This year's Bound for Glory Series started with a bang this past week on Impact Wrestling, but with months of singles competition still to go, a victor is far from decided. What looks like an early lead, could easily put a target on a contender's back. With that in mind, we at Canned Heat thought we'd take a look through the entrants and their chances of victory in the illustrious series.
'The It Factor' Bobby Roode
As the 2011 winner, Roode's chances should be higher than most, but in the bizarre world of booking, that probably puts his chances at absolute zero. Why spend five months building up a guy you already afforded the privilege two years ago. The Bound for Glory Series should be used to build up a new World Title contender, not recycle an old one. On the flip side, that's a damn shame. Bobby Roode successfully anchored Impact Wrestling for almost a year straight and has earnt his stripes in my eyes. He should be challenging for the Title or be the Champion himself.
I know I just said the Bound for Glory Series should be used to build up new contenders, but let's be serious. Fresh out of the Gut Check challenge, Bradley is an afterthought. He should be extremely proud of himself that he'd be chosen for the Series in the first place, but doesn't stand a chance in hell of actually winning it. Maybe next year, when more of the audience can pick him out of a lineup.
'Super Mex' Hernandez
After a lengthy spell in the Tag Team division (seriously, only James Storm has had as many different partners), this will be Hernandez' big chance to show he has what it takes to make it as a singles wrestler. He's had ample opportunity over the years in TNA, with them frequently attempting to push him as the next big thing. Unfortunately, these pushes have petered away and often ended in his release or at the very least a hiatus. He won't win the BFG Series, but he'll make for a terrifying obstacle for those that will.
Traditionally, the Monster would've made for an imposing force in the Series, but after a year spent working the laywer gimmick, he's basically starting his career from scratch. Entering each match playing the rookie, his chances of success are few. As witnessed in his first match with Mr Anderson, his brute strength gets him so far, but lack of experience or outside interference often get the better of him. Also, with his primary gimmick of Abyss being the current Television Champion, it seems unlikely that they'd gift the same man with the World Championship.
While he's been with TNA since 2008, Magnus' first five years with the company have been less than spectacular. Struggling to break out of the Tag Team division, he's rotated through a variety of partners, whether it be Douglas Williams, Desmond Wolfe or Samoa Joe. But since returning as a face during January's UK tour, he has shown a newfound maturity and connection with the crowd. During a recent Impact Wrestling episode, there were even "We want Magnus" chants, showing a groundswell of support for the young Brit. Frequently talked up in the press by TNA stalwarts, Dixie Carter and 'The Icon' Sting, Magnus appears to have impressed all the right people and is on the fast track towards his first World Title. Should he be the one to go forward and challenge Bully Ray at Bound for Glory, the company would have to make a concerted effort to establish Magnus as a main event star. These next five months will be absolutely essential and after taking an early lead this past Thursday, his chances are looking bright.
'The Charismatic Enigma' Jeff Hardy
Standing tall as both the 2012 winner of the Series and Impact Wrestling's most popular personality by far, it'd make perfect sense for the Anti-Christ of Professional Wrestling to make it a double-header, adding yet another year's victory to his long list of achievements. I, personally, would loathe to see another Hardy win in 2013, as I strongly believed he didn't deserve to win last year either. Not only did his going to Bound for Glory necessitate an awkward last minute heel turn for the then-face Champion, Austin Aries, but a Jeff Hardy World Title reign is about as exciting as watching his facepaint dry. While he may enthrall in the ring, he struggles on the mic and any feud suffers as a result. Asking him to carry the company on his back makes for the most listless product possible. He'd certainly put arses in seats come the pay-per-view, but I'd wince at the months of television to come afterward. Look for a strong showing in the Series, only to be pipped at the post in the final stages.
Frankie Kazarian & Christopher Daniels
I'm a huge fan of both Daniels and Kazarian in their makeshift tag team 'Bad Influence'. They bring a contagious enthusiasm to absolutely every segment they're in, whether it be the grand stage of Impact Wrestling or something as simple as an interview for Wrestletalk TV. They have a natural repartee between themselves and an uncanny ability to mock others. They're rarely rewarded with Championships or even wins, but I'll be damned if you can find a more entertaining duo every Thursday night. They don't stand a chance in hell of actually winning the Bound for Glory Series, but their presence will put smiles on all our faces. They'll be the jobbers of the competition, but do it with such style, you won't notice. If TNA need a quality heel for the final stages, they'd do well with either member. Never have I used to the term 'enhancement talent' as a compliment.
