Next week's Impact Wrestling, live from St. Louis, MO is a special No Surrender edition where we find out who will be facing Bully Ray for the World Heavyweight Championship at Bound for Glory. Their options are AJ Styles, Magnus, Bobby Roode and Austin Aries.
Let me rephrase that: their option is Magnus.
Roode and Aries are out, unless TNA throws all manner of storytelling out the window and goes for a swerve. Both have been working programs with Kazarian and Chris Daniels for months. The obvious blow-off seems to be Bound for Glory.
The inevitable final round match between Magnus and AJ Styles will be a pass/fail test for TNA Wrestling. Whoever TNA picks to win that match will reflect what matters most to them as a company. They have to decide whether their biggest event of the year will be about nostalgic veterans, or building the future.
The story for AJ was set up a year ago when he lost to James Storm. He'd still be a pseudo-heel right now, if Kurt Angle didn't find himself in rehab. And to TNA's credit, the content they've booked for AJ has been compelling. He's an 11-year veteran who has been down on his luck – not the way John Cena was "down on his luck" in 2012 either. He's done a good deal to try and freshen up his character and put the company back on his shoulders, as he has said; if he wins the world title, that vision would be complete.
It's a nice little story, but is it more important than making a new main event star?
Magnus is a great worker. Not just with guys he likes, either. He's positioned himself as a top prospect in the company, but needs his first big break to cement himself as a credible main event star. AJ Styles has had dozens of those moments; the Brit has had zero. Like I said, it will all come down to what TNA perceives as being more important. The PPV likely won't sell differently regardless of who is in the main event.
On October 24th, the first Impact after Bound for Glory, there's going to be a new world champion. Bully's time as "the man" is coming to an end. He'll stick around, and probably continue to be one of the best things about TNA Wrestling week after week, but it's time to shake things up again. So the question is, on October 24th, do we go back to the status quo for a fifth AJ Styles title reign, or do we look to the future?
I'll give you a hint: TNA is going back to the UK in early 2014, and there's only one right option as to who should be holding the gold when they get there. It's not AJ Styles. It's not Chris Sabin, who in my opinion has been irreversibly damaged by bad booking in the last two months.
Side note: Sabin used a hammer to win the world title, after getting the crap beat out of him for 20 minutes. TNA can't try and paint a picture like he "didn't need to use it" when they booked him to come out of that match looking like a chump. He used the same hammer again this week, then threw a tantrum backstage when he – SHOCKINGLY – got disqualified. Babyfaces pretending to be pissed off when they blatantly do something illegal is one of my biggest pet peeves in wrestling. This is stupid booking. It makes zero sense, and all it does is make Sabin look like a whiny heel. Velvet Sky's twitter account isn't helping either.
Do I think Magnus is ready? Not quite. But he'll have an entire month alongside the likes of Sting and Samoa Joe to get ready. He can use the ongoing Man Event Mafia feud with the Aces & Eights (or what's left of them) as a vehicle to get there. The TNA fans are definitely ready to receive him as their top babyface, whether they realize it or not. When I was at Impact in Chicago a few months ago, outside of Samoa Joe, Sting and the Hogan family, Magnus was pulling by far the biggest pops of the night.
Bound for Glory 2013 has the potential to be like WrestleMania 21, which I will always remember as a young teenager, for John Cena's first WWE Championship win against John Layfield. Magnus won't be for TNA what Cena has been for WWE for the last decade, but the booking is similar. JBL had his "cabinet" in his pocket. He was the longest reigning champ in Smackdown history. He was easily the most hated heel of the last several years, at the time, and was an old veteran who had reinvented his entire career late into the game. I don't remember Cena or JBL's match being any good, but you'd be a fool not to see what the outcome did for the business.
Last point: Dixie Carter recently said the talent releases are about talent, and not the finances. The locker room clean-out has been about doing what is right for business, and spending money in smart places, to build the future of the company. So IF that is true, which I'm not entirely sold on, that's encouraging news for TNA. That's a decision I can actually support, and get behind. But it also assures me all the more that Magnus needs to win the BFG Series.
Think about it. If the recent talent cuts and decisions of TNA haven't been about finances, but rather about doing what is best for the future, then that means holding out on AJ Styles' request for more money wasn't about…well, money. It was about deciding, is he worth it? Is the future of the company going to improve by keeping AJ on, and paying him more? Or can we use that extra money elsewhere to bring in new talents, or improve conditions for other workers?
So if next Thursday AJ Styles wins the Bound for Glory Series, Dixie Carter is going to have to fire up the old #AskDixie engines and answer me this question – If you even had to think about whether giving AJ more money was good for the future of TNA, why is he in the main event of the biggest show of your year?
Also, Dixie, if you're looking for a social media manager, I'm available.