The December 19th episode of Impact Wrestling revealed Magnus as the one chosen to fill the shoes of former TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles. Following interference from Rockstar Spud, the young Brit defeated Jeff Hardy in a mixture between a Steel Cage Match and a Ladder Match and went on to become, as Triple H would put it, “the face of the company”. The championship alone is prestigious enough to put huge amounts of pressure on the up-and-comer, as he has now officially made the transition to the main event. Nevertheless, the timing of the title win, coinciding with a drastic decrease in the roster’s star power, adds additional weight to the gold around Magnus’ waist.
Regardless of whether AJ Styles’ leave of absence is a work or a legitimate departure, the first quarter of 2014 promises to be a busy time for The Phenomenal One. He is scheduled to make appearances for various independent promotions, including one in the United Kingdom in March. With the upcoming “Evening with AJ Styles” UK tour, the dates of which are yet to be announced, and an autobiography on its way, a return to TNA is unlikely to happen before Lockdown. Meanwhile, Chavo Guerrero has joined a lengthy list of names that have made their way out of the promotion within the last year, and the thought of losing Sting is getting scarier as WWE is about to begin The Road to WrestleMania XXX.
It has become evident that TNA Wrestling’s financial issues are more serious than Dixie Carter would admit. Nearly half of the roster has been let go since the beginning of the experiment of taping shows on the road, and programming has suffered as a result. The Aces & Eights, who were once a force to be reckoned with and a vital element of TNA’s shows, lost all credibility when their numbers were reduced so dramatically that Bully Ray was the only relevant name in the faction. It was also when the majority of Gut Check winners was deemed expendable that the entire initiative was dropped, thus destroying a big part of what was once considered “the future of TNA”.
The Internet Wrestling Community likes to pitch ideas about who “the next John Cena” is, and the company itself is in constant search of that household name. The same issue, however, is arguably more urgent in TNA Wrestling, especially with a roster which is smaller and, on average, older.
Considering that Magnus is the only young worker in recent memory to have received a consistent push, giving him the vacant World Heavyweight Championship was the most logical move. Even if his match against Sting at Bound For Glory lacked the big “passing of the torch” feel that TNA was going for, Magnus’ rise through the ranks has been a gradual development and it does not feel as sudden as, say, Chris Sabin’s World Championship win from earlier this year. The manner in which Magnus achieved victory two nights ago also made sense, as it raised questions about the legitimacy of the triumph. In addition, Impact Wrestling has not been devoid of vignettes and video packages reminding us that somewhere, working the indy circuit, is a man who regards himself as the true TNA Champion.
Provided a deal between TNA and AJ Styles has been reached, or is soon to be reached, the seeds have been planted for a big match between the two champions. If the departure storyline is revealed to be a work, it would mean that creative has ripped off CM Punk’s win at Money In the Bank 2011 rather blatantly. The only difference is that while it did not take long for WWE to bring Punk back to TV in order to capitalize on his momentum, TNA has been more patient. As long as reminders of AJ Styles continue, a future match against Magnus has the potential to be one of the most anticipated matches in the promotion’s history. In other words, TNA may have executed WWE’s storyline better than WWE did, because the focus has been shifted from shock factor to payoff.
An eventual face-off to determine the true TNA World Heavyweight Champion seems like the only reasonable explanation as to why The Phenomenal One has been kept in the spotlight via the “friends of AJ” segments, as well as the recent episode in which Dixie Carter sent Rockstar Spud to retrieve the championship belt from his home in Atlanta.
TNA is struggling, and this crisis has affected the quality of their talent recruitment and creative direction. Despite these hard times, TNA has been exploring ways to start afresh now that the Hogan & Bischoff regime has come to an end. Magnus’ World Championship win might very well be the new beginning many have been hoping for.