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The NWA TNA Week 32 Preview, February 18, 2003
Guest_TSMAdmin_*
post Mar 29 2003, 05:57 PM
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THE STYLES QUEST

Erasing the cruiserweight bias

Many months ago I wrote a piece about Ron Killings as he was on the verge of his first shot at the NWA title. Over the weeks before he had seen a tremendous and out of nowhere rise in popularity, putting him in position to unseat lame duck champion Ken Shamrock. In doing so he became the first black heavyweight champion in the history of the NWA (with a belt that dates back farther than any other in the country). That was back in week 8.

Now week 32 is upon us and AJ Styles stands poised to take down another barrier on “World” titles, this one sweeping farther than just the NWA. That is simply this: cruiserweights don’t win the companies top titles. Did you know (and you probably did even without thinking about it) that no WCW champion ever held the WCW Cruiserweight title, or that no WWE Champion ever held the WWE Light Heavyweight title?

There are a couple close calls. Chris Benoit won the WCW title before walking out with the Radicals, but he never held the cruiser title, despite feuding with the division’s mainstays Eddy Guerrero and Dean Malenko upon his arrival to the company. Chris Jericho is the only former cruiserweight champion to win any world title, which he did in another company in which he was never portrayed as a light heavyweight. And so it stands that no person has ever won a companies top title after reaching the top of the “small” division. Of course…that could all change on Wednesday night.

More importantly, if Styles does win the NWA title it won’t be an angle where the smaller wrestler upsets the heavyweight champion on a fluke. Styles’ storyline is that he thinks he’s the best the X division has and deserves a shot at being a heavyweight champion. Moreover, they’ve even gotten away from ties to the X division and have made Styles’ angle more about paying his dues and earning a shot. Taken from the perspective of Styles being so young, it works perfectly. This would be the equivalent of Jamie Noble winning the WWE title…and having it be taken seriously.

When the Truth got his shot, the odds going in were pretty much in his favor. You didn’t know for sure…but you had a pretty good idea that they would pull the trigger on his win. Things aren’t nearly as clear-cut for Styles…but ironically he has more positives in his favor than Truth did.

1. AJ Styles may be the most over man on the roster today. He’s probably neck and neck with Jeff Jarrett (which should make for some awesome crowd heat during the match). One thing is for sure…even when he comes out during a show with the fans sitting on their hands…they get up and come alive when Styles enters the ring. He’s honed his cocky heel attitude into a gimmick that really gets the crowd hot (and depending on the opponent sometimes hot for him). This was the major plus that Killings had in his title win.


2. The S.E.X. vs. TNA storyline actually benefits Styles…because he isn’t in it. They’ve been playing up a three way feud between Raven, Styles and Jarrett for weeks now…and the feud (along with the whole angle) would be far more interesting if the prize was held by the man in between both factions. Jarrett could go on to feud with Russo without having the NWA title hanging around, and they have already spent time building to a Styles/Raven match.


3. Larry Zbysko is AJ Styles new manager. As a result of a match a couple weeks back, Zbysko earned the right to guide AJ’s career. They also established some heat between Larry and JJ a couple weeks ago, so a Zbysko aided victory could be the real deal. This is a positive if only because they went to all the trouble of adding the dimension to Styles’ quest, and therefore it will play some role.


4. The quest itself. There would be no point to even having this elaborate angle if the quest didn’t end in victory. The only hang-up is whether or not that victory comes right away. Styles is so popular that the quest could continue (and it may actually be better if he won as a face, judging from the reactions he is capable of getting).


5. The fact that he IS a cruiserweight. What I mean to say is this: Every time Jarrett defends the title you can be pretty sure that he isn’t going to lose it to just anybody. Styles would go a long way to changing that if he carried it. He could have matches with guys like Truth, Lynn, Red or any member of XXX and it would be far more believable that the title could be lost. Imagine Styles vs. Red III over the NWA title. A Styles win would open up the roster a little.


6. Has anyone else noticed that they’ve put more attention onto the weeks that Australia gets the ppv than any other week? Well…they’re on in Australia again this week. Since Australia doesn’t get the WWE pay per views anymore TNA sees them as a very important commodity (and as well they should). This is why the payoff to JJ/Styles hasn’t happened until now. The first time TNA was on down under, Raven showed up. What better way to follow that up than with a major title change?


7. The perception of the X division. This one is almost like cheating. Although the X division is said to be more about style than size…it takes no more than looking at what made the division so popular (Low Ki/Styles/Lynn) to realize that this is a cruiserweight division. In the beginning the X division was viewed by most as the reason to watch TNA. The Truth and America’s Most Wanted helped bring the heavyweight and tag divisions to a higher level…but people still wanted to see the X division (until Sonny Siaki killed it that is). They even had back to back matches that saw X champ Jerry Lynn fail to win the NWA title from the Truth, and then the Truth fail to win the X title from Lynn, thus creating parody between the belts. All this means that the jump from X division to heavy division doesn’t appear as the huge obstacle that it would in other companies.


