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Superstar Sleeze

AJ Styles

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So I won tickets from the local classic rock station to go see TNA's Slammiversary. Unbelievable softball: What was Hogan's name in Rocky III? I was toying with going because I do like AJ & Aries a good bit, but the card seemed so blase. I love live pro wrestling enough that free tickets are enough to get me and my brother to go. In order to get myself psyched, I am watching a ton of AJ Styles. I am reposting my earlier reviews from a different thread for ease of access.

 

Final Resolution 2005: X-Division Champion Petey Williams vs Chris Sabin vs AJ Styles in an Ultimate X Match I watched this match because it made someone's Top Ten TNA matches and I have no idea what that guy was smoking. This is a fun spot exhibition, but it is nowhere near the best match of a promotion. What I like about above average matches is that certain things become pronounced. One of those things is how much better is AJ is at everything than your standard X-Division wrestler. He sells better, he punches better, he bumps better, he makes everything you watch count. From the iconic flip bump off the turnbuckle to actually selling his hand during the match, AJ totally outclassed these guys.

 

 

Against All Odds 2005: X-Division Champion AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels Wow, way better than I remembered and a true joy to go back and watch. The opening is really well done and makes AJ looks like a million bucks. Daniels sells the arm so well even during his heat segment and puts on a clinic working over AJ's mid-section. AJ, for what is worth, not holds his ribs, but actually sells it like he is sucking air. The only time I have seen that is in Japan. AJ is fuckin good. The finish to the first fall may be one of my favorite finishes ever. AJ goes for a big bomb to polish off Daniels, but on the 450 he eats knees, which plays right into the mid-section work and Angel Wings (AJ with a full layout because he is ALL MAN~!) sees Daniels goes up 1-0 in sublime fashion. The rest of the match is well-worked and AJ times his hopes spots so well and keeps the crowd constantly heated. Im ok with AJ getting the pin in a quick rollup, but I would have liked it better done Steamboat style with a ton of desperation cradles rather than kinda out of nowhere. My main critique is that match is structured weirdly down the stretch because you have Daniels in desperation to get the last pin and AJ just trying to hang on (emphasized by his bladejob). They do the Koji Clutch and AJ is saved by the bell. I hate this because I think the babyface should be the guy doing this down the finishing stretch. Daniels needed to really heel this portion up to save it. Then of course AJ pulls it out in OT in really weird booking. It was like they wanted to protect AJ due to weak as finish in regulation, but then they cut off Daniels' balls. Classic match until last 5 minutes, which leads to believe there will be better matches.

 

Lockdown 2005: AJ Styles vs Abyss - Number One Contender's Match So in a card full of cage matches, what do AJ and Abyss do to ensure differentiation they spend the first half brawling outside. I actually think that is pretty smart given the circumstances The spots AJ hits during the babyface shine are ridiculously awesome and breath-taking. It was the perfect way to establish AJ's speed as a threat to Abyss' unmitgated power. When Abyss took over with those vicious cage door shots on AJ, AJ went into Ricky Morton mode and I knew we were entering classic match territory. Once in the cage, Abyss did some great power offense and a classic Southern-style, bloodbath cage match developed with AJ timing each hope spot for maximum effect. I even liked the inclusion of thumbtacks because it played into the sadism of the match. The finish has everyone on their feet cheering for AJ. One of the better David vs Goliath type matches because AJ never tried to out power Abyss or force Abyss to look weak. AJ shined through his speed offense and wrestling a smart match. Of all the matches, I have seen so far, seek this one out.

 

Sacrifice 2005: Samoa Joe vs AJ Styles Finals of the Super X Cup This is what I am talking in terms of non-memorable. I totally forgot this match and its circumstances. Basically, the winner gets a shot at Daniels' X-Division Title. I forgot how good 2005 Joe was. Joe was so explosive in a way that very few were. I would say on the level of a Dr. Death. Those two men are the very few who wrestle with such a lethal combination of quickness and power. This match does not touch Williams' best work because Joe doesnt always work with urgency in the match. AJ is a great pinball for Joe (an absolutely sick bump onto the floor off a kick and then slides into the announce table). Joe, for his part goes overboard much like Vader, goes a little overboard in bumping for AJ (a German suplex would have been perfect in a latter bout to pop the crowd instead it is thrown out in the first match). Also since I am in full All Japan mode, I loved the direct All Japan cosplay as Joe plays Kawada and AJ plays a great version of Misawa with a flurry of elbows. While they outright steal All Japan spots it doesn't feel like an All Japan match instead a weird mish-mash of America and Japan. A good comparison is the Liger vs Otani match from 1997 which is the New Japan juniors doing an All Japan match with Otani cast as Kobashi (such a perfect role for him) and Liger as Misawa (again perfect casting choice). This match never reaches that level, but it is a very good first installment. The finish was smart as it protected AJ and made Joe still look like a beast. The musclebuster was so fuckin sick. I would say this one the level of the Against All Odds match in that is a very good match, but not something I would put in the Top 10 of a decade (with TNA we are looking at a decade). I am going to watch the Unbreakable 2005 match, which I remember liking a shit ton back in 2006, but my tastes have definitely changed. It has some very stiff competition from AJ vs Abyss in that cage, which was so amazing.

