It's that time of year again, when TNA begin their build towards their biggest show of the year, Bound for Glory. For the last two years, the main event match at the pay per view has been decided by staging a summer long league-type tournament known as the Bound for Glory series. This will be the third edition, and the two previous have led to some of the best TNA TV in all of the last few years. The league format means the focus is on the wrestling, and with a few minor exceptions logic reigns supreme. Let's look at the format.
It is a 12 man tournament, with the 12 guys facing each other on TV, PPV and house shows. 10 points are awarded for a submission victory, 7 for a pinfall, 5 for a count out and 3 for a disqualification. If a wrestler is disqualified themselves, they lose 10 points. The wrestlers should wrestle an equal amount of matches, with the top 4 qualifying for the semi finals at which point it becomes a knockout situation. Tournaments such as this are one of the best things in pro wrestling, and this years promises to be every bit as good as expected. The 12 man roster is set, so lets break down the individuals and assess their chances. Here we go, in alphabetical order.
AJ Styles (qualified by beating Kurt Angle)
If there was one individual you would place as the face of TNA, AJ Styles would be that individual. He is one of only 3 members of the roster who has been there since the very first show, and he has won every single thing there is to win in the promotion. The last couple of years have been tough for AJ however, what with the horrific Claire Lynch storyline. Most people have AJ down to win this series, and with good reason. He lost a triple threat at the end of the year which meant he couldn't have another title shot until Bound for Glory. Foreshadowing overload. He deserves to be the number one guy in the company, and here's hoping this will be the vehicle to put him there.
Austin Aries (qualified by beating Eric Young)
Until the awful incident recently where he forced his crotch into the face of Christy Hemme, I would have had Aries down as a shoe in for the final four. As it is, Now, I'm not so sure. He is without doubt one of, if not the best, performers in the company, but a public telling off for what was essentially sexual harassment isn't enough. Aries will be strong throughout, but his misdemeanor will mean he misses the final four. I wouldn't be surprised if he is vital to someone else missing out however, leading to a big match at Bound for Glory.
Prediction: Just missing out on the final four
Bobby Roode (qualified with a bye as a past winner)
The 2011 series winner has stagnated a little since losing the world title to Aries last summer. He is currently back in tag team world with the previously mentioned Aries, and that baffles me a little. His run as champion was fantastic, one that was only ended because the company couldn't pass the hot potato that was Austin Aries at the time. He is another who should be a main event staple in the company, but I don't think this series is his route back there.
Prediction: Just missing out on the final four
Christopher Daniels and Kazarian (qualified by beating James Storm and Gunner)
These two guys are lumped in together because they are both in this series to fill the same role. They are there to put on consistently good matches with all the competitors in the series. Both of them, Daniels in particular, deserve a bigger role in TNA as they are consistently the most entertaining part of Impact, but it doesn't seem forthcoming. They won't make much of a dent in this series unfortunately. They should be tag champions again by the time Bound for Glory comes around though, if there is a god.
Prediction: Languishing in the lower half
Hernandez (qualified by beating Chavo Guerrero)
Is there anyone in TNA who has been on the end of more stop start pushes than Super Mex? He has been in a cycle of tag team-singles push-tag team-singles push-tag team for what feels like forever. This is his first Bound for Glory series, and it should be the time to solidify him as a top level guy in the company. He is 2nd only to Matt Morgan in terms of size in TNA, yet he has never truly been allowed to be the hoss he should be. By having him near the top of the series throughout, you can cement him in the top bracket. If I were booking, I'd have him top the table, only to lost his semi final due to interference by Aries. I'm still predicting a semi final spot.
Prediction: Semifinal defeat
Jay Bradley (qualified by beating Sam Shaw in the Gut Check finals)
Right. Jay Bradley is in this series purely to give some relevance to the Gut Check thing, Still, I'm not entirely sure how to read him here. There is no issue with him as a performer, but how he is portrayed is going to be crucial going forward. He'll definitely pick up a couple of wins, maybe against the workhorses of Bad Influence, but by all logic he should be finishing in the bottom two of this tournament.
Prediction: Last place
Jeff Hardy (qualified with a bye as a past winner)
Jeff Hardy is arguably the number one babyface in professional wrestling outside of WWE. He recently returned at Slammiversary after a brief rest following losing the world title to Bully Ray. Is the BFG series his road to redemption against the Aces and Eights chief? Almost. He is a shoe in for a final four position one would assume, but the only way I see him in the BFG main event is through some terribly screwy finish that leaves him in a three way with Styles and the champion come the event. Still, no one would be surprised if he did win it.
Prediction: Losing finalist
Joseph Park (qualified by beating Crimson)
Oh boy. The Joseph Park character has been an interesting one for a while, truth be told. However, Joseph Park as a wrestling character should not be in the Bound for Glory series. Maybe he will have an early start, but I feel the story with Abyss and Aces and Eights will drag and drag, costing him points. He's there for the story, not for the main event.
Prediction: Bottom two
Magnus (qualified by beating Kenny King, Matt Morgan and Rob Terry)
Magnus is very much a dark horse in this series. He didn't make much of an impact last year, but somehow he has managed to get very over despite not having any real stories in the last forever. Who would have thought he would be the best member of the British Invasion by far? No one in TNA has improved as much as Magnus over the last couple of years. When I started researching this column, I had him down for the semifinals, but now I'm not so sure. I do believe however, that either him or Hernandez will be made by this series.
Prediction: Just missing out on the final four. Maybe.
Mr Anderson (qualified by winning the Aces and Eights battle royal)
The spanner in the works. By having a member of Aces and Eights in the series whilst Bully Ray is champion, you have a natural story to tell. For some reason, I really like him as a part of the stable, he seems to fit as the strange guy. He is capable of having very good matches with the right person, and is still one of the great 'what ifs' of modern professional wrestling. I think he'll make the semi finals, but will just fall short, maybe thanks to an Aces and Eights double cross.
Prediction: Semifinal loss
Samoa Joe (qualified by beating Robbie E. Thank god)
Oh Joe. Samoa Joe really should have been the game changer. I don't think there is a single performer in all of professional wrestling that people are so disappointed at how they are booked. They don't chant 'Joe's gonna kill you' for no reason. He should be the number one monster, the super intense bad ass face that no one wants to face. He should be the modern day Stone Cold, a loner who you don't mess with. As it is, he's going to finish in the mid table and I'll write exactly the same about his chances next year. For shame TNA, for shame.
Prediction: Mid table purgatory
This year's Bound for Glory series promises to the best yet. The field is the strongest it has been in my opinion, and some of the matches on offer are totally mouth watering. AJ Styles may be the favourite, but is there anyone who deserves it more? There is a lot of potential in this series for new stars to be made, for some of the best wrestling on TV all years and for one hell of a compelling story. As with everything in TNA however, here's hoping they don't screw it up. I'll be watching.
So that's that. What do you think? Are you looking forward to the Bound for Glory series? Who do you have down for the semi finals? Will Magnus or Hernandez finally arrive? Am I the only one that weeps at the positioning of Samoa Joe? Drop a comment in the lonely comment box below, or twitter me with the handle @pingvinorkestra. I'd love to know what you think about this potentially thrilling series. The sun arrived in Belgrade today. Lord help me.