Posted by Sean Prem
The following article analyses the shoot/ work promo by AJ Styles from this past Thursday’s Impact Wrestling and how the wrestling world is affected. There is much to cover so let’s begin!
Impact witnessed a host of incidents. There was the developing storyline involving the talented trio of Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian and Bobby Roode. Kazarian may have lost to Jeff Hardy, but his wrestling was symbolic in that he joins the leading merchandise seller on another level of athleticism. This is particularly important as these three guys are really good wrestlers who, combined with their respective mic skills, surpass the majority in the roster.
Considering how the Bound For Glory series began, and since Bully Ray became champion, this is the spotlight they’ve needed, especially as Kazarian was a replacement for Magnus who was unable to make the Impact show. Magnus has taken the spotlight and is building his reputation well, so it was a good chance for Frankie to remind the higher ups that he’s still more than capable in delivering the goods. Similarly, the other wrestler at last year’s main event was more than equaled by the impressive Christopher Daniels. Austin Aries and Christopher Daniels gave a good match, but I’m particularly impressed at how Chrisopher Daniels confronted Austin Aries during Austin Aries’ interview with Jeremy Borash. Christopher Daniels’ retort to Austin Aries (“I dare to interrupt you and show you when I knock you flatter than Miley Cyrus’ ass!”) was awesome and reaffirms the fact that Christopher Daniels has great mic skills. The other member of the newly formed ‘Gentlemen’s Club’, Bobby Roode, interrupting the AJ Styles segment and leading to another good match once again shows that they are three stars that should not be neglected. The It Factor is the longest reigning and defending TNA Champion (said in a Paul Heyman voice) and showed why he is that in his match with AJ Styles.
Also on TNA Impact, to compensate for the loss of Brooke Hogan and the three shows missing Hulk Hogan, he returned to stamp his authority over the seemingly dominant Bully Ray. A shrewd tactic to build up the reputation of Bully Ray by having another encounter with Sting then a match with a fellow brother of the Aces & Eights. This will surely be Mr. Anderson who will signal an intent to recapture the world championship. This will help with the ratings and with a continuing resemblance between the nWo and Aces & Eights, as discussed in a previous article, with the internal grudge that built between Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan possibly being replicated between the President and Vice President of the Aces & Eights. This shows Hulk Hogan is assisting TNA in the creative department. This was another important aspect of TNA because there are questions over Hulk Hogan and TNA as discussed in a previous article, and this will surely aid the positives over Hogan. Although I must say, wasn’t Sting banned from ever competing for the World Championship after Slammiversary XI?
But there was one incident that surely was as he put it, ‘the show stealer’ of last week’s Impact. I am of course talking about AJ Styles’ supposed shoot. It was filled with a lot of emotion, addressing a series of feelings which has been like a dark cloud over AJ Styles for a number of years. This was something that many wrestling fans have been patiently waiting for and it was appropriate that the Main Event Mafia, filled with people grabbing a lot of the focus of TNA management, gave him the ring when he requested it. This was the most significant segment of TNA this week and will be reviewed in this article.
I’m unsure whether the promo was an actual shoot or a worked one with AJ Styles talking about his past year which has been the catalyst for his transformation of his chatacter in the current storyline. But he could of been using this as a basis to build on to more serious dilemmas, which will be reviewed. For this purpose, it’s important to acknowledge that it may have been a supposed shoot and will be recollected as one.
TNA has been suppressing the most talented in-ring performer in the company, and arguably in the wrestling world, for years. AJ Styles was the stand out competitor of the X-Division when TNA first came into fruition. His wrestlingdazzled the wrestling world and earned him a spot in the world title picture. Jeff Jarrett, who at the time was competing against on and off guest heavyweight stars, as discussed in a previous article, had found a major rival from within. Jeff Jarrett, being a guy with a grudge with Vince McMahon, was happy with how TNA had unearth a major talent disregarded by the major organizations and had acquired a man to represent TNA’s intention of rebranding wrestling. AJ Styles would forever cement his legacy as one of the major contributors to the success of TNA, which was highlighted by whom many call his heir to the TNA throne, Austin Aries, a few weeks back.
