Welcome to this special edition of “Ringside Review”. Given that “Bound For Glory”, TNA’s biggest pay-per-view of the year, rolls around, it marks a bit of a landmark for myself with the company. This point last year I actually started watching TNA regularly. I had this idea that if, let’s say, I wrote a column on a wrestling website then it might be an idea to take the opportunity to reflect and review the year. Then I remembered that I did! I hope your sitting comfortably, because this is going to be a long one.

Let me take you back to this time last year, October 2011. Kurt Angle was the TNA Heavyweight Champion, Brian Kendrick was the X-Division champion, Robbie E was TV Champion while Mexican America (Hernandez and Anarquia) were Tag Champs. Hogan was teasing a storyline retirement feuding with Sting, and Bobby Roode was being built strong as a never say die babyface to take the title from Kurt Angle, Immortal’s champion.

Thank God things have changed! In reflection, this year has been a real year of change in TNA. Gone is Russo and his horrible excuses for “storylines”. The promising youngster Ric Flair has been let go. Greater emphasis has been put on their homegrown stars. Bobby Roode became the longest serving TNA champ of all time and has been turned into a fantastic heel. We’ve also seen the revelation of The Greatest Man That Ever Lived, Austin Aries who became the longest reigning X-Division Champion of all time before going on to become the current TNA World Heavyweight champion who is headlining TNA’s biggest show in their 10th anniversary. Not a bad resume for a guy who didn’t even have a contract 18 months ago!

Gone for the most part is the reliance on ex-WWE stars. Jeff Hardy was milked for all he was worth at the turn of the year, but ultimately he was hot and it really helped establish Bobby Roode as a heel champion. Since then he’s not been a major player on Impact until he inexplicably won the Bound For Glory series dashing my prediction of an AJ Styles win and a dream Aries/AJ world title match up. I can only hope that Hardy won the series to be fed to Aries and boost him in the same way he boosted Roode. In conjunction to Hardy, Mr Anderson and RVD have been put into a kind of holding pattern. Put on TV, having matches but not near the top of the card thankfully.

TNA’s decision to place homegrown talent has been fresh, and a welcome change to two years of stagnation that TNA seems to have finally escaped from. The realisation that Beer Money could be top guys has paid dividends. Roode, who has already been mentioned, really took the ball and ran with it. Special attention should be paid to James Storm. The guy is arguably the most over individual in the company at the minute, and has grown immensely to being one of TNA’s top guys, despite having a title run that was over in the blink of an eye.

In saying that, TNA should really be given credit for creating top tier guys over the past year. They should also be given a heap of credit in how they’ve built up the Beer Money split. The angle has been going on for the best part of a year and fans are still into it. Feuds lasting that long in professional wrestling today are pretty much unheard of in the industry today with couple of notable exceptions.

Have there been problems? Sure. The tag team division is only now starting to recover. TNA’s three prominent teams at time of writing: Kazarian and Christopher Daniels (“The World Tag Team Champions Of The World”), AJ Styles and Kurt Angle are the second with the third being Hernandez and Chavo Guerrero. Beer Money’s ascent to singles competition has created a gap in the tag team division, not to mention the issues with the Motor City Machine Guns. Losing Alex Shelly has been a big loss, not only in losing half of one of the best tag teams TNA has seen but he could have been one of the stars of the rebooted X-Division.

Shelley’s extremely talented and I think he’ll prove to be a loss for the company. Along with Shelly’s departure, Chris Sabin’s atrocious luck with injuries continues to plague him. After managing to return after serious knee injuries, Sabin’s cursed luck resulted in him tearing his other ACL in an Ultimate X match on free TV. This was yet another serious injury for the poor guy, which is going to lead to another lengthy stint on the shelf. I really hope Sabin is able to comeback eventually and enjoy a run that isn’t blighted with injury.
As well as losing Beer Money and MCMG, they also made the decision to break up two teams who had runs as champs. Crimson (remember him?) and Matt Morgan had a stint as Tag Team Champs, which served its purpose into leading those two into a forgotten feud.

