Clem Shoots: Tale of the Absentee World Champion

Coming off a successful defense of his World Heavyweight Championship at Genesis, against the fiercest competition in all the business, Jeff Hardy stands tall atop Impact Wrestling. But despite such a rosey outlook, storm clouds are fast approaching the Charismatic Enigma. His conviction for drug possession from several years prior has reared it's head once again and will prevent him from appearing on any of this week's "Road to Lockdown" UK Tour dates.

If this were simply a regular tour, the loss of such a performer would be no big deal. TNA would quickly draft in a replacement and send fans home just as happy as if Hardy had been there himself. Hell, they've already done it, in drawing Sting out from his International retirement last year and announcing The Icon will fill in for the M.I.A. Champion. However, in this case, this is no regular tour. Four whole episodes of Impact Wrestling will be taped across the shows in Manchester and London. Any other performer and it would be a shame to lose them for a month's worth of TV time, but Hardy is different. Jeff Hardy is the World Heavyweight Champion...who can't travel the World.

Any wrestling promotion worth a damn and their top program will be the top stars challenging to become the new World Heavyweight Champion. Take that away and they're left in a horrendously awkward position. Just what do the stars of Impact Wrestling do for the next four weeks (taking place at the biggest shows of the year)? Ten thousand screaming British fans, twenty if you account for both shows, and you're NOT going to bring the big gold belt everyone's been fighting over? I suppose Austin Aries and Bobby Roode are just going to forget the last year spent chasing exactly that and what, have tea and crumpets in the middle of the ring?

Jeff Hardy not being allowed to travel to the United Kingdom puts TNA and Impact Wrestling in the most undesirable position possible. The scariest thing is that the company have had multiple chances to avoid this incoming iceberg. There was the triple threat main event at Genesis. Absolutely no one would've thought twice about Hardy dropping the World Heavyweight Title in a match where the odds were stacked against him. Yet he retained. Then, worst case scenario, the 'Fallen Angel' Christopher Daniels had just earned himself a shot at Hardy's World Title the very same night. But it won't surprise the average wrestling fan to learn *spoiler* Daniels doesn't come out on top of this encounter.

Having missed every opportunity to remove Jeff Hardy as World Heavyweight Champion, we're now left knowing there will be no Champion on the UK Tour or the four weeks of Impact Wrestling stemming from it. To account for the World Champion's absence, TNA have enacted an injury cover story. *spoiler* Aces and Eights will turn their attention towards the Title next week and take Hardy out in brutal fashion.While I will never turn down an opportunity to watch Hardy beaten like a government mule, it's too little, too late.

As (inexplicably) beloved as Jeff Hardy is by the TNA fanbase, I keep coming back to the same conclusion where the UK Tour is concerned - Hardy MUST be stripped of the Title in absentia and the Manchester/London shows used to find a new Champion. We all know how TNA love a good tournament. In the past month alone we've had tournaments for the X Division Title and a 'One Night Only' Tag Team special. Another thing TNA love is crowning a new World Champion at a show "on the road". This creates a much larger scale than by simply doing it in the Impact Zone and that footage will be looked back on for years to come.

Even though these Impact tapings take place over an insanely short amount of time, the company must be represented by that footage for the next month at least. To put their best foot forward, TNA need a World Champion and the American legal system says that can't be Jeff Hardy. He had a good run across Bound for Glory, Turning Point, Final Resolution and Genesis. Hell, I've known wrestlers win a title one month, drop it the next, Hardy has managed four. But if you can't defend the belt for a month, you're as good as forfeit.

Written by Mark Clements

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