Saturday 17 March 2012

Regeneration X

During the first few years of TNA’s near decade-long existence the X Division was its crowning achievement. It provided viewers with the fast-paced, high-flying excitement that WWE has never been able to pull off, which had been absent from American TV screens since WCW and ECW went under in early 2001. Over the years the X Division has been the setting for many of TNA’s greatest matches and was the proving ground for many of the most lauded names to have passed through the company, most notably Christopher Daniels, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe.

Sadly over the last two or three years the X Division has fallen on hard times. This is thanks to a combination of inattentive booking and a lack of fresh talent being brought in to keep the Division feeling fresh and exciting. 

Despite this state of affairs last year’s Destination X pay-per-view, which exclusively featured X Division matches and saw multiple performers brought into the company for the weeks prior to the show, was TNA’s single greatest show of 2011. That should have told TNA that the X Division is still something that can succeed and set them apart from their chief rival.

It didn’t.

If anything the X Division has become more stifled and limited since that show. A weight limit of two hundred and twenty pounds has been placed on the Division and there are now only around half a dozen men in the company that could be considered X performers.

The weight limit is particularly frustrating for viewers: TNA itself used to tell its fans that the X Division wasn’t about weight limits, it was about no limits. While that may have been a slightly embarrassing tagline it was true enough: X Division wrestlers worked a fast, exciting style which lent itself to cruiserweight performers but heavyweight wrestlers such as Joe and Kurt Angle could still fit in nicely.

The lack of talent isn’t entirely TNA’s fault. Jesse Sorensen suffered a severe neck injury just a few weeks ago and will be sidelined indefinitely. Chris Sabin (who could play a significant role in the Division without harming the momentum of the Motor City Machine Guns) has been on the injured list since last spring. Brian Kendrick had to be let go because of apparent creative differences. These things happen and they’re nobody’s fault.

However TNA does have to take the blame for the Young Bucks leaving last year and the inadequate booking of talented guys like Alex Shelley and Kid Kash. They also took the decision to move Frankie Kazarian away from the league without finding anybody to fill the gap the left.

The good news is that the X Division can be salvaged relatively easily. It helps that there is already a supremely talented champion in place. In my opinion Austin Aries is the greatest all-round performer currently under contract to TNA and there’s nobody better to lead the X Division out of its current slump. Being great on the mic and in the ring, ‘A Double’ is capable of making limited performers look good and good performers look great.

In order to restore the X Division to its former glory TNA first needs to concoct a plan of action. The performers in the Division need to be granted a minimum set amount of time on IMPACT each week. Ideally it would be around the same time every week so viewers get a rough idea of when they can tune in to see the X Division performers. As good as Aries is on the mic he needs to be limited to backstage interviews and brief post-match victory speeches for a while: the X Division’s time should be for matches rather than talking.

Booking plans need to be drawn up for the next few months. A novel approach would be selecting four performers to be used as primary and secondary heels and faces. That would give TNA several months of storylines, with the primary face feuding with the secondary heel as the primary heel feuds with the secondary face. Things could then be changed around with the secondary names branching off into a feud as the top heel and face clash for the title.

Aries is the obvious choice for the Division’s top heel and Zema Ion would make a fine choice for the secondary bad guy spot. I don’t believe there’s anybody on the current roster who’d work in either of the top two babyface spots. Alex Shelley may be talented enough but he needs to be kept available for his imminent MCMG reunion with Chris Sabin, meaning he can’t afford to get tied up in a months-long booking plan for a singles division.

The top two babyface spots would need to go to outsiders. In a perfect world TNA would splash some cash and bring in Jack Evans and John Morrison. Evans did a fantastic job of getting himself over during his brief time with TNA around last year’s Destination X show (which I wrote at the time). If TNA gave him some backing dancers and invested time in him then Evans could do big things in, and for, the company.

Hire this man!

Morrison is an obvious choice for the top babyface spot because he is incredibly popular thanks to his time in WWE. If TNA showed they could use him correctly he could help give viewing figures and live attendance at house shows a small nudge. Booking him to go over Zema Ion and ‘The Greatest Man That Ever Lived’  in his first two feuds would create a new X Division kingpin and restore fans’ faith in the X Division as a whole.

In addition to this it would also benefit the company to hire one or two additional names to use as X Division under-carders. Names like Johnny Gargano, Kenny Omega, Mark Haskins, Pac, Homicide, Petey Williams, Low Ki, Akira Tozawa and Ruckus immediately spring to mind as ideal candidates, though in truth TNA could sign almost anyone from Dragon Gate USA or Ring of Honor. Bulking out the roster with guys of that calibre would ensure that there are plenty of fresh, enjoyable matches for TV and pay-per-view, and people ready and capable of moving up to replace featured stars who’ve become overexposed and need to be moved down the card for a while. They could even take the novel approach of scouting some new talent to introduce to mainstream wrestling.

When push comes to shove, all the X Division really needs is talented workers. Storylines are nice, but ultimately the X Division has always been, and always will be, about high match quality. If TNA can restore that and give us some variety they’ll be doing a fine job.

No comments:

Post a Comment