Wrestler of the Day – June 2: AJ Styles

Get ready to fly. It’s AJ Styles.

AJ would get started in 1998 in NWA Wildside in Georgia. This led to a spot in the dying days of WCW as part of the Air Raid tag team. From the final Thunder on March 21, 2001.

Air Raid vs. Jung Dragons

It’s Yang (as in Jimmy Wang) and Kaz Hayashi as the Dragons and Air Raid would be Air Paris (no one of note) and Styles, as in AJ Freaking Styles. See what WCW had and still managed to fail? And yes I know they were dead by the time he arrived. He’s Air Paris here but screw that name. AJ and Yang start us off, and oddly enough both would be in the first match in TNA’s history.

Styles is kept on the match but snaps off a headscissors. And never mind as he runs into a suplex. Paris comes in now and things break down quickly. Kaz comes in and walks the corner, hitting an enziguri to Paris. Styles Clash gets two on Kaz because it’s not a big time move yet. Paris hits a spinning cross body off the top for no cover.

Tony calls this the season finale for Thunder and says Monday will be the season finale for Nitro. That’s putting it mildly. Off to Styles again who hammers away. He’s also a lot smaller than he is now. Paris hammers on Yang in the corner but gets caught in a sitout powerbomb out of the corner.

Hot tag to Kaz with no heat from the crowd. He cleans house and gets a huge swinging kick to a kneeling Styles. Kaz gets something resembling a combination of a Cradle Shock and a Snow Plow on Paris for two. AJ goes up but jumps into a dropkick. Yang Time is broken up and Air Raid goes for something out of the corner. WCW cuts to the crowd for no apparent reason and when we come back they’re on the mat. No idea what the point was of that but whatever. In the ring Kaz gets a reverse bulldog (worse than it sounds) for the pin on AJ.

Rating: C. Some nice spots in there but some of the stuff was rather sloppy. Air Raid were crusierweight jobbers so it’s pretty clear they were stacked in that division. Match was fun but the ending left a lot to be desired. Also a lack of high spots and such with the guys you had in there hurt it a bit.

He would have two matches in WWF as well, including this one, a dark match on January 22, 2002.

AJ Styles vs. Rico Constantino

AJ spins out of a wristlock to start before backflipping out of a German suplex. A knee to the back puts Rico in control and a kick to the head gets two. We hit the chinlock on Styles before a spinwheel kick gets two more on AJ. Rico misses a great looking moonsault and walks into a brainbuster for two. A spinning cross body off the top mostly hits Rico’s legs but AJ backdrops him to the floor. AJ follows him out with a shooting star dive to really wake the crowd up. Back in and AJ gets knocked throat first onto the top rope, setting up a kind of northern lights suplex for the pin.

Rating: C. This was actually really entertaining stuff and was enough to get AJ a developmental deal with the company. He didn’t want to move to Louisville though so it was off to TNA instead. Good match though and that springboard shooting star looked awesome. Rico was a great talent but the stylist gimmick killed him.

AJ would hit the indys soon after this, including a run in the WWA promotion in Australia. Here he is challenging for their Cruiserweight Title at the Eruption PPV.

International Cruiserweight Title: AJ Styles vs. Jerry Lynn

This has a twenty minute time limit. That’s the best they can do for their secondary championship? Don’t bother trying to make it feel important or anything. They head to the mat to start with neither guy being able to get an advantage. Jerry avoids a dropkick and we have a standoff. Styles flips out of a wristlock to put on one of his own and they flip around a lot before both guys try armdrags at the same time, resulting in a Lynn armbar. That’s a new spot for me.

Styles escapes a monkey flip but gets clotheslined down and hit with a backbreaker for two. Off to a surfboard by Lynn followed by a spinning inverted Gory Special. AJ comes back with his moonsault DDT for two and a big kick to the head for two more. Styles tries a tornado DDT but gets caught in a northern lights suplex into the corner instead to put him right back down. AJ knocks him out to the floor and hits a big flip dive to take Jerry down again as selling continues to be a foreign idea.

Back in and the dive gets two as Lynn is bleeding from the mouth a bit. The Styles Clash is countered into a rana from Jerry but AJ counters the cradle piledriver as well. We get a nice long pinfall reversal sequence with about five two counts each. Jerry finally kills AJ dead with a German suplex so Styles comes back with a neckbreaker for two of his own. Lynn hits a sitout powerbomb for two and gets the same off the cradle piledriver. Out of nowhere AJ counters a DDT and hits the Styles Clash for two of his own. AJ goes up top but gets punched in the ribs. Lynn’s superplex is broken up and the Spiral Tap gives AJ the title.

Rating: B-. This was fine for a spot fest but at the same time it felt like they were trying to have a classic rather than having one. The lack of selling was as annoying as ever with both guys taking big moves and popping right back up like it was a single chop. These two would have WAY better matches in TNA but those were a few months away.

Now we get to the important stuff as AJ enters TNA. He would be in the first match ever for the company, on June 19, 2002.

AJ Styles/Low Ki/Jerry Lynn vs. The Flying Elvises

You read that name right. They’re Jorge Estrada, Jimmy (Wang) Yang and Sonny Siaki. It’s original if nothing else. AJ looks YOUNG here. He’s just a regular guy. The legends in the back aren’t sure what to say. They point out that this isn’t about weight limits, even though other than Joe, no one with any weight has ever held the belt and he was about 5 years away. Ok so the Elvises are heels. Got it.

The faces hit dropkicks and ranas to start. It’s your standard spotfest to start and that’s fine. It’s a tried and true method to get the crowd going so there we are. Next week we have the X-Division Title tournament in a round robin tournament. Cool. I might do more or these but we’ll see. More or less everyone just shows off for awhile which is what they’re supposed to do.

The X Division has never been about stories but just insanity and that’s perfectly fine. We start the Elvis puns and I shake my head. For the life of me I’ll never get how the Honky Tonk Man got over as much as he did. We get an MMA reference before MMA was cool. Here’s AJ who looks about 17 here. Estrada kicks his head off so there we go. Lynn hits the Cradle Piledriver and it’s all breaking down. We get our first Pele kick. Yang hits a rotating moonsault to pin AJ which means nothing at this point.

Rating: B-. This was fine. There was no story and there wasn’t supposed to be. This was to get the crowd going and it did just that and more. It’s really short but that’s fine. No problems here, but DANG AJ looked like he was in high school or something. Granted he wasn’t that far removed.

Next up is AJ getting started in his most famous set of accomplishments. He would become the first X-Division Champion but lose it about a month and a half later. Styles would get another chance at the belt at Weekly PPV #11 on August 28, 2002.

X-Division Title: Jerry Lynn vs. Low Ki vs. AJ Styles

This is a ladder match with Ki defending. They circle each other for a bit until Styles drops down and grabs a ladder. Both other guys slide to the floor as well with Styles hitting Jerry with the ladder, only to have Low Ki kick the ladder back into AJ. They head back inside where Low Ki kicks Lynn off the apron. A handspring kick takes Styles down as well as Jerry comes back in.

Lynn hits a sweet spinning tilt-a-whirl backbreaker to take the champ down before pounding on Styles in the corner. Low Ki gets put in a surfboard but Styles breaks it up and stomps on Low Ki a bit. Jerry suplexes AJ down and puts him in a Liontamer, only to have Low Ki fire off kicks to break it up. Lynn won’t let it go and shouts to kick him harder. Low Ki is fine with that and kicks Lynn hard enough to break up the hold.

A running kick in the corner takes Styles down again before loading him into the Ki Crusher. Instead of dropping him though, Low Ki rams him into Jerry in the corner to put both guys down. The champ goes to get the ladder but Jerry baseball slides it back into Low Ki to take over again. Styles heads to the floor as well to kick the champ in the head before dropping Lynn face first onto the apron.

With the ladder bridged between the ring and the barricade, all three guys stand on top of it and slug it out before a big headbutt sends all three guys to the ground. Lynn is up first and sends a ladder into the ring which is dropkicked into AJ’s ribs and chest on the mat. Low Ki is up again and starts setting up the ladder, only to have AJ deck him from behind. The ladder is leaning against the ropes as AJ GOES OFF on the champ, only to walk into a punch from Jerry.

