Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Greatest....Part 1: Heavyweight Champs

Okay....I'm getting a bit tired of waiting for everything to come together, or not come together....or whatever is going to happen. That said, I've decided to take matters into my own hands and give you guys something I don't remember having done in a while. I've decided that what this place needs right now is a chance to remember some of the best. Best champions, best feuds, best alliances, best of all that makes us love what this page is geared towards....TNA. So without any further ado, let's launch into my personal top ten of the greatest Heavyweight Champions in TNA's history.....

10. Christian Cage.....
Now before anyone tries to reach for something to break their computers, let me try to explain. In 2005, Jeff Jarrett held the World Heavyweight Title for most of the year and it was in November, just days after showing up on camera at Taboo Tuesday that year for WWE, that he debuted in TNA. His presence came as he was catching his stride as a skyrocketing fan favorite in WWE, but TNA saw him as a top tier talent where Vince did not. To that end, Christian was put into a feud with the champion Jarrett only one month into his tenure. Without boring you all, Christian's final reign marked him as the last NWA World Heavyweight Champion in TNA before the TNA World Heavyweight Title was crafted.

9. Jeff Jarrett....
Why so low on the list when he was the founder of the organization? First off, his 6 World Title reigns in 6 years made it VERY difficult to watch as he was virtually "fed" his opponents on a month to month basis. In fact, from June of 2004 until February of 2006, Jarrett held the belt with less than a three month break between TWO separate champions. His dominance on screen was agonizing as it gave NO credit to his opponents and gave rise to the mock "Triple J" reference some columnists used to describe Triple H's 2002-2004 World Title status in WWE. Still, 6 reigns is 6 reigns, hence a spot in the top ten.

8. Bully Ray....
My pick here makes it so another cannot be on this list and I hope I can explain with at least some satisfaction. Bully Ray's inaugural World Heavyweight Title win marked the first in his entire career, which can be said of at least one other former champion in the record books, but it also helped end the appearances of one of my least favorite personalities TNA ever employed....Brooke Hogan. As virtually everyone remembers how the Aces and Eights storyline played out, his title match involved a swerve that few people saw coming, but in the weeks that followed, Brooke was not resigned as a talent under TNA's employ and her exit brought on some wonderful promos from the new champion at the time and garnered him a spot in this top ten.

7. Sting.....
Sting may have been higher on this list, but his reigns virtually always came as a culmination of a storyline that had to be "fixed". Whenever evil reached its peak, in would come Sting to help blow out the fire. Sting was the first turncoat from the first Main Event Mafia; the first foil for Immortal; and he led the charge against the Aces and Eights.....and with each feud punctuated, then would come a title win. Unfortunately, his wins also came when TNA needed a safe place to store the belt until a more suitable champion could be primed to take over (see also Victory Road 2011). On the other hand, his reigns have also been used to put over some of the most deserving of future champions.

6. Samoa Joe.....
Joe could have been higher on this list....the truth is, he SHOULD have been higher on this list, but with very little time on the top tier as champion, this is where he has landed. He was the single most dominant performer in TNA from his debut in June of 2005 until November of 2006, having never lost a match via pinfall or submission during that time. His streak and unflinching popularity in the eyes of fans and the man writing this column earn him a spot. On a personal note, his quest for fairness and equality in the locker room and his backstage battles with TNA officials to right the wrongs of injustice force me to place him higher than even the founder of the promotion.

5. Jeff Hardy....
This name marks something controversial. Victory Road 2011 put Jeff Hardy into a class of one, but it also gave rise to one of the most profound and beautiful stories of redemption TNA has ever put on screen. I believe in second chances, folks. I do. I defended Jeff Hardy and when he asked for forgiveness, I gave it and looked forward to his renewed view on life. Truth be told, I have not been a single bit disappointed. In an era where professional wrestling took much of its storylines from reality, Hardy paved a path that others can learn from. There is no more popular mover of TNA merchandise than Jeff and the margin isn't even close. He is TNA's John Cena in that regard and his story and contributions to TNA's merchandise sales earn him a spot here.

4. Bobby Roode....
His reign was the longest. His tenure is longer than anyone else on this list. He deserves to be here for no other reason than that, but it goes deeper than that. Bobby Roode falls under a very special category on this list. As the very first winner of the Bound for Glory Series and performing in the main event at Bound for Glory that year, he put on one of the finest matches in TNA history, but two weeks following that created arguably the best feud in years between the top two promotions.

3. Austin Aries.....
"Option C" created Austin Aries. Simple as that. Without him as the mouthpiece, there would be no place for a cruiserweight to perform on the top tier in either of the top two promotions. Whether it was Aries who pitched the idea or the powers in charge at that time....there was no better place from which the innovation to have originated on screen than "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived". Period. His reign against every opponent was worth every minute and every penny I spent to capture them on DVD.....making him "Mr. Money's Worth" in my book.

2. Kurt Angle.....
TNA's very first diamond acquisition. When he was announced as TNA's newest signee from WWE's talent pool, there was no one more pleased than me. In his tenure, he became the only man to hold every title simultaneously....marking his moniker the only one in a major promotion. That fact alone earns his place, but even more than that, Angle has served as an ambassador of goodwill for TNA ever since his arrival and has given credit to them on more occasions than can be counted.

1. AJ Styles......
If there was ever a doubt in your mind, put it to rest. For 11 years, Styles served as the face of the company, even winning the title from Sting in a match to pass on the torch to him. In spite of criminal underuse and misuse, AJ remains my single favorite performer to have ever come from TNA. Styles never appeared in the newspapers for controversy outside the ring, never instigated battles or disrespected his peers in front of the world. A consummate professional, AJ Styles remains, in my book, the single best place for TNA to place the World Title.


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