In our new series Pro Wrestling Firsts we will be taking a look back through the history of pro wrestling at some of those who can lay claim to being the first. This edition focuses on Kurt Angle becoming the first IMPACT Champion.
IMPACT Wrestling was created in 2002 under the name NWA: Total Nonstop Action. It would later become known as Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), and briefly Global Force Wrestling (GFW). The company has had many ups and downs throughout its 20-year history. From its inception until Sacrifice 2007, the company used the NWA Championship Belts within TNA. At Sacrifice 2007 the first IMPACT Champion Champion Kurt Angle was crowned. Let’s take a look at the build-up to, and Angle’s run as the first IMPACT World Champion.
Kurt Angle – The First IMPACT World Champion
Christian Cage held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship going into the Sacrifice event on May 13th, 2007. The morning of the event brought a bit of chaos to the show that would change the course of history for TNA/IMPACT Wrestling. The NWA terminated the working relationship between the NWA and TNA that morning and stripped Cage of the belt. They also stripped Team 3D of the NWA World Tag Team Championships. The split was reported to have happened for a few different reasons.
Reports claimed that TNA had not paid rights fees to the NWA. It was also reported that the split had been in discussion for a while due to the TNA’s rising national profile following their signing with Spike TV in 2005 for a national television program. Although the split took place the morning of Sacrifice, TNA still held the physical belts and used them during the show. The main event was billed as being for “The World Heavyweight Championship” noticeably dropping the NWA billing.
The main event was a three-way match between defending champion Christian Cage, Sting, and Kurt Angle. The match took place at Universal Studios Orlando on sound stage 21 then known as the IMPACT Zone. The match lasted a bit over 10 minutes and ended with a bit of controversy.
The referee had been taken out of the match and Sting was attempting to roll him back in the ring. As he was doing this, Cage hit a low blow on Sting. Sting then rolled up Cage as the referee struggled to make the count. While this was happening Angle entered the ring and put Sting in his signature Anklelock submission move. A new referee entered the ring and called a tap out for Angle winning at the same time the original referee counted a three count for Sting. Angle was awarded the victory and was given the championship although the belt itself was in limbo.
The Fallout of the First IMPACT World Champion
The following Thursday on TNA IMPACT, Angle came to the ring for the first time as TNA World Heavyweight Champion with a new belt in hand. Christian Cage and Sting came to the ring to contest the controversial finish from the Sunday prior. This caused then authority figure Jim Cornette to strip Angle of the title and create a tournament to declare a new champion. This led to Kurt Angle, Samoa Joe, A.J. Styles, Christian Cage, and Chris Harris qualifying for a King of the Mountain match at Slammiversary on June 17th, 2007. Angle once again prevailed in this match and cemented his legacy as the first TNA World Heavyweight Champion.
Angle held the title until Bound For Glory 2007 where he lost the title to Sting. He won the belt back the following week on IMPACT and held it until Lockdown of 2008 where he lost to Samoa Joe. Angle would go on to hold the belt two more times in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Angle ended his time in TNA being officially recognized as a six-time TNA Champion. He also held the TNA Tag Team and X-Division Championships making him a triple crown winner in TNA.
Kurt Angle – The First IMPACT World Champion In Conclusion
Angle came to TNA in 2006 and was a highly anticipated debut for the company. He ended the 18-month undefeated streak of Samoa Joe in TNA at Genesis 2008 and was quickly recognized as a top contender for the World Championship. Angle made good on that containership and went on to be one of the most successful champions in TNA history. He was inducted into the TNA Hall of Fame in 2013 to recognize his contributions to the promotion. Angle becoming the first TNA/IMPACT World Champion set the stage for the future of the championship and the lineage has continued all the to today where Josh Alexander holds the belt.
The TNA World Championship would go on to have multiple name changes before becoming the IMPACT World Championship that it is today. It all started with Kurt Angle back in 2007 on a night that changed TNA/IMPACT Wrestling history forever.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world. As well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can catch IMPACT Wrestling on Thursday nights on AXS TV and Twitch.TV as well as all the time on IMPACT Plus.