Everything finally came together at Lockdown, the Aces and Eights are all revealed, Bully Ray is the president, and more importantly, he's the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Congratulations to Bully, a guy who has completely reinvented himself and became a self-made star as a singles competitor. Forget Dolph Ziggler in WWE, Bully is the one stealing the show in TNA. When it first started, I don't think anyone really gave Bully a chance to succeed. I'll be one of the first to admit, I saw the Team 3D split as nothing more than not knowing what to do with them, but knowing neither guy was actually retiring. If anything, I actually thought it took away from the Motor City Machine Guns' win, when the focus should have been a bit more on Sabin and Shelley. Eventhough I liked Devon's 'Reverend' character, it was out of place in that version of WWE, and I really just hated Bubba's singles run over on RAW. I buy him as being a tough guy that won't take crap, but that first run just didn't feel organic.
Fast forward to Bully Ray; like I already said, it's been great so far and Bully proved every critic wrong. He's been great every step of the way; from feuding with Austin Aries to Joseph Park to Jeff Hardy and Hulk Hogan, Bully has been good and convincing and fun to watch. Bully is in the best shape of his life, his ring work is just as solid, but now he has the company behind him after proving he can be 'the man.' I have seen more than enough people comment on the situation and call him 'the best heel in the past ten years', and I'd have a hard time arguing anyone else's case. CM Punk, Bobby Roode, and a few others, sure, but they have different characters and views. Bully Ray is a dick, and he has no problems hurting people who stand in his way. It's natural, and it works.
So, Bully is the champion. Now what? Jeff Hardy definitely has a bone to pick with the guy who turned on him, and we'll probably see things continue on Thursday. Hardy is a great first defense for Bully not only because of the rematch clause, but because of their history, and because they play well off of each other. After Hardy, James Storm, Samoa Joe, Sting and Magnus could all try and be the one to restore order since they were/are Team TNA. Kurt Angle might be a good choice, but I think he'll be involved with Wes Brisco and Garret Bischoff for a while. AJ Styles, TNA's white knight, is returning this week, so he can be the next long term build that they put time into. I have heard 'this' AJ being compared to Sting during 1997 WCW, and sure you could draw comparisons, but it's not the same thing. WCW turned their backs on Sting after they thought he turned, and if recent memory serves correctly, AJ abandoned TNA for his own reasons, which he may or may not answer to this week. With that said, I do see AJ being the guy for the long term build, but it has to happen at Bound For Glory, not Slammiversary, because he was barred from title shots for a year. If they throw that rule out the window, then obviously plans change, but there is one main thing to remember: Hogan, stay the hell out of the ring.
Bully Ray earned his championship, but it is also a reward of his hard work and dedication. He has a stable behind him, he's back on good terms with his brother, and he's a hell of a bad guy. The Aces will serve him well, almost like a gauntlet of sorts to the eventual challenger, and they create other matchups for the rest of the roster. If I have to draw a negative conclusion (and I've heard the fans with many of them), it's that guys like Ken Anderson get lost in the shuffle, and Mike Knox and DOC get hated for being "WWE rejects." I don't hate to tell you, I'm glad to tell you, that they are both solid workers who deserve a shot after getting saddled with such crap gimmicks in WWE. I like that TNA is taking a shot with these guys, and I like that that Anderson has settled into a role after being bounced around so much early on. Maybe TNA does put too much into their 'big announcements' and that's their fault, but it's not the talent to blame.
I agree with fans who say Bully Ray is arguably the best heel in ten years. He gets heat everywhere he goes, and it's not forced. From Calfzilla to 'tha Tweetah' to screwing over the Hogan family, and even way back when he was putting Divas through tables and being extreme, Bully Ray gets it done. The difference between him and the other heels, is that they still get some cheers, and Bully gets major heat. People want to see him get his ass kicked because he deserves it. Good heels get booed; other heels or guys-they-want-heel-but-fans-want-face are 'cool heels' and get mixed reactions. Usually when guys win titles, they celebrate or get emotional, regardless of their character. Bully Ray didn't break for a second and kept going, and cut a great promo that got the rest of the crowd (apart from the plants) to throw trash in the ring. There will be plenty of time to go back to booing him, as early as this Thursday, but for now I'll just say congratulations, and we know who you are, champ.