It was only a matter of time before parallels were made between two of the industry’s most prominent and squeaky clean babyfaces.
It wouldn’t take much for any given fan—casual, hardcore, average or “extraordinary”—to recognize that both A.J. Styles and John Cena had terrible stints in their respective companies last year. While 2011-2012 saw the rise of unlikely champions in several pro wrestling promotions (CM Punk, Austin Aries, Johnny Gargano, Eddie Kingston, Kevin Steen, Colt Cabana and Adam Pearce), it also saw Cena and Styles play diminished roles in companies that had at several times in the past ten years relied heavily on their presence and activity.
For A.J. Styles, 2012 was a year that saw him as a suffering protagonist accused of engaging in adulterous and illicit activities with a pregnant “crackhead.” Once vindicated and redeemed, Styles then suffered a humiliating loss to his longtime on-screen friend-slash-rival, Christopher Daniels.
John Cena’s 2012 was mired by his bench-warming role in CM Punk’s historic yearlong WWE Championship reign. After suffering a devastating loss to The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII and surviving a brutal thrashing from Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules 2012, Cena found a sliver of hope in winning the 2013 Royal Rumble, awarding him the chance to face his rival for the second time in a lifetime.
As different as both instances were from each other, the John Cena and A.J. Styles characters (as well as the individuals portraying them) are traveling on similar highways at this point in their professional wrestling careers. Both characters have arguably suffered from severe stagnancy, a type of static complacency that resonated with few and nauseated most. With Cena relegated to inconceivably winning unimportant matches and incessantly spewing promos like a southern Protestant preacher or pee-wee football coach, and Styles meandering around aimlessly in a god-forsaken storyline like Howdy Doody in a Martian whorehouse, each character was on the fast track to irrelevancy.
It would become necessary, at some point, for the creative writers in TNA and WWE to evolve the Cena and Styles characters beyond the straight-laced, doe-eyed do-gooders they’ve portrayed for most of their careers.
It is assumed that the natural evolution of a “good guy” character means that they should inevitably be turned heel, made into a callous and uncaring “bad guy” that is the exact anti-thesis of what they once stood for. That often abused notion of duality, however, is what keeps most wrestling fans in their arena seats and not the plush and cushy creative director office chairs in a promotion’s front office.
Infamous wrestling guru Vince Russo once noted that he believed wrestling characters should mirror the “characters” of everyday life, noting that in life there were no completely “good” or “bad” people. To Russo, all people were a mixture of both good and bad, and if wrestling characters were to remain relevant they would have to resonate in the hearts of consumers. In other words, fans would cheer or boo people they felt were more like them (i.e. Stone Cold Steve Austin).
While Russo’s perception had it’s strengths and weaknesses, it raised a point that has surfaced in the John Cena and A.J. Styles characters. For each character to remain relevant a slight adjustment was all that was needed to provide fans with fresh faces in the stale seas of mediocrity they navigated.
A.J. Styles’ character represents retaliation, a notion of justice that’s needed to right the wrongs inflicted upon an unsuspecting individual who had lived by a disciplined code of morals and ethics. Styles’ character can be easily associated with the “Crow Sting” character from WCW after Hulk Hogan’s heel turn (something I spoke of in this piece); he can also be associated with the biblical character Job, a righteous man that found himself caught in a bet of sorts between God and the Devil.
John Cena’s character represents redemption, a response to an injustice that has occurred at his own hands. Cena’s character can be associated with Michael Vick more so than Donavon McNabb, as Cena’s downfall—the year he spent languishing in nothing in particular—was due to his own irresponsible behavior.
That being said one important question arises from these occurrences: which character has experienced the more compelling shift in evolution and priorities?
John Cena’s segment with The Rock on the March 25, 2013 edition of RAW was brilliant for several reasons, one of which was the brief glimpses of an arrogant, heelish John Cena that we haven’t seen since the rarely mentioned “Ruthless Aggression” Era. Cena was contemptuous in his resolve, admitting that his loss to The Rock was due to one simple-minded act that left him on his back staring at the lights. Cena was vehement in making it known that he defeated himself, which reveals to us a character that truly believes in the hype that has surrounded and dominated his career.
In that sense, the John Cena character is reminiscent of the real life Bret Hart, a man that honestly believes he is the end all, be all when it comes to professional wrestling. The implication from the words that came from Cena’s own mouth is that The Rock never defeated him; John Cena defeated himself.
The only reason The Rock scored the pinfall was because John Cena slipped on the goal line, allowing Rock to take advantage of the fumble to score the game winning touchdown. From this Cena contends that The Rock was never strong, talented or determined enough to truly beat Cena, that The Rock was still a Hollywood sell-out that doesn’t deserve to be in a wrestling ring.
