Playing the Field
The 2013 Bound For Glory Field is set. The list includes many great names but few with legitimate chance of pulling out the series. The purpose of the summer long event is to crown the challenger for the TNA title at October’s Bound For Glory. What makes it awesome is that every week on Impact features fresh matches where the result matter longer than just that segment. The first series (won by Bobby Roode) was a rough affair but they cleaned it up last year (won by Jeff Hardy) and made it a real highlight of the company’s year. This series’ favorite is AJ Styles, who most assume will be the challenger at BFG (by stipulation the first time he can receive a title shot in almost a year). It’s worth noting, however, that the same thing could have been said about James Storm last year…and he didn’t win.
Much of predicting who will win the series is predicated on who will be champion. If Hulk Hogan has decided to get in the ring with Bully Ray at BFG…that means Bully will be dropping the title before then. This creates its own logic problem. With 12 people spending 3 months beating each other up to get a TNA title shot…how should anyone (other than Chris Sabin taking advantage of an X Division cash in at Destination X) be allowed to get a title shot before then? I don’t see Sabin heading into BFG as the defending champion. The same could have been said at this time last year about Austin Aries…but despite the great story of Sabin returning from 2 years of injuries to challenge for his first TNA title…Sabin isn’t Aries. So if it’s not Bully Ray and it’s not Chris Sabin…who could be defending TNA champion come BFG?
I believe they’ve left themselves a little bit of an out but it would require a real stretch of someone who failed to make the series getting a title shot (which would be complete bullshit). Kurt Angle was screwed out of a spot in the series by Aces and 8’s interference and looks to spend the summer as part of Sting’s quest to rid TNA of the gang. Now…I’m not saying that Angle should get a title shot…but I am saying that if the need comes to take the title off of Bully Ray for a Hogan showdown…they’ve at least left themselves a top guy to transition to.
I say “part” of predicting the winner is looking at the champion, because…frankly aside from a heel vs. heel match I don’t think it matters all that much to them. Hardy vs. Aries was a random pairing. So was Angle vs. Roode. Neither match had a storyline to pay off nor a build of any kind beyond “This is the Champion. This is the top challenger.” They’ve chosen to keep the storyline payoffs under the main event (Sting/Hogan, Roode/Storm, Sting & Bully vs. Aces and 8’s) and allow the main event to play out as the two best guys fighting over the title. If history repeats we’ll see whatever form the Hogan/Bully Ray storyline takes underneath the title match. Or Hogan won’t work it and Bully will remain on top to face the top challenger.
Let’s take a look at the field:
AJ Styles – Qualified by defeating Kurt Angle. The presumed favorite due to his new character push and the long standing stipulation that he has not been allowed to challenge for the TNA title until BFG 2013. The only thing that can stand in his way seems to be what we’ll call “James Storm syndrome”. After Storm failed to win the TNA title at Lockdown he took some time off and returned for the 2012 series. He wasn’t nearly as popular after returning and his year long build to defeating Bobby Roode was shuttled to the midcard of BFG instead of the expected spot on top. AJ Styles, right now, is not nearly as popular as he was before his new character debuted. Perhaps a summer of winning big matches on TV will change that…but if it doesn’t…they’ve put guys getting over in the spot instead before (Hardy (their top babyface) against Austin Aries (who people bought as a top guy) were put in the headlining position last year when NO ONE would have predicted that going into the summer. I’m sure they have a bigger long term plan for Styles than they did for Storm though…so even if crowds aren’t taking to him fully, he may still get the spot. He fits with any of the possible TNA Champions.
Samoa Joe – Qualified by squashing Robbie E. Ever popular and believable in the main event, Joe is one to watch if he’s getting reactions in the series while Styles flounders. They don’t seem to see him on that level right now, but will likely get another run as a challenger at least at some point. Always a contender to make the final 4…and unlike most of the field he could fit well with whoever of the 3 (Bully, Angle, Sabin) could conceivably be carrying the title come October.
