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Superstar Sleeze

DVDVR 80s Project
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  1. Matt Hardy vs Edge - Unforgiven 2005 Steel Cage Match At the core of the first known story in Western Civilization is Helen of Troy having been abducted from her family and country taken to Troy launching an international Trojan War and a years long saga. Think of the countless, books, TV shows and movies centered around love and the crazy actions men & women alike do because of it. It is without the single strongest driving force in humanity. Love is at the heart of so much what we do as humans good and bad. So when JR says "this goes beyond boyfriend/girlfriend stuff" he is dead wrong. There is nothing greater than love. Love is glaringly absent in pro wrestling storytelling for the most part (Randy Savage/Elizabeth being the notable exception, but there are a few others). I do think it should be incorporated more as it would increase the emotional connection of the story. That being said I don't think every angle should have a love component. I think one a year makes sense. The current Rusev/Lashley/Lana angle should be the 2020 version of this would be perfect if Lashley was not as wooden as a 2x4 and Lana was not the worst actress in the history of pro wrestling. I never realized anyone could scream so loud with no passion behind it. Anyways, Edge/Lita are such a great sleaze couple. They would get even better in 2006 feuding with John Cena. Matt Hardy still really hadnt found his public voice but he was shoot cheated on so all hed had to do was show up be angry and throw some stiff rights and the crowd would go apeshit that's what happened. Even though neither one of these guys is a favorite of mine (I know a lot of people really like Matt, but he never connected with me), but they hit it out of the park in this match. It was a classic steel cage match asskicking. Both men were in there to fight and it wrestled for maximum violence. They blocked the steel cage shots early which really put over how important the steel cage was and whoever tasted steel first would be at a decided disadvantage. Matt Hardy hit two of the greatest right hands this side of Jerry Lawler you would ever see that really rocked Edge. I liked that once Edge got punched in the mouth, now it was time to run and escape. Up until then, he was full of piss & vinegar. That's difference between a face & heel. Edge was just as geared up as Hardy but once he faced adversity he tucked tail & ran because he is a coward at his heart. I liked how Edge needed three moves to really take control because that how fired up Matt Hardy was: the eyerake, shoving Matt Hardy off the Twist of Fate into the cage and then ramming the back of Matt Hardy's head to block the Side Effect into the cage repeatedly. This was just vicious. Every Edge blow was delivered to the head. It was shot after brutal shot to the head. It was his fist, elbow, boot, the steel cage, powerbombs into the cage. Everything targeted the head. It was Edge's greatest heat segment and one of the best all-time. Matt did a great job having the glazed over look and really milking it, but still showing signs of life. Matt Hardy hits a desperation Side Effect. Again, just like when Hardy cracked him at the beginning with those two big time rights, Edge is headed to the hill. The first sign of trouble and he takes off. He goes for the door and Lita gets him the MITB briefcase. Hardy evades and BEATS THE SHIT OUT OF HIM. This is Lawler teeing off on Bockwinkel level shit. The CROWD COMES ALIVE FOR THIS! THEY GO NUTS! He ties him up in the ropes and unloads. Definitely the best of the match and very cathartic. Hardy rams Edge into the steel cage a bajillion times and draws BLOOD! Lita is worried tries scaling the cage but Hardy scares her off. He tries to crack Edge with the briefcase, but Edge pushes the ref into the ropes and Hardy takes a nasty spill. Best Edge spot is he spears Hardy through the ropes and into the cage. It looked awesome! Edge looks to leave, but Hardy stops him and Side Effect from the top! Lita saves Edge but getting into the cage. TWIST OF FATE ON LITA! I am 100% against man on woman violence and would be 100% against him punching her, BUT pro wrestling is wish fulfillment. It is not much different than wanting to Stone Cold Stunner your boss. It was great pro wrestling theater and catharsis. Hardy takes his eye off the prize and Edge spears him. Hardy kick out! MATT HARDY WILL NOT DIE! Edge goes for the escape. Matt Hardy rams the back of Edge's head into the cage and Edge falls from the top rope. Matt Hardy hits THE MUTHA OF ALL LEGDROPS FROM THE TOP OF THE STEEL CAGE ONTO EDGE! HOLY SHIT! HOW DID HE NOT BREAK EDGE'S FACE! WHAT A FINISH1 Incredibly violent match, it was all fists, all head shots, tons of steel cage, great escalation, great cutoffs, great use of Lita, Matt Hardy exacts his revenge on both of them, Edge is a bloody pulp, that Legdrop could have not looked better, it was safe but looked like a million bucks, he could have easily broken his face or his own ass. Love charges everything up and love supercharged this match to be one of the greatest steel cage brawls of all time. *****
  2. Superstar Sleeze

    All Elite Wrestling

    You know I haven’t gotten a chance to respond this line of thinking. I know Jordynne Grace and Jim Cornett got into this among others. Here’s the thing. Pro wrestling exists in our universe. It is presented in front of us. It is the original version of reality TV. Like if Rusev and Lana took pictures on vacation together during their divorce angle it would severely undercut their storyline. Pro wrestling is more like music. I’m inclined to keep kayfabe for best viewer experience. Taylor Swift has to be Taylor Swift at all times that means posting a billion pictures of cats and being lovey-dovey. The rappers have to be drinking their alcohol of choice and be at strip clubs. I mean we know now that Alice Cooper is a super nice guy but it is important back in the day that he was a creep. Music is presented in front of you live and so the gimmick exists beyond the stage in a way that TV/movies isn’t. I’m in favor of keeping kayfabe but we live in a different era but for some crucial storylines it is critical. I think the best way to keep kayfabe is be yourself and in turn the performance would be better.
  3. Superstar Sleeze

