Will James Storm ever reclaim the TNA World Heavyweight Championship?
Since the start of my Pushed to Punished series in March 2011, I've been analyzing the controversial careers of past and present WWE Superstars. From Bobby Lashley to Zack Ryder, a total of 37 wrestlers have been featured in this selective series over the last three years.
However, in light of the treacherous times TNA has been experiencing as of late, I've decided to expand the series to the company down south. The first TNA talent I analyzed was Crimson back in July, and the second will be none other than James Storm.
Only a few short years ago, Storm was seen as one of the company's most promising rising stars. However, the former world champion has fallen far in the last two years and was left to waste away in the tag team division for the better part of 2013.
Here, I'll break down every peak and valley in the career of James Storm in an attempt to discover where exactly he went wrong.
With AJ Styles and Jeff Jarrett recently departing the company, there aren't many TNA originals left. However, among the elite few that are is James Storm, who was signed by the upstart promotion in June 2002 following a match against Chris Harris.
Coincidentally enough, the two ultimately teamed together and found immediate success as a tandem. They lit TNA's tag team division on fire and were a hit among the fans before turning heel in 2005, going on to win the NWA Tag Team titles a total of six times.
Although it was apparent that both competitors had very bright futures in singles competition, they were kept together due to their crazy chemistry as a unit. Their partnership spanned over four years before coming to an end on the December 14, 2006 edition of Impact.
From there, Storm embarked on a massive winning streak and proved to the world that he was more than capable of holding his own. He went countless months without suffering a single loss before losing to former friend Harris at May's Sacrifice pay-per-view, concluding their long-running rivalry in the process.
Now embarking on a career in singles competition, James Storm would first feud with Rhino in the summer of 2007. It was a clash of the lifestyles, as Storm is a well-documented heavy drinker while Rhino had been a former alcoholic.
At July's Victory Road event, Storm would pick up his biggest win up to that point over Rhino, albeit with the use of dirty tactics. While he was able to maintain his momentum by defeating Rhino for a second time in a Bar Room Brawl at Hard Justice, Rhino would get the last laugh with a win over Storm at No Surrender in September.
From there, Storm would move on to a feud with Eric Young over the Beer Drinking World Championship, a title not officially recognized by TNA. The two would trade the title a few times before Storm defeated Young in a Ladder match on the February 28 edition of Impact.
Storm was written out of storylines shortly thereafter and returned on the March 27 Impact, attacking Sting. They feuded for close to two months before Sting emerged victorious over the former Tag Team champion in a No Disqualification match that May.
Having feuded with three of the best competitors TNA had to offer at the time, it was quite clear that Storm was destined for big things in TNA. However, his future as a singles wrestler was put on hold that summer when Beer Money, Inc. was born.
Despite having no past history with one another, James Storm teamed up with Robert Roode on the June 12 edition of Impact to challenge LAX for the World Tag Team Championships but were unsuccessful. They would dub themselves Beer Money, Inc. before going on to lose to the likes of LAX, The Motor City Machine Guns and Samoa Joe and Kevin Nash in subsequent weeks.
It wouldn't be until August's Hard Justice pay-per-view that Beer Money would finally win the Tag Team titles from LAX, their first of many as a tandem. They would embark on a five-month reign as champions with successful title defenses against LAX, Team 3D and Abyss and Matt Morgan.
Beer Money dropped the straps to Jay Lethal and Consequences Creed on the January 8 edition of Impact before winning them back three days later at Genesis. They retained the titles against Lethal Consequences at Against All Odds the following month.
In April, Beer Money entered a feud with Team 3D, whom they lost the World Tag Team Championships to in a Philadelphia Street Fight at Lockdown. During the course of the rivalry, Roode and Storm earned the respect of Team 3D, turning face in the process.
They would go on to regain the gold yet again at Slammiversary in June before losing the belts to Booker T and Scott Steiner at Victory Road. For the remainder of the year, the former three-time Tag Team title holders chased the champions, but to no avail.
Going into 2010, Beer Money were featured on TNA Impact less and less often, mostly due to the arrivals of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. They defeated Kevin Nash and Syxx-Pac at January's Genesis event but disappeared from television shortly thereafter.
They returned on the March 8 edition of Impact, attacking Jeff Jarrett and claiming it was their way of making a name for themselves and getting noticed. In subsequent months, they would feud with the likes of Matt Morgan and Hernandez as well as Jeff Hardy and Mr. Anderson, losing to both tandems at Destination X and Slammiversary, respectively.
