It's a hard fact to digest, but it's the truth.
Austin Aries, "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived," has so far been a sub-par champion.
When he first won the TNA Heavyweight Title at this year's superb PPV showing, Destination X, many thought this would be TNA's chance to further legitimize the belt. It had already become arguably the most prominent world title of the "Big 3" wrestling promotions (WWE, TNA, and ROH).
This was done by not only showcasing the world title storyline regularly as the main event, but also by the stellar booking of the previous champion, Bobby Roode, who ran through all of TNA's top stars on his way to an historic TNA title reign at 256 days.
For Austin Aries, however, championship legitimacy was not meant to be the case. Since capturing the title from Roode, he has only defended the belt once, in a rematch with Roode. After that, well, that's been it.
Aries has been champion for two long months. If one were to include regular live shows along with PPVs, one sole title defense seems paltry at best.
Compare this to Roode's first two months. After capturing the belt from James Storm on Nov. 3, 2011, he would defend against Storm on the following week's episode of TNA Impact. After that, he moved on to A.J. Styles, who he beat just ten days later at TNA's next pay-per-view, Turning Point. He then defended it again against Styles on the following TNA Impact! episode; and then again, in December, at Final Resolution, where he beat Styles in a 30 minute Iron Man Match.
Comparing the two reigns, any fan of Aries would show concern.
However, there are two very good reasons for this disparity. One, the Bound For Glory series usually requires the champion to play a background role; he's not really needed. And two, Aries has had his hands full with TNA's main storyline—The Aces & Eights invasion.
At first glance, some may think the Aces & Eights storyline was only created to give Aries something to do while the BFG combatants fought over the number one contender's spot. But it's also very possible the A&8's concept may have been brewing as an idea for a while.
If you think about it, there was no reason for Roode to ever lose the belt before Bound For Glory 2012. He very well could have kept it for an entire year, still broke the record for longest Heavyweight Championship reign and met up with the series winner (most likely Storm) after a year of buildup between the two. But somewhere along the line, that idea must have seemed too predictable.
Also, there is something to say about the BFG series being kind of boring without some central storyline, either in the background or tying everything together. Wrestling purists may like to believe wrestling alone can carry a show, but in today's industry, can anyone say that's truly the case anymore?
So the invasion was concocted. But the problem with any invasion is that, well, the champ can't be a heel. Being a heel champ in an invasion means you are either a part of it, or you agree with it and remove yourself from the equation; neither option worked for Roode. So he had to lose the belt.
Is Aries a Transitional Champion?
It's very possible that Aries only has the belt right now because the A&8's storyline dictates it. It's not that big of a stretch seeing how little work has gone into making Aries look strong.
That being the case, what happens when the storyline is over? Is it possible that Aries is, and was always meant to be, a transition champion?
Of course, all of this will be settled at Bound For Glory 2012, when Aries faces the series winner Jeff Hardy. Either we will see him beat Hardy, retain his belt and finally begin his true reign as the face of the company; or he will lose and the much more marketable Hardy will take on the belt and the responsibility of protecting TNA from the invasion, which at that point will probably be revealed.
If that happens, look for Aries to be relegated back to the mid-card, a moment that would most likely cause horrified backlash from a very naive IWC.