    [1991-07-26-PWFG-One For All and All For One] Naoki Sano vs Minoru Suzuki

    Naoki Sano vs Minoru Suzuki - PWFG 7/26/91 Because sometimes in life you need a break from rope running! Never seen this before, this rocked! If Pancrase doesnt happen and Minoru Suzuki ends up in New Japan in the Mid-90s, he would be a contender for Greatest Wrestler Ever. He was already superb in 1991. Suzuki vs Hase would be insanely good and of course Suzuki vs Hashimoto in the Dome would have been bonkers! I liked the story of this match a lot. The younger punk Suzuki comes out of the gate hot full of piss 'n' vinegar and is looking to prove his mettle against the veteran New Japan star Naoki Sano. Suzuki gets a crazy legbar takedown at the start and then catches Sano in a guillotine choke when Sano fails to muscle Suzuki around. Liked how this showed the younger Suzuki as flashier and more offensive-minded. The flip side to this is that it shows that Sano is the true experienced veteran because he counters all these holds and shows he is the better the wrestler. Sano does a get a tight rear naked choke in and Suzuki tries the usual counters such as crossing the ankles and pulling a toe hold and eventually Sano releases. Two things that were great throughout this match were the crossfaces and the Greco-Roman wrestling. We dont see much in the way of Greco-Roman wrestling in Pro Wrestling, but these two were body on body a lot and there were a lot of crazy double underhook takedowns. My favorite takedown even though I think it would be a Freestyle takedown is that Suzuki goes for a Greco-Roman takedown cant negotiate it, so he palm strikes Sano and then drops down and Fireman Carrys him. Excellent! Suzuki does seem to be winning the early portion of the match and even gets a piledriver, but I like how Sano worked right for the Boston Crab. I thought around the 20 minute mark it was clear they were working for the draw and not because they were exhausted, but because they were going for finishes that should have been finishes but instead they became rope breaks. It is was essentially the 2010s equivalent to too many nearfalls. Now I enjoy this style a lot more so I didnt mind it, but I need to call a spade, a spade and thats why it felt like the match ran out of steam. Some really good spots from the ending sequence was the fire fight that breaks out after the piledriver. Suzuki starts it, but boy does Sano finish it. He cracks Sano real good and the ref is left counting him down. It looks like Suzuki maybe bleeding from the nose. I think the next exchange Suzuki sells it by deadweighting on the throw. However, I think shortly after this, Suzuki just explodes with a second wind. He throws a MONSTER BELLY TO BELLY SUPLEX! He goes for a Cross-Armbreaker and then BEZERK trying to break the clasp of Sano. That was electric! I really liked that sequence. I really liked how Suzuki got an organic German Suplex. Sano definitely controlled the ending with a combination of palm strikes and chokes. Suzuki just starting going for broke with a missed dropkick but hits a flying spinning round kick. Nice! They end the draw in my least favorite spot of all time, the bundle of leg locks. Lame! I actually liked this more than the Shamrock match. The Shamrock match is a blur of catch wrestling virtuosity. As a casual grappling fan, it was hard to follow the narrative and get the beat of the match. You can just see these two are technical masters. Suzuki blends in more pro style and you can get the beat of the match. Suzuki is the young kid who wants to bring the fight to Sano and prove himself. Sano is letting the kid come at him and always has a counter. I thought the stand up here both in terms of the strikes and especially the grappling takedowns were phenomenal. Dont sleep on this match! ****1/2
  4. Superstar Sleeze

    [2004-04-17-PWG-The Musical] Samoa Joe vs American Dragon

    To be fair, my ROH resources are limited compared to other eras. No DVDVR polls, no Smarkschoice, no Yearbooks. I was relying on a VOW thread where I don’t think it got brought up. It has not been nominated for Greatest Match Ever. Chad was telling me about Cagematch ratings. Whenever I glanced at them I never felt like people a lot of thought into it I guess. What is ROHWorld? is that their network service? I probably should post a thread on here. I definitely don’t understand ROH canon as well as others. In reality it is probably cause canon was never really established in the new millennium like it was in the 20th century.
  5. Superstar Sleeze

