During the 2011 "Summer of Punk", I wrote some pretty strong words for WWE's treatment of the return of CM Punk to television. I said that WWE dropped the ball by letting the story drop too quickly without allowing more time to pass before re-injecting him back into the active outplaying storyline of the day, and as a result, his one year long title reign became, for all intents and purposes, meaningless.
If he'd have been allowed to do all that he claimed he was capable of doing, (i.e. "defending the belt in Ring of Honor", or in Japan) we may have been spared the systematic burial of Punk by Triple H. It was somewhere between being beaten in a non-title bout BY Trips and being overshadowed by The Rock in his return to PPV in a tag team tandem with John Cena leading up to THEIR bout at Wrestlemania. From SummerSlam to Survivor Series, Punk was belittled, berated, and in all other ways discredited, despite holding the WWE Championship. He never defended the belt without help from Survivor Series all the way until his loss of the title to The Rock at the Royal Rumble, further mulling his title reign in mediocrity. But you know what? This column isn't about CM Punk and how things SHOULD have turned out for HIM.
Instead, TNA, contrary to SOME critics, has breathed something new into the storyline tailor-made for Punk; by allowing it to run to its natural conclusion. AJ Styles is now "no longer under contract" and, as a result, is on the free market as a CURRENT World Heavyweight Champion. The difference? He walked out and, the current plan in effect is to eventually face off a champion vs. champion bout in the coming months. By THAT, I mean MONTHS, not two weeks as was the case with CM Punk. In yet ANOTHER difference, there were 6 drafts of the Monday Night RAW heralding CM Punk's return and in EVERY case but ONE, Triple H ended up giving Punk a Pedigree, effectively BURYING his credibility. Take a guess who was at the helm of THAT piece of wrestling creativity. No such story exists on the horizon of Styles, who is being planned to actually defend the title potentially in EVOLVE-1 or New Japan, where TNA has some ties and can aid in regulating a continuation of that storyline.
In the case of AJ Styles, what is being set up, at least in MY mind is a showdown between Styles and another man TNA is trying to build into the main event, Magnus. His Bound for Glory match with Sting helped build at least SOME momentum to that end and, if my suspicions are justified, it will be HE who ends up breaking the reign of Styles in a career defining match, most likely also setting up a memorable feud that could last until Lockdown, if TNA plays their cards right. I would surmise that TNA plays this out somewhat as WWF did with the Intercontinental Title in the early 90's between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels. That feud lasted months as well, if memory serves and led to one of the most famous Ladder Matches in the history of Ladder Matches.
In regards to the Impact directly following the BFG PPV, we were looking at the continuation of several storylines that are necessary to run forward with the product and, as a result, I saw nothing wrong with there being a rest from some in ring action. While more than a few have written TNA off as a result, I still believe in the power of allowing at least some kind of organic storytelling in the outworking of some of the segments. To further illustrate, TNA has begun a campaign to aid in the creation and deepening of characters on the roster by encouraging them to send in footage of themselves in character on the road for later uploading to the various social media outlets (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc.). This initiative they are calling "Action Never Ends", meaning that each week, as a lead-in into the following weekly show, those media outlets will post those pieces of video and it will allow TNA Creative to dig in and help flesh out more complex characters.
Just to sidestep a bit, but professional wrestling NEEDS this right now. It needs the characters to be able to take a page from Zack Ryder, who reached out via YouTube to the general public and was able to bolster some support OUTSIDE the WWE Creative Team. In TNA's case, they have chosen to INITIATE the idea, instead of scolding the talents who utilize it, as WWE did in their colossal de-push of Ryder not long following his initial Intercontinental Title reign.
So to put a book end here, TNA's position, I offer, is far more positive in terms of where things could go from here. There are some GOOD options and, with time and some luck, we'll see a very nice conclusion that will lead to a re-newing of a long term contract for one of TNA's premier talents by showcasing him the way their competitors refused to do with one of their own.