 

Unbreakable 2005: X-Division Champion Christopher Daniels vs AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe I would hazard to say this is the most famous match in TNA history and is very much a product of its time period. There is a lot of excellent stuff in this match, but there is a lot of weird booking issues in this match. For my money, AJ vs Abyss is still a level above this match. Joe could be a better wrestler than AJ, but his instincts are awful. He lets people get way too much shit on him and he kills his unqiueness. You can defend letting AJ getting him into a Torture Rack because he is letting the babyface shine, but I think there are plenty ways of letting AJ shine without that. Indefensibly, he lets Daniels Death Valley Driver him. Why would you ever let a heel shine like that? In Joe's defense, he had the hardest role in the match, he had to be a heel for AJ and a babyface for Daniels. He was clearly more comfortable working with AJ. Which brings me to my next point, Daniels is a horrible heel. This match proves in my mind pretty definitively that Daniels is a step below both AJ and Joe. It isnt that much of a knock because AJ and Joe were probably the two best wrestlers in 2005 in North America. It is just Daniels is pretty good at everything, but excellent at nothing. He cant fly or bump as well as AJ and he cant be as violent as Joe. Instead of differentiating himself in an obvious fashion by cheating like a muthafucker doing anything it takes to keep his belt, he just wrestles this poor man's AJ/Joe hybrid style that does nobody any favors. He gets a heat segment that should have been Joe's. Daniels looked way too strong in this match and it was a detriment to the story. Some people turn off selling, well Daniels turns off heeling. Of course, there were some incredible sequences. The opening was pitch perfect and set up for Daniels to play a bitch boy that has to cheat (ala Flair) to keep his title, but he dropped that. I LOVE AJ's quick rollups it was a perfect way to show how AJ could be a threat to Joe. The springboard Shooting Star by AJ was sublime. The All Japan sequence from Joe/AJ ending with an amazing German by Joe was the best sequence in the match. Pretty much everything from Joe/AJ was fucking amazing. Joe had some pretty fun combinations back in the day. I miss Joe. I would say the first 20 minutes or so, I would said this was an easy Top 5 match for TNA, but the last 5 or so kinda soured me when Daniels took over the match. Why was Joe doing desperation cover? Ugh that should have been Daniels. The finish was booked so fuckin weird. I would still say it has an outside shot at Top 5 right now because how well the action was packed. AJ has the prettiest right hand of someone who debuted post-Attitude Era. Why the guy uses shivers at all is beyond me because his right hand looks great! What I liked was even though they didnt really use a heat segment in a conventional sense, it never felt like "your turn, my turn", which irks me to end when I see that. What I meant by a product of the time period is that it was very en vogue to have shades of grey wrestling matches where everyone looks good and everyone is kept strong usually at the expense of the babyface (though in this case it was Joe). I think it was the best possible match of that type and was really well-executed.

 

Bound For Glory 2005 - X-Division Champion AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels I like how they knew they werent going to top their previous efforts so they tried to do a totally different match by using the classic build with the side-headlocks to start. I liked how Styles kiboshed Daniels on his Stampede roll-through on an armdrag back into the headlock and how Styles punted Daniels in the ribs on a drop down. However, things never really got off the ground floor even though the first ten minutes were well-worked. The next ten or so really felt like "Let me hit my modified slam, now you hit your modified slam" there was no sense of struggle and thus zero heat. The best sequence of this period of a great fired-up AJ and Daniels' selling of it. Daniels is wrestling 8 million times better in this match and makes AJ look a lot better. I actually think this was an off night for AJ as he wasnt showing his usual level of charisma. In the last ten minutes, they start hitting their dives and everyone wakes up. They go through a nice exchange of rollups and AJ even does an All Japan no-sell off a German into a wicked lariat to really get the place rocking. The finish is a tame one as it is just the Styles Clash at the buzzer. No sense of struggle or urgency throughout this match killed the heat for me. I thought the beginning was going to go somewhere interesting, but nada. This was AJ's weakest performance all year by far. Daniels worked hard in this match, but it was not enough to get this match over the hump, a good match, but in a lot ways disappointing.

 

Turning Point 2005 - X-Division Champion AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe

 

Greatest AJ Styles Performance Ever? I am willing to hear arguments against, but I dont think I can be convinced. When Styles does a float-over off a Joe suplex attempt onto the apron instead of doing it fluidly he lands on the ropes to sell the exhaustion. I was in awe. Consequently instead of immediately following his forearm on the apron he sold more exhaustion before finally to trying to hit a springboard and ate a Joe powerbomb. Sublime. What I think stands out the most about this match compared to so many X-Division matches is the physicality. My biggest issue with a lot of the flippy guys is how light they work (Kofi, Morrison). This match was a fuckin war and AJ got a nice busted up lip for it. AJ did that sick bump off the apron onto the floor again and took Joe's offense like a champ. Unlike the previous match, AJ seemed game throughout the match and still made Joe work for all his moves. I loved the transition to AJ's comeback as it was Joe being overzealous and AJ having the presence of mind to back body drop outside the ring. Then he capitalized with a beautiful shooting star press dive. I love how after each move AJ was going after pins because he knew he was weak and this was his shot. It really sold the urgency, you could feel that his time was fleeting and if he didnt capitalize now everything was lost. I loved the cat and mouse game they did late in the match with AJ duckin and diving before Joe caught him in the corner with a couple bear paws. The busted lip happens here and it really had a big fight feel and that moment epitomized it. AJ follows that up with early kicks out off a wicked lariat and wicked Tiger Driver. FIGHTING SPIRIT~! The one flaw is the fact that AJ tried twice to setup Joe for moves on the top turnbuckle. The second time it led to an awkward sequence and a lame AJ powerbomb, which only existed to give AJ a way to hit the Styles Clash. It was a minor flaw. AJ goes for a victory roll, but Joe traps him in the clutch and it is Goodnight Irene for AJ. After the match, Joe beats up AJ and tries to give him a musclebuster on a chair, but Daniels saves. I liked this match a whole lot, but I think I liked AJ/Abyss a hair more, but both are neck and neck for Best TNA match ever at this point. I have no idea why the Unbreakable match is the more famous match. This match blows that match outta the water. Tremendous effort by both men, this is definitely one to watch.