However, for a man delivering so much promise, management didn’t have the confidence to sustain him as the face of the company and were unable to utilize his optimal capacity. He has been constantly overshadowed by other competitors. The standout example is Christian. I’m a huge Christian fan, and I even had a debate with some fans on one of the many insightful Alex Assumptions regarding Christian, who I deem as a success story in WWE, delivering a host of thrilling matches including the Raw episode of 26.08.13 that witnessed another end to end match between the WWE champion Randy Orton and Christian in a continuing rivalry that always delivers. But during the era of Christian Cage in TNA, it was ridiculous to put AJ Styles as one of his stooges. The character AJ Styles portrayed was of someone who was not very smart and this was combined with his ‘redneck like’ accent that is an unfair stereotype associated with negative attributes. It’s as if TNA wanted to exploit his frailties, which is bizarre considering that a wrestling company should be promoting the positive attributes, like how the WWE always does. AJ Styles was part of a stable with Christian being its leader. Instead of being a rival to Christian, he was suppressed in order to benefit Christian. It was no fault of Christian, but management wanted to capitalize on the presence of a fairly successful ex WWE star at the time, giving him the utmost of benefits rather than an equal playing ground. The adopted tactic should of been, for all of those new comers, to earn your spot in the company amongst the established rather than being handed a spot based on name recognition alone. This certainly doesn’t correlate with the initial intentions of TNA of rebranding wrestling, thus the accomplishments in other wrestling companies should of been deemed irrelevant. For those curious, this was before Hulk Hogan, so there were problems with management prior. The reason why I bring this up, is
because this plays a significant role in AJ Styles’ supposed shoot. He talks about how he is constantly overlooked by TNA management for other people but is then constantly asked to bail out Dixie Carter with his dazzling wrestling matches. Every time he’s asked to wrestle, as he states, he steals the show. This was no doubt a fact and was very appealing to hear. AJ Styles’ contract is expiring and he had to get a contract extension up until Bound For Glory 2013 for the time being.
Recently, we’ve seen AJ Styles once again command the attention of the fans with AJ Styles, not the inquired Austin Aries, stepping up to the plate in replacing Kurt Angle for the Main Event Mafia. He wasn’t even asked due to his character of being the only one that matters in a compelling storyline. How he entered with everyone focusing on him, with his intriguing new entrance theme before his original music hit, as if being metaphoric for the rebirth of The Phenomenal One. He more than replaced Kurt Angle and gave a performance that would of surpassed TNA management’s perceived ‘greatest wrestler ever’. In addition, AJ Styles won the pinfall that removed D-Von from TNA, an important member of Aces & Eights. It was so appropriate that if anyone would be the one to take out an Aces & Eights member, it would be the guy that was the original self made main appeal for TNA. For the short term perspective, AJ Styles saying how he continually bails out Dixie Carter and TNA reflects on how he was successful in replacing Kurt Angle with the rebirth of The Phenomenal One. But as I’ve described, there’s a greater emphasis to the statement. AJ Styles’ stock plummets in comparison to Kurt Angle, while both are tremendous stars who showed it when they even teamed up together during last year. But like Dixie’s and TNA’s choices for the Hall of Fame, events have been based not only on factors to do with TNA but unjustly on events outside of TNA, as discussed in a previous article. You hear Mike Tenay mention the accolades of ex WWE stars in the WWE whilst you would never hear the outspoken and amazing JBL do that for the likes of Christian. World championships in WWE are only recognized.
