I just want to point out right at the start of this latest blog, is that I am writing this before the Destination X PPV. Right, now that I've got that out of the way its on with the show.
Austin Aries's Elevation Up The Card
Aries is a great talent and has been for a number of years as most long time ROH fans will surely testify. A fantastic wrestler with the ability to cut an entertaining promo, he easily stood out. His second ROH World title reign in 2009 was far more about him growing as a character and performer rather than his wrestling ability. However one thing he couldn't change was his height, he's about 5"8 tall I think which greatly reduced his appeal to the WWE. They thought so little of him that although he tried to get on WWE's Tough Enough they didn't think he was good enough. Wanting more than ROH, Aries didn't have any option apart from returning to TNA, his first run as Austin Starr was not successful and he wasn't shy about putting the blame on TNA management when he returned to ROH in 2007.
That being said, when he did make his return to TNA at least he had the advantage of going back as Austin Aries. He was a much stronger TV performer when he returned than he was on the initial run. Giving him the X-Division title was an obvious good move and made him a regular PPV performer who was given a little bit of time to get his ability across to the fans.
More importantly he was given lots of wins, plenty of TV time both in the ring but also backstage where he was slowly allowed to reveal that he was someone who could in theory make the jump to the main event scene. Although TNA do have the occasional moment of madness where someone like Bully Ray destroys the entire X-Division in seconds, Aries was just about spared. In his PPV match he even went over against Bully Ray which was a key moment for him and allowed the fans to see him as something more than just the X-Division champion. Another PPV win over Samoa Joe continued his elevation and showed that he could beat guys that fans saw as bigger stars but also that he has good matches. He has outgrown the X-Division, he had already beaten most of his natural rivals a number of times, Alex Shelley had left and Chris Sabin is injured again.
At this stage of the game, he should really mean more to the company then wrestlers like Rob Van Dam and Mr Anderson. TNA have already booked Jeff Hardy and Sting against Bobby Roode so it really does no good to book the same matches over and over especially as Roode isn't losing until Bound for Glory. His opponent then will be James Storm, so TNA have a couple of PPV main events to fill and it makes sense to introduce a new talent into this main event mix. It makes even more sense if that wrestler as the skills and the ability to take advantage of the opportunity, I'm sure Austin Aries will do just that. He will not defeat Bobby Roode on Sunday, but he could become in the eyes of the fans a genuine threat going forward and that will be a very nice success for both Aries and TNA.
Bully Ray, Abyss & Joe Park Esq
This is a far more straight forward angle to watch, the story here is that EVERYONE knows that Joe Park Esq (a lawyer) who is trying to find his brother (Abyss) is getting bullied by Bully Ray but the great punchline is that Joe Park and Abyss are one and the same but Bully Ray doesn't realise it. All the fans know that at some point, Bully Ray is going to realise that the guy he's trying to bully is going to reveal that he is Abyss (multiple personality disorder??) and then the dumb heel is going to get his ass kicked and all the fans are going to have a good laugh about it.
In some ways its a pretty stupid angle because you can see the payoff a mile away, but both Bully Ray and Joe Park have been fantastic in their roles all the way through. Park especially deserves credit because at the last PPV in their match he had to make out he'd never been in a match, didn't know how to throw a punch and it worked. The match itself wasn't good but the storyline is, Bully Ray in their next match as it in the contract that Abyss is banned from the building, causing poor Joe to nearly have a panic attack. The truth will probably be revealed at Bound for Glory, but until then just enjoy one of the most entertaining storylines of this year.
AJ Styles, Dixie Carter & Claire Lynch
Out of the three, this was had the potential to do more for the company than the other two combined. When they started this angle it became clear that TNA were onto something, it was clearly the most watched part of the Impact TV show. The company just had to make sure that they had reasonable end to whatever Christopher Daniels was holding over them.
It was pretty obvious that the reveal would not be that AJ Styles was having an affair with Dixie, although the time when they showed Dixie screaming at the production staff in the truck got her booed the following week. Sadly it was not an affair that was going to be revealed but Dixie and AJ had been helping a former drug addict get back on track. Now can someone explain to me why either Dixie Carter or AJ Styles would in any way be upset if Christopher Daniels announced this?
Another pointless angle was Kazarian trying to get Hulk Hogan to agree that he should no longer team with Daniels because he felt that he had been lied to and he shouldn't have turned on AJ weeks ago. Hulk refused this, and to no surprise Kazarian after teasing problems waffled AJ with a chair and Daniels & Kazarian were back as TNA tag champs.
The next problem is that when they brought Claire Lynch, the fans struggled to find any reason why they should care about her. They were in the audience to watch a wrestling program, they were not looking to watch something that resembled an episode of Jerry Springer. As it turns out, our Claire is pregnant with the early indication being that AJ Styles is the father and that's why they were trying to hide it. Styles has been portrayed as the clean cut babyface and I don't see any chance that he will be revealed as the father, I can see Kazarian as the dad to be otherwise there isn't a real reason why he's playing a part in this. The whole pregnant or worse still a potential miscarriage angle I also see as a major negative to this angle.
This story worked well where there an element of intrigue but as soon as we had the introduction of the Claire Lynch character it seems that most fans are losing interest in it. Still at least we get to see yet more AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels matches so it's not all bad.