    [2012-05-20-WWE-Over The Limit] CM Punk vs Daniel Bryan

    WWE Champion CM Punk vs Daniel Bryan - WWE Over The Limit 2012 It is still amazing that this happened in a WWE ring on a WWE PPV for the WWE Championship but here it is and they delivered the goods. This is the last major WWE match I had never seen at least once before and it lived up to the hype. The simplistic story to this match is that of dual limb psychology with CM Punk targeting the leg of D-Bry and Bryan working over Punk's midsection. However, there is a lot more meat on the bone than just a story of dual limb psychology. The match is decidedly lo-fi and rooted in the fundamentals. This is not simply a Greatest Hits Collection of two of the best Indy wrestlers. Punk never even hits a Go 2 Sleep. There are not a zillion nearfalls. There are no overwrought sequences. It is a wrestling match. Just men playing the human game of chess. In addition, the psychology of their characters play a role into the match. I loved Daniel Bryan's character at this time. He was a size too small, but the chip on his shoulder was three sizes too big if ya catch my drift. He had a great Napoleon complex that would cause him to whip himself into a frenzy and we would see that rage in this match. As Michael Cole likes to say that pugnacious pitbull, he would become enraged at losing control of the match and suffocate Punk with a barrage of knees to the midsection. On the other hand, Punk is a cool customer, nonchalant smartass. He enjoys saying he has a count of 5 and has a huge shit-eating grin on his face after this. However, he is also the babyface and he is the one delivering the fiery comebacks. I loved the grit he shows in the match. He comes off like a DIY Punk in all his matches because how raw his performance is, but in this match he keeps it even simpler which is great. The best part of the whole match may have been Bryan is going to stretch Punk out and Punk fights it off by grabbing his own kneepad to avoid it being cinched in. What a spot! The match begins with Punk targeting the leg of Bryan by attacking it in the corner. He eventually makes strong in-roads into injuring the leg. There's a nice part where Bryan does his customary flip in the corner, but he can explode into his all-out assault because he clutches the knee and so Punk is able to tease Go 2 Sleep and when Bryan evades kick him in the knee. Working Bryan's leg is like working KENTA's leg, it is a risky proposition, but here Bryan is mostly on his best behavior. You could claim this is heel in peril as opposed to a shine which it is, however it fits the story of the match. Bryan is being shown up in his own style and this will be cause to piss him off. In addition, Punk is the champion so he needs to establish why he is the champion and why he is the better wrestler. The highlights of the first segment is Punk's wicked curb stomp and then Kneecrusher and dumping him over the top rope. The second segment begins when Punk tries to follow Bryan outside but not with his trademark suicide dive but rather with a baseball slide because Bryan had moved to the apron. Bryan duck and hid. He tackles Punk and drives him ribs first into the barricade. He then hands him out to dry gut first on the ribs establishing the abdomen as his target. Bryan hit a missile dropkick and again the knee keeps him from pressing his advantage and so he settles for a sitting abdominal stretch which will hurt Punk and allow him time to recuperate. This is when Punk grabs his kneepad to stop the stretch from taking place, but Bryan breaks his grip. I like Punk going for the figure-4 when he gets out. Bryan fights him off twice. Then Bryan toe kicks him in the gut to re-consolidate the advantage, kneelift, swift kick to the back, all great. Mexican Surfboard! Perfect! Dragon Clutch, Punk breaks his grip and goes to town with elbows. Punk is relentless and he gets on top and gets a cover for no count. I loved that exchange. It was so gritty and so smart to go for cover on that. Punk gets a Fisherman Suplex at one point and then stomps the knee. Bryan kicks the abs again and gets a suplex. The first big highspot of the match goes to D-Bry with a top rope diving headbutt for two. They then hit a double crossbody which levels the playing field. Minor quibble is the double crossbody probably should have hurt Punk more but Punk is the one who comes out firing on all cylinders and hits his usual comeback sequence with the neckbreaker, powerslam and suicide dive. What I like about this is Bryan makes him earn the powerslam and Suicide Dive. He is still fighting back and Punk has to fight through Bryan's offense. One of the best spots of the match is Bryan hitting a dropkick to the injured ribs when Punk is sailing through the air on a Springboard Clothesline. Bryan is pissed. He goes for his Yes! Kicks! but they dont have the same zip on them so Punk counters into a Dragon Leg Screw->Figure-4! OH SHIT! That's awesome! This is when Punk says I have until 5. Punk goes for a kneecrusher but Bryan wriggle free into a Sunset Flip. Punk becomes inspired and drop toeholds into a La Magistral Cradle. He tries again, Bryan has it scouted BANG! WICKED KICK TO THE HEAD! Punk deadweight sells but kicks out at 2! Now thats a damn great pro wrestling exchange. Bryan exposes the injured knee and buries it repeatedly into Punk's midsection. Ok, thats the best spot of the match! What a great Fuck You! You think you hurt me? Well here's my injured body part and I am going to use it to further fuck you up. Holy shit! Thats great! Bryan goes for a superplex, but Punk desperately knocks him off and Bryan takes a bad spill crotching himself on the top rope, recovers and Punk nails a Springboard Clothesline for two. That was Punk's first big nearfall. This resets things again for the final hurrah. They fight on their knees work up to base each missing wild kicks to the head. They tease Go 2 Sleep and YESLock. Punk nails a huge kick to the head and this is his second big nearfall. He goes up to the top rope for the Macho Man Elbow with bad ribs and his face says it all. "This is gonna hurt" and boy it does as he is left writhing in pain not able to capitalize. Instead Bryan goes into frenzy with a barrage of knees to the midsection and Bryan looks triumphant. The ref rips him off. Bryan is YES! He does the Psychosis dropkick ass-bump into the corner. Punk nails the big step-up knee. Bryan puts on the brakes and wrestles him into the YESLock. Punk rolls him on his back to get the pinfall but as the ref counts three, Punk is tapping. Ooooooooooooooo DRAMA! Again, I dont like the step-up knee leading to someone else's offense. I just got knee'd in the head should not be leading to F-Us and YESLocks. If you wanna shove Punk off and take a moment for you to both sell thats fine, but the Knee to the Head should not be the Macho Man Reviving Elbow of the 2010s. Besides a few minor selling quibbles like above, this match is tremendous. It is a match wrestled organically and they take what is given them. They are not shoehorning their stock highspots into the match. They incorporating them based on how the match presents them. Great counterwrestling throughout, they wove the injured bodyparts from beginning to end and a great sense of struggle and urgency. This is an all-timer! ****3/4
  6. Superstar Sleeze