Lynn and Styles launch Low Ki into the ladder in a double hiptoss and it’s one on one. AJ does a Daniel Bryan backflip off the ladder and tries a tornado DDT, only to have Lynn counter and hit a northern lights suplex to send AJ back first into the ladder. Ki is back in and kicks Jerry down but realizes he can’t pin him. A charge in the corner is caught by Lynn but he ranas Jerry into the ladder to put all three guys down again.

It’s AJ back up first to ram the champ with the ladder before he tries to climb, only to get kicked by Low Ki. AJ is hung in a Tree of Woe in the ladder where Low Ki fires off kicks to the chest. Now Low Ki climbs but Jerry makes the save and suplexes him down off the ladder to put everyone down again. AJ gets up and hits the moonsault DDT on Low Ki to pop the crowd again. Jerry pounds on Styles and catches a jumping champion in a running Liger Bomb to take over yet again.

There’s a second ladder in the ring now as Styles brings in another one. Low Ki slides out and brings in a third as this could get very messy in a hurry. The challengers stop fighting long enough to make a save of Low Ki as Styles and Low Ki fight on top. Low Ki hooks a Dragon Sleeper on top of the ladder (grab the title you dolt) but here’s Lynn again and all three are on a ladder.

In a pretty awesome move, Low Ki has his ladder shoved down but he gets his foot on the top rope and shoves himself and the ladder back to an upright position. AJ gets shoved to the floor and it’s Lynn vs. Low Ki. Jerry is like DIE YOU KICKING SPOT MONKEY and cradle piledrives him off the ladder. Lynn climbs up and wins the title to end the show.

Rating: B+. Solid, solid match here with all three guys beating the tar out of each other. It’s not on the level of one of the TLC matches, but for what we had here, this was one of the better ladder matches you’ll see in awhile. I’d have preferred just Lynn and AJ because I’m not a fan of Low Ki at all, but the shove back off the rope was good enough for me to overlook him. Solid stuff.

Just under a year later, AJ would be one of the top heels in the company. One of his first World Title shots came on June 11, 2003.

NWA World Title: AJ Styles vs. Raven vs. Jeff Jarrett

Jarrett is defending. After some big match intros we’re ready to go and it’s one fall to a finish. Styles is quickly thrown to the floor but he runs back in to deck a talking Jarrett. Raven gets kicked down by AJ but Jarrett hits a picture perfect dropkick to take AJ down as well. Jarrett and Raven brawl to the floor and AJ hits a big flip dive to take them both out. AJ whips Raven into the barricade so hard that it’s knocked off the hinges, only to have Raven charge back over the steps with a clothesline to Jarrett.

Back in and AJ pounds on Jarrett in the corner but gets caught in a running powerbomb for two. Raven ducks Jeff’s enziguri and there’s an STF on the champion until AJ makes the save. Styles hits the moonsault into a DDT for two on Jarrett but Raven makes the save. Neither Jarrett or Raven can hit their finishers so here’s AJ with a chair to crack Raven’s head, busting him open in the process.

AJ and Jarrett form a quick alliance to double team Raven but Jarrett doesn’t care for AJ going for a cover after a springboard hurricanrana. The roles reverse when Jarrett slams Raven’s head into the mat as AJ makes the save. Now we get a combination reverse chinlock and half crab on Raven until AJ lets go and goes up for a guillotine legdrop. Raven sends Jarrett forward though and the champ is knocked out.

It’s Raven’s turn to take over now with a superkick to Jeff and a series of clotheslines to AJ. A chair is brought in but Raven gets caught in the drop toehold. AJ is knocked to the floor and Raven counters the Stroke into the Raven Effect for two due to Shane Douglas pulling Raven to the floor. They fight to the back, leaving AJ to blast Jarrett with the belt. Instead of covering though Styles goes up top for a Low Down (frog splash) for two.

AJ pounds away in the corner but gets caught in an Alabama Slam for two. Styles comes back with a powerbomb but can’t hook a Figure Four. Instead he sunsets flips Jeff into a Styles Clash but Jarrett rolls away and slams AJ into the referee in the corner. AJ breaks up a superplex attempt but his springboard 450 hits knees in a painful looking landing. Cue Vince Russo with a guitar to crack over Jarrett’s head, setting up the Styles Clash for the pin and the title.

Rating: C. This was much more of a collection of spots than a good match. It’s also a match that would have been better if I knew all of the backstory behind it. That’s a problem with most of this DVD: the matches have no context at all, meaning it’s hard to care about anything going on out there. It’s even worse when this isn’t a very well known time in the company’s history, meaning people aren’t as likely to know this stuff off the top of their heads.

While he was tearing up TNA, AJ was also a big deal in Ring of Honor. Styles would make it to the finals of a tournament to crown the first Pure Champion at the Second Anniversary Show.

Pure Title: AJ Styles vs. CM Punk

Pure Rules are a bit more complicated than a regular match. First of all, you’re only allowed three rope breaks for the entire match. If you use them up, a rope does nothing to break a pin or submission. You also can’t throw closed fists to the face, though punches to the ribs are allowed. One punch thrown to the face earned a warning, the second was the loss of a rope break, and if there were no rope breaks remaining, it would be an automatic disqualification. Finally, a countout requires a twenty count.

They begrudgingly shake hands and we’re ready to go. Punk grabs a wristlock to start as the announcers explain the rules. AJ counters into his own wristlock but Punk grabs the rope to flip out, which counts as a rope break. An early Styles Clash is countered into a rollup but Styles uses a rope break to escape. Two breaks remaining apiece. They lock up and fall all the way to the floor without breaking the hold until a thirteen count when they both sprint back in.

Traci Brooks is watching from ringside and AJ immediately hits the floor to get rid of her. Punk uses the distraction to take Styles down and we’ve got our first advantage. That doesn’t last long though as AJ nails a dropkick but aggravates a knee injury to put both guys down again. They head into the crowd and there’s so much darkness that I can only make out Punk’s yellow shorts.

Back to the ring with Punk putting on a Boston crab, forcing AJ to use a second rope break. AJ comes right back with a figure four neck lock over the ropes. The referee counts to four and AJ breaks, but that’s considered a rope break by Punk. That sounds bogus to me and the face announcer agrees. Punk cranks on a half crab as the announcers recap the one night tournament. AJ has to use his final rope break and Punk is very pleased.

A curb stomp has AJ in trouble and Punk puts on something like an Indian deathlock, only for AJ to reach up and rip at Punk’s face, sending CM into the ropes for his final break. Everyone is out of breaks now so the ropes are in play. Punk loads up a superplex but gets countered into a freaking super gordbuster to put both guys flat on their faces. Back up and they forearm it out, which should be a DQ as the announcers said strikes to the face are illegal.

AJ nails a discus lariat to send Punk out to the floor but he’s back in at fifteen. A Shining Wizard gets two on Styles and a piledriver lays him out again but Punk doesn’t cover. Instead it’s off to a modified Texas Cloverleaf but AJ crawls over to the ropes and climbs up in a nice counter. A second Shining Wizard is countered into the Clash for a VERY close two and the fans think it was three.

Punk gets the same off a wicked DDT but can’t hook the Pepsi Plunge (middle rope Pedigree). The announcers clarify the strikes thing by saying only punches to the face are illegal. AJ knocks Punk silly with an enziguri on the top, setting up a super Styles Clash for the pin and the title.

Rating: C+. This wasn’t terrible but it didn’t do much for me. To be fair though, a lot of that can be blamed on the guys both wrestling twice earlier in the night. I don’t care what kind of shape you’re in, that’s going to takes its toll eventually. The Pure Title was kind of an odd belt and it never really held my interest.

Back to TNA, as AJ looked to get the World Title back on April 21, 2004.

NWA World Title: AJ Styles vs. Jeff Jarrett

Jarrett is defending inside a cage and AJ is a surprise opponent, even though the DVD graphic shows that it’s AJ. Jarrett thinks it’s going to be Raven but Director of Authority Vince Russo runs through other challengers for about five minutes before announcing Styles, sending West and Tenay into their usual frenzy. Pin/submission only here. Feeling out process to start with AJ outworking Jeff on the mat to frustrate the champion. A shoulder block gets AJ nowhere so he chops the skin off Jeff’s chest.

They trade armdrags and chops until Jeff jacks AJ’s jaw to take over. Styles avoids being rammed into the cage and drops down into a loud dropkick. The running knee drop gets two but Jeff comes back with some nice right hands. AJ nips up into a hurricanrana and gets two off a powerslam. They’re only in second or so gear at this point.

