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Chairshot Brainbuster: AJ Styles & The Decision That Changed Wrestling

Matt Davis is back with another edition of the Chairshot Brainbuster, and this time he is looking at the impact of a single decision: AJ Styles deciding to leave TNA Impact Wrestling in 2013.



Matt Davis is back with another edition of the Chairshot Brainbuster, and this time he is looking at the impact of a single decision: AJ Styles deciding to leave TNA Impact Wrestling in 2013.

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen! Apologies for not writing last week, but here I am back once again to make your head hurt! This week, is not going to be so much about statistics but a narrative I’ve been exploring. I am going to evaluate one of the biggest decisions in wrestling history, and how it changed everything we see today!

Who remembers December 2013? It was around that time that the wrestling world had the biggest news swirling since 1994, when Hulk Hogan signed with WCW. In December 2013, the biggest free agent in wrestling, the current TNA World Heavyweight Champion, had informed the company that he would not be renewing his contract. “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles was walking away from the company, and it sent shock waves through the wrestling world. Companies were clamoring for bookings, he was wanted everywhere. And he went everywhere. He went back to Ring of Honor, he wrestled in PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles, Combat Zone Wrestling, and he traveled abroad to England, among other promotions which I will touch on later.  But how did we reach this point? Why did one of the best wrestlers in the world decide to leave the company which he brought to prominence himself?

Many speculate that it had to do with the direction of the company. In late 2009, TNA had reached a relationship with Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan and the first official show run by them was March 8th, 2010, opposite Monday Night RAW, which many fans dubbed “The Second Monday Night War“. This new approach was negatively received by fans and less than two months later, TNA reversed course and moved back to Thursday’s, but many people, including AJ Styles became lost in the shuffle. Even though Styles found himself in the midst of a then record breaking World Championship reign, Styles would drop the title to former ECW and WWE World Champion, Rob Van Dam. Over the next year, AJ Styles would align himself with three other veterans of the company including Kazarian and Beer Money Inc (James Storm and Bobby Roode) and dub themselves “Fortune”, a heel group managed by Ric Flair. They were dragged into feuds with a group of ECW wrestlers throughout most of 2010, but turned face after Immortal (a group of Hulk Hogan, Abyss, Jeff Hardy, and others) debuted in the company, feuding with that group for a while. But AJ Styles would never find himself as the main guy in the company again, even as he was given a main event push in the summer of 2012, winning the TNA Championship again at Bound for Glory. But it was too little too late, and the company was focused on promoting other talent like Bully Ray, Nick Aldis, Bobby Roode, EC3, and Jeff Hardy; and AJ gave notice to the company in October. He was stripped of the championship. He sat at home for several months, debating his future in wrestling.

How TNA handled what amounts to the single biggest star they’ve ever had, who’s mere presence and global recognition gave them the notoriety to get a weekly television deal is simply  mind boggling! It’s like they didn’t even know what they had in him, after 19 different championship reigns, and becoming the company’s first Grand Slam Champion in 2009. [But the same creative team let Chris Jericho walk from WCW, too, so a lot can be said about that.]

As I mentioned earlier, the first shock wave felt was when AJ Styles debuted in New Japan Pro Wrestling on April 6th, 2014. In his very first match on May 3rd at Wrestling Dontaku, he would win the IWGP Championship against Kazuchika Okada surrounded by the Bullet Club, whom he was a co-leader of. His relationship with both NJPW and ROH led to the first ever NJPW/ROH event in the United States, headlining “War of the Worlds” in New York City on May 19th, 2014. He became the first person to defend the IWGP Championship in the US (until Jay White did so five years later). This relationship between the companies, and the show in general, would have never been possible without the name brand recognition and influence of AJ Styles. He brought brand name exposure to two companies who for a long time, if ever, had someone of his brand name caliber to their rosters. Many fans regard this as the best year Ring of Honor ever had and ticket sales and DVD sales backed up those claims. It was this relationship that changed wrestling forever.

