When I think back to the very best of times with TNA, I think of years like 2005 and 2006. These were the years when it was down to the top quality of the X-Division. A time when TNA had wrestlers that would kill it every time they were on iMPACT, PPV or whatever. TNA was flooded with wrestlers like Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels with so much potential. But I think a period of TNA which I really enjoyed was around 2012 and 2013 and the Aces And Eights storyline. These years were very different and it wasn’t that it was good because the in-ring action was outstanding. It was good because the writers were doing what every wrestling writer should be doing as a means to keep the audience watching the product… sticking to a plan.
That’s one of the things that really annoys me when I watch WWE. CM Punk said it best on the podcast with Colt Cabana. WWE only have plans for a select number of wrestler. This sucks because all this talent is wasted as WWE don’t know what to do with them. When some NXT talent like the Ascension debut on the main roster, Vince and the rest of the writers had NO IDEA how to build them up. Before calling ANYONE up from NXT, surely you’ve got to get a game-plan. Look at the star and say “Right, what do we want Finn Balor doing in six months time?” or something like that. WWE don’t think like that with anyone. They might have had a long-term plan with Kevin Owens, but obviously they’ve went back on a few things with his feud loss to John Cena.
However when it came to the Aces And Eights angle, particular up until Lockdown 2013, they knew what the end game was going to be. They had a plan and stuck to it. It sounds like the most obvious thing in the world, but it’s insane how much wrestling writers nowadays don’t plan things out in advance. It’s always “spur-of-the-moment” booking with WWE regarding RAW. It’s always “spur-of-the-moment” booking with the PPVs. Considering we’re live in a world in which the likes of Game of Thrones rules television with it’s detailed storylines, WWE really need to step up.
However, I think there was one instance in which TNA did well with the planning of its storylines. Not only with the Aces and Eights storyline, but with AJ Styles’ 2013 storyline as well.
At Final Resolution 2012, AJ lost his supposed last match with Christopher Daniels shortly after being banned from the TNA World title picture until Bound For Glory. AJ cut a promo claiming he was tired of always doing the right thing. He decided that he was going to do his own thing. AJ left the company for a few months with cameraman observing a more darker AJ at his home. When he arrived at TNA, AJ had a new attitude which he took out on the good guys of wrestling. After feuding with James Storm and Kurt Angle, the Aces and Eights looked to try and get AJ into their group. Sadly, AJ declined the offer to join up with Aces and Eights OR TNA and decided to be a lone wolf.
With only himself in mind now, AJ took this new attitude into the Bound For Glory Series… which he won. Following his win, AJ began hitting out at how TNA was run and it’s president Dixie Carter. AJ shared the opinions of a lot of wrestling fans had of Dixie Carter, which led to the heel turn of the TNA President. Despite her interferences, AJ ended up winning the TNA World Championship at Bound For Glory. Following this win, AJ walked out on the company with the TNA World Title. After defending it around the world, he returned to challenge Dixie’s hand-picked champion Magnus to a “Winner-Take-All” Title Unification match. The match was set, but AJ sadly lost to Magnus due to an insane amount of interference. This would be the last we see of AJ Styles in TNA.
This storyline was a fantastic send-off for AJ, who seemed to have his sights set on leaving the company a lot sooner. This new attitude was exactly the thing AJ needed. He didn’t need to be a heel, but he needed to be the lone outcast in the war between TNA and Aces and Eights. With his title win, he finally got one last title reign under his belt before he moved onto the independent scene. Now AJ’s really tearing it up with ROH and in Japan. It’ll be interesting to see where the Phenomenal One goes from here…