TNA will have a new World Heavyweight Champion. This statement was made reality by company president Dixie Carter last week, after she announced her decision to strip AJ Styles of his title.
Styles, who famously won the World Championship at Bound for Glory last month, and defended it a week later in a rematch against Bully Ray, declined Carter’s offer of a new contract, claiming he was taking the title belt ‘back to the people’.
But in a dramatic announcement from Salt Lake City, Utah, Dixie revealed that there was to be an eight-man tournament, that would determine a new World Champion.
The tournament would include seven former TNA World Champions, while the remaining spot would be filled that evening, by the winner of a seven-way gauntlet match.
Five-time holder Kurt Angle and three-time winner Jeff Hardy were presented alongside James Storm, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode and Chris Sabin as the automatic qualifiers.
In another twist, Dixie offered Sting – a four-time World Champion who, since his defeat by Bully Ray at Slammiversary, has been barred from making a title shot – a place in the gauntlet, with the promise that if he emerged victorious, he would be allowed to compete in the eight-man tournament.
And it was Sting who began the gauntlet, facing off against Frankie Kazarian. One by one the competitors entered: Knux, Eric Young, Christopher Daniels, Manik and Magnus entering at a rate of one every two minutes – with a wrestler eliminated by going over the top rope and out of the ring.
Aces & Eights representative Knux was first to go, continuing his club’s bad run of results, as he was stylishly flicked up and out of the ring by recently deposed X-Division Champion Manik. The masked crusader’s success was short lived however, as Kazarian took advantage of his lack of balance to send him toppling out moments later.
Kazarian and Bad Influence partner Daniels then combined to remove Young, turning the gauntlet into an apparent Tag Team match against Main Event Mafia duo Sting and Magnus.
But as became apparent at Bound for Glory, all is not well between the Icon and his young apprentice. Moments after throwing Daniels out of the competition, Magnus turned to see Sting and Kazarian grabbling against the adjacent ring rope. Without a moment’s hesitation, a double close-line from the Brit sent both men over the ropes.
Sting’s face told a story in itself, as he looked on with a mix of concern and confusion as Magnus celebrated his success.
With the line-up for the World Title tournament now completed, Dixie Carter revealed another couple of scarps of intriguing information – including the ‘who fights who’ brackets. Perhaps most interestingly, Magnus could face two more Mafia cohorts, if he is to reach a World Title match: facing Samoa Joe in the first round before, potentially, facing Angle, should the Olympic Gold Medallist defeat Aries.
The other side of the draw see’s Roode face Storm and, in the first match of the tournament, Hardy fighting Sabin.
Dixie also introduced the ‘Wheel of Dixie’, which will determine the style of each match, with Hardy and Sabin learned they would face a Full Metal Mayhem match in this week’s upcoming show. It will be only the eighth time this style of match has been seen in TNA, the last of which – in April – saw Hardy lose the World Title to Bully Ray.
Elsewhere last week, in four Bound for Glory rematches: the Bro Mans retained their World Tag Team Championship after defeating the duo of Storm and Gunner, with Jesse getting the crucial pin on the Cowboy, Gail Kim kept hold of the Knockout’s Title, getting the better of ODB with a little help from Lei’d Tapa, Ethan Carter III comfortably defeated Norv Fernum to keep his unblemished TNA win record intact, and Roode once again defeated Angle in another titanic clash.
In the main event of the evening, Roode and Angle traded submission and pin attempts throughout, but in a repeat of what happened at Bound for Glory, it was Angle who took himself out, with an awkward fall from his own ‘Angle Slam’ move resulting in him knocking himself unconscious. The referee called a halt to the match, and Roode was declared the winner by default.
The evening ended with Angle surrounded by a team of medical staff, and fans of Angle and TNA will no doubt be anxious to hear news of his recovery ahead of this week’s upcoming matches. However such a recovery is yet to be confirmed.
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