Characters: They could make or break a professional wrestler's career.
If given the proper persona to portray, a wrestler could easily ascend to the top of the heap and be a standout performer in the eyes of many.
Characters and character progression have occurred with most every wrestler today. It's what keeps those wrestlers on the minds of fans across the globe. AJ Styles' recent transformation from "The Phenomenal One" to "NO ONE" injected fans with a renewed interest in this TNA original.
Bobby Roode broke the proverbial glass ceiling when he embraced his selfish nature in late 2011, thus creating the "IT Factor of Professional Wrestling" persona, which led him to carry the TNA World Heavyweight Championship for a record-setting 256 days.
A former 23-time World Tag Team Champion rejuvenated his entire pro wrestling career when he betrayed his longtime tag partner and re-established himself as one big, bad Bully Ray. Not only will Bully Ray go down in history as half of one of the greatest tag teams in wrestling history, but he'll now go down in history as a former TNA World Heavyweight Champion and leader of one of the most dominant factions in company history as well.
These changes in character, no matter how big, small or natural they felt or may be to this day, were/are all effective. After 11 long years in TNA, having accomplished every feat imaginable, AJ Styles still gives fans a reason to care for him. Two prominent tag teams wrestlers, Bobby Roode and Bully Ray, with slight tweaks to their personas, were able to launch themselves to the top of the card and achieve World Championship status.
For every wrestler who does undergo meaningful, effective or interesting character progression, there will be those who fall by the wayside. As others have shined in their role, the chances of others seeing TV time or reaching championship status will be diminished.
While we've witnessed the likes of Bobby Roode, Bully Ray, AJ Styles, Austin Aries and now Chris Sabin succeed, we've also seen the likes of James Storm and Samoa Joe in particular fall into a state of irrelevancy.
Storm, rekindling his skill as an accomplished tag team wrestler, has joined forces with "Mr. Intensity" Gunner, and together they became TNA Tag Team Champions. Joe, on the other hand, has had a long fall from grace, especially when you consider how he burst onto the scene in TNA and lead a prominent role on TNA Impact for not only months, but years.
While Storm may be one quick heel turn away from seeing the main event once again, I'm afraid the same can't exactly be said for Samoa Joe. When the new Main Event Mafia feels their mission of ridding TNA of the Aces & Eights is accomplished, I think it's best for Samoa Joe to return back to his roots—to the X-Division.
It was in 2005 when one of the most dominant X-Division characters of all time arrived in TNA. He was nicknamed the "Samoan Submission Machine" with good reason and thrived on being the best. Management and fans alike were enthralled by this man's natural ability, as he mixed a rare blend of size, speed and strength never seen before in TNA's X-Division.
He put more truth into the motto, "It's not about weight limits, it's about no limits" than anyone else, and he remained undefeated for an incredible 18 months. He's Samoa Joe.
Unfortunately for Joe, his "Samoan Submission Machine" character only has so much depth. Be it heel or face, Joe is just out looking for a fight just because, well, that's what he does.
At some point shortly after 2008, Samoa Joe lost his way. Coming off a reign as TNA World Champion, it seemed as if Joe had reached the pinnacle of his career and everything that followed was just a downward spiral.
In 2009, it appeared as if Joe would add a new layer of depth to his character. Joe embraced a "Nation of Violence" in order to take the fight to the Main Event Mafia who ran roughshod over TNA. However, soon enough Joe traded that all in as he handed over the TNA World title to Kurt Angle and joined the very group that he had spent months upon months fighting against.
As Samoa Joe was given less prominent feuds and continued losing matches left and right from 2009 to roughly 2012, the aura of "The Samoan Submission Machine" had greatly died down. Samoa Joe had become a shell of his former badass self, and the likes of Matt Morgan, Bobby Lashley, Rob Terry, Gunner, Crimson and even Rampage Jackson didn't help in re-establishing Joe, as each man had their own private agenda used in establishing themselves as the residential badass in TNA.
Nowadays, it's odd to even consider Samoa Joe as a main-event talent. He's currently an upper-midcard guy at best with no real direction from TNA officials.
Currently in his third consecutive BFG Series and fighting a war with Aces & Eights since November of last year, Samoa Joe has just grown stagnant. We've seen Joe go down the same old beaten path against TNA's upper echelon of talent in the Bound For Glory Series for three years now. What Joe needs is something fresh, something that can garner some fan interest in him again. And that's where the X-Division comes into play...
In 2012 and 2013, the X-Division successfully launched two unlikely individuals into main event-caliber superstars for TNA Wrestling—the first being Austin Aries, and the more recent being Chris Sabin. Both reached the main event in similar fashion: Option C.
In July of each year from 2012 onward, the reigning X-Division Champion is given the opportunity to trade in the X-Division Championship for a chance at TNA's grandest prize: the World Heavyweight Championship.
This could be Samoa Joe's ticket, and a refreshing one at that, back to the main-event level in TNA. Already a perfect 2-for-2, Option C has proven capable of sending whomever the X-Division Champion may be into the main-event spotlight of TNA.
Based on that fact, and the fact that Samoa Joe has a history as a four-time X-Division Champion, it wouldn't be far-fetched at all to believe a story behind Joe's reintroduction into TNA's X-Division. It's bound to happen: a former X-Division star tracing back to their roots in order to get the opportunity so few have gotten and become TNA World Champion.
Placing Samoa Joe back into his old stomping ground would not only put Joe in a situation to have fresh feuds and new matchups, but it would also put an increased sense of importance on TNA's X-Division. We would see a former TNA World Champion returning to the X-Division in hopes of reclaiming what he once had in the past, and then re-launching himself to World title contention.
With Joe returning to the X-Division, it's obvious that the weight limit would be made invalid, which is a good thing for longtime TNA fans who recall the age-old motto often recited by Mike Tenay. While the weight limit is scrapped, it'd be best to ditch the three-way rule as well. The three-way rule has taken its toll on fans and rendered Triple Threat matches as something less than special or important.
A prime example of this rule would be the Aries vs. Sabin match a few weeks ago in Vegas. While originally a Triple Threat with Manik, it turned out to be a classic singles match and served as a refreshing change of pace from the three-way rule.
Being back in the X-Division, Samoa Joe could re-establish himself as a dominant force and true "Samoan Submission Machine" while producing fresh, new matches against guys like Manik, Kenny King, Zema Ion, Sonjay Dutt, Petey Williams, Rockstar Spud, Greg Marasciulo and more.
It doesn't look like Joe is in line for a future World title shot anytime soon, and he doesn't really click in any other feuds outside of the same old war against Aces & Eights. The idea of Joe going back to the X-Division has way more pros than cons, and the end result could see Samoa Joe as a worthy competitor to the TNA World Heavyweight Championship once again.
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