One of my favourite times of the year as a wrestling fan is the start of a new one. Because there are no formal seasons in wrestling as there are in "real" sports, the beginning of a year is realistically no more important than most other days of the year. But due to the fact that I can be a bit of a sucker for clichés, I like to look at the beginning of the year as a chance for new beginnings and new directions for a wrestling company.
One of the more common things people like to do during this time is to make predictions on who they think will be the "breakout stars" of the upcoming/new year. The problem I have with the term "breakout star" is that it means different things to different people. For instance, to one person it could mean who they think will go from being unknown to being well known, but their friend could believe it refers to who will win a major championship for the first time. I like to believe more so in the former because winning a major championship doesn't always mean that you've become a star. Take for instance The Great Khali. The man is a former World Heavyweight Champion, but would any of us really consider him a true star? Was that year really his "breakout year"? I would argue that he isn't, and it wasn't.
Rather than just making some predictions, I want to give you guys a little more insight into my preferred TNA wrestlers. So for each category I will be making a prediction of what I think WILL happen, and what I WANT to happen. Sometimes they may be the same thing, and in those cases I'll either just say so, or I'll make an alternate pick. But enough rambling, let's get on with it shall we?
The TNA Knockouts Division
Madison Rayne: This pick might be controversial as it can certainly be argued that she's already a huge part of the Knockouts Division, but I don't think she's shown her full potential yet. Rayne's run as Knockouts Champion was one of the best in the title's history, but since losing it it seems as though she feels a little lost on the card. With how she's been used on iMPACT over the past couple of weeks, I think that TNA is gearing up towards another run with the belt for Rayne. Out of all the Knockouts on the roster, Rayne easily has the strongest character, but she is still developing her in-ring skills. Gail Kim is the obvious focus of the division right now (which I'm 100% okay with by the way), but she also can't be the champion forever. At 25 years old, Madison Rayne is the second youngest Knockout on the roster (not including valets like Toxxin) and still has plenty of time left in her career. 2012 could be the year we finally see Rayne develop into the wrestler that I know she is capable of being.
Sarita: As much as I like Madison Rayne, I think Sarita is more deserving of having a truly breakout year. While it could certainly be argued that, much like Madison Rayne, Sarita is already a pretty big part of TNA, again much like I said about Rayne, Sarita has not even come close to hitting her full potential. At 32 years old she's certainly still young enough to have a few years left on her career (unless she goes and gets injured again of course). Furthermore, she's already solid in the ring and can hold her own on the mic, so not a whole lot of work is needed. However, because the Knockouts Division is so heel heavy at the moment, I would turn Sarita face. It really wouldn't be that hard to do given that Mexican America is all but finished right now, and if the writers wanted to go the easy route they could have her feud with her storyline cousin Rosita at the beginning of the turn. In my opinion Sarita is one of the more talented female wrestlers on the roster, and I would love to see her leading the division. I wouldn't be surprised if this ended up happening given that they seem to like her over there, so perhaps my preference will become reality.
Honorable Mention: Toxxin: Haven't seen a LOT of her in-ring work, but I wouldn't mind seeing her more on TV. What can I say, I have a weakness for girls that have tattoos.
The TNA Tag Team Division
Matt Morgan & Crimson: Damn, I've got to stop making this kind of pick. Given that these two are already the TNA Tag Team Champions it's not hard to imagine some people seeing this pick and saying "no shit", but I do have my reasoning. Given that this category is strictly for the tag team division, I believe this is a valid pick. Crimson and Morgan may already be the champions, but can anyone really say that they've meshed into a super cohesive unit that can make people care about the division? It's obvious that both of these men are going to be World Champions in the near future, but with the title scene so occupied right now they needed something to do until a spot opens up. As much as I dislike Crimson personally, his work with Morgan has actually not been that bad. Both men look like they can dish out a solid ass-whooping, making them a pretty dominant looking team, and if they keep getting booked like they have been they could very well become a driving force in the rebirth of tag team wrestling, at least in TNA. They certainly aren't a team that's going to go the distance and stay together for the long haul, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them rock out for a good portion of 2012. If nothing else maybe they'll light a fire under the asses of other tag team wrestlers on the roster.
The British Invasion: If this comes as a surprise to any of you who have read my columns before, there's something wrong with your brain. I've made it no secret that I'm a huge fan of both Magnus and Doug Williams and it puzzles me on a constant basis why they're not at the top of the division. There's really not a whole lot I can say here that I haven't said before. Given that Magnus is currently teaming with Samoa Joe, and Doug Williams is nowhere to be seen, I don't know how likely this "breakout" is going to be, but there's very few things I would rather see as a TNA fan. I said before that Crimson/Morgan could be a part of the rebirth of tag team wrestling? The British Invasion IS the rebirth of tag team wrestling. They just need someone to take notice and give them a real shot.