 

Elite AJ Matches of 2005: 1. AJ Styles vs Abyss -Steel Cage No. 1 Contender's Match - Lockdown 2005 2. X-Division Champion AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe - Turning Point 2005

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Against All Odds 2006 - X-Division Champion Samoa Joe vs Christopher Daniels vs AJ Styles At first, I was like am I crazy or is this better than the more heralded Unbreakable match and after the sick Joe/AJ combo Back Drop Driver head drop on Daniels, it was pretty clear this is the better match. It is tighter and more efficient clocking in at around 16 minutes of action. There are just as many MOVEZ~! (aforementioned sick head drop, the monkey flip callback this time into a Boston Crab, Joe's suicide dive with AJ bumping like a champ). However, this time the match is structured so much better! Joe comes off as such a badass in this match. He dominates pretty much the entirety of the match. This leads to a cool sub-storyline where AJ and Daniels are constantly trying to beat each other because they know they cant pin Joe, really smart angle. Daniels wrestles so much better as the uber-sympathetic, concussion-prone babyface. It gives him so much more direction in the match and really makes him seem so much more relevant especially on his comeback attempts. AJ had a tough role because the match was really centered around the Joe/Daniels dynamic. I liken AJ to a good guitar fill in a song with badass riff. Joe/Daniels are that badass riff, but that fill in between verses is just as much as a hook. AJ gives you so much variety and intelligence in any match that I dont think he could ever be a detriment. I dont think this was as good as my current top two, which were a couple beast match. However, as a SMART spotfest (still very much a spotfest), this is one of the best. For all the praise Unbreakable gets, definitely sit down and watch these two side by side and decide for yourself because I dont think Against All Odds gets enough praise.

 

 

Destination X - X-Division Champion Samoa Joe vs Christopher Daniels vs AJ Styles Easily the least of the three triple threat matches, but that isnt that much of a knock on this and more of a praise to how well-done the other matches. I like how in the previous match, AJ and Daniels were at each other's throats because they knew they couldnt pin Joe so they thought their best chance to win was against each other. However, this time they do a lot more teaming up against Joe including the nice symmetry of the two savings each other from Joe death blows (Ole Kick to guardrail and Musclebuster to chair). I believe the angle was set up well for Daniels to take it because he had the most sympathy due to the concussion. I think they could have stretched it out and give Daniels a big singles victory over Joe. In an effort to preserve the streak Ultimate X was smart. I just wish we got a Joe/Daniels rematch and Daniels got his win.

 

Sacrifice 2006 - NWA World Tag Team Champions America's Most Wanted vs AJ Styles/Christopher Daniels We get a pre-match interview from AMW, Gail Kim and Jackie Gayda's Totally Bitchin Rack. I totally forgot Jackie was with the company and apparently this was her exit as she announced she was pregnant and summarily fired. Charlie Haas is one lucky man. This match was pretty good and I really liked the energy of the babyfaces from the get-go as they got the crowd rocking. AMW worked a solid heat segment on Daniels, but nothing to write home about. The hot tag to AJ is where this one fell apart as Daniels totally neglects he had the shit beat out of him and just starts rattling off moves. Normally I hate the Tower of Doom spot, but Daniels adds an intelligent wrinkle by shoving everyone off and hits a high cross-body and gets a two. Then the match degenerates into a spotfest which forces the babyfaces to stop selling and the heels to kick out of babyface highspots, which is killing my vibe on this match. I dont know why a BME/Frogsplash should ever be kicked out of by a heel. Daniels treats the DVD as a transition move bothers me. There are a couple of botches. The finish is that Gail, who is not allowed at ringside, "throws" a nightstick down from the rafters giving AMW a win. It was a fun match, but nothing I would consider a classic.

 

Slammiversary 2006 - NWA World Tag Team Champions America's Most Wanted vs AJ Styles/Christopher Daniels NOW, this match is the perfect melding of X-Division with Southern tag team wrestling in a way that satiated my inner mark. AMW's channel MX hard by doing some funny comedy spots at the beginning of the match: Storm's head ending up repeatedly in Harris's crotch and Storm unknowingly headscissoring Harris over the top rope on a skin the cat. I liked this babyface shine better than the last one. The heels smartly get the faces outside where Gail Kim helped them gain the advantage and Storm took out Styles' legs while on the guardrail. The theme of these matches is definitely how the faces are full of piss and vinegar, but are too overzealous sometimes and that lets AMW take over. AJ is a pretty face in peril than Daniels and makes the heat segment more interesting. Daniels for his part is a really good hot tag and love how the match is structured for the babyfaces to overcome each of AMW's tricks: Gail (with a butch woman, I was hoping for Jackie), a chair, handcuffs, bottle, ref bump before finally taking the titles. The finish run was really exciting and really had you pulling for Styles/Daniels as resilient challengers and AMW as desperate champions. The use of the frogsplash/BME as the finish was pitch perfect. Definitely one of my favorite matches as it used all the good tropes from a Southern-style match: early heel clowning, effective heat, put the faces at a disadvantage and eventually the good guys come out on top with all the best parts of the X-Division: MOVEZ~!

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Final Resolution 2005: X-Division Champion Petey Williams vs Chris Sabin vs AJ Styles in an Ultimate X Match

 

I watched this match because it made someone's Top Ten TNA matches and I have no idea what that guy was smoking. This is a fun spot exhibition, but it is nowhere near the best match of a promotion.

Depending on when exactly you reviewed this originally and where you found that list, it is entirely possible that I am the alleged drug addict in question. I know I definitely put it on a list of my TNA Top 10 sometime in the last 12 months, and it isn't a match I see mentioned by other people much, if at all.

 

Whether it was me or not, I'll say that I rate the match highly for two reasons. One, as far as spotfests go I thought it was far more than just fun and was in fact really freaking excellent. I loved all of the big spots and bumps, and as you say AJ is working for quite a few men in it. I am a nut for these kind of spotfests when they are done right, and I thought this one was done really, really right. Two, I am fairly certain this was the first match I watched when I went back to 2005 and revisited the X Division glory days, so I think the excitement of seeing everything again as it should be, so to speak, blew me away a little after so many years of being so tired of TNA. It made me remember all over again why I love AJ so much.

 

I agree with your rankings otherwise though. The AJ/Abyss cage match is unreal, the Joe matches rule, and after watching most of the important X-D matches of 2005 I came away thinking Unbreakable was possibly the weakest one, even though it had the most hype.

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I will re-watch it when I get a chance, but I just felt like it was your run of the mill spotfest where AJ shone, but the other two were your usual X-Division wrestlers. I actually nabbed that off a 411mania list. So unless you write for that site, you are not the drug-addled man in question.

