March 7, 2010
Guest column: TNA's top hits and misses in the Bischoff/Hogan era
By SEAN COOPER - For SLAM! Wrestling

Mr. Anderson is getting a push! Photos courtesy TNA.

Ever since Dixie Carter struck the biggest deal in TNA history by bringing in the "Immortal" Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, TNA has been like a roller coaster ride. We all knew that TNAís ultimate goal was to move to Monday nights, but nobody expected it so quickly.

With their recent ratings success of their first head-to-head airing of Impact! against Raw on January 4th and their decent ratings over the five years on Thursday nights for Spike TV, the time was apparently right for the move to Monday nights. Whether you agree with the move or not, the "Monday Night Wars 2" begins tonight, March 8th.

TNAís biggest assets are its wrestlers, so Iíll look at the top five wrestlers who have benefited under the Hogan-Bischoff era and the top five wrestlers who have floundered.

Top 5 Hits

"The Pope" D'Angelo Dinero

Current State: Ever since turning face and aligning himself with Matt Morgan and Hernandez, The Pope has had a rocket strapped to his back. Pope started off the Bischoff-Hogan era on a winning note with an upset victory over Desmond Wolfe. After a forgettable feud with Orlando Jordan, Pope strung together a streak of victories on the way to winning the 8 Card Stud tournament and becoming the number one contender for the TNA World Title to face AJ Styles at Lockdown in April.

Future Outlook: With charisma that can be compared to the Rock and the ability to bring the Impact Zone to their feet, The Pope has the entire package! If TNA wants to start off Monday nights right, they need to have the Pope look strong against AJ Styles. I see star potential in the Pope -- hopefully TNA does too and I wouldnít be surprised to see the TNA World Title around the Popeís waist sooner rather than later.


Ken Anderson

Current State: Thereís no greater honour in TNA than being called "the chosen one" by Hulk Hogan. The master of the Mic Check, Ken Anderson, made an impressive debut at the TNA Genesis pay-pre-view with a victory over Abyss. Anderson literally had the crowd eating out of his hand, yet he decided to insult them instead of embrace them. Ever since then, with the exception of the 8 Card Stud tournament finals, Ken Andersonís record has been virtually spotless, even picking up a victory over "the Olympic Gold Medalist" Kurt Angle.

Future Outlook: Anderson has a lot of star potential -- he has the uncanny ability to have the crowd love or hate him. In order to get Anderson even more over with the crowd, I would have the Angle and Anderson feud last a few months with an exchange of victories before finally culminating at Lockdown. Depending no how Anderson does, I could easily see Anderson in line for a TNA World Title shot. Anderson as TNA World Champion doesnít seem like that far of a stretch by the end of 2010 either.

A.J. Styles

Current State: The Phenomenal One is on top of the world. AJ Styles has spent the last few months atop TNA after capturing the TNA World Title from Kurt Angle in a five-way match at the No Surrender pay-per-view. After a successful run as a babyface champion for the first half of his title reign, AJ Styles turned heel and aligned himself with the "dirtiest player in the game" Ric Flair. With Naitch along his side AJ Styles seems to be unstoppable.

Future Outlook: The future looks good for young AJ Styles. Since AJís weak point has always been his ability to deliver promos, he can only benefit from having and assistance of Ric Flair -- the only concern I have is that Ric Flair tries to overshadow AJ Styles. Since Vince Russo and apparently Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan see star potential in AJ Styles, I see Styles as the TNA Champion and in the position of top contender throughout 2010.


Kaz
Kazarian

Current State: Despite only returning a couple weeks ago, I can already tell that Kazarian is going to make an impact in TNA this time around. After an impressive win over Brian Kendrick to become the number one contender for the X Division Title, Kazarian is in line for an X Division Title shot at Destination X against Doug Williams.

Future Outlook: Returning to Kazarian from Suicide is the best move Kazarian could have made. I see Kazarian capturing the X Division World Title at the Destination X pay-per-view against Doug Williams and having a lengthy title run throughout 2010.

"The Monster" Abyss

Current State: Abyss didnít have a very good beginning to the Bischoff-Hogan era, losing to Ken Anderson at TNA Genesis. Abyssí fortunes seem to have turned around, as he is now aligned with Hulk Hogan. With the new power of Hoganís Hall of Fame ring, Abyss seems unstoppable.

Future Outlook: As long as he can avoid a never-ending feud like the feud with Dr. Stevie in 2009 in TNA, I see Abyss being a major contender for the TNA World Title in 2010. As long as Abyss continues to show courage and not act like a wimp, the crowd will get behind him.

