Aces & Eights chief Bully Ray has discovered that he will face his own vice-president, Mr. Anderson, in a bout for the World Heavyweight Title at No Surrender next week.
Anderson revealed himself as Ray’s opponent following Bully’s non-title match-up with Sting, in which Anderson’s refusal to come to his leader’s assistance allowed ‘the Icon’ to claim an impressive victory.
Earlier in the night, the Bound for Glory Series group stage was concluded in a dramatic Gauntlet Match involving all 12 of the series’ competitors. A victory for AJ Styles resulted in him not only moving into a top four position – needed for qualification to the next stage of the competition – but also to the top of the overall leader-board.
By winning this initial stage of the competition, Styles was allowed to choose his opponent for the next stage of the tournament, which now becomes a straight knockout. He selected Austin Aries, leaving the other two qualifiers – Magnus and Bobby Roode – to do battle in the other semi-final. The victors of the two one-on-one matches will then fight in a final match, with the eventual champion being granted a shot at either Bully Ray or Mr. Anderson for the World Title.
It was another bad night for Bully Ray. A fortnight ago he witnessed his Aces & Eights lose a five-on-five match against the Main Event Mafia, and his close friend Devon being removed from the TNA Company. Last week he was informed by General Manager Hulk Hogan that he would be required to face both Sting and ‘a member of his own family’ ahead of the Bound for Glory Event in October, when he was next expecting to fight.
Ray began the evening by declaring to the watching audience in Cleveland that the Aces & Eights were ‘in total control’, telling each of his fellow club members that he was extremely proud of them before embracing each one in turn, including a reluctant Anderson.
He watched on as his ‘muscle man’ Knux defeated former World Champion Chris Sabin via disqualification in a one-on-one match, and his ‘young guns’ Wes Brisco and Garrett Bischoff controversially defeat World Tag Team Champions: Gunner and James Storm, in an exhibition match.
But Anderson’s poor showing in the gauntlet match, in which he was the second competitor to be eliminated, led to another public bust-up between Anderson and Ray, the latest controversy in a feud that has been brewing for several weeks.
The gauntlet match, a surprise addition to the Bound for Glory Series schedule in Hogan’s series of announcements last week, involved all 12 of the competition's wrestlers. The two fighters lowest in the points standings began the match, with a new wrestler entering the ring every two minutes, working up the table to the leader ahead of the match – Magnus.
The winner and the receiver of 20 points was to be the last man standing. For a wrestler to be eliminated he must go up and over the ropes, out of the ring, with his feet no longer touching any part of the canvas. All the fighters, other than Hernandez and Jay Bradley, knew that those points would elevate them into the top four and secure them a spot at No Surrender.
As the lowest ranked pair, Hernandez and Bradley began the proceedings, with the former dominating the early stages. But it was Joseph Park who was the first man to be eliminated, Styles sprinting into the ring and crashing him over the ropes.
Anderson fell in dramatic style. Samoa Joe trapped him in the corner of the ring, and despite his best attempts to fight-back, including a head-butt that sent Joe staggering back, his precarious position sitting upon the top rope around the ring’s edge never looked safe, and he was clinically dispatched by Joe moments later, smashing head first into the metal barriers protecting the watching crowd on the way down.
The ‘Bad Influence’ pair of Kazarian and Christopher Daniels combined as expected, and doubled-up to dispatch Hernandez. Bradley came close to dumping Styles out of the ring soon after, but AJ used all of his experience to counter the follow-up attack and dump Bradley out instead.
Kazarian and Daniels next set their sights on the recently arrived Magnus. Joe intervened, but in saving his Mafia colleague he sacrificed himself – Daniels ducking under Joe’s attack and sending him sprawling into the ropes, allowing Kazarian to finish the job by toppling him over and out.
Jeff Hardy came close to eliminating Kazarian, but again team-work and alliances came into play as Bobby Roode stepped in and sent the Charismatic Enigma – who had been in fourth place in the series prior to the match – crashing out. His hopes of qualifying now rested on one of Magnus, Aries and Roode – the three men already above him in the table – winning the match and preventing anyone else from rising above him.
This left six: the trio working in partnership – Roode, Daniels and Kazarian – against Aries, Styles and Magnus. Kazarian was the next to go. He had looked to be on top against Styles, standing over him at the edge of the ring, but AJ used pure leg strength to push up on Kazarian and force him over the top of the ropes. However, Roode and Daniels were able to combine, the former knocking Magnus into the arms of Daniels, who was able to flip him out of the ring.
Roode went next for long-time rival Aries, who once stripped the ‘It-Factor’ of his World Heavyweight Title. Roode managed to flip Aries over the ropes, but Austin clung on, using the ring apron to stay on his feet and fight back. But sensing his opportunity, a flying AJ sent Aries sprawling to the floor.
A disgruntled Aries looked to be talking with Styles as AJ rested on the ropes, but perhaps he told him what was coming, because Styles somehow anticipated Roode’s on rushing attack, and Roode’s momentum instead carried him over the ropes.
This left a one on one match-up between AJ and Daniels. It was soon clear that Styles was not to be denied, as he followed up a successful springboard dive with a ‘back-breaker’ over the knee. An overhead kick then sent Daniels dazedly stumbling towards the ropes, leaving him an easy target for AJ to finish off and claim his victory.
In a short presentation following the fight, the now confirmed final four of the Bound for Glory Series emerged, and group stage winner AJ Styles selected Austin Aries as his first opponent. The series will be concluded in two semi-finals and a final match at No Surrender.
For the final match of the night, Bully Ray faced Sting in a non-title, no disqualification match. After trapping Ray in the ‘Scorpion Hold’, Brisco, Bischoff and Knux came to the ring to help their president escape. But the Aces & Eights were quickly rebuffed by Sting’s Mafia colleagues: Samoa Joe, Magnus and Rampage Jackson.
With Hulk Hogan having ordered security to take Devon’s replacement in the Aces & Eight – Tito Ortiz – away prior to the match, Ray’s hopes suddenly rested on Anderson, who had been watching on from ring-side since the start of the fight.
Sting trapped Ray in a submission hold for the second time, and Ray screamed out to Anderson for help. Anderson pulled out Ray’s iconic hammer – which Sabin had already stolen and used against Knux earlier in the evening – but held it out of Bully’s reach, instead goading him and questing why Ray could not beat Sting on his own.
Bully tapped out and Sting claimed the victory. While ‘the Icon’ was barred from challenging for the title ever again following his defeat to Ray at Slammiversary, it’s still a huge boost to both his own confidence and that of the Main Event Mafia in the on-going fight against the Aces & Eights.
A deranged looking Anderson leapt into the ring and continued to launch a tirade of insults towards his former friend and colleague. He revealed that he would be challenging Ray for the Heavyweight Title in a week’s time, while repeatedly asking the ‘do you know who I am?’ A question that Bully has been seen asking so often to his doubters and detractors in recent months.
With the conclusion of the Bound for Glory Series and a World Title fight coming up in St. Louis, this will be one not to miss!
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