 

Hard Justice 2006 - NWA World Tag Team Champions AJ Styles/Christopher Daniels vs LAX I remember this angle being red hot at the time and it is my all-time favorite TNA angle. The video package is included before the match and I was totally pumped for this match, but man alive was it a letdown. They just did not wrestle to level of violence necessitated by the surrounding angle. I get it. It is your first match and you don't want to blow your wad, but there was a huge disconnect between the angle and the layout of this match. AJ & Homicide immediately show you why they are better their partners because they wrestle with so much intensity and actually start the match off on the right foot. You feel like a street fight is just ready to break out. However, they settle into the conventional tag formula off a sick rope-assisted Diamond Cutter from Homicide. The heat segment is well-worked and Homicide unleashes a pretty spectacularly timed flip cannonball dive through the middle rope. Daniels hot tag is pretty tepid. Then we hit the TNA portion of the match. The dive train is actually pretty sweet even though it is does not fit with the violence of the angle. They do a couple double team moves and everybody hits their stock spots. Hernandez looks impressive during these. I like the finish even though I thought LAX should go over as AJ irish whips Homicide into Hernandez to set up Total Elimination for the win. This felt like a match that never got out of first gear and actually could have used some more interference from Konnan who was such an integral part of this angle. I did not think any one guy shined in this match. It was just a disjointed that had good mixed with bad. It was such a violent build-up and instead we got the usual helicopter powerbombs and dive trains. I remember liking the Ultimate X quite bit and the street fight on Impact even more. -------------------------------------------------------------

 

No Surrender 2006 - NWA World Tag Team Champions LAX vs AJ Styles/Christopher Daniels - Ultimate X Alas, I could not find the street fight. This was not as good as I remember, but it is one of the better TNA spotfests. I don't feel like re-watching all of TNA 2006, but for the most part TNA fans just pop for spots rather than well-laid wrestling psychology. I think there is an argument to be made that TNA wrestlers ought to please their fans rather than drag them kicking and screaming through a good match. TNA matches have weird heat because the fans are only looking to pop for spots and can be quite dead for extended periods of times. This was pretty much a non-stop-spot-a-thon. There were plenty of eye-please spots with AJ getting thrown by Hernandez, a nice dive train, some nice work with the ladder. I literally just watched that match and cant remember the order of the spots and all of them. In the moment, I thought it was cool, but now just minutes after I am struggling to piece together where AJ's comeback was in relation to the second dive train. The finish was smart because it was actually the two impressive spots in the match. If you are going to do a spotfest then you best hold your last two trump cards for the end. AJ Styles Clash Homicide off the apron into table and Daniels leaping for the tag belts were visually very impressive. Very disappointed by both of these matches and hopefully Bound For Glory can save it. It is starting to feel this feud is all talk and no walk. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Bound for Glory 2006 - NWA World Tag Team Champions AJ Styles/Christopher Daniels vs LAX - Steel Cage Match Finally they bring the Hate. Still, they let the usual TNA tropes seep in, which hamper this match and lend a disjointed feel to a match. However, LAX finally live up to their gimmick of militant thugs using a fork and clothes hanger. AJ/Daniels get in on the action using the fork against Homicide. Still they do silly stuff like the Tower of Doom though it does setup an impressive dive from AJ onto Hernandez. Daniels taken out via the clothes hanger leaving AJ at the mercy of LAX. He gets annihilated by a Hernandez clothesline and then a Gringo Killer for LAX to pick up the duke. I really have to track down the street fight as these matches really left me wanting more. Hernandez has some really impressive stuff, but I just wasn't feeling the hate from him. I think Homicide has been the best in these matches, but this was really just a carry-over his gimmick from ROH just with more ethnic nationalistic overtones. Daniels felt more flat in this feud than AJ, but I am not a total AJ homer. I will call a spade a spade, while AJ showed flashes of is brilliance, he did not really bring it during this feud. The angle seemed so hot, but the matches were either tepid or plagued by the shoehorning stock TNA spots into a violent feud. In my opinion, the AMW feud was the way better one in ring. Do Homicide/AJ have any revered singles matches? I would be interested in watching them because I think they have good chemistry.

 

Elite AJ Matches of 2006: 1. NWA World Tag Team Champions America's Most Wanted vs AJ Styles/Christopher Daniels - Slammiversary 2006 2. X-Division Champion Samoa Joe vs Christopher Daniels vs AJ Styles - Against All Odds 2006

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I think AJ is really good, but I'm not sure if the standard "TNA should have build the company around him" line really fits. He should have been a bigger part of the company at times, for sure, but I really don't think he can really carry it all as the "ace."

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Just lost this post so we are going to do the following review in bullet points form

 

AJ Styles vs Kurt Angle - Slammiversary

 

-Disturbing Trend: AJ's matches are totally disconnected from storyline, probably not his fault

- Heated Angle: Centered around Angle's jealousy that AJ has a crush on his wife and thus Angle beat living shit out of him on TV. Big bladejob by AJ.

- So they wrestle a classic championship match. The Announcers and I are like whaaaaaattttttt

- AJ is proud of hitting dropkicks on the guy just mauled him like a week ago. Like I said it feels like an underdog who is proving himself to the ace veteran rather than a blood feud match

- Angle is King of Shitty Transitions. It feels like a video game. The guy controlling Angle just kept mashing R2 until he broke up his opponents's grapple attempt and starting hitting moves.

-Angle's heat segment and AJ's comeback were great. Angle bloodied AJ's nose, toyed with him in the corner and AJ's is a great fired up babyface. Match feels like an elite match after the rocky start because they established what they wanted and I accepted it. Crowd is chanting "Angle Sucks!" and "AJ". The wrestlers are over not the moves.

-Angle, King of the Shitty Transitions decides enough of this wrestling stuff and just starts hitting Germans. After this nobody can string together more than two moves. The crowd starts chanting "This Is Awesome!". The moves are over not the wrestlers.

- Karen Angle hits the ring and the match is instantly 5 stars. I mean overbooking is bad. Who am I kidding? Overbooking has never looked so good.

