X-Division Champion Austin Aries
The following piece was contributed by avid wrestling fan and analyst JR. Follow him on Twitter at @StarNinja99.
The X-Division. Once the pinnacle of all things TNA. The thing that sorted TNA out from the rest of the pack. It made the struggling program a must watch for all pro wrestling fans, and catapulted them into the Television scene more than anything else on the shows programming.
Who can forget The two Thirty minute iron man match classics between AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels? Samoa Joe's undefeated streak and rise to the top of the division? The debut of the Ultimate X match? And above all else, the three way Unbreakable match that is perhaps the best performance in the companies history?
Today, we have Austin Aries as the X-Division title holder. He is indeed a deserving champion, and one of the most promising wrestlers the independent circuit has seen in years. But what of the rest of the X-Division? Today, I intend to break down the current lay out of this Division, the titles recent history, and the way it seems, in this writers eyes, the title has fallen from prominence. And you'll only find this article on Next Era Wrestling!
First, lets take a look at the current shape of the X-Division Roster. You have the above mentioned Austin Aries, a seemingly untouchable leader of the division. Then you have Kid Kash, who has not been on TV since March. Jessie Sorenson, a promising individual indeed, is out on a very serious injury, and will not be back anytime soon. Then you have two rookies in Mark Haskins and Zima Ion, who seem to have talent but have yet to have that breakout match in TNA. Add to that Chris Sabin, formerly of the highly successful Motor City Machine Guns, and that about fills out your roster.
Before the return of Chris, the only man that came close to a level where they could challenge for the Title was Alex Shelley. But, along with Ric Flair, Alex left TNA to seek greener pastures. Then you have to take out X-Division originals such as AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, and the like, as they have all moved up the ladder or fallen into very saddening mediocrity due to TNA creatives lack of angles for these very talented individuals.
The X-Division was the centerfold of TNA for most of its decade long run, until mid-2010n when the now infamous Immortal Angle took shape. With this inception, a slow decaying of the division took place, culminating in Abyss taking the title from Brian Kendrick in the Summer of 2011, when the ever-hated Eric Bischoff attempted to end the group for good.
Samoa Joe as X-Division Champion
Just when fans thought they may be seeing the death of their beloved X-Division, Mick Foley appeared suddenly, toting the signing of all new talent to bolster their ranks. But Mick would ultimately leave very soon after due to his frustrations with the directions of the company, leading him to sign a legends contract with the WWE.
Destination X would indeed prove to be a much needed shot in the arm for the division, and Abyss would drop the title to Kendrick, who not long after that dropped it to the ever-so talented Austin Aries. But since that period of time hiatuses, injuries, contract disputes, and future endeavoring have lead to a very weakened roster. Austin has indeed thrived, being put in angles with the likes of Bully Ray, and proven his is a main event caliber athlete that we have always known him to be. But this isn't about one mans future, this is about protecting the sanctity of the X-Division.
"Its not about weight limits, its about no limits."
This was the creed the division lived lived by for nearly a decade. Nothing proved that more than Samoa Joe's arrival one scene. His undefeated streak is still one of the most talked about angles in TNA history, and well deserved one, at that. But last year, the company took a new stance. They set a weight limit of 225 pounds, thus ending the credo, and preventing someone like, oh, say, Kevin Nash or Abyss from walking into an Ultimate X match and simply plucking the title off the tight ropes with the tips of their fingers. But this also prevents shorter but more well built wrestlers from breaking in. Many fans where outraged by this decision (this humble writer included), saying this made the X-Division title nothing more than "A glorified Cruiserweight Championship."
Many in the X-Division do not like to be classified as a "Cruiserweight". Take Kazarian, an X-Division Alumni, for example. He has recently stated that he has attempted to avoid being stated as such his entire career. Indeed, many who wish to make the jump into WWE go out of their way in the independent circuit to prove themselves just to prove they can easily share the stage with the likes of the Cena's on the Big Stage.
Ultimately, it seems like the holy grail of pure wrestling fans, the X-Division, is on a downwards spiral. But, there is indeed hope out there. There are dozens of talented wrestlers under this limit that could bolster the ranks of this renegade group. The main problem would be if TNA's brass would be willing to ever give them the stage to prove themselves again, as they did at th infamous Unbreakable match.
But for now, it seems like a match of that caliber is out of our reach, at least temporarily. Never fear, though, fans, for whatever transition the X-Division takes in its growing future, we can at least take reassurance in the fact that the belt, held by the best that have ever graced the X-Division, rests in the hands of a man that embodies what it means to be a true X-Division Wrestler.
For the moment, we can take solace in this fact.