This type of Cena is very different from the Cena that has openly admitted to losing to stars like CM Punk, Sheamus, and countless others. This type of Cena is the All-Star Varsity Team Captain who goes unpunished for violating the privacy and personal space of a cheerleader, simply because “she was asking for it.” This is the Cena that fans despise, that fans yearn and thirst to smack when they see him in the streets.
This is also the type of Cena that could snap when he loses to The Rock again, the type of Cena that could “injure” The Rock during his post-match celebration at WrestleMania XXIX. The injury would sideline the WWE Champion and force the WWE Title to be vacated, thus allowing for a reinvigorated and more edgy John Cena to find his way back into the main event picture while embracing the jeers of the crowd.
A.J. Styles, on the other hand, returned to IMPACT Wrestling two weeks ago after a lengthy hiatus following his embarrassing loss to Christopher Daniels at Final Resolution 2012. In the final moments of the match, Daniels utilized Styles’ own finishing maneuver, The Styles Clash, to gain the pinfall.
Prior to this match, Styles was the unlucky recipient of a pinfall loss in a triple threat match at Turning Point 2012 to determine the number one contender for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. As a result, Styles was locked out of receiving a championship match until Bound for Glory 2013.
Dejected and absolutely humiliated by Daniels’ victory (ironically, a victory gained in the same manner that caused John Cena to lose his match to The Rock), Styles appeared on the December 13, 2012 episode of IMPACT Wrestling and gave a bitter soliloquy in the middle of the ring disguised as an address to the fans.
Styles’ words that day were surprising at most, but effective nevertheless in planting seeds for an A.J. Styles that fans had never seen before.
Styles’ inner thoughts and feelings were revealed for the entire wrestling audience to consider (and are loosely quoted as follows):
I don’t know where I’m is going or what the next step is. I’ve spent too much time being a corporate man and worrying about everyone else that I forgot about myself. (While taking off his Impact Wrestling shirt and hat) I’m tired of cleaning up TNA’s messes and doing the right thing. From now on, I’m going to be doing my own thing (Styles drops the microphone and leaves the ring).*
When the broken and disenfranchised wrestler returned to IMPACT Wrestling on the March 14 episode, he attacked the two men that were the source of his year long consternation (Daniels and Kazarian) and James Storm, the man that pinned him at Turning Point 2012. These actions make him a social outcast, an outsider that has every justifiable reason in the book to walk around with a huge chip on his shoulder.
This A.J. Styles is a shell of the Phenomenal One that captured the hearts of fans for his years of dedication to TNA; this A.J. Styles is only concerned about what’s good for A.J. Styles because it seems that no one else really cares. This A.J. Styles spits in the face of TNA’s beloved authority figures. This A.J. Styles will climb to the top of TNA’s ladder of success just to throw it back into the faces of all his naysayers.
Ironically enough, this A.J. Styles is also the savior TNA will need to rid the company of the Aces and 8′s infestation come Bound for Glory 2013; unfortunately for TNA, he’ll be doing it for himself and not for the company.
So the question remains…which character is more compelling? Which character would you be willing to pay money to see?
A very profound thought struck me the other day concerning the current direction of AJ Styles and his character on IMPACT Wrestling. In order to accurately express that thought here in L.E.W.D. Booking 101, I have to go back to a conversation that took place several years ago.
I have a very close friend named James* who can best be described as a casual fan of pro wrestling. Although James doesn’t indulge in pro wrestling and sports entertainment as frequently as I do, he follows the product enough to have great and analytical conversations about wrestlers and promotions at any given time. While James was (and still is) fond of WWE, he always favored WCW’s product more, especially during the mythic Attitude Era. It was during this time that he reveled in the many antics of his favorite wrestler, the man they call Sting. Even to this day he gets particularly giddy and filled with girlish glee when discussing Sting; his favorite iteration of the superstar is the “Crow” Sting, a character based off of the movie made famous by action star Brandon Lee.
Seriously; to this day, James can recite the creepy little kid monologue verbatim from the Sting’s theme at that time.
Many years after WWE’s purchase of WCW and several versions of Sting later, I asked James to explain to me his fascination with this dark and brooding Sting character. More specifically I asked him to explain why so many other fans were absolutely in love with this Sting, let alone Sting in the first place. To loosely paraphrase what he said (mostly because he won’t email me what he said):
The thing about it is this: when Hulk Hogan turned heel—and you gotta remember that Hulk Hogan was the epitome of all that was right in the world, “Eat your vitamins and say your prayers” and all that s**t—it completely messed everybody up! The person that took it the hardest was Sting, because here was somebody who did the right thing his entire career, and the only other thing “right” in the universe was Hogan.
With Hogan joining the nWo, and half of WCW doing the same damn thing, Sting was absolutely mind-f***ed. So Sting disappears and when he comes back, he’s literally dead to everything on the inside, and then he just proceeds to brood all over the damn place. And that’s what made it cool, because even though it was a blatant rip off of The Crow, it made perfect sense because a lot of younger fans were feeling the same way because of Hogan’s heel turn.
