Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Curious Case of Austin Aries

Austin Aries, X Division Champ
Courtesy: Impact Wrestling
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

In early days of TNA, one thing that set them apart from WWE was the X-Division. Carrying on the tradition of WCW’s cruiser weight division, TNA allowed the wrestlers in the X-Division to go out and wow the crowd with their high flying, fast paced matches. There were times when TNA was doing weekly pay per views where X-Division matches would main event shows. Slowly as TNA became a bigger promotion and moved from weekly pay per view to an afternoon slot on Fox Sports and finally a prime time slot on Spike the X-Division took a backseat and would come across as an afterthought.

Currently in TNA, Austin Aries has revitalized the X-Division. Aries won the X-Division title in September 2011 and is the longest reigning X-Division champion in TNA history. Given there have been 53 champions in TNA’s 10-year history, with the belt changing hand on average 4-5 times a year, Aries’ reign is something to brag about. In fact, Aries is only roughly 50 days away from holding the X-Division title for the longest amount of days.

After Slammiversary last week a teaser video for TNA’s next pay per view, Destination X aired. The video focused on Austin Aries and he proclaimed himself to be main event. At first glance, I figured Austin would defend the X-Division title in the main event of the show as TNA has tried to make Destination X a pay per view to highlight the X-Division. It looks like TNA has other plans. To start this past week’s episode of Impact, Aries defended the title against Zema Ion and Chris Saban in an Ultimate X match. It seems even with Vince Russo gone; TNA writers and management don’t understand the purpose of gimmick matches. Had the three competitors been in a heated feud the match could have been necessary but I don’t know the last time Zema Ion was on Impact and I believe this was Chris Saban’s first match back from injury. Sad to note that during the match Saban tore his ACL and will be back on the shelf for some time.

Hogan lays down the lay
Photo courtesy: Impact Wrestling
Aries won the Ultimate X match then started to cut a promo about how good he is and how he’s the main event. I have to admit I only got bits of the promo as I was listening to From the Rafters Radio, which unfortunately airs at the same time as Impact. After Aries talked for a couple of minutes, Hulk Hogan made his way to the ring and congratulated Aries for being the champion. Hogan then offered Aries a match at Destination X against Robert Roode for the TNA World Title. However, there’s a catch. If Aries wants the World title shot, he has to vacate the X-Division title. Aries is supposed to give his answer this week on Impact. Now I know I mentioned a couple blogs ago how Kevin and I try to jump the gun and wait until we know all the facts before commenting on something so I’m going to try my best to look at this strictly from what’s been presented and not guess how it’s going to play out.

So lets breakdown the current situation as it stands. Austin Aries has made the X-Division title mean something. Much like Robert Roode’s current run as World Champion, stability coupled with quality matches establishes the titles as something other than props. If and when Aries loses the X-Division title it should be something memorable. Aries’ defeat could be used to elevate another wrestler into the upper echelon of talent or create a storyline where the loss of the title causes Aries to snap and go on a rampage of destruction until he regains the title. The longest running X-Division title reign shouldn’t end with the champ simply handing over the title.

One of Hulk Hogan’s reasoning for asking Aries to hand over the title was because he couldn’t have one wrestler holding two titles at the same time. Why not? I’m guessing the Hulkster doesn’t pay attention to the Knockouts Division. If he did he would have known Gail Kim held both the Knockout Title and Knockout Tag Titles at the same time just a few months ago. In addition, AJ Styles was both X-Division and Tag Team Champion at the same time in TNA’s early days. In 2007, Kurt Angle held all the titles at the same time after he defeated Samoa Joe to win Joe’s X-Division and Tag Team Title. So there is certainly a precedent for TNA wrestlers to hold more than one title.

Aries, Bully Ray, & Bobby Roode
Photo courtesy: Impact Wrestling
My other hesitation for this proposed match with Robert Roode is if it goes through Aries will become a sort of sacrificial lamb. Right now the big money match for the TNA Title is Robert Roode vs. James Storm. That is the match that should be built up for the next four months in the lead up to Bound For Glory. If Roode holds the title until then, he will have been champion for almost a year. So if Aries gets a title shot, while the match could be exceptional, I don’t feel there’s any chance of Aries winning the title. With no realistic shot of winning, unless TNA hot shot’s the title to Aries then back to Roode in a month or two, stripping Aries of the X-Division title is pointless. Instead Hogan should have gone back to his match with Ultimate Warrior and claim if Aries wins the World Title then Aries would be forced to vacate the X-Division title in the way Warrior vacated the Intercontinental title after winning the World title from Hogan.

I hope TNA has something planned for Impact other than Aries handing over the title or being beaten for the title in an impromptu match. I will reserve my final judgment until I see how the story unfolds. Right now though, based on history I’m anticipating being let down. I guess with low expectations there’s no way to be disappointed.

What do you think? Should Austin Aries vacate the X-Division title or should he keep the title and continue to be the cornerstone of the X-Division? Share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter.

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