In a stunning turn of events, last night’s Destination X broadcast concluded with a World Heavyweight Championship win for Chris Sabin, with the assist of Bully Ray’s own hammer. Sabin is now the second X Division wrestler to have taken advantage of Option C, earning TNA’s most prestigious title in the process. The two years spent rehabbing ACL injuries have paid off, leading to the athlete’s greatest achievement to date. I think I speak for the entire Internet Wrestling Community when I say that Chris deserves this recognition.
While Sabin’s talent and hard work are unquestionable, the same cannot be said about the execution of his push by TNA creative.
It is a truth almost universally acknowledged that nothing in Dixie Carter’s company stays the same for long. TNA booking is filled with inconsistencies, which is most evident in the main event scene. Someone in the back seems to be changing their mind constantly about who should occupy the top spots, resulting in massive pushes which are eventually ended abruptly. From Abyss and AJ Styles, whom Hogan was reportedly preparing for superstardom back in 2010, through the likes of Austin Aries and Bobby Roode, concrete plans for whom are not evident at this point, all the way to the recently departed Matt Morgan, the list of arguable “top names” is astonishingly long. Among the outcomes of this phenomenon is an “up and down” effect for the careers of the aforementioned, as they are elevated only for their characters to be abandoned in a matter of months. This approach is in sharp contrast to WWE’s concept of “climbing the ladder”.
The examples are all over the place. Crimson, who is no longer part of TNA as of last week, was given a 470-day undefeated streak in order to be built as the next big thing, only to spend a year in developmental and get released earlier this month. Speaking about Crimson, the guy who ended that reign of dominance, James Storm, has been reduced to a barely sensible tag team partnership with Gunner, which was introduced as suddenly as Suicide’s character tweak and new name. Or Jay Bradley’s participation in the Bound For Glory Series. Or Chris Sabin’s main event push.
Yes, TNA likes to be spontaneous and seemingly depends on whom management is high up on at any given moment. Sabin’s return following a two-year absence happens to take place in the middle of a lengthy and major storyline, which is the feud between the Main Event Mafia and the Aces & Eights. Considering the impressive build-up heading into Lockdown, the night of Aces & Eights leader Bully Ray’s ultimate triumph, fans have been expecting equally patient storytelling when it comes to the rivalry’s resolution. One of the most important questions has been, who is going to be the savior of TNA, the one who will play a crucial role in dethroning Bully and restoring (relative) peace to the locker room? It is a role most current members of the MEM can easily fill, because they have had issues with The Aces & Eights from the get-go and it would make sense from a storytelling perspective.
Nevertheless, here we are in July of 2013, and the man who has taken the belt away from Bully Ray is a wrestler who has been sidelined for the majority of the last 24 months, and not even booked prominently prior to being injured. He came back in the beginning of May, captured the X Division Championship one month later, three weeks before being presented with the opportunity of exercising Option C at an event, which quite frankly, we had no idea was happening before Hogan brought up Sabin’s world title shot. The elevation of this worker does not qualify as a gradual and thought-over climb “up the ladder”; therefore, it smells an awful lot like booking on the spot. Furthermore, in the month leading up to Destination X, Sabin lost his X Division title only to regain it one week later, and even though that switch back and forth did not really lead to anything, TNA did not hesitate to unmask Suicide for two segments just to pull it off. It appears that Sabin’s entire push goes against the rules of effective storytelling, according to which gradual build-up and appropriate payoff are vital.
TNA could have taken its time with Sabin and truly built him up as something big, before maybe defeating Bully for the title at Bound For Glory in what can be hyped as the grand finale to the Aces & Eights. By killing the momentum of such a villain in a manner as spontaneous as Sabin’s victory at Destination X, TNA has missed out on a potential moment of legendary scale down the road, possibly at Bound For Glory. More importantly, it has messed up the dynamics of the most important storyline in the company right now. If last night was supposed to be the big demise of Bully’s faction, then it failed to live up to expectations.
On the other hand, any story in which the good guys win only to be overpowered once again by the villains makes the good guys’ ultimate triumph at the end less significant.