Austin Aries won a TNA contract at Destination X in 2011 and the whirlwind year to follow was beyond anybody’s expectations. Having overcome Low Ki, Jack Evans and Zema Ion to get a TNA contract before swiftly beating Brian Kendrick for the X-Division Title – Austin Aries quickly ruled the roost in the X-Division. With successful title defenses against Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, Kid Kash and Zema Ion – Aries was looking to step it up a level and prove he could compete with the very toughest in TNA. A dispute with Bully Ray resulted in an intense match at Sacrifice where Aries improbably dropped Bully with a Brainbuster to win. Aries then made a successful title defense against former TNA Champion Samoa Joe at Slammiversary, proving beyond all doubt that he was ready.
Enter Option C. Austin Aries wanted to challenge for the TNA World Heavyweight Title but didn’t want to disrespect the X-Division Title he had worked so hard to earn. He struck a deal with Hulk Hogan – he would give up the X-Division Title for a shot at then champion Bobby Roode, but only if once a year the X-Division Champion would continue to have that choice going forward. So, Option C was born. Aries walked into Destination X and pulled off an upset that nobody expected, defeating Roode to win the World Title in a classic match. From winning a contract the year prior to becoming World Champion, it was one of the fastest ascents to glory in TNA history.
2012 was all about redemption for Jeff Hardy. After returning in 2011 seeking forgiveness, he refocused himself and his career on regaining the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Hardy engaged in a prolonged rivalry with Kurt Angle through the start of the year culminating in a memorable steel cage match at Lockdown, with Hardy emerging victorious after a jaw-dropping Swanton from the top of the cage. Hardy outfought 11 other competitors in the second Bound For Glory Series and had a date with Austin Aries at Bound For Glory. Hardy completed his redemption arc in Phoenix, becoming World Champion once again and holding the title for the remainder of the year.
After Bobby Roode turned on James Storm, all roads led to Lockdown. In Storm’s hometown of Nashville, “The Cowboy” looked ready to finally conquer his former Beer Money partner but luck was on Roode side as Storm superkicked Roode through the cage door allowing Roode to retain. Nearly one year after they split, they settled their grudge at Bound For Glory in a Street Fight. A bloody and violent affair, Storm finally got the revenge he so desperately craved on Roode.
The Tag Team division saw a re-emergence in 2012. Samoa Joe and Magnus formed an unlikely alliance and found instant chemistry becoming Tag Team Champions, two former Fortune stablemates then came together over a mutual love of tormenting AJ Styles as Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels formed Bad Influence. Bad Influence would form the backbone of the division having classic matches against The Motor City Machine Guns, Joe and Magnus, AJ Styles and Kurt Angle, and Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez. Styles and Angle would win the title at Slammiversary in a must-see match before Bad Influence would regain them. Chavo and Hernandez ended the year as champions with victory in a three way at Bound For Glory.
Gail Kim dominated the Knockouts Division through the first half of 2012 with successful defences against legends of the division like Tara, Mickie James, Madison Rayne and Velvet Sky. It would be a young upstart though that would unseat Gail – as Brooke Tessmacher emerged as a serious competitor in the division and used the hometown Texas crowd at Slammiversary to spur herself to victory and become champion for the first time. Tessmacher’s TnT alliance with Tara exploded at Bound For Glory as Tara won the Knockouts Title with the help of the debuting Jessie Godderz. Tara successfully held the title for the rest of the year, with defenses against Mickie James.
After Austin Aries successfully cashed in Option C at Destination X, the division was left to a new generation of stars. Zema Ion won the vacant X-Division Title in Ultimate X at Destination X and reigned ruthlessly. That is, until he ran into the legendary Rob Van Dam who added the title to his long list of accolades at Bound For Glory.
Other notable events from 2012: The Open Fight Night concept debuted where any challenge that was thrown out had to be accepted – this offered wrestlers the perfect opportunity to settle grudges and test themselves against the very best. Gutcheck also debuted, where two wrestlers would compete for an IMPACT contract with a panel of expert judges deciding if they were ready. Sting was the first inductee into the newly unveiled Hall of Fame. A group of renegade bikers named Aces and 8s began running roughshod over TNA, who they were and what they wanted wouldn’t be revealed until 2013…