#AJStylesWeek: A Difference of Opinion

It’s the Final Day of #AJStylesWeek, a celebration of all things Phenomenal and the sixth installment in our patent-pending Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. We started with A Wrestler You Should Probably Know Better. We’ve given you the finer points of the Mr. Olympia oeuvre with some Essential Viewing before marching through Hump Day with a GIF parade. Yesterday, we made our “Amazon.com on steroids” dreams come true with “Juice Make Sugar Recommends…“. before finishing everything off today with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ erupts in a Pele Kick-fueled civil war.) 

Dave: So, Impact so far… Surprisingly very thumbs-up.

Nick: I watched the Aries-Hardy match, had to change for the Samoa Joe promo.

Dave: Brainbuster from the second rope… looked pretty good.

Nick: Now watching Louisville beat Rutgers.

Dave: Only problem: that’s too much of a ppv quality match to be like “Here it is with no hype!”

Nick: Yeah, is that something Aries usually does?

Dave: No. That was the first time he’s done it in recent memory.

Nick: (The move, not the exceeding expectations.)

Dave: (And by recent I mean my memory)

Nick: Has AJ been on the show? And is it A.J. or AJ or both??

Dave: He cut a quick backstage promo on Dixie. They made it seem like a tease for something in the second hour. I pretty consistently do “A.J.” for him. But I just made that up. Like, I say “TNA” and “ODB,” but he’s “A.J. Styles.” It works with the whole Allen Jones thing.

Nick: Also, is it TNA or Impact Wrestling?

Dave: The company is TNA. Impact Wrestling is their flagship show. They tried to rebrand the whole company at one point, but it didn’t work because they’d invested so many years in the TNA name.

Nick: It’s confusing.

Dave: Very.

Nick: I mean, it’s TNA, so I guess that’s part of the branding strategy.

Dave: Being obtuse? Yeah, pretty much. Make the product as hard to like as possible. Winning strategy, right there.

Nick: Is Hogan the worst thing to ever happen to TNA or was there just no chance they were ever going to be anything like a second company anyways? Not even in the sense.

Dave: I don’t think the existence of Hulk Hogan in TNA was the worst idea possible. I think the idea of giving him even the slightest finger on the steering wheel was moronic. But with that said, I don’t think it’s possible to compete with the WWE. At least not in this era. Maybe in ten years we’ll say something different.

Nick: Well, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying, I don’t think they are more influential than ROH.

Dave: Wow. That statement is patently false. ROH’s show isn’t even truly national, and their PPVs are as reliable as a Pinto.

Nick: How? And I am not saying ROH in and of itself. I’m saying the big guys of the WWE are all ROH guys.

Dave: So? Should the measure of a wrestling company’s success be “how much of their talent does WWE plunder?” On the contrary, I’d say it’s a sign of TNA’s stature that they’ve kept so many of their stars.

Nick: I don’t think TNA is a part of the cultural zeitgeist of wrestling.

Dave: I disagree. I think TNA is the whipping boy. Which, while not glamorous, is an important role.

Nick: But have they even had a good match from any of their top guys in the past year?

Dave: I was there in person for Angle vs. Styles at Slammiversary, which I thought was a very good match. Good crowd heat, well-worked main event pace, a finish that made the crowd happy… What else is there?

Nick: Wasn’t it the same as all of the other matches they had? Isn’t that the problem with TNA? Not enough guys at the top, forcing people to have the same matches with the same people over and over again? How many times has Daniels worked with Styles in a feud or a match?

Dave: Well, no. That match was totally different from their previous matches because A.J. was working a much different style at that point as a character. I agree they over-expose match-ups. For example, on tonight’s Impact we had Aries vs. Hardy, which should be saved for a main event. With that said, how many times have we seen Bryan vs. The Shield? Kofi vs. Barrett? Kofi vs. Axel?

Nick: Woah.

Dave: So don’t act like it’s all TNA.

Nick: Woah. Woah. Kofi Kingston is Ghana’s favorite son.

Dave: When he’s not busy being Jamaican.

Nick: THAT NEVER HAPPENED.

Dave: I’ll let you forget that, you let me forget Claire Lynch.

Nick: You can’t blame TNA’s shitty booking and poor management for Styles knocking some girl up.

Dave: Well, you can blame them for making it seem for a minute like it was possibly true. If they had all along made it clear that it was fatuous, the fans could have gotten behind it and would have booed the bejeezus out of Kaz and Daniels for being liars. But they planted the seed of doubt that the story COULD have been true, which is undermining your top babyface something powerful.