And besides, that s**t was real cool too.
James’ words resonated in my mind the other day when I started thinking about TNA’s latest M.I.A. wrestler, AJ Styles. One thing led to another, and before you know it I had this epiphany: AJ Styles will be TNA’s “Crow” Sting!
At this point you should brace yourselves, because the next comment coming from yours truly will surely shock and surprise you: out of all the things TNA has conveniently borrowed from other promotions, this character development for Styles is perhaps the best idea they’ve
stolen come up with and will probably create the most compelling and interesting wrestler the company has ever had.
Don’t expect Styles to be phenomenal in the rafters of arenas around the country anytime soon. It is also highly unlikely that the company will attempt to turn Styles into a mini-Sting like they attempted to transform him into Lil’ Naitch Ver. 2.5 when Ric Flair joined the company. What is quite probable is the creation of a neat, tweener Styles character that will operate in the same spirit as “Crow” Sting so many years ago. If my epiphany has any merit, Styles’ new character will be somewhat similar to the heel character that John Cena could have been two years ago.
This epiphany came about when I started to connect the dots between two posts about Styles on the most trusted TNA fan site on the internet. The first post came on February 8 and was nestled quietly in a recap of a Dixie Carter interview during her appearance during a Bellator fight. Apparently the TNA President had an encounter with Styles at the event, an encounter were Carter described Styles as being “cold, distant, and unapproachable.” After careful consideration of this development, I couldn’t find myself to be “mad” or disgusted with Styles’ actions at all.
While Carter’s summation of Styles’ behavior seemed “unusual” (as described by the good folks at TNAsylum.com), one could not feel any iota of sympathy for her given Styles’ craptastic 2012 in TNA.
Without dredging up too many memories of the swerves and storylines that besmirched his year and his good name, we must remember how well Dixie defended Styles during the Claire Lynch debacle. We must remember how she set her husband straight after leveling Styles with the King Mo One Hitter-Quitter. We have to recall how Dixie used her executive powers and prowess to get to the bottom of Claire Lynch’s accusations against Styles in order to exonerate her company’s most decorated and beloved star.
Seeing as all of that stuff didn’t happen it would appear that Styles is somewhat justified in having such lukewarm feelings towards Dixie Carter. Styles, after all, is easily the most recognizable TNA Original still with the company. He gave his all for Jeff Jarrett and Dixie, yet neither offered their on-air unconditional support for him during his series of unfortunate events. In fact if one wasn’t careful, one could easily get the impression that Dixie and her cronies cared very little for Styles during this period of his career; talk about a slap in the face.
The second post that caught my attention was a report on February 20 about a TNA producer’s tweet concerning Styles’ behavior. The producer didn’t explicitly say how Styles behaved, but did comment that in five years he had never “had him act like he did today.” The producer then went on to say that he was “disappointed.” Is it just me or does it sound incredibly pompous of the producer to comment on how he would or would not have had Styles to behave? It’s one thing to say that in five years you’ve never seen a person act in a particular way, but its also very telling to see someone comment that they never had someone act a certain way.
I sure the assumption is that once a vanilla babyface, always a vanilla babyface. For the better part of his career in TNA Styles has played the one dimensional role of stellar athlete and upright model citizen/human being. Styles plays this character well because it’s pretty much him in real life. Everyone has their breaking point, however, and even the most model and upright human being has a breaking point. He arguably reached that breaking point after his demeaning loss to Christopher Daniels at Final Resolution 2012; even after Styles announced to the world on the December 13, 2012 episode of IMPACT Wrestling that he was no longer a “company man,” this plucky TNA producer still found it disappointing that Styles behaved in an unmentionable fashion?
If you’ve been subjected to a person behaving in a particular way, it’s only a matter of time before you begin to expect that behavior to be consistent and synonymous with the person. If the person turns out to be a louse, it’s easy to dismiss them and wish them well in their future endeavors. On the other hand if the person has proven to exhibit exemplary qualities, we have the tendency to abuse and/or neglect that person because no matter what happens we’ll expect them to continue to be “good” people.
The only person to come to Styles’ aid during his trials with Daniels and Kazarian was Kurt Angle. Other than that, Styles was expected to man up and handle his situation on his lonesome, even though the harassment he endured from his coworkers was ridiculously ignored by management. After putting up with that Styles was also locked out of challenging for the TNA World Heavyweight Title for one year, a crushing and heart-wrenching defeat that almost makes his presence in the company worthless for at least 365 days. The fans moved on to Austin Aries, Robert Roode and Jeff Hardy; the only person that cared about AJ Styles, it seemed, was AJ Styles. And even he neglected his own needs, wants and desires for the sake of the company and making Dixie Carter look like one million dollars.
