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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