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Hawke’s Top 14 AJ Styles Matches from 2016

December 23, 2016 | Posted by TJ Hawke
AJ Styles Shinsuke Nakamura WrestleMania 34

AJ Styles had a pretty wild 2016. He worked the Dome with Nakamura, had first-time matches with Zack and Rey, and then debuted in the WWE at the Royal Rumble. In the ring, he was once again of the better workers in the world.

 

14. AJ Styles vs. John Cena – WWE – 6/14/2016

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The story here was pretty damn good for the most part. AJ was able to stay a step ahead of Cena for a very long time. Cena endured that and basically waited for AJ to make a mistake. That eventually happened when AJ came up completely empty on a tope suicida. From there, both men struggled to stay on top of one another for more than a minute or so.

Their work was really tarnished though due to a couple of poor choices. First, the AA and the Styles Clash were both kicked out of. This does not really make sense in most situations, but it really is shooting yourself in the foot when it’s happening in a match that is clearly the first in a series.

Secondly, the finish was terrible. There was an incredibly weak ref bump, and then The Club ran in and gave Cena the tornado-plex. AJ won on that. You just know that is the closest AJ is going to come to getting a clean win. That finish was even more frustrating given the methodical pace that they worked. This match needed a strong finish more than most.

This was a missed opportunity despite there being a lot to like about it. (***)

 

13. AJ Styles vs. Rey Mysterio – FSW – 1/14/2016

AJ-Styles-vs.-Rey-Mysterio-5-Star-Wrestling-January-14-2016

AJ Styles vs. Rey Mysterio in a big-time environment is absolutely a dream match (even at their advanced in-ring ages). This will have to do though.

They worked a very basic match in terms of structure. Rey got some shine, AJ cheated to cut him off, Rey made a comeback, and AJ cheated to set up his otherwise clean win. Despite the lack of substance or extraordinary crowd response, there was something truly endearing about watching these two go at it (even in fan cam ass vision). I am a mark.

Rey Mysterio hit the 619. AJ then delayed Rey’s top-rope dive by pulling the ref in front of him. AJ then caught a seated senton attempt and reversed it into a Styles Clash for the win. (***)

 

12. AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose – WWE – 9/27/2016

11. AJ Styles vs. John Cena vs. Dean Ambrose – WWE – 10/9/2016

10. AJ Styles vs. Zack Sabre Jr. – RPW – 1/16/2016

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This was for AJ’s RPW British Heavyweight Championship.

This was a lot of fun and a fine way for AJ to end his independent wrestling career.

Zack vs. AJ was a first-time matchup, and the match predictably started off in a manner that displeases me (though it’s forgivable, I suppose). They spent probably a bit too long in the early goings doing the masturbatory feeling-out process stuff. They did switch gears quickly enough though to prevent me from getting properly bored/annoyed.

They moved on to targeting each other’s limbs to set up their submission finishers after that. I would have preferred some more focused and brutal work during this time period, but it set up the finishing stretch well enough. In the final quarter of the match, Zack really started going after the arm, and he ended up applying the Jim Breaks Armbar to force AJ to submit.

On top of the solid (if not spectacular) in-ring story, this was just fun to watch in general. The matchup was super fresh, the great majority of the action in the second half was well done/crowd-pleasing, and the fact that it was AJ’s final indie date before finally going to the WWE added some charm to the proceedings. This was not the MOTYC that some were probably hoping for, but I enjoyed it a bit more than I anticipated. It’s well worth the time/effort required to go out of your way to see it. (***1/2)

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9. AJ Styles vs. Roman Reigns – WWE – 5/1/2016

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This was for Reigns’ WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

This was a weird PPV main event in the sense that it was really good in the ring, but the overbooking objectively made it less interesting despite the fact that it did not really do any harm to the momentum of the match.

The opening 40% of the match was one of the best executed feeling-out-processes/slow burns that I have seen in a good while. It really felt like a chess match without being methodical for the sake of being methodical. The fact that it ended on an awesome springboard forearm through the table helped obviously.

The overbooking kicked in after that with two re-starts and the interference by Karl AndersonLuke Gallows, and The Usos. None of this really added anything to the match, and they all took away from the fresh, athletic, and cerebral main event that we were getting. They did not make the match bad though for sure. They just took a potentially “great” match and gave it a “good” ceiling.

Things settled down in the final seconds which allowed Reigns to beat AJ “cleanly” with a spear. A rematch was clearly in order, but I hope they resist going back to it right away if AJ is just going to lose again. (***1/2)

 

8. AJ Styles vs. Alberto del Rio – WWE – 4/12/2016

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These guys did a real solid ten-minute match here.

They kept it back and forth early on. They did it in a fun way though where you couldn’t tell who would get control of the match. ADR did eventually get a soft control, and he packed in all the cool shit he’s doing now. He really has a great variety of movez in his arsenal at the moment, and he’s doing a great job of not putting them in his matches at the same time every time. He went for the cross armbreaker without setting it up though, and AJ caught him with a sloppy fruit roll-up for the win. More of these two together please. (***1/2)

 

7. AJ Styles & Chris Jericho vs. Big E & Kofi Kingston – WWE – 3/7/2016

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This was for New Day’s WWE Tag Team Championship.

