The long-anticipated X-Division pay per view spectacular, Destination X, will take place this Sunday, July 10. TNA has put together a pretty good lineup so far, with several unique matches that long-term and new X-Division fans will enjoy. Two of the X-Division pioneers will renew their epic rivalry, as AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels will face off. Samoa Joe, the unstoppable force of the X-Division in 2005 and 2006, will meet Frankie Kazarian, an X-Division pioneer in his own right. One of the biggest rivalries from the original ECW will be renewed, as former ECW, WWE and TNA World Champion Rob Van Dam will face former ECW and Ring of Honor World Champion and X-Division Champion Jerry Lynn. This match was originally supposed to take place at TNA’s ECW-themed “Hardcore Justice” pay per view, but a back injury to Lynn put the match on hold.
The match I am most interested in is the 4-way match between Austin Aries, Low-Ki, Jack Evans and Shiima Xion. The winner will receive a contract with TNA. Each participant won qualifying matches to earn their spot, and the match is billed as two X-Division veterans (Aries & Low-Ki) and two younger, X-Division style wrestlers (Evans & Xion).
I want to take a look at each competitor and look at the pros and cons of them signing with TNA full time, as well as offer a prediction on the match.
Austin Aries is arguably the best wrestler presently not signed to WWE or TNA. After initially making a name for himself in the 2004 ECWA Super 8 Tournament, Aries jumped to Ring of Honor and won his first World Championship, defeating Samoa Joe. Aries lost the championship to CM Punk, who was leaving Ring of Honor and threatened to take the title with him to WWE. That current storyline has been reversed, as Punk is leaving WWE and has threatened to possibly take the WWE Championship with him to Ring of Honor.
Aries signed with TNA at the end of 2005 and stayed with the company until 2007. He initially wrestled under his Austin Aries name, but later created a character named Austin Starr, whom he said in interviews was loosely based on Randy “Macho Man” Savage.
After his TNA stint ended, Aries returned to Ring of Honor and became the promotion’s first 2-time World Champion. His in-ring work improved, as did his promo ability and his character. He was a very compelling character and showed how versatile he was during his second ROH stint.
Low-Ki made a splash in the wrestling world by winning the 2001 ECWA Super 8 Tournament. He wrestled some preliminary matches for WWE before making history by becoming the very first Ring of Honor World Champion in 2002. He also helped make history by being one of the first X-Division Champions during the early days of TNA.
Low-Ki has had a couple different stints in TNA. His first was from 2002-2004 and saw him compete in the X-Division and tag team division, in the heel tag team Triple-X. His second TNA stint saw him compete as “Senshi” as there were issues revolving around TNA wanting to own his name for trademark purposes and Low-Ki didn’t want to sign over the name he had owned for nearly 10 years. This second go-round began in 2006 and ended in 2008. It was more of the same, with Ki winning the X-Division championship and briefly reforming Triple-X. Shortly after, Low-Ki signed with WWE and wrestled under the name “Kaval.” He appeared on season two of “WWE: NXT” in 2010 and appeared on Smackdown for a few months after that. He requested and received his release in December.
Jack Evans made his TNA debut earlier this week, but has a large cult following due to his strong body of work in Ring of Honor and Mexico. A cross between Rey Mysterio and Sabu, Evans is a high flyer who may be best known for his 630 splash and being the first person to perform a 720 moonsault (making two revolutions before hitting his opponent).
Shiima Xion is a recent competitor in the 2011 ECWA Super 8 Tournament. He has gained a cult following over the years in much the same way as Jack Evans, with his high-flying maneuvers. Unlike Evans, Shiima Xion has a flashy, cocky character he has honed on the local independents like Jersey All Pro Wrestling and abroad in Mexico and Japan.
Xion is the youngest and least-experienced of the group.
All four are skilled, competent wrestlers and each would make a good addition to the TNA X-Division. Who will get the spot? All four can work, both literally and figuratively. Let’s take a look at what each competitor can bring to TNA at this point and who may be the best choice.