    [2013-02-25-WWE-Raw] John Cena vs CM Punk

    John Cena vs CM Punk - RAW 2/25/13 Cena comes into this match 0-2-1 against Punk in match since Money In The Bank '11 and I dont think there was anyone Cena had a losing record against since 2005. This is the very reason Cena is putting up his No. 1 Contendership (Royal Rumble Victory) against Punk. If he can't beat Punk, he doesnt deserve to go against The Rock at Mania. The year 2013 was all about Cena exorcising his demons. The two biggest bugbears were The Rock and CM Punk. Cena has to prove himself against Punk (who was not in the Rumble, he was busy losing the title to The Rock) and prove he can beat so he can head into Mania with a clear conscience. I loved this match in 2013 and remember thinking it was one of the best matches of the year. The match totally holds up and it is the best of their series. They take all the best elements of their previous matches and add on a badass finish. They have the great opening of the Summerslam 2011 match, the excellent counterwrestling of the 2012 match, a great story like the Money In The Bank Match and by adding a really great finish they top them all. Yes the story is different than Money In The Bank, but it is a great sports story. Punk has Cena's number and Cena needs to get the monkey off his back. They really built great chemistry together and it shows in how much tighter the opening of their match is. I love Cena stepping on Punk's calf into order to break out of the headlock, one of my favorite escapes. Cena's wristlock looks great. Cena's hiptoss comes off like a big deal and it is little victories like that that are treated huge in this match. Punk is full heel in this match suffocating Cena at every turn and this creates a hole for Cena to dig himself out of, which is where Cena thrives. What truly makes this match great and memorable is how Cena wrestles this match like Misawa with this amazing extended comeback. It was almost like Cena had to unlock every part of his comeback. There is so much I remember from this match which is impressive for a match that is almost 7 years old and I have not watched since I watched it live in Feburary 2013. The spot I remember the most is Cena missing that first shouldertackle and going flying out of the ring. When I saw it, I popped all over again because I knew what was coming and that was the excellent extended comeback. Punk dove out on Cena and wiped him out. The rest of the match is just balls to the wall and it is paced so beautifully. What killed the Night of Champions match was the pacing and the over-escalation early, here they did not run out of things to do. Cena would go every step of the way first getting the Shoulder tackles off a hiptoss out of an abdominal stretch. The Protobomb got countered into an Anaconda Vice, but Cena flipped that into a cover to force the break. An underrated aspect of this match is that Cena is just as good at countering. Punk gets his neckbreaker and signals Go 2 Sleep, but Cena teases STF however Punk makes the ropes. From there, he hits his springboard clothesline only for two. The second one Cena turns into an STF. The submission trade here was actually really good. They actually struggled in and out. In WWE, they are usually terrible about that. Cena ducks a big kick to the head to get the Protobomb showing that Cena can evade just as well as Punk. However, he does You Cant See Me gesture only for Punk to kick him in the head. The next spot shows Cena's grit and his never give up attitude. He eats a knee to the head and on the customary bulldog that follows Cena struggles and stops Punk's momentum and wrestles it into a Protobomb and then a Five Knuckle Shuffle. It should be noted that Punk did not get a lot of his spots in. He never gets the Bulldog. Cena opts for the Powerbomb because Punk has the FU scouted, great spot. They do a great job making Cena earn his top rope leg drop to the back of the head. Punk hits a desperation big kick to the head and then the big knee. This is my one quibble in the whole match which is otherwise perfect, Cena hits a Flash F-U for two! After two big head-rocking blows, I dont like hitting a flash F-U. The finish is amazing. Punk powders after kicking out. Cena wants to win fair & sqaure. Punk sends him into the post and leaves him for dead. Punk is ok with a countout win. This is great. Cena makes it back at 9. Now we get the Go 2 Sleep! 1-2-NO! HUGE! Unlike the Night of Champions, where they let things peter out and Punk dawdles, Punk immediately goes back to the well which is the wise thing to do. Cena counters into the STF and this is the big STF nearfall before Punk could still struggle now Punk is so spent he can only go for the ropes. Punk throws a wild kick to the knee and then HITS A PILEDRIVER~! This is definitely one of the famous spots of the match and it is totally what the match needed. This is way better than the errant moonsault from Night of Champions. The Piledriver felt so big! Huge nearfall. I love how they saved the Macho Man Elbow for here as it gave Punk one last thing. He misses it. Missed moves are huge and this is the key. Punk was in control and here it is Cena that evades. Cena uses a Hurricanarana perfectly, it discombobulated Punk and he would never expect it and after that discombobulation this allows him to hit the F-U to win! Had he gone for the F-U first theres a chance Punk could have scouted it but the Hurricanarana allowed Cena to mask it. Genius! This match is the epitome of what I like in my pro wrestling really logical progression that is rooted in the fundamentals of the two wrestlers and their story. Absolutely fantastic and one of the greatest matches of all time. *****
  7. WWE World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton vs Batista vs Daniel Bryan Wrestlemania XXX It is amazing how much of an emotional impact this match still has. It has not been deadened one iota by the disappointing aftermath. In fact, I think it resonates only more strongly because it reminds that no matter what the future holds, he will always have this. We will always have this to remember the night that an impossible dream came true and to put a smile on our faces. Thank all that is holy, that Batista vs Orton was not the main event of this show. I actually like Orton just find as an in-ring heel. I think his work usually looks good, he knows when to bring a match up and down and everything feels like it has a sense of purpose. I can leave Batista at the door. We saw snippets of the Bastista/Orton singles match it was just so bland. They were just going through the motions. I loved how Daniel Bryan would come flying into our screens from outta nowhere. First, it was the missile dropkick to both of them and then flying headbutt. It was the perfect way to reintroduce Bryan whenever he was off selling his arm injury for extended periods of time. The match really picked up when HHH & Steph brought out Scott Armstrong to put the screws to Bryan. It is funny how all the shitty booking up until this match actually made all these nearfalls credible. It is strange how shitty booking actually enhanced the drama of this match. Would they really be that stupid? The answer is yes they really could be that stupid. I just love how invested this crowd is in the Daniel Bryan story. It is not about MOVEZ~! It is not about Daniel Bryan winning clean. Fuck, we will take a goddamn fluke rollup just give him the damn title. I loved it! Bryan cleaning house on the Authority only to get double teamed by Batista/Orton was a great last ditch attempt to make people believe that Bryan maybe not be winning after he got RKO/Powerbombed through an announce table and was put on a stretcher. Damn, does Orton have the worst luck with gimmicks or what? That looked gnarly as fuck landing on the monitor like that. I really thought Orton was good in this match in being violent. I think they could have milked the Bryan on the stretcher for even longer to really freak people the fuck out. Instead they get everybody pretty good with Batista wiping out Bryan by accident and Orton hitting the RKO on Batista for a close nearfall. I think that was the loudest collective sigh of relief of all time. True to form, Bryan come flying into our camera to hit the Exploding Knee, but Batista looks to steal his glory. Ooooooooo another good one. Orton get taken out by a Batista Bomb and Exploding Knee. to Batista! YESLOCK~! The rest is glorious history! The purely joyous response of the crowd is so overwhelming and still moves me to this day. . Also, I love how it started the tradition of one wacky Attitude Era-overbooked clusterfuck per PPV, which is just good popcorn fun that is easily differential from the normally sterile product. This match is the cure to any malady or bad day ****
  8. Superstar Sleeze

