The following is the third of a series of articles designed to discuss the serious issues that face Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling as fans prepare for the return of Hulk Hogan to prime time, professional wrestling television.
Every single championship in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), and their respective champions, are worthless.
I was going to weave an elaborate opening statement that expressed my sentiments towards our desire to recognize the best and brightest in our world today.
All of that pomp and circumstance is unnecessary, however, and I'm choosing here to jump straight to the point.
Point No. 3—TNA Should Make Their Championships and Champions Relevant
TNA was once affiliated with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), the governing body for a group of independent wrestling promotions scattered around the United States.
In its early days of existence, TNA leased the NWA World Heavyweight and World Tag Team Championships from the governing body, thus exempting TNA champions from defending these titles regularly against contenders in various NWA territories.
In May 2007, the agreement between the NWA and TNA ceased, allowing TNA to create its own set of championships.
Once the company parted ways with the NWA, they created and established six championships exclusive to the company: the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, the TNA X-Division Championship, the TNA Women's Knockout Championship, the TNA World Tag Team Championships, the TNA Knockout Tag Team Championships, and the TNA Legends/Global Championship.
Since 2002, TNA has crowned 111 champions, which includes the reigns of NWA-TNA Heavyweight and Tag champions. This is roughly 15.8 champions per year of its existence.
With almost 16 champions per year, we have not taken into account the storylines that went along with these championship reigns, the number of superstars that have held the titles multiple times, how long they held those respective titles, the superstars that were defeated in the championship matches, what type of matches the belts were acquired or defended in, and a plethora of similar variables that affect the significance of a particular title.
Also, we must consider that with 15.8 champions per year and six championship titles, there have been roughly two champions per title, per year. If you take away the NWA-TNA Championship reigns, you have 61 champions crowned in two years, leaving you with thirty and a half champions crowned a year, five champions per title.
No matter how you look at the fuzzy math, it seems that TNA also suffers from reoccurring championship reigns much like the WWE.
For a company that prides itself on having a locker room filled with world-renowned and very talented athletes, its amazing how only two to five of these athletes have ever held championship gold since the inception of the company.
A great athlete brings competition and prestige to the championship he or she holds. However, poorly written story lines, lackluster gimmicks, and a haphazard booking style can turn even the most expensive championship title into the WWF Hardcore belt. That is precisely what TNA has done with all six of its championship titles.
Let's look at the current state of two of TNA's top championship titles and some of the issues they face today.
1. TNA X-Division Championship—Amazing Red (c)
The last time X-Division Champion Amazing Red was seen on TV was on the Nov. 19 episode of Impact!, where the he defeated Scott Steiner via DQ in a non-title match when everyone's favorite punch line nailed him with a lead pipe.
There are so many things wrong with this picture that I don't know where to begin. For starters, it is a tragedy that the oldest title in your company is not featured as prominently as it should be.
Clearly, the X-Division separates itself from anything and everything the WWE offers, and it hasn't been showcased in a month?
Not to mention that your reigning champion, a two time X-Division champion that ranks in the top ten longest combined reign X-Division champions (out of the 41 X-Division champs in the company's seven-year history), has not only been missing in action for a month, but last faced a man that is 133 pounds heavier, seven inches taller, and 20 years older than himself. Are you serious?
I know what you're saying. "It's about no limits, Ash." I'll give you that one.
Look at the roster TNA considers to be in its X-Division: Homicide, Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, "The Pope" D'Angelo Dinero, Suicide, "Black Machismo" Jay Lethal, Consequences Creed, Kiyoshi, Rob Terry, Shark Boy, and Matt and Nick Jackson (the newly signed tag team, The Young Bucks).
Out of all these talented X-Division stars, you book your X-Division Champion to face Scott Steiner? And then you write him and his championship out of the show for a month after he wins the match? That is just plain stupid.
TNA should really revamp their dying X-Division if they really want to be an alternative and competition to the WWE's stale product.
Click here to see what Kurt Angle, arguably the company's top star, had to say about the X-Division in June 2009. I love this particular article, because Angle brings up another valid point I'll elaborate on in a later piece here on B/R.
2. TNA World Heavyweight Championship—AJ Styles (c)
TNA has done a piss-poor job of making AJ's fourth reign as TNA World Heavyweight Champion relevant to fans around the world. I'll get the most painfully obvious fact out of the way.
Styles' feud with Christopher Daniels has more to do with personal issues between the two superstars than it does with the belt. The angle is more about Daniels' lack of a push than it does with Daniels being the No. 1 contender to the title.
That honor goes to Bobby Lashley, who defeated Robert Roode in the final round of the TNA Championship Series (TCS) Tournament that took place on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 2009. Bobby Lashley's victory earned him a future shot at the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
But wait, during December's Final Resolution pay-per-view, Samoa Joe captured the briefcase in the annual Feast or Fired Match containing a guaranteed future title shot for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Wouldn't that make him the No. 1 contender for the title?
Seeing as Daniels lost his match against AJ Styles at the Final Resolution pay-per-view, he shouldn't be in the top three No. 1 contender rankings.
