Invading forces were nothing new to TNA – between Sports Entertainment Xtreme, The Main Event Mafia and Immortal, groups coming together seeking power and control was commonplace. What was unusual though was not even knowing the identity of the attackers. That was what made the masked Aces and 8s attackers so sinister – knowing they could attack from anywhere and could easily hide in plain sight made them all the more menacing. When Devon was revealed as a member of Aces and 8s, the pieces began to click into place. Over the coming months more and more members were revealed including Mr. Anderson, Knux, Garett Bischoff, Wes Briscoe, D’Lo Brown and DOC. The question of what they wanted in TNA still loomed large though.
All was revealed at Lockdown. All of Aces and 8s stormed the cage and surrounded Jeff Hardy and Bully Ray as they were battling in the World Championship main event. Just as it looked like Hardy and Bully were set to fend off the invaders, Bully turned and struck Hardy with a hammer. Bully Ray was revealed to be the leader of the group as he became World Champion for the first time in his career. Aces and 8s grasp of TNA had never been firmer – with strength in numbers and now control of the World Title they seemed to be unstoppable. Sting then had to reach into his own past to bring together a group of allies to combat them.
Sting reformed the Main Event Mafia. Original members Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe joined new recruits Magnus and MMA legend Rampage Jackson to form the new iteration of the iconic stable. From there they waged war on Aces and 8s through the summer. Tito Ortiz debuted as the August 1 Warning to the stunned silence of the audience as The Main Event Mafia then won a big ten-man tag that earned them the right to remove Devon from TNA.
While The Main Event Mafia were on the frontlines, one man stood alone between the warring factions: AJ Styles. After an absence from TNA, AJ Styles returned to TNA as a new man. Darker, brooding – he no longer stood for TNA, he now stood alone. Both The Main Event Mafia and Aces and 8s tried to recruit the new lone wolf Styles but Styles constantly rebuffed their advances. This would go on for the whole summer until Styles finally stepped up and aligned himself with The Main Event. Styles would then win the Bound For Glory Series and defeat Bully Ray for the World Championship. A dispute with Dixie Carter though would cause Styles to walk out of TNA to defend his title around the world instead, leading to Dixie crowning Magnus as a new champion in the interim.
Option C played a big role again in 2013. Chris Sabin returned from injury to capture the X-Division Championship from Kenny King in Ultimate X at Slammiversary. After ten years in TNA, Sabin successfully exercised Option C to defeat Bully Ray for the World Championship at Destination X. Having won the X-Division and Tag Team Titles before, Sabin completed the TNA triple crown. Manik would step into the hole Sabin left behind to win the vacant X-Division Title but the remainder of the year would see Sabin and Aries trading the title back and forth.
After her 2011 title reign was cut short after only a month, Velvet Sky won the Knockouts Championship for a second time in February – this time holding the title for three months before Mickie James feigned an injury to steal the title in May. We then saw a different side of “Hardcore Country”. While she put on a front of kindness and decency, it all disingenuously hid her conniving sinister side. ODB would dethrone Mickie before Gail Kim ended the year as champion.
Austin Aries and Bobby Bobby formed a tag team dream team and defeated Chavo Guerrero and Hernandez to become TNA World Tag Team Champions in February. Chavo and Hernandez would regain the titles in April before losing them again at Slammiversary to the new team of James Storm and Gunner. Storm and Gunner would not be particularly prolific champions, losing the title in their first defense at Bound For Glory to The BroMans.
Other notable events from 2013: Taryn Terrell and Gail Kim had an incredible pair of matches – first a breath-taking Last Knockout Standing match and then a high-risk ladder match on IMPACT a few weeks later. Kurt Angle was revealed to be the second inductee into the Hall of Fame. The One Night Only series debuted: offering fans one off events featuring special matches and surprise guests. Dixie Carter’s nephew EC3 debuted at Bound For Glory.