Bobby Roode & Eric Young vs. America’s Most Wanted (TNA Final Resolution 1/16/05)

Match Reviews

This review was commissioned by Garrett Kidney over on my Ko-fi account.

Tag team wrestling holds a real special place in my heart. Done well, it’s one of the easiest genres of pro wrestling to get into, and also one of the most instructive when it comes to both teaching the viewer the ways to enjoy wrestling, and beyond that learning how to best discuss it constructively from a critical standpoint. That’s because when done with the classic formulas in mind, tag team wrestling has some of the most clear cut three-act structure to be found anywhere in wrestling. It’s also a formula, that when applied to its maximum potential, does so much to hide the flaws of everyone involved.

Take this NWA Tag Team Title match from 2005.

If you’ve been a fan of wrestling long enough, you don’t even need any additional context outside of seeing the teams make their entrance. It’s the most obvious thing in the world: America’s Most Wanted are playing the big brawling babyfaces, Team Canada are the cheating stooge heels complete with loudmouth manager at ringside. Already, the shape of the match appears in your head.

For the most part, this bout stays true to that classic southern tag formula–the shine, the heat, and the comeback. There’s enough baseline talent here to get a very good match out of that basic structure without much problem. And again, the formula itself does a lot to limit the effect of certain flaws here. The heels, for example, aren’t the most thrilling in the heat segment, although they are solid. At multiple points, especially in such a heated match, I sort of wish both Chris Harris and James Storm on the babyface team threw some better worked punches than they do. Smaller mechanical issues like this feel so much less important when they’re all so focused on the purpose of each segment. The rhythm of the thing as a whole counts far more than any individual moment.

Which is not to say that there isn’t great action in this because there fucking is. If anything in, the physicality of it adds a real modern touch to the old school formula that’s really welcome here. For example, the early brawling up the ramps and around ringside is a big, heated way to lead into the babyface shine. By the time everything settles back down in the ring though, the action continues on the correct track with Eric Young turning in one of the best heel stooge performances I’ve seen in a minute. Not only does Young eat shit constantly here, but it’s the feeling behind that that makes it all the more significant. He’s dying in embarrassing ways, getting owned brutally instead of being admirable in any moment of it (the difference between a bumping performance for a heel compared to something a Darby Allin might turn in, for example).

TNA, GIF-ed by Joseph Montecillo
TNA, GIF-ed by Joseph Montecillo

The final act of this is where the magic really lies though. Outside of that early crowd brawling, the match has played a fairly patient game so far. They don’t rush through the heat segment, even allowing it to build to a few excellent cut offs by the heels. But by the time Storm finally gets that hot tag to bring in Wildcat, that’s when booking and a real clever sense of escalation starts to take over. The heels never get the chance to really make a big show of enduring or surviving any of the big offense, instead relying on playing the numbers game and unleashing everything possible in their back pocket to make the victory happen.

The magic of that final act though is similar to something like MJF/Wardlow, where every single trick either backfires or overcome by our faces. And the way they pace out those heel tricks too is ingenious, leaving enough room between each to give the faces time to overcome, but also ensure that nothing dampens the impact of the next cheating tactic. It keeps building in a way that genuinely caught me off guard, as someone coming in cold to this match, I found myself biting on maybe five or six different false finishes before this ended. It’s not enough that AMW handcuff D’Amore to the ringpost, Johnny Devine’s out here too. When Devine gets that hockey stick shot in, I truly thought it was over. But even that’s not enough, and somehow AMW survives yet another big play when Storm gets his foot on the rope to survive the bump into the chair. There’s a neat morality to the closing moments too with Devine swinging blindly at someone in the ring, only to crack Young instead which gets our heroes the three. It’s that old school tag idea: that the heels are always just one bad mistake away from completely imploding on each other, and here it all finally comes tumbling apart for them.

Brilliant stuff. Carefully plotted, executed with a lot of energy and life, and about as true and pure a southern tag in the 2000s can feel. Hearty bowl of chicken soup this.

Rating: ****1/4

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