The poster for the TNA Genesis pay-per-view prominently features AJ Styles and Kurt Angle, which would lead one to believe that the two will face each other on Jan. 17, 2010. If this is so, we can assume that Kurt Angle is the No. 1 contender.
That distinction should go to the last person to pin the champion...Christopher Daniels during a tag team match on the Nov. 19 episode of Impact!
To recap how convoluted the World Heavyweight Championship scene is in TNA, champion AJ Styles has four number one contenders to his title: Bobby Lashley, Samoa Joe, Kurt Angle, and Christopher Daniels.
I forgot to mention that out of these four contenders, two of them have already held the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. At 30 years old, Samoa Joe is the youngest contender, with Bobby Lashley following close behind at 33 years old.
Way to push your young superstars, TNA.
AJ Styles made his debut with TNA on June 19, 2002, and is arguably the heart, soul, and face of the company.
Since then, Styles has held the NWA-TNA World Heavyweight Championship on three occasions, and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on one occasion. Styles' last reign as champion before his current reign was in May 2005.
Styles' combined three-time reign as NWA-TNA World Heavyweight Champion was 196 days, which is a little over six and a half months. Add to that his current reign as TNA World Heavyweight Champion (196+102), and you get 298 days. This equals close to ten months.
After spending seven years with TNA as the most recognizable face in the company, as well as being one of its founding fathers and most gifted athletes, Styles' hard work and dedication have been thus far rewarded with four title reigns that add up to less than one year.
At 31 years of age, Styles has spent a little less than 14 percent of his TNA career as heavyweight champion.
John Cena made his television debut with the WWE on June 27, 2002, and has since then become the current heart, soul, and face of the WWE's PG-era.
Since then, Cena has held the WWE Championship on five occasions, and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on two occasions. Cena's last reign as champion was in October 2009.
John Cena's combined five time reign as WWE Champion was 863 days, which is a little over two years and four months. Cena's combined two time reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion was 105 days, which is about three and a half months. Add those two reigns together (863+105), and you get 941 days. This equals close to two years and seven months.
After spending seven years with the WWE, and becoming the current generation's "Hulk Hogan," and easily the current most recognizable face of the company, Cena's hard work and dedication have been thus far rewarded with seven title reigns that add up to two years and seven months. At 32 years of age, Cena has spent 38 percent of his WWE career as heavyweight champion.
To simplify this fuzzy math, we could say that Cena has a major championship for every year he's been employed with the WWE.
Styles, on the other hand, has a major championship for every year and nine months he's been employed with TNA.
To be perfectly honest here, this is a travesty. Styles, an athlete who has way more ability and knows more wrestling maneuvers than Cena, lags behind him severely when it comes to championship reigns.
In effect, John Cena can do in one year what it takes AJ Styles almost two years to accomplish. That, my friends, is all TNA's fault.
Why is it TNA's fault? Look at how Cena and Styles are marketed. Cena has starred in several movies and been featured on several talk shows, has defeated a vast array of opponents in the WWE, and appeals to multiple demographics, specifically children, young women, and mothers.
Cena has also been one of WWE’s major merchandise sellers for the last five years, and has fulfilled more wishes from the Make-A-Wish Foundation than any other entertainer ever.
AJ Styles, on the other hand, appeals more to the demographic of die hard fans that have followed his career since his days in ROH or enjoy his athleticism and innovation in the ring.
He continues to live up to his moniker as a "phenomenal" athlete, and has been featured on MTV's Made. He was also integral in the development of TNA’s first console video game, TNA Impact!
I'm sorry, but that's just terrible marketing on TNA's part. Cena may or may not be able to wrestle, but he makes money.
Styles can wrestle like none other, but TNA refuses make money off of him. The difference is that even without a championship belt, John Cena is still marketed as if he were the champion.
Styles is just another great athlete in TNA, and thus the company does not market him as more than that, even with him being their World Heavyweight Champion.
The championship suffers because TNA has no clue how to market AJ Styles as the champion. If the championship suffers, then fans have no reason to spend their money on the "face" of the company.
If fans don’t spend money on the “face” of the company, then they will probably spend even less on the company as a whole. Guess who loses in that exchange?
The bottom line is that TNA has to do a better job at making their champions and their respective titles mean something to the fans.
Athletic ability can only go so far in a company that wishes to showcase its product to a wide variety of fans, and a championship means very little if the company cannot put its money behind a champion that they don’t market through merchandising and various media outlets.
As shown here through TNA’s X-Division and World Heavyweight Championships, the company has a long way to go in regards of making at least their top two championships worth something.
Hulk Hogan’s presence in the company must give value to all of TNA’s championships and champions. If Hogan is truly willing to step into the ring, then he must also be willing to do what is necessary to put over superstars such as AJ Styles and Amazing Red.
However, with strong the possibility of Sean “X-Pac” Waltman becoming your X-Division champ, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall becoming your World Tag champs, and Hogan and Flair vying for the World Heavyweight Championship, the new “Monday Night Wars” don’t look as promising as the red and yellow make things seem.