We are only a little over 24 hours away from TNA's third PPV of the year, Victory Road. While Bound For Glory might be TNA's biggest show of the year, Victory Road is possibly one of the most important shows of their calendar year, along with Lockdown next month. It's interesting (to me at least) that TNA is holding a show exactly 2 weeks before and 2 weeks after WWE holds Wrestlemania. With both of these shows being so close to WWE's biggest show of the year, it's absolutely crucial for BOTH to deliver in a big way.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that TNA needs to match the star quality of Wrestlemania 28 because quite frankly that's going to be impossible. Wrestlemania 28 is shaping up to be one of the best cards on paper that I've seen in quite some time, and TNA simply doesn't have the ability to compete with it at this point. But what they do need to do is make sure that their product is strong because all eyes are going to be on WWE at this time of year, and if TNA can't deliver with their PPVs scheduled during this "season", people are going to tune out.
The card for Victory Road is one that doesn't look like a top-tier event on paper, but could very well deliver in a big way. TNA has regularly been accused of using their PPVs to build for their weekly show, but I think it's quite the opposite this time around. Every single match on the card right now has been brewing for at least a few weeks and as a result there is quite a bit of emotion on the card. I'm personally looking forward to the show.
Just before I make my predictions though, I want to address the comments I've seen chastising TNA for not putting a World Championship match on the card. I don't see why this is a major issue. It really doesn't make sense at this point for Bobby Roode to defend his title against anybody because there's a lot of other unfinished business in that scene that needs to be taken care of. Roode has business with Sting, Storm has business with Bully Ray, and Hardy has business with Angle. Sure, they could just make Roode's match with Sting a title match for the hell of it, but does anyone really want to see Sting in another title match? I sure don't.
So enough delay, let's take a look at the matches shall we?
Zema Ion has been doing a great job of improving himself both as a character and an in-ring competitor. After the unfortunate incident with Jesse Sorensen at Against All Odds I was worried that Ion's confidence might be shaken and that it would reflect in his performances, but luckily he proved those worries were for naught. While he's still got a ways to go before I'll be convinced that he's become a staple in TNA's X-Division, it's been a nice start. On the other side of the ring, we have Austin Aries. I've said more than a few times in the past that he is regularly one of the best parts of iMPACT each week, so I won't bother gushing about it anymore.
So will Sunday be Zema's night? I believe the answer to this is both yes and no. Yes, because he's in the ring with one of the best that TNA has to offer, and because of this he has a chance to really prove his worth and show the company that he belongs in the title scene. No, because I sincerely doubt TNA is ready to take the belt off of Aries just yet, especially if it's to put it on a guy who is really untested at this point. Zema would likely be a solid X-Division champion, but now is just not the time for that to happen as, like I said, TNA needs to be putting out the strongest possible product at this time. This means keeping the belts on their strongest wrestlers, and Aries certainly fits that bill. Sorry Zema, it's just not your time yet.
Prediction: Austin Aries retains
A lot of people probably don't care about this match simply because there's women involved, but I am not among that group. Given the quality of these particular females and the amount of time this feud has been given to develop, I think this match is going to be pretty solid.
Gail Kim leaving TNA to return to WWE was a great move on her part and I really think it made TNA realize just how good of a fit she was for the Knockouts Division. Kim has been booked as an absolute dominant force since her return last October, and has also developed one of the stronger characters that the Knockouts division has seen in a while now.
Then, of course, we have Madison Rayne. Not only is she one of the best female competitors that TNA has to offer, I would argue that she's one of the top females in the industry today. As a wrestler, she improves every single time she steps in the ring. As a character, she's almost untouchable. She gets more heat than a lot of male heels in the industry do. That being said, the crowds are slowly beginning to turn in her favour out of sympathy for how Gail Kim treats her. I'm 100% against this move as she's infinitely better as a bitchy heel and turning her now would be a massive mistake.
So with that being said, where does TNA go for this match? If Rayne loses, I think that they run a big risk of the crowds sympathizing with her even more. If she wins, there's really no downside as she can return to being the same bitch that's gotten her this far. Kim losing the title isn't going to do much to her momentum because of how strongly she's been booked this year, and I'm sure it won't be long before she's back in the title picture. It's time for Rayne to reign again.
Prediction: NEW TNA Knockouts Champion, Madison Rayne
Out of all the matches on the card, this one makes the least amount of sense to me. I get the feud between Kaz/Daniels and Styles, that's been going on for ages now. But Anderson's involvement confuses me, other than as a somewhat established name to even the odds. With TNA's new creative policy that wrestlers who creative has nothing for not being used on TV, it's confusing that Anderson would be put into a seemingly random feud. There's not much of a back-story here, so as glad as I was when Anderson made his return to iMPACT, I was still left asking "why?"
As well as being the least-logical match on the card, I think it's also the easiest one to predict. I would be very surprised if TNA let Styles lose two PPV matches in a row during this feud, especially now that he's supposed to be on even footing with his opponents. More so than that, Anderson really cannot afford a loss right now. He's been away from TV for around 4 months now and he really needs a win to start making people care about him again (or for the first time). He has such little momentum going into the show that anything other than a decisive victory is going to stop him completely.
Daniels and Kazarian don't really need another win here, so long as they put on the quality of match that everyone knows they are capable of. Again though, I really don't think Styles is going to be handed another PPV loss in this feud. The negatives far outweigh the positives in that scenario, so if TNA is smart they'll let the faces win this one.
