Tomko that send him flying through the cage door and onto the floor, which allowed for some guys to brawl outside of the cage. I think it really helped this part of the match. The big spot in this match saw Kurt Angle toss AJ Styles off the top of the cage roof onto the guys on the floor who had made their way outside of the cage. It wasn't quite as dramatic as the massive stunt Styles did the year prior, but it was still pretty cool. 

Towards the end of the match, thumbtacks came into play, and of course, they were put to use. Christian Cage got a double chokeslam onto them courtesy of Sting & Jeff Jarrett. Later, Abyss filled a guitar with thumbtacks, and it looked like he was going to use it, but Jarrett took it from him. It then looked like he was going to hit Sting, but Jarrett told Sting to move out of the way, and he hit Abyss with the guitar full of thumbtacks. He then let Sting cover Abyss, not only winning the match for Team Angle, but giving the title shot to Sting in the process. This was clearly part of Jarrett's recent face turn, as he showed he was loyal to his side by helping his team win, while letting someone else secure that title shot. Again, I don't think this match really stood out as much as the one from 2006, but it was just as good.

3.) TNA Lockdown 2008 (4/13/08) - Lethal Lockdown IV - Team Cage (Christian Cage, Rhino, Sting, Kevin Nash, & Matt Morgan) vs. Team Tomko (Tomko, AJ Styles, Team 3D, & James Storm with Jackie Moore): ***3/4

2008 saw another five-on-five variation of Lethal Lockdown, as former partners Christian Cage & Tomko were the respective captains in this one. AJ Styles & Christian started the match off for their respective teams. Team Tomko would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Brother Ray, Rhino, James Storm, Kevin Nash, Brother Devon, Matt Morgan, Tomko, and finally, Sting (who always seems to come out last, or towards the very end, in these matches). They actually pulled a nice little swerve at the start, as it appeared that Tomko was going to start off against Christian Cage, but it was a trap, as AJ Styles climbed into the structure from behind and attacked. I was actually a little nervous about this match. When you look at the lineup of participants, it wasn't exactly appealing. However, despite that, they still managed to put on a really entertaining match. Of course, we had some incredible moments before the roof was even lowered, such as Christian Cage hitting a big crossbody from the top of the cage. Of course, we got the hardcore schmoz one the roof came down. Christian Cage and James Storm initially made their way up to the top of the cage. They brawled for a little bit, and at one point, they actually broke part of the roof, to the point where Storm's leg was sitting in that hole. AJ Styles then made his way to the top of the cage, and they started to pick apart Christian. A table was set up in the center of the cage, with a ladder sitting on the triangular part of the roof that was closest to the entranceway. Christian Cage & AJ Styles both climbed it, and Storm decided to sacrifice Styles for the betterment of the team, as he pushed the ladder over and sent both guys crashing through the table! That was actually a very precarious spot, with the ladder being so close to the edge of the cage. Thankfully it never toppled the other way. This spot was definitely one of the most memorable spots in the history of this match, right up there with the AJ Styles spot from 2006.

Unfortunately, the finish hurt this match a little bit, and it kept it from being as good as the two matches that preceded it. After the aforementioned stunt with Christian Cage & AJ Styles, James Storm got back in the cage itself. He hit Matt Morgan with a beer bottle, but was immediately hit by a Gore from Rhino, who pinned him to score the win. I guess Rhino pinning James Storm made some sense, since the two had been feuding (they had an Elevation X Match back at Destination X 2008), but the finish came out of nowhere, and that took away from the match, in my eyes. Still with that being said, this was still very good, which is saying something, considering who was in the match.

4.) TNA Lockdown 2009 (4/19/09) - Lethal Lockdown V - Team Jarrett (Jeff Jarrett, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, & Christopher Daniels) vs. The Main Event Mafia (Kurt Angle, Scott Steiner, Booker T, & Kevin Nash with Sharmell): ***1/2

In 2009, Lethal Lockdown returned to the four-on-four format, as a team of TNA Originals took on the Main Event Mafia. Kurt Angle & Christopher Daniels started the match off for their respective teams. The Main Event Mafia would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Booker T, AJ Styles, Scott Steiner, Samoa Joe (in his ridiculous "Nation of Violence" getup), Kevin Nash, and finally, Jeff Jarrett. I actually really like the babyface team here, as you had TNA's founder along with three guys who defined TNA in 2005/2006 when the company was really on fire. This match was pretty good, but it didn't live up to the standards set by its predecessors. The action before the roof got lowered was solid (of course it would be, considering you had Kurt Angle, Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles, & Samoa Joe in there). I enjoyed seeing Angle mix it up with Daniels, as I don't think they had wrestled each other up to that point. There was a little bit of development with regards to Samoa Joe's storyline, as he was talking to some "mysterious figure" before he came out. Kevin Nash was sporting a brace on one of his arms, as he was just recovering from a recent staph infection. We did get some brawling on the floor, but none of it was really consequential. We got the usual hardcore schmoz, and like 2007, Kurt Angle & AJ Styles made their way up to the roof. They had apparently "reinforced" the cage so nobody could get on the roof, but they managed to get up there anyway. Angle took out Styles, and went back down, leaving Styles trapped on the roof.

