Sting, feeling TNA didn’t heed his warnings about Hulk Hogan and Immortal in 2010, vanished for much of the start of 2011. The tide began to turn in February when Fortune broke off from Immortal to stand alone and oppose them. This time Scott Steiner was the harbinger of change announcing “They” were coming as AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, James Storm and Kazarian stood up for TNA. They were soon bolstered as the returning Sting defeated Jeff Hardy to become World Champion in March. Immortal would maintain momentum with new members like Matt Hardy and Kurt Angle but the core dispute to be resolved centered around Hogan and Sting. The two legends of pro wrestling facing off was inevitable.
Sting unleashed a new “Joker” side of his personality in pursuit of Hogan – becoming more erratic and unpredictable than ever. Sting faced off with “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair one final time en route to finally getting his hands on Hogan at Bound For Glory – with control of the company on the line. The crowd in Philly was off the charts as Hogan and Sting did battle one more time – “The Immortal” vs. “The Icon” renewing their storied rivalry with the stakes never being higher.
Despite interference from Ric Flair, Sting defeated Hogan and reclaimed control of the company for Dixie Carter. Hogan, seeing the error of his ways as Immortal tried to beat down Sting after the match, hulked up once again to clear off Immortal and stand shoulder to shoulder with Sting with the two legends together as allies once again.
While the World Title scene in 2011 was mostly absorbed by the battle with Immortal, Bobby Roode entered Bound For Glory with the opportunity of a lifetime. Having won the inaugural Bound For Glory Series, Roode challenged Kurt Angle in Philly. After years of paying his dues through Team Canada and Beer Money, it was finally Roode’s chance to reach the mountaintop in TNA. It was not meant to be that night though, Angle retained with a handful of the ropes and it was heartbreak for Roode. He sat there in the middle of the ring dejected, his entire World Championship dream having come crashing down.
In an unexpected twist, Roode’s tag team partner James Storm upset Kurt Angle to become World Champion on the very next episode of IMPACT. While Roode said he was happy for his Beer Money comrade, his actions said something very different when Roode challenged Storm for the title in November. Roode did not go into the match to screw Storm, however when the opportunity presented itself Roode buckled. After a competitive back and forth match, Storm threw Roode out to the floor. There, over his shoulder, Roode happened to see Storm’s beer bottle sitting on the steel steps. The cogs turned in Roode’s head – would he trust himself and risk heartbreak like Bound For Glory, or would he betray his best friend to take his dream by force? Roode gave into his worst impulses and smashed the bottle over Storm’s head to shatter Beer Money and become TNA World Heavyweight Champion.
Madison Rayne did everything she could to keep the Knockouts title away from Mickie James. As they battled through the first quarter of the year, Rayne used a combination of outside interference and a loaded punch to ensure that the title would stay hers. Mickie James finally capitalized though at Lockdown when Madison Rayne had nowhere to run or hide inside a steel cage – “Hardcore Country” won Knockouts gold for the first time. After four years in the division, Velvet Sky finally won the Knockouts Title in a four way at Bound For Glory but her joy was short lived as the first Knockouts Champion Gail Kim returned to TNA to take the gold.
Beer Money and The Motor City Machine Guns added another chapter to their incredible feud at Genesis as Storm and Roode became champions. Beer Money held the belts for seven months defeating teams like Ink Inc, Storm’s old partner Chris Harris and Matt Hardy, and The British Invasion before falling to Mexican America in August. The mammoth combo of Matt Morgan and Crimson came together to smash Mexican America in November and end the year as champions.
A war was declared on the very idea of the X-Division by Immortal as Abyss defeated Frankie Kazarian to become champion in May. The no limits nature of the division was put to its ultimate test. The X-Division banded together to take the title from Abyss, doing so at Destination X as Brian Kendrick won the title. That night though, a returning name set his sights on the X-Division Title. Austin Aries won a four-way match against Low Ki, Jack Evans and Zema Ion that rocked the IMPACT Zone. Aries earned a contract that night and soon defeated Kendrick to become champion at No Surrender, beginning a reign that would make history in 2012.
Other notable events from 2011: After turning on Devon, Brother Ray rebranded himself as Bully Ray and went on the rampage, most notably against AJ Styles in a brutally physical Last Man Standing match at Slammiversary.
Chyna would compete in her final wrestling match at Sacrifice, teaming with Kurt Angle to face Jeff and Karen Jarrett. Rob Van Dam and Jerry Lynn renewed their iconic rivalry from the 90s, as they faced in memorable encounters at Destination X and Bound For Glory.