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When TNA was created in 2002 under the NWA banner, there was one standout division in the company, The X Division. From the first show, it was obvious that they had something special and they capitalized on it as soon as possible. While Jeff Jarrett ran the upper card of the shows, you could always count on The X Division for quality matches featuring up and comers such as A.J. Styles, Chris Sabin and others, while they also boasted established wrestlers like Jerry Lynn. When your division has the only 5 star match in the company, you know you've struck gold with the idea. While the championship has a great lineage, no championship is without bad champions. The tag line of the division was "it's not about weight limits, its about no limits" and on occasion they followed that tag line, to a fault. In this article, we'll take a look at the 8 best TNA X Division champions, as well as the 7 Worst in TNA history.
Let us know if you feel like we missed anyone!
15 Best: Jerry Lynn
Jerry Lynn was one of the early pioneers of the X Division and is one of the men who popularized the style in the late 90s along with RVD and the Cruiserweights in WCW. Despite his age, Jerry Lynn was still faster than most and even though he had only been a heel for a short time in ECW, he played it masterfully against an up and coming A.J. Styles in TNA. When looking at his two reigns as X Division Champion, it becomes apparent that Lynn was necessary to keep the Division together because while they were fast paced. action movie-esque matches, Lynn could slow a match down and demonstrate a style similar to Dean Malenko. His contributions to the X-Division will be felt for as long as TNA is around and he will go certainly go on the Mount Rushmore of the X-Division.
14 Worst: Michael Shane
When you are constantly mentioned in the same breath as Shawn Michaels because you're his cousin, you have a lot to live up to. Unfortunately for Michael Shane (Matt Bentley), he didn't live up to his cousin's legacy. Shane was an early member of the X-Division and was constantly around the title picture starting from his debut. He would often team with Frankie Kazarian and even shared a reign with Kazarian as co-X Division Champions. While Shane wasn't a bad wrestler, he was constantly compared to Shawn Michaels and even used the Superkick as his finisher for a time. His comparisons to The Heartbreak Kid certainly hurt his credibility in the long run. If he weren't compared to HBK, he probably would have been seen as one of the better stars of the division and probably wouldn't be on this list. But the large shadow looming over him made him look like a small fish in a massive pond.
13 Best: Jay Lethal
Jay Lethal is one of the wrestlers that TNA's most underutilized. While he did have a feud with Ric Flair on his way out of the company, that feud also featured Lethal losing to many wrestlers who were far past their prime. Before Lethal debuted his 'Black Machismo' character, he was a fairly generic babyface that was exciting in the ring but didn't have much of a character. When Kevin Nash donned him with a new theme song, he completely changed his character and became one of the best characters on the TNA roster. Lethal's constant caricature of Macho Man Randy Savage helped propel him and he even got his own Miss Elizabeth in the form of SoCal Val. Whenever Lethal was on TV, you know you were going to be entertained and after he moved on from 'Black Machismo' he became Ric Flair! One of the best segments in TNA history features Jay Lethal mimicking Ric Flair right to his face. A six-time X Division champion, Lethal could've been much more for TNA, but was still a terrific champion for the Division.
12 Worst: Sheik Abdul Bashir
Shawn Daivari came into TNA in 2008 and would end up in Eric Young's faction, World Elite and, ironically, they were not Elite in the slightest. Before he was in World Elite, he also happened to win the X Division championship from Petey Williams in September of 2008. Daivari would do nothing with the Championship and the way he lost it solidifies him on this list. During his match with Eric Young during an episode of Impact!, Daivari would shove the official in the match, Shane Sewell. Sewell decided he had enough and would attack Daivari, causing Young to capitalize and beat Daivari for the championship. While the referee standing up to the heel is often a spot in matches, it almost NEVER actually ends the match. Daivari losing his championship because of referee interference truly shows that he was a paper champion.
11 Best: Suicide
Possibly the only video game character to become a successful professional wrestler (we're not counting Glacier), Suicide was played by multiple people, but he seemed to always be on top, regardless of who played him. He was played by Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, Kiyoshi (SUSHI in AJPW) and T.J. Perkins. While he only had two reigns (totaling 196 days), he was a constant focal point in the X Division and really felt like a video game character come to life. Whether he was diving off the top of the Ultimate X set or gliding from the top of the arena, he never ceased to captivate the TNA audience. When Austin Aries attacked Perkins and stole the Suicide moniker for one night, the original character was retired and he became Manik, who would go on to be more TJP in a mask and less of a crazy video game character come to life. With that being said, Suicide broke boundaries in TNA and will go down as one of their most memorable acts.