-Karen holds onto the chair and in that moment AJ is able to use the distraction to hit the Styles Clash to win. Wait I thought AJ and Angle were feuding??? Nope I guess all the face heat is for Karen as she gets her comeuppance on Angle. Only for Angle to rock AJ with the chair and Angle to threaten to hit Karen. Rematch BABY! The beginning was fine once you got over the fact they weren't going to brawl, the middle rocked, and the home stretch was standard TNA/Angle, the finish sucked the meat missile.

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I know this thread has concentrated on TNA, but my favorite Styles was his feud with Jimmy Rave in ROH. They had a brawl where they were in street clothes that was really awesome. Probably around '05 or so.

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Dude, definitely add all the non-TNA AJ that you can because while I followed ROH, I never watched any of it unless one of their events came to the location I was in at the time. I would love to see some AJ in a non-TNA setting.

 

AJ Styles vs Kurt Angle - Video Game Death Match - Hard Justice

 

Ok, I am being a little harsh with that gimmick name. They deemed this a Last Man Standing Match, but it follows Death Match rules. Everyone knows you cant just have a plain 'ol Death Match. What ensued was the most sterile Death Match of all time. I have seen straight Ric Flair title defenses that used the outside more effectively than these two. This time the blame falls squarely on Angle's shoulders. AJ really brought the hate at the beginning of the match before Angle quashed that and made it into one of his spotfests. Angle started off with the Larry Z, which is a great heat tactic, the only problem is the angle they ran right before this talked about how Angle wanted to rip AJ's head off for sleeping with his wife. AJ basically says "Fuck this" and nails Angle with a glorious right. He follows up with a series of vicious strikes. Instead of celebrating his dropkick as being proud of it, he uses it to set up a clothesline to the outside and a dive. They work the outside pretty effectively together. Angle actually overhead suplexes AJ into the guardrail. Angle's European Uppercuts feel violent. They are off to a great start. I really felt like they could build from here into an all-time classic. Then Angle had to do his big spot to scoop up all the heat. They go out to the entrance and Angle hits a somersault off the ramp onto AJ. T-N-A! T-N-A! T-N-A! I can forgive it. He wanted to do one big spot to pop the crowd so be it that isn't going to ruin all the good work they did at the beginning. Angle just doesn't know how to work violent that has to be it. Once they are back in the ring, everything stays in the ring and it turns into a standard TNA match only this time AJ is bringing the hate to have some glue between the spots. He was really using his right hand to effectively set up his spots as opposed to Angle's video game counters. I am a mark for the torture rack so I liked it when AJ did it, but I can see that not being everyone's cup of tea. It is hilarious that Angle lets everyone counter the Ankle Lock at least 3 times a match, but he submits to it on the first attempt by AJ. Yes, AJ had already reversed the Ankle Lock once in this match. At this point of the match, when Angle hits a low blow on AJ it is a Low Blow of Hate. It is a Low Blow of a Desperate Man just trying to salvage a win. AJ is trying so hard to have a classic match and Angle just only knows one mode. Maybe Angle is better as a babyface in hate-filled matches? This is so frustrating because I know these two have a classic in them. Now here come the barrage of spots: Germans, Pele, Angle run up the ropes (this features some good struggle), Olympic Slam, Styles Clash, Super DDT for the win for AJ. I will say I really like they didn't have a finisher win it. That they went with a move that was very big and uncommon for the finish. It was a really good escalation to a big finish Angle sold the Super DDT perfectly. Post-match, AJ knocks him off the stretcher and dumps him on his head. Sting his the Scorpion Deathdrop on AJ to set up the Main Event Mafia storyline. This match is so frustrating because the beginning is really well-executed with both guys utilizing violent offense to get revenge on the other. However, once Angle went to do his big spot off the ramp the match reverted back to your standard TNA match layout. However, they did some really good stuff in that portion. They did a lot more strikes in between spots. There was more struggle and competing over spots. Rather than Slammiversary, where they were just trading spots. I would not put this in the same league as some of the epic AJ matches I have seen. However, it was very good and could have easily been great.

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TNA World Heavyweight Champion Sting vs AJ Styles - Turning Point 2008

 

This is from the very beginning of the Main Event Mafia. After about 8 incarnations of this storyline, Russo finally got so it was at least interesting TV even though it produced some awful PPV main events. They main evented their January PPV with AJ/Foley/Devon vs Booker/Steiner/Billy Gunn. How this company is still in business is shocking. This is Sting's first PPV defense after defeating Samoa Joe for the belt at BFG 2008. Sting could not care less in this match. He looks like he would rather be anywhere else in the world rather than have AJ hold his wrist. He is just bored in this match. What is weird he does not look that out of place even though it is 2008. He is a giant compared to AJ. He is in decent shape and can still execute everything. The face paint hides how old he is. But he just totally mails this one in. AJ is a spaz in this match and is constantly cutting off Sting as he tries to inject some life in this match with many too many hope spots. He could have tried the old fashion way with some good selling, which he is capable of, but he is a product of 00s and offense reigns supreme in that decade. The best example of my issue with the match is Sting press slams AJ onto the outside in the best spot of the match. Within 90 seconds, AJ hit a backbreaker on Sting. The home stretch was just the usual spots: Scorpion Deathdrop, some Stinger Splashes, Spiral Tap. Then the MEM run out for some weak interference that backfires. AJ whiffs on the Pele and Sting rolls him up for the win. It just kinda ended. The match was just there. I did not think it was out, out bad per se. It was just a really tepid performance from Sting with AJ way overcompensating for that. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs Sting - Bound for Glory 2009

 

