Almost a year later, Jake Crist briefly returned to answer Josh Alexander’s open challenge. After the match, there were talks of bringing him back as a wrestler, and possibly helping the creative team. This fell through because he suggested a return for his brother.
The X Division title was Jake Crist’s crowning achievement. He was on the verge of becoming more, but circumstances (possibly) out of his control may have led to his downfall. But yet, when given the chance to build bridges, the looking out for his brother could be seen as admirable and short-sighted. Family is important, but he had to know they wouldn’t go for that. The company couldn’t take the chance.
Where Is He Now? – He’s working regularly on the independent scene.
#44. Ace Austin — 3 Reigns, 271 days
“Ace Of The Pack” – Early in his first X Division title reign, fans compared him to AJ Styles and other former X Division Champions. That’s a pretty big compliment, and Austin has since proved to be beyond his years. According to the numbers, he sits only 1 day behind AJ Styles in the list of all-time longest-reigning.
Austin is now 25 years old and has settled in the past few years. He is the only recent signing to have won the X Division title several times and challenged for the World Championship. This year, New Japan has taken an interest in him. The important thing for me is that he has already carved out a slimy heel persona. He’s the type who would sleep with your Mother and brag about it later.
There are many years ahead for Ace Austin, and who knows where they will take him. Whatever happens, no matter what we feel about him, we’ll know that he left his mark on the X Division.
Where Is He Now? – New Japan Pro Wrestling has taken notice and he has been recruited into the Bullet Club. Making his name in Japan and learning new ways to work in the ring will be a valuable experience. He’s still an Impact guy, but we don’t know how much we’ll see him after losing the title at this year’s Slammiversary.
#45. Willie Mack — 1 Reign, 99 days
Unlike his best friend Rich Swann, Willie Mack’s title reign didn’t get him anywhere. He’s supremely athletic for his size, and his ring work is solid. I feel like the only thing holding him back is storytelling. He’s not terrible on the mic, but he’s not the first guy you’d get a microphone for. I assumed that his tag team with Swann would take them to the tag titles, but that didn’t happen.
Mack gave four years of his career to Impact before announcing his departure. I’d like to see a return, but I guess he needs more motivation? It would be interesting to see what he could do as a heel. Otherwise, he’ll always find work because his ring skills are exceptional.
Where Is He Now? – After leaving Impact, he worked a match against Jeff Cobb on NJPW Strong. Since then, he has worked matches on the independent scene.
#46. Chris Bey — 1 Reign, 27 days
He’s in a similar boat to Ace Austin. Chris Bey is young, has tons of potential, is a former X Division Champion, and has unsuccessfully challenged for the World title. He was recruited to Bullet Club long before Austin was, and has since found his “too sweet” place in the group.
When Jay White works on Impact, he often has Bey as his tag team partner. And I’ve already noticed a difference in his confidence level on the mic. His X Division reign may have been short, but it pushed the right buttons to earn him valuable contacts. He’s on the up, and that’s all you can ask for.
Where Is He Now? – Living the good life in Bullet Club while working for Impact and New Japan.
#47. Rohit Raju — 1 Reign, 120 days
“Unbelievable” – When Gama Singh introduced the new stable of Desi Hit Squad, I was anything but impressed. They had a long way to go to make anyone care about them. Yet, through all the dumb comedy and jobbing out to better teams, one man stood out from the rest. Yes, it was Rohit Raju. He was the fall boy. The guy who takes the pin falls so the monster doesn’t have to. And then something amazing happened… Gama Singh vanished and it gave way for Raju to lead.
And then later, after others in the group were let go, Raju was alone and quickly came into his own. He worked harder in the gym, and Raju went from being a joke to someone who could realistically threaten the X Division Champion. I still doubted that he could beat Chris Bey… and then he did! It was shocking, but then something more unbelievable happened.
Raju made it work! He was an entertaining heel champion who made you hate him. And not in the way where you want to turn the channel, but to where you admire the effort. He lasted four months as X Division Champion, which if you’d told me a year before that would happen, I’d have asked what drugs you were taking.
Where Is He Now? – By far the most annoying thing about this is Rohit Raju left the company in January, a year after losing the title. In 2022, you’ll find him either working on independent shows or episodes of AEW Dark. And you know what that is? A glorious waste of talent.
#48. Josh Alexander — 1 Reign, 151 days
“Walking Weapon” – Following the success of his tag team with Ethan Page, Josh Alexander was penciled in as the next big star for Impact. He defeated Ace Austin for the title at Rebellion 2021, and would inevitably invoke Option C at some point. Fast forward to September, and he vacated the title so he could face Christian Cage at Bound For Glory.
This is the latest example of Option C. Three guys have used this to win the World Championship, with the previous two being Austin Aries in 2012, and Chris Sabin in 2013. It was getting a reputation, but Alexander put it back on track as an enticing option.
What makes Josh Alexander different from other champions? He grew up watching TNA and is very knowledgeable of the history and the talent who paved the way. Unlike others who used Impact to gain fame so they could achieve their dream of arriving elsewhere, Alexander’s destination is here. Impact is keen to push him because they know he was loyal to the company before he got in the ring.