With all of this spoken, the question is, why now? TNA has had years to help address the weaknesses of AJ Styles. Hulk Hogan can’t be held accountable as the main reason; however, Hulk has been in TNA for a while when AJ Styles was still ignored, so he is responsible in neglecting AJ Styles as well. As the wrestling world knows, AJ Styles’ current contract is running out. In fact, he managed to recently negotiate an extension, as mentioned before, until Bound For Glory 2013. Is it that TNA are now realizing what they possess? Are they now succumbing to the pressure of losing AJ Styles by trying to not only give AJ Styles a push, but to cement him there in his re-invented character? This is a good opportunity for AJ Styles to take advantage of the situation. AJ Styles has been able to get a lot of focus since returning to TNA with a new attitude. He was able to promote this new character by boasting how he’s implemented the aggressive attitude with a newly acquired submission move. No doubt a positive improvement is AJ Styles acting ability beyond his wrestling. As if he’s finally answering the critics who doubted his acting. This limelight no doubt is allowing AJ Styles to enhance himself as an essential asset to wrestling. It feels reminiscence of Jeff Hardy’s contract negotiations when
TNA paved the pathway for Jeff Hardy as a way of enticing him to a new contract and away from WWE. That certainly helped him win last year’s Bound For Glory series and the title off of Austin Aries, who was causing shockwaves in TNA. He even temporarily surpassed my favourite CM Punk, who was singing praises for John Cena, causing WWE to make him regain his throne as the internet fan’s hero with his actions against the megastar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. In 2013, we have AJ Styles, who for years has been contemplating how he would do in WWE. The following is an extract from my previous article, regarding this scenario. “Recently, AJ Styles asked the wrestling world, on his facebook, what he should do for his future? Whether he should stick with TNA, or go to WWE or ROH? As strange as it may seem, I think he should go to WWE. Thanks to CM Punk, the smaller guys have a greater opportunity to bask in the spotlight. AJ Styles always spoke dearly of how he was unable to capitalize in his spells in WCW and WWE. AJ Styles is a great performer and, at his best, is untouchable. His acting skills have vastly improved and the WWE staff will help him to enhance his skills in that department. This advice is not just for AJ Styles. TNA, who again is undergoing financial constraints, could benefit in many ways. AJ Styles has been underused for years, and they’ve pushed many other talents instead. It will hurt TNA to lose him of course, but not catastrophically. TNA still possess gifted performers like Kenny King and Austin Aries, along with big names like Kurt Angle, Sting and Jeff Hardy. Indirectly, this is a good solution to tackle the ratings department. Before CM Punk and Daniel Bryan made a name for themselves, ROH and independent wrestling shows weren’t remotely as popular. As soon as these guys did well, everyone started to ponder on dream matches that have already happened like AJ Styles, CM Punk, Austin Aries and Bryan Danielson. Having AJ Styles in the WWE would help TNA, but this depends on AJ Styles’ intentions. We have seen how TNA stars have failed in WWE like Chris Harris and Monty Brown. Two big stars that could of done well in WWE, but were victims of a time when not every star had the chance. TNA needs to be able to understand this, as they are also upset with Hulk Hogan for not promoting TNA during his recent arm wrestling parody in Canada. They need to comprehend that, anything he does, will indirectly be linked with TNA.”
The quote I want to focus on, is “I’m better than the best in the world, I’m The Phenomenal One”. It has become a recurring theme for wrestlers of TNA to try to challenge the notion of who’s the elite superstar of wrestling today. Co-incidentally, it’s a common trend since Shawn Michaels retired. We’ve heard the crowned champion at his opening speech state “I’ve been congratulated by other ‘Champions’ but I’m the real champion”, with Austin Aries adopted notion ‘the Greatest Man that ever Lived” being promoted by TNA freely. That wasn’t the case in Austin Aries’ first spell in TNA. Has CM Punk ever made any reference to Austin Aries? Thought not… We’ve seen Jeff Hardy gloat being ‘The Best on Planet Earth’ which lead to many speculating that Jeff Hardy is hyping up a possible rekindling of a truly remarkable rivalry, of course pre 2011 where most of CM Punk’s fans have arrived, although we know that was a tactic by Jeff Hardy to manipulate TNA to get a better new contract. Then there’s Kurt Angle, who has been the one to confront the arrivals of the MMA established stars of Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz with his declaration: “I’m the Greatest wrestler alive today”. This surely puts down the credibility of the World
Championship, something CM Punk did the opposite of. Kurt Angle has no objectives for the World Championship in the near future, not being involved in the Bound For Glory series. The fact that Punk has developed into a target is the greatest example of what he’s achieved in becoming WWE’s equal to John Cena. Something that neither Kurt Angle or Jeff Hardy have been able to do, with Batista being the headliner before Kurt Angle left.
