Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Pro Wrestling Truth Awards Part 2 - TNA Impact Wrestling Year In Review

2014 may have been the lowest point in the 12 year history of TNA Impact Wrestling. The guy they had built the company around, AJ Styles, left to New Japan & the Indies. The founder, Jeff Jarrett also made his departure. On top of that, they lost their TV deal near the end of the year although they thankfully would find a new one for 2015.

Despite all these negatives, there were several positives for TNA in 2014. The first being the signing of The American Wolves, Davey Richards & Eddie Edwards. The two had been tearing up the Independent Scene for quite some time and I'm sure everyone knew it was only a matter of time before they arrived in a mainstream company. Signing The Wolves was quite possibly the best decision TNA has made in awhile as they were a part of many of the best matches that took place this year. Most notably, the tag team title tournament with The Hardys & Team 3D which was without a doubt a classic series of bouts. The tag team division definitely shined this year aside from the idiotic decision to have James Storm & Abyss dethrone The Wolves in the latter part of the year. It's something that can be overlooked though because TNA was in a tight situation at the time.

The X Division also saw somewhat of a resurgence in 2014 as the Destination X TV Special on July 25th was one of the best events that TNA put on in the calendar year. It saw the returns of Low Ki, Homicide, & Brian Cage - all of which delivered in their respective matches. Samoa Joe also rose back to X Divsion prominence and reignited his classic rivalry with Low Ki by having several outstanding bouts. The most memorable one came at Bound For Glory where Joe, Ki, and Kaz Hayashi undoubtedly stole the show.

The Knockouts Divsion had its low and high points throughout the year while they still managed to stand out from the competition. Matches such as Angelina Love vs Gail Kim at Hardcore Justice perfectly exemplified what has made TNA's women's divsion so great over the years. The main highlight of the year came when Jessica Havok made her debut and became Knockout's Champion soon after. While Havok has yet to fully show the audience what she can do in the ring, I think 2015 will be a big year for her as well as the KO's divison as a whole. The only real negative of the KO's divison in 2014 came with the departure of Brittany/Santana Garrett. Hopefully TNA wises up and signs her back because she deserves world wide exposure.

The women's and tag division's weren't the only areas of TNA that saw new faces come on board in 2014. Stars such as Bram and Samuel Shaw both shined in various stages of the year, particulary Bram. His series of matches with Abyss really put him over the top for me as the next hardcore wrestler in TNA. Samuel Shaw's character was fantastic to begin with however it began to lose steam in the latter part of the year. Regardless, both men have potential to be major players in TNA in the coming years.

Speaking of major players & the future of TNA, let's talk about EC3 for a moment. He was undoubtedly one of the main reasons to tune in this year because he played his character perfectly and delivered some great promos. However, I felt like he was capable of doing so much more than he did. EC3 was one of the best things about TNA in 2014, then again the way he was handled may have been one of the more disappointing things. He only had one or two standout matches and being placed in a feud with Spud isn't necesarilly the proper place on the card for a star the caliber of EC3. If allowed, he could lead the company into the future.

This article isn't about the future though. It's about the past year and the past year was dominated by two men named Bobby - Bobby Roode and Bobby Lashley. Aside from the tag title series, Lashley's title reign was arguably the best thing to take place in TNA this year. I never thought Lashley would do as phenomenal of a job at being World Champion as he did. Each one of his title defenses were quality bouts worth going out of your way to see. Whether it was Jeff Hardy, Austin Aries, or Eric Young - they all made Lashley look like a monster and the result was a bunch of great matches.

As for Bobby Roode, he began the year in a feud with Kurt Angle which featured some fantastic mic work. The year would roll on and Roode would begin his hunt for the World Title which resulted in some quality matches with Eric Young. Roode ended up getting "fired" and returned as a babyface which turned out to be a nice change of pace. Roode spent the second half of the year feuding with Bobby Lashley over the World Title which in turn produced some of the best matches in TNA in recent memory.

