Saturday 9 November 2013

Stylin' Worldwide

During the Summer of Punk II CM Punk “left” WWE as champion and a new champion was crowned in his absence. That set up a champion versus champion unification match. The entire thing was horribly rushed (Punk was gone less than a month) but the objective was achieved: Punk gained another win over John Cena and became not only the company’s undisputed champ but its number two star.

TNA has been aping this storyline for a while now. AJ Styles revealed that his contract had expired and won the TNA world championship as a free agent, after cutting a number of worked shoot promos (all of which were stilted and awkward) on or about Dixie Carter and her regime. In order to make the comparison even more emphatic the TNA hive mind is now holding a tournament for the “vacant” TNA world championship.

Involved in this eight man series are Jeff Hardy, Magnus, Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle, Bobby Roode, James Storm, Austin Aries, and everybody’s favourite former world champ Chris Sabin. The brackets could provide us with some nice matches but there’s nothing fresh or exciting about the direction. Nor is this going to lead to the creation of new headline stars. The only man whose standing could conceivably be significantly bettered by this is Magnus. That seems unlikely to happen.

The champion versus champion idea is not, in and of itself, a bad idea. Had WWE not done it two years ago it’s likely many fans, myself among them, would acknowledge that it’s the sort of thing TNA should be doing to set themselves apart from the competitor. But the only reason it’s happening is because the competitor has already done it. There’s no point writing at length about how TNA needs new ideas over WWE rehashes because I’ve done it before. TNA has been a tribute act for years now.

While TNA is busy crowning a new kingpin TNA ‘The Phenomenal One’ will appear in other wrestling companies to defend the “real” championship. Already announced is a defence against Seiya Sanada for the new Wrestle-1 promotion. The idea of a champion taking a world title around to other promotions and even other countries isn’t a bad one. TNA just didn’t have it in time to do it justice.
The champ is here... for now. He'll be in Japan soon
Who’ll win the tournament? It could be Jeff Hardy or Austin Aries because they have good combinations of name value and wrestling ability. They’d make the inevitable programme with a returning Styles work. But I think the likeliest man to win is Magnus. The former Gladiator seems destined for a heel turn and it’s looking like he’ll get there via the tried and tested smarmy and disingenuous route.

It’s easy to imagine Magnus winning and becoming linked with heel company head Dixie Carter on-screen (assuming she retains ownership of the company long enough for this to play out as planned). That link is what’s needed to make the AJ aspect work. The prospect of AJ Styles versus Magnus for the title of undisputed TNA champion doesn’t fill me with joy but it would at least make sense and be something new.

I’ll be interested to see how long Styles is absent for. As mentioned above a key problem with the Summer of Punk II was that WWE rushed Punk back to TV to try to get a tasty SummerSlam number (and because they had Kevin Nash waiting in the wings and you don’t keep that level of talent hanging around). TNA having a reduced PPV schedule could actually work to their advantage. The promotion hasn’t yet announced a return to pay-per-view but if we take this year as an example they’ll give us Genesis in January. That would be a good amount of time to establish AJ as a separate entity with a rogue, if more legitimate, championship and Magnus as a “paper champion” and pawn of the heinous Dixie McMahon.

AJ could be built up for a return on the first Impact of 2014 and have his unification bout with Maggers announced then for the end of the month. It’s not a thrilling idea but I think it would make the best of an unimaginative situation.

What I really want TNA to do is use the time between now and the payoff to devise some new, original plots and new characters that will help to expand their audience and allow the company to promote something fresh. It’s the only way they can become relevant and attain any degree of success.

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