“The world needs bad men. It keeps the other bad men from the door.”
– True Detective
TNA Lockdown came and went with only a few fleeting clips of Aces and Eights from last year, a sign for anyone who needs to wonder if TNA Wrestling is going in the right direction. The hope of course is that maybe in 2015 we won’t see anything at all. While the entire card carried hits (Gail Kim proving to be one of the best wrestlers in North America, Sam Shaw being a rubbery Crispin Glover, Great Muta being great) and misses (Bad Influence in the opener when they should be in the main event, BroMan’s in the main event when they should be in the opener, Jeff Hardy becoming Mr. America goth edition by just being Jeff Hardy in a mask), it’s the fallout from the main event that truly matters.
In the Lethal Lockdown match, TNA originally tried to push two storylines. First, the fight for control of TNA between Dixie Carter and MVP. MVP manned his team while Team Dixie was led by Bobby Roode, who was promised 10% of the company. Austin Aries turned heel to join Team Dixie and made it clear he wanted 5% of Roode’s 10%. Of course, what does 10% of TNA really give Bobby Roode anyway? It doesn’t matter. The heels want power. The babyfaces want control. The second storyline is about MVP choosing Jeff Hardy as his fourth team member. Dixie Carter insisted that he breached his contract and would be escorted out if he came into the arena. Instead of Jeff Hardy came “Willow”, which was just Jeff Hardy wearing a gothic mask, facepaint and what looked to be the green Power Ranger’s half diamond shoulder pads. In the ring, Jeff moved a little faster than usual but it was the exact same offence he’s always had. So much for a transformation.
Thankfully the power struggle between Team MVP and Team Dixie was what we really got in the ring. Austin Aries was unquestionably the MVP of the match, even with MVP in the ring. The brainbuster to Davey Richards on a steel chair was both brutal and my highlight of the Lethal Lockdown. The only weak link in Team Dixie was Jesse Godderz while the weak link in Team MVP was Willow, and Jeff Hardy can work. As all men were in the ring, Dixie revealed the “insurance policy” she was teasing, which meant there was now a third storyline involved. Overbooking alarm.
The insurance policy ended up being Bully Ray. Ray had been away for a few weeks after losing his feud with Ken Anderson. Without the Aces and Eights, Bully Ray was left to merely feud with the only other wrestler most transformed by the faction and found himself on the losing end. Many groaned at seeing Bully Ray finding a way into this match as the enforcer. What people ended up missing is that the first thing Ray did was grab a table, something you’d more associate with him as a babyface. Ray made every pinfall count fair, no change in speed as he dropped the hand. As Bobby Roode was ready to put someone through the table, Bully Ray stopped him and pulled off the turn. Dixie watched in horror as Team MVP won and she lost control over her company.
I agree with anyone who feels the main event was overbooked but the turn makes perfect sense, much more sense than other turns. When Austin Aries turned heel, he tried making it clear to people that he wasn’t on Team Dixie but Team Aries and only looking out for himself. Think about Bully Ray’s situation. He’s a former world champion who gained his belt through power in numbers and now he’s solo. His last major profile feud ended up a loss in his record. He can either align himself with Team Dixie, who is deep in the corner of TNA champion Magnus and now has both Austin Aries and Bobby Roode on the forefront, or he can join Team MVP. By joining Team MVP and helping him take control of the company, MVP owes him. And owing him is a much closer step to a title shot against Magnus than being on the same team as Magnus would be. This wasn’t an example of altruism. Bully isn’t being selfless here. He’s being anything but.
While it’s likely that at some point Bully Ray will stop being the “bully” he was before, he really doesn’t need to. Much like Stone Cold Steve Austin before him, all he has to do is change the direction of his anger and violence from the one’s the fans love to the one’s the fans hate. Bully can continue being a bully, but now he does it to the heels in Team Dixie. Team Dixie has lost a bit of their power but they still have the TNA World champion. Bully Ray doesn’t have to slap hands and kiss babies to get the fans on his side. Picking on Magnus is more than enough.
Going into Lockdown I thought the one to turn would eventually be Bobby Roode. The setup to him leading Team Dixie was him feeling screwed out by her and threatening her not to push him. Dixie Carter decided he’d be better on her team than off and gave him the leadership of the team and promised 10% of the company. It seemed like with James Storm now turning heel it’d be the right time to turn Roode face. That might just have to wait. Bully Ray proved himself an ultimate opportunist and in a way out-heeled Roode and Aries by helping MVP in the end. Roode and Aries worked with Dixie Carter because they thought a piece of the company was the true road to self-fulfillment. But even had Team Dixie won, there was no way they were going to get a title shot over Dixie’s chosen champion or even her nephew. Bully Ray realized that he could have everything he want by doing one thing: what the fans wanted.
Bully Ray used to be on one side of the door. Now he’s on the other. He’s still a bad man.
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