So, after my top ten TNA list yesterday, which seemed to get an overall positive response (thank you, readers), Eric asked me if I could do a list of wrestlers in TNA that are misused or underutilized. I did make a point in saying that there was a lot of talent in TNA Wrestling in my last column, so I said “sure”.
It makes sense, as there is plenty of talent in TNA. Plus, it allows me to show that there are things in TNA worth watching. The problem is, you rarely-if ever-see them. Now, while there are definitely more than 10 wrestlers who fit the bill of being misused, I’m going to focus on the 10 that seem to be misused the worst (at least, in my opinion). So, here we go once again, and enjoy!
10. DOUGLAS WILLIAMS
Admittedly, I love wrestlers that train in the European strong-style. Watching wrestlers who can chain together move after move and rely on a variety of suplexes and submission holds is my favorite way to watch wrestling, and practically all of my favorite wrestlers of the last 20 years or so have trained in this style at some point or another. Williams definitely fits the bill, and is criminally underrated as a technical wizard in the ring. Honestly, he reminds me of a younger, bigger William Regal in his style, and even in how he carries himself as a wrestling personality. Although he could stand to tone himself back up a little bit (more for appearance sake than anything), the guy is an incredible wrestler, and his Chaos Theory finisher is one of the best (and best-named) finishers I’ve seen in a long time. Plus, believe it or not, the guy can actually cut a solid promo.
Now, Hernandez may not be the most charismatic guy in the world (his promos definitely suck something awful), but there’s no denying the guy has talent in the ring. At nearly 300 pounds, he reminds me a lot of Mike Awesome in that he’s a lot more agile than a guy his size normally would be. Also, thanks to a great trainer in Shawn Michaels, he has a very solid understanding of the wrestling business, including picking his spots in his matches for the right reasons and selling to make sure his opponent looks good whenever deemed necessary. Despite early signs Hernandez was getting a main event push and possibly even a world title run after winning “Feast or Fired” (a terrible match concept, and in this case, saw Hernandez never even truly be able to cash in his case). The only thing I can see holding him back is his mic skills, which are practically nil. He has all the other tools needed to be a major star, though.
8. THE AMAZING RED
Much like Hernandez, Red’s mic skills are the only thing holding him back at this point. He comes across as far too shy in that department, almost like he’s afraid to say anything. However, Red’s name fits as he is amazing in the ring. Basically, in the ring, he’s everything Rey Mysterio wishes he could be, and then some. Plus, the guy has shown incredible loyalty to a company that’s used and abused him, being with TNA since the weekly PPV days. What does he have to show for it? A pair of X-Division title wins that practically no one remembers. The guy has the ability to put on a show-stealing performance on a regular basis, yet when was the last time you actually remember seeing him even wrestle on Impact, let alone win a match? Hell, TNA even went as far as to pay him the same amount of money to wrestle under two separate gimmicks (the other being Sangriento), give him a pseudo-push with a pair of wins over Suicide (Christopher Daniels), and then scrap the gimmick with no reason after just 2 weeks. Again, I think his charisma is holding him back, but that shouldn’t stop TNA from at least booking the guy on television in X-Division matches once in a while.
7. AUSTIN ARIES
I almost didn’t include Austin Aries on this list due to the fact that he’s only been with TNA a few weeks now (at least on this second round with the company). However, I can already see TNA misusing this guy. Here’s a wrestler who has consistently ranked among the best wrestlers in the world, yet all TNA can do with him is make him a smarmy heel that takes a lot of cheap shots. How about, oh, I don’t know, letting the guy just do what he does best, and that’s wrestle circles around most of the roster? I’m willing to give TNA the benefit of the doubt this time in that Aries is still new to the company. But, with the way things in that company work, I’m afraid that Aries is going to become the Evan Bourne of TNA where he’s simply there to make others look good, and that’s a tremendous waste of his talents.
6. ERIC YOUNG
I’m not the biggest fan of Eric Young in the world, but the guy deserves a break. He has put up with more crap in TNA over the years than probably anyone else (even getting fired), and much like Red, has little to nothing to show for his loyalty. I thought things were going to turn around for Young when he began a main event face run not long ago, but turned it into a heel run as the leader of World Elite. Admittedly, I loved Young as the heel at this time. He seemed a natural fit once he actually got into the groove of things, even winning his first (albeit semi-worthless) true singles title in the Legends/Global/Television championship (I should really write about this belt some time, BTW) and actually scoring a clean and dominant win over A.J. Styles in the process. Hell, the guy even got the damn piledriver over as a deadly finisher again! So, on the verge of having possibly the hottest new heel in the company, what does TNA do? After firing him first, they bring him back as the goof once again. Unfortunately, Young has played this role so well so many times that he’s at the point where, should he get a serious gimmick again, it’s going to be very hard to buy.
5. CHRIS SABIN
Entry number 5 brings us to one-half of the Motor City Machine Guns, rightfully considered by many to be one of the best tag teams in the world today. Chris Sabin has been with TNA practically since the beginning, and was actually a very dominant X-Division champion for a long time. So, what happened? He got paired with Alex Shelley to form a new team in TNA, which actually seemed like a good idea. Turns out, it was an incredibly good idea, yet has been executed very poorly. Despite the greatness of the Guns, they only have one tag team title reign to their name, and aside from a great series with Beer Money Inc., it was largely forgettable. In regards to Sabin specifically, he is a fantastic wrestler in every way (and, arguably, the better talker of the team), yet when was the last time you remember him having a great singles feud. Hell, when was the last time you remember the Guns even getting a great tag team feud? Sabin’s loyalty to TNA is admirable, but hasn’t paid off for him in quite some time. Unfortunately, Sabin is out with an injury right now. I wish him a speedy recovery, as I’ve been a fan of his for about 9 years now, and I hope that he’s given a better chance to shine in TNA once he returns. Time is going to have to tell on this one.