On the June 17 Impact, Ric Flair formed Fortune, a modern-day version of the Four Horsemen. James Storm and Bobby Roode earned their way into the group by defeating The Motor City Machine Guns on two separate occasions in late July, joining AJ Styles and Kazarian as members of the stable.
Beer Money's feud with The Motor City Machine Guns that summer would prove to be the best series of matches that they would ever have as a team. It was at a time when tag team wrestling in the company was at its best and the focal point of the show week in and week out.
Beer Money and the rest of Fortune quickly moved into a feud with the ECW originals, otherwise known as EV 2.0. Although they dominated the group for months on end, they came up short against them in a Lethal Lockdown match at Bound for Glory in October.
The very next week on Impact, Fortune aligned with the newly formed Immortal stable, consisting of Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, Jeff Hardy, Jeff Jarrett and Abyss.
Despite losing at TNA's biggest show of the year, Fortune went on to dispose of every member of EV 2.0 before they were all gone from the company. Beer Money captured their fourth World Tag Team Championships together by defeating The Motor City Machine Guns at the premiere pay-per-view of 2011.
After the original "They" arrived in TNA at 2010's Bound For Glory event, a second "They" was hyped to debut on the February 3 edition of Impact. On that night, Fortune revealed themselves to be the mysterious group behind it all, breaking away from Immortal and turning face in doing so.
Fortune feuded with Immortal in subsequent months, with Beer Money successfully retaining their World Tag Team Championships at every turn. Among the teams they knocked off were Matt Hardy and Chris Harris, British Invasion and Mexican America.
During the course of their title reign, James Storm and Bobby Roode were both announced as participants in the inaugural Bound for Glory Series. This involved 12 wrestlers competing in a series of matches to garner points in order to become the No. 1 contender to the TNA World Heavyweight Championship at Bound for Glory.
Despite all this, Roode and Storm remained on the same page. They eventually lost their straps to Mexican America on the Aug. 18 Impact, ending their reign at a record-setting 212 days.
Following their loss of the titles, they devoted more time in focusing on their respective singles careers. Both Storm and Roode qualified for the final four of the BFG Series at No Surrender, but Storm was eliminated from the tournament after losing to Bully Ray in the semifinals.
Roode went on to win the BFG Series and earn a shot at the prestigious prize at TNA's biggest show of the year. Although he was scheduled to wrestle at the event, Storm still aided Roode in his feud against Immortal in the weeks leading up to the show.
At Bound for Glory, Bobby Roode came up short against Kurt Angle in a match for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Four days later on Impact, Storm was granted a title match against Angle and won in under a minute, capturing the prestigious prize for the first time in his career.
The celebration that ensued immediately afterward was unforgettable, as all of Storm's stablemates in Fortune came down to celebrate his title win with him. The reaction he received that night from the fans in attendance was off the charts and proved that he was going to get over big as a babyface.
Two weeks later, Storm was set to defend his title against the new No. 1 contender and best friend, Bobby Roode. In a shocking turn of events, Roode smashed a beer bottle over the head of Storm and stole the TNA title, making The Cowboy the shortest-reigning world champion in company history.
This emphatic end to one of the greatest tag teams in the last decade triggered a raging rivalry that still lives on to this very day. Sure, Storm's reign probably shouldn't have been as short-lived as it was, but the loss of the title would put him in chase mode and would make the fans want to see him win it back even more.
An irate Storm invoked his rematch clause the next week but was unsuccessful in regaining the gold after being ambushed backstage prior to the bout. His attacker was eventually revealed to be Kurt Angle, whom he then entered a feud with for the next months.
The two faced off in a great match at Final Resolution, where Storm emerged victorious. However, Angle went on to win the rematch with the use of dirty tactics the next month at Genesis.
Storm defeated Angle in their rubber match on the January 12 edition of Impact and qualified for the Fatal 4-Way match for the TNA title at Against All Odds. At the event, Storm was unsuccessful in winning back the strap.
From there, Storm began feuding with Bully Ray, whom he defeated at Victory Road and again on the February 16 edition of Impact to become the new No. 1 contender to the TNA title. He rekindled his rivalry with Roode that April and faced him in a Steel Cage match at Lockdown but came up on the losing end.
On the subsequent edition of Impact, Storm cut a cryptic promo about taking his ball and going home. He may not have won the strap at Lockdown, but fans were certain that his chase for the championship was far from over.
