On March 2, 2014, in Japan, Sanada defeated Austin Aries for the TNA X-Division Championship. On March 19, at TNA Lockdown, Sanada made his TNA Wrestling debut. Sanada teamed with The Great Muta and Yasu to wrestle against Bad Influence and Chris Sabin. The Japanese team won. When the new X-Division Champion debuted on Impact Wrestling, he was automatically paired up with fellow newcomer Tigre Uno. I very much disagreed with this decision as it looked like they were simply putting the two newcomers from overseas together as a team when they should have been building the new X-Division champion as a singles wrestler. We now had many fans saying that their favorite tag team was Sanada and Uno, even though they weren’t as much of a team as the BroMans. After the team lost a title shot, they had a best two out of three falls match. This was a series that went on and ended at Sacrifice, with Sanada retaining his title. At Slammiversary, on June 10, Sanada retained his championship against six wrestlers in Eddie Edwards, Davey Richards, Crazzy Steve, Manik, and Tigre Uno in a ladder match. Sanada was quickly becoming a fan favorite among TNA Wrestling fans. There was one problem. He could not speak English. His promos, where he spoke Japanese with English subtitles, worked very well. This gave much needed depth and insight to his character. But whenever a wrestler would make fun of him backstage, he looked like he didn’t understand them. Those promos didn’t do much good since Sanada seemed confused and couldn’t talk back to them.
I used to do a series titled Who TNA Should Hire And Fire. Most weeks, I would hire one star that I thought could make TNA better and release one star that I did not see reason for TNA to keep. I devoted at least one month to hiring lucha libre wrestlers. I am very much a fan of the lucha libre style. I remember watching Lucha Libre USA and greatly enjoying the show. I’d even watch CMLL sometimes on TV. I admire the wrestlers for their athletic ability and very entertaining wrestling. The style is so different from what we usually see on TV. And I don’t mean that all of the stars are high flyers. Some of them wrestle more a slow paced match but still has a mexican feel to it. After the fantasy series of hiring and firing talent was over, I was told that my roster was too big. The person that told me was in fact right. My roster had twelve more than the official roster of TNA Wrestling. So, I cut twelve people. I cut all of the lucha libre wrestlers. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the lucha libre wrestlers are not well known in the U.S. and if you are building the best roster, you don’t want plenty of people from mexico whom the audience does not know. The main reason for cutting them is that they wear masks and do not speak English. How are we supposed to relate with them? How are we supposed to connect with them?
You might mention Rey Mysterio as one who is over with the fans. I would say that he is an exception. There have been very few masked men that the fans have actually cared about. Think about how much more difficult it is to have an emotional connection and like or dislike Psychosis compared to Billy Kidman. How much harder is it to care for Juventud Guerrera than Eddie Guerrero? What about Psychosis and Chris Jericho? I hope you are starting to understand my point. We have a harder time becoming invested in a person who wears a mask because we do not wear masks. That is not a part of our culture. That is a part of the mexican culture and certainly in California. But in most of the USA, we do not have such an easy time. They also, most of the time, do not speak English. So, now unless you speak Spanish, the emotional distance between the wrestler and fan is widening. I place Sanada in this group. We appreciate his talent and ability but have trouble cheering or booing for him.
How are we supposed to get Sanada over his two big problems: not being able to speak English and possibly the fans not investing in him as strongly as they would American wrestlers? How are we supposed to have the fans buy into the character of Sanada when they cannot understand him? This is more difficult than it sounds because how can you tell a story between two people when one cannot understand English, or if he can, at least cannot speak English? First, when a person is in a role where they either literally cannot speak English or their character cannot speak, they must have a mouthpiece. They must have a manager to assist them and talk for them. At first, TNA used The Great Muta for this. The Great Muta is very well known and respected in the U.S. for being a wrestling legend. The only problem with this is that his appearances were not often. The Great Muta would help put Sanada over and Sanada would do likewise with Muta and his wrestling promotion, Wrestle-1. What TNA needed was someone who could be on TV more often. Someone whom was on the TNA Wrestling roster. Sanada also needed a cutting edge story to make the fans be excited for him and invest in his character. TNA certainly delivered on this.
On July 24, The Great Muta made a rare U.S. appearance. Muta has been in the wrestling business for thirty years and is considered a legend in the wrestling business. Robbie E came out and challenged him to a match. The match lasted under a minute, with Muta using his signature moves to get the crowd fired up. Muta also spat green mist in Robbie E’s face during the match, something that Japanese wrestlers are known for. After the match, James Storm walked out to the stage with a microphone. Storm made his way to the ring. He called Muta a joke, a has-been, and a fraud. He told Muta that all he saw was another man coming into the company to try to relive his glory years that Storm built. Storm called him the legend in this company. Afterward, Storm beat down Muta with punches. Yasu came out but Storm punched him. Sanada ran out while Storm escaped the ring. Sanada checked on Muta. Muta got up and spat red mist in the air then stared down Storm. Sanada hit Muta with a steel chair. Yasu got up and started punching Sanada until Sanada spit red mist in his face. Sanada went up to the top rope and delivered a moonsault on Muta. Afterward, Sanada walked to the back with James Storm, who grabbed his beer bottle and spat the beer up in the air.
The next week, James Storm came out to the ring. He introduced himself as the legend. He said that Sanada’s path to Destination X was led by a man that wasn’t even in this country. A revolution is upon is and Storm is the leader. Storm said that he is now Sanada’s new mentor and friend. He introduced Sanada for his triple threat match against Brian Cage and Crazzy Steve. Sanada won the match. On August 9, the week after Destinatnion X, James Storm talked to Sanada backstage before his match. He told him that he is no longer wrestling for his country, the Muta, or the people. He is wrestling now for James Storm. Storm slapped Sanada and told Sanada to bow to him. Sanada bowed. This looked to be the start of a master/slave relationship. Sanada lost the triple threat match including Samoa Joe and Low Ki. Last week, we saw James Storm sitting on the steps of a cabin. He said, “The revolution is upon us.” He walked in, where Sanada had his shirt off and hands tied behind his back. Storm told Sanada that he was weak, confused and lost. He slapped Sanada’s face and told Sanada that he is the light. He will make him The Great Sanada.
Putting characters and stories aside, James Storm is right. He is a legend in the company. Storm has been in TNA Wrestling since the first shows. He has built the company from the ground up. He is one of the very few people that are left from TNA’s start in 2002. James Storm is a former TNA World Heavyweight Champion, 5 time TNA World Tag Team Champion, and 6 time NWA-TNA Tag Team Champion. Now, he is focused on starting a revolution with Sanada. Before Storm came around, Sanada had this look about him that told of us that he was a good guy. He appeared as too much of a good guy. One might have been able to tell us that he wouldn’t hurt a fly. We saw tremendous matches from him with Tigre Uno and Austin Aries. Sanada is a very talented wrestler but someone that did not have a story to draw us in and make him interesting. Now, we are hooked. Since he turned on his mentor The Great Muta and is with James Storm, he finally has a cutting edge story that leaves us wanting to see more. With a legend in TNA Wrestling, James Storm, as his mentor, and his incredible wrestling skills, Sanada is on the rise.