    [2014-01-26-WWE-Royal Rumble] Daniel Bryan vs Bray Wyatt

    Daniel Bryan vs Bray Wyatt - Royal Rumble 2014 Who is this Bray Wyatt and where the hell has he been? He was the King of the Explosive Cutoff in this match. He reminds me of Dr. Death in his ability to combine size with acceleration. You will see that in snippets in other matches, but it was in full effect here. In a lot of Wyatts matches, he does not have an opponent with as deep an offensive arsenal as Bryan so when he cuts off his opponent it is after each move, which makes it feel like he is trading moves and it becomes an exhibition. Bryan's depth affords the ability to have Bryan have longer spurts before a cutoff and Bryan's natural ability to exhibit a sense of overcoming the odds engages the viewer more. One of the best things about Daniel Bryan is the overwhelming crowd support he gets and that was evident early as the crowd was very hot for this. There were periods where they dipped out, but they were staunchly behind young Daniel Bryan throughout. We get that first taste of how Bray Wyatt will use Bryan's momentum against him with an explosive elbow cutoff, but Bryan keeps coming and takes Harper out with a suicide dive. The ref sends the Wyatt Family packing. Bryan hitting two badass cross bodies was just a great rabble rousing moment. Bryan gets on top and Wyatt chops him off the top rope. Bryan takes a nasty fall. I would have liked that to have been a transition instead Wyatt goes head over heels on the steps. Bryan doing leg work is something I like because it gives his offense direction. I know unless it is a Rusev match that most likely the leg work would not be a factor and that does not annoy me as much as Daniel Bryan no selling head injuries later on. Bray Wyatt gets an snap arm wrench onto the apron and then blasts Bryan's head with elbows as he is up against the post. I like my heels, violent and sadistic. Wyatt's back senton is awesome. I really liked the spot where Wyatt snapped Bryan into the middle rope. I had just seen that for the first time in Styles/Tanahashi and thought it was cool as all hell maybe they got it from here. The Wyatt chinlocks did seem to sap some energy from the crowd, but overall I think his attack on the head of Daniel Bryan was really spot on. I was disappointed a little bit that this did not seem to impact how Daniel Bryan would overcome the odds. I really think Bryan adjusting his game plan for a serious head injury would have made this a bonafide match of the year contender. Don't get me wrong, the finish stretch was very exciting, but felt like a departure from the rest of the match. The match becomes about Bryan gaining more and more offense. First it is some elbows off a missed Wyatt elbow, but that is cutoff by a sweeeeeeet cross body block.Then Bryan fights through nailing a tornado DDT off the apron and a missile dropkick. He is feeling it and goes into frantic running dropkicks, but on the third one Wyatt nearly decapitates him with a lariat. Wyatt is the heir of Stan Hansen. His swinging lariat is a thing of beauty. Wyatt going for Sister Abigail, but Bryan getting a roll-up nearfall is so WWE. Bryan goes for the Yes-Lock, but Wyatts bites him. At this point, I am just going to say it, Wyatt is the better wrestler in this match. He is just on point in every way as a heel, whereas Bryan is being arbitrary and capricious about his move selection. Then in a moment that actually shocked me and blew me away Wyatt caught Bryan on a suicide dive attempt and delivered Sister Abigail. He hit one more time in the ring to win the match. Great definitive finish, but also shows that at the time of the Rumble they really did think of Bryan as a B+ player as he had no protection in that loss. Wyatt looked better here than he has in his whole career. Great heel work mixed with excellent timing made for one helluva performance. Still I thought this lacked an interesting match hook. They could have gone body part with Wyatt's leg, or Bryan's head, but WWE does not care for that. Then it could have been can Bryan overcome the monster, Wyatt, but instead we were getting weak transitions like a roll-up or Bryan just starting up offense. The match was exciting, had some great spots and a great individual Bray Wyatt performance, but it was missing that overarching storyline to make it a match of the year contender. ****
  9. IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs Tetsuya Naito - G-1 Climax 2014 Day 2 The champion comes in with a loss and looks to get things back on track against Naito, who seemed poised on the cusp of breaking out earlier in the night. In fact at the 2014 Dome Show, he was the challenger for Okada's IWGP Championship, but the fans selected the Tanahashi/Nakamura I-C match as the main event, which showed that in the fans' eyes Naito just was not quite there yet. From what I read, his career was on the verge of collapse until a series with the hard-hitting Ishii over the NEVER title resuscitated his career. I have seen about one or two Naito matches, but don't remember much. I will definitely remember this match as Styles and Naito put on a very dramatic, intense match on the second day of the 2014 G-1 Climax. AJ continues the chattiness of the Okada match and I am already hooked. Tie up in the ropes "Get him off me! Do your job!" You tell em, AJ! They go tit for tat early trading headlocks and Naito even hitting a Styles-like dropkick. AJ will not be shown up and unleashes a Jim Brunzell-beastly dropkick that reopens Naito's wound on the top of his head. AJ is just all over that wound. He pretty much does everything you want him to do short of gnawing on it. He elbows, knees, and claws at it. This is AJ at his most violent. I always thought he was good at taking the lickin' and keep on tickin' in the violent matches, but I loved seeing him dish it out here! Naito looks to create some offense, but on the apron AJ trips him and takes a header right onto the apron. Damn! Great cutoff! DId not milk it. Rather they milked a double clothesline for a teased double countout. That would not have been my choice. Just when you think Naito was going to take over with a superplex AJ drops through his legs and hotshots him head first into the turnbuckle. If they just had a little more time and had Naito really sell these cutoffs, this would be a strong MOTYC. AJ runs through his usual high impact spots: pele, brainbuster to set up the Styles Clash. Naito fights out of the Styles Clash and looks for a Super Frankensteiner. BLOCK! He has him in the Styles Clash, but he fights out. Naito dropkicks him as he comes off the top. German suplex by Naito and he fights through AJ's strike combination. Star Dust Press wins it! Can't believe I am going to say this, but I wanted this match to be longer. I know, I know I kept bitching and moaning about loooooooooooooooong NOAH matches, but if they had more time to flesh this out. This would have been awesome. Styles was violent and Naito was a great scrappy underdog. Let some of those cutoffs breathe and let Naito build towards a satisfying finish (a bit out of nowhere). This is match of the year. As it stands, it is very damn great ****1/4