Back to the relevance between AJ Styles saying this quote. For those who don’t know, CM Punk and AJ Styles have a history together. Both were together in ROH and TNA. At the time, AJ Styles was the leader of stars jumping ship from ROH to TNA. During this period, the TNA wrestlers had the freedom of competing in ROH as well as TNA. A healthy relationship to promote both companies. AJ Styles was the stand out from these guys and was regarded as the leader for these men. Due to injuries being sustained, TNA terminated this partnership which irritated CM Punk, who didn’t like how the company was being run. AJ Styles, being a major player in TNA, chose not to make a case for TNA to revert their relationship with a company that had supplied them with a host of wrestlers like Christopher Daniels. A tough dilemma as the TNA roster were affected by injuries when the performers were in another show, but let’s face it, injuries are always possible in the world of professional wrestling. It comes with the terrotory. This prompted CM Punk to stick to his principals, and took a backward step by committing to ROH. He wasn’t used correctly in TNA, in his assumptions, believing he’s capable of more. Contrary to his break out in the summer of 2011, CM Punk has always been very confident of his ability. Raven, one of his mentors who he enjoyed a strong rivalry with, pointed this out in an interview last year. He virtually said, CM Punk has always been a strong believer of what he’s capable of. The difference is, he wasn’t back then, but now he is the best thing out there and I’m glad for him. He’s the best thing to watch. It has to be noted that, both were identical prior to CM Punk’s breakout summer of 2011. Both were major players in the indie scene but weren’t able to be recognized by creative management for their qualities, even though both created group factions that had the fans admiring them. So who better than Raven to sum up CM Punk?
CM Punk is a man who has always stuck by his principals. He always used to gloat being “The Best In The World”. He always promoted a Straight Edge lifestyle, something that took the McMahon’s a long time to comprehend as something positive to promote in a world where there’s substance abusers. He just wasn’t getting the coverage he needed.
If you read the ‘additional information’ portion of a previous article, I describe how the current Daniel Bryan storyline has everything to do with CM Punk. CM Punk used to encounter AJ Styles in tremendous wrestling matches. Despite CM Punk wrestling very well, AJ Styles was arguably the better performer. AJ Styles was a standout for a reason. But like I’ve mentioned before, he was unable to be utilized correctly. His mic skills has never been his strongest attribute, leading to limitations in his position with TNA. On the other side, CM Punk has always been great on the mic. I remember his last night in ROH with Mick Foley was intense (ROH Youtube 55299:3??). Kind of the basis of Mick Foley’s involvement with CM Punk last year, leading to his feud with Ryback. CM Punk was able to use his attributes and with the Money in the Bank 2011 aftermath, it was similar to how he ended his last pay per view at ROH, winning the world championship. It’s as if there is
some hostility amongst AJ Styles and CM Punk. One stuck with his principals with AJ Styles not doing so, sticking with TNA, to mhe was finally able to express how he’s been disregarded. Fast forward to the modern day, and it’s CM Punk as the leading figure out of these ex ROH wrestlers. He was able to improve his wrestling skills, having matches with Daniel Bryan, Austin Aries, Samoa Joe, etc. I am a huge CM Punk fan, but I’m not blinded to deny that AJ Styles is the better in-ring wrestler. But CM Punk is better as he’s mastered what so few have. Wrestling is an entertainment show. Its about how you can make a match memorable. Why is HBK regarded as the best ever instead of other high flying stars? It’s because they were able to physically tell a story combined with their athleticism. It’s like what we appreciated when we were younger. Hulk Hogan being beaten up, but then