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Best Laid Plans

April 14, 2012

Happy birthday to my brother Matt, who turned 31 today. I'll be meeting up with him (and the rest of my family) in Brentwood later for a celebratory dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse.

TNA Wrestling is holding their 2012 Lockdown PPV tomorrow at Municipal Auditorium here in Nashville. That's the building that the WWF ran for years and WCW somehow got the rights to use, perhaps in conjunction with them running their Starrcade PPV there from 1994-1996. The building isn't the priority it once was with Bridgestone Arena being the top-tier arena in Nashville now, but Muni has a lot of history and I wish TNA well with their event.

It did get me thinking back to early 2011 when I sent TNA a proposal for a long-term plan with the company's X-Division. I have several friends who work there, and I sent the proposal to them (and others in positions of power) with the hope that they would give me a shot to help them made the X-Division something special and different and ultimately something that would build fan interest and make people be willing to spend their time and money to see it play out.

My friends who read it, both in and out of the company, has complimentary things to say about it. Unfortunately, the company didn't opt to give me an opportunity to have it play out, and they've managed to do okay with it on their own terms, giving Austin Aries the long run with the title that I proposed for Jay Lethal below. I mentioned Aries in the proposal and he wasn't even working for the company at the time, as I saw his Ring of Honor work and knew he was strong in his run as ROH champion and figured he would be good to bring back to TNA. The company obviously felt the same way about Aries, and I'm glad he has had a long run with the X-Division Title there.

Anyway, with TNA running Nashville this weekend, I figured this would be a good time to put the aforementioned X-Division long-term plan on here for everyone to see. Obviously if you don't like pro wrestling, you probably won't be interested in reading it. If you do, you probably realize that, at its best, pro wrestling is a performance art that can be captivating, entertaining, and intriguing. Due in part to its carny roots and the reality of guys wanting to "protect their spot" in a given company, the business is notoriously unwelcoming to outsiders.

Don't mistake this for fan faction or fantasy booking or some other similar waste of time -- this is a very real plan that I thought would help TNA make money.

X-Division Booking Plan for 2011 and beyond
Written by Lou Pickney, February 2011

Concept: Create new interest in the X-Division by presenting it slightly differently. 10 minute time limit (with clock on screen in corner) for TV single matches (perhaps 15 for tag matches?), 30 minute time limit for X-Division Title matches (which will almost all be on PPV). Make X-Division Title matches feel more special by having very few on TV and almost all of them on PPV. Protect the X-Division champion as much as possible, ditto for top contenders.

Plan on very little outside interference or schmozz finishes for the X-Division and no run-ins until a match has ended, with those run-ins being a rarity. The division would be based on solid wrestling with basic storylines, which would free up Vince & Matt writing for the main product to be able to carefully write plenty of angles that hopefully will end up being more memorable as a result in contrast with the more straight-ahead X-Division. Most X-Division promo mini-segments would be clips taken from guys riffing backstage without a script, with the best parts pasted together into a segment or two per show to develop the characters of the wrestlers in the X-Division.

TV approach: A brief tease or two of next week's X-Division TV match (or matches) would be helpful for building interest for the next week's show, though the major build will be going toward the next PPV X-Division Title match. Solid in-ring action for X-Division matches should be emphasized, with the announcers calling the action in the ring as opposed to talking about storylines that don't involve anyone in the X-Division. That would help TNA build on the X-Division brand and add good wrestling on a weekly basis with smaller guys, both points which take advantage of Vince McMahon’s disdain for smaller wrestlers and good chain/mat wrestling. Part of WCW Nitro's success circa 1996-97 came because of the great undercard matches that set the stage for the big name main events.

Long-term plan:
March 2011 to July 2011 – Building to Daniels/Lethal hair vs. title match at Destination X Pay-Per-View in July
July 2011 to 2012 – Lethal’s attempt to break Daniels’ record for longest X-Division Title reign

Booking so far out can be tough, especially not knowing who will be on the roster and when, but this is at least a road map that can be changed as needed. Specifics on TV are pared back beyond May in large part because of this, though the overall direction of the X-Division Title is spelled out. I’m also not sure about the future of Chris Sabin so I left him out of this, though he could reform the Machine Guns with Shelley after Hard Justice. Alternately, if Shelley won’t be ready by mid-June, Sabin could fit that spot.

Roster: Try to snag available smaller-sized ROH/indie guys who can work well to build division, fill card on house shows, paid on per-event basis with WWE one-year non-compete in place. Some “filler” heels early on would be useful as fodder for faces challenging for Daniels’ championship.


PART 1: MARCH 2011
The Beginning: Christopher Daniels wins the X-Division Title

(Note: if Daniels can’t wrestle as himself because of the contractual agreement between TNA and ROH, he should go as Curry Man until he can use his own image/name on TNA TV. Suicide should be established as another wrestler if not outright phased out. All match/promo times are approximate.)