From that perspective, how dare anyone expect Styles to behave a certain way or even tacitly imply and/or demand he behave a certain way any reason. Being himself hadn’t gotten him very far since he lost the TNA World Heavyweight Title to Rob Van Dam in April 2010, so what good will the goody-two shoes bit do for him at this point?
After all that, what does any of it have to do with “Crow” Sting? Simply put, the very man that Styles was should be long gone by now. Having grown bitter and disillusioned with all that he knew to be right in the world, Styles’ character should evolve into a self-serving man justified by the inconsiderate actions of the institution that was once his life and livelihood. He doesn’t have to be overly obnoxious in his disdain for the company (Aces & Eights), and he doesn’t have to be an Attitude Era-esque edgy and cool tweener either (Ken Anderson).
All Styles has to do is be himself minus the concern and care for being Dixie’s golden boy and the fans’ favorite athlete. Styles has to become the wrestler that competes for the company’s top prize while maintaining an eff you attitude towards anyone or anything that represents the institution that snubbed him. Styles shouldn’t perform for the fans, nor should he be the face of a company in need of a savior. Styles does what Styles wants for Styles’ benefit. This was essentially the same rubric for the evolution of Sting’s character in WCW after Hulk Hogan’s heel turn and the creation of the nWo, except there were actual buzzards and crows involved.
Sting’s descent into this depressing and unforgiving darkness revitalized the character and WCW. In the same way that this dark and emo Sting resonated in the hearts of many fans, so too can this new AJ Styles character. How many of TNA’s fans have been abused and taken for granted by their employers? How many fans have felt betrayed by TNA’s sports entertainment-like approach in their product as of late?
If we can be narcissistic for one second, how cool would Styles look with new, darker gear?
This drastic character makeover for Styles couldn’t come at a better time in the company’s history. With the very flat Aces & Eights storyline going nowhere fast (perhaps, in hindsight, purposefully so…) and their almost hostile takeover of the company, TNA needs a familiar face to help drag them out of the social group’s fun house of inequity. With their show being taken on the road after the upcoming Lockdown pay per view, TNA needs a homegrown top star to build their franchise around, a top star that can make the same media rounds as John Cena while drawing interest towards the product instead of away from it. With a concentrated effort to focus on building four pay per views out of the year, TNA needs a star that will increase buyrates at the mere mention of his name.
Personally speaking I would pay money to see a moody, grizzle-faced AJ Styles tan Jeff Hardy’s high-flying fanny six ways from Sunday for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
Even thought I still believe my epiphany to be one unique to my own experience, I’m also sure that most fans have already speculated on Styles’ character development. Whether you’ve considered this level of maturation for Styles or not, the reality is that change is coming for one of the company’s most prized wrestlers. Do not be surprised to see Styles return to the scene as angry and bitter as Sting did in WCW many years ago; do not be surprised if he returns only to rage against the machine with his own agenda instead of defending TNA from the rising tide of the Aces & Eights domination.
Do be surprised if Styles turns out to be the leader of the Aces & Eights, because I for one am expecting this new wrestler to rely on his own abilities and to not trust anyone, anywhere at anytime.
But above all else, expect to be thoroughly surprised and pleased at wherever Styles and the creative heads take his character. As long as the man isn’t inexplicably kidnapped or forced to wear a leather vest, the end will justify the means.
*Note: The moniker “James” was used in this piece because Adam didn’t want me to use his real name.
For those of you just now joining our conversation, here’s Pt. 1 of our discussion on Claire Lynch.
I’ll admit that the title of this two-part post is a bit misleading, particularly because I’ve attempted to show how the story line doesn’t have anything to do with Claire Lynch really.
The real issue is that fans have associated the story line with Claire Lynch, thus believing that her hasty exit from IMPACT Wrestling LIVE! and TNA meant the end of the story. From that perspective, yes Claire Lynch is good and gone from our television screens.
What remains is a bitter rivalry between AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels, one that reaches way back into the early days of TNA Wrestling. Kazarian simply adds a new face to a symbolically ancient feud between two off-screen buddies.
Why is any of this significant? Without going into deep detail of the personal relationship between the two men, Daniels and Styles work well together in the ring because of their relationship outside of the ring. It’s no different than the bromance between BFFs Triple H and Shawn Michaels.
Collectively speaking Styles and Daniels are one of TNA’s greatest assets when it comes their product and talent roster. Both men are capable of having excellent matches, but they’re even more capable of having five-star matches with one another. This isn’t saying that all of their matches have been MOTY candidates, but 9 times out of 10 you can count on them to put on one hell of a show at any given moment.
This also happens to be one of TNA’s greatest weaknesses. The company relies heavily on these two, and when creative seemingly can’t come up with anything to do with either one of them individually, they just slap them together and let nature take its course. This creates a major problem: what exactly do you do with Daniels and Styles when the honeymoon is over? This problem is complicated further when you’ve slapped the tag team titles on Daniels and “The Other Guy.”
