On most levels this isn’t a problem. Lashley has been built up as one of the company’s lead heels. His status within TNA coupled with his MMA background make him a perfectly satisfactory heel champ. The fact that he cheated to win (benefiting from MVP and King shenanigans) didn’t hurt his image either. He is being presented as a heel who’s happy to take an unfair advantage after all. It’s not ideal for a guy who looks like him but it’s fine, and at least it’s consistent.
Lashley being a limited wrestler isn’t the problem it could be either. Although they tend to use it poorly the TNA writing team has a talented roster at their disposal. There are enough face wrestlers around capable of getting good or better matches out of the new champion that his limitations can be overlooked. He can at least throw a solid-looking belly-to-belly suplex. That’s better than nothing.
|Less or more prestigious than the WWE United States championship?|
But I still think Lashley’s title victory is still a poor move. It comes across as another decision made at the last minute, once again casting TNA as a promotion that has no long term plans. Lashley won the championship from nowhere. Before MVP was injured there had been no indication that Lashley was going to be anything more than an enforcer-type character. It’s also puzzling that he didn’t win the title at Slammiversary four days earlier, where he earned his way into the main event alongside Austin Aries and challenged for the title.
People paid to see that show. It would have been a good move for TNA to switch the title there. It would have rewarded those who’d paid to watch and sent the message that important things can happen on TNA pay-per-views. There was no logic to holding the switch back for a rematch on television.
The change is also disappointing for Eric Young. He won the world title while still in the shadow of his career as a comedy wrestler. I don’t think he managed to shake that image during his two month reign but he was making progress with it. More time as champion could have helped his credibility. He’s never going to be a major draw for TNA but he could be a credible title contender.
It’s possible EY will get the title back in a rematch as part of this credibility-enhancement process but I don’t think that’s likely. The closing moments of Impact made it clear that the biggest threat to Lashley’s gold is now Bobby Roode, who returned after a month-long suspension (the real reason for it is probably pay-related, knowing TNA) to save Young from a three-on-one beating at the hands of MVP, King and the new champion.
I’ve said for a while that Roode should be used as a face, be booked as a title contender and champion, and be protected as much as possible, so I’m hopeful for this direction. At the very least it looks as though Roode’s going to get a clean title win over one of the company’s top two heels, and he’ll probably drag a compelling match out of Lashley as he does so. I’m less confident about him being booked well as a babyface champion but the next title programme looks promising. With TNA you have to take the positives you can get.