So I won tickets from the local classic rock station to go see TNA's Slammiversary. Unbelievable softball: What was Hogan's name in Rocky III? I was toying with going because I do like AJ & Aries a good bit, but the card seemed so blase. I love live pro wrestling enough that free tickets are enough to get me and my brother to go. In order to get myself psyched, I am watching a ton of AJ Styles. I am reposting my earlier reviews from a different thread for ease of access.
Final Resolution 2005: X-Division Champion Petey Williams vs Chris Sabin vs AJ Styles in an Ultimate X Match I watched this match because it made someone's Top Ten TNA matches and I have no idea what that guy was smoking. This is a fun spot exhibition, but it is nowhere near the best match of a promotion. What I like about above average matches is that certain things become pronounced. One of those things is how much better is AJ is at everything than your standard X-Division wrestler. He sells better, he punches better, he bumps better, he makes everything you watch count. From the iconic flip bump off the turnbuckle to actually selling his hand during the match, AJ totally outclassed these guys.
Against All Odds 2005: X-Division Champion AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels Wow, way better than I remembered and a true joy to go back and watch. The opening is really well done and makes AJ looks like a million bucks. Daniels sells the arm so well even during his heat segment and puts on a clinic working over AJ's mid-section. AJ, for what is worth, not holds his ribs, but actually sells it like he is sucking air. The only time I have seen that is in Japan. AJ is fuckin good. The finish to the first fall may be one of my favorite finishes ever. AJ goes for a big bomb to polish off Daniels, but on the 450 he eats knees, which plays right into the mid-section work and Angel Wings (AJ with a full layout because he is ALL MAN~!) sees Daniels goes up 1-0 in sublime fashion. The rest of the match is well-worked and AJ times his hopes spots so well and keeps the crowd constantly heated. Im ok with AJ getting the pin in a quick rollup, but I would have liked it better done Steamboat style with a ton of desperation cradles rather than kinda out of nowhere. My main critique is that match is structured weirdly down the stretch because you have Daniels in desperation to get the last pin and AJ just trying to hang on (emphasized by his bladejob). They do the Koji Clutch and AJ is saved by the bell. I hate this because I think the babyface should be the guy doing this down the finishing stretch. Daniels needed to really heel this portion up to save it. Then of course AJ pulls it out in OT in really weird booking. It was like they wanted to protect AJ due to weak as finish in regulation, but then they cut off Daniels' balls. Classic match until last 5 minutes, which leads to believe there will be better matches.
Lockdown 2005: AJ Styles vs Abyss - Number One Contender's Match So in a card full of cage matches, what do AJ and Abyss do to ensure differentiation they spend the first half brawling outside. I actually think that is pretty smart given the circumstances The spots AJ hits during the babyface shine are ridiculously awesome and breath-taking. It was the perfect way to establish AJ's speed as a threat to Abyss' unmitgated power. When Abyss took over with those vicious cage door shots on AJ, AJ went into Ricky Morton mode and I knew we were entering classic match territory. Once in the cage, Abyss did some great power offense and a classic Southern-style, bloodbath cage match developed with AJ timing each hope spot for maximum effect. I even liked the inclusion of thumbtacks because it played into the sadism of the match. The finish has everyone on their feet cheering for AJ. One of the better David vs Goliath type matches because AJ never tried to out power Abyss or force Abyss to look weak. AJ shined through his speed offense and wrestling a smart match. Of all the matches, I have seen so far, seek this one out.
