Long Term Booking - Where's The Mystery?

This past week on Impact Wrestling, TNA made two very important booking decisions that will come into play for the months ahead, if not beyond. Typically, I would be 100% behind any such attempt at long term booking. More wrestling promotions should try this, WWE especially. Pinpoint an exact end point, months if not years in the future, and hold true to those plans. Build to that match and in no circumstance give it away before then. More often than not, this approach is ignored in favour of hotshot booking to illicit shock and awe, in the vain hope of winning the audience's attention, where none existed before. However, while I may favour the more thoughtful course of action, it's rendered several upcoming events on the TNA calender entirely predictable!

The first involves X Division Champion, Austin Aries, and his Faustian Pact to headline next month's Destination X pay-per-view. After successfully retaining his Championship in a hard-fought Ultimate X match against Zema Ion and Chris Sabin, Aries cut a promo pointing out that no matter where's he's placed on a card, whether it be the start of the show or the end, he's the main event. As such, he should be granted a shot at Bobby Roode's World Heavyweight Championship. Quickly answering Aries' request, General Manager Hulk Hogan made his way down to the ring and in a surprising move...agreed. However, there was one impediment to A Double's ascension to the main event, his continuing stranglehold on the X Division. Hogan couldn't in good conscience allow one man, no matter how talented, to reign over both divisions. If Aries is to get his shot at the gold, he has to relinquish his X Division Championship, a title he's held for almost an entire year. 

Don't get me wrong, it was a fantastic start to this episode of Impact Wrestling. A jaw-dropping  Ultimate X match, a ballsy promo, the attention of the biggest name in Professional Wrestling and an ultimatum not typically seen. It elevated Austin Aries in countless ways. He's no longer just another tiny X Division high-flyer, Hulk Hogan endorsed him as the future of the business! If there was even the slightest possibility that Aries could infact win the World Heavyweight Championship, he'd be a fool not to go for it. Unfortunately, we're in the midst of another bout of long term booking, as relating to Bobby Roode. He's been Champion since just after last year's Bound for Glory and has held onto the belt by whatever means necessary. It's blatantly obvious to anyone with even a passing interest that Roode will continue to hold the title until this year's Bound for Glory at the earliest, if not longer. TNA have invested so much into his elevation to the main event, that not even putting over another young up and comer like Austin Aries could hinder such motivation. Which puts the self-proclaimed Greatest Man Who Ever Lived in a quandary. Knowing full well that he won't win the World Championship at Destination X, that he'll come away with nothing, is that one main event match worth sacrificing the legacy he's built over the last year in the X Division?

Aries will obviously go for the title shot at the PPV and relinquish his X Division Championship in the process. I mean, when was the last time you ever heard of a wrestler turn down at shot at the World Heavyweight Championship? The only two positives I can see coming out of this situation are that TNA afforded Aries the privilege of never having to LOSE the X Division Title. In retrospect, everyone will be able to look back and remember Austin Aries dominated that division so thoroughly, they had to actively remove him from it - he's that damn good. Secondly, that even though he may lose his match at Destination X, that even though he may not see another chance for months to come, he's been genuinely elevated to that level. He's up there with the likes of Jeff Hardy, Rob Van Dam and Mr Anderson, challenging for opportunities as he should be. It won't be a case of IF he'll get to that main event, it'll be WHEN.

The second and far more disturbing instance of long term booking from last week's episode revolves around the returning Cowboy, James Storm. Last year, TNA created the Bound for Glory Series, in which twelve top-tier wrestlers from Impact Wrestling competed against each other in a league of sorts, winning matches to amass points, all in the hope of winning a title shot against the World Heavyweight Champion at TNA's biggest show of the year (Bound for Glory if the name wasn't obvious). While last year's series was full of flaws and in need of serious overhaul, the basic idea was sound and gave much needed drive to many of the random matches that would crop up on Impact Wrestling over the course of the summer months.

This year they kicked things off with a terrific Battle Royal involving all the participants (barring Mr Anderson, as he had a title shot later in the night). Once again, my problem isn't stemming from the segment itself or even the winner, as I hugely enjoyed the match and James Storm's triumph. But for a three month tournament of sorts, tell me you can't see the ending coming a mile away. No matter who wins the series, no matter what hijinks ensue to screw with the result, we all know that James Storm is guaranteed that main event match against Bobby Roode come Bound for Glory. The former Beer Money partners' rivalry has been the driving force of Impact Wrestling all year and every time Storm comes close to ending Roode's reign of tyranny, something gets in the way and Roode retains. There's only so long this can go on and Bound for Glory is the natural endpoint. They both had a fantastic match at Lockdown and are sure to again at BFG, but do we really need to see three months of Storm beating eleven other guys for the privilege when we know it's already a done deal?

I'll eat my words if that doesn't come to pass, but it will and no one in their right mind would dispute it. Although, in a small effort to get someone else over, I'm willing to bet that someone else will win the series on points, just as Crimson did last year. Just as before, the top points scorers will have a match at No Surrender and THAT is when Storm will go over. He'll come second in the standings to look a good sport, whilst giving the rub to someone else with the points win.

At the end of the day, all I can is - Enjoy Impact Wrestling in the coming months. You know exactly what to expect!

Written by Mark Clements

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