Styles gets two off a delayed vertical suplex but Jeff comes back by ramming AJ into the steel twice in a row. Rolling belly to back suplexes get another near fall for the champion and he stops an AJ comeback by avoiding a missile dropkick. It’s time to go after the leg but AJ counters the Figure Four into a small package for two. Instead it’s a Sharpshooter from the champ but AJ is quickly in the ropes. Jeff doesn’t let go of the hold and AJ counters into a Sharpshooter of his own, but Earl Hebner is nowhere in sight so we keep going.

The moonsault out of the corner into the reverse DDT gets two for AJ but the referee gets his eye poked. Powder in AJ’s eyes sets up a backslide for two but AJ comes back with blind kicks. The referee checks on AJ’s eyes but Jeff pulls out a chain and lays out Styles for two. Why Jeff has to hide these things in a cage is beyond me but the match has been good so I won’t complain. Jarrett has his Styles Clash countered and the real version gets two.

AJ goes up to the top of the cage but Jeff sends the referee into the wall to knock AJ down a bit. A flying shot into the cage knocks AJ to the floor (pin/submission only remember) but the referees get him back in. Jeff uses the opening to get a guitar but Vince Russo comes out for a distraction. AJ kicks the guitar apart and rolls Jarrett up for the pin and the title.

Rating: B. This continues the old theory of talented guys can have good matches no matter what rules they’re fighting under. To go back to what Jarrett was talking about, this is the kind of thing that you need veterans for in fledgling companies. Seeing AJ vs. a bunch of other guys fans have never heard of means nothing, but seeing AJ beat former WCW World Champion Jeff Jarrett for the title makes the fans think something of AJ.

TNA’s first three hour PPV took place in the fall of 2004 and AJ would get an X-Division Title shot on the card.

X-Division Title: Petey Williams vs. AJ Styles

AJ was a huge star almost at this point but he was still the king of the midcard as he would be for a long time to come, as in like 5 years. These two just go freaking nuts like an old school cruiserweight match. AJ hits a perfect backflip off the apron to the floor and then a senton over the top rope to the floor. Petey takes over with a jawbreaker and we get down to a bit more of a standard match to set up AJ’s big comeback.

For a crowd that all loves AJ that’s a heck of a dueling chant they have going. Ok that was cool. Petey puts AJ in the Tree of Woe and stands on his crotch. He does it again and AJ does more or less a really bit sit up and grabs AJ to pull him back in a German suplex which he follows with a Pele. I LOVE that springboard forearm. It just looks awesome as all goodness.

Both guys counter each other’s finisher and then AJ just chucks Petey into the corner. That’s one way to do it I guess. AJ has the pin but the fat Canadian coach interrupts it. AJ kicks out of a belt shot so at least the match should be ok for the ending as that would have killed it for me. After more interference, we get the awesome finish as Petey hits the Canadian Destroyer, which is just completely awesome. It’s a jumping flip piledriver. In other words he’s got him in a regular piledriver but jumps forward and does a full flip before hitting it. That’s just amazing on a lot of levels.

Rating: B. This was very fun but AJ should have gone over here. I mean it’s your biggest show and your top face for the most part goes over to a generic guy with a cool finisher. That just doesn’t make sense to me, but it’s TNA so why am I surprised? Fun match, but why in the world do you not do the obvious here?

Off to Lockdown 2005 for my favorite TNA match ever.

Abyss vs. AJ Styles

For the few of you that might be wondering, this is my favorite TNA match ever. AJ is YOUNG looking here which is saying a lot as he’s still young today but here he looks like he’s about 19. He’s a two time world champion here though which is never mentioned anymore for no apparent reason. Abyss is listed at 350lbs here again but he’s a LOT slimmer looking here.

He still has the chains here which were a nice touch for him. I have no idea why but they are. AJ dives through the door to take down Abyss before he gets in. Abyss tries to whip him into the railing but AJ baseball slides UNDERNEATH the railing and jumps up onto it and hits a rana to take down Abyss. That was freaking awesome and happened inside of five seconds.

All AJ to start as we’re still on the floor. Abyss had more or less been unstoppable recently since splitting from his stablemate Alex Shelley (let that sink in for a bit) so this is a major showdown and seeing Abyss reeling is odd to see. Abyss fights him back and whips him into the railing again so this time AJ channels his inner Morrison and double jumps up to a platform into the crowd, spins around and jumps over FIVE ROWS of fans to his the forearm on Abyss. This is one of the most awesome performances I’ve ever seen and we’re maybe three minutes into this.

AJ dives at Abyss on the railing ala Sting but instead of crashing into it clears the railing by a good foot and hits the ground in the crowd. Abyss pounds on him a bit but AJ just kicks the tar out of him to escape for a bit. West talks about Kenny Chesney for absolutely no apparent reason.

They open the door of the cage after about six minutes of brawling. The difference between this and the stupid stuff before: this was INCREDIBLY entertaining and the fans were way into it as opposed to Jarrett and Waltman walking around and occasionally hitting each other with something. AJ and Abyss never stopped moving and the fans were into it because of it. The difference here: hard work works better than walking around hitting each other with weapons.

AJ punches Abyss HARD but gets the cage door slammed into his arm and then his face where he snaps down to the floor. It looked like he got hit by a bus or something as fast as he hit the ground. Great selling there. AJ is busted open and Abyss pounds away even more. AJ finally in the cage now as Abyss looks under the ring for the bag of tacks. About eight and a half minutes in they’re in the cage together.

Abyss chokes him with the chain and we play tug of war. AJ simply will not quit and keeps hammering away to no avail though. With the chain on the top turnbuckle, Abyss launches AJ over his head in kind of a forced leapfrog and his head slams into the chain. The fans think this is awesome and for once they’re right. They stop for a bit for the a neck crank and AJ sells the heck out of it too.

AJ charges again but Abyss grabs him in a gorilla press and LAUNCHES him up to just let him crash down. He tries it again but AJ counters into a DDT onto the chain. Two punches and an enziguri takes Abyss down as does a headscissors. AJ hits a moonsault press but Abyss just lets him bounce off which was cool looking. AJ sends him into a chair into the corner that Abyss set up and gets a German suplex for two that looked good.

He goes for the Styles Clash but Abyss is way too big for that. Chokeslam is countered into a rollup for two. AJ gets another running start but walks into the Black Hole Slam for a VERY long two. Dang Abyss looks awesome (what am I saying?) when he really uncorks that thing. Yep there are the tacks. Black Hole Slam into them are countered as is a powerbomb.

AJ gets the Styles Clash (ok more like a falling face first slam but we’ll give it to him) into the tacks for two. Wow I would have bet on that being the ending. You know if I didn’t know the ending already. Abyss is ROCKED here which was unthinkable until this match. AJ goes to the top of the cage and Abyss can’t catch him. His solution: throw the referee at the cage to knock AJ off. That was awesome.

Abyss climbs up as AJ is barely hanging on. He goes up with the chain and might be thinking to hang him as he had on Impact. Yep that’s what he’s going for. AJ is on the outside and Abyss on the inside and yep he’s hanging him. AJ gets the chain off somehow and Abyss grabs the chokeslam. AJ bites his fingers and opens those things up! AJ jumps off the top of the cage and hits a freaking sunset flip powerbomb onto the tacks from the top of the cage to get the pin as Abyss is DEAD.

Rating: A+. OH YES! AJ was absolutely amazing here and it was definitely Abyss’ best match ever. This was just a total war for twenty minutes with AJ never stopping and taking it to Abyss much like Flair did back at Starrcade 93 to Vader. There was no gimmick here as it was just a big old fight in a cage with weapons brought in for fun. AJ would get the title the next month….and then lose it to Raven the next month because the world was clamoring for more Raven and less AJ. Uh…sure. He wouldn’t get it back for over four years.

Soon after this, Samoa Joe would debut and turn the company upside down. After destroying both AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels, something had to be done to stop him. The solution was a three way match at Unbreakable, in what is considered TNA’s best match ever.

X-Division Title: Samoa Joe vs. AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels

Daniels is the longest reigning champion ever at this point, AJ is a four time champion and Joe is undefeated. This is TNA’s greatest match ever so let’s see if it holds up. AJ and Joe team up to beat down Daniels to start which is kind of a surprising move. Joe kicks him HARD in the back and AJ does the same thing. It turns into a contest and I think Joe wins by a hair. Daniels gets up but Joe kicks him in the face. Cool sequence.