Austin Aries – Qualified by beating Eric Young. Maybe the biggest threat to win the series if they decide against Styles for whatever reason (too obvious/not over/his storyline going somewhere else). Already a believable main event level talent and, like Styles, capable of having a great match with anyone. I’m a big proponent of Aries getting back to the title as his defenses are among the best title matches the TNA title has ever seen…and that was with a fairly short reign. He’d still feel fresh on top too. He’s had programs with Hardy and Roode…but he’s only had a couple scattered matches with Joe and Bully Ray. He’s never faced Kurt Angle or AJ Styles in any kind of meaningful match in TNA.
Jeff Hardy – Qualified by winning the 2012 BFG series. Hardy’s always a threat to be in the main event because he’s Jeff Hardy. Last year saw him put his best TNA work together for the series and subsequent title reign. His popularity almost makes him a lock for the final four (if only because a win over him means more than over anyone else in the series), unless a storyline for him emerges between now and then. Not likely to win it two years in a row however.
Bobby Roode – Qualified by winning the 2011 BFG series. Certainly established enough to be taken as a serious threat at cracking the final four. Unless Angle is champion and they want to do a make good on his 2011 BFG loss, however, he doesn’t fit well into the finals. Even then it would be a backwards dynamic. I’m sure Roode is destined for another run on top at some point, but it doesn’t feel like that time is soon.
Mr. Anderson – Qualified by winning a farce battle royal. Purely for storyline reasons he’s a threat to be in the final mix. They had some reason to put an Aces and 8’s guy in the series while the rest of the group is going to be dealing with Sting and company. The only storyline chance he really would have to win the series would be if Bully Ray lost the title and Anderson was trying to avenge…and that doesn’t make much more than an Impact main event let alone BFG. I suppose they could do a story where, if Hogan wasn’t going to wrestle and Bully was still champion, Anderson turns face seeing he can get the title at BFG…but even then there are just better options.
Magnus – Qualified by winning a 4 way over Kenny King, Rob Terry and Matt Morgan. Magnus is the wild card. It’s time for him to get a real push and the series certainly provides that opportunity. Making the final four would be big for him, bigger than for anyone else. I wouldn’t put money on that happening…but it’s what they SHOULD do. All the people listed above him have been TNA Champion before and they are all more likely to be in the final group than he is. There’s something wrong with that. I’m not saying that he should win the series outright…but getting some televised quality wins over a guys like Hardy or Roode or Aries would be a good thing.
Christopher Daniels – Qualified by winning a tag match over James Storm and Gunner. Unfortunately for Daniels, one of the most consistently entertaining guys going right now, his place in the series is that of a solid hand to have good matches. He’s not in a position to get the push of winning the series, and he’s not at an age where it’s worth doing it for him.
Kazarian – Qualified by winning a tag match over James Storm and Gunner. Like Daniels, he’s here to have good matches and is no threat to win.
Hernandez – Qualified by beating Chavo Guerrero. There’s always the chance that they’ll make good on their threats…er…teases to actually push Hernandez. He’s neither equipped for working main event matches nor do fans care enough for them to try and force it. He’ll pick up victories here and there and his relative size among the group will see him hang around the leaderboard for a while…but in the end the series will be “see who can wrangle the best match out of Hernandez”.
Jay Bradley – Qualified by winning the Gut Check tournament. It’s tough to see where Bradley is going to be anything but a fall guy…perhaps picking up a victory or two when the points need to be distributed around. Even then it’s hard to find who on the list he’s likely to beat. If he were a babyface he could beat some heels with upsets…but Bradley is a straight heel.
Joseph Park – Qualified by beating Crimson. Unless the Abyss reveal is coming, Park will probably pull upsets over guys like Kaz and Bradley…but the miracle run ends there.
Impact 6/13 Recap
This week’s show was all about filling out the Bound For Glory field. AJ Styles and Kurt Angle had a great TV main event which saw Styles advance and Angle be left out in the cold. The match was marred by Aces and 8’s interference leading to a Styles roll up win…but until then they were having a really good encounter.
Mr. Anderson “won” a battle royal to claim the spot for Aces and 8’s that Hulk Hogan left open in the BFG series. Everyone eliminated themselves for Anderson except for DOC who fought back to a fairly good pop. He was then quickly dumped anyway. He was right back in line with the gang afterwards.