With Aces & Eights having been granted one spot in the Bound for Glory Series, the group quickly decided (but not unanimously) that Mr Anderson was their man. At first, Anderson struck me as an odd addition to the makeup of Aces & Eights. Being a former World Champion in his own right, I'd hoped TNA would find a better use for him. But slowly over the past six months, the Asshole has gelled with this wannabe biker gang to an unnerving degree. Usurping the role of Vice President from the departing D'Lo Brown, Anderson is second only to current World Champion, Bully Ray. Having two loyal members of Aces & Eights fighting for the Title would make for a strange main event to the biggest show of the year. The only way Anderson's involvement in such a match would make sense is if he were a proverbial snake in the grass. He's always struck me as more self-serving and opportunistic than the majority of their group and it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest to see him throw his fellow cuts under the bus in favour of the World Heavyweight Championship. Even then, it'd be a nightmare of a match to promote.
If this were 2008 and we were in the midst of Joe's heyday, I wouldn't think twice about pegging the Samoan Submission Machine as the next winner of the Bound for Glory Series. But five rudderless years later and Joe finds himself adrift on a bloated roster, with more World Title contenders than you can shake a stick at. Where once he was the very epitome of the term 'monster heel', too much mismanagement has seen his star fall from grace. So much so, that during the inaugural Series, Joe was renowned for having lost the majority of his matches, embarking on a humiliating losing streak. The treatment of Joe during 2011 was downright embarrassing. Thankfully, his 2012 showing was alot more dominant and saw him at the very least break even. If they wanted to, TNA could build a wonderful program around the giant Samoan and see Bully Ray literally quaking in his boots as the monster grows ever closer to Bound for Glory. But I don't see them going that route. There's an inescapable feeling that Joe's best days are long behind him and the company would have to do major rehabilitation to his character to make me see him any differently.
'The Phenomenal' AJ Styles
Still reeling from being shut out of the World Title picture for an entire year, the Phenomenal One has turned to the dark side. Now sporting a beard, shaggy hair and leather, Styles is damn near unrecognisable compared to his former self. It's a startling reinvention of TNA's posterboy and it's come at just the right point in his career. Rather than fall back on his classic persona and watch as his in-ring ability dwindles with age, Styles has proactively slowed himself down and adopted a vicious demeanor. His new attitude has been the crux of several months worth of Impact so far, with no signs of abating. It'd be a tough sell sending him up against the already villainous Bully Ray, who's practically trademarked the term heel. While Styles is very specifically out for himself, it's hard to believe he'll be the hero to put a sword through the beast that is Aces & Eights. Without needlessly returning to his original clean-cut self, I don't see him providing the feel-good moment that vanquishing Aces & Eights should inspire. Regardless, I do hope to see an eventual World Title reign from this opportunistic version of Styles, whether it be at Bound for Glory or afterward.
'The Greatest Man That Ever Lived' Austin Aries
Austin Aries was, without a doubt, the smash hit of 2012. Where other wrestlers try to illicit a mere reaction from the crowd, Aries has them eating from the palm of his hand. After an astounding X Division Title reign and a series of impressive matches against main event talent, Aries had worked his way up to the World Heavyweight Championship itself. His victory at Destination X against Bobby Roode was pure wrestling magic and one of the moments we all hope to witness. While his resulting reign was tempered by multiple unfortunate switches between face and heel, his talent endures. Even when facing Impact's biggest star in Jeff Hardy at last year's Bound for Glory, the crowd were solidly behind A-Double and the disgust at his loss was palpable. He's encountered trouble recently for having been rude to announcer Christy Hemme after an incorrent entrance, but the past few weeks have spotlighted him in such a way that you'd never know. If he were to challenge Bully Ray, which is a very real possibility, all I'd ask is that TNA respect Aries' tweener sensibilities. During his last reign, he was hamstrung by having to play either the hero or the villain, when infact he is neither, but somewhere inbetween. The crowd want to cheer him BECAUSE he's a cocky know-it-all. He's a genuine star in the making and it'd be an absolute honor to watch him headline yet another Bound for Glory.
As for my personal pick, this has to be the most difficult year to peg a clear winner. The 2013 Series is full of former winners and prized main event players, all with extremely plausible chances of victory. It's almost easier to pick who WON'T win, as you can spot a jobber a mile away. For example, Bradley, Hernandez, Park and Kazarian are a definite no. Leaving two thirds of the competition just as likely to succeed. I'd absolutely love to see Styles, Aries, Roode or Daniels challenge for the Title, but in their current roles, they're a fundamental mismatch with the likes of Bully Ray. Anderson is already the Champion's running mate and Hardy won the Series last year, leaving him nothing to prove.
Ultimately, the former Tag Team Champions of Samoa Joe and Magnus are my top two picks for this year's series. Their work together has clearly impressed the TNA brass and it's paying off with two hearty pushes to the top of the card. Which of them gets the final nod I assume will be decided by the manner in which Sting's new Main Event Mafia plays out. Rumours suggest Joe being a potential member, making him a perfect fit to fulfill the Icon's personal vendetta against the World Champion. Alternatively, there's no better story in Professional Wrestling than a young man in his first pay-per-view main event, triumphing against the odds and raising the World Title high for all to see. For that, Magnus is a shoe-in.