With all the aformentioned divisions and areas of the product having standout performers, who made the cut in my Top 10 TNA Stars of the Year list? Let's find out!

Top 10 TNA Stars of The Year

1) Bobby Roode

As mentioned before, Bobby Roode was the one TNA talent that delivered quality performances throughout the year. Roode has been the best overall performer in TNA for quite some time and he continued to further that reputation this year. Despite TNA facing hard times, Roode never failed to put forth his best effort which made nearly every segment/match that he was involved in, must see TV. The whole year was arguably built around someone stopping MVP and Roode regaining the World Championship. TNA made a great decision by choosing to incorporate the two stories together by turning Roode into a face after his feud with Kurt Angle. It was a huge change for Roode's character, but it worked extremely well as Roode closed out the year with the World Title around his waist.

2) Bobby Lashley

2014 was arguably the best year in Bobby Lashley's professional wrestling career. Not only did he win the TNA World Championship, he also developed into one of the greatesr performers in mainstream wrestling. TNA positioned him as an unstoppable force and he portrayed that perfectly. From an in-ring aspect, Lashley had the most memorable matches of his career against the likes of Jeff Hardy, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode, & Eric Young. I enjoyed Lashley's title reign just as much or more than other TNA World Title reigns from the past. I personally can't wait to see what's next for Lashley because he's on a hot streak coming out of this year and I hope he's featured just as prominently in 2015.

Last year's ranking: N/R

3) Bully Ray

Bully Ray came in at #1 on this list last year as he was arguably the best thing about TNA in 2013. While he wasn't around the main event scene as often this year, he certainly had another landmark year in his illustrious career. Whether it was his feud with EC3 that included a brutal Texas Deathmatch and resulted in him putting Dixie through a table or his involvment in the classic tag title series - Bully proved that he still has what it takes to hang with all the young guns in wrestling today.

Last year's ranking: #1

4) Eric Young

Much like Lashley, Eric Young had one of the best years of his career in 2014. The year began with EY having an intense relationship/feud with Abyss which made for some entertaining television. However that was nothing compared to what would happen months later as EY would defeat Magnus to become the TNA World Champion. It was during this time that Young was able to showcase how great of a wrestler he really is. Whether it be the hardcore matches that he had with Abyss or his highly competitive bouts with longtime friend/rival Bobby Roode, they were all among the best matches of the year.

5) EC3

As I said earlier, I have mixed feelings on how EC3 has been handled thus far, but that's neither here nor there because he had a huge year regardless. Victories over Sting, Kurt Angle, and Bully Ray are nothing to scoff at. When EC3 got signed to TNA, I felt like he could be a future top star and this year he proved that he was capable of doing so. I hope to see Ethan Carter III take that next step up to the main event scene in 2015.

6) Samoa Joe

The Samoan Submission Machine has had many ups & downs during his time in TNA yet he still manages to remain relevant. That was once again the case this year as he got gold around his waist by winning the X Divsion Championship for the first time since 2007. Joe's title reign brought some much needed attention back to the X Divison and his matches with Low Ki & Kaz Hayashi were among the best this year. The way he surrendered the X Division title near the end of the year left his future in TNA questionable so I'm not sure what to expect from him going forward.

7) Austin Aries

A Double is quite possibly TNA's best acquisition over the last few years. Alongside Roode, he's one of the best overall performers in the company. Charisma, in-ring skills, the look - he's got it all. This year saw Aries have a good bit of success although it was nowhere near his best work. He won the X Division Title yet again and had some fantastic matches with Senada before taking up on Option C. This led Aries to a World Title Match with Lashley in which he lost, but he certainly looked strong in victory and gave Lashley one of his best matches ever. Aries doesn't have much direction going into 2015, but I have faith that TNA will give him a meaningful role because the company wouldn't be the same without him.