Sacrifice 2005: Samoa Joe vs AJ Styles Finals of the Super X Cup This is what I am talking in terms of non-memorable. I totally forgot this match and its circumstances. Basically, the winner gets a shot at Daniels' X-Division Title. I forgot how good 2005 Joe was. Joe was so explosive in a way that very few were. I would say on the level of a Dr. Death. Those two men are the very few who wrestle with such a lethal combination of quickness and power. This match does not touch Williams' best work because Joe doesnt always work with urgency in the match. AJ is a great pinball for Joe (an absolutely sick bump onto the floor off a kick and then slides into the announce table). Joe, for his part goes overboard much like Vader, goes a little overboard in bumping for AJ (a German suplex would have been perfect in a latter bout to pop the crowd instead it is thrown out in the first match). Also since I am in full All Japan mode, I loved the direct All Japan cosplay as Joe plays Kawada and AJ plays a great version of Misawa with a flurry of elbows. While they outright steal All Japan spots it doesn't feel like an All Japan match instead a weird mish-mash of America and Japan. A good comparison is the Liger vs Otani match from 1997 which is the New Japan juniors doing an All Japan match with Otani cast as Kobashi (such a perfect role for him) and Liger as Misawa (again perfect casting choice). This match never reaches that level, but it is a very good first installment. The finish was smart as it protected AJ and made Joe still look like a beast. The musclebuster was so fuckin sick. I would say this one the level of the Against All Odds match in that is a very good match, but not something I would put in the Top 10 of a decade (with TNA we are looking at a decade). I am going to watch the Unbreakable 2005 match, which I remember liking a shit ton back in 2006, but my tastes have definitely changed. It has some very stiff competition from AJ vs Abyss in that cage, which was so amazing.
Unbreakable 2005: X-Division Champion Christopher Daniels vs AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe I would hazard to say this is the most famous match in TNA history and is very much a product of its time period. There is a lot of excellent stuff in this match, but there is a lot of weird booking issues in this match. For my money, AJ vs Abyss is still a level above this match. Joe could be a better wrestler than AJ, but his instincts are awful. He lets people get way too much shit on him and he kills his unqiueness. You can defend letting AJ getting him into a Torture Rack because he is letting the babyface shine, but I think there are plenty ways of letting AJ shine without that. Indefensibly, he lets Daniels Death Valley Driver him. Why would you ever let a heel shine like that? In Joe's defense, he had the hardest role in the match, he had to be a heel for AJ and a babyface for Daniels. He was clearly more comfortable working with AJ. Which brings me to my next point, Daniels is a horrible heel. This match proves in my mind pretty definitively that Daniels is a step below both AJ and Joe. It isnt that much of a knock because AJ and Joe were probably the two best wrestlers in 2005 in North America. It is just Daniels is pretty good at everything, but excellent at nothing. He cant fly or bump as well as AJ and he cant be as violent as Joe. Instead of differentiating himself in an obvious fashion by cheating like a muthafucker doing anything it takes to keep his belt, he just wrestles this poor man's AJ/Joe hybrid style that does nobody any favors. He gets a heat segment that should have been Joe's. Daniels looked way too strong in this match and it was a detriment to the story. Some people turn off selling, well Daniels turns off heeling. Of course, there were some incredible sequences. The opening was pitch perfect and set up for Daniels to play a bitch boy that has to cheat (ala Flair) to keep his title, but he dropped that. I LOVE AJ's quick rollups it was a perfect way to show how AJ could be a threat to Joe. The springboard Shooting Star by AJ was sublime. The All Japan sequence from Joe/AJ ending with an amazing German by Joe was the best sequence in the match. Pretty much everything from Joe/AJ was fucking amazing. Joe had some pretty fun combinations back in the day. I miss Joe. I would say the first 20 minutes or so, I would said this was an easy Top 5 match for TNA, but the last 5 or so kinda soured me when Daniels took over the match. Why was Joe doing desperation cover? Ugh that should have been Daniels. The finish was booked so fuckin weird. I would still say it has an outside shot at Top 5 right now because how well the action was packed. AJ has the prettiest right hand of someone who debuted post-Attitude Era. Why the guy uses shivers at all is beyond me because his right hand looks great! What I liked was even though they didnt really use a heat segment in a conventional sense, it never felt like "your turn, my turn", which irks me to end when I see that. What I meant by a product of the time period is that it was very en vogue to have shades of grey wrestling matches where everyone looks good and everyone is kept strong usually at the expense of the babyface (though in this case it was Joe). I think it was the best possible match of that type and was really well-executed.
