The following is from Nick Alexander at FansTalkWrestling.com
Recently, we saw AJ Styles criticize Dixie Carter’s actions that took place over the past several years, then get shut down as Dixie turned on him with a vengeance. After years of complacency and reliance on others to defend her interests, Dixie is finally being proactive in protecting and exercising her authority; unfortunately for AJ, it’s coming at his expense.
Last Thursday, Hogan used his power as the GM to grant AJ a contract, but Dixie tore it up and threw AJ out of the ring. At the same time, we have Bully Ray applauding Dixie’s actions where AJ is concerned. Considering that Bully’s spent the last year doing his best to tear down TNA, it seems implausible that Dixie and Bully will jump into the proverbial bed together, but they do have a common interest in keeping AJ in line and on a leash. Finally, there’s Sting and Hogan to consider; Hogan’s power comes from Dixie, and Sting has backed all of Dixie’s policies since the day he stepped into the company.
There are scenarios in which either or both men fall in line with the president, and if they don’t all come to fruition, odds are good that at least one of them will align with Dixie, at least initially. With all of those figures arrayed against AJ, the odds that he will achieve the prominence that he once held years ago seem slim. Is it too late in AJ’s career for him to keep being the man that carries TNA on his back, or will he be able to be the company’s golden boy once again? Some aren’t interested in the answer to this question, however, but are rather more concerned that this story might not be a TNA original.
This angle has met with a lot of criticism for a number of reasons, but one major gripe is that this is a blatant rip-off of CM Punk’s storyline leading into the Summer of Punk. The inspiration for this idea comes from the initial promo that AJ gave after winning the Bound For Glory Series, where he railed against Dixie and all the mistakes she made, and how her choices have made TNA a shell of what it used to be. The main point upon which certain people latch onto in their comparison with Punk’s pipebomb is that AJ mentioned the possibility of leaving the company with the title after he beat Bully Ray. On the surface, there are similarities between the promo that AJ delivered and the one that Punk dropped, certainly. Is this angle a rip-off, though? Absolutely and unequivocally not.
First of all, CM Punk’s pipebomb is aptly named in that it was indiscriminate in its scope; Punk was lashing out at everyone in the WWE when it came to how badly the ball was dropped with him. AJ, on the other hand, was very precise in that he targeted Dixie, and Dixie alone. His gripe was with her and her actions that hurt the company, whereas Punk mentioned names like the McMahons, but only in their capacity as WWE officials. Additionally, Punk’s contract came up at Summerslam, and right from the get-go he was planning to win the belt and leave; there was nothing that anyone could do to change his mind except to meet his outrageous demands. AJ has not threatened to leave the company, not in the least. He mentioned that, since he didn’t have a contract, the possibility existed that he could win the belt and leave with it, but that was not his goal.
AJ’s goal is to make Dixie pay for what he perceives to be crimes against him, the wrestlers that put TNA on the map, and the company itself. Finally, the response from management is completely different. Hogan’s attempts to mend bridges with AJ may be reminiscent of Vince McMahon’s attempts to keep the title in the company by appeasing Punk, but Hogan and Vince’s roles are not identical. Vince’s counterpart in TNA is Dixie Carter, and she could not care less about whether AJ left or stayed. That makes the roles of Punk and AJ very dissimilar: whereas Punk was the rebel that wanted change that benefited him, AJ is fighting to right the wrongs that Dixie caused, and Dixie is more than happy to play the villain in this scenario. In short, the only real similarity between these two angles is that the initial segments that sparked them were dressed up as shoot promos.
With that addressed, let’s focus on the potential success or failure of the angle itself. Obviously, it’s far too early to tell if everything will work out when we don’t even know all the players in this game, but things certainly look promising. For the first time in at least two years, AJ Styles is the focus of the company once again. For the first time in the past year, a TNA Original is back in the spotlight, and he’s fighting to bring back what made TNA a sensation in the first place. With a vast array of potential opponents to face in Bully Ray, EGO, or maybe even the Main Event Mafia should Sting continue to support Dixie, though, how could AJ possibly win this fight? Upon reflection, there are a few potential sources of support that AJ could rely upon.
- Jeff Jarrett – Personally, I’ve never been a huge fan of the man and how he inserted himself into the spotlight at every opportunity. However, TNA is Jeff Jarrett’s baby; if AJ is fighting to bring back the glory of the past, it makes a lot of sense for Double J to back him up. He’s also kept his hand in, as it were, making appearances in places like AAA, so Jarrett could support AJ either backstage, in the board room, or in the ring, if absolutely necessary.
- The X Division – What set TNA apart from the rest of the industry were the stars of the X Division, and AJ was one of its brightest. If the rumors we’re hearing that Petey Williams will be making a return are true, he would definitely back up AJ if it meant a return to prominence for the division, and I could easily see Austin Aries joining up as well, if only to make sure that he got a piece of the limelight. AJ also hinted in his initial promo with his talk about his “band of brothers” that we might see other returning stars like Jay Lethal, Low Ki, and Alex Shelley. Personally, I’m inclined to believe that, if Shelley ever steps into an Impact ring again, it’ll be to set Chris Sabin straight before reuniting the Motor City Machine Guns, but even taking Shelley out of the equation, there’s a plethora of past talent that could return to back up AJ against Dixie and whatever forces that she brings to bear.
- The Aces and Eights – Yeah, I know, bear with me for a second. AJ is set to fight Bully for the title, right? Bully has also been doing everything possible to alienate his brothers, and one by one, he’s been dropping them like flies. I could very easily see Knux, Bischoff, and Brisco, if not other past members of the club, making at least a one-time appearance to back up AJ against Bully should he cause some shenanigans at Bound For Glory. If Bully were to align with Dixie, that temporary bond between AJ and Bully’s former brothers could very well strengthen and become permanent.
That’s only a few places that AJ could find some like-minded individuals to aid in this brewing battle. Don’t forget about perennial favorites like Jeff Hardy and James Storm; we might even see Sting break with Dixie and bring a returning Kurt Angle and the rest of the Mafia along with him to support AJ (though I’d personally like to see the Mafia turn heel and reignite the old rivalry between Styles and Joe). There are a lot of roads that TNA could travel, moving forward, and the majority lead to some very bright places. Let’s not go about creating dark clouds to hang over it all, shall we?