Throughout the month of June, we will be celebrating 20 years of TNA/Impact Wrestling with our #Impact20 series of reviews, columns and podcasts. One particular series will look at a handpicked selection of the best TNA/Impact Wrestling Matches of All-Time. 

TNA World Heavyweight Title
Bobby Roode (c) vs. Austin Aries

TNA Destination X 2012
July 8, 2012
Impact Zone
Orlando, Florida

2012 was an interesting time for me as a wrestling fan. In the midst of graduating from high school and entering my first semester at Penn State, my wrestling watching consisted of the “big three” in the United States at the time, which were WWE, TNA, and ROH. While all three had aspects I enjoyed, the one that I was into the most out of those three was ROH. After finding the HDNet show in 2009, I fully dove into the promotion in late 2010. Whether it be buying the DVDs (of both the current crop of shows and the golden era), getting T-Shirts, or joining the ROHWorld forum (which I believe is still around today), I was heavily invested in the ROH product. 2012 would be the year that I went to my first ROH show in March at the Hammerstein Ballroom, which was a pretty good experience.

Even though there were a number of cool things going on in ROH in 2012 (Michael Elgin’s ascension, CHIKARA guys getting in the mix, Kevin Steen winning the World Title), it was also a very frustrating time for fans of the promotion like myself. This mainly boiled down to the direction that Jim Cornette was taking the company. There were so many elements of Cornette’s version of ROH that just didn’t land or were outright bad (title changes via ether rags, babyface stalker Mike Mondo, The Guardians Of Truth, trying to push Kevin Steen as a despicable heel that was trying to kill the company while he was getting cheered more than almost anyone, and so on). At that time, it was really infuriating. The talent was there, and there were still a number of really solid matches with a lot of great wrestlers, but it just felt like ROH was shooting themselves in the foot.

That’s where TNA came in.

While I still followed the product every single week via Impact, the first year-and-a-half or so of the Hogan/Bischoff era left a lot to be desired. By the spring of 2012, however, it felt like they finally hit on something, and (at least for me) one particular story that I was really invested in involved Austin Aries. He had won the TNA X-Division Title in September of 2011, and had been undefeated as champion since. Of course, this all led to the scenario where Aries wanted a shot at the TNA World Title, and a promo segment with Hulk Hogan led to the creation of “Option C”, where the X-Division Champion would have the chance to challenge for the World Title every year at Destination X. It felt like there was a fair amount of momentum behind Aries, and this PPV felt like it was going to be his time to win TNA’s biggest prize.

Now Destination X 2012 as a whole was a really fun show from top to bottom, with a one-night tournament (culminating in an Ultimate X Match) to crown a new X-Division Champion, as well as some really strong undercard matches like Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe and a Last Man Standing Match between AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels. However, the main event between Bobby Roode (who at this point had been champion for several months) and Austin Aries was the perfect match to cap off the show. It wasn’t the flashiest match in the world, but I thought it worked incredibly well as a big-time World Title bout with a challenger that the crowd was firmly behind. While this did get off to a slower, more methodical start, the action would pick up as the match progressed, and there were a number of really solid exchanges and awesome nearfalls in the closing stretch. Aries survived all of Roode’s tricks and eventually put him away with the brainbuster to capture the title in what was an awesome moment.

Looking back on it, the summer and fall of 2012 was the last time that I really felt super excited about TNA. Did flaws still exist in the product? Absolutely, but with ROH being in the creative rut that it was in at the time, TNA felt like the better product on the whole (should be noted that this was right around the time when Kenny King jumped from ROH to TNA right after winning the ROH World Tag Team Titles with Rhett Titus). This era of the company would unfortunately be short lived, as the growing Aces & Eights storyline would slowly wash away any enthusiasm that I might’ve had (coincidentally, this coincided with ROH finally ditching Jim Cornette and going in a better direction). TNA has always had a tumultuous history, but I will always look back to Destination X 2012 and, in particular, Austin Aries winning the World Title in the main event, as one of the last real high points of TNA during the Spike TV era. It’s a period of the company’s history that I will always remember fondly.