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 the first Ultimate X match to take place in TNA/IMPACT Wrestling.
The Ultimate X match has become a staple in IMPACT Wrestling. Long before the promotion was known as IMPACT Wrestling, they were Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) and were under the NWA umbrella. A key part of TNA/IMPACT Wrestling is the X-Division. The division is not about weight limits but no limits. The X-Divison also became synonymous with the Ultimate X match, which became a staple match in TNA/IMPACT Wrestling. Let’s take a look at the first-ever Ultimate X match in depth.
The First Ultimate X Match
AJ Styles became the first-ever X-Division Champion at the second weekly pay-per-view for TNA. AJ Styles was the inaugural champion is still heavily associated with the belt. As the X-Division grew, a signature match came to life. Four steel pillars are put in four corners of the ring. Two cables suspend from the pillars intersecting over the center of the ring forming an X. The object of the match is to scale the pillars and cables to retrieve the title belt wrapped at the intersection of the cables.
Chris Sabin was in his first X-Division Championship reign at the time of the first Ultimate X match. He defeated former champion Amazing Red and Jerry Lynn in a three-way dance to become champion. He won after interference from the heel stable Triple X which consisted of Christopher Daniels, Elix Skipper, and Low Ki. Sabin turned heel in the process and aligned with stable.
Frankie Kazarian squared off with Chris Sabin a few weeks before the first Ultimate X match in an X-Division Championship match. Sabin attempted to use the X-Division belt as a weapon on Kazarian. His plan backfired as Kazarian reversed the move and hit Sabin with a DDT onto the belt while the referee was down. Kazarian got the three count, but referee Rudy Charles came from the back to reverse the decision due to the use of the belt.
The following week Kazarian was a guest referee as Sabin defended against Michael Shane. Sabin went to use the belt against Shane but had it taken away by Kazarian. As the two got into a heated exchange, Kazarian dropped Sabin, allowing for an easy cover for Shane. As Kazarian was counting Rudy Charles once again entered the match to stop the count. While Charles and Kazarian exchanged words, Sabin hit Douglas with the belt to pick up the win.
The week before the Ultimate X match Douglas and Kazarian faced off in a number one contender’s ladder match. Sabin interfered with the match taking down both competitors and climbing the ladder to take down the number one contenders’ contract himself. Don Callis who was an on-screen authority figure, made his way to the ring and grabbed the belt and contract. In a backstage segment, Callis announced the Ultimate X match and then made the match between the three wrestlers official. The match was set for August 20th, 2003 on NWA TNA weekly pay-per-view #59 with the X-Division Championship on the line.
The match started out fast as all three men quickly began to brawl on the outside before Sabin made the first attempt to retrieve the belt. Shane and Kazarian followed shortly after with unsuccessful attempts to retrieve the belt. The first big move of the match saw Sabin on the shoulders of Kazarian following an unsuccessful move out of the corner. Shane meanwhile scaled the cables en route to try and take down the belt, hit Sabin with a hurricanrana that took all three men down. The next big move saw Shane and Kazarian both come close to getting the belt down before Sabin took both men down with a springboard kick from the middle of the top rope.
A chair was then introduced by Sabin which came back to haunt him courtesy of a shot to the back from Kazarian. Shane was cut across the forehead from a chair shot and Kazarian took a nasty backdrop that collapsed the chair in the center of the ring. Sabin then came close to winning the match but a bloodied Shane re-entered the ring and gave Sabin a chair shot to the back, causing Sabin to fall from the cables to the canvas. The impact from that move caused the belt to fall from the cables. The match was temporarily stopped as the belt was re-positioned on the cables. A brawl broke out outside of the ring between the three as the belt was repositioned by IMPACT staff.
As the match moved back into the ring a flurry of fast-paced offense took center stage. Kazarian made another attempt to take down the belt, getting only fingertips away from a win. He was taken down by Shane who was just behind him on the cable. As Shane inched towards the belt Sabin joined Shane in hanging from the cables. The two tried to get the upper hand and it ended with Sabin power bombing Shane to the canvas from the cables. Sabin attempted to get the belt down again but was taken down with a spear from the top turnbuckle by Kazarian, causing the belt to fall for a second time.
This time all three men took a minute to regain their composure as the belt was again repositioned. When the match restarted again, Sabin and Kazarian battled on the cable for the belt resulting in both of them hitting the canvas. Both got up and headed for the belt again. Kazarian kicked Sabin off the cable, looking like victory was just inches away. That was when Michael Shane who was bloodied on the arena floor came in with a burst of energy and shocked Kazarian by quickly scaling the cable and taking the title belt, winning the first Ultimate X match.
The Fallout and Future of the Match
Shane held the title until January 2004 when he lost it back to Sabin in an Ultimate X match that also included Christopher Daniels and Low Ki. The match has become synonymous with TNA/IMPACT Wrestling and still occurs to this day. The last Ultimate X was the 47th edition of the match and it took place at Slammiversary 2022. Sabin holds the record for most wins and appearances with 8 and 17 respectively.
A spin-off match Elevation X was held twice. The goal of the match was to climb the steel platforms that formed an X above the ring and toss your opponent off the X back to the ring. Rhino won both the Elevation X matches in TNA history. The only other wrestler to compete in an Elevation X match were AJ Styles and James Storm.
The Ultimate X match created some of the most memorable moments inside of a TNA ring, including AJ Styles being turned inside out by a kick from Chris Sabin. The clip has been replayed on many occasions in TNA/IMPACT Wrestling.
The First Ultimate X Match: In Conclusion
The first Ultimate X match started a legacy that is still celebrated today. Although he lost his title in the match, Sabin would go on to have one of the most historical and influential careers in the history of the X-Division and became a key player in TNA/IMPACT Wrestling.
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