Long before the days of All Elite Wrestling taking the wrestling world by storm, alternatives to the WWE were few and far between. Watching any kind of independent wrestling meant going out of your way to order a DVD online, or through the tape trading market. Sure, there was Ring of Honor, Combat Zone Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, but none of them could really hold a light to the numbers that the WWE were bringing in in the early-mid 2000s. That’s where Total Nonstop Action differed from the rest. With significant money backing, veteran wrestling personalities behind the scenes and a TV deal, TNA was sort of WWE’s alternative in the way that AEW is today. I’m not at all comparing the quality of the shows, or even remotely implying that TNA was as successful as AEW would become, but through the eyes of many fans, myself included, there was WWE and there was TNA. Those were the big two North American wrestling companies.
TNA did have its blunders however, and it’s these blunders that often saw its fanbase gravitating towards the WWE. Silly storylines, questionable booking and underwhelming repackagings of former WWE superstars gave TNA the legacy of being sort of a WWE ripoff; a company that only lived in the shadow of the WWE. Guys like Sting, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Jeff Hardy, Billy Gunn, Kevin Nash and Mick Foley (to name a relative few) all had established careers long before their TNA runs, and in turn, often overshadowed the younger and up-and-coming wrestlers the company was home to. Few of these young wrestlers however, would go on to cement their own legacies and become tantamount with the promotion. It’s with these wrestlers that TNA would introduce a legion of fans to names previously unheard of to casual fans of professional wrestling, such as AJ Styles, the Motor City Machine Guns, Petey Williams, Eric Young and “The Monster” Abyss. The latter being perhaps the most recognizable and synonymous with the company.
Photo credit: Impact!
In June 2003, TNA debuted “The Monster” Abyss. The 350-pound giant attacked and layed out professional wrestling legend Erik Watts during a live segment. Abyss stood out immediately as he didn’t look like other TNA wrestlers at the time. Among the likes of Kid Kash, Frankie Kazarian and Paul London, he was significantly larger. He also wore a black leather mask, hiding his identity and only adding to his intimidating look. Many fans at the time assumed him to be a Kane ripoff, though those fans would be proven wrong during his first year in the company. During 2003, Abyss had wrestled in particularly violent matches that saw plenty of bloodshed and a multitude of weapons. Abyss had been feuding with Kid Kash and later, Raven, and the subsequent grudge matches stipulated sheer violence. His match with Kid Kash was a “First Blood Steel Chair on a Pole Match,” (guess who booked that one) and his match with Raven took place inside of a steel cage. In under a year, Abyss showcased his savage ways, participating in feuds that only ended in blood and cruelty. He was already TNA’s scariest wrestler.
In 2004, Abyss feuded with Monty Brown, with the battle culminating in the first-ever “Monster’s Ball Match” at the inaugural Victory Road pay-per-view. The match specified that each wrestler must be locked alone in a dark room without food or water for 24-hours before the match. When the match started, it was under “no holds barred” rules, meaning weapons and excessive violence were not only permitted, but encouraged. The Monster’s Ball Match became synonymous with Abyss’s career, and he would participate in 49 of them. The match with Brown, alongside future Monster’s Ball Matches the company held often saw thumb tacks, barbed wire and a wooden plank covered in nails, the latter of which would later become Abyss’s signature weapon. During this year, Abyss would participate in a variety of other violent matches, all of which were set in his favor, due to his clear affinity for brutality. Pair the violence Abyss showcased with his terrifying look and lack of talking, and it was clear that TNA had something big. Abyss wasn’t just another wrestling monster. He was dangerous.
By the turn of the decade, Abyss had become one of the company’s top and most recognizable stars. He had competed in TNA’s 2005 “Match of the Year” against Sabu in a horrifying “Barbed Wire Massacre Match” (and yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like), got crushed through a table by a 22-foot Swanton Bomb courtesy of Jeff Hardy, became the NWA World Heavyweight Champion and adopted wrestling’s favourite Satanic minister, Father James Mitchell to be his manager.
In 2009, Abyss took a short leave of absence from the company before vignettes started playing on TNA programming that saw him in an asylum. It was in this institution that it would be revealed that the monster had an “addiction to violence,” and his therapist Dr. Stevie was attempting to cure him. When Abyss returned to the ring, he was unhinged. It was as if the craziness level was amped up to 11, as he wore a strait-jacket-like vest during his matches, and seemed completely out of his mind. During this time, he feuded with his therapist, Dr. Stevie and align himself with the late-great Daffney, another one of professional wrestling’s believably scarily unglued characters.
For the next four years, Abyss’s career was par for the course. Violent matches and bloodied bouts that saw him both the victor and the loser were always present throughout Abyss’s TNA tenure. However, as the company’s writing got stale, so did the wrestlers and their accompanying storylines. Early 2010s TNA was very, very hit or miss, but with Abyss, it was all hit and no miss. In 2012, the man behind the Abyss mask, Joseph Park, made an appearance in the ring, as “Joseph Park.” Park had proclaimed that he was the brother of Abyss and he was looking for his brother, who had not been seen for a number of months. He was a big nerdy looking dude with thick-framed glasses, slicked back hair, a fancy suit and a timid voice. Over the next couple of years, he became a wrestler, feuding with the likes of Aces & Eights and Eric Young. Abyss had made sporadic returns as well, though he and his brother wouldn’t ever truly cross paths. That was until winter 2014, where Eric Young unmasked Abyss, revealing to fans who were none the wiser that Joseph Park and The Monster were one in the same. This was speculated (and obvious to most fans) already, but the split-personality showcased by Park really drove home the unstable and unpredictable nature of Abyss’s character.
2017 marked the beginning of the end of Abyss’s in-ring career, as he would bring back the Joseph Park character to team with Jeremy Borash against Scott Steiner and Josh Matthews. In a morbidly wholesome moment, Park kind of “turned into Abyss” as his former manager, Father James Mitchell returned to help his team win the bout. Only in wrestling. In 2018, Kongo Kong defeated Abyss in a Monster’s Ball Match, cementing him as the “new monster of Impact.” Seven months later, Abyss was inducted into the Impact Hall of Fame, ending a 16-year career in the company. Today, Park works as a backstage producer for WWE, but fans will always know and remember him as the sick and twisted “Monster” Abyss.