Hulking up to regain energy and overcoming the seemingly dominant opponent. A few shows per month make it good. But wrestling has evolved to being reliant on the wrestling ability of performing tremendous maneuvers as well as documenting a story. A wrestling match requires the competitors to work together, to help each other stand out. This was perfected by Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. Nowadays, the closest we have isn’t AJ Styles but CM Punk. He is able to sell his opponent, always adjusting the speed of the match according to the opponent. For any opponent, the storyline is able to be foretold in a match with CM Punk constantly illustrating the impacts and effects from his opponents, whether it be Del Rio’s strategic focus on his opponent’s arm or to be dominated by “The Beast” Brock Lesnar’s physical supremacy and speed. This variation of being able to highlight the opponent helps the match, with CM Punk’s timing and ring awareness. CM Punk is also able to wrestle in a style to accommodate his character. He is able to relate to the crowd very well, timing the ideal facial emotions for the moment, like when he attacked Randy Orton with the aid of a ladder at the top turn buckle (smiling) or when he roundhouse kicked Curtis Axel and turned towards Paul Heyman with a smile, before booting him on the Raw of 26.08.13. AJ Styles can sell a move very well but he’s unable to adjust or able to relate to the story and/ or character to the highest of level. He did it to an extent on his final battle with Christopher Daniels last year, when he was indecisive, but not to the greatest of heights. If we were to judge which matches were the best this year, it will be CM Punk vs The Undertaker, then CM Punk vs Brock Lesnar. I was at MetLife Stadium for Wrestlemania 29 and that match was awesome. At the Wrestlemania Axxess events, Y2J pointed out what many forgot, that CM Punk had fought The Undertaker before in another intriguing match: Hell In A Cell 2009. This included the memorable time when CM Punk stood over Jeff Hardy, with the lights going out, and The Undertaker being underneath him instead. This was the beginning of the build up to a rivalry that had a really good match.
CM Punk has been able to wrestle well but is just receiving the plaudits that he deserves. All of this highlights that CM Punk is overall the superior commodity. There’s a reason why the wrestler who has statistically sold the most merchandises, being the 3rd most t-shirt of all time, ‘Austin 3:16′ thus arguably the Biggest wrestler of all time, has said if he was to return to wrestling, it would be against CM Punk. Wrestlemania 30 here we come!!
But nevertheless, everyone has different views and that quote by AJ Styles has helped to rekindle some animosity between the two. This could be a tactic to indoctrinate TNA management into a perception that he already has a rival in WWE that could be used in WWE making him a more essential asset that needs to be maintained for more money. Can’t blame him for that. But with AJ Styles asking on Facebook whether he should go to WWE, ROH or stay at TNA does make you ponder. AJ Styles, as I’ve said, has a good opportunity of being a success in WWE. This rivalry between AJ Styles and CM Punk could be used for their benefit. They both don’t share a strong friendship, although there’s respect between them. Perhaps a reason why Samoa Joe and CM Punk were close friends, and still are. Samoa Joe was the man of wrestling back in 2006 as described in a previous article. He was miles ahead of CM Punk, who was in the developmental system and monitored by Paul Heyman. Gosh how things change. That’s not to put down Samoa Joe whose a vicious wrestler with shockingly tremendous athleticism for a man his size.
It’s really unfortunate that creative management has once again mainly focused on an alternative superstar, Bully Ray, as he is champion. This limited the emphasis on AJ Styles’ supposed shoot. AJ Styles indeed caused a phenomenal explosion, but the after effects doesn’t resemble the catastrophe of the infamous pipe bomb.
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