Of the four, Aries is the best all-around. He can have great matches, he can play a serious character, a funny character, and he has charisma. If Austin Aries is committed to TNA and TNA is committed to pushing Austin Aries, then “A Double” would be an amazing full-time acquisition.
The key there is if Aries is committed and TNA is committed. Aries hasn’t wrestled much in 2011 and has posted some tweets a while back that indicated he was taking a break from the sports entertainment industry. So, either this match is a one-shot deal to get some publicity for both, or his break may be over.
If TNA isn’t committed to making Aries a star, I don’t see him settling for a midcard spot. He knows how talented he is and what he can contribute to the world of professional wrestling. He initially left TNA over the way he was being used and his spot on the card. I don’t see him coming off the best run of his career in ROH to settle into mediocrity in TNA.
Another factor to look at is WWE. Would TNA want to risk giving Aries a national platform to show how great he is and risk being quickly plucked away by WWE. Mediocrity in WWE pays a lot more than mediocrity in TNA.
Low-Ki would be warmly received by the TNA faithful. He has a hard-hitting style that is very believable and he has gained a reputation over the last decade as one of the more serious, take-no-prisoner wrestlers around. His recent WWE stint may help get him some attention from casual fans who remember him as Kaval. The thing that TNA would need to worry about with Low-Ki would be the fact that he has left the company twice before. The second time was widely publicized during a company-wide meeting with TNA Owner Dixie Carter, as she said anybody present who was unhappy in TNA could leave. He was the only person to take her up on the offer. After giving him a contract, would Low-Ki leave when he was unhappy? Again?
Jack Evans would have been a perfect fit for the X-Division in 2002. Unfortunately, Evans was a year behind and got more involved with Ring of Honor (working a lot with Austin Aries, both aligned with and against). While he’s very acrobatic and flashy, I don’t really see him as being a good fit for today’s X-Division. He doesn’t strike me as being overly charismatic, and while the crowd cheered loudly for him during his qualifying match, that pop was mostly due to reputation and word-of-mouth. I don’t know if he would be able to sustain that reaction from the crowd. Yes, they’ll pop for the high spots, but he will need more than high spots to succeed in TNA.
Also, there is the issue of Evans’ career in Mexico. He is a top star for the AAA (Triple-A) promotion in Mexico. Although TNA has a loose working agreement with AAA, I don’t see Evans leaving his prime spot at the top of the card in Mexico to go to the middle of the pack in TNA. But, I don’t know his specifics in Mexico. Maybe he likes it, maybe he doesn’t.
Shiima Xion didn’t actually wrestle for TNA. He was rechristened Zema Ion and is also using that name at the Destination-X pay per view. Xion is the only participant in the match who doesn’t have a huge resume and large highlight reel from a major company. And, that may work in his favor.
All of the other three can make some claim, to varying degrees, of being “stars.” He has less negotiating power of the four, and TNA may like that. Whereas the other three would be giving up some degree of power and ability to call their own shots in TNA, Xion doesn’t have as much to lose by being a middle-of-the-pack guy in TNA. He’s not coming off of 2 Ring of Honor Championships, or a stint in WWE, or a high-profile spot in Mexico. He’s likely hungrier than the other three and TNA probably senses that.
The fact that TNA changed his name for his appearances speaks volumes to me. Low-Ki didn’t want to sign his name over so they called him Senshi. They changed Austin Aries to Austin Starr a few years ago. They want names they can own and market. Shiima Xion belongs to Michael Paris. But, Zema Ion is a TNA creation. I could see TNA bringing in Shiima Xion for 2 matches and sending him back to the indies. I think they may have plans for Zema Ion, though.
Below, I have ranked each competitor in order of importance to TNA. I would like to see Austin Aries win the match and get a TNA contract, but I’m anticipating a Zema Ion upset.
1) Austin Aries - one of the best around; could show a global audience how well he has progressed since Austin Starr’s demise.
2) Zema Ion - young, good-looking highflyer that TNA could market as their own creation.
3) Low-Ki - former X-Division champ could slide back into TNA and not miss a beat.
4) Jack Evans - flashy wrestler that the crowds will cheer for.