AJ Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito
This match, like most AJ Styles matches for your correspondent felt somewhere between good and “who gives a shit?”. Without a title on the line, and without, really seemingly much of a storyline besides “heel AJ Styles in a match”, this match not only paled in comparison to what came after it, but much of what happened earlier in the night. That it built to a Styles Clash off the top turnbuckle was a nice bit of business — as was JR’s GLORIOUS reaction, one of his many capital-G GREAT calls during the night — but getting there was, at best, not particularly memorable.
Which, by and large, is AJ Styles entire problem as a performer. Despite his obvious talent, he fits a very specific niche of people who like high fliers but hate really short people and/or foreigners, which is why he worked so perfectly in the official promotion of Dixie (Carter… the less famous one), TNA. Outside of that, every match with AJ feels as though it could have involved someone better who can do basically the same things as him, if not exactly how he does them. To wit, a performer like Cody Rhodes or even Kenny Omega could have been in this match, been more spectacular and outside of the end spot, done every single move that Styles did, but likely better. AJ Styles uniqueness has dwindled spectacularly over the past decade, which is both a function of his original innovativeness and how much bigger and stronger “high fliers” at allowed to be.
His opponent didn’t add much to the proceedings either, a relatively middle of the road performer set up essentially as cannon fodder in the same exact way that Taguchi did in his match earlier in the evening. Whether this starts a feud with Omega or if Styles pursues his rematch for the IWGP Heavyweight Title remains unclear, but regardless, neither would be enough to not fast forward this match to get to what end up being number one and number for the Best of 2015.
Match .5 | PPV 5.2