Even though the Bullet Club had existed since May 2013, it was AJ Styles’ involvement in May 2014 with the group that brought to the group to unseen levels of exposure on two continents in front of hundreds of thousands of cross promotional fans. The “Bullet Club” t-shirt became the hottest selling tshirt on ProWrestlingTees, and remains one of the top sellers to this day. The group held two distinctive storylines, one in Japan in NJPW and one in the US in ROH. In the later, in Ring of Honor, the group would begin to parody other popular groups such as the nWo and DX, with crotch chops and the “too sweet” hand gesture in their matches and segments in front of American audiences who recognized these subtle nods. They group would actually receive cease and desist letters from the WWE for emulating the nWo and saying “Too Sweet” too much, as it started to become more recognized with the Bullet Club and it’s merchandise. The group became almost bigger than wrestling itself, completely revolutionizing the international and independent wrestling scene. AJ Styles would main event WrestleKingdom against Tetsuya Naito in January 2015, and then Shinsuke Nakamura in January 2016, having won the IWGP Championship twice in his tenure. He would also co-main event ROH’s 12th Anniversary and Final Battle 2015, some of the companies biggest shows. Even though he would never win the ROH Championship, he had established himself as one of the best wrestlers in the world, finishing in the top 5 of PWI’s Top 500 in 2014 and 2015. His involvement and draw power made WK9 and WK10 the most watched WrestleKingdom ever in the companys’ history to that point. Even though Shinsuke Nakamura was regarded as one of the best wrestlers by insiders, it was his match with AJ Styles that brought casual eye balls to the Japanese legend and the product itself. Nakamura would leave Japan with AJ Styles, as both headed for the WWE. They would main event Wrestlemania 34 and wrestle for the WWE Championship. That wouldn’t have been possible had AJ Styles himself not brought attention to NJPW two years prior.

NJPW would continue to grow its global audience, launching the streaming app “NJPW World” in December 2014, and promoted its first English commentated event on the service in October 2015 main evented by Kazuchika Okada vs AJ Styles (I’ll certainly mark that up as a coincidence.) The app now has 100,000 subscribers, with half of that being international subscriptions, up 4x where they were in only 2017. The company has run successful tours of the United States in 2017, debuting the IWGP US Championship, but the company’s biggest success was yet to come. Even though AJ Styles had left NJPW courtesy of being kicked out of Bullet Club in January 2016 by the usurper Kenny Omega, NJPW and ROH co-promoted another show in New York City in 2019; except this was bigger than “War of the Worlds”. It was titled “G1 Supercard”, and was held in Madison Square Garden, the first non-WWE wrestling event held in the world famous arena in 59 years. NJPW’s draw in the United States had become so influential that they were able to sell out in 16 minutes!

Additionally, NJPW and ROH had begun pushing a branch of the Bullet Club called “The Elite” (Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, the Young Bucks, Marty Scurll, and Adam Page). It eventually resulted in faction warfare, as original members Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale would split the group in half. Rhodes and Omega would main event ROH’s Supercard of Honor in 2017, but it was Kenny Omega who would launch “The Elite” to global prominence, after his feud with Kazuchika Okada in 2018, winning the IWGP Championship in a match many regard as the best wrestling match ever. Omega would go on to follow in AJs footsteps, leading The Bullet Club, and finding himself in familiar shoes “Will he, won’t he” as a free agent. Why is this relevant to AJ Styles? Because none of this would be possible without AJ Styles involvement in NJPW in 2014 and 2015. He elevated New Japan Pro, Wrestling, The Bullet Club, and therefor Kenny Omega and The Elite into global prominence. Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega, and the Young Bucks would leave New Japan in January 2019, to found the company All Elite Wrestling, which is arguably in only it’s infancy, the second biggest American wrestling promotion as it goes head to head with the WWE on Wednesday Night’s.

AJ Styles finds himself in familiar territory once again, except on the other side of the war he started in March 2010. His influence led to a national emergence of TNA, which attracted Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff, which would lead to the destruction of TNA as we knew it then, the emergence of ROH and NJPW as global powers, the elevation of The Bullet Club, and the creation of All Elite Wrestling. He either directly or indirectly led to everything we see today. And that is why his decision to leave TNA in December 2013 changed wrestling as we know it. He surely is “Phenomenal”, but little did we know how much so.

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AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns

With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?



With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?

With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.

With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.

1. Johnny Gargano

Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?

WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen  the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.

2. James Storm

This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.

Watch your Money and your Alcohol.

Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”

3. Big Cass

Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.

Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.

4. Bronson Reed

The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.

Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?

5. Bray Wyatt

And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.

To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.

– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!

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King’s Greatest Hits Of Jeff Hardy

As he battles his demons, Chris King looks at some more positive moments in Jeff Hardy’s career!



