I was actually conflicted in regards to what to write Landscape II about, between TNA's X Division and Wrestling Storylines in general. Since Landscape I was about WWE specifically, I decided to go with TNA for landscape II, and I'll go into general wrestling next time. So here we go onto X Division land.
*When I write TNA, feel free to read it as TNA/IW.
Remember a couple of months back when TNA wanted to invest in the X Division again? Remember that they did? Ever wonder how'd it get to be like the way it is now – a total of 4 men are any actual part of the division? Bisch said recently in a MNM interview that the revision of the X-Division was at a 4 now, and they hope to get it to an 8 or a 9. It is at 4 – 4 wrestlers. A Double, K Double, Sorensen, and Kendrick. What on earth happened to Shelley? Zema Ion? The rest of the frickin' X roster?! This is not what the X Division needs to be, and adding in more wrestlers isn't (just) the answer.
When I think ideal TNA, I think X-Division. I think a combination of Entertaninig storylines and big names, mixed with great wrestling. I think Total Nonstop Action, not just Total Nonstop (lackluster) Acting. TNA was built on the X-Division, and the X-Division Title used to be like the classic IC title – it would not be a shame or demotion to win it as a main eventer. AJ Styles used to switch between X-Division and Heavyweight all the time. X-Division main evented a PPV once (AJ/Daniels/Joe). So how did we come to this? Where a 4-men X-Division is an improvement?! One of which is an aging Kid Kash, and the other is an unproven rookie in Jesse Sorensen?
I'll start from the X-Division's peak in '05, when Joe was holding the title and was undefeated. He was chased by AJ and Daniels, and they were given then the X-Division title was given the only opportunity ever to main event a PPV in a 3 way match between the 3 of them. What went wrong since?
Well, glad you ask. I even asked for you, to save you the trouble. Yeah, you're welcome. So since then, Joe and AJ were permanently moved from the division; AJ into a lackey-type role for Christian (Cage) and then Kurt Angle – Teaming with Tomko and becoming Tag Champs, and Joe into feuding with main event talent (said Christian Cage and Kurt Angle, and hence AJ as well in a way, coincidentally) for the Heavyweight Title, which he eventually won. Daniels was fired. First ever feast or fired loser, he became Curry Man. He reduced his star power in order to help the talent exchange with NJPW. How'd that work out, by the way? Where are Kiyoshi and Okada which came in as part of it? Both released after being glorified jobbers, you say? Then what was the point of… Oh, never mind! Instead of capitalizing on his double identity and letting him win the X gold and then unmask, which would be compelling and write itself, they slowly faded the character out and put him in Suicide's costume after Kaz (who "quit" and became a lesser character as well, by the way. Well done, Russo!) got injured. He won X Gold as Suicide, but the division lacked something to remain as seriously taken as 3 years back. What's that, you ask? STAR POWER. TNA took its biggest stars in the division and either killed their star power by making them into unknown characters, which they subsequently ruined, or moving them onto the Holy Grail – the WHC. Almost. They battled for it for a couple of years before actually getting there – what with Angle and Christian holding the gold constantly. Joe won the title, lost it to Sting and never got near it again. Sting lost it to Angle who lost it back so Sting who lost it to AJ finally in a passing of the torch match. Until two months ago he held it again while AJ looked at him drooling, so far for a passing of the torch. BUT TNA's booking and lack of foresight isn't why we're here – the X Division is. So the people who held the X title went on to being inferior to "TRUE" main event talent, and the division lacked any real star power to carry it – Jay Lethal holding the title for the majority of the time. Oh, a whole division also feuded with Team 3D, and it was even. 15 guys vs. 2 and it was even. So you have a Savage imitation holding the gold and the whole division feuding with 2 guys, and Johnny Divine – the X-Division traitor. So to sum it up, as this last paragraph was kind of all over the place, the reasons for the fall of the X-Division in my eyes were:
-Elimination of star power, either by promotion or by ridiculous gimmick changes
-Dwarfing the division's importance by making its stars unable to hang with the "big boys" over in the WHC picture. Same as what the humbling of Daniel Bryan did to ROH in a sense in the eyes of fans of both, from a kayfabe point of view. (hope that's as clear in writing as it is in my mind)
-whole division feuded with 3D, and almost lost. In the duration of the feud they held the title "hostage".
Since then, the X-Division has been in a lackluster status quo, with the title changing hands on iMPACTs, with a single obligatory match for the Division on PPV. UNTIL!
Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, who since entered TNA decide to bring back prestige to the Division. They hold a PPV specifically for it, which was great. They had Kendrick slay Abyss and become the hero of the division… With a less-than-serious gimmick. I love it and would take it seriously if they didn't overdo it and if most fans would be interested in philosophy as I am. But they're not, which is a shame. Anyway (gosh, I'm all over the place today), he wins the title, and everyone celebrates. Then it all takes a fall two weeks later, as one Eric Bischoff announces that as part of the revamp of the division – you know, the one that stands for "It's not about weight limits, it's about no limits" – the division would have a 225 lbs weight limit. That's when it all starts to crumble again. They hold a gauntlet of 10 men to determine the X-Division rankings, and anyone that isn't in the final 4 is never heard from again since. And here we are, a 4 men division let by a STAR (all-caps) in Austin Aries, who won the title from Kendrick.
So that's the backstory of how it all went wrong. Now I'll go into what I believe should happen to really make the division serious, and be something unique that is all TNA and not just "Not-WWE": First off, eliminate the weight limit. I don't care if you just conveniently forget about it to save face – it's a bad idea. The reason is it makes some wrestlers (ironically now not Kurt Angle who's at a slim 215 lbs) unable to work the division when they should be able to, workers such as Joe and RVD. You look at the Destination X card – Everyone there who's still employed, minus Abyss and that Brit* that battled Williams* should be used as part of the X-Division, even if not exclusively. That means Joe, Kaz, AJ, Daniels, RVD, Austin Aries, Zema Ion, Kendrick, EY, Doug Williams and Lynn. Have main eventers like RVD, AJ, Joe and Daniels hold the title. Also you have Hardy Sheen – if they're going to use him, might as well do it right. As long as he doesn't change the title design - which still has a hexagon on it behind the X, and a 6 sided ring in the side plates by the way - I wouldn't mind him in the division because of his name value. MCMG as well, when they're healthy and not in the Tag Title picture.
You still have plenty of star power for the heavyweight roster in Anderson, Angle, Sting, Roode, Storm, Crimson and basically the rest of the bulked up roster. Next, you raise the status of the X-Division title (and hence the whole division) by having whoever is champion beat the WHC in a singles match, cleanly. You create a perception that the X-Title is just as important as the Heavyweight title (Like the Pure title in ROH back in the day – same level, different function. McGuinness* and Danielson battled it out for both, equally.)
TNA should pride itself in 2 very distinct divisions – the Sports Entertainment Division and the X-Division. Cult and Mainstream, both of which are equally accessible. I'd turn Xplosion, the INTERNET show, into an X-Division only show, and I'd also create a 1 hour Heavyweight only show (Entertaniment, segment-heavy show) on Spike. Impact Wrestling will be a sort of "supershow" where you get both. It will raise the importance of Impact Wrestling in the eyes of the fans, and will give TNA 2 new shows, which means 2 more revenue sources that can be filmed with no extra charge along with Impact Wrestling. I think there will be fans who will tune exclusively to 1 of the shows along with Impact Wrestling, and I am absolutely sure that both shows will do decent ratings, and that such a project will spike the ratings of Impact Wrestling, as well as bring back some disgruntled fans. TNA is both mainstream and cult, and should thus embrace it's 2 identities.
Next – the TV title should be a midcard title for ALL midcarders – X and otherwise. When you have an Austin Aries, for example, hold and defend it against allcomers at every PPV – and if the above idea would be implemented basically half the roster is freed up to chase the TV title, you have good, interesting TV. If you have a sort of competition between the X-Div and Heavyweights for which division is better as an underlying theme throughout Impact Wrestling broadcasts, that could also create interesting TV. If you have Flair and Hogan be the competing figureheads for the X-Division and the Heavyweights, respectively, hell – you've found something for those guys to do and make them sort of useful (not really, but more than they are now). That's a pretty good setup there in my eyes, that costs NOTHING extra, or really next to nothing when filming TVs in the same night and venue. If IW is on the road, fans WILL sit through 4 hours if they're compelling. But of course, right now this is the least of TNA's problems, and no matter how good something sounds in theory TNA could always mess it up. It's up to them to make compelling TV from whatever structure they have for their company.
*You may have noticed the asterisks above certain words throughout the article. They are a little bonus, a little somn' somn' for all of you who follow. The words asterisked are "Williams", "McGuinness", and "Brit", and here's why: This is a little note that some readers, Kendra included, might enjoy that isn't really related to the article. Douglas Williams' real name is Douglas Durdle. McGuinness, known in TNA as Desmond Wolfe – his real name is Steven Haworth. Both men are Brits, and have been artificially given the initials DW in TNA. This may be a coincidence, but it's note-worthy in my eyes nonetheless. So - DW, British, DW, British, DW, British…