The Main Event Mafia storyline has wrapped up with Sting realizing that he respects the youngsters and his contemporaries are a bunch of snake oil salesmen. AJ respects Sting too. It is a big 'ol lovefest. AJ won the title on the PPV before this in a convoluted 5 man match. Now he has to beat the Man that has been unbeatbale at BFG beating JJ, Angle and Joe for the World Title three years in a row. That is just a great piece of booking by TNA even if it is a happy accident. This match is much better than their previous effort about a year previous. The wrestle a smart, well-laid out tit-for-tat face vs face match. They do a bunch of parallel spots to display that they are equal. Each grabbing a side headlock, each doing a hiptoss, each letting the other into the ring and each whiffing on a move and eating guardrail. Sting shows a bit more fire in this one, but nowhere near the usual hopped up on speed Sting that I am used to from the 90s. AJ does not overcompensate at all in this match. He makes Sting's offense look good and times his own well. Sting even manages to work one of his old favorite WCW spots in with the tombstone reversal, which I admit I marked for. They also do a helluva sequence to get into the Deathdrop only for Styles to kick out. This is where the Styles proving himself comes in as he kicks out of the Deathdrop and powers of the Deathlock. This is the harbinger that Sting's time has passed and Styles is on the rise as his big bombs can't keep the New Ace down. Sting puts on one more show of bravado, but it is not 1990 anymore and the power up is no longer as potent. Sting looks to follow up a headbutt only to take a Pele and Springboard Splash to end the match. This is probably the best TNA Sting I have ever seen and really shows how much a good layout can hide the limitations of wrestlers. Both wrestlers executed the psychology and delivered a very good match. I am looking forward to AJ's reign as World Champion before he ends up in obscurity and an interminable feud with Christopher Daniels.

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TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels vs Samoa Joe

 

Where to begin with this one? It was pretty incredible. I know I would have it ahead of the Unbreakable match, but I think I still like the AAO triple threat for its psychology. This one does not quite have the interesting psychological hook of AAO, but this one is a lot more violent and has a lot more heat on it than the others. Joe and Daniels are totally dicks in this. This match is built to make AJ look like a million bucks and after the malaise of Angle & Sting, I remember why I started this thread because AJ is fuckin killer. This match really feels like TNA giving AJ the keys to the kingdom as it was designed to make him look like the best wrestler in the world. Whether, it was the heated strike exchanges, submissions, spectacular aerial moves or selling, AJ ruled this match. Even little things like his kick to the back of Daniels leg after it had been in a Joe kneebar or his sweet right to Joe's head on the outside showed AJ's psychology. I will say matches like aren't the whole the greatest exhibitions of selling, but there was much better progression in this spotfest than you would see in most. They were not just running from spot to spot, but using strikes as glue and the AJ/Daniels angle as a hook to keep things heated. I do not remember that many well-done strike or submission exchanges in the first series of matches. Here, they worked harder to bring more variety to the match. AJ worked a side headlock in the beginning and an inverted Indian Deathlock with a reverse chinlock bridge. Each time, they worked a smart out. One of my favorite moments was Joe doing a rolling cradle and after AJ kicked out he quashed Joe's momentum with a well-timed spin kick. I don't know if Kobashi/Kawada ever worked that sequence, but it reminded me of them. I actually pumped my fist when AJ did his Springboard Forearm to Joe and then immediately hit a discus clothesline on Daniels. It was a thing of beauty. Daniels starts the Triple Threat off on the right note by sucker punching AJ due to him being miffed that AJ had the audacity to accuse him, King of Decency, that he may be attacking him from behind even though Daniels is openly jealous of AJ's title reign. Throughout the match, Daniels wrestles a much more ruthless style than I ma accustomed to him doing. He was less interested in goofy spots and more interested in punishing AJ. Even though the finisher reversal sequence he worked with AJ was a contrived, it was so quick and fluid you had to be impressed. Samoa Joe, who played the role of shit-stirrer in the angle, looked absolutely great in this match. I did not like his over bumping tendencies in the other matches. In this match, he looks like a badass and one that is vulnerable to the quickness of his opponents' strikes and dives. That is Joe putting over the proper characteristics of his opponents. His offense was top notch and all the stuff you'd expect: facewashes, powerbombing AJ onto Daniels into Crab->STF->Crossface and Musclebuster. You feel that AJ has to overcome the raw power of Joe and the ruthlessness of Daniels, which leads to the finish. Daniels/AJ actually team to take out Joe with Total Elimination (their tag finisher from 2006). Daniels offers the hand to only attempt a sucker punch, but AJ counters. They fight on the top Joe knocks AJ down only for Daniels to take out Joe with STO and BME, but AJ hits both with a Springboard 450 and picks up the win on Joe. I have to say up until the finish; they were working a smart match as AJ was faced with two very different competitors, but was finding different ways to thrive against them both. I like him and Daniels teaming to take out Joe and then the renewal of hostilities. I did not like that Daniels took out Joe on his own and AJ stole the victory. I know that sets up the singles rematch, but there had to be a better way to get there.

We can add another match to the list of Elite AJ matches. For the record "Elite" is my way of saying ****1/2 or better. Elite AJ Matches: 1. AJ Styles vs Abyss - Lockdown 2005 2. X-Division Champion AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe - Turning Point 2005 3. X-Division Champion Samoa Joe vs AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels - Against All Odds 2006 4. TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels vs Samoa Joe - Turning Point 2009 5. TNA World Tag Team Champions America's Most Wanted vs AJ Styles/Christopher Daniels - Slammiversary 2006

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After watching a slew of classic matches with likes of the Rock N Roll Express, Vader, Sting, Benoit, Windham, Blanchard, I decided to go back to AJ Styles. I was a little worried he would not hold up. WHO AM I TO DOUBT AJ STYLES????