AJ grabs a fast rollup on Joe and we’re ready to get going. They trade pinfall attempts so fast that I can’t type them until Joe hooks a modified Rings of Saturn. Daniels breaks it up and kicks AJ down for no cover. Joe chops the champ and hits a standing enziguri to knock him to the floor. AJ takes Joe down but Daniels is back in to take over on Styles, getting two. Joe chops them both in the corner but Daniels fires back with chops of his own.

Styles headscissors both guys down into opposite corners and fires off kicks at Joe. Joe is like screw that and suplexes him down overhead style. There’s the Facewash to Styles but Daniels breaks up the running kick to the face. Daniels hits a springboard moonsault onto Joe on the floor but you know AJ has to top him, so he hits a springboard shooting star to take both guys down. He rolls Joe back in for two and things slow down a tiny bit.

Actually scratch that as Styles hits the drop down/dropkick combo for two. Daniels comes back in again and monkey flips AJ at Joe but AJ twists in mid air into a rana on the fat man. Daniels O’Connor rolls Styles for two and then launches him over the top and out to the floor. A flying knee sends Joe into the corner and Daniels slaps him in the face. Joe will have none of that and slaps Daniels back but Daniels rolls him up for two.

Joe counters the rollup into the Clutch so Styles busts out Spiral Tap to break up the hold. That gets two on both guys and Daniels sends Styles back to the floor. An STO puts Joe down but AJ breaks up the BME. I feel like I’m talking to a 3 year old after that last exchange with all the spelling. Daniels gets caught in the Tree of Woe and AJ kicks away, but Joe splashes AJ into Daniels. A running dropkick to the face breaks the Tree and Daniels is out.

The running big boot that Joe does knocks AJ’s head into Tallahassee somewhere and the backsplash gets two. Daniels comes back out of nowhere and hits the Death Valley Driver on Joe. Everyone is down until Daniels covers Joe for two. AJ gets sent to the floor and both he and Daniels miss moonsaults. They slug it out so Joe hits a corkscrew plancha to take both guys down. The fans are losing their minds over this stuff. Back in and Daniels breaks up the MuscleBuster but Styles goes up too. AJ and Daniels fight on the top so Joe backdrops both of them down at the same time.

Joe gets up first and he looks MAD. He and AJ slug it out with AJ taking over but Joe slugs him right back and hits a big old German release suplex to take over. There’s the MuscleBuster but Daniels comes in with the belt. He charges at Joe but the Samoan hits a snap powerslam to cut that off. Joe picks the belt up but Daniels kicks it into his face. Daniels and AJ slug it out and that just feels appropriate. A blue thunder bomb out of nowhere gets two on Styles.

Release Rock Bottom puts AJ down and the BME gets two as Joe makes the save. Daniels puts a Dragon Sleeper on Joe and hooks the Last Rites (rolling cutter which he didn’t use that often) to send Joe to the floor again. AJ bounces back up and hits the moonsault into the reverse DDT for two. Styles goes up but Daniels hits a palm strike to stop him. Daniels superplexes him down but he can’t cover. Joe comes in and covers both guys for two.

Joe focuses on Daniels and hits his powerbomb into the Boston Crab into the STF sequence so he can call a LONG spot to Daniels. Daniels (wearing a wedding ring) gets the rope so Joe beats up AJ a bit more. He fires off forearms but AJ snaps off the Pele to take over again. The Rack into a neckbreaker gets two for Styles but Daniels is back up. AJ hits a sunset flip into the Clash but Joe makes the save at two. Daniels ducks a charging Joe to send him tot he floor. AJ and Daniels slug it out and Daniels tries the Angel’s Wings. AJ counters into a bridging backdrop and stays on top for the pin and the title.

Rating: A+. Yeah that’s the easy answer but there’s no real other option to go with here. This was about twenty three minutes long and the longest they go without action is maybe 20 seconds. These three have incredible chemistry together and it was a great example of what smaller guys can do. It’s not the best match in TNA history by a mile but it’s the best match by a few feet. Great match.

Next up was Bound For Glory 2005 and a renewal of his interminable feud with Christopher Daniels.

X-Division Title: AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels

AJ is defending and it has a thirty minute time limit under Iron Man rules. Daniels jumps AJ before the bell and we’re off quickly. He controls for the opening minute and they trade chops, won by AJ. A backbreaker puts Daniels down and onto the floor but Daniels blocks AJ’s dive. Daniels hits some palm strikes but Styles dropkicks him down. Back to the floor and Daniels is knocked into the crowd. AJ dives over the barricade and both guys are down.

They head back inside and AJ controls with a headlock. Five minutes in and the fans say both guys are awesome. The headlock stays on for a few minutes but you have to burn some time in a match like this. Daniels rolls out of it and hooks an armbar. AJ fights out of it and sends Daniels into a few corners. A hard kick puts Daniels down as it’s been almost all AJ so far.

Bridging Indian Deathlock goes on and Daniels is in big trouble, so he bited AJ’s hands to escape. Ten minutes in now. Daniels heads to the apron but AJ clotheslines him back into the ring. Springboard forearm is countered into a high collar suplex to put both guys down. Daniels takes over and twists AJ’s neck around a bit. That can’t feel good. A tilt-a-whirl backbreaker gets two and it’s off to a neck crank by Daniels.

AJ grabs a cradle out of nowhere for two and then another one for another two. Koji Clutch out of nowhere has AJ in trouble. AJ tries to power out of it but goes right back down. Another power out attempt works and AJ makes the rope. Slingshot moonsault gets two on the champion. We’re halfway through and it’s 0-0. AJ escapes a backbreaker and hits his moonsault into a reverse DDT.

Hammerlock belly to back suplex gets two as does a pumphandle gutbuster. That’s a new one. AJ tries a moonsault but gets caught in a Death Valley Driver for a very close two. Daniels puts him on the middle rope and flips him forward into a mat slam for two. AJ counters a neckbreaker into one of his own for a slightly delayed two. AJ tries the moonsault DDT again but gets caught in a spinning powerbomb for two. BME STILL doesn’t get a fall as it only gets a two count.

Ten minutes to go and AJ puts on a torture rack and then spins it out into a slam for two. AJ dives into the corner but Daniels moves and knocks Styles to the outside where he lands on the steps. A BIG suicide dive destroys AJ but Daniels can’t follow up due to exhaustion. As they come back in, AJ hits the Pele to knock Daniels back to the floor at 8 minutes to go. Another BIG flip dive takes Daniels out and both guys are down.

Seven minutes to go and both guys are down on the floor. As they get back in, Daniels blocks a suplex back inside and hits a belly to back suplex from the apron to the floor. That was pretty awesome, much like this match. Six minutes left and it’s still zero to zero. They’re both back in with five minutes to go. Scratch that as Daniels kicks AJ out of the ring before he was all the way in.

With about 4:25 to go they slug it out in the middle of the ring with AJ taking a slight advantage. Four minutes left. AJ has a big bruise on his leg. Small package gets two for the champion. Pele misses and Daniels rolls him up for two. AJ does the same and gets the same. Daniels hits a German suplex but AJ pops up and hits a discus lariat before collapsing. Under three minutes to go now.

AJ falls on top for two and we have two minutes left. Daniels channels his inner Piper and pokes AJ in the eye. That gets him nowhere because AJ gets to the apron and hits a springboard cross body for two despite a handful of tights. 90 seconds left and they trade forearms. The fans are split here. One minute to go and Daniels blocks a suplex. AJ kicks him in the head again but it only gets two. Daniels kicks him in the head but the Angel’s Wings are countered into a suplex for two. AJ hits the Clash with two seconds left for the only fall and the win. WOW that was a hot ending.

Rating: A. The only way to make this better would have been to say AJ loses the title in a tie. Still though, GREAT match here and pretty easily the best match I’ve ever seen these two have. That’s some pretty awesome timing too with AJ getting the pin literally with two seconds left. I know I complain about AJ and Daniels a lot, but back then it was great, with this being the best I’ve ever seen from them.

Drool over this you puro freaks. From Final Resolution 2006.

AJ Styles vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

This is a match for the sake of a match. Tanahashi is basically the superman of NJPW at the moment (2012) and he’s a rising star at this point (2006). AJ is Mr. TNA for 2005. Remember that as it’ll come into play later. Feeling out process to start as they head to the mat. That goes nowhere so the fans chant for both guys. AJ gets armdragged down as Tenay talks about the history of Japanese guys in America.

