AJ Styles is WWE Champion, and all is right with the world.
For most of the Phenomenal One’s career, that sentence would have been confusing. The idea of Mr Styles holding WWE’s most coveted title would have suggested that something had gone drastically wrong with the world.
Styles isn’t what Vince McMahon historically looks for in a champion. He isn’t a bulging superhero with mainstream appeal, like Hulk Hogan and John Cena. He’s a shorter-than-average internet darling, who spent his earlier years flipping all over the place in ROH and TNA. For a while, he could even have been seen as the classic anti-WWE Superstar.
For quite a large portion of his career, Styles’ critics branded him a spot monkey with limited personality. Now he’s one of the most charismatic wrestlers in the world, perhaps not in terms of outright promo ability, but certainly in terms of presence and in-ring storytelling. He feels like the most fitting WWE Champion we’ve had for a long while – perhaps the most popular since Daniel Bryan.
That’s lovely, isn’t it? A lovely sequence of events, and a nice thing to be happening. What better way to celebrate than by looking back at the 10 greatest matches of AJ’s storied career?
(A party. A party would be a better way to celebrate it. But I am in the business of list-making, and a list I have made.)
10. AJ Styles Vs. Jerry Lynn Vs. Low Ki 2002 – NWA TNA #8 2002
This was the match that brought AJ Styles to the wider attention of many. The early days of TNA were a strange time – often comically bad, it has to be said. Thankfully, amidst the casual racism, open misogyny, and tag teams dressed as giant phalluses, the promotion had a very talented ‘X Division’.
Based around speed and athleticism, the division introduced names such as Christopher Daniels, Low Ki, and Styles himself to a wider audience. There were a handful of enjoyable X Division matches over the first few weeks of programming, but a triple threat bout between AJ, Low Ki, and the experienced Jerry Lynn was the first time everything really kicked into a higher gear. Although slightly raw, it’s well worth a watch.