Although I was slightly skeptical of the first episode of TNA's, er, Impact Wrestling's "new era" last month, the on-air product has actually taken a turn for the better since then with more of a focus on the in-ring action and a slew of stars either debuting or returning, giving the show a fresh feel as a result. But perhaps what I've loved more than anything that has been going on in Impact Wrestling recently has been the resurrection of James Storm's career.
Admittedly, I was pretty bummed when Storm opted to re-sign with Impact Wrestling at the onset of 2016 and instead of staying with NXT, but I understand he made that decision for monetary reasons and I can't fault him for that. Besides, we got a great, long awaited and highly anticipated Beer Money reunion out of it with Bobby Roode, and they captured their fifth set of tag titles together in March. Unfortunately, Roode left the company shortly thereafter (ironically for NXT) and Storm was on his own yet again.
Although it took longer than expected, Storm was finally put in a meaningful program that spring with then-King of the Mountain Champion Eli Drake and it proved to be pretty entertaining. Storm then beat Drake for the title on an episode of Impact Wrestling before setting his sights on Lashley and his World Heavyweight Championship. Their feud was short-lived, but the story they told in those two weeks was tremendous with Storm trying to get back the belt he once held very briefly five years earlier. Their championship clash, where both titles were on the line, was equally excellent and Storm had a strong showing in defeat.
Instead of continuing along with this push, officials instead took Storm off television all together by having him go off on Billy Corgan (who was the on-air authority figure at the time) and get "suspended" in storyline. Once he resurfaced months later, it was a part of an awful faction named The DCC, and truth be told, he never had the slightest bit of chemistry with Bram and Eddie Kingston. Sure, they had a cool theme song, but that was the only thing they had going for them and it was painfully apparent they were doomed to fail from the start.
Of course, Impact Wrestling has had a long history of doing terrible heel factions, and The DCC was no exception. Thankfully, the new regime recognized how bad the group was and broke them up late last month. Storm then announced his intentions to chase the world championship again, and after throwing his name in the hat of potential contenders, he was chosen by the fans to challenge Lashley for the prestigious prize on tonight's episode of Impact Wrestling.
Of course, at 39-years-old, the days of The Cowboy being the top face of the promotion are long gone, but his days of being a fixture toward the top of the card are not. That said, do I expect Storm to beat Lashley for the title tonight? Absolutely not, but I do hope he becomes a mainstay in the main event scene from this point forward. He showed he belonged in that spot five years ago when he and Roode were battling over the belt, but despite his immense popularity, he was dropped back down to the tag team scene and never recovered.
The pop when Storm initially won the world title in October 2011 was unreal. I remember being so frustrated I couldn't watch it when it originally aired because my power when out that night (damn storm....not James Storm), but watching the next day gave me goosebumps. In addition to coming completely out of nowhere, it was a well-deserved moment, and that should have been the moment the company pulled the trigger on him as a top talent. I was fine with them taking the title off him a mere two weeks later in order to turn Roode heel and build to their inevitable war, but plans changed once Austin Aries entered the picture the subsequent summer and their Bound for Glory 2012 match wasn't in fact over the strap.
People still love and cheer loudly for Storm, as they should. He excelled in the role of a heel years ago when leading The Revolution (another failure of a faction), but being a babyface is what suits him best because that's what fans can relate to. Not to mention he has crazy charisma and can always be counted on to fire up a crowd. From Ethan Carter III to Alberto El Patron, there are quite a few notable names he can mix it up with as a main event player in the months to come.
As noted, I don't predict Storm will emerge victorious in his upcoming clash with Lashley, but I sure do hope he holds the gold at least one more time before he eventually leaves Impact Wrestling. His first reign wasn't what it should have been and it would be an awesome feel good story for those who have followed Storm's illustrious career over the past decade-plus. Regardless of when that might be, I, for one, am excited to see Storm returning to a prominent position in the company and hope it is permanent this time around.
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