March 13, 2011 – Victory Road PPV
-Christopher Daniels "returns" as surprise opponent and beats Kaz via a crossface submission to win the X-Division Title (12:00)

3/17 (taped 3/14 – dates listed are official air date on Spike)
-Daniels promo celebrating X-Division victory and predicting long title reign, noting that he is already holds the record for the longest X-Division title reign in TNA history (1:00)
-X-Division wrestlers promo clips with thoughts on Daniels returning and winning the X Division Title (1:00)
-Doug Williams & Kaz & Amazing Red d. Ink Inc. & Suicide (Red pinned Suicide with a Code Red) (8:00)
-Quick promo of Lethal/Kendrick for the 3/24 show (:20)
-Later in show Kaz is livid over lack of notice on facing Daniels at Victory Road and demands a rematch (:45)

-Announcement off the top of a Daniels/Kaz rematch at Lockdown with a contract signing “tonight”; Tenay/Taz could announce this over a full-screen graphic (:20)
-Jay Lethal d. Brian Kendrick via submission with figure-four leglock (7:45)
-In-ring contract singing between Daniels & Kaz for X-Division Title rematch at Lockdown, pull-apart brawl after the signing (2:00)
-Tease for Buck vs. Buck next week (two quick teases 15 seconds each) (:30 total time)

-Signing reaction clips from Daniels & Kaz (1:00 total)
-Promos from both Bucks on facing one another (:40)
-Jeremy Buck fights Max Buck to a draw (10:00)
-Daniels and Kaz promos building to PPV rematch (1:00)
-Announce Amazing Red vs. Jesse Neal for next week, promos from both sides, Shannon Moore warning Red to watch his back (:30)

-Amazing Red wins over Jesse Neal (w/ Shannon Moore) with a pin after an inside cradle (7:00); Red is jumped after the match by Shannon Moore, with Ink Inc. leaving him laying out cold (:45)
-30 second promos with Daniels and Kaz air during the show building toward Lockdown (1:00)
-Quick promo for Lethal/Jeremy Buck on next week's show (:20)

-Announced for Lockdown: Amazing Red vs. Shannon Moore with Jesse Neal banned from ringside
-Jay Lethal pinfall win over Jeremy Buck after Lethal Injection (8:30)
-X-Division promos with comments from Daniels & Kaz about title match (1:00)
-Other X-Division promos including Red (promising revenge on Moore), Ink Inc., etc. for Lockdown (total of 1:45 in 2 or 3 segments)

April 17, 2011 – Lockdown PPV
-Amazing Red pins Shannon Moore [with Jesse Neal banned from ringside] (7:00 – Moore misses Halo, Amazing Red hits Red Star Press for pin)
-Christopher Daniels pins Kaz (11:00 – BME from top of cage) (X-Division Title defense)

-Lethal promo saying he hopes to become first 7-time X-Division champion, wants title shot (:30)
-Daniels reveals that Lethal is too late as TNA has declared Amazing Red the top contender thanks to his win over Shannon Moore at Lockdown; Daniels tells Lethal to wait his turn (1:30)
-Max Buck pins Doug Williams with a sunset flip (8:00)
-Quick promo for Lethal/Robbie E next week (:20)

-Jay Lethal pinfall win over Robbie E with Lethal Injection (8:00)
-Amazing Red, Daniels each cut promos about Sacrifice match in separate segments (1:00)
-Quick promo for next week: Amazing Red vs. Max Buck (:20)

-Amazing Red submission win over Max Buck with cross armbreaker (6:45)
-Promo segment shows Amazing Red’s previous X-Division Title wins (over Kid Kash in 2003, Samoa Joe in 2009, and Jay Lethal in 2010) (1:00)
-Daniels gives his reaction to the Red promo segment, says he isn’t taking Red lightly but believes he [Daniels] is destined for a long run as champion. Daniels gets in a dig or two at Lethal, foreshadowing the future. (:45)

-Announcement that Lethal/Kaz match at Sacrifice will be an X-Division Title #1 contender match, following by brief comments from both (:45)
-Kaz pinfall win over Brian Kendrick after hitting the Flux Capacitor (6:30)
-"Go home" promos by Daniels, Red, Lethal, and Kaz pushing their Sacrifice matches (1:30)

May 16, 2011 – Sacrifice PPV
-Christopher Daniels d. Amazing Red by submission with a Crossface (X-Division Title defense) (15:45)
-Jay Lethal pins Kaz after hitting Diving Dynamite (#1 X-Division Title contender match) (8:00)

TV: Build for Daniels/Lethal at Slammiversary; both gain victories in singles matches on TV (non-title for Daniels). Lethal stresses his desire to become first seven-time X-Division champion. Daniels says it won’t happen on his watch.

June 12, 2011 – Slammiversary PPV
-Christopher Daniels d. Jay Lethal by submission in 18:00 (Crossface submission but tainted win) (X-Division Title defense)

-First show after the PPV, Jay Lethal shows video evidence of Daniels' tainted victory and demands a rematch. Daniels at first says no, citing other X-Division talent worthy of title shots. Lethal then offers to put his hair on the line for another shot. At that point Daniels accepts and in subsequent weeks gloats about his plans to shave Lethal’s head. The X-Division should build toward the Destination X Title vs. Hair match as a *big* deal.
-Alex Shelley returns from collarbone injury as heel in X-Division, promos his first PPV match back vs. Kazarian at Destination X.

