Remember when TNA had this super interesting division that was a hybrid of cruiserweight talents and those who might not necessarily fall in line with that weight class, but performed a similar style of moves? About that… the X-Division has been mostly an inconsistent, wishy-wash debacle for the better part of five years now.
However, TNA did something smart recently. It crowned DJ Zema Ion as its new X-Division Champion. The sort of move that could make one shoulder shrug, as TNA books in a way that can make many simply assume the title run will last for an entire week, but it is the type that can bring back legitimacy to the division.
First thing is first: I, personally, am very high on Ion. You can read my more in-depth thoughts about him here. Part of that is at play here, but there’s other reasons this can work. Then again, that’s only if they book Ion and the division correctly for the foreseeable future.
Ion’s run needs to be lengthy. That’s obvious. A hot potato title run situation does nothing for anyone. It would just continue TNA’s regular path of booking in the moment, looking for shock and awe tactics, without actually evolving the product. Keeping it on him for a year-ish would add credibility to him and the belt simply by staying power.
Really, the X-Division’s potential growth during the Ion era can go a long way in helping to rebrand, rebuild, and grow the entire product.
Ion is talented, but his gimmick is trash. The DJ moniker has to go, he needs to be given more time on the microphone, and despite it being somewhat counterproductive considering he just won the title, a possible complete repackaging of him wouldn’t be the worst of the ideas.
In what mold or model should he be repackaged in? Think right after The Rockers split. Shawn Michaels’ very early Intercontinental Championship days.
Obviously, Ion is not the “Heartbreak Kid”. But Michaels wasn’t even HBK until given the shot — and, more importantly, the proper platform — to do so. Had the WWE chosen to go in any number of other directions, Michaels could have easily wound up being yet another guy in a long line of guys who were set to get pushed, but faltered due to bad booking.
But there was never bad booking with Michaels. Win, lose, draw, or even a Marty Jannetty randomly returning from the crowd to beat him with a towel, nothing could stop his momentum.
Ion doesn’t have to have HBK’s gimmick — in fact, the WWE tried a similar-ish one with The Brian Kendrick and it failed — but they need to treat him in a way the WWE treated Michaels. As a protected product, one that the company is invested in, and the type whose biggest asset early on is going to be what he brings to the ring.
Turn Ion into a workhorse of sorts. Have him wrestle every single Thursday night. Let him win each of those matches, though it does not matter if he cheats to do so, and ask him to attempt to put on 4- to 5-star matches on the regular.
Think of another WWE Superstar, John Cena, and his U.S. Title Open Challenge. The most polarizing man in wrestling for 15 years was able to turn his segments into must-see events because of the quality of matches he was having each week and what was at stake.
Great in-ring wrestling still very much matters. Ion can provide that part if TNA allows it. That’s actually the easy part.
Now, Ion is not Cena either. Nor is the X-Division title held anywhere near the same regard as the U.S. title, but it doesn’t mean TNA has to pretend it falters on that level.
Instead, as Ion is going about his TNA career, winning must-see matches weekly, it will be up to the broadcasters to discuss him in other-worldly terms. Honestly, it wouldn’t even hurt them to be hyperbolic in comparing him to all-time greats as he goes on a great in-ring run.
The X-Division has been mostly trash for a long time. So, too, has been TNA’s ability at creating “homegrown” stars who can transcend its own brand. Ion is a special talent. The type of talent, if booked right, that can help the company kill two birds with one stone, just by being booked as a big deal.
Then again, I wouldn’t bet on it. TNA has hurled multiple stones over the last decade or so, and the company has such inaccuracy in its throws, it hasn’t even come close to hitting a bird. Actually, at least as far as what we know so far, TNA wouldn’t be able to hit the water if it were on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.