We all have our favorite wrestlers we want to see atop the mountain in TNA. I, too, have my favorites I want to see there this year. Different years have different emphases for different wrestlers, so I wanted to discuss how I hope it plays out this year. I will not be addressing tag team divisions, the knockouts, or X-division-specific wrestlers in this piece, simply addressing the top of the card to the mid-card and some other card placements. Obviously, this is my ideal layout on the roster throughout the card, so do not get pissed over a simple opinion on a wrestling show. It does not bother me if you disagree at all; I am cool like that. So first:
Consistent Main Eventers
Bobby Roode: Obviously, Roode will start out the year on top as the world champion. My personal preference is he stays champion at least to Bound for Glory, if not all year. At the very least, I want TNA to tease him beating his own record. Perhaps a screwjob when he is close to his time to beat his own record would make for an awesome story in 2015.
Austin Aries: Aries has played the part of the super utility player the past couple of years with his brother in arms, Samoa Joe, throughout the roster. Austin Aries is too talented not to be close or wearing the belt at any given time. Aries is in his late 30’s, so I feel TNA needs to take advantage of his talent while he is still in his prime years. Plus, who would not want to see another serious feud with Roode?
James Storm: Story-wise, I feel Storm is primed for an epic main-event run and a rekindled feud with Mr. Roode approaching Bound for Glory. He has been established as the leader of the Revolution, which might end up being something special in the history of TNA when all is said and done—depending on how it gets carried out. If they use this stable in an intriguing way for the selfish advantages of Storm, it could work well as a main event piece. I will admit I did not like the change of direction for the stable in a more cultish sort of faction. However, if they edge more toward the badass heel Storm was playing during his feud with Gunner last year, promising he will lead these young guns/Abyss to great things in their career, that is where it could lead to great things, in my opinion.
Samoa Joe: Currently the shuffle around guy, Joe has been all over the place across the card. However, being one of the best all around wrestlers in the company, there is no question he deserves a main event slot. I think the perception on the guy has been affected significantly by how he has been used the past several years rather than from his actual talent. Many fans consider him disposable for whatever reason, probably most of all because he does not have a trim physique. But the guy can still go and is one of the more talented guys in the mic department on the roster. With the departure of main event caliber guys like AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels over the past year, TNA needs to retain some credibility by maintaining such talent as Joe at the top of the card. Joe provides the unique look and intensity most of the rest of roster only dreams off. If he continues to embrace his inner badass and berserker (think Goldberg level of intensity in character), he should be in the running for a world title reign toward the end of the year. This is where I cue Samoa Joe haters.
Bobby Lashley: Lashley proved the naysayers wrong with a strong world title run and earning the “Destroyer” mantra. Now, he is set to step away from MVP and Kenny King and to lay waste to the rest of the roster by his lonesome. I hope he starts off the year in what stands to be an epic introduction to the New Year against Bobby Roode; however, he must lose in believable fashion for Roode to have a lengthy title reign. That said, Lashley should be within smelling distance of the title at all times for whole of the year without actually winning the title. Maybe we could see a big name debuting star lay out Lashley, who he sees as a competitive threat, at the end of Roode v. Lashley III.
Occasional Main Eventers
Kurt Angle: We know the legend is approaching the end of his career, which presents quite the marketable situation if only TNA will take advantage. I like the idea Mortimer Plumtree (I think it was him.) suggested in having Angle be closer to a part timer in TNA. Make his final year or so in wrestling memorable. Start him off against MVP for the year. Give him one final short world title run late in the year or early next year. Put him up against guys he can put on some final classics with, such as Aries, Roode, Joe, and Lashley. What wrestler would not want the honor of being Angle’s final match ever or facing him in his final professional year? He has to go out with a bang.
MVP: Continuing the recent trend of taking ex-WWE wrestlers being used miles better in TNA, MVP has earned himself a spot towards the top. He has been having good matches with many of TNA’s top talents over the past year. He has honed his recent turn to relentless violence well. He is one of the better heels going right now in the company, making him a needed presence toward the top of the card. He has a good start set up for 2015 with his new feud against Angle, so he should have a good story progression going right now. I think a feud with Lashley is clearly in the cards with Lashley going face at some point, based on their storyline tension at the end of last year.
Jeff Hardy: Despite being used in the tag team scene mostly right now, Hardy is one of those guys that always put on good matches and you would want in high profile matchups. It is difficult not to respect this guy that consistently puts his body on the line in the name of entertaining the fans. He needs to remain a prominent fixture in TNA for the foreseeable future.
Eric Young: EY finally got his just desserts in 2014 with his first world title reign. He has been one of the most underappreciated workers for years, doing whatever is asked of him. Additionally, he puts the funny in…whatever has funny in it. There is nothing wrong with a serious contender who can tickle your side in the process. The guy consistently puts on good matches and, like Hardy, puts his body on the line almost as consistently, even when he is not wrestling (Off the Hook anybody?). I would like to see the guy get a world title shot again this coming year even if he does not win; he could also use some fresh matchups with some of the younger guys or someone like Samoa Joe, whom he has not wrestled much in the past few years.
A Solid Mid-Card
Gunner: Despite fading into the background in his feud with Samuel Shaw, Gunner has already proven his worth to move up the card, particularly in his feud with James Storm. Outside of Storm, he was putting together some pretty good matches against several wrestlers last year. In my humble opinion, Gunner needs to begin the New Year with a match against Samuel Shaw in which he absolutely decimates the Creepy Bastard. This would be to save face from his lackluster second half. Thereafter, he should immediately move into an establishment feud with a top guy—someone like Aries, Lashley, Hardy, or other guy he could work some great matches with. I really like him against MVP in an early 2015 feud actually. Once he gets back to where he was in terms of reputation, Gunner needs to maintain a solid trajectory of feuds throughout this year. He also needs to have one world title shot where he puts on a good performance at some point in the year; at least, that is my wishful thinking.