In three days Kazaniels, also known as the World Tag Team Champions of the World, will be celebrating the two month anniversary of their second reign as tag team champions. From June 28th (when they won the titles) up until today, they’ve only defended the titles once: on the August 9th episode of IMPACT Wrestling LIVE! against the team of Garett Bischoff and Devon.
It’s ludicrous to believe that Kazaniels should be defending the titles every week, but consider the fact that TNA proudly promotes the “wrestling” side of its product more so than the “sports entertainment” aspects and fans can begin to make some important connections between points A and B of this story line.
The World Tag Team Champions of the World are/were wrapped up in the Claire Lynch portion of the AJ Styles “golden boy” story. To place them in a significant feud with another tag team would complicate their involvement with Styles. Therefore any title matches not involving AJ Styles would only be necessary for the sake of saying that the belts have been defended.
Here’s a real rib-tickler: who would Kazaniels defend the titles against? There are very few, if any, established tag teams left in TNA right now. So even if the WTTCOTW’s were not involved with Styles, who would they defend the titles against? Hernandez y Guerrero? Kid Kash and Gunner? Magnus and Joe?
Idealistically Claire Lynch’s departure would free up the tag team champs, enabling them to get involved in a feud that value to the titles and prestige back to the division. Hell, even the Aces and 8s could provide invigoration and new blood for the failing division.
That’s not going to happen though. The tag champs are still involved in a story line with AJ Styles and adding two more individuals to the story line would unnecessarily complicate the already convoluted story line. But the story line has ended, right? That frees up AJ, Daniels and Kazarian for new story lines. Wrong again; it’s anybody’s guess as to who will win the BFG Series now that the Aces and 8s story line has taken center stage.
Here are some facts we know: the top four men in the BFG Series are (from the top down) James Storm, Samoa Joe, Rob Van Dam, and AJ Styles. The next four competitors with an immediate chance to rise above the red line of death are (from the top down) Kurt Angle, Bully Ray, Mr. Anderson, and Jeff Hardy.
The round robin portion of the BFG Series will end in two weeks on September 6th, and the four competitors above the red line of death will compete in a single elimination tournament at the No Surrender Pay Per View on September 9th. The winner of that tournament will move on to become the number one contender to face the TNA World Heavyweight Champion at the Bound for Glory Pay Per View, which takes place on October 14th.
Austin Aries, the current TNA World Heavyweight Champion, was attacked by the Aces and 8s gang on last Thursday’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling LIVE! Former champion Robert Roode has lost the right to challenge Austin Aries for that title after losing to him at the Hardcore Justice Pay Per View on August 12.
Here is a bit of speculation: Austin Aries may have suffered an injury that will keep him from competing, forcing him to vacate the title. If he’s forced to vacate the title a series of matches may take place to crown a “new” champion in a main event match at No Surrender in two weeks. Robert Roode could easily end up in the tournament and regain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, moving on to the Bound for Glory Pay Per View to face James Storm, the winner of the BFG Series and the superstar who has a major grudge to settle with Roode anyway.
Or…Robert Roode returns and demands that as the former champion and previous number one contender, he deserves the right to be crowned the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Interim General Manager Sting, or General Manager Hogan, places him in matches to determine the new number one contender culminating in a championship match at No Surrender. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Austin Aries, still hell bent on regaining his title, will return more focused on seeking revenge against the Aces and 8s, taking him out of the title hunt for awhile. Everyone else rallies once again against the scourge that is the Aces and 8s, including AJ Styles. But AJ has been thoroughly humiliated by Kazaniels two times, when they accused him of having an affair with Dixie Carter and when they accused him of siring Claire Lynch’s unborn and fictional child.
Logically speaking Styles cannot simply walk away from this situation. One week ago the man wrestled Daniels just to gain the right to have a paternity test to prove he wasn’t the father of the baby because he couldn’t remember whether or not he actually slept with Claire Lynch. He avoided talking to Claire, was accused of running away from his responsibilities when he went to Australia to do a promotional tour for TNA. The message from Claire’s attorney was cute and sweet, but it doesn’t explain AJ’s silence or confusion on the matter. It also doesn’t solve the initial problem: Kazaniels dislike of Styles’ golden boy image.
And there’s the question: what do you do now with Styles and Kazaniels?
The answer is simple; you keep the story going between the three of them and conclude the drama at the Bound for Glory Pay Per View OR with another Wild Card Tournament beginning in December for the World Tag Team Championships. Whatever the case may be, the feud between Kazaniels and Styles is not over and done with. With no competition, Kazaniels can still work to prove that AJ Styles isn’t as clean cut as he makes himself to be.