They trade armdrags and Tanahashi takes over with an armbar. AJ is like screw that and dropkicks him to the floor. He sets for a dive but Tanahashi moves. AJ catches himself on the apron and we stop for some staring. Back in and Styles drops a knee for two. Tanahashi hits a release German for the same. Off to an abdominal stretch so Tenay can list off Tanahashi’s wins so we can have a reason to think something of him.

Styles gets caught in a sleeper and then its dragon cousin. A dragon sleeper swing gets two. That looked awesome. A middle rope elbow misses and Styles hits an enziguri to put both guys down. Tanahashi escapes a brainbuster but for some reason he puts AJ on the apron. There’s the springboard forearm for two. Hiroshi gets a knee up in the corner and hits a full nelson slam for two.

AJ misses a spin kick and Tanahashi takes him down with an enziguri. Tanahashi tries a belly to back superplex but AJ counters into a crossbody while in mid-air. Shannon Moore runs in with AJ’s plaque but it hits Tanahashi by mistake. AJ Pele’s him down and hits the Styles Clash on Tanahashi for the pin.

Rating: B-. Good match here but the ending holds it down a lot. Moore was doing his punk thing at this point and they put him with Styles for a few weeks until everyone realized that no one cared about Shannon Moore. The match was going really well as Tanahashi really is good, but again there’s no story to the match so it’s hard to care about it at all.

It’s been too long since AJ and Daniels did something together, so here’s Slammiversary 2006 with them as a dream team.

Tag Titles: Christopher Daniels/AJ Styles vs. America’s Most Wanted

AMW has the titles of course. Gail is looking great in all white tonight. Storm hides something behind the steps before the match starts. Styles and Storm start us off, which is a potential PPV main event today. Storm takes him down with a shoulder block so Styles starts jumping around to take over. There’s the dropdown dropkick and Storm is in trouble. The challengers start tagging in and out quickly as they work over Storm’s arm.

It’s off to Harris vs. Daniels for a battle of arm control. Daniels gets him down and steps on the head of Harris just to be evil, although in a friendly way of course. Storm comes in and we get some homosexually suggestive positions as a result. AMW gets sent to the floor and Styles hits a huge flip dive over the top to take them both down. Daniels brings Storm back in for a slingshot elbow drop for a delayed two.

Back to Styles and the perfect double teaming begins. Styles slides through Harris’ legs to ram his face into the apron. Styles goes back in to face the legal Storm but everything breaks down on the floor. Gail gets involved out there and AMW takes over again. AJ tries to use the barricade as a launch pad but Storm takes the legs out and sends AJ’s chest into the steel.

Back in and it’s Storm vs. Styles before a quick tag brings Harris back in. With Harris doing nothing he brings Storm back in for some kicks to the head for two. Back to the Wildcat who chokes away. I’m starting to get why Storm was the successful one after the team broke up. AJ gets spun around and almost makes a tag out of it, only to get caught in a spinning mat slam by Storm.

Styles counters the reverse tornado DDT and hits the Pele to put both guys down. There’s the double tag and Daniels speeds things up. The slingshot moonsault gets two on Harris as Storm messes up his save. A Blue Thunder Bomb puts Harris down but Gail makes the save. Sirelda, a Chyna wannabe, makes her debut and lays out Gail.

Back to the match, AMW tries a double team move off the top but AJ makes the save, allowing Daniels to hook a victory roll for two. Storm throws in a chair for Harris to blast Daniels to two. Hot tag brings in AJ with the springboard forearm followed by a pumphandle gutbuster. Spinal Tap misses and Harris blasts AJ in the face with the brass knuckles.

Daniels makes the save and AJ hits a slingshot splash for two. Back to Daniels but Angel’s Wings is broken up. The Last Call is blocked by a low blow and Angel’s Wings hits the second time but Harris elbows the referee. Storm brings in the beer bottle but it hits Harris in the head. A frog splash from AJ followed by the BME gives the Dream Team the titles.

Rating: B-. Another good match here and it would start a pretty solid reign for the new champions. AMW would slowly slip into a funk and be broken up by the end of the year. AJ and Daniels were a solid team though and they had some awesome matches against LAX, which was the whole idea of putting them together in the first place.

Time for another Joe match, from Sacrifice 2007.

AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe

They’re treating this like a brand new match for some reason. I mean they’re not saying they’ve never met before, but they’re acting like this is an unheard of pairing. They exchange early control and Joe hits an enziguri in the corner to rattle Styles. Both guys try to speed things up but AJ misses a charge and goes to the floor where Joe hits the suicide elbow to send AJ into the crowd.

AJ gets knocked into the barricade and complains of a bad arm/elbow. Since AJ is a heel here he’s playing possum and pokes Joe in the eye. Why did they think this guy needed Flair again? Out to the floor again and Joe tries the Ole Kick but AJ gets out of the way. Back inside and AJ hits his drop down into the dropkick spot. That always looks so smooth, probably due to his using it in every match.

Joe grabs an atomic drop but a boot misses and AJ spin kicks him down for two. A release German buys some time for the fat Samoan. They slug it out and speed it up but Joe hits an overhead belly to belly and senton backsplash for two. AJ pulls the front of Joe’s trunks down to ram him into the corner and OH MY GOODNESS MY EYES!!!! I….I think I saw thong. What did I do to AJ to deserve that? I rate his matches well enough!

Springboard forearm looks to give AJ the advantage but the backflip into the reverse DDT fails also. The second attempt works better but it’s only good for two. He can’t hit the Clash and walks into a Death Valley Driver for two. Joe gets sent to the floor and may have messed the knee up. Back inside Joe kicks him in the face but can’t charge at Styles in the corner. AJ loads up the Spiral Tap but Joe was playing some serious possum, which AJ had been doing lately. Styles looks terrified so Joe locks in the Clutch and suplexes him over with it for the pin.

Rating: B-. Definitely one of their weaker matches but still very decent stuff. AJ just doesn’t work as a heel. It’s like trying to fight the Easter Bunny: you can try all you want, but it’s not there at the end of the day. This was very back and forth but was more like Joe getting revenge than being in any danger, which isn’t really all that great. Still though, Joe vs. AJ is always worth taking a look at.

Another feud we have to cover is AJ vs. Angle so here’s a match from Hard Justice 2008.

Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles

Going from a really intense video to video game clips isn’t working for me. AJ has his white tights here so you know it’s going to be good. This is last man standing. Angle stays on the floor to mess with AJ’s mind. He’s done it three times so far. AJ finally goes after him but gets caught coming back into the ring. Angle gets a suplex and covers. Oh it’s one of those where the count doesn’t start until you get a pin.

Off to a chinlock really early in the match. Styles pounds away in the corner and a clothesline puts Angle on the floor. There’s a big dive over the top to the floor but it only gets two outside. Back in AJ keeps up the offense with a knee drop for two. Out to the floor again and Angle gets a belly to back to send AJ into the railing for two. They fight up to the ramp and AJ takes over again.

They’re up on the stage now and AJ hammers away. Kurt grabs him in an attempt at a belly to back off the stage but Styles lands on his feet (kind of). Angle is like screw it and dives off the stage with a front flip onto Styles for two. They’re back in the ring and Kurt gets a backbreaker for two and we hit the chinlock again. AJ gets a kick to the head but the Styles Clash is countered with a release belly to belly.

Angle covers after a slam of all things for two. Long chinlock goes on and AJ shakes his hand to try to get feeling back into it. They speed up and both try cross bodies at the same time. They’ve been going for awhile here and it’s been good so far. AJ sets for the springboard forearm but settles for a shoulder instead. Now he hooks a torture rack of all things and spins around into a powerbomb for two. That was a really close call.

Styles Clash is countered into the ankle lock but AJ kicks off and hits a release spinebuster to put Kurt down. Styles goes up but Angle runs the corner for the suplex. AJ is like screw that and knocks him back down. An attempt at a rana is caught into a powerbomb for two. Angle doesn’t let go and tries the Styles Clash on AJ. AJ avoids it and grabs the ankle lock with the grapevine and Angle taps to his own hold. That’s good for a 9 count and Angle hopping on one foot which is worth the price of admission alone.