 

TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels - Final Resolution 2009 Daniel puts in a career performance and AJ puts on a performance that is on par with his best. This match is worked so much differently than most TNA matches as they let spots breathe, use strikes effectively to set up spots and has psychology. I was really floored how friggin good this match was. The story is how AJ would overcome Daniels' combination of ruthlessness and familiarity with his moves. Daniels takes advantage of two early rope breaks to take cheap shots at Styles. He also is able to counter an AJ kip up by sitting down on an armbar and pick an ankle on a criss-cross spot because he knows AJ just that well. They really work the mat effectively I wish they would work this way more often. When AJ does take control because Daniels gets cocky he really lets the fists let and talks some trash to Daniels. Hate in a TNA match??? Whaaaaaattttttt? When Daniels regains control, he sets up AJ to get smacked with a chair and as the ref discards that chair he Rock Bottoms AJ through an chair. This sets up the back psychology and a really fuckin good heat segment. AJ gets a hope spot and goes up top to capitalize, but Daniels wails on his back. Then Daniels manages to hoist AJ up and basically do a backbreaker but use the top turnbuckle as his knee. If you are going to do innovative spots, then at least make them violet and that fit in perfectly. AJ re-establishes control by hitting a nasty powerbomb on Daniels onto the floor when Daniels tries to hit a huricanrana. AJ follows up with more strikes and trash talk. This does not feel like a TNA match at all and the TNA crowd does not how to react. Daniels uses AJ's own momentum against him crotches him on the ropes. Now Daniels is using some wicked open hand palm strikes. They fuck up a super Franeknsteiner. They fight over a suplex and AJ hits a wicked brainbuster. They struggle over Styles Clash; AJ kicks him the back and Daniels with open hand strikes. Daniels rakes the eyes to set up BME. AJ gets a catapult and then follows up with a Styles Clash kickout. AJ gets set up on top ropes; Daniels hits a big palm strike; goes for another super Frankensteiner this time he eats a super Styles Clash. This match unlike most TNA matches actually followed the story of the angle. It was two wrestlers pissed off at each other trying to prove they were better than the other. Daniels was great at heeling it up and he left most of the goofy moves at the door. He was out to use his guile and experience to best AJ. He started off really working the arm well before zeroing in on the back with ferocity rarely seen in TNA. AJ is such a great babyface at both selling and those fiery comebacks. His punches were really on point and he too did not work all his usual offensive spots and instead focusing on executing moves that fit the match and would finish his opponent. I liked the finish a lot because it combined smart escalation (Top Rope Styles Clash) with Daniels going to the well once too often (2nd attempt at Super Frankensteiner).

 

Elite AJ Matches 1. TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels - Final Resolution 2009 2. AJ Styles vs Abyss - Lockdown 2005 3. X-Division Champion AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe - Turning Point 2005 4. X-Division Champion Samoa Joe vs AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels - Against All Odds 2006 5. TNA World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels vs Samoa Joe - Turning Point 2009 6 TNA World Tag Team Champions America's Most Wanted vs AJ Styles/Christopher Daniels - Slammiversary 2006

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If you liked that AJ/Daniels match, you should definitely check out their LMS from 2012. It bring the hate in a similar way.

 

AJ Styles vs Chris Daniels (Last Man Standing), Destination X 2012

 

Finally got my ass around to watching this properly. I saw the PPV but as I recall didnt pay much attention until the finish, because after having just seen about 58,000 of their 59,000 matches together at the time, f*ck another AJ/Daniels match. But enough time has passed now and I really did want to watch it properly since it was so highly pimped and so unlike their other matches.

 

Glad I did too because it was pretty awesome. Really great, tight brawling that totally fit the story. AJ was a star in this, laying into everything, leaning into everything, selling his ass off, just generally being AJ. And God damn has Daniels come into his own as Appletini Douchebag Daniels. His early stooging and the epic fight with the front row was just great, in many ways this was a transcendent career performance from him. It may not be his best ever match, but I dont remember him ever being this interesting in a match. And F*CK ME, he may have taken the best stairs bump I've ever seen, barely a week after I saw what I thought was hands-down the best stairs bump I've ever seen. They worked the LMS gimmick really well by not overdoing it, especially early, and making it come across like an actual fight to the finish rather than the nearfall-fest it can sometimes turn into. And the finish is just out of this world scary, in a good way.

 

Thinking about it this is probably Top 3 for TNA in 2012. Excellent match. Please, please guys, dont ever do it again. I still never ever need to see another one.

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I went back to check out Christopher Daniels at the end of 2011 when his heel stuff started and started with his I Quit match with AJ from BFG 2011. I changed scope to AJ (esp after watching ROH's War of the Worlds) and It led me to asking my buddy Chad (soup23) what the general concensus was around AJ and selling. I think his selling is passable and he seems consistent in being able to put over fatigue and damage taken during a contest. How does everyone else feel about this?

 

 

Whew, that Lockdown 2005 match was tremendous. For those that would like to see it, TNA hosts it on their YouTube page - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1QCgwpIqKc .

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AJ Styles has gone off baby and I am glad everybody is loving it. AJ is my favorite wrestler of the past 10-15 years and I think a lot of the "TNA sucks" blurred people's perspective on him. I was actually a bit worried that after TNA people would still be underrating him. There would be no excuses. Before I could lay blame at TNA sucking or TNA sucking blinding people, now he was going to be exposed. I am so pumped that everybody has commending him on a badass year. I was a bit disappointed that I missed out on his year because I was watching so much other stuff. I did make the trek down to NYC to see him wrestle Okada and Elgin in a triple threat for ROH, but it was disappointing. Styles tried to keep it together, but Okada seemed disinterested and Elgin was just all over the place. Well I am not missing my opportunity to see him in person again in Rhode Island at XWA on January 17th against Jason Blade. So in preparation, I thought I watched so of his ROH/Indy work from the past year.

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

 

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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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AJ Styles vs Kevin Steen - House of Hardcore V August 2014

What a colossal disappointment! If I paid to see this match, I would have been ripshit. The crowd seemed to have fun with it, which is good on them. I was watching this on Bulgarian Youtube so I did find certain things humorous, but fuck I actually would have been kinda pumped to see this as a wrestling match. This is second time within in a year that Steen's sarcastic wrestling style has actively ruined a match. I thought he really killed the Nakamura match at the ROH show I went to. Some of his stuff was pretty funny like patting down the ref and yelling "Leave me alone" in the middle of the match. However, threatening to stay in a chinlock the entire match and jawing with a Cena fan was eyeball-roll inducing. Though AJ was actually pretty funny in his chinlocks with "I am either going to spoon him all night long or pop his head like a pimple". The best part of the match by far the commentators (Matt Striker was one) played this match super straight. So after the battle of allegedly comedic chinlocks they called this "a chess match" and I actually burst out laughing. They went into a finishing stretch where they hit a bunch of moves on each other with Steen aping the Stunner and the F-5. AJ wins with the Styles Clash. Fuck Steen Fuck! Total waste of AJ and if I was a paying customer, I would have felt ripped off.