Magnus: TNA did a huge disservice to Magnus during his world title run in early 2014. I have to give Nick Aldis some credit because I felt he did all he could with a big ol’ bag of poop he was handed. He cut good promos during the run and had very good matches leading into it. While it might have seemed like a good narrative when it was being thought up, it is impossible to prop up a star when he must depend on several run-ins per match and anytime it is an individual fight he is getting his butt handed to him. That is simply why he came out of his run so damaged. It was good as a narrative but damaged the personality behind it. He was a puppet for Dixie, and that is not a way to use your most prestigious title. Magnus needs to go into 2015 and reestablish himself; I think it needs to be away from Bram. He should be approaching the upper-tiers to rebuild his damaged persona. And it should start with a feud with the new King of Hardcore.
Bram (Stoker): Bram came into TNA last year with a vengeance, quite literally. He made an immediate impression in the minds of fans and has developed his psychotic brawler shtick quite well. He has simply been entertaining to watch. Going into the New Year, I hope the newly dubbed King of Hardcore gets away from ECW legends and moves into the beef of the TNA roster. TNA has set him up nicely for a quality run this year after he became a one man wrecking crew, plus Magnus, with the hardcore-themed guys. Here is to hoping the momentum keeps chugging away for him.
Ethan Carter III: ECIII is one of the frontrunners for guys that made one of the most immediate impacts for TNA in the past few years. He came in with engines roaring to land in the hearts and minds of fans. His character is probably one of the best defined characters in all of wrestling, and he is clearly a great heel, judging by the reaction he is able to inveigle from the fans. But he is yet to have that distinctive feud and/or match to establish himself as a top player. Sure, TNA went to the trouble to tack Sting and Kurt Angle to his win column; however, these interactions hardly had the effect to put him to a main event trajectory. 2015 needs to be the year he stacks up some solid mid-card level matches and feuds that help to vault him upwards as a legitimate future world champion. Have him naturally build himself up with memorable bouts and altercations and impress in more than just antics and acting ability. Look at the surrounding talent in this very section for who he should be sparring.
Kenny King: Other than perhaps Gunner in the first half of 2014, King was the one guy who really found the “it” he was looking for to solidify his spot on the roster. He did not have the best matches of the year or the best stories or the best promos; of course, there was plenty of competition for those accolades. But he has an arguable claim of being the most improved wrestler on the TNA roster. Furthermore, he did have some excellent matches, promos, and moments over the course of 2014. He has the skills to be a future main eventer, seriously. TNA needs to put some serious creative energy into this guy this year and not have him job to newbies. For some reason, 2015 seems like it will be the year of the breakout mid-card for TNA, and King should be one of them along with the previous mentions in this section.
Ken Anderson: Mr. Anderson is kind of in a weird place right now on the card. He has been akin to the utility player role like Aries and Joe but also the mentor role with a couple of the young guys. He was able to get a bit of something out of Samuel Shaw and did a bit of work with Melendez but feels out of place on the card in my mind. He is a good talent and should not be cast off, as he has also re-upped with the company. I picture a good path for Anderson to be what appears to be a not so good path generally. I think Anderson should begin the year on a major losing streak, ala Roode in 2013’s BFG Series but much longer. Story-wise, this can light a fire under him to become a sarcastic, don’t-give-a-shit heel to find the not-so-legal winning ways eventually halfway through the year. TNA needs to find something interesting for him, and letting some losses fester to create a change in his attitude might be the way to go to help build him back up the card over time.
Jessie Godderz: I think Godderz is one of those talents that TNA needs to explore what they have in him. By all accounts from other wrestlers, he is one of the hardest working talents in all of wrestling. And I will admit I have a slight bias because the guy is from my neck of the woods. To me, the guy just needs to find the right elements to put it all together; he very well could be a future main event player in a few years, if he can strengthen some of his weaknesses as a performer and take advantage of his strengths. I would like to see him get some singles action this year and get some lower card feuds under his belt.
Robbie E: Another under the radar talent, he has been stuck as the jobber extraordinaire for several years. He is a good seller, so he has landed the oft important job of losing a lot. I think the character is due for a makeover. From what I understand, the character is an amped up version of the person, so I do not think you can divert too much without it becoming unnatural. But some character development is certainly in order for the guy. He should also get some lower card feuds under his belt this year. It is probably time to break up the BroMans I think.
Samuel Shaw: I honestly have no clue what I want to see from the character this year. But I feel like I have to address him on the card. I would feed him to Gunner to start, as addressed earlier, then let him percolate in the low card for this year.
Knux: For me, this guy pulled out a couple of surprises for me in 2014. I was not too familiar with him before he came to TNA, so I did not have any expectations either. For one, he is obviously a surprisingly agile big guy, throwing a pretty good drop kick and his running cross body move. He also had a surprisingly good match with Aries last year as well. So I think he is another guy TNA should experiment with what they have. I like his jolly giant shtick, as it is fitting. What I want for him is to sort of be that low mid card guy toward beginning of this year and a get a couple feuds going. Then, maybe he can start challenging for a middle of the card spot later in the year. I have liked the flashes of talent he has shown in the last year, and getting him away from the Menagerie stuff would help too, though a tag team with Crazzy Steve would work for him too.
How do you want to see the card look like this year?
Twittifying @CuriousBeholder if you want to chat it up there. Please, no spoilers when TNA starts back up.