Styles, on the other hand, needs at least one more episode of IMPACT Wrestling LIVE! or a Pay Per View match to put Kazaniels out of their misery to move on to bigger something else. A really good way to stick it to the team would be to take the tag titles away from them again…much like he and Kurt Angle did at Slammiversary 2012; but that’s just wishful thinking. Or is it?
My last thought is this: TNA can drag out a story line for at least one year, and the true beginning of the drama between Styles, Daniels and Kazarian had nothing to do with Claire Lynch. With Lynch gone, the absurdity of the drama can be replaced with a more compelling and intriguing finish to the 500th iteration of Styles versus Daniels. At this point we can only hope that things won’t get as worse as they already have.
Thank. You. Wrestling. gods.
Thursday night’s episode of IMPACT Wrestling Live! had very few redeeming qualities, but the one silver lining bordering that dark cloud was the presumed end to the disastrous story line involving the Claire Lynch character.
For those who didn’t see the show, the story line ended like this: AJ Styles gets a paternity test, Daniels and Kazarian come out and slander his name, Claire Lynch’s legal representation shows up and reads a notarized statement from Lynch that reveals that she was blackmailed by Daniels and Kazarian and forced to drug AJ and take compromising pictures with him and that she was never actually present, AJ’s name is vindicated, he attacks both Daniels and Kazarian, and the story ends.
For the few sick sadists who want a more thorough explanation, the following video is for you:
We shouldn’t pop bottles and revel in newspaper riddled ticker tape parades of mediocrity so soon, however; unfortunately for you and I, this story line is faaaaar from over. Note the heavy emphasis on the word far back there.
The problem with celebrating the “abortion” of this story line (shout out to Da Infamous DiZ for that zinger of ironic proportions) prematurely is that we can get wrapped up in the euphoria that comes with the random abrupt ending. However, just because AJ Styles’ name has been cleared doesn’t mean we’ll hear the last of this epic and unnecessary waste of precious wrasslin’ time.
Consider these few thoughts before we jump into the topic:
- The Claire Lynch story line officially started on July 10, 2011
- Since the story line is at least 1 year old, does the disappearance of Claire Lynch mean that it’s over?
- Daniels and Kazarian have literally not defended the Tag Team Titles since winning them for the second time.
- Uhm…what the hell is up with AJ Styles’ character now?
Go back and watch the video starting at 00:37. At that point Kazarian addresses AJ Styles from the ramp:
“Whoa whoa whoa, AJ shut up for Godsakes! [dramatic pause] After all this time … you expect us to believe that? [dramatic pause] Even now, in the final hours, you’re still more concerned with protecting the AJ Styles brand than you are your own flesh and blood; AJ, you still care more about yourself than that damn demon seed you put in Claire’s womb.”
That line of dialogue from Kazarian wasn’t included in the segment for s**ts and giggles; Kazarian was reminding fans of the moment the feud started, which inevitably explains why the Claire Lynch blackmailing scandal happened in the first place.
The beef between “Kazaniels” (shout out to Mr. Gammon for that moniker) goes back to July 10, 2011, the date of TNA’s 2011 Destination X pay per view. Styles defeated on-again-off-again friend/foe Christopher Daniels in a match, prompting the latter to badger the former for a rematch.
The two faced each other again on the September 1 episode of Impact Wrestling and Daniels, after picking up the victory, refused to shake hands with Styles. For the next few weeks Daniels refused to give Styles a rematch, gloating over the victory and turning heel in the process. The two finally faced off one more time at the October 16 Bound for Glory in an “I Quit” Match that Styles won.
Styles then went on to wrestle in a tournament for the TNA World Tag Team Championships with Frankie Kazarian, who also turned heel on Styles and abandoned the Phenomenal One during the final match of the series. Kazarian then begrudgingly aligned himself with Daniels, who continued to taunt Styles. Here’s the most important question: why did Daniels hate AJ so much?
Wait…I think it was because AJ was the golden boy of the company and got the spotlight when stars like Daniels and Kazarian played the background. This is what we would refer to as foreshadowing. Literally everything that Kazaniels did after this point was designed to besmirch and sully Styles’ reputation, ultimately proving that he wasn’t the “golden boy” he appeared to be.
More matches between the three and some others take place until it is revealed that the only reason Kazarian joined Daniels was to keep him from spilling the beans about a “secret” that would ruin Styles’ career. That secret involved photos, video footage, and a taped phone message implying that Styles was having an affair with TNA President Dixie Carter. Kazaniels vehemently believed that Styles’ prominence in the company was only because he was sleeping around with the president. Carter’s husband, Serg Salinas, even makes a guest appearance on the show and levels AJ with one mighty right cross to the chin.
Raise your hand if you remember that part of the story line.
