The age-old story in professional wrestling is the battle of good vs. evil. You have your good guy (a.k.a face) going against your bad guy (a.k.a heel) in a battle for supremacy. The basis of every feud is built around the idea of one ultimately beating the other at his/her own game, and despite all the drastic shifts this business has taken over the years, this basic concept is at the root of it all. We essentially live this battle every day of our personal lives, so when translated to any medium, we as viewers find ways to relate as much as possible. This gives us an emotional investment with the product.
It’s been said that the business is at its best when a program is dominated by a face chasing a heel for a championship. This is not to say that face champions are boring or uninteresting, but rather that the natural thrill a viewer gets when watching the chase is constantly driving them to continuously invest in the program, to a point where they are hooked for its duration. Fans invest so much time and emotion to see a face they feel connected to in some way reach the top of the mountain. However, the question posed once said achievement is obtained is “now what?” This is not to say a face champion cannot be dominant and run a solid ship, but as we all know, the chase is more thrilling than the catch.
In the case of TNA Impact Wrestling, we have had a pretty unique summer. Bully Ray has been champion since April 2013 and has not only re-invented himself but has also given TNA a solid centralized figure of hatred to point all the face contenders toward, thus giving them purpose. He has been a fantastic champion and through his heelish ways actually gave the title some much-needed prestige. That said, Chris Sabin briefly dethroned Bully Ray for about two weeks during his comeback story to give us that feel-good moment of the season. It popped the crowd and gave Sabin the rub, but in the long run had little effect on the perception of the title.
Going into the biggest show of the year, Bound for Glory, a heel needs to be holding the title. Fans tune into a show like that for that big moment where the hero finally prevails. The moment where the face gets his moment after working so hard to get to it. Does it happen on free TV every now and then? Absolutely, but the mindset of a viewer changes when the build has been set toward a showcase pay-per-view event. Fans want to see that rare thing that doesn’t happen often. Good wins in the end and we need to see it happen. Fans who may even like Bully Ray more than his eventual challenger want to see that happen because those moments are remembered. The “I was there when so and so WON the belt” is a very common statement among wrestling fans, and one every wrestling fan wants to be able to make at some point.
Next week we head into the final four at TNA’s No Surrender supershow, where the winner will be Bully Ray’s challenger at Bound for Glory. Magnus, Austin Aries, AJ Styles, and Bobby Roode all contend for that main event spot. They honestly couldn’t have picked a better final four than these guys. Any one of them would make a great contender, but only one has the backstory that makes for the ultimate unlikely hero vs. dominant villain story that this time of year needs, and that is AJ Styles. The story has essentially been slowly writing itself for the past year and now it’s time for it to reach the big show. Get ready to fly, Bound for Glory season is here!