AJ Styles, the TNA World Heavyweight Champion, left with the title and abandoned the company. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Styles became champion after defeating Bully Ray at Bound For Glory, TNA’s biggest pay-per-view show of the year. He was also embroiled in a sudden feud with TNA owner Dixie Carter. Carter, who knew Styles’ contract was up, tried to re-sign him. But Styles walked out and drove away from TNA.
Now, Styles is defending the title away from TNA Wrestling. He already beat Judas Mesias at AAA Wrestling in Mexico via Examiner. The Great Muta’s Wrestle-1 organization in Japan announced Styles will defend the TNA title against Seiya Sanada on November 16th via WrestleZone.
While Styles travels all over the world, Carter publicly declared Styles was not the TNA champion. She decided to organize a tournament to crown a new TNA champion.
If all this seems familiar, then it definitely is.
The WWE ran this same story two years ago, where CM Punk’s contract was up and the WWE frantically put up a title tournament only for Punk to show up two weeks later. However, there’s a difference with how TNA can run this storyline.
TNA and AJ Styles will make their dual champion storyline work. In fact, they already have.
Punk appeared at the San Diego Comic-Con and on an independent show for AAW, which gained notoriety for Punk praising Gregory Iron. Despite that, Punk only had a short rest. He didn’t even defend the title. Part of that blame should fall on the WWE for not creating enough main event stars at that time. If Punk did this today, it would’ve worked.
AJ Styles, on the other hand, already has. Keep in mind the WWE didn’t need the extra press. TNA needs all the help they can get. Amid rumors of change in ownership and poor attendance, TNA needs positive press. This storyline will be a good start for them. Styles and TNA accomplished the first step successfully, separating them while creating intrigue. The second step will be the prolonged inevitability. How long can they keep this going?
The current champion has yet to be determined, as the tournament is in high gear. Bobby Roode is already embroiled in a feud with Kurt Angle. Will either man become the new champion? Samoa Joe and Magnus are also in this tournament. Other established former champions should be in the mix. It could be Austin Aries, Jeff Hardy, Chris Sabin and former partner James Storm chasing for the title.
Keeping Styles away from the future champion (or interim, if you will) will be integral to the plot. It may be early, but Styles and TNA have already succeeded in their first step to making this story work. The hardcore fans are talking, and TNA is banking on its storyline. If they succeed, they will have created a storyline that will stand the test of time. That is just what TNA and AJ Styles needs.