This was a high-energy television tag title match that edited out most of the heat segment in the commercial. This is a very easy and effective way to make your tag team scene seem hot! I encourage all wrestling companies with television to do this! The closing stretch with everyone flying all around was good stuff, and I loved the ending of Big E reversing the Codebreaker into a Big Ending. This was probably the best match Jericho has been heavily involved in since 2013. (***1/2)

 

6. AJ Styles vs. Corey Hollis – GPW – 2/5/2016

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Are you ready to fly? No? Are you ready to (hopefully) finish your indie wrestling days on a smart and compact match that left the live crowd satisfied? You are, your are, I am, I am.

AJ Styles’ indie career fittingly finished with a Smackdown-style match that he will hopefully be delivering week in, week out for years to come.

AJ had the advantage early. Hollis needed to cheat to cut him off. AJ started to fight back. Hollis was often a step ahead of him, but AJ eventually overcame that though and won with the Styles Clash. It was a smart match that was easy to watch and had crowd the engaged the whole time. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Hollis looked good in defeat, and ROH should seriously consider getting behind him in a big way in the immediate future. (***1/2)

 

5. AJ Styles vs. John Cena – 8/21/2016

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This was a case of the right booking decision making all the difference in the quality of the match. After Bray Wyatt, Rusev, and Kevin Owens got ran over by the John Cena multi-PPV feud train, AJ Styles was able to actually cleanly win his extended feud with Cena in 2016.

The match itself was more fun than actually interesting. They worked a ferocious pace, packed in a ton of action, and delivered a crowd-pleasing spectacle of a match. The second half was all about sitting in submissions and kicking out of finishers. That style has its limits, but at least the stage justified it more than usual.

The final moments were definitely really great though. AJ kicked out of the avalanche AA, and Cena was shocked. It looked like Cena was then going to have to do one more obligatory AA to pick up the win…but AJ reversed it into a Styles Clash and then finished Cena with the springboard forearm. This watch very satisfying and had an important finish. Good job. (***¾)

 

4. AJ Styles & Kenny Omega vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & YOSHI-HASHI – NJPW – 1/5/2016

3. AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura – NJPW – 1/4/2016

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This was for Nakamura’s IWGP Intercontinental Championship.

Deep down, I always knew it was possible that this match may not deliver. AJ Styles has not been a strong performer on non-G1 shows for NJPW, and Nakamura will eventually one day forget to show up on 1/4. That’s not to say that it wasn’t good (it was very good, in fact), but this could have (and should have) been great.

The first half or two-thirds of the match featured lots of neat ideas that were just not capitalized on. After some initial feeling out (more forgivable in a first-time matchup), Nakamura started to target AJ’s injured back, and AJ then after Shinsuke’s legs (for the calf slicer). The work from both of them was sporadic though and then led to no meaningful selling.

Then they went into a tremendously executed back-and-forth sequence that made the match for me. This was undeniably good stuff, and they did a great job of building up the drama with each move. AJ appeared to have the match won after reversing a triangle into a Styles Clash, but Naka kicked out. AJ went to finish him with a super Styles Clash, but Naka reversed it into an avalanche Landslide. (You can even argued that the Landslide was a callback to the early work on AJ’s back if you’re being generous.) Naka then finish him with a couple of Boma Ye.

Overall, this turned into a very fun match that I will look back on fondly. It had the opportunity to be great though, and that makes it a little disappointing as well. (***3/4)

 

2. AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose – WWE – 12/4/2016

1. AJ Styles vs. Roman Reigns – WWE – 5/22/2016

romanaj

This was for Roman’s WWE World Championship.

WWE really accidentally stumbled upon something brilliant with the chemistry between AJ Styles and Roman Reigns. When these two wrestle each other, everything about it feels like a big deal. That is one of those undefinable qualities that enhances everything about a match but is so hard to organically create.

They worked a big-time main event, and they got to bust out all sorts of tricks for the occasion. Everything came off red hot, and both guys looked like main event stars in process. While I was not a fan of the overbooking, the run-ins from the lackeys actually got the crowd more invested and were done without overwhelming the match. Everything helped the match build to a hot finish that ended with Roman cleanly pinning AJ after catching him with a spear during a springboard attempt.

This was essentially just a fantastic remake of their already strong match a month earlier on PPV. The issue was mostly just that the story did not feel continued so much as redone in order to buy the WWE another month before moving on to something else. In the end though, I do not really care and just am grateful that this fantastic match was produced. It will likely be the WWE MOTY. (****1/2)

 

Watch AJ Styles in some free matches!

AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe vs. Christopher Daniels

AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan

AJ Styles vs. CM Punk

AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe (their best match together)

AJ Styles vs. Abyss (my favorite AJ match)

article topics :

AJ Styles, WWE, TJ Hawke