3 years ago, TNA introduced an original and innovative concept in the Bound for Glory Series, which features 12 of the company’s top superstars facing off for points to determine the top 4 who go on to No Surrender and duke it out to decide who will be the number 1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship at Bound for Glory.
Bobby Roode and Jeff Hardy have been the past winners and have gone on to main event their respective year’s Bound for Glory. Both have enjoyed a healthy (and lengthy) title run after their push in the series.
While this year’s winner still appears undecided, as all four finalists (AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, Austin Aries & Magnus) have received some sort of push as of late, the tournament has been generally liked by fans and hopefully will endure. The BFG series has a similar feel to the Royal Rumble (albeit TNA’s own version), as the winner is deserving and the title (after winning the series) has prestige. So what works for the BFG series and what needs to change to improve it in 2014?
A smaller number of participants
Considering that Impact airs for 1.5 hours roughly per week and the roster size is getting smaller and smaller, having 12 wrestlers in this tournament seems like overkill. On one hand, the variety of matches is great and we get to see exciting gimmick matches on top of singles matches, like the array of hardcore matches seen at Hardcore Justice, as well as two gauntlets. But seeing as these guys are wrestling two to three matches on every Impact, it takes a whole lot away from the other divisions, as well as progression of other storylines. For example, since the series started back in early June, the up-and-coming tag team division fell on the shoulders of James Storm and Gunner who have had no one to face and have floundered for the last 3 months. Because Bad Influence and Hernandez were busy in the series, their tag teams could not be featured. The X-Division (apart from Manik and Chris Sabin being featured prominently for maybe a month) has shrunk even further and is almost on the verge of irrelevance. Next year, if the series features 8 superstars rather than 12, those 4 other guys can spend time in the mid-card rather than losing all of their matches in a tournament they probably don’t belong in (because they’re not of World Title status). Joseph Park, Hernandez, Jay Bradley and Kazarian really could have been spared from this tournament, since they spent a lot of time racking up loses in order to further the top 6 guys.
The problem with having 12 people in a tournament when only the top 4 are rewarded, in my eyes, is that the 8 guys who don’t make it are set up for failure. That’s a lot of failure! And we saw many elite superstars fall to the wayside in this tournament: Jeff Hardy, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe and Mr Anderson. Anderson has a title shot and luckily he was not hurt by this, but a guy like Joe, who is widely acknowledged as one of the best on the roster, has his status further degraded. So while the concept is great, perhaps having less superstars in this tournament can free up more time for other pursuits.
Equal matches for everyone
The 2011 BFG series saw a huge botch in this department: every member had a different amount of matches and over a huge range with the lowest being 10 and the highest I think being Gunner (who had 20). Last year they got this right- every wrestler had 13 matches, so things were fair and much easier to follow. This year, for some reason, saw the competitors participating in a different number of matches each. Despite this, they had less matches than both the previous tournaments, with people like Magnus only having 6-7. But the need for equality is important for the fans. I think it makes it that much easier to follow. This discrepancy may have been down to the various cuts which saw Bruce Prichard leave, who perhaps had a big part to play in the organization of the tournament. But keeping up with all the numbers is tricky for the fans, as well as those in charge of the BFG series, in terms of running it and keeping track of who is wherein what position on the ladder. Smaller numbers and equality in the matches will help make things easier.
A different BFG series
Before all of the roster cuts, I had an idea of a 6-Women Knockouts BFG series, back when they had enough Knockouts, plus a champion, to hold one. But perhaps the X-Division could be rebooted by holding this tournament, instead of always having it for the World Championship.
One thing is for sure, the BFG series is a fantastic idea. I think TNA has tried tweaking aspects of it here and there, and they are very close to getting it right! For sure it is something to be persevered with, and when done right could be something immortalized in wrestling history.
My pick is Austin Aries for the series!