AJ tries the moonsault into the DDT but Angle steps out of the way and hits him low. Here come the Germans and the last one is a release but he still can’t pin AJ. Angle goes Olympic but AJ counters the Slam and hits the Pele to put both guys down. AJ goes up top but Kurt makes the save. AJ knocks him back but Angle runs the corner and hits a release German off the top. The count is kind of weird as the pin counts and AJ gets his shoulder up at the same time. It counts apparently and AJ is up at 8. He takes the Olympic Slam immediately and it gets 9.

Angle is ready for AJ but the Slam is countered and AJ rolls through into the Clash for a quick pin. The referee starts the count fast every time so at least it’s not stupid looking. I’m not wild about the way the pins have to count because it slows things down between putting someone down and the count. Angle barely beats the count at 9 and the fans think this is awesome. They go up to the top and Angle wants to belly to belly him to the floor. AJ counters with a DDT off the top and Angle is shaking like Terry Funk. That gets the pin and the ten count.

Rating: A-. Oh come on it’s AJ vs. Kurt. Are you expecting something that isn’t great? This was their usual great match with a solid ending as you hardly ever see a DDT from the top rope. They were playing up the past neck injuries for Kurt so the ending is even more effective and a bit scary at the same time. Good match here and by far the best of the night so far. Somehow though, by far not their best match ever.

In 2009, Booker T. invented the Legends Title and made himself the first champion. That meant the title could be challenged for, and that’s exactly what AJ did at Destination X 2009.

Legends Title: AJ Styles vs. Booker T

The Legends Title would eventually evolve into the TV Title. Big reaction for AJ. Well it’s his house so that makes sense. The idea here is that Booker didn’t know this was a title match coming in. What that actually adds to it I’m not sure but they’re trying at least. They jockey for position to start us off until Booker grabs the arm. AJ does one of those athletic counters with a lot of flips and moves to get out.

The fans are split here as again the faces and heels are considered equals here. They seem like they’re a bit off base here but it’s not that bad. Big clothesline puts AJ down but Styles speeds it up and hits that perfect dropkick of his to send Booker to the floor. Forearm (still love that move) from the apron has Booker reeling. That gets two back in the ring and we go back to the back and forth stuff.

Booker gets a spin kick for two and throws on a key lock. AJ gets a Samoan Drop out of nowhere but Booker hangs on which is kind of impressive. That doesn’t last much longer and AJ gets some momentum going with strikes and the forearm in the corner. Hammerlock into a belly to back for two.

The spinning sunset flip out of the corner by Booker is reversed into a Styles Clash attempt which doesn’t work. Book End doesn’t work but the side kick does, getting two. AJ grabs a full nelson of all things but changes to a German suplex for two. He tries the forearm again but jumps into a kick to take both guys down. Booker Spinaroonies up but the Axe Kick misses. Pele sets up the Styles Clash for the totally clean win. That came out of nowhere.

Rating: C+. Hard one to grade here. This was less than ten minutes and is somehow by a good amount the longest match of the night so far in the first hour and a half of this show. This was pretty good while it lasted but it needed another 3-4 minutes to really get to another level. I don’t get why they have so many short matches tonight though as it’s kind of stupid.

AJ would go back into beast mode in late 2009 and get a World Title shot at No Surrender 2009.

TNA World Title: Sting vs. Kurt Angle vs. Matt Morgan vs. AJ Styles

We get the walking to the ring shots for all four guys and each guy gets a quick video about them also. AJ is listed as a three time world champion, meaning NWA title reigns count, which makes me wonder why Abyss is NEVER listed as a former world champion. These intros are taking FOREVER. There are a bunch of No Surrender posters in the hall coming out of Angle’s room as I guess they wanted to make sure their employees bought the show?

Tenay talks about bringing the title back to the family of the Mafia. You know, where it already is. We even do big match intros because a regular entrance, a video on each guy and watching them come to the ring isn’t enough I guess. And we’re STILL not done because as Angle is getting ready to be introduced, here’s Hernandez saying he didn’t come here just to wrestle for five minutes. More like 50 seconds but whatever. He’s jumping into this match instead of, you know, WAITING FOR IT TO BE OVER, but no one ever accused him of being smart.

TNA World Title: Sting vs. Kurt Angle vs. Matt Morgan vs. AJ Styles vs. Hernandez

The Lashley match ended nearly 17 minutes ago and the bell hasn’t rung yet for this one. Hernandez destroys Angle while everyone else watches which is a nice touch. He literally holds Angle up for 30 seconds in a vertical suplex and Angle is mostly dead. THERE’S THE BELL, 19 minutes after the previous match ended. Angle and Hernandez go to the floor so it’s more or less a triple threat in the ring.

Morgan is dominating in the ring as Hernandez sets for a Border Toss on the stage. Here’s Eric Young who hits Hernandez with a pipe and piledrives him on the stage. That’s all we’ll be seeing out of Hernandez here, meaning they wasted the last year for him with the briefcase and his time in the main event here ran about three minutes. AJ takes Sting down with a dropkick as Hernandez is helped to the back.

Angle is back at ringside now so AJ dives on him and Morgan. Morgan and Angle seem to team up as apparently Angle took the bullet for him on that dive. A tombstone doesn’t work for AJ as Angle rolls into the ankle lock. Morgan and Sting go inside now and there are the elbows in the corner. With AJ down it’s Angle/Morgan double teaming Sting as the match is dragging a bit already.

AJ pops up out of nowhere with the springboard clothesline on Angle. Fallaway slam to AJ by Morgan but Sting is back up now. Things are speeding back up a bit now as AJ pounds away on Matt, only to walk into a belly to belly by Angle. Morgan and Angle get into a contest of who can beat up AJ worse for awhile as Sting is stuck on the floor. Angle charges into the post so Morgan takes AJ down with a dropkick.

Pele puts Morgan down but Angle suplexes Styles. Did Sting die or something? He’s been gone for like five minutes now. Ah there he is with a missile dropkick to Angle but he might have hurt his shoulder. AJ pops back into it and hits a Styles Clash to Angle for two as Morgan saves. Hellevator gets the same on AJ. Death Drop to Morgan for two. Scorpion to Angle is countered into the ankle lock but a Carbon Footprint takes down Angle. Morgan goes to the floor and Sting stares at AJ. Sting dives on Morgan as AJ hits a springboard 450 to Angle for the title.

Rating: C-. I wasn’t feeling it here for the most part as they kept going back and forth two at a time which got rather boring after awhile. The ending was fine I guess as it set up Sting vs. AJ at BFG in a respect match, but the rest was pretty dull. The Hernandez aspect was such a waste but no one ever accused TNA of thinking these things through did they?

Continuing with Beast Mode, AJ defended against Angle at Genesis 2010.

TNA World Title: AJ Styles vs. Kurt Angle

This is one of those matchups where all you have to do is just throw them out there and it’s more or less a guaranteed near classic. Flair comes down soon after we start and I’m not thrilled at all. Why do they need to have Flair get involved and likely have him interfere? These two are going to have a great match no matter what, so why screw with it? To be fair though that could be the title for all of TNA at the moment so there we are.

Styles has been teasing a heel turn as of late which really scares me. For one thing, the only other face is Sting, and what’s the point in that as they JUST had their feud at BFG. This is another match that’s hard to comment on as it’s very solid. They keep countering finishers and Angle finally hooks the ankle lock. AJ just kicks him off. I don’t think I ever remember that before. AJ isn’t limping. Dang him. Angle gets a Styles Clash which never gets old.

There’s a tiny A for effort chant. We’ll see about that. The Angle Slam gets two as we’re running low on time. Angle goes Olympic and puts Styles in the ankle lock with the grapevine. AJ taps but Flair pulled the referee out. And of course his ankle is ok now. Flair throws the belt to AJ and he clocks Angle with it to go heel and gets the easy pin. I guess the pair of heels celebrate to take us out.

Rating: B+. This was a great match, but two things keep it from being a classic. First of all, the no selling of the ankle by AJ. He’s tapping out one minute and the next he’s perfectly fine? That doesn’t work for me, not when Angle had been working on it all match. Second, the unclean ending, but that’s a way of life in all wrestling so I can let that slide a bit. This wasn’t as good as their Impact match a few weeks ago but it was still pretty solid. Easily the match of the night but they’ve had far better ones.