10 Worst: Tigre Uno
One of the more recent entries on this list, Tigre Uno is one of a few Luchadores to win the X Division championship. He would hold the title for 199 days and sadly it was during the down period in TNA where they were switching from Destination America to POP! and were being critically deadpanned at the time. Uno was capable of having decent matches, but he seemingly suffered from Sin Cara Azul syndrome, as he didn't know English, therefore couldn't create a story for himself. His in ring skills were average at best and he would leave TNA shortly after losing the championship. I'd like to think that if they had let Uno tap more into his roots of DTU, he would have gotten over as an acrobatic, hardcore Luchadore, but sadly TNA don't take many risks character-wise (apart from the whole Hardy/Decay saga) and would rather have a generic Luchadore than a star.
9 Best: Trevor Lee
The 'North Carolina CaveMan' is one of the top young wrestlers today and when he was signed by TNA, it was an instant beacon of hope for their very bleak X Division at the time. Lee gave the division a necessary shot in the arm and was the perfect cowardly heel, backed by Shane Helms and later Andrew Everett. Almost every match he takes part in is guaranteed to be average, at the very worst. After defeating the last entrant on our list, Tigre Uno, for the title, he held the X Division championship for 155 days and if he can continue to bring his rough, yet fast paced style to TNA, hopefully the X Division will go back to its former glory days from 10 years ago.
8 Worst: Michael Bennett
The most recent champion on this list, Michael Bennett was a bad paper champion and that's a difficult thing to accomplish. While he technically only held the belt for one day, on TNA television he had the belt for three pointless weeks. Bennett won the championship for no actual reason and would defend it once against Braxton Sutter on the following episode of Impact! He would then lose the belt to Eddie Edwards a mere two weeks later (TV time) after he originally won it. Bennett didn't need the championship and it not only didn't propel him, it made Eddie Edwards look significantly weaker for losing the championship to him and then winning it back 14 days later. Hopefully, the next time TNA wants to give someone a championship, they actually do something of note with it.
7 Best: Douglas Williams
Douglas Williams is one of the pioneers of modern British Wrestling and offers a throwback to the classic style seen in World of Sport back in the 70s and 80s. Williams would win the TNA X Division championship twice, holding it for 202 days altogether. Williams provided a slower style in X-Division matches not often seen, especially in 2009 where people like The Motor City Machine Guns were ruling the Division. He was very similar to Dean Malenko and Jerry Lynn, in the sense that he could slow a match down or work a fast paced, high impact match just like the rest of the men in the Division. He would provide a much needed slow down and could make a match much better because he added something different to the mix. Williams legacy in the X Division is often forgotten and it's a shame because he is one of the last of a generation of workers we don't often see.
6 Worst: Sonny Siaki
Sonny Siaki had everything going for him; the look, the talent and the backstage producers giving him a very good push at the time of his X Division Championship win. He had Vince Russo backing him and Russo even cut a promo stating that Siaki was the future of TNA. There was just one thing that stopped him; he had the charisma of a smashed brick. Siaki couldn't cut a promo if his life depended on it and he was somehow worse than Roman Reigns in terms of showing emotion. If Siaki had the charisma to match his perceived talent, we could have had TNA's version of The Rock. Siaki would hold the X Division Championship for 63 days, defeating Jerry Lynn for the championship. It became apparent that Siaki had no charisma, because when you have the head booker of the company backing you, yet you end up going nowhere in the company, something is wrong.
5 Best: Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe is one of the best big men in the history of wrestling. When he made his debut in TNA, he was made an immediate threat to everyone on the roster and he made it known that he wanted to go after the X Division Championship. He was the first true example of "It's not about weight limits, its about no limits" and he was a great example of it. Even though he was larger, he could still work with the best of them and was a worthy champion. He would have multiple Match of the Year contenders with the likes of Christopher Daniels and A.J. Styles and would even be a part of TNA's only five-star match at Unbreakable 2005. Joe would go on an 18 month undefeated streak and would cross divisions during that time, facing the likes of Kurt Angle, Jeff Jarrett and many X Division stars.
