Every Friday in The Spinning Lariat, Trent Zuberi runs down the latest developments in America’s other major wrestling promotion, TNA.
What exactly is the X Division? It’s almost hard to define since most combat sport divisions base themselves off a weight class or fighting style, but the X Division? What does that even mean? When TNA first introduced the title back in 2002 it was extremely cutting edge because its tagline read, “It’s not about weight limits, it’s about no limits.” For 2002, this was a really innovative concept. No promotion had ever attempted a no-limits division and championship before and when it was relayed to the fans that basically all bets were off and anyone can compete and basically tear down the walls, our excitement levels rose at the thoughts of what we were about to see. It was comprised of guys trained in every different fighting style there is in order to offer the best combination for the fans.
Some of the greatest matches I have ever seen in my life have occurred in TNA Wrestling, specifically within the X Division. I remember watching ladder matches between Jerry Lynn, AJ Styles, and Lo-Ki that made me and my friends jump out of our seat, as we had never seen some of the spots before. It opened a whole new door for performers to innovate and express their craft. Before long, several independent promotions began to introduce their own X Divisions and more and more performers found their niche. But what it proved most is that different styles were not only being accepted but embraced by the crowds. It forced fans to rush out and purchase tapes and study up on the different styles so they didn’t look like a casual clueless fan when someone hit a tope suicida. As it went on, this was the division that put TNA on the map and got eyes on the product. The reports of the matches this division was having made people tune in out of curiosity, just to see what all the buzz was about. It didn’t disappoint.
What’s also charming about this championship is that not only does it serve as a secondary tier championship right behind the World Heavyweight Title, but thanks to Austin Aries’ performance and introduction of “Option C” last year, the current champion as of the Destination X event can relinquish his title in order to earn a shot at the World Heavyweight Title. Now this is a brilliant move on TNA’s part. Not only does it instantly give more credibility to the X Division title by essentially giving it “golden ticket” status, but it also creates a new main eventer come the big show. I love the stories that can be created by giving the X title so much power because it can set up wrestlers vying for that belt just as much as others do for the World title. The roster will be full of guys looking to use the X title as their ticket into the big dance, which is great because it then, in turn, makes the World Title even bigger than it already is.
Unpredictability is the biggest attraction to this championship. In TNA’s early days the division was such a focal point that the sheer amount of competitors it had vying for it was immeasurable. We never knew who was going to show up and challenge for it and when it would change and that’s what made it fun. Even as recently as the last two weeks, there have been two title changes that no one saw coming. It keeps the concept fresh. Through this title also came innovation, the most famous being the Ultimate X match where a large X made from ring ropes is constructed 10 feet above the ring. The belt hangs from this setup, and the wrestlers have to climb across to get in order to win the match. Does this sound insane? It is, but it’s also a concept no one ever tried before. All that much more credit is to be given to the wrestlers that were not only able to perform in such a high-risk match, but also make it completely engaging while doing it. Current X Division Champion Chris Sabin holds the record for most Ultimate X appearances, and I can safely say that he’s pulled out something new every time he gets in there.
There is something very special about the X Division performers, I think more than ever now that “Option C” is in place. Throughout the company’s history the X Division guys were always on a run to outdo their last performance because it became expected of them to push the envelope further and further in order to wow audiences, but now they have the big endgame come every year and that is to be champion once Destination X comes around. That one shift will give the belt focus throughout the year, and anyone associated with it will be looked as the potential “next guy in line” when it comes to the main event. With Chris Sabin moving up this month and the inevitable tournament to crown a new champion to follow after he relinquishes, I am very excited to see who’s next.