As the company’s biggest event of the year, Bound for Glory is always an important night for the creative direction of TNA programming. The drastic reduction of the number of pay-per-views is only meant to emphasize the significance of those that remain on TNA’s schedule. Lockdown was the first date of the new format to live up to the hype, featuring the triumph of The Aces & Eights in the form of Bully Ray’s World Heavyweight Championship win.
The moment Bully was revealed as the leader of the heel stable marked the culmination of The Aces & Eights’ gradual takeover of TNA. Not only were they in possession of the most valuable title in the company, but management, in the face of the Hogans, had suffered the ultimate humiliation. After several months of build-up, the villains were victorious and the only possible continuation of the storyline would have to be its resolution, concluding with the faction’s demise. What a better night to wrap up such a major element of TNA programming than its biggest show, Bound for Glory?
A big portion of wrestling fans were under the impression that the fall of The Aces & Eights was precisely what TNA had in store for the October event. That idea started making its way into reality when shortly after Slammiversary, Sting announced the formation of the new Main Event Mafia, which he referred to as a family whose purpose was to respond to the villains’ reign of dominance. A rivalry between two stables was initiated and with the Bound for Glory Series serving as build-up for a big World Championship match, October 20th seemed more and more like the date of the happy ending that fans were anticipating.
Here we are at the end of October, Bound for Glory is in the books, and how do things stand when it comes to The Aces & Eights storyline? It’s hard to tell. One particular expectation has been fulfilled in that Bully Ray’s band of misfits has definitely lost a lot of momentum. Not only was Bully’s title reign disrupted at some point by Chris Sabin’s brief main event push, but the faction has lost the majority of its members, including Devon, D’Lo Brown, Mr. Anderson, DOC and Wes Brisco. Even though the remnants of The Aces & Eights still have a prominent role on Impact Wrestling, they are no longer the menace that they used to be when every member on the TNA roster was a potential target.
Admittedly, we have been anticipating the heels’ demise ever since they cemented their place as the most dominant force in TNA at Lockdown. The troubling thing is that loss of momentum does not seem to have been caused by the rival Main Event Mafia. On the contrary, it is hard not to question the purpose of the babyface stable, considering that it was originally set out to destroy The Aces & Eights, yet the two factions had no conflicting points at TNA’s biggest stage, Bound for Glory.
Sting and Magnus wrestled each other in a battle of generations in San Diego, whereas Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe had their hands full with Bobby Roode and an Ultimate X Match, respectively. The role of challenger for the World Heavyweight Championship, which was arguably supposed to be filled by a Mafia member for the sake of honouring the reason for the stable’s existence, was instead given to AJ Styles, a self-proclaimed lone wolf. The million dollar question is, what has caused The Aces & Eights’ downfall if the babyfaces haven’t really done anything about it?
The Road to Bound for Glory happened to take place during a tough time for TNA Wrestling, as the company has been plagued by financial, contractual and creative issues. The loss of vital Aces & Eights members Devon, Anderson, DOC and D’Lo Brown has been a result of their legitimate releases, brought about by the need for cutting costs. Meanwhile, contract negotiations with AJ Styles, one of TNA’s top names, have met their own obstacles, and so have the negotiations with Hulk Hogan. With the Hulkster off television, Dixie Carter has gone forward with a rather awkward heel turn and her rivalry with Styles has probably taken more attention away than desirable from what should be the focal point of TNA’s programming, the end of The Aces & Eights.
Considering the amount of effort and detail put into the heel group’s rise to power, it is sad to see this much confusion behind the scenes at a time when a storyline’s resolution has so much hype to live up to. The truth is, however, that TNA’s current shows do not have the flow of those leading up to Lockdown earlier this year. The villains are not as threatening as they should be, the good guys are focused on their own individual rivalries, and the “resolution” of The Aces & Eights storyline simply does not make sense. The reason I placed that word in quotes is, at this point, it seems more likely that the faction will fade away until it is virtually irrelevant than it is to have an actual resolution with a triumph for the faces.
Perhaps we as viewers have to be more patient with TNA and try to understand that there are good times and bad times and when there is chaos behind the scenes, the programming is going to reflect that. Nevertheless, for the number of times that they have tried to give us a proper well-developed storyline involving a war between factions, they have dropped the ball every single time in a very similar manner as well. When the heel incarnation of The Main Event Mafia was going strong towards the end of 2008, a heroic alliance was formed under the name of The Front Line, which was meant to feud with the former World Champions. There was not much of a payoff to it, as members of The Front Line moved on to their own separate feuds once Eric Young broke off to form World Elite. The Main Event Mafia’s run continued for several months, before Booker T and Scott Steiner left TNA, once again putting an end to the stable without a satisfactory conclusion.
Between The Main Event Mafia and The Aces & Eights, there was Immortal, whose run took place from October 2010 until April 2012, just months before the masked motorcycle club made its debut. The problem with Hogan and Bischoff’s stable were the constant additions and departures of members, resulting in the group basically losing its identity. All of these outcomes are a result of a lack of long-term planning, and when the storyline in question is supposed to be as lengthy as any of the aforementioned, thinking ahead is crucial. The Aces & Eights have once again shown that TNA cannot be relied on to deliver that awareness of where a character, or a group of characters, needs to end up in the future.
If that is the case, how do they expect us to care?