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It has been a tough last few weeks for TNA. First they released a large amount of their on air talent, culminating in the release of Senior Vice President of Programming and Talent Relations Bruce Pritchard. Then, at a house show in Missouri last Saturday, TNA somehow forgot to make sure all of its talent had the proper documentation to wrestle in the state, forcing them to run a show with only a handful of talent.
In between those two catastrophes was the annual Destination X event, which was held for the first time on free TV, as opposed to ppv. The event was highlighted by the main event between Chris Sabin and Bully Ray for the TNA World Title. In one of the most unpredictable upsets this year, Sabin managed to pin Bully to capture his first TNA World Title. But, was Sabin winning the belt really such a good thing?
One reason a lot of fans were upset with the title change was that Chris Sabin was not really the guy a lot of people saw as championship material. Sure, Sabin is a good worker and a likeable enough talent, but is he a world champion? Probably not. I compared it to Kofi Kingston winning the WWE Championship, in that Kofi is a good enough guy, but he isn't nearly over enough to be considered for a world title run.
Part of the reason fans didn't think Sabin was worthy was because he had been booked so poorly leading up to his victory. Sabin came back from injury in late May and quickly captured the X division championship at June 2nd's Slammiversary ppv. A few weeks later, Sabin would lose the X division title to Austin Aries, only to regain it back the following week. If the guy couldn't hold on to the X division title, what should make fans think he can hold on to the world title?
Compare how they booked Austin Aries last year during his X Division cash in and subsequent title victory. Aries had held the X division title for 301 days, making him the longest reigning X division champion in TNA history. Aries was also getting over with fans unlike anyone else, and it was clear that he was going to be a major player in the company for years to come. TNA properly built him up, saw that he was getting over, and made him the champion to the delight of the fans. It is basically the exact opposite of what happened with Sabin.
The match itself didn't do Sabin any favors either. Bully Ray dominated most of the match, as Sabin only got in a few moves offensively. Sabin only really took over the match when he pinned Bully, when the Main Event Mafia got involved. So without the mafia, it is safe to say that Sabin wouldn't have even come close to winning the title, making his victory look like a total and udder fluke, which isn't the best way to get your new babyface champion over.
So why did Sabin get the title? A multitude of reasons have been speculated, some saying that TNA wanted the X division cash in to be looked at as a greater opportunity now that guys doing it have gone 2 for 2. Others think TNA wanted to surprise the fans with a huge upset, which they certainly did.
I personally think that they wanted to get the title off of Bully Ray for a little while. The Aces & 8's storyline has been losing steam and a change may have been needed. I think all of us can agree that Bully will get the title back sometime between now and Bound For Glory.
The issue with taking the title off of Bully is that they cannot put the title on someone who is in the BFG series, because then what would be the point of them competing in the series if they were already the champion? Since the BFG series consisted of almost every main-event player in TNA, the pickings for a new champion were very slim. So they gave it to a guy who had been in TNA for over a decade and had worked hard to rehabilitate himself from multiple knee surgeries.
It appears that Chris Sabin is going to have the Main Event Mafia standing behind him, as they supported his challenge and his victory was aided by the mafia. Normally this sounds like a good idea, as it has been stated before; Sabin doesn't really have the momentum to be a legitimate champion. However, the issue of Sabin being a part of the mafia is two-fold.
The first reason is that the Main Event Mafia has been horrendously presented on television so far. I know some fans may like the grouping, but personally, their antics on Impact last Thursday came across as more comedic than anything else. They all come out in suits, except for Rampage who was wearing a T-shirt, and Sting comes out and yells and makes zero sense with whatever the hell he is saying. Then Kurt Angle got trapped and wasn't thrown as much as he was herded into the back of a pickup truck, which then drove away with him in it. Of course, Angle would then come back from wherever he went with absolutely no explanation, just in time to help the mafia battle Aces & 8s during the main event. To me, it all just seemed like poor booking and even worse execution of a storyline for the show.
Secondly, Chris Sabin as a performer just doesn't fit the mold for a Main Event Mafia member. Sabin was at his best as an entertainer when he was in the Motor City Machine Guns, where he and Alex Shelley would be funny and engaging as a pair of snarky but loveable baby faces. During the match, Sabin stared steely eyed at Bully Ray, trying to look as serious and focused as possible, just like the Main Event Mafia. Watching Sabin do that reminded me of Jerry Lawler being a face commentator, just a guy trying to represent himself as something that he naturally isn't.
Sabin's world title reign has gotten off to a rocky first step, but perhaps he will turn it around and surprise us all at just how believable he can really be. I absolutely think that Sabin has the in-ring ability to have main event caliber matches, but it all depends on just how well TNA's creative can book him. Going by what we saw last Thursday, I wouldn't have too much faith in anything good for Sabin happening.