Pondering with Plumtree is a column on the popular blog, TNAsylum, that is written by yours truly. The blog is focused towards being a fan site for TNA Wrestling fans where they can get news, rumors, opinions, and any and everything else, TNA Wrestling. Known as "The Haven for TNA Wrestling Fans", I'm hoping to bring some of my thoughts to an already impressive roster of columnist for as long as the site will have me. You can read the latest column here, or in the text below.
It's safe to say that the X-Division is a topic that elicits a strong opinion from any fan of TNA Wrestling. It's a concept that is part of the fabric that is indeed TNA, yet, is one that is now known more for it's folklore than it is for a running tradition.
From its definition, its representation, and its overall impact (no pun intended) on the TNA product, the X-Division and it's championship has now come to a point where the time of its relevancy has been surpassed by the duration of which TNA fans have wanted more from the division and the championship.
As a TNA fan, and admittedly, a TNA traditionalist (if there is such a thing), I wish the division was a concept focused on a lot more. Nothing too over the top in terms of presence, but at least be a (legit) significant part of the product. Contrary to those who hate the idea of the division and find the concept obsolete, I still strongly believe there is purpose in the X-Division and the X-Division Championship. It's something that has separated the company since it's inception, and a championship that does indeed carry some legacy to it. In fact, many forget that the X-Division championship is indeed TNA's oldest title and most original championship.
So yes, I'm all for keeping the division. Again, I strongly believe there is something special in the X-Division. I really, really, do.
Hindsight is often twenty-twenty as the old saying goes, and with that, history sometimes distorts our thinking and logic as well. We get so caught up in reminiscing and even touting how great the X-Division used to be, we hold the bar insanely high for the future of the concept. I'm the biggest offender of this when I sit down and enjoy "The Best of the X-Division" DVDs. "Man...what happened?", I constantly say to myself.
But the truth is, when you think about what happened to the X-Divison, all you have to do is look no further than the top of TNA's current roster. Names like Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, Chris Sabin, and the now departed (or not. Maybe? Whatever...) AJ Styles have moved up and on. The X-Division boasted names and talents that shockingly budded at the right time, together, and made it something special. Something that probably will be hard to duplicate again. And they had further support from other names such as Jerry Lynn, Alex Shelley, Petey Williams, Sonny Siaki, Kid Kash, Michael Shane, Elix Skipper, Frankie Kazarian, and Low Ki to name a few.
We see this with the always talked about "Attitude era" (since when does WWE get all the credit for late 90's wrestling?) or more accurately, "The Monday Night War era" when we all collectively sigh then utter, "things just ain't the same". It's just hard to duplicate the immense talent that came through that period. Austin. Rock. Triple H. Foley. Guerrero. Jericho. Benoit. Malenko. Hogan. Flair. Goldberg. Raven. DDP. Sting. Savage. Hall. Nash. And on and on, and on. But I digress.
The X-Division's biggest crime to date is following a strong grouping of talented individuals that were part of the incarnation of the concept. And yes, I'll agree, the company lost focus on it as well. Big time.
When Sheik Abul Bashir became X-Division champion, the air from the balloon that carried the mystique and legacy of the title was let out. More like exploded. No offense to Bashir, but c'mon man, seriously? Bashir?
Furthering the process was when we saw a weight limit introduced, the attempted evolution of the concept with constant three-way matches, the introduction of the Television championship watering down it's existence, too many random multi-person matches, and the eventual relegation of the championship and the division to guys who were brought in on a one-time basis under ridiculous names (Greg Marascuilo?) and thrown on television for the occasional random match to kick-off a show or pay-per-view.
Call me crazy, and I'm pretty much anticipating many of you to do so, but I still believe the X-Division and the championship is at it's best when it is ambiguous. I loved the idea in the past (here I go again romanticizing...) of the championship feeling like a pseudo-mid card championship, but yet, still being featured mid-way through a pay-per-view, or even the main event of an episode of Impact. I like the idea of it being a stepping stone for guys to the main event, while still not being so much of a demotion when they chase the title again. Heck, the one time the X-Division championship was given the main event slot for a pay-per-view, I turned out pretty well. Memorable, actually.
Personally, I enjoy when we get a main event around the Tag Team, Knockout, or X-Division championship once in a while. It makes ALL of the championships seem important. At one time, the X-Division championship was right there - side by side - with the World Heavyweight Championship. Traditional fans knew at the time the NWA Champion was the champion in TNA, but the X-Division Champion was just as important.
I also miss the idea of "no-limits". The different athletes with several body types also added to the overall aura of the division. From Petey Williams to Samoa Joe to Doug Williams to Sonny Siaki, all who held the X-Division championship, all whom added to that ambiguous feel. The championship felt like a division onto it's own.
Another removed element was a certain "competition factor" surrounding the X-Division championship. Most of the feuds regarding the championship in it's early days were simple - who was the best? The division almost carried a mixed-martial-arts-feel of driven competition. Take for instance the AJ Styles/Samoa Joe/Christopher Daniels epic feud for the championship. It was a feud rooted in competition, and branched out as each looked to beat the other two to be the better man. Joe even went as far as "breaking the code" which was that spirit of competition among the division. No extracurricular activity or crazy antics were necessary. Just a couple of guys looking to be better than the other, and of course, looking to steal the show.
Because of it's ambiguous nature regarding weight limits, definition, and whether it was a traditional mid-card title or not, coupled with its core of fierce competition and faster-paced style, the X-Division became different and really allowed the company to offer the heavy sports entertainment/storyline driven-style surrounding the World Heavyweight Championship and elsewhere. The strong X-Division offered a unique variation, and it allowed for such a strong, dynamic product. The perfect blend of in-ring excellence and sports entertainment.
Now the question begs, can the X-Division of old be duplicated? It's hard to duplicate the names mentioned before and the greatness that they brought, but it who's to say it still can't be just as good? I'm no booker, just a mere fan, but, wouldn't a core of four solid guys to begin with be a good start? How about Ultimate Tiger? Kenny King? Chris Sabin? Austin Aries? Manik? Zema Ion? Rockstar Spud? Davey Richards? Eddie Edwards? Samuel Shaw? Choose any four from that list. Who knows? At this stage of his career, maybe even allow Kurt Angle a series of matches to help drum things up. As long as we know who they are (character properly introduced and consistently presented), the opportunity is there to have a solid, sustainable, and most of all, entertaining X-Division.
Really, all it takes is one good strong feud/series of matches (maybe even a solid history of the X-Division video package...I love those) to reignite the fire for fans, catch new fans up to speed on what it used to be, and what it will be like again featuring the new generation.
The X-Division of old was a bare-bones concept that didn't need all of the bells and whistles recent regimes tried to place upon it (although Option C is terrific). For some reason, everyone attempted to define, redefine, and "evolve" the concept of the X-Division when all it needs is to return to its simple, ambiguous, competitive nature. TNA may be entering a "Real New Era" in the coming weeks, but it cannot forget it's oldest and most traditional concept that is more "TNA Wrestling" than anything else in the company - The X-Division.
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