What followed was one of the wackiest bumps in the history of Lethal Lockdown. AJ Styles stood on one of the triangular corners of the roof (those sections are elevated slightly compared to the main part of the roof). He jumped from that part of the roof, through the main part of the roof, through the ceiling and crashed to the mat. I say he crashed to the mat, but none of the guys underneath really caught him. That must've been a painful landing. Anyway, they ended the match with teasing a Jarrett heel turn (which felt pretty forced), but Jarrett proved his loyalty and hit Booker T with a guitar and got the pin for the victory. A pretty good match, but it wasn't exactly memorable.

Did I say that AJ Styles stunt was wacky? What was ever wackier was an appearance by Bobby Lashey, who just came out on the stage and pointed to the ring. This first stint in TNA was a very weird one for Bobby Lashley. After this appearance, he wasn't seen again until the summer months, when (I think) he teased joining the Main Event Mafia, only to turn them down. He wrestled in TNA through the end of 2009 and briefly into 2010 before departed. He wouldn't return until 2014, when he would start the run in TNA that he is probably most known for.

5.) TNA No Surrender 2009 (9/20/09) - Lethal Lockdown VI - Beer Money Inc. (James Storm & Robert Roode) & Team 3D vs. IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions The British Invasion (Brutus Magnus & Doug Williams) & TNA World Tag Team Champions The Main Event Mafia (Booker T & Scott Steiner): ***1/2

This was the first time that a Lethal Lockdown Match didn't take place on the Lockdown PPV. It was used to settle the score between four of TNA's top tag teams. Doug Williams & James Storm started the match off for their respective teams. The heel side would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was Brutus Magnus, Robert Roode, Scott Steiner, Brother Devon, Booker T, and finally, Brother Ray. It was interesting to see this match outside of Lockdown, but I don't think it was the best idea. One of the reasons why this match is special is that it only happens once a year on one specific show. If you start doing more than one a year, and on a different show, it ruins that special feeling. With that being said, this was still a pretty good match. The beginning portion of the match with The British Invasion and Beer Money was very solid. Things did slow down a bit in the latter portions (but hey, Steiner still busted out his Franksteiner, so that's cool, I guess). Before he could enter the match, Brother Ray was attacked by Rob Terry before the match. It looked like he wasn't going to continue, but he managed to recover and got in the cage. We got the mandatory hardcore schmoz, and the big spot saw Beer Money deliver a suplex to Magnus on top of the cage. They return to the ring, and hit the DWI on Doug Williams for the win. Again, I enjoyed this match, but similar to the Lethal Lockdown Match from earlier in the year, it wasn't exactly memorable.

6.) TNA Lockdown 2010 (4/18/10) - Lethal Lockdown VII - Team Flair (Sting, Desmond Wolfe, & Beer Money Inc. [Robert Roode & James Storm]) vs. Team Hogan (Abyss, Jeff Hardy, Jeff Jarrett, & Rob Van Dam): ***1/4

Here we have the first Lethal Lockdown under the Hulk Hogan/Eric Bischoff regime. Of course, when Hulk Hogan joined TNA, Ric Flair wasn't far behind, and we got the 20th incarnation of Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair, this time as the leaders of teams for Lethal Lockdown. This regime change also meant a change to the ring, as they scrapped the six-sided ring for the traditional four-sided ring. Thus, this was the first Lethal Lockdown to occur in a normal, four-sided ring. Abyss & Robert Roode started the match off for their respective teams. Team Hogan, interesting enough, would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was RVD, Desmond Wolfe, Jeff Jarrett, James Storm, Jeff Hardy, and Sting. Two notes right off the bat with the format. Team Hogan having the numbers advantage here was so backwards. In almost every instance of this match (and others like in different promotions, including WCW & ROH), the heel team ALWAYS has the numbers advantage. The psychology of this match was all wrong from the beginning. I guess this was "swapped" later on in the match, as Sting had apparently attacked Jeff Hardy before he came out to enter the match. This gave Team Flair a four-on-three advantage for a little bit, but then Jeff Hardy returned and entered the match. 

