If you want to go back years then they had Samoa Joe, Chris Daniels and AJ Styles. They mixed with one another for years and put on a variety of cracking matches amongst themselves and with others. Joe and Styles in particular were on the cusp of becoming ‘The Man’ in TNA on several occasions each. They were always standout guys wherever they worked, but if TNA had set their minds to it and worked at presenting them as the best wrestlers in the world, as opposed to second tier talent not on the level of former WWE names, they could have helped the promotion find greater meaning. Neither became the leading man they deserved to be.
It’s not just those three guys though. The end of 2011 saw Beer Money split and feud over the world championship. At the time I felt both men could contribute to expanding the company. In hindsight I was wrong about James Storm. His physique, promo style and plastic cowboy hat all scream mid-card. I remember a particularly excruciating advert airing on Challenge hyping an Impact tour that featured one of the worst vocal performances I’ve ever heard from a wrestler. ‘The Cowboy’ is suitable only for the mid-card even in TNA.
|Not enough faith was placed in this man.|
But Bobby Roode is a different story. He looks like an athlete, carries himself like a champion, gives very good verbal performances and can excel in a wide range of match types. He had a lengthy reign as TNA champion as a result of that 2011 split and headline run and he looked the part. A main event built around him would have been one of the best things TNA could have done over the last few years. Instead they dropped Roode down into the mid-card after he lost the title and structured their major storylines around Jeff hardy, Chris Sabin and Eric Young. Had TNA stuck with Roode for another year things could have been very different.
Then there was Austin Aries. He’s another guy who has a good look, fits the bill as a good guy or a bad guy and can wrestle a fantastic match when given the chance to. TNA did the right thing in putting the title on him when it became clear that fans wanted to see it, but they didn’t know what to do next. ‘A Double’ flip-flopped between face and heel during his reign and has crossed the line so many times since that it’s practically impossible to make sense of his character’s motivations anymore.
Bully Ray surprised most long-term wrestling fans by getting into the best shape he’s ever been in and transforming himself into a singles act. He was never going to morph into a top guy, age and length of time spent working as a mid-card and tag guy made sure of that, but more could have been done with him. Before he was swerve turned to head up Aces and Eights TNA audiences were really into him. He knows how to keep his character consistent and can put on a pretty wild match with the right opponent and stipulation.
‘Calfzilla’s’ heel turn may not have destroyed TNA and brought them to their current undesirable situation but it didn’t help. People liked Bully in early 2013 and they wanted to continue supporting him. A plan being concocted for when Aces disbanded wouldn’t have hurt either. For that matter the group’s split coming sooner would’ve been a blessing. Heading up a terrible faction didn’t do the former Dudley Boy any favours.
And most recently they’ve had Magnus. No, he’s not the best wrestler in the world. But he’s not bad. His slightly above average in-ring ability is nicely complemented by his good looks and proficiency with promos. The Magnus package is not stellar but it is solid. If he’d had the TNA world title for a few months longer and lost it to someone who fans had been primed to be desperate to see topple him his reign would have been closer to a success than it was.
TNA could still try a recapture what they had with Magnus. He’s still the sort of heel who could be booked to retain his belt via tricks and cheats and work good or great matches with a variety of wrestlers. A short, convincing victory over Eric Young would help establish him as dominant champ and could be used to explain that he “lost his focus” when he originally lost the gold. Having him end a few more careers wouldn’t hurt either. He already has the bragging rights to Sting and Styles beign gone. Angle could be next. It could be a good way of writing people off TV as their contracts expire and would build Magnus up.
Ultimately all thinking and writing about this subject does is frustrate. If TNA had tried harder, planned better, and realised when they were on to something good they could have built themselves a compelling main event roster. With that they could have presented very good matches and storylines and provided people with reasons to watch every week.