Prediction: Styles & Anderson
Hardy and Angle have proven in the past that they can put on a very high quality match. I would be extremely surprised if this didn't end up being "Match of the Night". This match has been building basically since Hardy's return to TNA after his unfortunate incident at, interestingly enough, last year's Victory Road. For those of you with short memories, he showed up in terrible condition due to whatever he was taking at that time, and he was defeated in around 90 seconds in what was supposed to be his big rematch for the World Championship.
I'm surprised TNA hasn't been playing up the fact that it's been a year since Hardy hit rock bottom. They've had no qualms about referencing Hardy's drug history in the past, so why not use it now to help sell this match? Hardy can use it to show that he's fighting to prove that he has actually changed for the better this time, and Angle can use it to show that Hardy's the same screw-up that he's always been. It really writes itself, and I can't believe TNA hasn't taken advantage of that.
So who's going to take the win here? It's actually a fairly easy call for me to make. Given that there's only a little over 4 months until the 2012 Olympic Games and only about a month until the trials to join the American team begin, Angle needs to remove himself from TV so he can effectively train his body. He's going to be competing against guys who are significantly younger than he is. Also in a storyline sense, it just doesn't make sense for him to get a win. Hardy is finally back on track and quickly gaining support from the fans, as well as the fact that he's regularly a part of the title picture, so a win for him just makes sense. Going with my gut on this one.
Prediction: Jeff Hardy
While I still wish that Bully Ray had won the title in his last match, Roode's recent work in improving the feel of his reign has made me understand why TNA opted against that. Plus, he hasn't left the main event just yet, so there's still time for it to happen.
Unfortunately this match's outcome seems fairly obvious to me given that Storm is already scheduled to be in the World Championship match next month at Lockdown, meaning that I seriously doubt he'll be losing tomorrow night. It's just not a logical thing to do, and as much as TNA likes to try to "throw curves" by doing illogical things, but it's just not going down like that tomorrow night. On the flip side, Bully Ray is a guy that could use a solid showing against a top-tier opponent to keep his momentum going strong. Thankfully he hasn't exactly been a slouch lately, so it's not like his inevitable loss here is going to do much harm. The only thing is he's going to need to look as strong as possible because he's going to be out of the title picture for the next month due to, as I mentioned before, James Storm already being the next title challenger.
So with all that being said, is TNA going to go with the obvious decision and give Storm the win? I started typing this section of the column with "YES!!!!" being the only answer in mind, but now I'm not so sure. Both men could use a win, but obviously that can't happen. There is, however, another way to go. Some people don't like this kind of finish, and I'm usually among that group, but only when it doesn't make sense. So I'm taking a risk by going against my first instinct here, but my prediction is…
Prediction: No Contest (Double countout, Double DQ, etc.)
This match is really not about the tag titles at all. I firmly believe it is purely a way for Morgan and Crimson to continue building tension between each other (perhaps even splitting completely after the match) and building towards their inevitable feud. It's also going to be a great way to give Samoa Joe and Magnus even more credibility as a team by defeating a couple of top-tier guys like Morgan and Crimson (I know, it hurt me to refer to him as "top-tier" as well).
The titles are in absolutely no danger of changing hands here. The finish is likely going to involve Crimson hitting Morgan with a move (either intentionally or unintentionally), getting thrown out (or climbing out, depending on whether the move was intentional) of the ring, and Magnus or Joe getting the pin. Either way, Joe and Magnus are retaining tomorrow night. It's not going to happen any other way.
Prediction: Magnus and Samoa Joe retain
TNA Television Championship: Robbie E.'s Open Challenge
Don't really know what to make of this one because there's quite a few ways that it could go. The challenger could be some no-name jobber that TNA is feeding to Robbie so he can get a strong victory. Or the challenger could be some a returning/newly debuting name that may still lose, but they'll end up looking strong and likely fighting for the belt again.
My first choice would be Chris Masters, but I don't know how likely that is to happen. I also wouldn't be upset if John Morrison made a surprise debut, but I sincerely doubt that will be what happens. Hell, maybe Rob Terry is going to turn on his friend and go after the belt himself. Now that I think about it, that's probably not that unlikely.
But no matter the challenger, I think Robbie is walking away with the belt. He deserves better than having the belt taken away in a match that received no promotion, and by an opponent that likely had no build-up as a challenger.
Prediction: Robbie E. retains
For the same reasons that I can't see Storm losing (at least not cleanly), I don't see Roode losing this match. He's the World Champion, and while his opponent is certainly a true legend of the industry, he's also been out of active competition for some time now and isn't exactly the youngest guy on the block. If Ricky Steamboat all of a sudden decided he was returning to the ring against a guy like CM Punk, would you really buy Steamboat as a legitimate threat? The match is probably going to be solid, but the outcome is still obvious.
Roode is heading into a big title defence against James Storm next month, and TNA needs to start building that feud ASAP. Having Roode lose to Sting tomorrow night just does not make sense to me as he'll head into his next feud with less momentum and less credibility. The company's World Champion should not be losing to a semi-retired authority figure, that's just how it is.
Prediction: Bobby Roode
So there we have it, the card for tomorrow night's Victory Road PPV event. What do you guys think? Agree with my predictions? Disagree? Think I'm crazy? With the wondrous invention of the internet, you now have the power to leave me some feedback through one of the methods I will list below. I won't be watching the show live tomorrow as I'm going to a concert, but I'll be posting a review early next week. So until next time, thanks for stopping by.
Oh, and a happy St. Patrick's Day to my fellow Irishmen out there in ReaderLand. I trust many of you have already consumed a fair amount of beer, and I'll be heading out to do the same once this column is posted.