Top 5 Misses


Desmond Wolfe
Desmond Wolfe

Current State: When Desmond Wolfe first debut he got a monster push right off the bat. Taking out the self-proclaimed "Greatest Wrestler in the World Today" Kurt Angle is definitely an accomplishment. Despite never actually getting that much-needed big win over Kurt Angle, Wolfe proved that he belongs in the upper echelon of the TNA roster. With his unique in-ring style to his above-average mic skills, Wolfe seemingly has the total package. However, as of late it seems like Wolfe has fallen off the radar, losing in the first round of the "8 Card Stud" tournament to The Pope.

Future Outlook: With AJ Styles, a heel champion, on top of TNA, the prospects donít look good for Wolfe capturing the heavyweight title anytime soon. I think it would be wise for native of London, England to go after the TNA Legends Title before eventually capturing the TNA World Title in the latter part of 2010. TNA has done a great job with Wolfe so far -- Hogan-Bischoff need to continue to push him and not miss the boat on him.

"The Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels

Current State: Where to start? It was just a few months ago that Daniels returned after being "fired" to help out the Frontline alongside his best friend AJ Styles. Daniels went from taking Kurt Angle to the limit to tapping out to Angleís ankle lock in less than a minute. Daniels is a very talented athlete -- his recent TNA World Title match with AJ Styles at TNA Final Resolution. The booking of Daniels after that has been a illogical -- he went from facing AJ Styles one pay-per-view to losing to Sean "The Feature Presentation" Morley at the next pay-per-view.

Future Outlook: The future doesnít look good for Daniels. The Impact Zone seems to love him, so I think the best bet is for Daniels to go face against and compete in the X Division where he has found his most success over his career. Potential matches with Kaz, Doug Williams and the Amazing Red would definitely provide for some exciting action on Monday nights.


Beer Money
Beer Money (James Storm & Robert Roode)

Current State: Who says tag team wrestling is dead? Beer Money is proof that tag team wrestling is still relevant in 2010. Itís amazing that James Storm and Robert Roode, two TNA originals, have managed to be with the company for over 7 years and form arguably the most popular tag team in TNA history. Beer Money started out as a one-night tag team to face the Latin American Xchange (LAX), but quickly caught fire, becoming one of the hottest tag teams in TNA. Beer Money hasnít fared so well under the Bischoff-Hogan era -- after a win over Sean Waltman and Kevin Nash, Beer Money have been M.I.A.

Future Outlook: Apparently Bischoff and Hogan havenít forgotten about Beer Money as they are next in line for a TNA Tag Team Title match against Matt Morgan and Hernandez. If Beer Money can recapture the TNA Tag Team Titles and stay atop the division, we can be provided with some interesting matches versus Generation Me, the MotorC ity Machine Guns and Team 3D on Monday nights.

Tomko

Current State: The years in Japan have done wonders for Tomko -- instead of being a green, clumsy big man, Tomko actually has the ability to tell a good story in the ring, which makes it that much more of a shame how he is being booked in TNA. Ever since his return to TNA Tomko has been wasted. When it was revealed that Tomko was the mysterious hooded attacker of AJ Styles, the feud was seemingly dropped after one night so that AJ Styles could turn heel and align himself with Ric Flair. Ever since then Tomko has been stuck in booking limbo with no real direction.

Future Outlook: Tomkoís latest run can easily be resurrected. Tomko needs to do something to make an Impact -- whether it be assaulting "The Monster" Abyss after a match or leaving Hulk Hogan a bloody mess. Tomko could even be brought in as the bodyguard of AJ Styles. The opportunities are limitless for Tomko, so TNA better not waste him.

Samoa Joe

Current State: Like Tomko, Samoa Joe seems to be caught in limbo ever since the beginning of the Bischoff-Hogan era. The self-proclaimed "Samoan Submission Machine" has been on a losing streak lately, losing to Desmond Wolfe, AJ Styles and Orlando Jordan in recent weeks. Joe needs to turn around his fortunes if he wants to make it big in TNA.

Future Outlook: TNA made the right move by turning Samoa Joe face during his feud with AJ Styles. TNA needs to follow through with the kidnapping storyline with Samoa Joe and not drop this story like the Nation of Violence and the Main Event Mafia stories were dropped. Joe can reach the levels he did against Kurt Angle in 2007, he just needs to be booked like the unstoppable competitor he is.

So there you have it -- the top five wrestlers ready to make an Impact on Monday nights for TNA. Whether you agree or disagree, thereís no denying that this is an exciting time to be a wrestling fan.

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    Sean Cooper has been freelance writing for two years, with much of it at Beckett Media. Email him at seanrcooper12@gmail.com.
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