8) James Storm

James Storm is a guy that TNA has always been able to count on. He may have lost some steam in the past year with his character growing somewhat stale however he still delivers in big match situations. His "I Quit" Match with Gunner is the perfect example. It was one of the best bouts this year and he made Gunner into a star thus showing how valuable of an asset that Storm is to TNA. The latter part of the year saw Storm turn heel which I think was a good move because his run as face was going mild. While the heel turn was a good move, the direction they went by forming "The Revolution" confused me. While I'm still not sold on it, I've enjoyed more than I thought I would. Placing Storm with young talent like Manik is definitely a good move plus having him as a mouth piece for Sanada may get him over as more than just an outstanding wrestler. Now that I think about it, I'm really interested to see where Storm goes in 2015 because I think he's been placed in a position to create new stars and that's something I can't complain about.

9) Magnus

Magnus had quite possibly the most disappointing year in all of pro wrestling. His TNA World Title reign was HORRIBLY booked and could best be described as a failure despite being put over by AJ Styles in early January. As if things couldn't get worse, Magnus shuffled down the card after losing the World Title. He began teaming with old friend and new face to TNA, Bram which allowed us to see another side of Magnus although I think Bram shined moreso than Magnus did. I hope Magnus can recover in 2015 because he was looked upon as the next big thing in 2013 and he completely fell flat this year when placed as the top guy in the company. The blame isn't all on him though. Magnus did the best he could with what he was given and deserves all the credit in the world for doing so.

10) Low Ki

The World Warrior made his triumphant return to TNA in July and has certainly made an impact, no pun intended. He's produced several of the most entertaining matches of the year and even regained the X Division Championship. Ki retired from wrestling for awhile so I was unsure how he would fare, but he proved that he's just as crisp as he ever was. Heading into 2015, Ki is representing TNA as the X Division Champion and I'm not sure if there's anyone on the roster who can beat him. With that being said, 2015 looks to be a big year for Low Ki.

Top 10 TNA Matches of the Year:
TNA certainly had their share of must-see matches this year. From the awesome episodes of Impact throughout the summer to their return to PPV, everyone gave 100% and the result were some great matches. Only ten could make the cut for this list however, so let's take a look at the elite contests that took place in Impact Wrestling this year.

1) The Wolves vs. The Hardys vs. Team 3D (Ladder Match) - Impact - September 10th

While most people prefer the Full Metal Mayhem Match, I think this was the best match in the entire tag title series. It was a trainwreck full of death defying spots like the Full Metal Mayhem bout, but to me, it flowed better and told more of a story. When watching the Full Metal Mayhem match it felt like it was just spot after spot for the sake of spots. None the less, this was definitely the best match in TNA this year. All the matches in the tag title series deserve your viewing because it's some of the finest tag team wrestling that the mainstream has seen in quite some time. This one in particular however is MUST SEE. Amazing match.

2) Gunner vs. James Storm (I Quit Match) - Sacrifice

2014 started off pretty shabby for TNA although this feud is what kept me tuning in each week. From Storm assaulting Gunner's dad to spitting on the Dallas Cowboys, this was quality stuff every week. The rivalry did feel a bit drawn out however this was a fitting end to one of the best feuds in recent Impact Wrestling history. These two just beat the hell out of each other in a match more brutal than anything you'll see in WWE nowadays. Gunner's starmaking performance here.

3) The Wolves vs. The Hardys vs. Team 3D (Full Metal Mayhem) - Impact - September 17th
Although I did do my share of pointing what I didn't like about this match when discussing the Ladder Match earlier in this list, this bout was still one of the best of the year. It was without a doubt a four star affair and is something you should go out of your way to see. Full Metal Mayhem is basically TNA's version of TLC and these three teams took full advantage of the stipulation. The tag title series really raised the prestige of the TNA World Tag Team Titles and this match exemplies why as The Hardys, The Wolves, & Team 3D tore each other to shreds over the belts.