The TNA Television Title (Mid-Card) Division
Anthony Neese: Some of you probably don't know who this guy is, and that's okay, but I'm positive we'll be seeing more of him in 2012. His series of matches with Zema Ion were solid and managed to get the crowd pretty hot, despite the fact that neither of them were super over beforehand. Neese isn't a huge guy (billed around 5'10, 198 lbs.) but his physique reminds me very much of Chris Masters' in that he's not overly large, but he's jacked anyways. He was initially brought in to be a part of the X-Division, but I think his real success lies outside of that. While wrestlers like him have certainly done well in the X-Division before (Doug Williams and Kurt Angle spring to mind), the mid-card of TNA needs some new talent, and Neese is the right pick to put in that spot. He's already proven that he's capable of getting over with the audience despite limited time on TV, he's proven he can "go" in the ring, and it looks like someone in TNA is a fan of the dude. He'll be back and I wouldn't be surprised to see him going after Robbie E.'s title within the next couple of months.
Eric Young: This pick isn't so much that I'm wishing more success on him, because he's clearly doing alright in the company. No, what I would like to see is to have EY have a breakout year as something other than a cheap comedy act. He's arguably one of the more talented guys on the roster, but he's basically TNA's goofier version of Santino. As part of the World Elite not too long ago, EY was on his way to the top of TNA. For whatever reason this push was killed dead once Hogan made his way over to the company and he was slowly relegated to the comedy role. He does it well, don't get me wrong, but it's time to stop. When your writers are having you wrestle Scott fucking Baio on TV, it's pretty clear they have nothing for you. I really hope we get the World Elite style Eric Young before the end of the year and he jumps back on the path to the top.
The TNA X-Division
Zema Ion: Remember when I mentioned him earlier? There was a reason for it. Ion has managed to get a respectable amount of heat in a short period of time and with limited exposure on TV, and that's not even taking into account his talents in the ring. I'll admit I wasn't a fan when he first came around during the X-Division tournament of 2011, but since then things have changed. He fits this heel character perfectly and looks like he could very easily be the secondary heel in the division behind only Austin Aries. It's DEFINITELY obvious in this case that someone in management likes the kid, and with the push he's currently receiving it's obvious he's right on the cusp of accomplishing something bigger. If he's not the X-Division Champion by the end of 2012, I'll be incredibly shocked. If he can have a couple more solid matches against some bigger names in the division, it's only a matter of time until he gets to the top.
Jesse Sorensen: Another preference here that should come as no shock to anyone who has read my columns before. This kid has boat loads of potential and has already shown the fans a bit of it. He's still developing his in-ring skills, but he's already above the level of many guys as new and young as he is. While his character still needs a bit of development, he's already over with the crowd, so he's free to take his time and do it properly. I'm glad that he hasn't yet defeated Aries for the belt because he is still really new and I would rather TNA push him slowly and properly than rush him to the top and then realize they have nothing for him. Sorensen is a future star in TNA and the X-Division is a great place to start. 2012 is going to be a big year for this guy, mark my words.
The TNA World Heavyweight Championship
Bully Ray: All I can say about Bubba's transformation over the last year is "Wow". He went from being a guy I never saw as more than a subpar wrestler that would never do anything outside of the tag division to being one of the top heels in the industry today. While he's certainly still not the greatest in-ring technician of all time, his brawling style works perfectly for the character he portrays. He's also lost a considerable amount of weight and looks to be in the best shape of his career, which certainly helps things. TNA has been behind him from the second Team 3D broke up but it's never translated into a whole lot championship-wise. He made it to the finals of the Bound For Glory series but was unable to make it past Bobby Roode. So what I'm saying is this. Bully Ray is already one of the top guys in the company, but there's still a lot left for him to do. 2012 is going to be his breakout year as he silences even more haters by proving he belongs in the main event, as well as winning his first ever World Championship. There is no other guy on the roster that deserves it as much as this man does, and I believe that 100%.
Bully Ray: Not only do I think this will happen, I WANT it to happen. I've done a complete 180 on my opinion of Bully Ray, and I fully support his rise to the top. I really hope TNA takes advantage of this golden opportunity.
So there we have it folks, my predictions and wishes for the breakout stars of TNA for the 2012 year. So what do you guys think? Any predictions you agree with? Disagree? Think I'm nuts? Let me know through one of the many feedback tools that are available to you. I'll be back soon, so until then, thanks for stopping by.
Yeah, I'm a bit of a redneck at times. But you know what? I don't care. Garth Brooks is the man.