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If it was not for the X Division, TNA would not be around today. In the earliest days of the company, the X Division was the main drawing card for the company and got the organization off the ground. People were not paying money for the weekly PPVs to see Jeff Jarrett take on The Wall for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. No, people were paying money to see guys like AJ Styles, Jerry Lynn, Low Ki, Elix Skipper, Christopher Daniels and other elite high-flying wrestlers take on each other in the best matches around.
While clearly the staple that held the pages together in the early days, over the last few years, the X Division has fallen into mostly an afterthought in TNA. The once prosperous division has been watered down to only a few talents. Things have gotten so bad that when TNA wants to have any form of number one contenders match with more than two talents, they have to go outside the company to pick up any free lancers that they can get on the cheap to wrestle for title shots. I have nothing bad to say about Greg Marasciulo and Jigsaw, but how are fans supposed to take these guys seriously as contenders for the X Division Championship if they have literally only had one match in TNA before getting the shot?
It has become clear that in TNA, the X Division Championship has slipped to the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to booking. Gone are most of the storylines, and instead are just hastily put together matches that have very little build-up. Austin Aries just became the X Division champion. How did he get the chance to become the X Division champion? He just sort of got the match. It was announced one week in advance that he had the title shot, and then he uneventfully won the match. How lazy is that? At least have Sabin screw him during the first match and then have Aries win the title tonight at the Final Resolution TV special. Is that really that difficult to come up with?
TNA has always had a hard to describe relationship with WWE. On some occasions, TNA has publicly stated that they want to be very different from WWE. Conversely, TNA has shown that they realistically want to be just like WWE, even using eerily similar storylines and angles. If TNA really wanted to be different from WWE, they would push the hell out of the X division.
Under the national television scope, there is a big hole for Light-Heavyweight wrestling. WWE got rid of its Cruiserweight Division a while ago, and the aerial wrestlers that they do bring in have watered down move sets because most talents the WWE employs might not be able to work with them. TNA could really start to offer something different if they just re-affirmed their faith in the X Division and actually put some effort into booking the division.
Over the last few years, almost every single notable X Division wrestler has been released or used only very sparingly. Jay Lethal, Petey Williams, Alex Shelley, Homicide, Amazing Red and Consequences Creed are just some of the X Division names that have left TNA over the last several years. In the downsizing of TNA’s roster, the first ones to go are the X Division wrestlers, which shows just how much TNA management values that division.
Ridiculous booking has not helped matters for TNA and the X Division. The first major strike came when TNA decided that it would be a good deal to make Abyss the X Division Champion. After a predictably disastrous run as champion, TNA enacted a new weight limit on the division, which contradicted the long-time motto; “It isn’t about weight limits, it’s about no limits.” This was followed by several questionable aesthetic changes; including a rule that made it that every single X Division match had to be triple threat match, thus reducing the value and the novelty of a triple threat match in the process. Also, a bizarre idea which featured the referee wearing a helmet camera during X Division matches was quickly used and then discarded.
The idea that the X Division Championship could be cashed in for a world title shot was originally a good idea for Austin Aries. However, TNA took the wind out of their sails when they had Chris Sabin do the same thing, winning the world title from Bully Ray. The purpose of the move was to make the cash-in seem more legitimate now that guys were 2-for-2 in doing it. Instead, TNA had Chris Sabin have literally the worst world title reign in TNA’s history, before dropping the title back to Bully Ray. If anything, the title cash-in proved to be a great opportunity for a fluke win.
Fixing the X Division is actually a pretty simple solution. All that really needs to be done is for TNA to sign a couple of good independent talents and for more emphasis to be put on the booking of the division. The way the X Division works is that the action basically sells itself. They don’t need to do any earth-shatteringly deep storylines, just simple ideas that keep things flowing in a sensible direction from week to week.
The last major independent name that TNA signed was Austin Aries, and that was a pretty big surprise. TNA is short on cash right now, and adding new talents to the roster may not be in the cards, but to improve the X Division, some investments are going to be made. There are dozens of talented guys with plenty of experience that could help TNA out. Roderick Strong, Johnny Gargano, Chuck Taylor, Adam Cole, Rich Swann, Flip Kendrick, Mark Angelosetti and AR Fox are just some of the talented names that could help TNA out. Just find the ones that will work the cheapest and sign them.
The X Division was one of the reasons that made TNA special. Without it, TNA is not nearly as appealing as an alternative wrestling program. If TNA was interested in being different, than they would invest in the X Division, simple as that.