4) Samoa Joe vs. Low Ki vs. Kaz Hayashi - Bound For Glory
It's been awhile since I was able to say there was an X Division match worth going out of your way to see however this year there were many of them. The one match that you have to see is this one. Two X Division legends and a Japanese superstar battling it out in a match that stole the show on TNA's Bound For Glory PPV. There's not much else I can say because the action here speaks for itself and I'm sure you can tell how good it was just based on the names involved.

5) Bobby Lashley vs. Bobby Roode - Impact - September 17th

I've been thinking it for awhile and I'll just go ahead and say it. This was the best match in Bobby Lashley's career thus far. It told a phenomenal story and Lashley had been built up so well that when Roode had him on the ropes, it brought everyone to the edge of their seats. The slam over the top rope to the outside was one of the most vicious bumps I've seen and put on display how important the TNA World Title was to these two men. Fantastic match.

6) Gunner vs. James Storm (Last Man Standing Cage Match) - Lockdown

Here we have yet another match from the Storm/Gunner blood feud. Much like the "I Quit" Match, this was very brutal and rightfully so. This feud was quite personal and stipulations like this is the perfect way to settle it. Extremely physical match that saw both men get taken to their limit.

7) The Wolves vs. The Hardys - Destination X

This dream match was the opening contest of an evening filled with great action yet it managed to steal the show. The Hardys proved themselves to be just as good as they ever were by hanging with The Wolves from bell to bell in this awesome match. With so much hype leading up to it, this one definitely lived up to expectations and foreshadowed the epic tag title series that was on the horizon.

8) Bobby Roode vs. Eric Young - Impact - May 1st
Bobby Roode & Eric Young are two men that entered TNA at the same time and have crossed paths on my occassions. With that being said, it should have been no surprise that these two had such great chemistry yet somehow they blew me away in this match. I figured it'd be good, but I had no idea it would reach the level that it did. Great match between two long time friends and rivals.

9) The Wolves vs. The Hardys vs. Team 3D - Tables Match

This was the second match in the tag title series and while it may be looked at as the weakest, it just goes to show how mindblowing the other matches in the series were. On it's own, this is a very well executed tables match. They did an outstanding job teasing someone going through the tables which made it feel big when the ending finally came. Another quality bout from the tag team title series trio.

10) Austin Aries vs. Kenny King - Slammiversary

For fans of pure wrestling, this was a dream match and while it wasn't a MOTY candidate, it certainly provided the action that I hoped it would. A series of matches with Aries would be a cool thing to do because this one left me wanting to see more of these two in the ring together. It would also make King into a star because he walked out of this match looking better than when he went in and I can only imagine how great a full fledged feud between these two would be. None the less, this was a good match that I definitely will look back on in the future.

Looking Ahead to 2015:

Well, 2014 is officially in the books for TNA. As mentioned before, it was a rocky road yet they managed to stick it out and I'm glad they did. 2015 looks like it will be a huge year for them on paper. They are moving to a new network that seems eager to work with them. They will have three different shows starting in January. Impact on Friday Nights, "Unlocked" on Saturday mornings, and a "Greatest Matches" series. I'm certainly excited to see what Impact Wrestling has in store for the wrestling world as they attempt to reboot. As I've said many times before, I think a boom period is coming for pro wrestling and TNA could play a big part in that if they get their stuff together. Thankfully, it looks like they're doing just that because I'm just as excited for what will happen with them in 2015 as I am for NJPW and WWE. One thing is for sure, we'll find out what TNA is all about on January 16th at 9pm on Destination America, don't miss it!
Thanks for reading and be sure to follow me on Twitter @EthanPWT and this blog @ThePWTruth! I'd also like to think @Horse_bot3000 on Twitter for helping me compile these lists!
I do not claim rights to any of the photos used in this article. They all belong to their respective owners.

No comments:

Post a Comment