At 2012's Slammiversary pay-per-view in June, James Storm made his unexpected return in a match against Crimson, ending his undefeated streak in singles competition at 470 days. Storm appeared to be in great shape and looked much more refreshed than before when he left two months prior.
He was announced as a participant in the 2012 Bound for Glory Series and scored 20 points right off the bat by winning a Battle Royal on the June 14 edition of Impact. He said that while he was gunning for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, he also wanted revenge on Bobby Roode.
Storm continued to dominate all of his competition in the months that followed, leading on the scoreboard for most of the series. He advanced to the final four at No Surrender, but similar to the year before, he lost to Bully Ray in the semifinals following interference from Roode.
Storm's story on the road to redemption was picture perfect in that he should have won the BFG Series and gone on to win the world title from Roode at the biggest show of the year. However, due to Roode dropping the strap to Austin Aries at Destination X in July, plans were changed and the Roode-Storm feud carried on without the title.
I, personally, was hoping to see Storm regain the gold at Bound for Glory that year, but it unfortunately wasn't meant to be. I was happy to see them face off at the event regardless, but it wasn't the same without a title on the line.
In their fantastic Street Fight at Bound for Glory, Storm defeated Roode once and for all, concluding their long-running rivalry in the process. The two met in a Triple Threat match also involving AJ Styles the next month at Turning Point, where The Cowboy emerged victorious to become the new No. 1 contender to the TNA title.
However, on that week's edition of Impact, Roode beat his former friend in a match where his title shot was on the line. This left Storm on the outside looking in yet again.
For the remainder of 2012, James Storm feuded with Bad Influence, defeating Kazarian in a one-on-one match at Final Resolution. However, Storm lost a No. 1 contender's match to Daniels the following month at Genesis.
Storm continued to feud with the former Tag Team champions before moving into a mini-feud with the returning AJ Styles in March. The two faced off in a match on the April 18 edition of Impact, which was won by Styles.
By May, Storm was still without any direction on the roster. He was placed in the tag team division and randomly paired up with Gunner, winning the World Tag Team Championships together from Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez at Slammiversary in June.
Despite having gold around their waists, Storm and Gunner were hardly featured on TNA TV. They rarely defended the titles during their time as champions before dropping the straps to The Bro-Mans at Bound for Glory.
They were also unsuccessful in winning back the titles on the Halloween edition of Impact. It was quite clear by this point that Storm was better suited for singles competition as opposed to tag team wrestling, where he had already spent a majority of his career.
After their loss of the World Tag Team Championships, the partnership of James Storm and Gunner began to deteriorate. Gunner unintentionally cost Storm a shot at the TNA World Heavyweight Championship when he "threw in the towel" for The Cowboy during his Florida Death match against Bobby Roode at November's Turning Point.
On the December 12 edition of Impact, Gunner betrayed Storm in a match for a Feast or Fired briefcase. The briefcase was eventually revealed to be for a world title match, causing Storm to grow even more jealous.
Both competitors teased turning heel in subsequent months, but nothing was ever made official. Storm was unsuccessful in beating Gunner for the briefcase on two separate occasions and has yet to overcome his obsession in winning back the prestigious prize.
On the Jan. 30 edition of Impact, Storm made amends with Gunner and went on to team with him to defeat Bad Influence in tag action. It is still unknown what the point of all of this was intended to be.
James Storm proved to the Impact audience during his short-lived time at the top that he was more than ready to be a main event star in the company. His excellent matches with Kurt Angle, Bobby Roode, Bully Ray and others over the years just goes to show that his tremendous talents shouldn't be overlooked any longer.
Around this time two years ago, Storm was contending for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Now, he is involved in a throwaway feud with Gunner that appears to be going nowhere.
Storm consistently receives some of the loudest pops of anyone in the company, so why not take advantage of that? There is no better time to push Storm to the top of the card, as the recent departures of AJ Styles and Sting have left massive gaps on the roster.
Having been a part of TNA for over a decade, one would think they would have already utilized Storm to his full potential. At the age of 36, Storm's days as an active in-ring performer are numbered, so I hope to see him back in the title picture where he belongs sooner rather than later.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on James Storm's career in TNA and what you think the future holds for him going forward. Also, include any potential topics you would like to see analyzed in upcoming editions of Pushed to Punished.
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Graham Mirmina, a.k.a. Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.