X Division: Honoring Innovation With 50 TNA/Impact Wrestling Champions

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Where Is He Now? – He currently works for WWE as a producer. Impact still references Abyss whenever they talk about the legacy of the Monster’s Ball match, as that was his specialty.


Impact

#25. Brian Kendrick 1 Reign, 63 days

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“Weight Limits” – Many fans knew Brian Kendrick for his time in WWE as a tag team champion with Paul London. He hadn’t been with TNA since 2004, so it was a surprise to see his return in 2010. I think fans respected Kendrick, but he wasn’t over like some of the originals. Despite this, he became the face of the X Division while it was being buried by Eric Bischoff. He stood up to Abyss and eventually won the title, a victory which was celebrated in the ring by much of the babyface roster.

A month later, Eric Bischoff decided the X-Division would have a weight limit of 225 Ib. This was an unpopular decision because anyone who had followed the X Division since its inception would tell you it’s about no limits. It’s not a cruiserweight division! But this is what it became while Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff heavily influenced the creative process. Luckily, leading into this win for Kendrick, we were treated to a new concept that brought promise.

Where Is He Now? – Kendrick was known for his controversial conspiracy theories. Shortly after an announcement that he would wrestle a match for All Elite Wrestling, some of his past comments came to light, and Tony Khan was forced to cancel the booking. Kendrick apologized for his comments, and it’s unknown if he will return to the business. His last match was on an episode of WWE’s 205 Live in 2020.


X Division

#26. Austin Aries — 6 Reigns, 373 days

“Longest Single Reign & Option C” – The former ROH World Champion worked in an X Division Showcase leading into Brian Kendrick’s title shot against Abyss. On the same show, Austin Aries defeated Jack Evans, Low-Ki, and Zema Ion to earn a contract with the company. To be fair, these matches were exciting and more than worthy of the X Division.

Aries had a couple of failed title shots against Kendrick before beating him at No Surrender 2011. He had fans’ support because his ring work reminded them of the golden age of AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Christopher Daniels. Aries held the title for 301 days before vacating it, which remains the record for a single reign. He is the second longest-reigning champion of all time behind Chris Sabin.

Austin Aries was given two options leading into Destination X, which Hulk Hogan labeled options A and B. I can’t remember what those were, but Aries responded by suggesting option C. This became a tradition for Impact, where the X Division Champion is given the choice of vacating their title to get a shot against the World Champion. Impact originally reserved option C for the annual Destination X PPV, but this changed years later. You can invoke option C when you like, but it’s not Money in the Bank, because you have to give suitable notice to the champion.

Austin Aries won the title several more times, and to date, is the only guy to use Option C more than once. The first time, he defeated Bobby Roode in a classic to win the World title at Destination X 2012. Two years later, after dressing up as Suicide to get the title, Aries failed to defeat Lashley after using Option C. Aries used the X Division title as a stepping stone to greater things, and he succeeded by becoming a three-time Impact World Champion.

I should note that while Aries was champion, the weight limit was ignored when Samoa Joe challenged him at Slammiversary 10.

However, while Aries had some of the most memorable matches, he left the company under controversial circumstances. After losing the World title to Johnny Impact (aka John Morrison) at Bound For Glory 2018, Aries no-sold the finish, flipped off the crowd, Don Callis, shared some colorful words, and then walked out. It was the last date on his contract. Aries showed up to the next set of tapings but was sent home, and they didn’t negotiate a new contract later.

Where Is He Now? – Since leaving Impact, Aries has worked for MLW, NWA, and Control Your Narrative. Controversy has followed him through allegations of sexual misconduct (during the Speaking Out movement) in 2020, and his views on the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021, which forced him to deactivate his Twitter for a short time.


Impact

#27. Zema Ion (DJ Z) — 2 Reigns, 246 days

Pushing Zema Ion was a bid to push a new generation of the X Division. He won the title in an Ultimate X after Aries vacated, but there’s not much to remember from his first reign. All I can remember is the dangerous spot that paralyzed Jesse Sorensen (or did that come later?), although he has since recovered and is wrestling again.

Zema won the title again four years later, now going by the name DJZ, but again it wasn’t anything memorable. Most fans will remember how annoying he was during his time as the third guy in The Bromans. While Zema struggled to find his footing in Impact, he has since found a place to call home.

Where Is He Now? – You can find him wrestling on NXT 2.0 as Legado Del Fantasma’s Joaquin Wilde.


X Division

#28. Rob Van Dam — 1 Reign, 137 days

“Oldest Champion” – By the end of 2012, TNA had already squeezed what it could out of Rob Van Dam in the World title scene. As his style suited the X Division, he took the title from Zema Ion at Bound For Glory. He could do this because Impact had repealed the weight limit restriction. However, he was noticeably demotivated. His reign was less than inspiring, aside from a rivalry he had with Christian York.

TNA built up York well, and the fans were getting behind him, but the booking of the Genesis PPV soured his build. The winner of Kenny King & Christian York would face Rob Van Dam for the title at the same event. York defeated King in ten minutes, but then RVD demanded they have the title match right away. He won the match in five minutes, and Christian York’s career did not recover from this. Although, it seems this was more because of management’s opinion of him than anything RVD did.

After Rob Van Dam lost his title, he left the company in March 2013. He later stated that he left because he didn’t appreciate his coworker’s attitudes. The X Division title reign kept RVD sweet for a while, but he was already thinking about leaving.

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