Kenny King and Zema Ion.
In the last few weeks on Impact Wrestling, fans have seen Bound for Glory matches, the continuation of AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels’ vendetta, and the increasing emergence of a mysterious heel stable known as ‘Aces and Eights’.
Amid all this, the X Division Champion and his first real opponent have flown somewhat under the radar. There is, arguably, less interest in them, their match, and their rivalry than there is every other on the Hardcore Justice card.
Sometimes, that is for the best.
Austin Aries vs. Bobby Roode is a rematch anticipated with bated breath, while the BFG ladder match involves four of the most beloved and talented competitors in TNA history.
Zema Ion vs. Kenny King, by comparison, is a match fans may not particularly care about.
For that reason alone, both men have the opportunity to put on a good wrestling match and imprint themselves on the mind of every TNA fan, catapulting themselves to stardom in the same way their high-profile compatriots had to.
The future begins here.
Trailblazing his way into the consciousness of wrestling fans during the X Division Championship tournament, Kenny King has come a long way in a short amount of time.
It all started rather controversially for him, though, when his contract with Ring of Honor expired; having wrestled Lars Only on the July 5 episode of Impact, ROH determined that he had reneged on a verbal agreement not to wrestle for another company, and his affiliation with the company has been severed.
Judging from the beginnings of his TNA career, he won’t come to regret it.
Despite losing out on his chance to become X Division champion at Destination X, he nonetheless gave another performance that highlighted his potential to headline the division for years to come.
What’s more, he has been given the ultimate endorsement; none other than Austin Aries earmarked him as a future star on Impact:
“You keep wrestling like that, you’re gonna have a championship before you know it.”
Austin Aries is the current TNA Heavyweight Champion, and is formerly the longest reigning X Division champion ever; he was undefeated, no less, vacating the championship in June to pursue the Heavyweight title.
If Kenny King wins the X Division title this early in his TNA career, he would would not only validate the opinion of Aries, but also propel himself to a new level of notoriety.
Losing, however, seems like it would only be a temporary setback in what could be a tremendous career.
Zema Ion has arguably the most difficult role in TNA.
He must validate a championship that is intrinsic to the history, success, and very nature of the company, while at the same time validating himself as a competitor.
What’s more, he must do this under the shadow of the last champion, and perhaps the most adored wrestler in TNA at this time, Austin Aries.
No easy task.
For Zema Ion, though, it should be all about creating his own legacy rather than replicating, or trying to outdo, the legacy of Aries. For Zema Ion, this reign is a chance for him to solidify himself as an intrinsic cog in the TNA machine.
Someone they can rely on to deliver when it’s most needed.
That is what makes a star.
In his favour are several elements; he is a decent wrestler, good talker, and is currently the recipient of some red hot heat. That last factor course, is as a result of him inadvertently breaking the neck of Jesse Sorensen.
The incident has been integrated cleverly into a kayfabe storyline that could help both men; Sorensen returned at Destination X and cut a heartfelt promo about getting revenge on Zema Ion.
Undeterred, Ion would go on to win the X Division championship that same night, and had his say:
“A year ago, I was here at Destination X fighting for a contract. One year later, full circle! I’m in TNA, I’m in Impact Wrestling, and I am the new X Division champion. I’ll turn heads, break necks, cash cheques, and keep championships.”
Arrogant, cowardly and narcissistic, Zema Ion is learning to embody the heel characteristics perfected over the years by the likes of Rick Rude and Chris Jericho.
If he is to take the championship to new heights, he will need that and more.
If he loses the championship to Kenny King, he will need that and more just to stay relevant.
Again, it all comes back to Austin Aries.
It was definitely the right time to push him into the main event scene. The overyjoyed reactions to his historical victory over Bobby Roode, and his current reign as Heavyweight Champion, completely validate that.
It was not, however, a good decision for the X Division Championship.
There weren’t many established contenders waiting in the wing to plug the gap left by Aries and his decision to vacate the title. Subsequently, TNA used a tournament to help create competition and develop new characters that can take forward the division.
This rivalry is the beginning of that.
Kenny King, the challenger, is exactly the sort of wrestler that suits the division, and is a good choice as both the first major opponent of the new champion, and as someone to push as a star.
Zema Ion, the champion, is a talented individual who has a lot of time on his side to become a great overall performer. In the ring, on the microphone, as a character, and as a champion.
Unfortunately, the story begins and ends there, lending it little intrigue or suspense. It would perhaps have been better to highlight more of a rivalry between the two competitors, and to emphasise the face and heel characteristics of both men.
Most importantly, though, there does exist the feeling that both men are hungry for success as champion. Zema Ion seems willing to do anything he can to hold on to the title, while Kenny King looks ready to scratch and claw his way to success.
Their task is simple.
To put on a good match, and rekindle some interest in the X Division. It’s still there, of course, but much like the tag team division in WWE, the lack of characters and legitimate rivalries at this point means fan interest is dormant.
It’s time for Zema Ion and Kenny King to wake it up.