Former TNA World Heavyweight Champion James Storm has spoken of his disbelief at spending ten years with the company.
The 35-year-old, also a multiple time Tag Team Champion, with Chris Harris and more recently Bobby Roode, marked the anniversary in June.
‘The Cowboy’ is currently taking part in the Bound for Glory tournament which climaxes at the pay-per-view of that name in October.
He said: “If you’d have told me ten years ago that I’d still be here, I’d have called you a liar!
“Myself and AJ (Styles) have seen big names come and go, but we’re still here.”
Storm and Styles are the only two wrestlers to have been involved in TNA for the first ten years. Jeff Jarrett is still part of the company but hasn't been seen on screen since 2011.
Things could have worked out so differently for Storm. Back in 2001-2002, he was employed by World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
WCW, however, was coming to the end. Bitter in-fighting at the highest level, huge egos, poor quality programming and consistently being beaten by arch-rivals World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in the ratings all contributed to the latter to buy their one-time foes at a cut down price.
Storm returned to the independent circuit rather than join the WWE, unlike the majority of his colleagues who went on to take part in the badly-received ‘Invasion’ angle.
In 2002, Storm signed for TNA, and neither he nor the company has looked back since. The Tennessee native believes the loyalty shown between both sides of their long relationship has paid dividends.
“I have had opportunities to go elsewhere, but they’ve been loyal to me and likewise, I have to them,” he said.
James has seen some of the pro-wrestling industry’s biggest names join TNA as the promotion continues to grow –so who’s his favourite to fight? Kurt Angle, Sting, Rob Van Dam?
“It’s got to be Bobby Roode. We like to go and beat the hell out of each other. There’s great chemistry when we’re in the ring together and that makes for a great show.”
Storm and Roode – wrestling as Beer Money, Inc – were partners for over three and a half years, picking up the tag titles four times, before Roode turned on Storm in storyline last year.
Roode, who won the title from his former partner, has since gone on to have the longest reign (256 days) of any TNA Heavyweight Champion in history before losing the title to Austin Aries at Destination X earlier this month.
“Austin deserves the title, he’s definitely worked hard for it. There’s a reason Bobby was the longest reigning champion of all time though," he said.
“It’s only a matter of time before he win the title back.”
Storm and Aries could be on a collision course for the title if James can win the Bound for Glory tournament at the second time of asking. He made the final four of last year's tournament.
Should Aries hold on to the title until the October pay-per-view and Storm win the tournament, then he will become number one contender for the title.
So far, Storm is on course to once again make the final four of the twelve-man tournament – where points are earned by beating the other competitors, which form a league table, before the top fighters compete one on one to determine the winner. Storm is currently second behind Samoa Joe in the unusual format.
“Bound for Glory is definitely fun. You’ve got different guys with different styles and different personalities. I’m looking forward to facing Jeff Hardy again. He beat me last time so I need to put that right.”
There is also the small matter of Storm’s expected appearance at the Manchester Arena in January as part of the Maximum Impact UK tour.
“I love coming to the UK. They’re a really appreciative crowd. We only come once a year to see you guys and the reception we get shows that.”
“The response from the fans gives the wrestlers a real adrenaline rush, which makes for a better show. The US fans are spoilt really because we spend most of the year here.”
However, James couldn’t resist a playful jibe about our infamous weather.
“It’s raining in Manchester today? It’s always raining there! I’m in Florida right now and it’s really hot”, he laughed.
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