From there we had Samoa Joe and Magnus as a tag team who won a tournament – which also saw Kaz turn heel and side with Christopher Daniels against AJ as well starting the now infamous “Claire Lynch” storyline – of randomly matched tag teams. As well as the new tag champs, from the tournament emerged the ballad of ODB and Eric Young, who have provided some comic gold as the Knockout Tag Team Champions and generally mismatched couple. Anyway, back on topic. Magnus and Joe worked well. Joe was turned face and it helped propel him back up the card, where he’s had some brilliant matches with the likes of Austin Aries and Kurt Angle (who’s amazingly still performing at a high level and one of the few outside stars who’s still a major part of the show).

However, there is one man whose terribleness still reeks to high heaven. A man so untalented, bland and lacking in charisma who has been a blight to Impact’s quality. A man who has been shoved down the audience’s throats despite it being apparently obvious not a single individual cares about him in a positive light.

That man is Garrett Bischoff. Why this man is on TV baffles me (it doesn’t, but more on that later). According to those in attendance – and Scott Steiner – they had to redo his segments at the sold out Wembley tapings multiple times because the fans wouldn’t stop booing him. This guy was main eventing TV tapings and had a feud which spanned months. It given a lot of time to play out on TV at the expense of far more deserving guys who’ve had to take a backseat to a guy who’s paid no dues and, even worse, has no natural talent or business being in a wrestling ring. I’m sure that the TNA “Universe” was chanting “Yes, Yes, Yes!” when he finally disappeared from Impact, to borrow a couple of WWE-isms.

Another angle which should be given particular attention is the “Aces And Eights” story which has been rumbling along for the past four months. At the time of writing, the stable still hasn’t been revealed and I think most of us are expecting a reveal at Bound For Glory, with TNA having previous for this type of action given that Immortal were initially revealed at Bound For Glory 2010. We can only hope that The Aces and Eights angle goes better than the Immortal angle. I think it’s been fair to say that the group has had their ups and downs. There have been moments where it has really felt like TNA has been held to ransom by the group and that they are running riot.

However, there have been some horrible moments. Hogan directing the police to set up perimeters at the last PPV was atrocious, as was Austin Aries threatening some lackey with a pair of pliers. Since when has it been in Aries character to torture people? Yeah, really didn’t work. One of the crowning glories of the angle was when Jospeh Park/Parks (I’ve no idea what his name is actually meant to be) or the Artist Formally Known As Abyss, was being tortured via electrocution and Mike Tenay and Taz totally no sold the situation. The reaction was literally “Wow” before moving on to hype “Bound For Glory”.

It’s also been an issue that the build has been so long. I realise that one of the issues that caused this was the need to write Sting off before the BFG series to give him a storyline reason for not competing in the series. They had no idea where it was eventually heading and the idea to use it as the launch for a stable was sensible and a good way to debut them.

The fact that the angle will have been rolling on for four months no reveal whatsoever is really hurting it now. It should be noted that the build to the formation of the hottest stable in the history of professional wrestling, the New World Order, was less than two months. By comparison the build to the reveal of the Ace’s And Eights is lasting for eternity. I can only hope that when TNA eventually make the reveal, it proves to be worth the investment that their audience has put into the angle. If there isn’t, then it risks undoing a lot of the good work which TNA has done over the past year to get their audience back on side.

Still, over all TNA has made huge strides over the past year. The company is definitely moving in the right direction overall. Sure, there are still some stories and angles that are pretty poor, but in the world of professional wrestling when isn’t there? I can safely say that I’ve enjoyed TNA a hell of a lot more than WWE’s product over the past year. I’m not going to lie and say that I’m not concerned that things seem to have dropped off a little in the last few months when it should’ve been hotting up instead In the build to “Bound For Glory.” Still, I am intrigued to see how things are going to play out. So long as TNA build on this year and use it as a foundation for their future then this will prove to be the turning point for the company I feel. However, if they botch this pay per view I really worry where they go from here.

Anyway, this rounds up this special edition of “Ringside Review.” It should be noted that I can be overly critical at times (I’m Scottish, what can I do) but if I’m not criticising something then it’s probably pretty good! “Bound For Glory” is on this Sunday night if you’re in the US and at some ungodly hour in the UK. It will also be aired for free on Challenge TV on Wednesday which is when I will have the opportunity to see. If for some reason you haven’t checked out TNA and you’re in the UK yet, it might be worth a watch! Hulk Hogan isn’t wrestling, I promise!

You can follow Michael on twitter @MichaelBrown_91