IMPACT Wrestling Wrestlers of the Week 6.14.12
By Neil Borenstein
Each week here at 1wrestling.com, I will select three of the top wrestlers from TNA’s IMPACT Wrestling and present them to you in inverse order as the show’s Wrestlers of the Week. In choosing the show’s top three superstars, performances from that week’s IMPACT Wrestling and any relevant preceding programming – such as Pay-Per-Views – will be taken into consideration.
IMPACT Wrestling Wrestlers of the Week for June 14, 2012
3. Bobby Roode – for defending the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on two occasions this week:
En route to becoming the longest reigning World Heavyweight Champion in TNA history, it is important to note that Booby Roode must have been doing something right along the way. His wins may not be the cleanest and he certainly is not the most likeable guy. But the self-proclaimed leader of the self-made selfish generation has done whatever it takes over the course of his career to go from relative obscurity all the way to the top in TNA.
At Slammiversary, Roode was supposed to encounter his greatest obstacle as champion when he put the title on the line against Sting. Having already forced tap outs by Roode on two previous occasions and coming off being named the first TNA Hall of Fame Inductee, Sting was energized and focused by the time they met in the ring. But none of that mattered when Roode pulled another rabbit out of the hat by grabbing one of the beer bottles left at ringside during James Storm’s return match earlier in the evening. Roode blasted Sting in the head with the bottle behind the referee’s back and had little trouble at that point covering up to slither away with his championship still in hand.
Roode’s time for celebration would need to be short, however. Not only was he left a bit battered when Sting attacked him after their match at Slammiversary. But Roode also knew that he would be putting the title right back on the line just a few days later against Mr. Anderson, who came out of a three-way bout against Rob Van Dam and Jeff Hardy as the No. 1 Contender.
Anderson still seemed bitter from when Roode blasted him in the head with a beer bottle a few months back. But he also promised not to stoop that low when they met in the ring for the main event of IMPACT Wrestling. Anderson planned on getting over Roode by simply beating his butt.
Perhaps it wouldn’t have hurt Anderson to take a shortcut or two, though. He definitely came at Roode hard at the beginning of the match and looked good enough overall against the champion to really stand a chance. But when the show came back from a commercial break, the match developed into a more even back-and-forth affair that saw Roode come with a nice grounded approach to try and slow Anderson down. It didn’t work entirely, as Anderson was able to repeatedly fight back. But the various submissions Roode slapped on did help to wear Anderson down.
It was also a submission move that did finally put Anderson away for Roode. When he tried an initial attempt at a crossface, Roode was countered and found himself on the wrong end of a couple of near falls. But he soon regained the upperhand when he slammed Anderson shoulder-first into the turnbuckles. He immediately brought Anderson down to the mat with another crossface. There was no getting out of this one for Anderson, who had to tap out.
Roode knew he fought a close one there, but he also didn’t need to resort to any backhanded chicanery to get the victory. Tacked on to his win over Sting four nights earlier, Roode continued to further cement his status as a dominant heavyweight champion. Now his focus turns to two things – the potential of facing Austin Aries at Destination X and the ongoing Bound for Glory Series.
2. James Storm – for grabbing the early 20-point lead in the Bound for Glory Series just a few days after making his return to TNA by breaking Crimson’s undefeated streak at Slammiversary:
James Storm’s inability to defeat Bobby Roode at Lockdown for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship planted a large seed of doubt in his head about where his future in professional wrestling was going. He took a good deal of time off after that loss and receded to his home and family in order to put everything into perspective.
It’s apparent that once he did that, a return to the ring made the most sense for The Tennessee Cowboy. He made a surprise return at Slammiversary as the man answering Crimson’s open challenge. It only took him a few short minutes to undo everything Crimson had put into his undefeated streak when a Last Call Superkick officially put Storm back on the map.
That was the return Storm needed to get his head back in the game and ready to start competing in the Bound For Glory Series. The Bound For Glory Series was incredibly successful last year, until TNA decided to just botch the entire thing by not having Roode win the World Heavyweight Title. But pretty much everything leading up to that match provided a nice few months of intriguing storylines that should duplicate in its second iteration.
This year’s series kicked off with an 11-person gauntlet match that essentially introduced everybody in the competition. Eliminations took place when tossed over the top rope and both feet touched the floor. The last man standing would be awarded a crucial opening lead of 20 points in the series.
There are a healthy bunch of wrestlers in this year’s series, but only one of them really stands out as a favorite. That would be Storm, who managed to outlast AJ Styles, Jeff Hardy, Rob Van Dam, Magnus, Bully Ray, Kurt Angle, The Pope, Robbie E., Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe. Mr. Anderson would become the 12th man in the series after losing to Bobby Roode in the main event, though he did not compete in this gauntlet match.
Storm’s win came when he was left with just Joe in his way. He ended up getting Joe onto the apron and after a brief choke was placed on him, he managed to break free and deliver a Last Call Superkick. Joe fell to the floor and Storm’s spot at the top of the leaderboard was set.