  10. IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs Kazuchika Okada - G-1 Climax Day 1 2014 I was super pumped to get started on some AJ Styles in New Japan and what better place to start then where he really opened people's eyes in the G-1 Climax. Coming into this match. AJ Styles was riding a two match win streak over Okada having defeated him for the title in early May. I have seen about three Okada matches in my life, two were back in 2012 when he broke out and then one a couple months ago when he was a young boy. I don't have a real feel for him. This match while great did not really lend me anymore insight than I had previously. He seems like he is an all-around capable wrestler who knows how to carry himself, which is critical. Okada's entrance is really cool with the robes and chains. American wrestling needs a colorful figure like that. He is definitely someone I will be exploring in the near future as I plan to catch up on New Japan. For someone (*cough*Meltzer*cough*) to say this is Styles' best match or best performance is pretty disrespectful to AJ, in my opinion. I have seen a lot of AJ and he has had plenty of matches that are a total level above this match. I am not trying to slight the match. The match was a great match, but it was opening day of the tournament match. It is going to whet your appetite not satisfy it. Plus with AJ's title not on the line and AJ being up 2-0 in his personal series against, Okada you knew it was time for Okada to get his win back so the same level of drama was not there. To make a comparison to American wrestling, I would say this would be a candidate for the Best RAW match of the year, that's level it was at. AJ yapping it up during the match was awesome. It is a new part of his arsenal (unless something changed late in his TNA run) and I loved it. He was trash talking Okada asking him if that's all he got when he was in a straitjacket surfboard or after he took control, mocking the Okada chants. The verbal beatdown added a lot to the heel heat section. The opening part of the match was well-worked armwrenches before they tease hitting their finishers. From there, Okada takes over with a big back body drop on Styles. Styles lunges at Okada with two fists to the throat. I love that as a heel transition. Like I said Styles heat segment was definitely taken up a notch by his trash talk. Styles brings back the jump over the railing on an Irish Whip. Okada follows up with a cross body. They tease the double countdown. Not much has changed since 2009, I see. Okada puts AJ in a wicked STF (Take notes, Cena) and Styles is very vocal about how much it hurts. AJ uses the suplex into the turnbuckles as a desperation transition as we have seen before. I like that spot utilized for that purpose. He follows up with a torture rack into a powerbomb, damn that was nice. AJ is thinking it is time to end this. First he crashes and burns on the springboard 450. Then he goes for the Styles Clash, but nothing doing. The ref gets bumped (oooooooo that's different from the 2000s). Okada hits a sweet top rope elbow drop, but there's no ref! Here comes Yuijro of the Bullet Club, but he gets taken out with a dropkick to the head. Okada goes for the Rainmaker, but reversed into a German and Pele. The Pele kick is the usual set up for the Styles Clash, but Okada reverses the Clash into a TOMBSTONE! RAINMAKER~! After succumbing to the Styles Clash twice, Okada had a counter this time with the Tombstone leading to his Rainmaker finish. The early part of the match was carried by AJ with his trash talk. The last part was very solid escalation. AJ took over with the suplex into the corner and began working towards putting Okada away. At each turn, he was just too premature and could not make the most of Yujiro's help. Okada had an answer for pretty much anything Styles threw at him and conquered him with the Rainmaker. It never reached that next level, but it built to a very satisfying conclusion. Can my boy, AJ, pick up the pieces and gain some momentum in night 2 against the up and coming Naito? ****
  11. IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs Hiroshi Tanahashi G-1 Climax 2014 Consolation Prize The biggest star of the company facing the champion for the very first time in the 3rd place match of the G-1 Climax may seem like bad booking, but I think it is really, really good. AJ showed up and won the IWGP Champion and I believe some of that credit is shared among the Bullet Club. Thus AJ has never faced most of these guys. Sure, he is the champion and an experienced vet, but he is inexperienced against this competition. So it only makes sense he slipped up early against Naito. As we know from real sports, it is hard to beat the same twice or three times in the same season so it was bound that Okada would get his win back. He tied with Okada in the block, but Okada had the head to head tiebreaker. It also shows the clear divide between the top four stars (Tanahashi, Okada, Nakamura, and Styles) and everyone else. There is a parity among those four, but they are in a level unto themselves. Now onto the match, which I think was laid out very well for what it was. People have said it was a bit off, clunky, awkward. I disagree with those negative words. Instead, I think they were showing this was their first match against each other and thus they were feeling each other out throughout the match. Their basic strategies were similar put myself in a position to hit my finish. It was a great first match in the series because they never give away too much, but they are both looking to win. The start was very even, which really helps Styles' credibility, who looks like a real New Japan star after the G-1 Climax. One weird element was that Tanahashi did a spot that is usually done to heels. The one where you lay out on the top turnbuckle get kicked and then land crotch-first onto the top rope and the babyface shakes it. It was just weird to see the reverse happen. Knowing 2007 Tanahashi as well I do, he must have been drooling to reverse a quebrada into a dragon sleeper and lo and behold he did! Tanahashi cuts off an AJ springboard by tripping him up and that was a nasty fall. My favorite AJ spot ensues, he jumps over the railing, thinks he is so smart and then eats a cross body. Never gets old! In the long standing debate of does Tanahashi's offense looks like it hurts? I think his elbows do, but yes his body punches are Kofi Kingston-light in this match. Styles obliterates Tanahashi with a spinwheel kick, but Tanahashi grabs a Sling Blade. When Tanahashi pulls down on the head like here, it is a great looking move. The struggle over the Dragon Suplex into a Human Capture Suplex was the best part of this match. AJ really put over how much he does NOT want to go over in this suplex, but his damn arms are trapped, which makes lifting his shoulder very difficult. Tanahashi hitting a Dragon Suplex out of Styles' strike combination was so awesome! AJ has cut off the High Fly Flow twice and the Styles Clash has been cut off once. Tanahashi struggles again on the Styles Clash so AJ hits a GANSO BOMB~! A word on that later. Styles goes for his own High Fly Flow, but eats knees and then Tanahashi hurries to hit his own, but the same fate awaits him. Styles goes for the Styles Clash for a third tim, but Tanahashi is able to get a reverse victory roll to win the match. Bullet Club attacks, Double J feigns the save and smashes a guitar over Tanahashi's head to join the Bullet Club. As a first match this is perfectly fine. They both had each other well-scouted and Tanahashi was finally able to turn a counter into victory, but it was not definitive. It earns him a title shot, no doubt, but it leaves intrigue open for the winner. Overall, it was just a lot of each wrestler's highspots used against each other without much creativity, It lends itself to that storyline that they were both tentative and working with what brought them to the dance rather than responding organically. Lastly, I wish the Ganso Bomb (it is a safer version than Kawada used as opponent's head does not hit the match) was used more like the Burning Hammer or Emerald Flowsion as AJ Styles' super duper finisher rather than the move that Tanahashi gets up and runs around from 30 seconds later. It is a cool match up and entertaining throughout. I think they set the championship rematch up well. ***1/2
  12. Superstar Sleeze