We won’t know until it’s over, but they could certainly do worse than doing this title change here and now. Styles could make a great NWA champion, in my opinion (and he’d be the first ever triple crown champion in TNA). With the Living Legend at his side (and who can’t smell the storyline of Larry trying to live out his past glories through Styles?) and a whole roster of people that Styles feels he needs to prove himself to…this could turn out to be a whole lot of fun.

On the flip side, JJ could retain. I don’t think we’ll see a no contest in this match due in part to not wanting to piss off Australia on the one week a month they see the show and also due to the length of the storyline leading up to this (Styles first attacked JJ in December!). There can and likely will be run-ins but I’d put my money on someone winning this match. Jarrett has been booked as a fairly strong champion…but his title reign has been clouded by his feud with Russo over the last several weeks. It would be a good time to move the title off of him, throwing more heat on Russo/JJ and leaving Styles to do his thing. Perhaps, as was brought up by Kotzenjunge on the message board, Russo costs JJ the title in an attempt to sway AJ to joining his S.E.X. camp. That would certainly make sense storyline wise.

Now that we’ve taken care of that, let’s move on to:

The NWA TNA Week 32 Preview

I enjoyed last week’s show. As always you can read the Dames Diatribe on the smartmarks site (too lazy to find link…sorry). The big news was the arrival of the Sandman to feud with Raven and Steve Corino’s return (has there EVER been an angle that Corino was better suited for?). Oh yeah…and the X division took it’s first couple steps to repairing the damage that Sonny Siaki did to it.

On Siaki…I think he has some things to offer…but not to that division. He would be the perfect midcard titleholder in the company…but they don’t have a midcard title. When I think Siaki I think WCW TV champion or WWF European Champion. Maybe he can win the fake Australian championship that S.E.X. had last month!

I also feel like I have to mention how much I am really enjoying Konnan’s angle. I’m as shocked as you are. Konnan is preaching to anyone who will listen that the X division is just a lucha libre rip off. This led to the SATs joining Konnan’s side and the rumors are flying from news sites and even Mike Tenay himself on nwatna.com that Konnan will be bringing in luchadores soon. There is tremendous upside to this angle, and I think Konnan has been very good in it. Following last week’s events Jerry Lynn will be going to get some revenge on the SATs. I don’t know what that means. Siaki could also get involved here since he blames Konnan for costing him the X title (another reason to like Konnan) after receiving a kendo stick beating the week before.

America’s Most Wanted vs. The Harris Boys

The winner of this match goes on to face XXX for the vacant NWA tag team titles at a later date. Low Ki interfered in both of these teams’ matches last week trying to help the S.E.X. teams win. He succeeded in helping the Harris boys beat the New Church, but failed to help the Rock N’ Roll Express beat AMW. So expect him to run in here to try and help the Harris boys win. Basically that means AMW is (thankfully) going over. AMW has had good matches with very unlikely teams in the past…but the Harris boys are a different story. The match won’t be great, but as long as the right team goes over…the AMW vs. XXX match down the line will be awesome.


Sandman and Steve Corino vs. Raven and Low Ki

This match comes from the Sandman/Raven and Corino/Low Ki singles matches from last week. It should be a pretty wild match. I don’t know what the plan is long term for these guys (Sandman, Corino and Raven mostly) but this works for now. This will probably be a mix of in ring stuff from Corino and Ki and all over the arena stuff from Raven and Sandman.


Kid Kash vs. Paul London

This is for Kash’s newly won X division title. London debuted last week losing to Jerry Lynn in the final fall of the 8 man X division elimination match. Lynn gave up his title shot to go after the SATs, so London gets a shot in only his second week. Stranger things have happened, but I don’t see Kash losing the title this quickly. It will be interesting to see how Kash fits in the role of X champion. He has my support in beating Siaki but from this point on he has to earn it. London is good though so this should be a better X division match than we’ve seen in a long time.


Jeff Jarrett vs. AJ Styles

This is, of course, for Jarrett’s NWA title. This is the most anticipated match that TNA has put on since the first Truth/JJ match. That match delivered…and Styles is better in the ring than Truth is. This should be a very good match.


Who’s left?

Let’s see. Aside from whatever the whole Lynn/SATs thing amounts too we still have guys like The Truth, Sonny Siaki, Mike Sanders, Disco Inferno (or whatever his name is), David Flair (boo), B.G. James (also boo), Jorge Estrada (why did they bring him back AND give him a storyline?…boo), maybe some further on the budding Mamaluke/David Young story (where they likely end up as partners I’d guess), and some other guys floating around.

This week is all about JJ/Styles. I’d expect the match to get a lot of time (just like Truth/JJ did) and if I had to pick a winner…I’d go with Styles through some nefarious means. But you never know.

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