It’s time for the latest edition of FATP right here on PWMania.com! Cheap pops aside, welcome along for the ride! Thanks for the feedback on last week’s column about CM Punk, whether it was by email or through Twitter. It’s appreciated.
Right then, I promised last week that I’d write a TNA-themed article this week, so let’s get started. Over the last year, TNA has continued to get better and better. For the most part, they’ve sorted out their creative issues, their TV product is getting better and better, their PPV’s have been stronger than WWE’s, they made the decision to take Impact live on Thursdays and more importantly, they’re listening to their fans. Everyone at TNA, from Dixie Carter to the ring crew, deserves a huge amount of credit for the progress they’ve made this year. Have they made mistakes? Yeah, but they’ve made less of them than WWE have. Apart from the whole AJ/Crack Whore Claire storyline, which was a clusterf**k from start to finish in my opinion, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve watched.
Once Bound for Glory is done on Sunday, the focus will start to shift towards next year and who TNA should focus their efforts on. Over the last 12 months, it’s been clear that the focus of TNA has been on James Storm and Bobby Roode. Two homegrown talents that have risen through the ranks to be considered as legitimate main-eventers and both are former World Champions. Their feud has been incredibly well-booked and personal throughout, so I can’t wait to watch where it goes from here.
Who’s going to be in that position next year? Rather than me make an ass out of myself by trying to predict which two superstars will be feuding in a year from now, I’ve decided to list the five current superstars who I think TNA should build the next year around. It’s easier that way, plus I couldn’t narrow it down to just two wrestlers! Haha.. I’ll be ranking these guys in order, so let’s get down to it.
5 – Zema Ion
The man who says “he’s not just f’in pretty, he’s pretty f’in dangerous”, Zema Ion, is the current X-Division champion, but whether he should be bragging about being “pretty f’in dangerous” or not, I don’t know. That aside, there’s no doubt that the kid is talented. He’s great at playing the cocky, jack-ass heel and I’ve nicknamed him “Mr Hairspray”. He wears unorthodox ring gear, but don’t let that take away from the skill he’s got. Ion is a tremendous talent. I don’t know if he’ll have moved up the card or not by this time next year, but one thing’s for sure, Ion is poised to become one of the staples of the X-Division scene. TNA just need to beef up the X-Division roster so he’s got some decent feuds.
4 – James Storm
Every so often, I’ll catch myself singing Storm’s theme song. I did it this morning, walking into town. “Longnecks and rednecks are my friends..”, but that’s beside the point. I’ll put my hand up and say that when I first started properly watching TNA about 6/7 years ago, I didn’t think Storm would ever be a main-eventer. Nothing against him, I just thought he’d be a perennial tag-team wrestler because he’s excellent in that role. I also didn’t see how he could get to that “next” level, but then came last year’s Bound for Glory series. Although Roode ultimately ended up winning the belt from Storm, I think it’s helped Storm more. He’s not a typical babyface, he just goes to the ring, kicks ass and has a blast doing it. TNA need to make sure that their homegrown talent are at the forefront of everything they do because that’s the only way that they’ll grow as a company.
3 – Samoa Joe
It really pisses me off that Joe isn’t anywhere near the top of the card. More often than not, he has great matches and he’s a legitimate bad-ass. Joe can’t be pigeonholed like some other wrestlers can. I don’t think he’s a heel, face or a tweener; Joe’s just a bad-ass. He goes to the ring, kicks ass, takes names and then leaves. When you look at Joe, you can tell that he legitimately loves what he does. Sometimes, the accomplishments of AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels tend to overshadow everything he’s done, but Joe’s won everything there is to win in TNA. Since losing the World Title in 2008, title chances for the Samoan Submission Machine have been few and far between, but with Joe looking as if he’s reinvigorated, next year might see him regain the World Title, five years after he lost it.
2 – Austin Aries
The Greatest Man That Ever Lived. A-Double. World Heavyweight Champion. Just a few things that Austin Aries can call himself. His rise to prominence this year was one of the times in wrestling where I’m happy to be surprised. I marked out like a kid when Aries won the title from Bobby Roode at Destination X earlier this year. I wasn’t the only one though! The Impact Zone went batsh*t crazy for Aries. He ticks all the boxes. Aries is entertaining, he’s a good talker and just an amazing wrestler. He’s someone that’s the exception to the rule. Generally, to be a success in pro wrestling you have to have a certain “look”. Aries isn’t a juiced-up giant that can barely work a 3-minute squash match. He’s an exceptional wrestler and he’s spent the last 10 years to get to this point. I’d love to see TNA basing the next year of storylines around the man who’s quite simply the greatest that ever lived.
1 – Bully Ray
If you’d sat me down a year ago and said “this time next year, you’ll want TNA to build 2013 around Bully Ray”, one of two things would’ve happened. I’d either have pissed myself laughing or knocked you out! I’m going to go on record right now and say that I think that Bully Ray is the greatest heel in professional wrestling today and maybe the best heel since HHH between 1999 and 2001. That’s over ten years ago. Everything that Bully Ray does is designed to get heat on him and you know that he loves every second of it! He’s in the shape of his life and enjoying what’s arguably the biggest singles push he’s ever had. If I was booking it, I’d have had Bully Ray win the BFG Series. He’s been the most improved character in wrestling over the last 2 years and he’s growing into the role every week. You need a great heel to truly get a babyface over with the crowd. With Bully Ray at the top of the TNA tree (as World Heavyweight Champion), it’d make the chasing pack of babyfaces look even stronger if they were to “beat the bully”.
Well, I reckon that TNA should build 2013 around Zema Ion, James Storm, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries and Bully Ray, but what about you? Let me know what you think, either by leaving a comment below or finding me on Twitter @george_sltd. You know where I am! That’ll wrap things up for today. As always, I really appreciate everyone who reads my columns every week. It means a lot! After a short break, I’ll be back two weeks today with another WWE-themed column, so I’ll see ya then!
I want to plug an article I wrote on Sunday for Wrestling Rambles. It was about us (the fans) getting the same old, same old knee-jerk reaction from WWE whenever there’s a poor rating. I won’t say too much about it, but I’d appreciate you taking the time to read it here.