Next week, Josh Alexander will be the fifth man to cash in Option C and the first to do so in 33 months as he challenges Christian Cage for the Impact World Championship at Bound for Glory.
For those of you who don’t know, I’ll offer a little reminder. First introduced by Hulk Hogan, Option C allows the current X-Division Champion to vacate that title in exchange for the next shot at the Impact World Championship. While initially only offered to Austin Aries, he insisted that the option should remain open to all future X-Division champions and thus Option C was born.
The first use of Option C came in 2012, when Aries brought his 301-day reign to an end to challenge Bobby Roode. I’ve written about it on this site before, but that first use of Option C was significant. At a time when my interest in wrestling, and particularly Impact, was waning, Aries against Roode was the tonic I needed reel me back in.
Aries is the only man to have used Option C twice, doing so again in 2014 in a losing effort against Bobby Lashley. That was also the first use of Option C to have not occurred on PPV, with Destination X that year being a TV special.
The first four activations of Option C all took place under the Destination X umbrella, with Aries and Chris Sabin winning in the two PPV editions and then Aries and Rockstar Spud falling short in the TV specials.
After a break of three-and-a-half years, Brian Cage activated Option C in January 2019 to challenge Johnny Impact at the Homecoming PPV in Nashville. While Cage would eventually win the title three months later, he lost in his Option C challenge after what can only be described as a ‘Classic TNA’ finish. Cage’s loss took the historical record of Option C to 2-3.
While the first two uses of Option C felt important, the second two came at a time when the X-Division felt decidedly like an afterthought. Option C became a gimmick, alongside Ultimate X, they could trot out every now and then to make it the division relevant for one night, and was often ultimately part of a wider story around the World title.
That may have been the case but I have always viewed Option C as one of the positive legacies of the Hogan era. It can, like all things, be a lazy trope but I’ve always felt that it’s a great booking device.
It establishes the X-Division title as a distinct, secondary title, and provides an “opportunity” for guys who’ve excelled with the belt. That’s the case for Alexander, who truly elevated the title and the division with his run in 2021 and was the only logical challenger for Christian at Bound for Glory.
It gives them the flexibility to avoid the classic “I’ve run out of challengers” promo and the irritating trend of people losing their way up the card. By allowing them to vacate on their own terms and for their own gain, it frees up the champion to do something else while remaining strong, and gives the promotion the chance to take a different direction with the X-Division title.
One approach they’ve never taken, but teased with Mike Bennett a number of years ago, was the idea that it’s the “Golden Ticket” to the World title. It’s a quicker means to the ultimate end goal. While there’s always the potential that something like that could undermine the belt, from a kayfabe perspective it’s a route waiting to be exploited and there’s then the chance to reset with a newer face who can achieve greater credibility.
Ultimately, it empowers the bookers and because it’s a choice, and not one of the cash-in opportunities like the Call Your Shot Gauntlet, it means you can use it an organic way. You don’t have to “hotshot” things or shoehorn angles in because you’re working against the clock.
As has been demonstrated with Alexander’s cash-in, the decision to vacate the belt carries gravitas with it and gives the following World title match added significance. When you factor in the personal element, which they managed to nail this past week with Christian not recognizing Alexander when asked about him in a video clip, it’s a big-time matchup.
Josh Alexander’s title challenge will mark the sixth time Option C has been activated since its inception and I’ve got a good feeling it’ll be batting .500 when all is said and done in Las Vegas.