Since 2010 was the year of THEY ARE COMING and AJ as a really stupid heel, we’ll jump ahead to Slammiversary 2011 for a last man standing match against up and coming star Bully Ray.

Bully Ray vs. AJ Styles

Last man standing here. AJ is listed as being from Gainesville, Florida instead of Georgia. Christy looks good, but dude, go wear low cut shirts and that’s about it. Staredown to start and then AJ hammers away. Ray runs him over so that gets us nowhere. This is going to take awhile to get anywhere, much like any last man standing match. Ray pounds away and we go to the floor for awhile.

Bully sets up the steps but chops away instead. He drops AJ onto the steps but pulls him up at about 4. Ray puts the steps on AJ and then stands on him, which should get a ten. Naturally Ray lets him up because he’s not that intelligent at times. That and a few more shots get a four. Back into the ring for some more hard chops as this has almost been all Ray.

AJ says bring it and holds his chest out. More chopping follows and Styles says keep em coming. Ray of course stands around and lets AJ get up because again, he’s not that smart. Instead he punches him in the jaw this time which works a bit better. AJ gets back up and his chest is all kinds of messed up. Styles hammers away and gets Ray down with the Pele. Springboard forearm gets six.

Ray goes up so AJ hits a Pele up there. AJ goes up there for a rana but gets caught in a sitout powerbomb. That looks awesome coming off the top and it gets like five here. They both stumble to the floor and Ray has a chain. That hits post though and Ray’s hand is hurt. AJ gets the chain and a jumping punch with it sends Ray under the ring to blade. Ooo and it’s a good one too.

Back in the ring and AJ gets his springboard 450 for a count of about 8. AJ picks Ray up and throws him to the floor and down goes a cameraman. Pescado puts Ray down again and it’s Styles Clash time. That of course doesn’t work so we go back up the ramp. Ray wants the powerbomb again but AJ hits a pair of Peles and a punt to send Ray to the floor.

AJ is like screw it and dives off the stage to Ray and it looks like his head slammed into Ray’s shoulder. That only gets 9. Styles loads up a table and puts it in front of the stage. Chair to the back puts Ray on it and it’s huge spot time. He sets for a running dive but realizes it’s too far. Instead he climbs up the truss and hits one of the biggest dives you’ll EVER see to kill Ray. I was legit scared there. And then Ray kicks him through the stage wall and wins the freaking thing. HORRIBLE ending as AJ was built up perfectly and then oh wait let’s make sure Ray wins because AJ freaking Styles isn’t a big enough star right?

Rating: B. Great match and the ending ruined it. AJ hits one of the biggest spots in company history and then BULLY FREAKING RAY beats him with a kick to the back? Are you freaking kidding me? Zero reason at all for Ray to win this and the shot he wins it with was freaking weak. AJ’s dive is worth seeing and is up there with the Swanton Jeff Hardy did to Orton on Raw like three years ago for scary dives. Hate the ending though. Absolutely hate it.

Time for Daniels! This time in an I quit match at Bound For Glory 2011.

AJ Styles vs. Christopher Daniels

It sounds like new music for both guys. AJ has another new remix. This is I Quit. There’s also no pyro for anyone tonight so far. The guys have the mic here and it’s a brawl to start. Daniels is asking if it’s over about 30 seconds in with a choke on AJ. AJ hooks a bridging Indian Deathlock and Daniels says no. We’re in that place in the match where they’re trying for fast submissions but no one believes it’s happening yet.

AJ hits his leapfrog/drop/dropkick spot and we head to the floor. AJ hits a flip dive and both guys are down. They find a tool box and Daniels tries to stab AJ with a screwdriver. The maiming attempt fails and they fight to the apron where they botch some kind of a suplex move. The screwdriver is stuck in the buckle. AJ has pink on his tights for breast cancer awareness month. Nothing wrong with that.

AJ still won’t quit so Daniels busts out the BME to AJ while he’s on his knees, making it more like Shadows Over Hell (Delirious move). Off to a half crab and of course AJ doesn’t quit. A spin kick is blocked and Daniels gets a backbreaker. There’s no eyeliner on Daniels either which is a weird look. He’s in tights instead of shorts too. It’s chair time and Chris sits down on it with the bar over AJ’s throat. Styles is bleeding over the top of the head, right around his hairline.

Daniels says everything AJ has in TNA will belong to him and he never wanted to hear AJ say I qu….”oh no I’m not saying it.” The fans chant for him to shut up and Daniels lets up for some reason. He looks into the camera and talks to Wendy (AJ’s wife) and says take the kids out of the room because they shouldn’t see their father murdered. Yeah this isn’t overkill at all.

AJ gets fired up and hits the backflip reverse DDT. Styles Clash fails and Daniels misses the BME. He shouts DIE AJ but runs into the Pele and the Clash. So….how does this make Daniels say he quits? AJ picks up the chair but grabs the screwdriver instead. And Daniels quits to avoid the pain ala JBL vs. Cena in 05. He quit at 13:52.

Rating: C. I’m not a fan of these matches because the ending is either the heel giving up after being hurt for a few seconds or giving up before something big happening. I wasn’t into this and the fans weren’t really either. I think they were going for a big ending and emotional moment but it never got to the level they were hoping for.

Then he was put in a tag team with Kurt Angle and got a shot at the titles at Slammiversary 2012.

Tag Titles: Kazarian/Christopher Daniels vs. Kurt Angle/AJ Styles

The match starts fast and AJ gets double teamed. It’s Styles vs. Kaz to get us going with Kaz rolling him up quickly before walking into a spin kick. Out to the floor and AJ does his slide under the barricade into the forearm spot. Daniels tries to interfere but Angle takes his head off with a clothesline. A knee to the face puts Kaz down and it’s off to Angle. Double suplex gets two. Off to Daniels who takes Angle down but he walks into a belly to belly.

Off to AJ who Daniels over his knee and goes for the Styles Clash but Chris runs to the apron. Kaz comes in and puts AJ on the ropes. Daniels interferes and Kaz hits a sweet bicycle kick to the face, catching AJ by his knee in the ropes. Daniels chokes a bit as AJ’s knee is done at the moment. Kaz comes in and gets hiptossed into a legdrop onto AJ for two. A suplex is blocked into a neckbreaker and both guys are down.

Double tag brings in the bald guys and Angle is all fired up. He snaps off an overhead belly to belly on Daniels and a German on Kaz. Angle Slam gets two on Daniels due to Kaz making the save. Kurt is like cool man and Germans them both at once. Ankle lock to Daniels is broken up by Kaz again and Daniels is back up. Angel’s Wings is countered and it’s off to AJ with the flying forearm. Moonsault into the reverse DDT takes down Kaz but it’s combined with a regular DDT to Daniels. Kaz distracts AGAIN before hitting a kick to the face of Styles.

Daniels busts out Last Rites but Angle makes the save. Things slow down a bit and AJ loads up a superplex on Kaz but gets shoved off. Angle runs the corner for the belly to belly and it’s down to Daniels vs. Styles. They slug it out and the release Rock Bottom sets up the BME, but Daniels lands on his feet. Unfortunately he lands in perfect position for a release German. Angle hits a top rope splash of all things for two but Daniels pulls the referee out. AJ hits a HUGE shooting star over the top to take out Daniels on the floor. Back in the ring Kaz tries Fade to Black but Angle reverses into the ankle lock for the tap at 14:26.

Rating: B+. Another good match here but it really doesn’t give us a bunch of resolution. Dixie wasn’t involved here, which to be fair is probably the best possible outcome, but it doesn’t really matter much. The match itself was great and it seems like they’re building to yet another final blowoff between Daniels and AJ, which is annoying but it’s what’s coming. AJ getting another title is fine by me.

To Hardcore Justice 2013 for some ladder climbing.

Bound For Glory Series: Austin Aries vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Kazarian vs. AJ Styles

This is for 20 points and it’s a ladder match. The clipboard hanging above the ring has a piece of paper with the number 20 on it. Keeping it simple I guess. Kaz goes to the floor to get the first ladder but the other three block him from coming back in. Aries and Kaz fight for the ladder on the ramp with Austin letting go of the ladder to send Kaz to the floor. A top rope ax handle puts Kaz down but AJ knocks Hardy to the floor as well. AJ dives onto Hardy to take him down again and leave Styles as the only man standing.