Nick: TNA undermined one of its stars?

Dave: Once again, the idea that this is a “TNA problem” and not a “wrestling problem” is a huge misconception.

Nick: But they seem to do it more than nearly anybody. Even you wrote about that.

Dave: Calling Daniel Bryan a “troll,” calling every woman who is not size double zero fat, turning Ziggler and Del Rio babyface when they didn’t have a prayer of being good at it? I think WWE are way better at damage control, but I don’t think they make any fewer mistakes than TNA.

Dave: Plus, even if we’re just counting the Vincent K. era, they have 20 years more experience. Let’s look at the WWE in the early 90s, when they were approximately the same age as TNA is now. It was the nadir of their existence creatively and quality-wise. (Once again, I’m talking Vince Jr.-wise)

Nick: But can you really have a successful wrestling company with a guy like Styles as your biggest babyface?

Dave: Yes. A thousand times yes. As long as you don’t try to be the WWE.
A.J. Styles is NOT a WWE Superstar. He’s a professional wrestler. So if you built the company around wrestling, not soap opera angles, A.J. Styles could be a big draw.

Nick: Has that ever worked, ever?

Dave: Every wrestling company before 1983..?

Nick: And they all died because people liked WWE’s style more. Isn’t that what we learned?

Dave: Well, they all died because they weren’t prepared for competition because, well, they had all agreed not to compete with each other. So Vince basically jumped them all like a mugger.

Nick: I’m sorry. I thought this was America, Dave.

Dave: Look, Vince “won,” but wrestling lost.

Nick: Would TNA even exist if it wasn’t for the backing of Spike and Panda Energy? Like, say what you will about Vince. But he built a wrestling promotion into a enormous media conglomerate, not the other way around.

Dave: Oh, gosh, no. But something like TNA would.

Dave: Nobody will ever be able to build a wrestling empire like Vince again because he made things so big time that it isn’t possible to even get off the ground without massive corporate backing. So, yeah, TNA needs Panda. And Spike. But that doesn’t make them weak.

Nick: What happens to AJ if TNA goes under? Does he get a job with TNA’s replacement?

Dave: It depends on how much money he has/wants. He’s a huge star in Europe and could easily go to Japan. That’s like asking me “What would have happened to Bret Hart if WWE had gone out of business in 1996?” Or he could always end up in WWE as Evan Bourne’s older brother if he wanted.

Nick: Is there any part of you that would actually want to see that? Is there anybody he could work with there and have an interesting match?

Dave: No. I’d rather scratch and claw to find video of him wrestling Okada and Tanahashi in Japan, of course. If A.J. wound up in WWE as a main event player, or even Intercontinental Champion, I’d be very happy for him, but it would always kill a little part of me.

Nick: Is that because you hate the WWE?

Dave: No, it’s because I philosophically hate the idea of cornered markets. If only Verizon and T-Mobile existed, I’d root for T-Mobile to continue existing. And again, how would you feel about John Cena or Randy Orton in TNA (which, by the way, didn’t seem impossible a year or two ago for Orton)?

Nick: Totally bummed because Mike Tenay is the dribbling shits.

Dave: Yeah, we can agree on that.

Nick: And since we’re probably not going to agree on anything else, is there anything else you’d like to say about AJ, TNA or I don’t know, the 49ers?

Dave: I miss Alex Smith. There, I said it.

Nick: Will you miss AJ Styles when he’s gone too?

Dave: Of course, but wrestling moves on, and if TNA does the right thing with, say, Magnus, someone will be ready to move into his spot and do a solid job. But he’s the Phenomenal ONE, not the Phenomenal Guy. He’s not interchangeable. He’s special. So I’ll miss that.

Nick: Do you wish you knew how to quit him? Sorry… I’ll let myself out.

Dave: No, I’m glad I can’t. If I could, I might think The Great Khali charming a snake sock puppet was acceptable.

Nick: Wait. You didn’t think that was the best thing ever? I loved that so much.

Dave: Haha. I liked the heel doing it.

Nick: I wish they weren’t Indian, so I could just enjoy the snake charming.

Dave: When it turned into a contest, it was awful.

Nick: Who is more Indian? THE WWE UNIVERSE DECIDES.

Dave: Vote on the App.

Nick: We should probably each let ourselves out after that.

Dave: Agreed.