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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.

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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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Cook’s Top 5: Miz Moments

Cook brings the most must see Top 5 of the week! Is it obvious or a MIZtery?

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The Miz WWE

This week is all about our new WWE Champion, The Miz!

Let’s be honest, Miz might not hold the Championship for too long. He’s got a big match with Bobby Lashley next week. We wish him luck, and maybe something unlikely will happen resulting in Miz holding on to the title longer than anybody expects. Still, I feel the need to get this particular edition of the Top 5 out there as soon as possible.

Here are the Top 5 Miz Moments!

5. Main Eventing WrestleMania

The match itself…not so great. Miz was obviously the third most important person in the match. He also suffered a concussion. But the guy still main evented WrestleMania and beat John Cena, which is something that not too many other people can say. This will remain Miz’s biggest WrestleMania match unless they get Bad Bunny to wrestle him this year.

4. A Ladder Match with Dolph Ziggler

Miz & Ziggler have quite a bit in common. Both hail from the Cleveland area. Both prefer to think of themselves as being from Hollywood. They’re both egotistical characters that make up for what they might lack in size with ego. They’ve been in WWE forever with limited changes to their character, pretty much on the same level of the card. Naturally, they get along pretty well & have good chemistry.

2016 saw the best incarnation of their on-screen issues, with Miz & Ziggler trading the Intercontinental Championship back & forth. The Ladder Match ending the feud at TLC is considered by most to be Miz’s best match. I don’t have a ton of other options off the top of my head, so we’ll go with that.

3. The First MITB Cash-In

You always remember your first. At this point in time, much like here in 2021, Miz wasn’t seen as the most believable choice to be WWE Champion. However, the man had a briefcase, and, importantly, this was back before the briefcase gimmick was completely run into the ground. So when Miz ran down at the end of Raw to cash in on Randy Orton, it got a tremendous reaction.

People were either really happy or really angry. I was on the angry side of the spectrum, especially since I had a cold and was writing a news column during all of this. Man, I remember when the week or so a year I would a cold was the only time I really felt like crap.

What can I say, Miz has grown on me over the years.

2. Feuding with The King

A lot of old school wrestling fans found it hard to believe that The Miz had become WWE Champion when more deserving wrestlers from their childhood never had been. Heck, Jerry Lawler, a God of Memphis rasslin who piledrove Andy Kaufman into oblivion, had never even gotten a shot at that title, even though he’d worked for WWE for nearly twenty years. Seemed wrong to a lot of people, but nobody expected that wrong to be addressed.

Lawler was celebrating his sixty-first birthday the week after Miz defeated Randy Orton for the WWE Championship. One thing led to another, and Lawler got his very first WWE Championsgip opportunity. In a TLC match! They got the fans believing that Lawler could win the title…until that pesky Michael Cole kept Lawler from climbing further up the ladder.

It was nice to see the King get another important run on WWE television long after we thought it was possible. A large part of the reason it was possible? The Miz. He portrayed himself as just beatable enough that the title change could happen. Also held up his end of the bargin in the promos, which was never easy for Lawler’s opponents.

I know everybody likes a title change, but this was the best work Miz did during his first WWE Championship reign by a wide margin.

Honorable Mention: Marrying Maryse

You knew I had to mention this, right?

1. Talking Smack to Daniel Bryan

I’ve always been a Daniel Bryan guy. Back when he was Miz’s “rookie” on NXT, I thought the idea that Miz would have something to teach him was a bit outrageous. It was an interesting pairing though, and the Miz/Bryan relationship/rivalry has provided plenty of compelling moments over the years.

None moreso than the night where Miz did something that a lot of people didn’t think was possible: make himself seem right & Daniel Bryan seem wrong. The way Miz defended himself in this tirade was pretty much impossible to argue with. Maybe Miz doesn’t wrestle the way that hardcore wrestling fans would like, but he is pretty much the prototypical WWE Superstar of his era. He always works hard, is never hurt, and you don’t have to worry about him embarrassing himself or the company.

This promo raised Miz’s character to another level at the time, and definitely added some fuel to the fire for Bryan’s eventual return. If you want to see one Miz promo that sums up who he is & was, this would be it.


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Bodeen’s Top 5 Moments: WWE Elimination Chamber 2021

Bodeen Green is back with your look at his Top 5 Moments from WWE Elimination Chamber!

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WWE Elimination Chamber 2021 Kevin Owens Jey Uso

Bodeen Green is back with your look at his Top 5 Moments from WWE Elimination Chamber!

Due to the short build between the Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber, there was a general lack of excitement from fans heading into the Elimination Chamber Pay-Per-View, especially with the lack of established matches on the card. Despite this, the Elimination Chamber was still a solid show to watch, mainly due to both chamber matches being fun to watch, with the last chamber match, having a shocking but awesome twist.  So as we leave the Elimination Chamber and take yet another step forward on the Road to WrestleMania, let us look at the top 5 moments that stood out on this short but solid show.