4 Worst. Robbie E
Robbie E is easily one of the worst X Division Champions of all-time and he's also one of the worst overall champions in TNA history. When he held the Championship in 2010, it had little to no value because of it being tarnished when Hogan and Bischoff came into the fold. To add to the already bad state of TNA at the time, Robbie E would debut with a gimmick one can only describe as Zack Ryder turned up to 100, while being accompanied by a Snookie imitator, Cookie. Robbie E wasn't the best wrestler at the time (or now) and it showed when he fought week in, week out. The fact that he held the title for a full 30 days shows that TNA were in a rut and were trying to capitalize on the success of reality television at the time. Not only would Robbie E best Jay Lethal for the championship, but he would also lose it to him 30 days later at the TNA Turning Point PPV.
3 Best: Christopher Daniels
You can relate a large part of TNA's early success to the X Division and one of the figureheads of that division was Christopher Daniels. The Fallen Angel was a mainstay in the division for almost 12 years and would win the championship three times, totaling 280 days between all of his reigns. Not only was Daniels one of the best wrestlers in the world at the time, but his character was always on point. He had clear intentions and made them known as soon as possible, so you could always have someone to boo. He knew how to make the crowd hate him and was very good at taking a beating. His Ironman Match with A.J. Styles is a true gem and he constant battles with Samoa Joe in 2006 are always worth a watch. Even when he was given bad storylines (Claire Lynch), he could make them gold and make himself a compelling heel that you loved to hate.
2 Worst: Abyss
Everything that Samoa Joe did well as a big man, Abyss didn't. When he was given the X Division Championship in 2011, he debuted a whole new character to go with his newly won championship. Abyss was the monster in Eric Bischoff's "War on the X Division" storyline and he would dub the championship The 'Xtreme Title'. Abyss would get rid of his hardcore weapon, Janice, and instead quote The Art of War. Not only would Abyss win the Championship, but he would hold it for 55 days and defeat The Brian Kendrick and Frankie Kazarian in his first defense. Abyss would hold the championship until he dropped it to The Brian Kendrick and Eric Bischoff was forced to put a 225 weight limit on the Championship. Abyss not only was a bad X Division champion, but he effectively ruined the mystique of the no limits aspect of the championship.
1 Best: A.J. Styles
Possibly the greatest wrestler of all time, A.J. Styles, along with a few other wrestlers, is one the main reasons the X Division still exists to this day. Not only was he featured in the first ever match for the X Division Championship, but he was the first champion. He would hold the belt six times (he currently holds a three-way tie with Austin Aries and Jay Lethal for the second most reigns) and he never had a bad match for the title. A.J. would even go back to the X-Division multiple times after winning the Tag Titles and the World Championship. He crossed divisions and could work in either one perfectly. He would constantly put on stellar matches with every opponent he faced and it's the reason that the X Division became as big as it is. If it wasn't for A.J. Styles, there probably wouldn't have been a five-star match in TNA. He pioneered a unique style of wrestling and is the influence for many wrestlers today, including like high fliers Ricochet and Will Ospreay. His influence reaches across multiple continents and he will go down as the best X Division Champion in TNA history.
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The Impact X Division Championship is a professional wrestling championship, is owned by Impact Wrestling. It debuted on June 19, 2002, at the taping of then-TNA's second weekly pay-per-view (PPV) event.
Like most professional wrestling championships, the title is won as a result of a scripted match. There have been 68 reigns among 30 wrestlers.
