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Charles (Loss)

[2008-08-10-TNA-Hard Justice] Kurt Angle vs A.J. Styles (Last Man Standing)

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It's crazy how over the years Kurt Angle has been pidgeonholed into the "my turn-your turn - no selling - movez" cliché worker. Someone hearing about this definition of Kurt and going through his big TNA matches of 2008 would be puzzled. Honestly, this style maybe was true in the WWE, but watching Angle in TNA has been a huge eye-opener to me. I have no problem putting him in the "all-time great workers" at this point.

 

Anyway, this match is awesome, maybe AJ Styles best performance since the 2005 triple way feud against Joe & Daniels. He delivers a terrific pissed off babyface performance here, while Angle is off-the-chart great has a heel, stalling at first, smirking and showing off after he does really huge spots, gripping simple holds and working them like it's the 80's (he does work from a headlock for a while and really puts intent into it), begging when he has to at the beginning, feeding the comebacks. He does so many little things right in term of facial expression and positioning in the ring (going for the ropes to help himself getting up instead of just stand up, stuff like that). Plus they don't abuse the gimmick, instead of simply going for illogical falls early (like it's often done), they wait until the last third when the selling is getting heavy to really make the actual falls meaningfull. The trading finisher spot comes from two organic transitions, Kurt catching AJ in a powerbomb counter, which then allows him to fuck with AJ a bit by trying the Styles Clash. AJ from there countering his own finisher by going to the ankle lock makes sense both physically and mentally. Long term selling is excellent, they work tons of really impressive spots, everything actually looks like a struggle. They don't go overboard with the finishers either. Damn, that match is great.

 

Post match... well, you can get the Russo fuckery feel a bit, but it's beside the point. This is the second MOTYC for Angle in 2008, in a totally different style than the infamous cage match with Joe. Maybe best Styles match ever in term of putting everything together (and by that I mean purpose and character) and really better than anything he has done in WWE or NJ to me. Great pro-wrestling, this.

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Wow, 2013 Martin disagree with you, brutha. I have not watched this match in 5 years. I remember thinking there were a lot of problems with transitions and that Angle is by far AJ's worst opponent. 

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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