From that point Claire Lynch is eventually brought into the story line and it is revealed that the supposed intimate moments between Dixie and AJ were actually instances where AJ and Dixie were attempting to help Claire battle through her substance abuse problems. It’s also at this moment when a few fans noticed that Claire was pregnant; this too was a bit of foreshadowing.
Fast forward some more and Kazaniels begin insisting that AJ Styles is the father of Claire’s baby. There’s some back and forth, blah blah blah, Dixie disappears from the picture and we finally get the resolution to it all this past Thursday night. Or so we think…
TNA is known for its provocative, year-long storytelling; the original Immortal story line actually began way back in January 2010 when Hogan joined TNA and didn’t get revealed until one full year later. The Claire Lynch drama evolved from the Dixie Carter drama, which evolved from…you guessed it…Kazaniels being upset at AJ’s high status and regard in the company. The story line was never about Claire or Dixie, but rather about bringing AJ down a peg or two.
This is one reason why the story could continue without Claire, as she and her situation were only pawns in the grand scheme of things much like Dixie was. Don’t think so? Check out this interview with AJ Styles and pay attention to what he says about the story line, particularly how it would have “unexpected things we never would’ve thought AJ had done.” As it turns out, AJ never did any of the things Kazaniels accused him of, so…how is it this story line interesting for fans again?
It’s interesting because there’s more to it than we believe. If the story line was never really about Claire then it can surely continue without her…
Click here for Pt. 2 of this series.
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve reviewed a wrestling show and perhaps even longer since I critiqued an episode of TNA IMPACT! or Impact Wrestling LIVE! This ought to be interesting…
Despite popular opinion, we here at L.E.W.D. Central try to be somewhat “unbiased” when flexing our analytical muscles on all things regarding sports entertainment and pro wrestling. That’s not saying we succeed at it more often than not, but at least we try; some folks don’t even do that…you know who I’m talking about…
However in the spirit of objectivity, I’ll attempt to do my best and remain fair with my critique of last night’s stellar exposition of that good ol’ fashioned wrasslin’ we love so much. Again…heavy emphasis the word attempt here…
I can’t bring myself to talk poorly of this particular episode of IMPACT Wrestling LIVE! On the other hand I can’t really say anything glaringly and over-enthusiastically supportive of the episode. IN FACT, I can’t even stay planted in the lukewarm, gray area of indifference and apathy either. I do believe this is a first for me in my tumultuous relationship with the company; my feelings on the matter are indistinguishable.
Tonight’s episode on the whole was…unbelievable. Yes, it was unbelievable. That’s the perfect word to describe the previously indistinguishable feelings I have for the episode!
The episode was unbelievable in the sense that after several weeks of pleasuring fans with five-star shows and super-standard story lines, the creative and brilliant minds at TNA decided to reward it’s loyal viewers with one massive, mind-fluking (if you watched the show, you’ll catch the reference) menagerie of crap. That’s right; the company under Bruce Pritchard’s glorious reign finally laid its first goose egg.
Unbelievable, right?!?!? I KNOOOOOOOOWWWW!!!
The episode didn’t fall short because of the wrestling, as TNA will deliver eight times out of ten when it comes to match quality. What stunk to holy hell was the quality of the story lines highlighted on the show. With one slight exception in the very prominent “Aces and 8s” story line, everything else on the show, creatively speaking, fell about as flat as an open bottle of day-old soda.
Given that the show’s ratings haven’t been great since IMPACT Wrestling went live, started one hour earlier, and since Vince Russo left TNA, it will be interesting to see a) what this week’s rating turns out to be, b) how the company will salvage these stories, and c) if the focus of the product starts to slowly creep away from the World Heavyweight Title. TNA has been riding a particularly high wave of momentum for almost three months now; it’d be a shame for us to find them with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel at this point in the game. 10 years in, this type of mess is bush league and beneath a company of its “caliber.”
Anywhoo, here are a few of the things that stood out to me:
- Claire Lynch, Katie Vick, and YOU!
- AJ’s Stipulation = *headdesk*
- Taryn Terrell and
BrookeTessmacher: Didn’t See THAT ONE Coming
- Aces and 8′s: PLEASE Thicken the Plot…PLEASE…
Let’s cut the “holier-than-thou” stuff right here and right now; there are some story lines that have no business making it on the air, period. The problem is that once one of those story lines squeaks past Standards and Practices, it eventually crosses the threshold of the point of no return, meaning that we’ve got to put up with the damn thing until its run its course.
With each passing day more drama unfolds and it gets worse and worse and worse, and no matter how hard we pray or plead it just seems as if we’re being punished until this thing leaves on its own accord. Remember that one kid that came to your house for a sleepover party but stayed like two extra days after all the other kids left? This story line is that kid.
