I'm not convinced this was the best decision TNA could have made. It's not that I'm anti-Lashley. He's better both in the ring and on the mic than he generally gets credit for, capable of a worthwhile main event performance against the right opponent. He has a look that screams "headliner." It's that I think the decision did the now former champion Roode a disservice.
‘The It Factor’ is a superior wrestler to Lashley. Not by any huge margin but the difference is there. He's better on the mic by a slightly more significant margin. Most importantly he's notably more popular with TNA's existing fan base. This last point wouldn't have been an issue had Lashley stayed a heel but his interactions with MVP throughout the live debut made it clear he’s switching to a good guy role. Comparisons between Roode and Lashley have been invited because they're now both main event babyfaces, essentially fulfilling the same role.
As a man capable of putting on better matches and more likely to be accepted by existing TNA fans I think Roode was the natural choice for champ. Against the right people he can put on high quality matches. Stickign with him would have given TNA a better chance of convincing wrestling fans that their reboot is having a tangible effect on quality. It would have satisfied existing fans and also showed them a guy being rewarded for loyalty and hard work. Channel-hoppers not especially interested in wrestling likely wouldn’t detect a difference between Lashley and Roode but the reported 400,000 viewing figure is so low that TNA would be justified in targeting wrestling fans who aren’t watching their show for the time being, with an eye to trying to attract non-fans at a later date.
With Roode as champion TNA could have forged a new direction for themselves, one featuring lengthy title reigns and matches with guys who have been in the promotion for years. Sure, they can do that with Lashley now but they’re starting from scratch with his reign. Roode had been champion for three and a half months. Sticking with him and letting him make successful defences against guys like Austin Aries and Jeff Hardy would have been a better approach in the long term than a shock title change because it would have allowed an in-ring-centric product to be Impact’s focus. That’s a good thing, for the record, because it’s pretty much the opposite of what WWE is doing and TNA needs to be presenting itself as an alternative to WWE.
It's not all bad with Lashers though. He seems to have been set up as a man who wants to be the champion but is aware he won it in just about the most unworthy fashion there is. There's an obvious match to build to against MVP and there are other singles matches to be had against his allies. There's even a very promising Roode and Lashley versus Samoa Joe and Low Ki match that could be booked.
And at least TNA tried something. It wasn't something mind-blowingly new, but it was something that they hadn’t been doing before, something that could improve their TV show and makes it clear that their top championship is one their wrestlers want to win. That in turn makes it something viewers have a reason to care about. These are things I've wanted them to do for years. Their track record says they'll mess it up, and do so sooner rather than later, but I'm hoping it succeeds for them.