Lockdown 2008: Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle (by TNAwrestling)
Much has been said about Samoa Joe in TNA; his potential versus what they did with him, his undefeated streak, when he should have won the title, and his classic series with Kurt Angle.
The polarizing nature of his time in TNA is matched by how divided the fanbase was in response to this match up. An anomaly in the history of TNA, not replicated since, this match featured a UFC-inspired build up, with a simplistic storyline and heavy emphasis on Joe’s quest to win the world championship. In addition to how the match was built, the in ring action was also heavily inspired by the then-booming industry of MMA. While not a worked MMA match like many companies have experimented with (often with poor results) this match featured realistic grappling early on, with UFC style mat work fused with the usual traditional TNA style of pro wrestling. Plus, Angle’s ring attire was an obvious MMA inspiration, and both men’s training partners were discussed and emphasized. The match didn’t stray too far into the realm of shootfighting however, as this was most definitely still a pro wrestling match, with highspots you would never see in an MMA main event.
The match was a critical success, and was very over in the building but reaction at the time was mixed. As is often the case, wrestling fans react negatively to the idea of MMA being fused with pro wrestling - perhaps taking issue with the implied message that wrestling needs to be like MMA to survive in this day and age.
To me the match, while not perfect, did show a lot of what wrestling needs to be and Angle and Joe did a great job of fusing the styles - with their mat work in particular looking intense and realistic, without coming off like a lame worked shoot. While directly trying to imitate MMA can lead to backlash from fans - there is a lot that pro wrestling can learn from the sport and this match showed that.
Also of note, UFC star Frank Trigg was a guest commentator and did an excellent job for someone not familiar with the role. He was comfortable in the role of pro wrestling commentator, even when the match progressed to bigger highspots which would be unlike anything he’d have seen in MMA.
As with the first Samoa Joe vs. Kurt Angle match, this is one of TNA’s most financially successful PPVs in the company’s ten year history. Despite this, for reasons that have never come to the fore, the UFC-style build up has never been replicated and TNA returned to their usual antics almost immediately. A year later, the Lockdown main event was an embarrassing Mick Foley vs. Sting match which was panned by critics and fans, and did the usual sub par TNA PPV numbers.