5. Riddle becomes United States Champion

Heading into this match, it seemed highly unlikely that Riddle would beat the United States Champion, Bobby Lashley. Even though the match was a triple threat match and Riddle did not have to pin Lashley to win the title, fans had seen Riddle lose to Bobby time and time again, making it seem the only real threat to Lashley’s title reign in the match was Keith Lee. However after Lee was taken out and John Morrison won a match on the pre-show earlier in the night, things seemed somewhat possible for Riddle.

All three men looked good in this match, as Lashley dominated the start of the match, helping fans get their breath back from the opening Elimination Chamber. This would force Riddle and John Morrison to team up on Lashley, despite being teamed up on Lashley would fight back and seemed to have things won as he put the hurt lock on John Morrison, only for Riddle to attack Lashley with the crutch belonging to MVP and pin John Morrison to become United States Champion

Yet again, special credit has to be given to MVP as a manager, he serves a purpose and actually looks like he’s being effective in helping Lashley. An example of this was MVP encouraging Lashley to stay outside the ring to recover as Riddle and Morrison treaded blows inside the ring.

4. The Tribal Chief reigns supreme for now

Instead of defending the Universal Championship inside the Elimination Chamber, Roman Reigns would use his power to face the winner of the SmackDown Elimination Chamber match, straight after the match. This was yet another great heel move from Roman as it once again showed how much power he has backstage due to his bloodline and role as a main-event player.

After Daniel Bryan survived a brutal chamber match, Roman Reigns would come out straight after the match, giving Daniel Bryan little time to recover. Roman would go to spear Daniel, only for Daniel to reverse it into the Yes Lock, making the impossible seem possible, only for Roman to counter and punish Daniel, locking in the guillotine for the win.

After holding the Universal Title, Roman would be hit with a spear by Edge, who seemed to copy Roman from earlier on SmackDown as he whispered in Roman’s ear, before pointing to the WrestleMania sign, giving fans his answer on who he’s gonna face at WrestleMania.

3. An Awesome finish

After The Miz won the Money In The Bank briefcase at Hell In A Cell against Otis, it seemed like every Pay-Per-View he would give Drew McIntyre a threat, stating he was going to cash in, however as time went on, it seemed more unlikely he would ever successfully cash in the Money In The Bank briefcase and win the WWE Championship from Drew McIntyre.

Each after he pulled out of the Elimination Chamber match, it still seemed unlikely Miz would cash in successfully, especially with it being so close to WrestleMania. However, after we saw backstage footage of The Miz talking to MVP backstage before the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Championship, things started to become interesting.

After McIntyre had won the Elimination Chamber match to retain his WWE Championship, Bobby Lashley would come out and dominate Drew, leaving The Miz to cash in on Drew, allowing Miz to win the WWE Championship, putting a massive twist on the Road to WrestleMania.

2. McIntyre survives the Elimination Chamber   

The Elimination Chamber match was filled with heaps of sub feuds, especially with the WWE Champion, Drew Mcintyre who had old rivals in Randy Orton and AJ Styles, as well as a new feud with his former best friend Sheamus, despite this, Drew would keep a level head and dominate everyone in the match, before eventually hitting a claymore on AJ Styles to win the match and retain his title before The Miz would cash in.

Jeff Hardy and Randy Orton would start the match before Drew would come in and dominate both men. Kofi Kingston would come in next and hit Orton with a roll-up to score a shock elimination. Orton would RKO both Hardy and Kofi, allowing Styles to have an advantage as Omos helped destroy his pod, so Styles could enter early in the match. Kofi would be eliminated by Sheamus, as well as Hardy who was eliminated by Drew.

AJ, Sheamus and Drew would trade blows, with Sheamus hitting Drew with a Brogue kick, only for Styles to hit the Phenomenal Forearm on Sheamus to eliminate him. With Drew now battered and broken Styles would attempt a Phenomenal Forearm on Drew, only for Drew to hit a Claymore Kick in mid-air to survive and win a great Elimination Chamber match.

1. Daniel Bryan goes the distance 

Despite the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Championship being a great match I personally found the opening chamber match earlier in the night much more enjoyable. It felt much more smooth and natural than the later chamber match with all 6 men involved looking strong with Daniel Bryan, being the clear MVP of the match as he entered the chamber first with fellow dark horse Cesaro and went on to win his third Elimination Chamber match.

Cesaro and Daniel would start things off slow as they entered the match first. King Corbin would then come out, followed by an irate Sami Zayn who could not believe we entered forth. Corbin would be the first eliminated after Cesaro put him the Sharpshooter. Kevin Owens and Jey Uso would then come out with Owens eliminating Sami. As Sami exited the ring Jey would trap Kevin’s arm in the Chamber door, superkicking him then eliminating him.

Cesaro would then mount a comeback only for Jey to ruin his momentum as he superkicked Cesaro and hit a splash to eliminate him. Jey would then attempt a splash of a wounded Bryan, only for Bryan to get his knees up and hit Jey with the running knee to win the Elimination Chamber match.

These were my top 5 moments from the Elimination Chamber. What were your top 5 moments and what did you think of both Elimination Chamber matches? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 


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