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Shawn Michaels vs. AJ Styles

Shawn vs. AJ  

57 members have voted

  1. 1. Who ya got?

    • The Heartbreak Kid
    • The Phenomenal One


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I was among the crowd that sold AJ hard from early on. Ignoring his WCW or NWA Wildside runs (as WCW was a few matches and I've never seen him in Wildside), his work from WWA/TNA/early ROH cemented him as a great talent in my eyes. There's never been a year where I've been a fan of his that I don't think he's put forward at least one MOTYC (dating back to 2002), and while HBK might have the edge on mic work and quality of stage? He never had the level of talent to work with and/or stand out from.

 

Who were the truly great talents sharing the stage with HBK? Bret, Taker, Flair, Benoit, Foley, Austin...and some of the overlap is small.

 

What about AJ? AmDrag, Daniels, LowKi, Joe, Aries, Punk, Nakamura, Tanahashi, Suzuki...and that's just people he's worked with.

 

Take the mic away and AJ smokes HBK in every sense. Add his lack of ego and willingness to work his ass off no matter the finish? No contest.

 

AJ Styles, for lack of a better term, was a godsend to the business.

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Batista in 2005, which was a divisive quote at the time, but had a lot of people on his side: "I've also seen clips of their car wreck matches with AJ Styles doing his stunts. That's not wrestling. Wrestling is storytelling. But at the same time, I have friends in TNA and I wish them the best. Those type of matches definitely have their place, it's just not my thing. I also welcome the competition, which I think can only be good for the wrestling business."

 

Even AJ admitted (on the Stone Cold podcast) that it took years for him to put it all together, get the psychology aspect of the business, etc.

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I know that WWE push Shawn as THE in-ring performer in company history and elevate his significance in their mythos to far beyond what it was in reality but, considering how well AJ has done in less than 2 years, I wonder how WWE will present him in terms of his place as a historical figure. Someone mentioned on a podcast recently (can't remember who or where, sorry) that he almost seems like a legend in WWE already.

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While I'm not sure WWE will ever push his mythos as much as they do Shawn's, they repeatedly called his 2016 the "greatest first year-run in WWE history". This leads me to believe he'll be pretty well-celebrated.

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While I'm not sure WWE will ever push his mythos as much as they do Shawn's, they repeatedly called his 2016 the "greatest first year-run in WWE history". This leads me to believe he'll be pretty well-celebrated.

Poor Yokozuna

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While I'm not sure WWE will ever push his mythos as much as they do Shawn's, they repeatedly called his 2016 the "greatest first year-run in WWE history". This leads me to believe he'll be pretty well-celebrated.

 

Yeah, he'll never get the same love as Shawn for a bunch of reasons but I'd not heard them use that line before, that's interesting. I'm always intrigued by how much the positioning of a wrestler by their company etc. impacts later perceptions of them. I feel like I need to write a long essay on the development of wrestling historiography.

 

EDIT: And I would be interested to see what this debate/poll/comparison would produce in a different venue considering PWO's well noted Michaels scepticism

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Even though AJ Styles has been in the company less than 2 years, he's already pushed as the "best of his generation" by announcers and color commentators. They pretty built Smackdown around him for a good while, and he has been trusted to deliver when they want a great match.

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It's funny because when I first started really watching wrestling, it was right before Summerslam 2002. So from the very beginning of my wrestling fandom I was taught that Shawn Michaels was one of the greatest of all time, ha.

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Maybe not MOTYC stuff, but the two Ibushi matches and most of the Okada matches were great. He was also regularly delivering bangers in the G1. Was really one of the most if not the most consistent volume + peak worker in the world the year and-a-half he was there.

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Beyond the Suzuki G1 match, off the top of my head I remember loving the Okada match at Dominion, his outings against Ibushi, Tanahashi in the G1 and Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom. His first WK match at Naito wasn't at the same level as those already mentioned, but a fun match that might be interesting to watch now given the trajectory of both careers.

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AJ Styles has been really good for a long time, but since 2014 he's been the best in the world in my eyes. It may have started earlier than that. There are gaps in my viewing and I'm not the best with dates, but I do remember specifically loving his 2005 in TNA (but, of course that was 12 years ago). One thing that I think is interesting when looking at both of their careers side-by-side is that I definitely think Shawn was a better wrestler in the early stages of career. I absolutely love the Midnight Rockers stuff in the AWA and on into the WWF as The Rockers. Someone mentioned that AJ has him beat in all categories outside of tag work. I'm not sure I agree with that, but I do think Shawn was a better wrestler from the get. As I said, I haven't seen the entire career of AJ, so I don't know what types of tag opportunities that he has had or that it matters. But, I do think they are both great and have both been a huge part of some of my all-time favorite matches and moments in this business. I don't want to vote because I don't have an answer. I think the fact that I don't have an answer really speaks loudly of AJ over the past few years though.

