This is another review request that came to me from one of our many regular readers here at TJR Wrestling.
The match we’re looking at today was and is considered something of a forgotten classic in the pantheon of great TNA matches. But more importantly, this match allegedly blew away the pitifully low expectations people had going into this show.
Anyone who remembers America’s Most Wanted – “The Tennessee Cowboy” James Storm and “Wildcat” Chris Harris – remembers them for being one of the best tag teams of the mid-2000s, and for their involvement in one of the worst and dumbest matches in modern times: a blindfold cage match. Welcome to Russo-era TNA, everyone.
So how did two former vest friends go from taking part in THE worst wrestling match of 2007 to having an (alleged) genuine classic in only a few months? Read on to find out.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
To say that America’s Most Wanted was an important tag team in the 2000s would be an understatement. The two men were integral in establishing both TNA’s tag team division and its general presence within the wrestling business. Their earlier matches were praised by TNA management and their gimmick work and in-ring performances were celebrated both within the company and among its fans. They achieved considerable success together, winning the NWA world Tag Team Championships (back when TNA was an affiliate of the NWA and not its own distinct entity). But in time they, too, fell victim to the omnipresent trope affecting nearly all wrestling tag teams: the partners turning on each other.
At Turning Point 2006, AMW lost a flag match to LAX after Storm hit Homicide with a beer bottle and some of the glass got in Harris’ eyes. Soon afterwards, AMW also lost a “titles versus team” match with the losers having to disband. This latter match ended when Storm intentionally hit Harris with another beer bottle, effectively turning Harris face in the process.
The damage to Harris’ eye was so bad that he strongly implied that his in-ring career was over and he wasn’t seen in TNA until February 2007 when he attacked Storm after a match. That led to the aforementioned double blindfold match (because Harris was allegedly at only 30% vision and Russo thought both men should be on an even playing field by being unable to see at all; marvel at this genius on display). Storm won that, but Harris wanted one more match and challenged him to a Texas Deathmatch to resolve the matter once and for all.
This match originally took place on May 13, 2007. It was rated ****1/4 out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer.
This is a Texas Deathmatch which, under TNA rules, means that once a three-count occurs, the fallen wrestler has until the referee’s count of ten to get up otherwise he loses.
Harris rips off his AMW shirt on his way down and then taunts Storm to meet him on the ramp. The brawl begins and Harris starts choking Storm with a chain. Harris hiptosses Storm up the ramp and then the fighting spills into the crowd and up the stands. Harris tries throwing Storm over a fence but Storm fights back. Harris maintains control for a while until Storm escapes him long enough to throw beer in his face. Harris reverses an Irish whip and sends Storm into a wall but it’s clear he’s not in full control anymore.
Harris makes his way to the ring, drinks Storm’s beer, and then lands a diving crossbody from the top rope into the first row of fans. He covers Storm for a three-count but Storm makes it up at eight. Harris tosses Storm into the ring and attempts another dive but Storm throws a chair at Harris’ head. That busts Harris open and leaves him in the tree of woe, which allows Storm to land a chairshot to the face with Harris hanging upside down.
Harris gets up, his face and torso roadmaps of blood, as Storm sets up a table in the ring. Storm tries a hurricanrana onto the table but Harris holds onto the ropes. Storm blocks a charge and attempts a sunset flip but Harris blocks and tries a sharpshooter. Storm resists it so Harris catapults him into the underside of the table. Ouch. Now Storm’s bleeding as well. Harris tries to suplex Storm into the table but Storm blocks with a low blow and hits a spinning crucifix powerbomb through the table. Storm gets a three-count but Harris gets up at the count of nine.
Storm grabs a fresh table but at this point the blood’s pouring out of his head like a faucet, painting the table. He sets it up ringside and attempts another crucifix powerbomb but Harris escapes and ends up on the apron. Harris fights back but Storm catches him in a draping DDT. Then Storm pulls out a garbage can and a kendo stick. But before he can re-enter the ring Harris charges and spears him through the ropes and through the table.
Storm’s manager Jackie Moore stops Harris from pinning Storm and then both men struggle to their feet. Back in the ring, Harris swings for a chair-shot but Storm ducks and superkicks the chair into Harris’ face. One, two, Harris kicks out. Storm starts hitting Harris with a garbage can lid and soon Harris returns in kind. Storm swings one more but then Harris counters into a swinging sidewalk slam onto the can. One, two, Storm kicks out.
Jackie Moore attacks Harris but then Gail Kim comes in to stop her. She steals the handcuffs that Moore was going to use and handcuffs herself to Moore to drag her to the back. both men grab beer bottles. Harris hits first. He covers Storm and gets a three-count. The ref begins the ten-count. Storm gets up to his knees but no further and collapses at the count of ten, giving Harris the win.
Winner after 17:12: Chris Harris
That was a brutal and violent match that lived up to its stipulation. It’s rare for a post-Attitude Era to actually give the impression that a blood feud taking place on-screen is legitimate and not just some stagey performance, but that’s what happened here. Both Harris and Storm did everything they could to sell the idea that their friendship was well and truly burned and now they were now trying to absolutely murder each other while still reminding people that this was a wrestling match. It was more of an ugly fight than a match, but it still had the trappings of a wrestling match. And yet, I think that contrast was a bit too jarring for this to be some kind of genuine historic epic. It’s a great little war, but I think it lacks some ornate grittiness and a lack of focus to make it a genuine top-tier match.
For whatever reason, the wrestling aspects of this match and the brawling aspects didn’t mesh together as seamlessly as I expected. It was as if both guys cut the match into specifically-designated segments where one part would be realistic brawling and the next would be something pro-wrestling-related. While that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing here as it reminded the audience that this was surrealist violence, it lacked the gritty realism of a Flair versus Funk or an Austin versus Bret brawl that remained realistic and tense throughout and wasn’t divided into clearly-defined spots meant to convey a specific type of artistry.
And while I’m not usually one to recommend adding more theatricality to wrestling since I prefer my pro-wrestling to look as genuine as possible, this match would’ve benefitted from a little more passion and “overt” storytelling to fully sell the idea that these two men were cursing God for creating the other. Some spitting, rubbing one’s boot in the other’s face, or even some trash-talking, all as small subtleties given a few seconds here or there would’ve amplified the personal edge this match was meant to have.
Without those few elements present, the audience was expected to draw conclusions on their own about what this match was about and, while they did a great job, they didn’t do a perfect one. Despite some solid facials, good action, and a general atmosphere of violence and malice, I don’t think these two went as far as they could’ve to convince viewers that they were both out for blood. In many ways, and aside from the gruesome bladejobs, this was a WWE-style hardcore match. That’s not a bad thing; far from it. But that sort of match carries with it a certain preconception that makes the match lean a bit more towards the theatric and surreal side than the realistic side.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Even though this was a fun match that served to provide closure and fit the bill as a feud-ending war, it wasn’t as good as I expected. It felt personal, but not realistically so. There was still a performative element here that took one out of it and served to remind the audience that this wasn’t as real as both men tried to make it look. It was fun while it lasted and is both a good match on its own and a MASSIVE step up from the last match these two had together, but it still falls somewhat short of the threshold it needs to be truly crème-de-la-crème as an historic wrestling match.
If you want to see two guys decimate each other in a performance that comes close to realistic but still falls somewhat short, then this match will do. But if you want something that truly makes the wrestlers look like they’re out to kill each other and have nothing but the most malicious of intentions towards each other, then I would suggest Flair vs Terry Funk instead since it has what this match offers and then some.