For a company that has seemingly focused itself in recent months on understanding how to build up an exciting pay-per-view card, the lead-up to Final Resolution has been a little disappointing.
My main gripe with recent events in TNA revolves around a man who had taken steps toward becoming one of the best heels in the business.
Bully Ray and his majestic calves had begun to make people sit up and take real notice of a man who had never seemed main-event quality. Always the more talented Dudley brother, his solo work got TNA fans and even WWE fans interested this year.
It was the character that people liked. He had fine-tuned himself into everyone’s favorite heel, the bad-ass who is also just a bit of an ass, too. You may not have wanted to see him win, but he really was someone you wanted in the top tier of TNA.
There was a certain level of respect for him. He came across as a man who understood his role and knew how to draw heat without being a whiny little annoyance about it.
With Aces and Eights looming large, Bully mixed his roles a touch, still the heel but a man with principles enough to fight the almighty evil that this new gang had become.
Again, his character and actions were thought out, and the crowd invested in him.
His slight face turn was then acceptable, but TNA let the wheels come off at this point. Forethought and creative depth around his actions seemed forgotten, and because the crowd cheered him, TNA seemed desperate to cash in on a new face role.
Teaming with Sting was fine—becoming Sting’s best buddy and cheerleader was not the Bully Ray we liked and knew.
From then on, it has all been downhill.
His hatred for Devon is all but forgotten as he chases the hand of Brooke Hogan.
Suddenly, he’s coming in dressed well and acting polite. Now all he cares for is Hulk’s approval and to avenge his lady after Aries disrespected her honor.
In short, he’s too soft and too wet to be interesting.
However, is TNA priming us for something far more interesting?
One has to hope so. The only way Bully Ray’s recent character transformation is acceptable is if a heel turn is back in the cards.
In many respects, this could be TNA’s version of Triple H and Stephanie screwing Vince McMahon, the daughter hurting Daddy.
Certainly, the Hogans seem keen to remember their reality-television roots. There are two ways Bully Ray can be involved here that will keep the fans on his side.
One, Brooke and Bully fool father Hogan before a turn that leads them to Aces and Eights, explains why Bully never took down Devon and makes sense of why the couple are so keen for Hogan’s approval—they want to crush him.
Option number two puts Bully Ray in what we shall call the ‘Test’ role, the jilted lover screwed by the heel bitch. This way, Bully can rage against Brooke and the injustice caused to him. Maybe Aries is her man, maybe they are both Aces and Eights or maybe it’s just her trying to take down Hulk and Bully for the biker gang she leads.
Both of these explain recent actions and distract us from the nonsense Bully Ray has become by giving us a far bigger story to invest in.
Both of these are better than Bully Ray convincing Hogan and living a happy life with Brooke as a face couple, taking down the likes of Aries and Matt Morgan, who defy the Hogan family.
My hope is that TNA are using Bully Ray at the moment in a false role for his own good, rather than trying to cash in on a quick reaction and failing. They have jumped on a popularity swing too early before (Austin Aries was thrown the title without enough planning), but this could show signs of thought-out storytelling that wrestling should be built on.