Storm did take a few moments to address the crowd and assure them of his renewed focus on becoming World Heavyweight Champion. And he made it clear that when the Bound For Glory Series is all said and done, he hopes Roode is still the holder of that title.
Both his win over the undefeated Crimson and a 20-point gauntlet match win to open the series provided Storm an incredible way of returning to TNA. He has a lot of momentum right now and should be viewed as a favorite to win this whole thing.
1. Austin Aries – for potentially moving into a heavyweight title match for Destination X after further proving his value in two tough X-Division Title defenses over the past week:
There are few better ways to open up any professional wrestling program than by featuring the self-proclaimed “Greatest Man That Ever Lived” himself, Austin Aries. Knowing this to be true, TNA offered him up as a competitor in the opening contest at both Slammiversary this past Sunday and on its third-straight live edition of IMPACT Wrestling Thursday night.
At Slammiversary, Hulk Hogan booked an impromptu showdown between Aries and a man he developed a bit of heat with on the previous episode of IMPACT Wrestling – Samoa Joe. Joe cost him a match against Crimson after feeling disrespected by Aries prior to that match taking place. So what better way to settle whatever tension existed between them than by pitting them against each other with the X-Division Championship on the line?
It turned out to be a great decision, as these two put on a hell of an opening contest to really get the crowd into what turned into a solid overall pay-per-view. Each man was equally impressive, but it was Aries that managed to exact his revenge by coming out on top with a pinfall courtesy of a devastating brainbuster.
Aries has been one of TNA’s hottest assets since returning to the company. He is also well aware of his value. And not just content to be X-Division Champion forever, he expressed later on during the Slammiversary broadcast that he wanted more and promptly established himself as a main event talent in TNA.
He would take that attitude right into the opening bout on this week’s IMPACT Wrestling. He once again put his X-Division Title on the line on this occasion, except this time it would be against two opponents and under Ultimate X stipulations. The contenders vying for the championship – Chris Sabin and Zema Ion – were both familiar with Aries due to recent confrontations with him, but neither man was successful in trying to remove the strap from around his waist.
This night would be no different. Sabin was the veteran of this kind of match, having previously competed in 14 of them. But when his left knee got jammed up after being lifted all the way to the floor by Aries, his chances of getting back into the contest were slimmed to none and the winner of the bout was narrowed down to either Ion or Aries.
Aries continued the assault on Sabin and Ion, who took a brunt of Sabin’s misfortune as well, with a running suicide dive through the ropes. After taking a lap around the ring, Aries climbed the turnbuckles and began to move across the rope toward the title. However, Ion was able to get back into the ring just in time to pull him all the way back down to the canvas.
Ion nailed him with a few fists and then headed for the ropes, but Aries caught him with a forearm shot and looked to go for the brainbuster. Ion reversed and went behind Aries, catching some elbows in the face as the champ tried to break free. Aries did accomplish that, but he also caught a boot to the face as he charged in at Ion in the corner. Ion headed up top, only to be stopped by Aries once he got up there.
Sabin made a temporary reappearance back in this match when Aries ate a few elbows that knocked him back down to the canvas. Sabin nailed Aries with a few shots to the back and then delivered an elbow to the back of the neck. But then he just rolled right back to the outside, seemingly taking himself out of the fight for good.
Aries continued his chase of Ion on the top rope and awkwardly shoved him forward so that he fell all the way down to the floor on the outside. Aries grabbed hold of the cable above him and looked toward his X-Division strap. Ion put a brief halt to his progress, but he also ended up taking a gorgeous hurricurana off the top rope that easily set up for a corner dropkick and brainbuster by Aries. Ion was done at that point, and Aries took his time getting back up to the cable to crawl toward the championship. He unhooked the gold, held it tight and fell back down to the mat the winner of the contest.
Even with the impressive win, Aries still was not content. He grabbed a microphone and reiterated his stance that he wanted more of an opportunity in TNA to climb the ladder toward main event status. That drew Hogan to the ring. He agreed that Aries was something special and was more than happy to offer him the opportunity at the TNA World Heavyweight Title in the main event of Destination X. But in order for that to occur, Aries would need to relinquish his status as X-Division Champion – a label he has worn longer in one run than anybody else in TNA history. Not ready to commit either way, Hogan gave Aries one week to offer up his response on next Thursday’s Open Fight Night.
This is a bit sudden, but certainly welcome for a guy like Aries. He has been on fire since making his return back with the company just short of a year ago. Since then, his rise has been meteoric as one of the best things going in TNA. It is a big risk for him to drop the X-Division Championship for just one shot in the big dance. But if he wants to elevate his status sooner rather than later, Hogan is serving up the chance on a silver platter and it would do him well to accept the offer. I guess we’ll find out in one week’s time just how badly Aries wants to be the main eventer he claims (and constantly proves) himself to be.