Eric Young is one of four wrestlers set to appear at Bound for Glory 2020 that featured at the first-ever Bound for Glory in 2005, partnering with Team Canada colleagues A-1 and Bobby Roode to defeat the 3-Live Kru in a six-man tag match. The other three wrestlers were Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin and Rhino.
This weekend, Young will headline the show against Rich Swann. For someone who has been with the promotion for most of his career (and most of the promotion’s history for that matter), the thought of him atop a big show still feels strangely anathema.
In total, it’s almost 13 years. Almost 13 years that Eric Young has worked for Impact Wrestling, wearing every hat the promotion could find without ever truly feeling like a main eventer on his own merits.
For every title win or significant feud Young’s had in Impact, it never seemed too long before a character change or an odd program slid him down the card again. Moments of success were fleeting; time in lower card purgatory was never-ending.
Now, he feels integral to the promotion’s forward trajectory. Since he returned at Slammiversary, he’s been one of their best assets. Character development, promos and in-ring work, Young has nailed the lot. The lead promo package for Bound for Glory is symbolic in so many ways – all the facts EY has worn have been leading to this point, the time where he stands proud, puffs out his chest and shouts proudly ‘I am King of the Mountain’.
Young’s Impact career is a fascinating case study, spanning multiple creative teams and changes in direction. His first four years with the company stand out as probably his most consistent, from his debut in a four-way ladder match as part of Team Canada, through his tag pairings with Bobby Roode, Petey Williams and A-1 to Paranoid EY, the end of the best faction in TNA history and his take on the classic Virgil story when he broke free from Roode in mid-2007.
That moment when he pinned Roode at Slammiversary felt significant. The pop conveyed something significant and meaningful. The crowning of a new leading babyface? It’s hard to make a proclamation like that but it has always struck me as something that should have been defining for his career.
Yet it never was, and there was seemingly no plan to capitalize on that momentum and from there he settled into a pattern that essentially defined the next six years. Get given a serious angle which doesn’t quite work as intended, get cycled down the card into a comedy slot until they work out what’s next.
There was Super Eric.
There was Eric Young being obsessed with finding Elvis in 2008 (he’s not dead, in case you’re wondering).
There was TNA trialing Young as a faction leader with The World Elite, which flopped and came to an end within seven months.
Once his team with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall also came to naught (Hall’s legal problems the cause this time), there was Young getting married to ODB, working a mentally handicapped gimmick and becoming the longest-reigning Knockouts Tag Team Champion.
Most of those things failed to tick the ‘objectively bad’ box, and in many cases, they filled a comedy slot that every promotion needs to help with the flow of the product, but very few were ‘good’ either.
The break from that mire was his World title win, but even that came with caveats. The manner in which he won, winning a battle royal at the start of the show before defeating Magnus in the main event, meant his reign was beset by claims that it was a direct rip of the Daniel Bryan story that concluded at Wrestlemania 30 a few days prior. Work in the fact Young had a TV show at the time and it smacked ultimately of right man, right time rather than anything done particularly by design. I’m no fool, a lot of wrestling is booked on the fly, but all of those caveats and the years of middling work before meant Young’s time as a main eventer in 2014 never felt wholly legitimate or profound.
Now though, in that same slot six years later, he looks born for it. Age 40, he’s doing the best work he’s ever done and you can see the motivation he has to do meaningful things with his two-year deal every time he’s on camera. There’s a new presence, a new authority to everything he does. He’s got the viciousness you need from someone working as the ‘World Class Maniac’ but there’s enough weakness to make opponents credible. In Rich Swann, he’s got the perfect foil and someone he can have a truly memorable feud with.
Young should win on Saturday because 16 years after his debut, his time as Impact’s true King of the Mountain is only just beginning.