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Superstar Sleeze

[2003-02-26-TNA-PPV] AJ Styles vs Sandman

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AJ Styles vs Sandman - NWA-TNA 2/26/03

Shoutout to @Microstatistics for nominating this as a part of Greatest Match Ever! I wouldnt go that far but this is definitely worth a watch. 

I am one of the biggest AJ fanboys you will ever meet. I think a lot of people would assume if it is good well AJ must have carried it, but you'd be wrong. I don't know how to explain it. Sandman for all intents and purposes should be the worst wrestler ever. He is slovenly, out of shape, does not seem like gives a shit, but he is capable of being really fucking good. Yes he has more clunkers than great matches, but after watching a boat load of ECW he became one of my favorites. His matches are just engrossing. They are quick and they escalate really well. He comes off incredibly organic and raw. There is nothing artificial or pre-planned about The Sandman. He is all attitude and heart. He is like a great, sloppy punk band. He fucking kicked ass again. The only reason I dont rate this match higher is the finish was a cop-out and made the match feel truncated. They were on a trajectory for greatness, they just needed five more minutes and a better finish. 

Sandman forces himself on one of the cage dancers. I mean two heaping helpings of ass cheeks and full on tongue down the throat. It was a culture shock. I cant believe that was only 17 years ago. He does the full Sandman entrance. He shares a beer with a fan and smokes a cig. Don West says a smooch, smoke and a swig is the best way to prepare for a match. DW is definitely a fan. AJ gets fed up with this and wipes out The Sandman with a dive to the floor. Rifles him with a kick. AJ Wrestles circles around Sandman quite literally and Sandman puts enough struggle to make it look really good. I would love AJ bust out his amateur credentials more often. Another wicked kick by AJ. Oh yes the reason this match exists. AJ wants to join SEX 4 Life, I mean who doesnt, but so does Raven. You name your faction SEX people are gonna flock. Raven mocks AJ for diminutive stature and says the Sandman would whup him. AJ says Raven is an out of shape, washed up has been who could hang in the X-Division so Raven needs to wrestle an X-Division wrestler. So the gauntlet has been laid down. Also random aside, in the middle of the show, I had to click around to find the match, Impact+ doesnt have the WWE frame by frame guide. I stumbled upon Mike Tenay and Disco Inferno having a fucking forum flame war over why wrestling's TV audience has been cut in half since the Monday Night Wars and the merits of Sports Entertainment and Pro Wrestling. Bizarre and whats weirder is I feel like people are still fighting about today on forums and Twitter. 

Back to the match, so after showing up Sandman wrestling-wise, AJ wants to prove his hardcore mettle. So he lobs a trash can in Terry Funk-style and nails Sandman. He goes to drop toehold Sandman into it but Sandman evades and CHUCKS THE CAN AT AJ! Sandman is so good at selling and the way he chucked the can was great. He grabs a table sets it up and AJ crashes through it. The match is awesome and breezy and each highspot feels important. AJ evading the Singapore Cane was great. Sandman avoids Styles Clash by cracking the Cane on AJ's skull. Sandman sends AJ into a chair that pops out the backing. The match was just rocking when Raven blasts Sandman in the back with the chair and Styles his Styles Clash off the second rope. 

It is a real shame I feel like the match was just getting good and the interference didnt really make sense in context of the story (I know, I know, Russo). I enjoyed this could have been great with more time and a proper finish. ***3/4 

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This looked like a potential trainwreck to me on paper but I was pleasantly surprised. I actually was fine with the length of the match, as it doesn’t overstay its welcome. The matchup is unique and they played off their contrasting styles (no pun intended) well. The handful of high spots are memorable, especially the second-rope Styles Clash. There’s plenty to like here in spite of the bad booking at the end.

Check out my full review of this match, part of the 365 Wrestling project.


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