The Trailblazers of the TNA Knockouts Division
Over the past number of years, women's wrestling has been completely dominating the pro wrestling business. Although WWE likes to take credit for today's monumental uproar of women's wrestling, the TNA Knockouts deserve a whole lot of respect for what they've accomplished.
The inaugural Knockouts Champion, and perhaps the greatest woman to ever step foot in a TNA ring, was the one and only, Gail Kim. After a grueling Gauntlet Match to determine the champion, Gail started her epic journey towards the top of the ladder, where she would later get to, and stay at, for years to come.
From that point forward, the TNA women were starting to become considered as respected in-ring talent, as opposed to simply being pictured as eye candy for the male audience. The level of athleticism from the Knockouts and the storylines that came along with them started attracting viewers to the point where their ratings would occasionally be the highest on a show. As their opportunities inside the six-sided ring increased, the level of respect from the fans around the world started to increase as well.
The feud between Gail Kim and Awesome Kong is one of those feuds that every fan of TNA will definitely never forget. When Kong made her official debut in the company, her first victim was none other than Gail. They then went on to battle each other in epic showdowns that left the TNA fans speechless each time, with their jaws always dropped to the floor.
The blood, sweat, and tears that those two women brought to the table each and every time they fought one another was demonstrative in what they were trying to accomplish. They created a new and improved women's division full of exciting, and even violent, matches that kept the fans cheering on their feet and wanting more of. Because of those two amazing performers, that respect level for the women started to substantially grow more and more...
A Few Beautiful Human Beings Emerge
When it comes to women's wrestling, strong women factions were never something that wrestling fans saw much of before. However, a certain good looking group formed in front of our eyes that made the fans love AND hate them at the same time.
Angelina Love and Velvet Sky are always two women that come to mind when I think about the growth of the TNA Knockouts. Alongside other members over the years such as Cute Kip (a.k.a Billy Gunn), Madison Rayne, and Lacey Von Erich, The Beautiful People were always such a hot commodity within TNA and made an impact every single time they were on the television screen.
Their mindset of being better than everyone else, along with their conniving antics and verbal attacks, just made you want to see them get their receipts as soon as humanly possible. Whether it be physically attacking other women backstage or completely humiliating them inside the ring by cutting their hair and covering their face with a paper bag, The Beautiful People made themselves known as one of the best heel factions in all of pro wrestling at the time.
No matter what kind of characters they played on TNA television, Angelina Love and Velvet Sky were apart of some of the most viewed segments in TNA history. The heel duo absolutely revolutionized what it meant for beautiful women to be viewed as a villain in the eyes of the fans. Although the male fans of TNA were always ready for the pigeons to be let loose, they wanted to see them get those rear-ends kicked just as much. THAT was the beauty of The Beautiful People...
Without a heel faction like TBP, the TNA Knockouts division might not have been as over as it was. Professional wrestling ALWAYS needs the "bad guys" to play a significant role in getting fans invested in their product. Each and every week, Angelina and Velvet provided just that and proved to the wrestling world how good they really were at being the outrageously infuriating villains of TNA.
Who Else Helped The KO Division Grow?
I would be thoroughly remiss if I didn't acknowledge a few other women and epic moments that contributed to the growth of the TNA Knockouts division:
The Last Woman Standing match between Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell is a match I ALWAYS look back on when thinking about TNA as a whole. I expected a great outing from Gail that night, as always, but Taryn Terrell took herself to a brand new level in that match. She opened up the fans' eyes and made them understand just how much she wanted to gain the respect as a competitor inside the ring. I'll never forget the massive cutter she hit Gail with that sent them both off the stage as the TNA fans went absolutely wild. That was definitely one of the greatest moments I've ever witnessed while watching TNA, hands down.
As if her in-ring work wasn't impressive enough, she then formed a women's faction of her very own, The Dollhouse, and flipped the switch on her career. Coming from being an outgoing and friendly character to becoming one of the more egocentric and maniacal characters isn't easy for most to adapt to. However, Taryn raised the eyebrows of everyone once again when she formed the group that consisted of Jade (a.k.a Mia Yim), Marti Belle, and eventually, Rebel.
The group would terrorize the Knockouts division and helped build Taryn Terrell up as one of the best women wrestlers in the entire business.
- The evolution of Madison Rayne in TNA after her time with The Beautiful People was definitely something special to witness. She became The Queen and with a change of music and attitude, the fans of TNA were blessed with royalty (even though they were boo'ing her every time she opened her mouth).
The way she irritated every one of her rivals to the point where you just wanted to see her get her butt kicked was extremely entertaining. She was labeled as The Queen of the Knockouts for a reason, and she reminded every single person of that fact every chance she got.
- ODB was one of the most beloved and entertaining characters that TNA has EVER had in the company. The outlandish personality of the southern powerhouse made every fan smile and slap their knees in laughter each time she came out.
Who can forget the time where ODB and Eric Young got married...in a steel cage?!? Even the advances from Sarita and Rosita (a.k.a Zelina Vega) couldn't keep the lovebirds away from each other as it brought great entertainment for the fans watching all around the world. ODB was, and still is, a one of a kind performer and was an essential part of the growth of the TNA Knockouts.
- Brooke Tessmacher might have been the most underrated competitor in the Knockouts division, especially when she first started out in TNA. Nobody expected the feisty young woman to become one of the top stars in the division, yet alone becoming a two-time Knockouts Champion. The bubbly personality of Brooke made her an instant fan-favorite and when fans realized that her in-ring skills were intact, they loved watching her even more.
That bubbly personality would suddenly vanish, however, as Brooke aligned herself with the infamous group called Aces and 8's, specifically Bully Ray. Although fans missed her former self, Brooke was able to show off a completely different side to her character. That's what performing in the world of pro wrestling is ALL about.
- The arrivals of both Mickie James and Tara were incredibly significant to the growth of the division. Already having a built resume from their time with WWE, their jump to TNA put more eyes on the product and uplifted the level of importance of women's wrestling in the company.
They battled one another in one of the most memorable matches in the Knockouts division's history when their Falls Count Anywhere match led them to a place where women should never WANT to go....into the men's bathroom. As men were "doing their business", in came Mickie and Tara, as fans laughed hysterically and were completely entertained by what they were witnessing.
That was until Madison Rayne jumped out of one of the stalls and helped Tara defeat Mickie, leaving her laying on the smelly floor of the men's bathroom...
When it all comes down to it, the Knockouts division grew into such a special commodity for the company of TNA. Every single woman there made it their mission and responsibility to continue making women's wrestling relevant to the entire business. It was incredibly essential for them to take away the idea of women being labeled as eye candy, and create the mindset of them being respected in-ring competitors. In my estimation, that mission was undoubtedly accomplished.
Thank you to all the women of TNA who helped grow and revolutionize the idea of women's wrestling when it wasn't at its most popular. Every single one of you played your part in opening up the eyes of wrestling fans and creating the respect that women deserve in the sport of professional wrestling.
Much respect to the Knockouts of TNA!