IMPACT WRESTLING on Pop Tuesdays at 9/8c starting January 5, 2016

Bracing for IMPACT: Live By The Mask, Die By The Mask

By James Guttman

We all wear masks.  In our day to day lives, we present a persona we want others to see.  For us, the masks are figurative.  But in TNA Wrestling, they're both.
For some, like Aces and Eights, the masks are literal.  For months they terrorized Impact Wrestling with weekly attacks, all while hidden behind menacing hoods.  No one knew who was attacking and each time it happened, it bred more distrust in the locker room.  The outlaws used this chaos to their advantage and when Bully Ray, who had been wearing the biggest mask of all at that point, was revealed as president, they used the element of surprise to their advantage.

So perhaps Austin Aries owes a tip of the greatest hat that ever lived to Aces and Eights.  After all, that's the approach he took last Thursday.  When T.J. Perkins, the man who was unceremoniously outted as the star behind Suicide's mask, was jumped and replaced by an imposter for his X Division title victory, we all were left guessing.  Had it been Aces and Eights once again?  It certainly fit their M.O.  From backstage brawling to masked confusion, it had their fingerprints all over it.  But, when the night was over, it was Austin Aries holding Suicide's mask in his hand…and the X-Division Title on his shoulder. As we know, the X-Division title can be cashed in for a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship at the July 18 “Destination X” IMPACT special on SpikeTV.  Essentially Aries, from behind a mask, had succeeded in getting into the champ's head before any match was even signed.

Needless to say, T.J. Perkins was naturally unhappy about losing his chance at this possible shot.  While fans applauded the victory and looked to Austin to shake up the A&E biker party, Perkins and Chris Sabin were far from pleased.  In wrestling, competitors are often given ample time to study opponents and map out a game plan - especially in televised championship matches.  Sabin didn't have a chance to do that ahead of his title defense on Impact.  Instead of Suicide, he had Austin Aries.  It doesn't take much to see how unfair that is to a champion.  Chris is a nice guy who always has a smile on his face.  But Aries might have more to worry about if Sabin removes his own mask this Thursday.

Speaking of which, it's sad to see Mickie James’ mask slowly slipping off.  They say titles change people and, in her case, it's happening before our eyes.  For some, the championship makes them paranoid.  Others become heroic.  Then, there are the ones who seem to rise above everyone else and take a ride on the SS Ego.  It's worrisome to see it happening to Mickie.  The higher the pedestal you put yourself on, the longer the fall back to Earth.

Ultimately, the idea behind masks is to leave people guessing your true identity.  As mentioned, Bully Ray and his Aces and Eights began their run in TNA with that strategy.  Now, not only is Austin Aries using it against them, but so is the Main Event Mafia.  With familiar music and trademark suits, Sting and Kurt Angle are going week to week and getting the legendary group together.  The exclusive stable of former World Champions has always kept an unbeatable mindset.  They're the best in wrestling and they're going to prove it.  No one can stop them.  With Samoa Joe joining the team, it leaves our unmasked Bully with yet another ferocious force to contend with.  I'm sure Aces and Eights are wondering how it could get any worse.

Well, more people, guys.  The Main Event Mafia is getting more people. That's how.  

Sting, Joe, and Angle aren't done by a long shot.  While the Champion and his riding partners might want to know the identities of M.E.M.'s new members immediately, they're going to have to wait.  Yup. Just sit back, week after week, a wait.  Let it seep into your brain and rock you to your core.  It's maddening, guys.  So, yeah.  Masks.  After all, it's more fun that way.  We learned that from you, Bully.  Now it's your turn to experience it.