    [2014-08-01-NJPW-G-1 Cimax] Minoru Suzuki vs A.J. Styles

    IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs Minoru Suzuki - G-1 Climax Day 7 Minoru Suzuki is pissed. He is pissed that some arrogant, punk outsider just waltzed in here and is now the champion. This is not time to stick out tongue and play mind games. That shit is reserved for those who earned it. He is here to teach a lesson in respect. Minoru Suzuki walking tall is the best thing ever! I would say this is probably the greatest heel vs heel match ever, but I would hear the argument that Suzuki is just a babyface using violent heel tactics to kick some ass. AJ Styles proves he is here to stay. He can take a lickin' and keep in tickin'. He is going to earn his stripes. Even if that means losing the use of his right arm, he is going to earn the respect of Suzuki and the New Japan crowd. It is amazing that the two biggest heels in New Japan basically play babyfaces in this match because they believe in what they are doing. Minoru Suzuki is going to send this Johnny Come Lately a message and AJ Styles is here to make a statement he won't back down. It just depends on your own sensibilities who your root for and on this night the crowd was 100% behind Minoru Suzuki. Minoru Suzuki slaps the taste out of AJ's mouth early, but AJ scores a dropkick to retaliate. AJ uses his jump over the railing offensively by hitting a springboard forearm from the railing. I love Suzuki's angry selling. He is pissed that he is getting his ass kicked by Styles right now and there is nothing he can do. There is just a real sense of struggle to everything. Suzuki sees his opening and pounces. He trips up AJ on a springboard move and applies a hanging armbar and then kicks ever loving shit out of that arm. Suzuki is out to rip that arm off and beat him with it. I love him whipping AJ into the railing and then trying to pry the arm off while this Japanese girl just screams the entire in the background. AJ's verbal selling was so good in this. His yelps of agony really took this to another visceral level. AJ is able to roll through a couple arm drags to snap off a suplex into the turnbuckles to stop the bleeding. At this point one of Suzuki-Gun jumps AJ and here comes the Bullet Club. I like the heel gang vs heel gang warfare in the middle. AJ is so committed to selling his right arm, he hits all his strikes with his left hand and they look damn good! I love how quick and explosive this strike exchange was. There was no waiting out, goading people to hit each other. They just both desperately wanted to knock the other out and they ended up knocking each other out. Then the match goes from excellent to instant classic in one simple moment. AJ does the Bullet Club Gun signal and puts it to Minoru Suzuki's head. Suzuki did not like that. Not one bit and AJ you aren't going to like Minoru Suzuki when he is angry. Minoru Suzuki grabs that finger and tries to wrench it off of AJ's hand, who is screaming in pain. The ref is even trying to tell Suzuki to watch the fingers. Styles tries to come back with springboard forearm, but that is caught into an armbar and Suzuki is going to snap that finger off. AJ is trying to everything and Suzuki just has an answer for everything. It feels almost hopeless for AJ. Suzuki goes for the piledriver, but AJ blocks. AJ knows it is Styles Clash or bust. Suzuki counters into a heel hook and Suzuki sniffs out AJ's second counter and grabs a cross armbreaker. AJ is dead to rights. Oh shit! Oh Shit! OH SHIT! STYLES CLASH OUT OF THE CROSS-ARMBREAKER!!! The kid may just got it. Suzuki spits at him. You feel like they are about to enter into Mortal Kombat. AJ is totally relying on left handed slaps as his right arm is fucked. Suzuki punches him in the face and thinks he has him. PELE~! Suzuki is knocked loopy. Go AJ GO! AJ wastes no time, he fights through the pain, hoists Suzuki up and STYLES CLASH! AJ wins! AJ did not just win a G1 Climax match. He won the respect of the New Japan fans worldwide with that performance. Both wrestlers were wrestling on a out of this world level. Styles felt overwhelmed. His arm was toast and he could not get anything going. Suzuki was just ripshit the entire match and had every intention of beating AJ into submission. Then just like that a desperation Styles Clash while in a cross-armbreaker and AJ salvages his match. The selling from AJ was off the charts. His desperation in trying to survive was something most of wrestlers could never convey. The true anger of Minoru Suzuki is something you also do not see. This was not hatred. It was anger. It was amazing. Every move felt huge, consequential and urgent. It is a coin flip between Shield/Wyatts Elimination Chamber in this. It does not really matter because at the end of the day, wrestling fans win! ****3/4
  13. HOG Heavyweight Champion Ricochet vs AJ Styles - HOG 12/19/14 Wow, an actually pretty decent indy commentary team! I thought they did a fabulous job putting over Ricochet while still mentioning his weaknesses. They stressed how important the championship is and that the goal of the match is to win, not to entertain. Really I think that is basic stuff, but so many commentators totally whiff on that. What really impressed me was their discussion of the Styles Clash. This was after Styles broke Yoshi Tatsu's neck. The commentators explained how critical the Styles Clash has been to his career and agreed he should use it, but were worried about the danger. It really increased the drama around the match and the Styles Clash. Ricochet had quite the 2014 and seems like he is poised to breakout this year in a big way. He won NJPW Best of the Super Juniors and Battle of Los Angeles tournaments. He was the inaugural Lucha Underground champion, a key mainstay in Dragon Gate (decorated titleholder), and of course House of Glory champion. I was excited to take a look at Ricochet. I came away thinking he felt really Dragon Gate-y. He is good at incorporating extra flips into his offense and likes modified slams. He is not very good at strikes and is sort of all over the place as a wrestler. AJ did not seem to intent on reigning him in until the end of the match. This was a pretty tame spotfest. The first portion of the match was the best with some good mat wrestling until the finish. Ricochet would gain the advantage do some gloating and AJ would retreat to the corner. Ricochet is established as a grandstanding hot dog that may let his attitude get in his way of winning. AJ shows his veteran experience. Ricochet calls his shot, a People's Moonsault and AJ rearranges his face with a kick. The next five minutes were pretty spotty. AJ's offense looked crisp at least. There was an AJ legsweep and Ricochet started to sell the knee. I was hoping they could salvage something then Ricochet did two backflips and a Pele kick. But wait! Ricichet's knee is really starting to bother him and he struggles to hit a Shooting Star Press. and crashes and burns. Styles drags him over and figure-4 around the post. AJ looks to hit the Styles Clash, but Ricochet flips out. AJ wraps up the leg and CALF-KILLER! Ricochet makes the ropes. AJ is tenacious with a spinning toehold into a wicked STF. Bell rings, but it due to the time limit expires. He agree to five more minutes, but then the Bruiser Brody Midget attacked the both of them. The beginning and the ending were pretty entertaining, but the body of the match was them just throwing shit out. AJ's offense especially elbows looked great. I really how he is into Styles Clash teases. They could have salvaged a good match with an appropriate ending to the knee work. It must be tough to book AJ because he is not going to job, but you want your top star to look good. It is kind of like the old NWA travelling champion philosophy. I think tag team main events that set up singles matches would be better. It is fine, but nothing that great.
  14. Superstar Sleeze