Jeff Hardy WWE Smackdown

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the disturbing news that former WWE superstar and recent AEW signee Jeff Hardy, was arrested again for multiple charges including a DUI.  Hardy has had a hard and tragic road of recovery throughout the years in multiple wrestling promotions.

Not too long ago, Hardy walked out on WWE after they were rumored to have offered the former world champion to go to treatment for his substance abuse issues. Hardy refused and said that he was better but, as we saw the demons are still lurking and got the best of him again.

I have seen some nasty comments and even some distasteful memes about the AEW superstar and felt compelled to go against the grain. Instead of kicking a man when he’s down, I’m going to put together a greatest hits for the “Charismatic Enigma.”

Jeff Hardy & The TLC Match

Everyone can say that Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon helped innovate the iconic ladder match and you are right, but Jeff Hardy and his death-defying stunts changed the concept of the match forever. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge & Christian and their iconic TLC match should have their wing in the Hall of Fame. The risks all six superstars took for the adoration of the crowd could have ended all of their illustrious careers. In the words of Vince McMahon, It’s such good shit!

Jeff Hardy Earns The Undertaker’s Respect

On the July 1st, 2002 episode of Monday Night Raw, Hardy delivered the performance of a lifetime nearly winning the WWE Undisputed Championship from The Undertaker in an incredible ladder match. The young up-and-comer was faced with his greatest task yet, challenging for the most prestigious title in sports entertainment. Hardy showed that without a shadow of a doubt he deserved to be in the main event scene, but came within minutes of defeating Taker. At the time of the match, Hardy was still finding his footing as a singles competitor and earned the respect of the champion and legend.

Swanton Bomb From The Heavens

When I think of the daredevil Jeff Hardy, I can’t help but think of this one crazy-as-hell stunt. At WWE One Night Stand 2008, Hardy faced off against the juggernaut Umaga in a falls count anywhere match. This match was so insane as both superstars fought into the parking lot. Hardy is one of the craziest and bravest superstars, hit a Swanton Bomb off a damn stage truck onto Umaga. It’s one of the wildest things you’ll ever see.

Hardy Wins The WWE Championship 

In 2008, Hardy finally made his way to the main event title picture alongside partner Triple H. HHH was Hardy’s mentor in some sort of way which led to the daredevil achieving his lifelong dream of becoming WWE champion. At the 2008 Armageddon pay-per-view, Hardy would face HHH and longtime rival Edge in a triple-threat match for the title. In what was a great match between all three superstars, Hardy delivered a Swanton Bomb to Edge to win the illustrious championship.

Straight Edge Problems For Hardy

The following year, Hardy found himself in the way of young-up-and-comer CM Punk who is looking to make an example out of him. Punk had won the Money in the Bank briefcase for the second year in a row and took advantage of Hardy to win the world title. What started as mutual respect between both superstars changed drastically, when Punk started throwing jabs at Hardy for his drug and substance abuse real-life issues. Punk would form his infamous stable known as the Straight Edge Society. This is a very underrated feud and you should go back and watch it in its entirety. The promos are gold.

The Hardy Boyz Return To WWE

Both Matt and Jeff Hardy found success in multiple other wrestling promotions including Ring of Honor, and TNA during their time away from WWE. Both brothers were struggling with their vices and made poor life choices but straightened up their act over the years. In 2017, the Hardy Boyz would face longtime rivals The Young Bucks in ROH. The following night the adored tag team would make their incredible return to WWE at WrestleMania 33. Matt and Jeff would be named the final team in the Fatal 4-way ladder match for the Raw Tag Team Championships. The pop these two received was insane and very much deserved. They would go on to win the match and win the titles to capitalize on their momentum.

Jeffery Nero Hardy Makes AEW Debut

From 2017-to 2022 Jeff Hardy would find himself pigeonholed in the mid-card title picture. He would have feuds with a plethora of superstars including Samoa Joe, and Randy Orton. Orton and Hardy had a nasty Hell in a Cell match back in 2018. Earlier this year, Hardy was seen running around after the 24/7 Championship, which was disappointing to see. After being genuinely unhappy in WWE, Hardy would make his AEW debut on the March 9th episode of AEW Dynamite. Hardy would come to the aid of his brother and longtime partner.

This week news broke that Hardy had been arrested for multiple charges including a DUI. While it’s easy to beat a man while he’s down, how about we uplift and try to encourage him to get the help he needs.

As a longtime wrestling fan, I have the utmost respect for Hardy and wish him the best of luck in his battle with addiction.

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