TNA Hardcore Justice: Austin Aries vs. Bobby Roode, a Clash of Story vs. Momentum

This Sunday, we will see the return match to what some are claiming as the best match of the year – not just for TNA, but in wrestling as a whole. While I wouldn’t quite go so far, it is certain to be quite a match as long as overbooking doesn’t ruin things.

With Aces and Eights running around laying waste to everyone, AJ Styles dealing with baby troubles, and the Bound for Glory Series moving along, you can sometimes forget the centerpiece of the whole show, TNA’s World Heavyweight Championship.

In order to do this all justice, I want to go back. Back to when things were a little different for TNA, and the future was more of a seed than a budding flower.

One year ago, a tournament was started that would shake the foundations of TNA at its core. It was called the Bound for Glory Series, where twelve of the biggest stars in the company at the time faced off to become the number contender for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship at TNA’s biggest pay-per-view, Bound for Glory.

Week after week, these top stars faced one another, carving out their own niche, each fighting (some more successfully than others) to become a star.

As the Hardcore Justice PPV approached, it seemed clear who the favorites were in the series. Crimson stood out clearly in first, while names like RVD and Devon were moving their way up the standings.

In the midst of all this, the TNA Tag Team Champions Beer Money were competing in the tournament. No one knew what to make of these two great tag team competitors competing as singles stars for a chance at the biggest prize in the business.

Even after Hardcore Justice, both men were still tag team champions. They fought tooth and nail to get points in the Series, but they also fought together for their titles. Slowly but surely, they rose in the rankings. After several stars were written out of the Series, it came down to four men, two of whom were now the former tag team champions.

James Storm and Bobby Roode, for the first time in years, were completely venturing out on their own to become World Champions. At No Surrender, Roode emerged victorious after gaining hard-fought victories over Gunner and Bully Ray, ready to take his first chance at singles gold in his career.

“It’s time for a new era. There’s no doubt about it. Wrestling fans have turned to Impact Wrestling every Thursday night now for quite some time and have seen the Kurt Angles, the Hulk Hogans, the Ric Flairs, and the Stings. And, you know, that’s great. Those guys have made a name for themselves and proven themselves over the years, but I’ve busted my ass here. I’ve been put in a position now where I can make a difference, I can go out there and beat Kurt Angle for the World Heavyweight Title, and I can be the guy to take this company to the next step. – Bobby Roode”

At Bound for Glory, everything was set. It was the perfect moment to crown a new champion who would defeat the five time TNA World Champion and wrestling legend Kurt Angle. Instead, Roode failed. On the following Thursday night, his friend Storm got the same chance and emerged victorious as champion.

Feeling jealous that his partner had succeeded where he had failed, Roode would turn on his partner and cheat to win the World Championship in brutal fashion with a beer bottle to the skull.

Storm was sidelined due to the attack from Roode, allowing many others, including AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy, to come in and try and take their shot at the gold. Yet no one could succeed. Roode was unstoppable until Storm returned to get his rematch at Lockdown in his hometown of Nashville.

Storm ended up failing to beat Roode in a brutal and physical Steel Cage match, when he accidentally knocked Roode out of the cage. This would cause Storm to again disappear. This time, he just couldn’t take the loss and even contemplated quitting wrestling.

Unbeknownst to everyone, at No Surrender, TNA not only began Bobby Roode’s rise to glory, but also began to create a star in the man that would eventually take that title from Roode, Austin Aries. On that night, Aries captured the TNA X Division Championship and went on to be unstoppable, never having lost the title.

“They gave me an inch, I took a yard. They gave me a yard, I took a mile. Whatever they put on Austin Aries’ tee, I knocked out of the park.”
– Austin Aries

As Roode and Aries became the two longest reigning champions in TNA history with their titles, they began to butt heads. Aries and Roode had run out of competition it seemed; so Aries was willing to give up the title he had refused to lose just so he could get one chance at glory.

Where everyone else failed to defeat Roode, at Destination X Aries defeated Roode and became World Champion in honor of every single X-Division wrestler.

It sounds like the end to the perfect fairy tale. The little X Division star rises above adversity and defeats the cheating and undefeatable villain and walks away as the new face of the company. Perhaps you’ll notice the problem though.

The story was always Roode vs. Storm. They were two young guys looking for that first chance at gold. Their quest for gold developed into an emotional and personal rivalry, where two friends showed what they’d do to be the best.

“Bobby Roode, they say is this about revenge? You’re damn right this is about revenge because, Bobby Roode, you took what meant the most to me, you took what I worked my ass off for fifteen years [to get hold of]. Now, Bobby Roode, it’s no secret I’ve been pulling for ya. I’ve wanted you to be World Champion, so you know when you look up and see me holding that World Heavyweight Championship, you know that I am the man that took everything from you.” – James Storm

The story of Aries was always on the side, a footnote.  He became a major footnote certainly, but he wasn’t the focus until that night at Destination X.

What we have at this juncture is a conflict between story and momentum. Roode/Storm is still happening. The story is still there as much as it was before Aries won. However, Storm is now sitting pretty in this year’s Bound for Glory Series, ready to become World Champion again.

But the stage was always going to be Bound for Glory. It was always supposed to be James Storm and Bobby Roode, finally having that one definitive title bout. It always until Aries became too big for TNA to control.

Now, it’s down to TNA and their decision. Will they give Roode the title back and continue the epic story of two friends who have become the most bitter of rivals both wanting to claim that they are the best? Or will they keep the title on Aries who would go on to face Kurt Angle or Samoa Joe or whoever else ends up winning the Series?

I’m not going to sit here and try to argue about what is best here. On one side, Bound for Glory could have several main event level matches if Aries remains champion.

On the other hand, Roode/Storm with the title on the line main eventing BFG one year after those two began this epic journey to become main event singles stars would be one of the most captivating and definitive bouts in TNA history.

The choice comes down to a company. It comes down to everything that has been built and set in motion since the beginning of the very first Bound for Glory Series. Who knows what is to come and what isn’t?

All I know is that at the end of the day Roode and Aries will put on a show like no one else can. It will be a match that exemplifies all sides of wrestling, every facet of what makes TNA and professional wrestling as a whole great.

I just hope that when the result occurs and the night is over that it feels right to TNA as a company and also to the fans.

“I’ve always said that the championship is only as important as the man who holds it, and that means that this belt right here, the World Heavyweight Championship, is the most prestigious and the most important championship in professional wrestling.” – Austin Aries