Main article: X Division
The TNA X Division was established on June 19, 2002 at Total Nonstop Action's first weekly PPV event with a Six Man Tag Team match resulting in Jimmy Yang, Jorge Estrada, and Sonny Siaki—collectively known as The Flying Elvises—defeating A.J. Styles, Jerry Lynn, and Low Ki. Later that day at the taping of the next weekly PPV event, TNA introduced the X Division Championship—then known as the X Championship—to showcase the division more prominently. The division is described as wrestling reinvented, as it takes traditional wrestling and mixes it with the fast paced, high–risk style of wrestling incorporated in cruiserweight divisions and lucha libre. The division was until 2011 promoted under the motto "It is not about weight limits, it is about no limits" by commentator Mike Tenay. On the August 11, 2011, edition of TNA's primary television program, Impact Wrestling, TNA authority figure Eric Bischoff announced that from that point onwards the X Division would have a weight limit of 225 lb (102 kg). Following Hulk Hogan becoming the new on-screen General Manager in March 2012, the weight limit was ignored on June 10, 2012, at Slammiversary when the 280 lb (130 kg) Samoa Joe was allowed to challenge for the belt. In October 2012, the weight limit was officially repealed when 237 lb (108 kg) Rob Van Dam challenged for, and eventually won, the title at Bound for Glory. In March 2013, the X Division was given a new set of rules, which meant all matches were wrestled in Triple Threat format, and a new weight limit of 230 lbs. This proved to be extremely unpopular with fans, and the rules and weight limit were repealed once again in August of that year.
The Total Nonstop Action X Division has multiple styles of match types used to showcase the talent within the division and to defend the TNA X Division Championship in more marketable matches. Three of the matches used in TNA are the Ultimate X match, The Steel Asylum, and the Xscape match.
- The Ultimate X match was introduced in 2003. It involves multiple competitors racing to retrieve the X Division Championship or a giant red letter "X", which is suspended above the ring by two cables. The cables are attached to posts that stand behind the turnbuckles of the ring. These cables intertwine to form an "X" over the center of the ring. This match has become successful in TNA; it was featured in the 2008 DVD "TNA: Ultimate Matches", released by TNA Home Video.
- The Steel Asylum made its debut in May 2008 at TNA's Sacrifice PPV event, under the name "The TerrorDome". It was used once again in October 2008 at their Bound for Glory IV PPV event, under the new and current moniker "The Steel Asylum". As of March 2018, this match has only been used to determine the number one contender to the TNA X Division Championship. The layout of the match involves the ring being surrounded by a giant red steel barred cage with a domed ceiling. The only way to achieve victory is to escape the cage through a hole in the center of the ceiling.
- The Xscape match is the third specialty match primarily used in TNA. It is held annually at TNA's Lockdown PPV event in April—an all–steel cage format PPV event. The first two Xscape matches were held to determine the number one contender to the TNA X Division Championship, while, since 2007, it has been contested for the X Division Championship. The contest involves four to six participants. To win this match, two or more participants—depending on how many are involved in the encounter—must be eliminated by pinfall or submission leaving only two participants. These two men then race to see who escapes the cage first to claim victory.
The championship was created and debuted before the main event at the taping of TNA's second weekly PPV event on June 19, 2002; the event aired on June 26, 2002. Later, A.J. Styles defeated Low Ki, Jerry Lynn, and Psicosis in a Four Way Double Elimination match to be crowned the inaugural champion; this match was announced as being for the NWA X Championship on the onscreen graphic while the ring announcer stated it was for the "NWA–TNA X Championship". Afterwards, the title was renamed the NWA–TNA X Division Championship and then shortened to just the TNA X Division Championship. This is the oldest title in TNA.
Option C is a concept in which the current X Division Champion may voluntarily vacate the championship in exchange for a World Heavyweight Championship match at that year's Destination X event. It began in June 2012 when then-champion Austin Aries said that he was not satisfied with being just the X Division Champion, which led to then-General Manager Hulk Hogan offering him a match for the World Heavyweight Championship, but only if he first vacated the X Division Championship. Aries agreed to Hogan's terms, on the condition that the X Division Champion be given the same opportunity in future years. Aries would then relinquish the X Division Championship and successfully defeated Bobby Roode for the World title.
The following year, Hogan asked then-champion Chris Sabin if he wanted to vacate the championship and challenge for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, which Sabin accepted, and later defeated Bully Ray to win the title. On June 24, 2014, a mere five days after regaining the X Division Championship for his fifth reign, Austin Aries invoked Option C once again, but failed to defeat then champion Lashley. On May 10, 2015, one day after regaining the title for his second reign, Rockstar Spud invoked Option C, and was defeated by then champion Kurt Angle. On the July 5, 2016 episode of Impact Wrestling, World Heavyweight Champion Lashley offered a winner take all match to X Division Champion Eddie Edwards in lieu of Edwards invoking Option C. The match ended in a no-contest after an interference from Mike Bennett and Edwards was attacked the debuting Moose. A subsequent rematch took place, in which Lashley was victorious, becoming a double champion.