 

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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.

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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? ****

 

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

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

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The match everyone has been talking about:

 

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

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IWGP Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles vs Hiroshi Tanahashi - NJPW 10/13/14

 

The championship rematch did not disappoint as they did an excellent job blending a normal championship build with some extra booking pyrotechnics at the end of the match. AJ Styles gave one of the best classic heel performances of the modern era in this match with his showboating, cowering and cut offs. Normally, I like Tanahashi in that subtle heel role, but I thought this was most effective pure babyface performance. He was fighting from underneath and was using any burst of energy he had to try to win the match.

 

The match starts out with strong Tanahashi side headlock work peppering in a highspot or two to keep it interesting, but as expected Tanahashi controlled the beginning. However, on a test of strength Tanahashi ended up underneath the middle rope and Styles seeing an opening exploited it by yanking Tanahashi head first into the middle rope. Here comes the gloating and flexing from AJ. On the outside, AJ does his usual hop over the railing, but this time he is ready for Tanahashi with an elbow. In turn, Tanahashi is ready for Styles and catches him into a Northern Lights Suplex. Can Tanahashi capitalize? He is pretty hurt. Styles begs off in the ring and baits him with a powder only to drive him into the apron. Styles is giving a great NWA champion like performance. Styles continually has an answer for Tanahashi in the form of chops or flying forearms. Styles goes to the flying forearm well once too many and Tanahashi breaks it up and hits a High Fly Flow to the outside. The big bomb may have bought some time for Tanahashi, but it also took something out of him. At the same time, this is a wake-up call that he needs to end this match and begins looking for the Styles Clash. Tanahashi wriggles out twice and turns AJ's punch combination into a Human Capture Suplex. Styles is the best at selling the Human Capture Suplex. It gets a little suplex-tradey at this point, but Tanahashi finally strings enough offense together Dragon Suplex and two High Fly Flows that it looks like he will win until Jarrett pulls the ref out. Here comes the booking pyrotechnics.

 

Styles takes advantage of the distraction with the Pele and Elevated DDT, which is usually the callsign for Styles Clash. Tanahashi breaks out of the Clash so Styles throws him into the ref. JJ looks to attack, but it is Yoshi-Tastu? Color me unimpressed. That felt really TNA. Styles hits him with a ballshot to end the fighting spirit exchange. As a fighting spirit strike exchange hater that was the perfect ending. Styles gets tried of his constant movement in and out of the Styles Clash so he drops on his head with Hollow Point. He attempts the Springboard 450 for the first time in NJPW (to my knowledge), but he eats knees. If Tanahashi just won with High Fly Flow right there that would have been perfect, but it goes on like two spots extra before that result.

The first New Japan match that I thought went too long for its own good. When you compare that to multitude of NOAH and modern WWE matches with that problem, one NJPW match going long is not that bad. I don't mind "overbooking" as much as most, but you got to have a better payoff than Yoshi-fucking-Tatsu! I thought the match up until the finish stretch was a really strong championship match with Styles looking overwhelmed early, finding his opening, then vacillating between confident and desperate perfectly. Tanahashi was great at fighting underneath and never letting the match get too far away from him so that the finish stretch was credible. I liked Styles busting out the Springboard 450 as a little something extra for the big moment. I think him going for that big bomb and immediately losing would have made for an excellent story, but unfortunately they went two spots too many. Still, overall a really strong championship match level effort from both men, definitely check it out. ****1/4

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I am an AJ Styles fan since the mid 00s. Loved his matches then and maybe even more now, because the more older he is, the more mature and well structured his matches are. His indy and New Japan stuff since 2014 is superb. Last week I went to UK, to see him on RPW/NJPW interpromotional shows and it was a blast!

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Watching AJ Styles under Russo in TNA in late 00's is pretty eye opening. Despite the booking clearly making him second fiddle to Angle and a goof of a character, Styles still manages to shine whatever position he was put in, and he was a trooper in the backstage/angle stuff. His stuff with Karen showed how much he embraced whatever was thrown at him and was all about making it work, no matter how goofy it was.

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Yeah. I hear the 'he was great in early 00s and after going to NJPW, but the dark era of TNA keeps him out of the all-time elite' argument a lot, and I don't think that's true at all. Like El-P said, he managed to shine no matter what. That's pretty great.

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It doesn't take much to realize he's always been and always will be a trooper. Poor booking doesn't stop him from trying his damnest with his KO/Zayn feud. Anyone else in his position would make an already poor feud that much worse.

 

While not putting constantly good matches like Roman, for instance, he always tries to make his opponent look like a million bucks and naturally shines throughout the match, even if it is not really good.

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I'd say being the only (or one of) dude to really shine in the consistent shitfest that was TNA, only adds to his reputation as an elite worker.

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I've been watching a lot of AJ Styles over the past few months and I think AJ's WWE run is actually his weakest. I mean he consistently delivers good performances but it's lacking in the high end matches, unlike NJPW and especially TNA.

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I think his WWE run so far is a little more layered. I'd definitely agree that it's been the weakest in-ring stretch of his career, though I'd point to a few high end matches other people might not. The Lesnar match is better to me than all but one or two of his NJPW bouts and I know there are people who would say the same of his Roman and Cena matches. More than that, though, I'm surprised by how well he's fit into the general format of WWE production and storytelling. It's not like he didn't spend a decade on TV with TNA but for a straightlaced southern boy who I've never considered a particularly good talker he's handled the transition to doing 15-20 minutes of promos most every week surprisingly well, especially considering that he's given material like the whole "beat up John Cena" shtick. As KawadaSmile mentioned, that Owens/Zayn feud should have been way worse and wasn't because of him. I loved the Ellsworth feud to death and I don't think it works nearly so well if anyone else in the company is doing that story. Despite being a guy who probably always would have been perceived as an awesome in-ring worker and little else, the dude's held his own in the "makin' movies" promotion.

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