Kaz gets in a ladder shot to put AJ down before climbing the ladder. Aries comes back in and crotches Kaz against the ladder, leaving Austin vs. Jeff in the ring. Jeff sends him to the floor but AJ pulls the ladder away for a showdown. Hardy tries a quick Twist of Fate but gets shoved off and sent to the announce table on the floor. Kaz comes back in with a slingshot DDT to AJ but has to have a forearm duel with Aries. Styles dropkicks the ladder into the back of Kaz’s head but Aries backdrops AJ to the floor. The company is living up to its name for a change as this has been nonstop action since the bell.

Aries runs interference to stop Jeff and AJ from going up the ladder before sending Kaz head first into the post. Austin tries a climb but gets pulled down by Hardy and Jeff knocks down the other two as well. Jeff and Austin both go up but Kaz and AJ make the save, sending all four guys down as we take a break. Back with Aries going up but being pulled down by Kaz before he gets too far. AJ stops both of them and hits the springboard forearm to send Austin to the ramp. The ladder appears to be bent or broken.

Kaz brings in another ladder to clean house but can’t climb up fast enough. All four guys go up at the same time and AJ gets his fingers on the contract but Aries shakes everything up with a sunset bomb to Hardy. Kaz and AJ are left alone on the ladder and they fight over a suplex off the ladder. Kaz rakes AJ’s eyes to put him down but Styles shoves the ladder over, putting everyone down again.

Aries hits his running dropkick in the corner on Styles and goes up but Hardy makes another save. Styles pulls Aries off the ladder and loads up the Styles Clash but Kaz pulls in a downward spiral on AJ at the same time. Kaz goes up but it’s Jeff making another save. Aries comes out of the corner with a missile dropkick to take them both down and goes up as well, but here are Roode and Daniels for a distraction.

Styles plays Shelton Benjamin by springboarding up to the ladder but Hardy shoves the ladder over, sending both guys to the floor. Roode pulls Hardy down as Daniels distracts the referee but Jeff kicks him off. Daniels slips the appletini to Kaz and Jeff gets blinded, allowing Kaz to get the win at 17:35.

Rating: A-. This was the simple formula of take four guys and let them dive off stuff for fifteen minutes or so. I’m not big on another faction in TNA because they’re already on overload with them, but at least they’re not involved with the other two. The action here was great though and they couldn’t have picked a better opener.

AJ would win the BFG Series and face Bully Ray for the World Title. This is after AJ became a loner but then returned to his roots for no apparent reason.

TNA World Title: AJ Styles vs. Bully Ray

This is No DQ and No Countout. AJ’s music is the full dark theme this time and doesn’t break into Get Ready To Fly. After the big match intros we’re ready to go. Ray talks a lot of trash to start and slams AJ down with ease. AJ is thrown around again and his wristlock is broken up by a HARD clothesline. Ray shouts about smelling fear on AJ for years now, which motivates AJ into a dropkick.

Styles hooks the Calf Killer out of nowhere, drawing out Garrett Bischoff for a distraction for the break. It’s going to be one of those matches isn’t it. Garrett slides Ray the hammer but AJ kicks it away and grabs the hammer for himself. Ray blocks it with a chop and hits an even harder one for good measure. AJ says hit me again and Ray is stunned, allowing Styles to fire off some right hands. Ray chops him again but AJ says bring it. AJ goes after the leg but as he goes up, here’s Knux for another distraction. Styles dives at him but gets caught in a chokeslam to give Ray two.

Ray yells at Earl Hebner for the near fall so Earl yells back, only to have Ray miss a shot and take out Knux by mistake. Ray punches AJ down and then kicks him to the floor with the hammer going out too. The champion gets the hammer but AJ kicks him in the head, knocking Ray to the table. AJ grabs the hammer but throws it down and rams Ray into the table instead. Styles loads up a springboard 450 but Ray moves, sending AJ crashing through the table in a SCARY landing.

With Earl seeing if AJ can remember what planet he’s on, Taz hands Ray a box cutter so he can cut up the ring like he did at Slammiversary. The wood under the mat is revealed as AJ is trying to crawl back into the ring. Ray calls for someone to come out to the ring and here comes Dixie. She looks scared but Ray tells her to get a chair. Dixie demands one from security but AJ springboards in with the forearm to drive the chair into Bully’s head.

There’s the springboard 450 but Dixie tells Earl to count slowly. After about 20 seconds Earl gets to two and Ray kicks out. Ray backdrops out of the Styles Clash to send AJ back first into the wood but doesn’t cover. Ray’s middle rope backsplash actually connects but AJ is up at two. The fans aren’t really caring that much about these near falls. Bully blasts him twice in the back with the chair but AJ rolls out of a powerbomb and Peles Ray down. AJ blasts Ray in the head with the chair and there’s the Spiral Tap for the pin and the title at 20:34.

Rating: C. This wasn’t so much about would AJ win but how would he win. I do however have one question: can we PLEASE have a main event not be overbooked? These two have shown they can have a good match together without all the nonsense, but apparently that’s not allowed anymore. It doesn’t work when we saw this at Slammiversary and the luster was kind of gone here. Also, where were the extra Aces that Ray had? Where did Garrett go? At this point though, I’d take anything decent as a main event and that’s what this was: decent but not great.

AJ would be gone in early 2014 due to TNA not being able to afford him (but being able to bring in people like MVP), so he signed with NJPW and received a World Title shot at Wrestling Dontaku 2014.

IWGP World Title: AJ Styles vs. Kazuchika Okada

I believe this is part of a stable war between Okada’s Chaos and AJ’s Bullet Club, though neither are the leaders. The fans are behind Okada and he sends AJ to the apron to start. Okada actually gives a clean break against the ropes before doing his Rainmaker pose to tick AJ off. We hit a headlock on AJ followed by a big backdrop. Both guys miss charges in the corner but AJ grabs a quick suplex to send Okada into the corner.

A backrbeaker gets two for Styles and we hit the chinlock on the champion. AJ sends him out to the floor and Bullet Club pounds away on Okada while AJ distracts the referee. Back in and AJ nails the running forearm in the corner before sending Okada out to the floor for another beating. The referee finally catches on and ejects the Bullet Club, but not before Okada hits a HUGE flip dive to take the whole team out.

Back in and AJ goes after the leg with some kicks and a basic leg lock. Off to a bridging Indian Deathlock to put some real pressure on Okada’s knee. Ropes are grabbed so we hit the chinlock but Okada fights up and uppercuts AJ down. A flapjack puts AJ down but the champion can’t follow up. Okada gets two off a DDT but a double clothesline puts both guys down. It’s AJ up first with a suplex into a neckbreaker for two but he gets dropkicked off the top and out to the floor.

Okada nips up and is ready to go. A running big boot sends AJ over the barricade and an Orton Elevated DDT brings him back to ringside. Back in and Okada drops a huge elbow before calling for the Rainmaker (a wind-up clothesline). AJ counters into the Calf Killer but Okada finally makes the ropes. Back up and Okada, with a bad knee, is able to hit a big dropkick to put both guys down.

AJ wins a slugout and nails the Pele to counter a Rainmaker. The Clash is countered into a White Noise backbreaker and both guys are down again. AJ gets two more off the moonsault reverse DDT but Spiral Tap hits the mat. Okada tombstones him down but the Bullet Club comes out for a distraction, allowing Chaos member Yujiro Takahashi to come in and turn on Okada, revealing himself as the newest member of Bullet Club. AJ hits an implant DDT and the Clash gives him the title.

Rating: B. Good match here and the interference was kept to a minimum so it made a bigger impact at the end. I still don’t get the massive appeal of Okada but I’m sure I just need to watch another 18 matches to get it. AJ looked more energized that I’ve seen him in a long time and the match worked quite well.

AJ Styles was the king of TNA for a long time, but at the end of the day it’s just TNA. He’s had success everywhere he goes and is definitely talented, though I’d have liked to see what he could do on a bigger stage. The knock on him is his lack of promo skills but they’ve always seemed fine for the most part to me. Styles is certainly talented though and he did some amazing things in a TNA ring.

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4 comments

  1. Heyo says:

    Is it safe to say he did well on a bigger stage, since he’s now in New Japan?

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Oh yeah for sure.

    Heyo Reply:

    Let’s revisit this, given he’s now WWE World Champion and has had a nice 100+ day reign with it…has he REALLY proved himself on a big stage? I’d say this is one of his best years ever, and really cemented his legacy.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Yep. He’s proven his worthiness for this spot.