Unifications and outside defenses
In July 2002, the X Division Champion AJ Styles defended the title against Adam Jacobs and David Young at Ring of Honor's Crowning a Champion, the first defense outside TNA. In May 2003, before the professional wrestling promotionWorld Wrestling All-Stars' (WWA) foreclosure, then NWA–TNA X Division champion Chris Sabin defeated WWA International Cruiserweight Champion Jerry Lynn, Frankie Kazarian, and Johnny Swinger in a Four Cornerschampionship unification match to unify the X Division Championship with the WWA International Cruiserweight Championship. In Winter 2004, Petey Williams defended the title in various IWA-Mid South events.
During Christopher Daniels' first reign in mid-2005, he defended the X Division Championship at several Pro Wrestling Guerrilla shows. The first defense happened at All Star Weekend - Night One on April 1 against Alex Shelley, while the second occurred at All Star Weekend – Night Two on April 2 against Chris Hero; Daniels won both encounters retaining the championship. At Jason Takes PWG on May 13, Daniels fought A.J. Styles for the X Division Championship and Styles' PWG Championship to a one-hour time-limit draw. Daniels successfully defended the X Division Title two more times in PWG; once at Guitarmageddon on June 11 against El Generico, while once at The 2nd Annual PWG Bicentennial Birthday Extravaganza - Night One on July 9 against fellow TNA wrestler Chris Sabin. In September 2005 at TNA's Unbreakable PPV event, the TNA X Division Championship was defended in the main event for the first time at a monthly PPV event; then-champion Christopher Daniels defended the championship against A.J. Styles and Samoa Joe.
The title was once again defended in the main event of a monthly event at TNA's August 2007 Hard Justice PPV event, where Kurt Angle defeated Samoa Joe to win the TNA X Division and the TNA World Tag Team Championship and retain the TNA World Heavyweight and IGF's version of the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. This win made Angle the only in the history of TNA to hold every active championship at the same time; TNA World, X Division, and World Tag Team.
On March 4, 2014, The title was defended in Japan as part of Kaisen: Outbreak - a supershow event promoted by Wrestle-1 in partnership with TNA - where the title was won by Wrestle-1 star Seiya Sanada. On March 22, Sanada defended and successfully retained the title on a Wrestle-1 show.
In May 2007, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) ended their five-year partnership with TNA, which allowed the NWA to regain control over the NWA World Heavyweight and World Tag Team Championships that TNA had controlled since June 2002. TNA then introduced a new TNA X Division Championship belt on the May 16, 2007 edition of TNA's online podcast TNA Today. Jeremy Borash and Management DirectorJim Cornette, TNA's on-screen authority figure at the time, unveiled the new belt and awarded it to then-champion Chris Sabin.
On July 19, 2013, former TNA President Dixie Carter unveiled a new design for the championship, with blue accents to match the color scheme of the company.
On June 16, 2015, TNA tweaked the title's design by recoloring its accents from blue to green.
On August 18, 2017, the X Division Championship design was given a complete overhaul to reflect TNA's transfer to the Global Force Wrestling moniker.
On October 26, 2017, Trevor Lee was seen in a taped segment on Impact! with a new version of the title belt branded for Impact Wrestling.
Main article: List of Impact X Division Champions
The inaugural champion was A.J. Styles, who won the championship by defeating Low Ki, Jerry Lynn, and Psicosis in a Four Way Double Elimination match on June 19, 2002 at TNA's second weekly PPV event. At 301 days, Austin Aries' first reign holds the record for longest in the title's history. At less than one day, Eric Young's only reign, and Chris Sabin's sixth reign and Rockstar Spud's second reign are the shortest in the title's history.Chris Sabin holds the record for most reigns with eight.
Matt Sydal is the current champion in his first reign. He defeated Taiji Ishimori on January 12, 2018, in Orlando, Florida during the Impact! tapings.
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