4. ALEX SHELLEY
Now we’re onto the other half of the Guns. While I think Sabin is the better talker, Shelley isn’t bad in his own right, and I’d say he’s the better wrestler. Alex Shelley is a consistently good performer and is almost guaranteed to deliver every night he gets in the ring. The guy is always ranked as one of the best wrestlers in the world, with some actually calling him the greatest in the world today. That speaks volumes about Shelley, yet he has not received one truly good singles run his entire TNA career. Right now, he’s in the middle of a feud for the X-Division title, which, if given the belt, could be a really great run for him, and maybe even begin to elevate him to a higher echelon. The guy deserves it, as he’s been busting his ass in TNA almost as long as Sabin has, and aside from a single X-Division title run at a time when the company was ignoring the division, he hasn’t truly been given a chance to shine.
3. SAMOA JOE
Joe almost didn’t make the list for reasons I will explain shortly. Joe has been a top performer for years and is still the longest reigning ROH Heavyweight Champion in history, and is one of only three wrestlers to win the company’s triple crown (along with A.J. Styles and Kurt Angle; sorry, but regardless of what Mike Tenay will tell you, NWA title reigns do not count towards the triple crown or grand slam. Sorry, Abyss). He’s had great matches with Angle, Styles, Daniels and numerous others and is a former world champion, but is constantly overlooked as a true main eventer. Even his single world title reign was cut way too short (in favor of giving Sting yet another title reign he didn’t need, BTW). Now, he’s in the middle of an angle that involves nothing but him jobbing to every wrestler on the roster for no apparent reason. Now, as I said before, Joe almost didn’t make this list, and the reason is because, over the last year or so, Joe has not only seemed to gain a lot of weight recently (causing him to seemingly become blown up very early in matches-something that never used to be a problem with Joe, who was somewhat of an iron man), but his matches have become very stale and predictable. Plus, Joe seems to be at a point where he just doesn’t even care anymore, and it shows in the ring. However, I did wind up including Joe on this list because I don’t completely blame him for seemingly not caring anymore. When you’ve been booked into oblivion out of nowhere the way Joe has been, you’d probably stop caring, too. How can TNA expect Joe to perform at maximum efficiency when they think it’ll be a hot angle to instead book him as a 300-pound jobber? You know when booking a wrestler as a jobber works as a great angle? NEVER.
2. CHRISTOPHER DANIELS
I’ve been a Christopher Daniels fan for a long, long time, and even got to meet him three years ago (great guy, BTW). He is pound-for-pound one of the best wrestlers in the entire world, and the man can do it all. He’s got a great look, is highly charismatic, cuts great promos and is a one-man wrestling clinic. He should have been TNA Wrestling World Champion at least once by now (if not numerous times), yet has barely ever even gotten a championship match. The guy can make anyone look good and can wrestle practically any style, yet has never truly been given the main event run he deserves. Every time it looks like he’s finally going to break the glass ceiling and get the push he’s been waiting for (working with then-champions Jeff Jarrett, Kurt Angle, A.J. Styles, etc.), his push is completely halted with no explanation whatsoever. He’s been let go from the company for several times-which makes no sense, BTW-and every time he comes back, he’s promised a better spot and a bigger chance. When is TNA ever actually going to enforce their end of the deal? What more does Daniels have to do before TNA finally realizes he should be one of their top guys?
And now we come to the top of the list, and quite possibly the most mistreated wrestler in TNA history. Much like Alex Shelley, there are many fans who consider A.J. Styles the best wrestler in the world (and another great guy in real life), and there’s good reason for that. Like Daniels, Styles can do it all in the ring, and always gives 110% in every match he’s in, whether it’s a curtain jerker with Red or a main event with Kurt Angle. While A.J. has numerous title reigns to his name, how many of them do you truly remember? I remember a conversation with my friend Arik (www.twitter.com/realarikangel) where he actually had to remind me that A.J. was indeed a TNA grand slam winner, having won the TNA world title in 2009. I had honestly forgotten that A.J. had won the title, that’s how lackluster his title reign was. And every other reign as NWA World Champion was the same way. They all ended far too soon, before he even had a chance to get over with fans as a legitimate main eventer.
Fast forward to now, and Styles has paid his dues 10 times over, but is no closer to being a true threat to the world title or a true world champion than he was nearly 10 years ago during the weekly PPV days. There has to be a reason for this, but I’ll be damned if I know what it is. He has practically the entire locker room supporting him and even Ditsy Carter herself has claimed that A.J. Styles should be the top guy and world champion. So, having said that, why don’t you, maybe, perhaps, PUT THE WORLD TITLE ON HIM AND PUSH HIM TO THE MOON?! You’re in charge of the company; make it happen! Who’s going to stop you? A.J. has been pushed to backburner time and time again, and it needs to stop. Now.
Honorable mentions: Bobby Roode, Brian Kendrick, Kazarian, Matt Morgan and Zema Ion (I’d include Cookie here for, but TNA doesn’t use her as in-ring talent like they should, and I wanted to keep this focused on in-ring performers).
Well, that does it for this time. Hope you enjoyed reading it, and if you have suggestions for further columns of any type (wrestling or otherwise), please let me know.
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See you next time!