Bound For Glory 2005 - X-Division Champion AJ Styles vs Christopher Daniels I like how they knew they werent going to top their previous efforts so they tried to do a totally different match by using the classic build with the side-headlocks to start. I liked how Styles kiboshed Daniels on his Stampede roll-through on an armdrag back into the headlock and how Styles punted Daniels in the ribs on a drop down. However, things never really got off the ground floor even though the first ten minutes were well-worked. The next ten or so really felt like "Let me hit my modified slam, now you hit your modified slam" there was no sense of struggle and thus zero heat. The best sequence of this period of a great fired-up AJ and Daniels' selling of it. Daniels is wrestling 8 million times better in this match and makes AJ look a lot better. I actually think this was an off night for AJ as he wasnt showing his usual level of charisma. In the last ten minutes, they start hitting their dives and everyone wakes up. They go through a nice exchange of rollups and AJ even does an All Japan no-sell off a German into a wicked lariat to really get the place rocking. The finish is a tame one as it is just the Styles Clash at the buzzer. No sense of struggle or urgency throughout this match killed the heat for me. I thought the beginning was going to go somewhere interesting, but nada. This was AJ's weakest performance all year by far. Daniels worked hard in this match, but it was not enough to get this match over the hump, a good match, but in a lot ways disappointing.
Turning Point 2005 - X-Division Champion AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe
Greatest AJ Styles Performance Ever? I am willing to hear arguments against, but I dont think I can be convinced. When Styles does a float-over off a Joe suplex attempt onto the apron instead of doing it fluidly he lands on the ropes to sell the exhaustion. I was in awe. Consequently instead of immediately following his forearm on the apron he sold more exhaustion before finally to trying to hit a springboard and ate a Joe powerbomb. Sublime. What I think stands out the most about this match compared to so many X-Division matches is the physicality. My biggest issue with a lot of the flippy guys is how light they work (Kofi, Morrison). This match was a fuckin war and AJ got a nice busted up lip for it. AJ did that sick bump off the apron onto the floor again and took Joe's offense like a champ. Unlike the previous match, AJ seemed game throughout the match and still made Joe work for all his moves. I loved the transition to AJ's comeback as it was Joe being overzealous and AJ having the presence of mind to back body drop outside the ring. Then he capitalized with a beautiful shooting star press dive. I love how after each move AJ was going after pins because he knew he was weak and this was his shot. It really sold the urgency, you could feel that his time was fleeting and if he didnt capitalize now everything was lost. I loved the cat and mouse game they did late in the match with AJ duckin and diving before Joe caught him in the corner with a couple bear paws. The busted lip happens here and it really had a big fight feel and that moment epitomized it. AJ follows that up with early kicks out off a wicked lariat and wicked Tiger Driver. FIGHTING SPIRIT~! The one flaw is the fact that AJ tried twice to setup Joe for moves on the top turnbuckle. The second time it led to an awkward sequence and a lame AJ powerbomb, which only existed to give AJ a way to hit the Styles Clash. It was a minor flaw. AJ goes for a victory roll, but Joe traps him in the clutch and it is Goodnight Irene for AJ. After the match, Joe beats up AJ and tries to give him a musclebuster on a chair, but Daniels saves. I liked this match a whole lot, but I think I liked AJ/Abyss a hair more, but both are neck and neck for Best TNA match ever at this point. I have no idea why the Unbreakable match is the more famous match. This match blows that match outta the water. Tremendous effort by both men, this is definitely one to watch.
Elite AJ Matches of 2005: 1. AJ Styles vs Abyss -Steel Cage No. 1 Contender's Match - Lockdown 2005 2. X-Division Champion AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe - Turning Point 2005