July 17, 2011 – Destination X PPV
-Alex Shelley pins Kaz after hitting a frog splash (8:00)
-Jay Lethal pins Christopher Daniels in 23:45 after hitting Lethal Injection to win X-Division Title (Title vs. Hair match) (Possibly could be the last match on the card given the “Destination X” title and also the high stakes and long build.)


PART 2: JULY 2011
Lethal Wins the Title: Building the Chase for 182

-Lethal says on TV that he broke his tie with AJ Styles for most X-Division Title reigns (6) and that he now hopes to break Daniels’ record from 2005 for longest X-Division title reign (182 days).
-Lethal/Shelley match build for Hard Justice, with Shelley being unbeaten since returning from injury with two wins on TV going into his match with Lethal.
-Daniels, in a separate promo, doubts Lethal’s chances, predicting a win by Alex Shelley over Lethal at Hard Justice. Daniels mocks Lethal for thinking he can come close to his longest title reign record.

August 2011 – Hard Justice PPV
-Jay Lethal beats Alex Shelley by submission with the figure-four (11:00) (X-Division Title Match)

-Build to Lethal/Daniels rematch in an I Quit match at No Surrender. Daniels points out he made Lethal submit at Slammiversary and Lethal has never made him tap out.

September 2011 – No Surrender PPV
-Jay Lethal d. Christopher Daniels via submission in an I Quit match; Lethal made Daniels tap to his own crossface finisher; earlier Daniels twice escaped the figure-four of Lethal. (18:00) (X-Division Title Match)

-First show after PPV would have an elimination match to determine #1 contender, with Daniels not allowed to participate in it. Perhaps debut a new younger heel or former talent (e.g. Austin Aries) wins and gets to challenge Lethal for the X-Division Title?

October 2011 – Bound For Glory PPV
-Jay Lethal pins Austin Aries (or whoever the #1 contender is) with a small package (12:30) (X-Division Title Match)
-Post-match beat-down of Lethal by Samoa Joe, leaving Lethal laying. This should be a brutal attack, possibly with Lethal juicing. No warning from Joe nor any explanation given. (2:00)

-First show after the PPV reveals that Daniels put Samoa Joe up to the attack of Lethal. Joe, wearing a Daniels t-shirt, announces in the ring his plans to challenge for the X-Division Title at Turning Point as part of his temporary return to the X-Division. Daniels appears with him looking confident.
-Perhaps week two of TV: special attraction tag match of Lethal/Kaz vs. Daniels/Joe with Joe pinning Lethal after Daniels hit Lethal in the head with the X-Division Title belt. (Should be rare for the X-Division Champ to lose even non-title or tag matches, but this has meaning building to the PPV singles match.) This sets up both Lethal/Joe and Kaz/Daniels for Turning Point.

November 2011 – Turning Point PPV
-Kaz d. Christopher Daniels via countout after hitting Daniels with a Fade To Black outside the ring (5:00). A dazed Daniels is taken out on a stretcher and taken to a nearby hospital for observation.
-Jay Lethal pins Samoa Joe after hitting Lethal Injection (Daniels planned to be in Joe’s corner but was receiving medical treatment and thus couldn’t be there.) (X-Division Title Match) (13:45)

-Daniels expresses anger about his “master plan” being thwarted by Kaz hitting him with Fade To Black on the floor and leaving him incapacitated for the rest of the evening at Turning Point. He promises revenge on Kaz, but admits he’d like to see Kaz beat Lethal to end his chase for 182.
-Kaz vs. Lethal match for Final Resolution is set. Kaz explains that he didn’t take out Daniels to help Lethal per se; he did it simply because he was trying to win his match. Both sides show respect, though Kaz points out that he beat Lethal at Genesis to win the X-Division Title in the first PPV of 2011 and that he plans to beat Lethal at Final Resolution in the last PPV of 2011. Lethal points out that he pinned Kaz at Sacrifice in May, making this the rubber match between the two on PPV in 2011. This would be a face vs. face battle but with clear professional animosity between the two.

December 2011 – Final Resolution PPV
-Christopher Daniels beats Doug Williams (or perhaps a stronger face) by submission with the Crossface (9:45) (Winner gets next X-Division Title shot)
-Jay Lethal d. Kaz (face vs. face match) (11:00) (Inside cradle > pin) (X-Division Title match)

-Build for Lethal/Daniels X-Division Title match as Genesis 2012, with a best 2-of-3 falls stipulation agreed to for the match.

January 2012 – Genesis 2012 PPV
-Jay Lethal pins Christopher Daniels to win the third and deciding fall and retain his X-Division Title. Daniels wins first fall with pin after BME. Lethal wins second fall with inside cradle pin. Lethal wins third fall after hitting Lethal Injection.

Lethal holds the belt into 2012, breaks Daniels’ record for longest reign, before finally losing it when logic dictates.

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