For the most part, despite the backwards psychology, the bulk of this match....actually wasn't that bad. The action was relatively solid, the hardcore stuff was fine (Abyss hit Sting with a chokeslam onto thumbtacks) and we got a crazy stunt from Jeff Hardy (are you surprised?). He went to the top of the cage, set up a ladder, gave Robert Roode a Twist Of Fate on the top of the cage, and then hit a splash off the top of the ladder, putting James Storm through a table. This was all well and good. What really hurt the match a ton was the involvement of Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, & Eric Bischoff. Essentially, Flair got involved, which led to Hogan coming out. They brawled for a bit with each other and with the other guys in the match. Eric Bischoff then got in the cage. He teased teaming up with Flair as he almost handed him brass knuckles, but he tossed them to Hogan, who used them on Flair, busting "The Nature Boy" wide open. He then rammed him into the cage, and then Flair did his signature Flair Flop onto the thumbtacks (that bit was actually funny). Abyss then just hit Desmond Wolfe with the Black Hole Slam for the win. Given how involved Hogan & Flair were, they should've just made those two official participants in the match. It really sucks because all of the guys who were actually in the match worked very hard, only for Hogan, Flair, & Bischoff to come in and steal all of the spotlight. Honestly, it was sad. A fun match ruined by a bunch of glory hogs. Even thought it was still technically "good", this was easily the worst Lethal Lockdown Match we had seen thus far.

7.) TNA Bound For Glory 2010 (10/10/10) - Lethal Lockdown VIII - EV 2.0 (Tommy Dreamer, Raven, Rhino, Sabu, & Stevie Richards with Mick Foley) vs. Fortune (AJ Styles, Beer Money Inc. [Robert Roode & James Storm], Kazarian, & Matt Morgan with Ric Flair): ***1/4

Similar to 2009, we had two Lethal Lockdown Matches in 2010. This time, the second Lethal Lockdown of the year was on Bound For Glory, and it featured EV 2.0 (a stable of ECW Originals formed following the Hardcore Justice PPV) going up against Fortune (a stable created by Ric Flair that was essentially Four Horsemen-lite, but had a lot of talents guys involved). What was odd about this one is that, instead of guys coming out from the back as they entered the match, everyone was at ringside, and just ran in the cage when it was their turn to go in. Kazarian & Stevie Richards started the match off for their respective teams. Fortune would have the numbers advantage in this one. The order of entry was AJ Styles, Tommy Dreamer, Bobby Roode, (bald) Sabu, James Storm, Raven, Matt Morgan, & Rhino. This was a fine match that featured some memorable moments, such as Sabu eating a vicious powerbomb into the cage courtesy of Matt Morgan, but as a whole, it was very underwhelming. This was the definition of a mid-card match, which is so unfortunate. I mentioned this earlier, but once you start having Lethal Lockdown on other shows besides Lockdown, you really ruin the unique feeling that this match has. What was once a major, once-a-year spectacle was reduced to just another match on the card. While this match did play into the strengths of Team ECW EV 2.0 (with a hardcore schmoz once the roof came down), it just seemed like a bunch of old timers (as the babyfaces) fighting against the young heels. In general, that can be a good story, but did we really need the likes of AJ Styles & Beer Money getting beaten up by a bunch of ECW Originals who were past their prime? We even had more focus on older guys on the outside, as Ric Flair & Mick Foley got into multiple altercations.

Even the "big spot" at the end was underwhelming. Kazarian & Stevie Richards were on top of the cage, and it looked like Kazarian was going to jump off a ladder to put him through a table (both the ladder and table had large, flat bottoms on their legs to help made them more sturdy on the cage roof), but Brian Kendrick emerged from a black cloth covering on top of the cage. I guess he had disguised himself as a bag of weapons or something. He put Kazarian through a table in a very weak spot. Apparently the storyline at the time was that Kendrick (who was doing some sort of religious zealot gimmick, I think) was trying to gain acceptance into EV 2.0. Kendrick meditated on top of the cage as Tommy Dreamer pinned AJ Styles to win the match for his team. Yes, you read that result right. In hindsight, that's just.....insane. EV 2.0 going over the younger talent is just crazy. Again, some of the action in the match was solid, but largely, this was forgettable.

Well, that concludes the first part of this little mini-project within the larger context of my Random Match Reviews Series!! It's pretty clear that Lethal Lockdown started off incredible strong, but the matches decreased in quality slowly but surely as the years went by. The inclusion of the match on other PPV's not named Lockdown, and the changes brought about by the Hogan/Bischoff regime certainly had an impact (no pun intended) on the worsening match quality as well. Don't get me wrong, even the worst of theses matches were still "good", but by 2010, Lethal Lockdown was turning into a shell of its former self. Look out for Part 2, which will cover this match from 2011 through early 2015, very soon!

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