This whole Claire Lynch thing is inching towards Katie Vick territory, feeling and coming off as being as popular as a wet fart in church. Most fans will easily agree that this thing should’ve been aborted long ago, perhaps right after the point where it was revealed that AJ didn’t Spinal Tap Dixie Carter. But alas, the plucky “We want wrestling” minds in TNA decided to push forward and give us this…
These words (or a variation of them) actually crossed AJ Styles’ lips last night: “I’ll tell you what…you and me have a match tonight; if you win, I’ll admit that I’m the father of that child. BUT, if I win, not only will I get the points, but I also get a paternity test. How do you like THAT?!?!“
You know…I don’t care about the logic of the story line or any obvious plot holes that might exist in it. What really pushed me to the limit was the fact that this was a part of the big grand scheme. Someone had to green light this idea and that’s what I find most insulting. Claiming (or denying) to sire a child is one thing, as we’ve seen that type of drama between the ropes of a wrestling ring (i.e. Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, and Dominic).
What absolutely floored me was that AJ Styles uttered those words seriously because that’s the intended direction for his never-ending feud with Daniels and Kaz! Believe it or not, this whole mess has been dragging on for over 1 year!!! Seriously; what started out as Daniels’ heel turn has now regressed to AJ Styles being the father of a drug addict’s baby…REALLY?!?!?!?!
Keep in mind that TNA Entertainment, L.L.C. is supposed to be the company where the focus is primarily on the “wrestling.” Every time you pop on Twitter there are tons of fans praising IMPACT Wrestling LIVE! for the “wrestling” that the “wrestlers” “wrestle” between the hours of 8-10 PM, Eastern Standard Time. With so many claiming “we want wrestling,” and for a company that proudly proclaims that “wrestling matters,” what in the sweet cream on an ice cream sandwich does the Claire Lynch baby mama drama have to do with anything? For the life of me I can not think of TNA Entertainment, L.L.C. being a “wrestling” company when this mess reeks of “sports entertainment.”
And when was the last time those tag titles were defended?!?!?!
Since we’re on the subject of title defenses our attention is now focused squarely on the sorry state of the Knockouts Division. As of late it’s difficult to remember the time when the Knockouts were known for their anti-Diva-ish performances in the company. At one point even the most dense of fans could’ve easily made the case that TNA had the best women’s division on television in the United States; try defending this s**t now.
Madison Rayne won the belt from Ms. Tessmacher at Sunday’s Hardcore Justice Pay Per View, and even though the victory was tainted it was still a victory. Fast forward four days to the live broadcast of TNA’s flagship show, and not only does Tessmacher defeat Rayne soundly (as she should’ve in the first place), but she also does so with Taryn Terrell serving as the guest referee.
For those of you that don’t remember (or don’t care), Taryn Terrell is WWE Superstar Drew McIntyre’s ex-wife. She also use to be a WWE Diva. And yes, her credentials must be stated in that particular order.
I’m never against new stars debuting for any company, as the fresh faces bring with them the hope of exciting match-ups and creative character development. TNA had a golden opportunity to develop Ms. Terrell as an “IMPACT Wrestling Original,” someone with a clever name and gimmick that would really be remembered for her work as a TNA Professional Wrestler. The plus was that very few people in the live audience knew who she was!
But no; she debuts to fanfare as if she were Debra Miceli returning to the ring and she does so as the prop in a clusterfluk of a match for a title that’s becoming as valuable as salt water taffy in Sub-Saharan Africa. At least some folks are merciful enough to only make us sit through 43 seconds of this type of fluff. It’s a sad day when the most memorable thing about the entire affair was when Brooke Hogan bust her ass on the the stage before the match even started or Taryn Terrell rose unsuccessfully from the ashes of mediocrity.
Once again…veering dangerously close to that “sports entertainment” area…
The BFG Series and the Aces and 8s are currently the two most prominent stories featured on IMPACT Wrestling LIVE! I’ve got some thoughts about one star in the BFG Series, but that’s another blog post for another time. As far as the Aces and 8s are concerned, I don’t have any major gripes with the progression of the story.
What I am anticipating is taking that story beyond a roving gang of miscreants attacking wrestlers at random. I’d even argue that the men could remain masked for another month or so, but there has to be some sort of plot twist or complication that takes the effort in a different and unpredictable direction fans haven’t seen before.
Folks are already speculating about the identity of the mastermind of the group, but at this point they’re still a bunch of marauders interrupting matches; no other reason than to cause chaos for the sake of causing chaos. While I’m very aware of the fact that there are individuals who simply want to see the world burn, I do not get that feeling about this group. They act and move with an agenda other than just causing chaos; that’s what Joey Ryan is for.
I’m looking to seeing more depth and development from this group soon. If there is any truth to the rumors and speculation about the identity of the group’s members, then there has to exist some depth in order to compensate for the ambiguous identities of the “new” wrestlers that will debut without having the benefit of hiding behind masks.
But alas, those are just my thoughts. What do YOU think…?!?!?!