    [2014-08-22-ROH-Death Before Dishonor XII] A.J. Styles vs Kyle O'Reilly

    IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs ROH World Tag Team Champion Kyle O' Reilly w/Bobby Fish - ROH 8/22/14 Everybody talks about the Hero ROH match from earlier in the year, but damn this is not that far behind it. AJ has been on point in ROH in terms of his selling and his timing his timing. Whether it was acting concussed or glassy eye for Hero's headshots or selling his arm so well for O'Reilly that ROH crowd was clamoring for the AJ comeback. I would say the biggest difference between this AJ and the AJ I knew was that he is definitely laying his strikes in a lot harder. I always thought Styles had one of the better working punches in TNA and is generally underrated in his striking. But here against O'Reilly, during the finish stretch, I was surprised how nasty his clolthesline and elbows looked. O'Reilly has a pretty bland look, but is a fun wrestler. When I went to ROH last year, reDragon (Fish & O'Reilly) had a really fun spotfest with the Young Bucks. O'Reilly wrestled this match much more straightfoward highlighting some "MMA" influences (read: he used kicks and a cross-armbreaker). I really liked O'Reilly focus on the arm and thought he came up with some innovative, but logical spots to attack the arm (hammerlock into a legsweep). The announcers let us know before the match begins that AJ is coming in with a weak left arm from the G-1 Climax tournament. O'Reilly read the scouting report and goes after the arm early so AJ dumps him to the outside with a bodyslam. It was a great response by AJ to immediately get O'Reilly off him. Fish becomes a distraction and O'Reilly becomes a pitbull on that arm. The way he was wrenching it, you thought he was going to take it home with him. AJ is so great at slowly escalating his selling. AJ gets a quick counter and wants to get this match over with quick and goes for the Styles Clash, but his arm is messed up. He bursts out of the corner with a double fist to maintain control. Styles is able to continue hit other moves like the Skywalker Knee while his arm heals. Then on the outside, Fish distracts him again and O'Reilly whips him down on the bad arm. That's twice now Fish has been able to set up O'Reilly. Now AJ is really starting to milk his arm for sympathy as O'Reilly unloads on it with kicks and wrenches it with holds. Styles is scrappy, but O'Reilly always goes back to the arm. I love that when O'Reilly goes for any overly complicated suplex, AJ reverses it and suplexes him into the corner. AJ is so great on fighting through the pain on this comeback and displaying how he can't capitalize due to his injured arm. He keeps going for his big bomb, the Styles Clash, but this leaves him open for counters like cross-armbreakers and triangle chokes. The teased Styles Clashes really build to a cool climax. When Styles looks like he is done for in a triangle choke and AJ basically hits a one-armed Styles Clash in a desperation move. It was such a badass spot and they really milk with the ref counting both men down and the fans chanting "AJ Styles". Damn, well done. They go into a strike exchange, which as far as strike exchanges go was not that bad and liked the finish being the Pele kick. Crowd was really behind AJ and the crowd interaction made this more tolerable than most strike exchanges. Styles strikes especially the discus clothesline looked great. O'Reilly with great struggle on Styles Clash so what does Styles do he just drops him on his head GANSO BOMB~! That was sick. It should have been the finish, but Styles drives it home with the Style Clash. It is the Styles Clash against the submissions of O'Reilly. O'Reilly has made it so the Styles Clash is damn near impossible to hit and set himself up for a submission victory. I love AJ's responses. He is injured and needs to get this match over with quickly. At every opportunity, he is going for his big bomb, arm be damned. With each tease of the Styles Clash, the tension mounts. O'Reilly looks like he is prime position when out of desperation hits the Styles Clash out of a triangle choke. O'Reilly was great at struggling through everything and really making AJ earn his comeback. It would have been easy for him to let the veteran, AJ overwhelm, but even after the match started to tip in AJ's favor he was still struggling up until the AJ's ganso bomb. I thought AJ's experience really came through here in how he sold and built his comeback. It went from a split crowd to a crowd that was 100% AJ by the end. Great, great work by AJ. ****1/4
  15. Superstar Sleeze

    [2014-03-22-ROH-Flyin' High] Chris Hero vs A.J. Styles

    AJ Styles vs Chris Hero - ROH 3/22/14 Hero try as he might just could not kick AJ's head off his shoulders in this indy dream match, which has never happened in ROH during the Indy Golden years. AJ was not yet IWGP Heavyweight champion. They were touting the reason both men were back in ROH to win the one championship that has eluded them, the ROH World Heavyweight Championship. Chris Hero is the hometown hero in Dayton and I really liked the "Chris Is Awesome" chant. Unlike any other Indy match, this really had a big fight feel. When only a handful of WWE matches could even say they generated that same feeling that a feather in the cap of their reputations and on how they worked this match. It really felt like a Clash of the Titans with Hero trying to take AJ's head off and AJ trying to survive long enough to hit one big bomb to escape the jaws of defeat. Coming out the nice chaining sequence, Hero gets his first big boot as he swats AJ out of the sky on a leapfrog attempt. AJ says two can play at the disturbing the typical running the rope sequences and gets up a bit early on his dropdown, which fucks Hero enough to hit a dropkick to send him out. They do a great job teasing dives on each other with Hero paying tribute Misawa's head and shoulder fake. AJ wins with a springboard forearm to the outside. Hero cuts AJ off with another big boot as he comes out of the air. Chris Hero is anti-aircraft artillery. AJ runs into the mother of all big boots to his head and does a great death drop sell. It is at this point, Hero knows exactly what his strategy is. Knock AJ the fuck out with knees, elbows and straight front kicks to the head. It was brutal, gnarly and violent. AJ is sick and tired of these kicks and tries to take out the knee with a dragon leg screw so Hero obliterates him with an elbow. But as Hero pours it on, AJ slowly starts to fade. First, he can get a bit of offense here and there and goes for Styles Clash, but then offensive spells get fewer and further between. AJ was just spot on checking to see if his teeth were there, glassy eyed selling, acting concussed. He starts running wholesale into big boots because he doesn't know what else to do. In a last ditch effort, AJ gets a suplex into the turnbuckles and he unloads his new strike combination, which Hero does well countering the Pele. Now it is Hero that is on jelly legs. Styles may have hit the head shot to get him back in it. Styles wastes no time and goes for the Styles Clash. Hero blocks and hits a wicked Akiyama-like elbow to the back of the head. ROARING BIG BOOT~! HOLY SHIT~! That was a great nearfall for Hero. Hero may have punched himself out and AJ has just enough in the tank to come flying back with lariats at Hero. Then he rolls through for the Calf Killer and Hero has nothing left to do but tap out. AJ survives. It was Hero's anti-aircraft strategy of kicks, elbows and knees to the head against Styles's survival tactics. This felt like an absolute major clash of forces. It was important match for AJ on the indy scene and going forward in New Japan that he could take a licking and keep on ticking. I know he could I watched TNA stuff very closely, but for a lot of people I think they looked at AJ and saw X-Division wrestler, which means pretty flips and choreographed, floor gymnastics bullshit. AJ can take a whupping and deliver one. I don't know how many people thought AJ had this in him before watching this match. I know I did because his matches with Abyss, Bully Ray, Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels only showcase this side of AJ Styles. Hero was really good in this and he had a MOTYC last year against Regal. For some reason, I have never sought out more Hero. I enjoy Hero, but he lacks that spark that really gets me interested. Damn, he still impresses. It is not just offense, the key to the match is the pele kick because that is the move that levels the playing field. If he does not sell that well then Styles' victory would ring hollow and he would like a chump for basically choke. Thus it was in his best interest to sell in doing so he got himself, AJ and the match over. This was a standup, knockdown slobberknocker. Definitely in my Top 5 American Matches of the Year so far. ****1/2
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