Austin Aries beat Eric Young in a match with too much comedy (from Eric Young…I know) that ended just as it felt it was getting going. Nothing wrong with it but I know Eric Young can work and Austin Aries is great…so while Young goes out and does his bland comedy you’re left knowing they just wasted the time.
Magnus won a decent four way pinning Kenny King. Matt Morgan and Rob Terry were also in there. Magnus was getting some really good reactions from the crowd in Atlanta which is definitely a positive.
Bad Influence beat James Storm and Gunner in a non title match to qualify for the BFG series. Pretty good match. Storm is still working on one leg. Interesting to note that Storm took the pin here since they’ve been trying the last couple weeks to push Gunner as being worth something…so it was nice to see they didn’t just abandon that. Then again…it’s just another in a long line of losses for James Storm. I don’t know how to salvage his character at this point except to turn him…and they already have a million top heels (and whatever AJ Styles is).
Crimson came back bitching about not being on TV for a year after his first loss. He then lost to Joseph Park. Crimson looked better (both in the ring and just in how he looked physically) then he has and cut a nice promo before the match that briefly made you consider that a bitter Crimson trying to prove himself storyline in the series was worth considering…and then he just lost clean to a comedy character.
Mickie James completed her heel turn by taking out Velvet’s leg again after she had been medically cleared for her title rematch. The segment included a great line where Mickie pointed out the medical records were invalid because they were dated the day before…and Velvet’s leg was still hurt. While Velvet tried to figure out what she was talking about, Mickie destroyed her leg. Mickie’s character is awesome.
Sting addressed no one coming to his aid at Slammiversary by announcing he was bringing back a new version of the Main Event Mafia. Kurt Angle is most definitely in since he’s the only original member that can do it (Booker is in WWE, Steiner is suing them and hates Hogan and Bischoff, Joe is in the BFG series and Nash is under some kind of WWE deal). Who will make up the rest is not known. It used to be former World Champions only but I get the impression that we’re going to see James Storm (who is a former TNA champion) and Gunner added since they are tag champs with nothing to do. They’ll probably spend weeks courting Matt Morgan into the group…which already sounds awful. The funny part, of course, is that Sting feels the need to form a new Mafia because no one came out to help him. All of the people we’re looking at ARE THOSE PEOPLE THAT DIDN’T COME OUT TO HELP HIM. Best chance for a new member would be an RVD return I guess. Don’t hold your breath on them getting him into the suit though.
Impact Preview 6/20
Next week is Open Fight Night which by its very nature is impossible to preview.
We do know that next week is the official start of the Bound For Glory series and that Jeff Hardy and Bobby Roode are in an online poll to see who gets the first call out.
Last year they overloaded the Open Fight Night BFG series show with too many matches as they let 6 guys call someone out until all 12 competed. I doubt they learned a lesson so expect the same thing to happen here.
Destination X will take the form of a live Impact on 7/18 from Louisville. This is the show where Chris Sabin has the option of trading his X title for a shot at Bully Ray’s TNA title. Once he decides to cash it in a new champion will have to be crowned on the same show. The rest of the show should be comprised of all X division action. It’s good to see the concept remain in some form since it’s one of the few things they’ve managed to establish in over 11 years that has any merit.
Hulk Hogan tweeted about beginning his training for his last match (believed to be the pay off to the Bully Ray feud). It’s Hogan so I neither believe he will wrestle this match nor that it will be his last match if he does.
The list of upcoming TV/PPV tapings is as follows:
6/20- Peoria, IL (the live 6/20 show and the taped 6/27 show)
6/29- Las Vegas, NV (taped to avoid July 4th, the 7/4 show and the 7/11 show)
7/18- Louisville, KY (the live 7/18 show and the taped 7/25 show)
8/1- Wichita Falls, TX (the live 8/1 show and the taped 8/8 show)
8/15- Norfolk, VA (the live 8/15 show and the taped 8/22 show)
8/29- Cleveland, OH (the live 8/29 show and the taped 9/5 show)
10/20- San Diego, CA – Bound For Glory