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Well... after thinking about it... I think I'd give the nod to HBK for now... basically for the reasons Micro laid out. I'm really looking forward to seeing what AJ brings us over the next few years and think this will be an even better discussion after he retires.

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I wonder how much this is a generational thing, if it is at all? I grew up watching the entire evolution of Shawn Michaels. From the Rockers, to the Marty heel turn on The Barbershop to the IC title days to becoming a main eventer & I think HBK wins this. For me, a lot of it was watching the progression of a wrestler over time. Same with Bret Hart. As a fan growing up watching pro-wrestling, it felt like we were on the journey with the wrestlers as they grew over time. We got to watch them develop, bloom & prosper under one roof.

 

A lot of it might be nostalgia on my part too, admittedly. I generally tend to favor wrestlers of yesteryear over modern era wrestlers. It's for sure a bias I have. I remember wrestling from the late 80's & early 90's just more fondly than anything that I've seen since 2002ish.

 

Shawn Michaels had flaws & faults certainly, and I would always choose Bret Hart over him but I just like Shawn's body of work more than Styles. That's not to say that A.J. Styles doesn't have a good résumé of work, I just prefer things like Shawn's Wrestlemania/Summerslam ladder matches with Razor, his Hell in a Cell & all his other great matches. He's more memorable to me. He has more big moments.

 

A lot of the A.J. Styles matches to me suffer the same thing in my head as most modern work: nothing stands out, they all blend together. I refer to this as Ring of Honor syndrome (which nowadays is a dated phrase & I should probably re-think that one). When every match is good, none of them stand out. They all sort of just exist but I can't differentiate one from the next. That pertains to both wrestling cards & wrestlers. That's not a knock on A.J. Styles, that's a knock on me as a fan. Maybe that's just part of getting older or maybe it's just due to wrestling being in a different place & in a different time. I don't know. It can be exhausting though.

 

Shawn Michaels definitely has some points in his career that I think negatively reflect on him. I could go the rest of my life without ever seeing or hearing a DeGeneration-X reference again & it's not like people think of Shawn as some upstanding human being either. I also think there's some blow back from specific fans due to WWE constantly referring to Shawn as this mythical wrestling icon & putting him on a pedestal. Like some sort of in-ring golden goose. The whole Mr. Wrestlemania & all that.

 

Pro-wrestling to me has always & will always be so much more than just comparing wrestling matches. It doesn't matter to me how good of an in-ring worker a particular wrestler is if they do nothing to make me care about the story or wanting to see the matches outside of "well, it'll be a good match." Pro-wrestling to me is about being memorable. That's memorable as a character, as a personality & as an overall performer, not just, in example, comparing side-by-side which entertainer has more highly rated Dave Meltzer snowflakes or whatever. I want to be able to suspend my disbelief & buy into the match; to care about the outcome & why the match is happening. To have an emotional investment in the story being told.

 

It's also harder to compare a guy that's still going to a guy that has already finished.

 

At the end of the day, for me, it comes down to this: Is A.J. Styles a better in-ring worker than Shawn Michaels? I don't care. Is A.J. Styles a better all around pro-wrestler & entertainer than Shawn Michaels? No.

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I grew up watching Bret Hart & Shawn Michaels grow. I was a huge fan of both.

 

A few years ago, I began going through TNA TV. When I was done with 2005, it was very obvious to me, even more considering what he has been doing at the same time in NJ then WWE, that AJ Styles was not even in the same league as Micheals. Then again, I soured on Micheals work quite a bit for quite a while too.

 

So, I guess for some (a lot of ?) people it's a generational thing. But as a non-nostalgic (or at least I try to be, because nostalgia usually makes me sick) person, I have to say I enjoyed watching AJ Styles in TNA from 2002-2007 (watched in the 10's) way more than I ever enjoyed Michaels. Well, maybe I "enjoyed" Micheals more back then because I was not thinking about it, but I certainly appreciated Styles' work a whole lot more, and it made for great moments for a 20 years + old wrestling fan.

But yeah, AJ in a landslide.

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I was calling AJ the best in the business back in the early-mid 2000's when everyone was pissing all over it because he worked for TNA instead of WWE. He has always been a tremendous worker, he has just changed his style since going to WWE, he is safer & calmer in the ring which in all honesty will only benefit him in the long run. Shawn Michaels IMO is one of the top workers in the history of the business, but I just have to have AJ ahead of him at this point. I just feel AJ has had many more great matches, & he has absolutely had a more wide variety of opponents to work with as well.

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