By James Guttman
There's no greater asset to a wrestling company than the World Heavyweight Champion. That man is the one who represents you to the outside world and captivates the fans who support you. Whether he's booed or cheered, he's important.
When A.J. Styles won the World Heavyweight Championship at Bound For Glory, he became the most important man in TNA. His role was magnified ten times over and his stock went through the roof. Suddenly everyone wanted to make nice with the Phenomenal One.
Dixie Carter was one of those people. For months, she hoped to squash the TNA Original's spirit with roadblocks and scorn. But once he toppled Bully Ray to take the prestigious Championship, everything changed. Sure, she initially lashed out by booking a World Heavyweight Championship defense against former titleholder on Impact. But seeing the fruitless attempts to stop Styles through obstacles, the President attempted to cut her losses. She tried to call off the bout and make peace the only way she knows how, through her wallet.
But that didn't do it. Anyone who knows A.J. Styles knows that he's not about the money. He's about the glory. Since day one, he's been amazing the fans first and worrying about everything else second. His goal each time out is to give the audience the best possible performance he can. That's why many of them weren't shocked when he walked out, title in hand, on TNA last Thursday. His departing vow before driving away in Dixie's failed peace offering to take the title to the fans was a natural decision for him. It's symbolic of how he's always wanted to his career to be. He's not only on his way to showing the world why he's truly the World Heavyweight Champion. Most importantly - he's finally getting to do it on his terms.
In a mind-boggling case of underestimating Styles's talent, Dixie Carter allowed him to wrestle (and win) the top Championship in the company despite his lack of a contract with TNA. For A.J., there was no greater slap in the face. It seemed to say, "You're not winning. There's no point in even worrying about you taking the title and leaving with it since you're not good enough to win it." Ouch. It's like a passive-aggressive kick to the stomach.
That was the final straw according to many. It not only motivated Styles to overcome Bully Ray's brutal assault, but helped him decide what he'd do when the Championship was firmly around his waist. If he doesn't have a contract, then he's not doing anything he doesn't want to do. Simple as that.
Case in point - last Thursday on Impact. Styles had a chance to give up his World Heavyweight Championship defense against Bully. Yet, he chose to fight anyway. Why? The same reason he walked out afterwards - because he wanted to.
After a decade of being told who to fight, when, and where, A.J. Styles, World Heavyweight Championship in hand, can finally decide all that for himself. In one foul swoop, he's not only taken Dixie Carter's top Championship from TNA, but taken away her ability to decide who gets to challenge for it. It's his own slap in the face and stings just as badly. Styles, promising for months to make the TNA President "pay", may have finally figured out the way to do it so it hurts the most.
That's why everyone is ready for Thursday's Impact. Many fans may applaud A.J.'s decision, but many on the TNA roster can't be happy about the loss of their contender status. Whether it's the Bro-Mans facing Gunner and James Storm or Kurt Angle in his important rematch with Bobby Roode, all stars on the card will definitely be listening closely when Dixie Carter speaks.
After all, this is TNA and we need a World Heavyweight Champion - good or bad. It might not be the most popular opinion lately, but it needs to be said. He may have been a wicked and violent Champion, but at least Bully Ray was around.