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[2002-08-24-ROH-Honor Invades Boston] Low Ki vs AJ Styles


Superstar Sleeze
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ROH World Champion Low-Ki vs AJ Styles - ROH 8/24/02

Lil Sleeze could have been somebody and went to this show as this was ROH's first show in Boston and I believe their first show outside of Philadelphia. Interesting they chose Boston over NYC. However, the year 2002 is the only year since 1997 I didnt watch pro wrestling in fact I completely fell out of it so I was completely unaware that two of my future favorite wrestlers were tearing the house down in Wakefield. Low-Ki had just won the right to be the inaugural ROH Champion and this is his first defense. People forget how integral AJ Styles was to ROH they always see him as a TNA guy, but AJ was positioned as a main eventer at the level of Ki, Daniels and Danielson. He was a tag team champion early with Amazing Red and had the honor of challenging for the title here in its first defense. 

AJ and Ki were basically married to each other in 2002. They worked two matches in ROH, a myriad of matches in TNA and a Z-1 match in early January 2003. These are just the matches I know about. I am sure there are others. Low-Ki is my pick for best wrestler on Planet Earth in 2002, he was having an insane year and AJ Styles was already great in 2002 as well. I have found this pairing to always be great, but to never be classic. In TNA, I chocked it up to short, Nitro-style matches and in Zero-One it was more of a touring exhibition match. I was really hopeful that ROH match would be the lost classic due to ROH's environment conducive to producing instant classics. Again, I got another great AJ Styles vs Low-Ki match, but one that falls short of being classic.

I thought what this match does well is play up the eveness of the two rivals and split the offense 50/50 without being "my turn, your turn". It is very competitive in the actual sense of the word and there is a lot of struggle throughout. There is a lot of fighting through offense and earning the next move. I thought the best story woven through this match was that the Champion Low-Ki has a slight lead on AJ throughout the match. The opening amateur wrestling/MMA ground sequence are really well done and you see AJ hold his own, but the Champion is slightly better. Then they move to strikes and again this is Ki's wheelhouse (Ki busts out the Inoki ground kicks and he has one amazing kick to AJ's head while in a headscissors that caught me unawares). AJ is no slouch. AJ has a great kick and a really great elbow/forearm, but this is Low-Ki in 2002 who is one of the all-time best strikers so again AJ falls behind. That's when you start to get that urgency out of AJ. He can feel the match starting to slip through his fingers so he starts taking risks like the kip up rana. He is trying to use the element of surprise, but the first time he gets a swift kick to his back for his trouble, but the second time he gets it. This throws KI off balance and affords AJ his first real advantage by following it up with suffocating strikes. From this perspective, I thought the match was great and it was an interesting take on pro wrestling. This is the type of psychology I wish we saw more of it because it is nuanced and breaks up the obvious two formula those being limb-based psychology and traditional babyface/heel psychology.   

We see this narrative play out the rest of the match that AJ could only sustain short flurries before Ki would return to control. AJ was lunge into turnbuckles or go for dives but eat a kick to the face. All these desperation moves that come up short because he couldnt consolidate anything, which is due to the fact that Ki is such an overwhelming force of nature. I think this story needed to be either paired with another story or more fleshed out because it left me unsatisfied ultimately because I didnt feel like there was a real hook. What's that thing I am going to remember about this match? Thats why transitions are so important. These were not the typically bad transitions that I rail because they were earned but they were NOT emphatic. There was no turning point to the match. It was a noisy match is what I would say. There were things I didnt like such as Ki doing Kawada Kicks and AJ hitting a modified slam directly after. The second time around where AJ fires up and goes insane with strikes I liked more it felt like his Fight or Flight mechanism was engaged, but thats kinda what it was no real strong transitions just noise. 

Another thing I thought was interesting was the escalation, there was not much. It was high intensity from jump with the mat wrestling and then the strikes. These two are fucking stiff and the offense was executed great. There really was not much ramp up, it was just a high level throughout. AJ's big move was the Spiral Tap which crashed and burned. He never really got a strong nearfall and Styles Clash was only teased once early in the match when Ki tried his own nip up rana. That was interesting. Ki got two Dragon Clutch sleepers before hitting the Ki-Krusher. Interesting match reminds me of Ki vs Danielson from 2001 where it is unique take on pro wrestling, but falls short of being completely satisfying. ****  

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  • paul sosnowski changed the title to [2002-08-24-ROH-Honor Invades Boston] Low Ki vs AJ Styles
  • 4 months later...

Their first ROH meeting was good, but a bit disappointing considering it's AJ Styles vs. Low Ki. It was definitely better than this match though. I have a hard time coming up with anything that I disliked about this, but to put it bluntly, the middle just feels very hollow. I did like the beginning where they do some pretty great work on the mat, and then I did like the last 3-5 minutes of the match -- especially that one fantastic bit where Styles gets FIRED UP by Ki's Kawada Kicks and unleashes a hellacious, aggressive flurry on him, but when it comes to everything between that said beginning & that last 3-5 minute stretch of the match, nothing really registered or clicked with me. Not a bad match at all, but far from the quality I'd want out of this pairing, especially in a setting like this. **3/4

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  • 1 year later...

Great match. We've seen these two have some great TV matches in TNA. This was a chance for them to have a longer bout. They worked the same basic style just double the length. It was strike/counter strike, move/counter move, the entire way with no real dramatic pauses. I can live with that when the match is stiff and the intensity is full throttle. 

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