Two weeks ago I published an article here on TNANews.com in which I argued that The Aces & Eights’ run should be coming to an end due to lack of progression. I felt the stable had done nothing noteworthy in the weeks following Lockdown in addition to the obligatory in-ring beatdowns and interferences. Last night, however, featured some intriguing developments which have brought a new twist to the heel stable.
The booking of The Aces & Eights has had its ups and downs, alternating creative brilliance with nWo-style repetitiveness. With that said, yesterday’s show impressed with its emphasis on character development and psychology. More importantly, it seems like the focus has switched from the heels’ reign of dominance to how it has affected the rest of he TNA roster. The relationships among the major players in the company have evolved in response to The Aces & Eights’ triumphs and have made for compelling storytelling.
The most recent episode of Impact Wrestling did not revolve around The Aces & Eights, but around characters whose mentality and behavior has been influenced by the faction. The on-going feud between AJ Styles and James Storm has taken on a whole new meaning with Bad Influence looking to reform Fortune. The in-ring segment which opened the show was all about psychology. What decision would Styles make considering the beef he has had with Daniels and Kazarian? How would Storm fit in? Moreover, would Fortune be the key to defeating The Aces & Eights?
The focus was kept on the characters which had to do the decision-making. The actual villains were only there at the end of the segment to remind us that at no time is anyone safe. The Aces & Eights are the beginning of a chain of feuds and relationships that are interconnected in very credible ways. In addition to Styles vs. Storm, Bad Influence have shaken up the relationship between tag team champions Bobby Roode and Austin Aries. The on-going war with The Aces & Eights has been further complicated by the disagreements between Hulk Hogan and Sting, and we are yet to see how Matt Morgan fits the scheme.
What makes all these relationships exciting to follow is the expectation that they lead to a huge payoff. Will Fortune really reunite? If not, who is going to wage the war against the outlaws? The conclusion of the storyline, whenever it takes place, will be the direct result of the relationships and rivalries we are seeing right now. When a group of wrestlers does eventually unite against The Aces & Eights, TNA wants us to understand what has led to the union and what factors have influenced their decisions. In other words, a lot is being invested in logical character progression.
Remember The Frontline? It was a face stable formed in the beginning of 2009 as the roster’s response to the threat of The Main Event Mafia. The wrestlers it consisted of ranged from Team 3D and Rhino, through the future members of Fortune, all the way to newcomers like Consequences Creed and ODB. The group failed to make an impact as a force to be reckoned with because the aforementioned names were assembled spontaneously, without any build-up. It is the exact opposite of what we are seeing at the moment, which is a slow and gradual approach to building The Aces & Eights’ opposition.
If TNA capitalizes on this solid groundwork and continues to utilize The Aces & Eights as a means of developing other characters, not only would it save the stable from overexposure, but it would also make for a satisfying resolution to the storyline, which makes sense in terms of psychology and decisions.