10 Greatest AJ Styles Matches Of All Time

The 10 most spellbinding bouts of the WWE Champion's career...

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


Impact Wrestling


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.


9. AJ Styles Vs. Roman Reigns - WWE Extreme Rules 2016


WWE


Styles' 2016 feud with Roman Reigns was the first time casual WWE fans saw what the smarks were raving about. Yes, AJ had entered the promotion with an unbelievable amount of hype, and enjoyed a perfectly entertaining feud with Chris Jericho - but his post-WrestleMania programme with Reigns showed everybody why he's one of the best wrestlers in the world.

After dominating (but losing) a WWE Championship match at Payback, Styles was given a no-DQ rematch at Extreme Rules. This time, Roman was in control for much of the bout, a cleverly-planned brawl that felt truly wild at times. AJ bumped like a pinball for the Big Dog, occasionally through ringside objects, but ramped up the viciousness towards the end of the match. This was before he'd turned heel, so seeing Styles going crazy with a steel chair made him seem truly desperate.

8. AJ Styles Vs. John Cena - WWE SummerSlam 2016


WWE


If any match saw Styles shatter WWE's glass ceiling, it was this one. SummerSlam 2016 was a long and mixed card, but everybody's unquestionable highlight was this showdown between AJ and John Cena. After beating him with The Club's help at Money In The Bank, Styles was challenged to beat Cena fair and square...

...so he did! In a clear sign that they were fully behind the newer man, WWE booked AJ to overcome the face of the company. It wasn't a straightforward outcome, however. The pair waged a truly epic war, with Styles kicking out of Cena's 'Avalanche AA' super-finisher at one stage. The most important thing here wasn't just that Styles won, but that it felt as though he really pushed John to his limit. Cena doesn't bust out Code Reds for any old opponent...

7. AJ Styles Vs. Christopher Daniels - TNA Against All Odds 2005


Impact Wrestling


Of all AJ's rivals across his career, no man seems to fulfil the role of arch-nemesis better than Christopher Daniels. The pair clashed (and teamed together) innumerable times over the course of their respective TNA runs, but perhaps their best bout came at Against All Odds 2005.

A booker can do far worse than to throw Styles and Daniels into a 30-minute Ironman match and say "just do stuff". Some may have predicted the two leading lights of the X Division to come out and put on a shallow spot-fest, but they did so much more. The first fall was a 15-minute sprint, sure, but from there we really got to see some compelling storytelling. For all their flips and counters, nothing beats Daniels headbutting AJ's open head wound in desperation as time winds down.


6. AJ Styles Vs. Kazuchika Okada - NJPW Dominion 2015


New Japan Pro Wrestling


Styles' recent title victory over Jinder Mahal is probably one of the most 'sports entertainment style' matches of his career, typical of a big WWE PPV main event (even though it actually took place on SmackDown). This 2015 match with Kazuchika Okada could well be considered the most 'New Japan' bout of his career.

In contrast to the Jinder match, the roles were neatly reversed here. AJ was the villainous IWGP Heavyweight Champion, with Okada looking to regain the title he had coveted and lost. In true NJPW fashion, the pair put on a bout with a truly epic feel. Styles would get the upper hand, only for Okada to Dropkick him out of midair. The challenger would start to pull away, only for AJ to nail a flying elbow out of nowhere. Things culminated in a dazzling exchange of counters, one of the most complex (and dramatic) finishes in Styles' career.

5. AJ Styles Vs. Kota Ibushi - NJPW Invasion Attack 2015


New Japan Pro Wrestling


Styles' bout with Okada may have been a top-drawer wrestling match, but his previous title defence against Kota Ibushi blended action and storytelling like few other bouts in his career. This was excellently structured, without feeling overly-planned - the sort of match you only get when two freakish naturals go head-to-head. Seriously, how many wrestlers in the world make it look easier than AJ and Ibushi?

The Golden Star looked to have the win - and his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship - in the bag, setting up a prone Styles for the Phoenix Splash. Kenny Omega had other ideas, popping up on the apron to (somewhat reluctantly) distract his old partner - delaying Ibushi just long enough for AJ to rise and reverse his Phoenix Splash into a Styles Clash. It's as unbelievable finish as it sounds, but it happened.

4. AJ Styles Vs. John Cena - WWE Royal Rumble 2017


WWE


After a very good match at Money In The Bank, and a world-class rematch at SummerSlam, there seemed to be nowhere for AJ Styles and John Cena to go. Their chemistry together looked to have found its ceiling - or so we thought. That's before both men decided to utterly tear the place apart at Royal Rumble 2017.

At times, watching this match didn't feel like a WWE pay per view at all; it felt like a New Japan show. Cena blasting Styles with Lariat after Lariat, Styles terrifyingly countering Cena's top-rope Legdrop into a Powerbomb - everything looked a little more unforgiving than usual. The most memorable moment, of course, was John resorting to rolling Attitude Adjustments, another quirk that gave this amazing match its peculiar non-WWE feel.


3. AJ Styles Vs. Christopher Daniels Vs. Samoa Joe - TNA Unbreakable 2005


Impact Wrestling


Quite a few of you might have expected to see this at number one, and while it's certainly a breathtaking contest, I just feel as though my preference for a slightly slower style prevented it from being so. That's not to say I don't greatly enjoy this match - it seems about a decade ahead of its time - and represents the pinnacle of TNA's X-Division.

In fact, it represents the pinnacle of TNA, full stop. This is the only match in the company's history to receive Dave Meltzer's five-star rating, and it's easy to see why he thought so. Styles, Daniels, and Joe pull off some crazy stuff - including a number of insane dives - at a speed many would have thought unthinkable just a couple of years prior. Now these guys weren't just showing off the style they'd made famous; they were perfecting it.

2. AJ Styles Vs. Minoru Suzuki - NJPW G1 Climax 2014


New Japan Pro Wrestling


Somewhat unthinkably, this is AJ Styles' only WON Match of the Year. New Japan's G1 Climax tournament always throws up matches that provoke a great deal of intrigue, and Styles vs. Suzuki was absolutely one of them.

A true styles clash (no pun intended) between the two unfolded, with AJ taking to the air and Minoru looking to beat him to a disgusting pulp. It's probably fair to suggest that Styles has never had his ass kicked quite like in this match, but still got cocky, jabbing a pistol-gesture into the side of a prone Suzuki's head. Yes, he was conscious, and yes, he noticed.

Yes, the match got a lot more hard-hitting after that.

1. AJ Styles Vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10


New Japan Pro Wrestling


Quite simply, AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura had everything. Action; storytelling; showmanship; even a lasting sense of significance, as it would be either man's final NJPW match before jumping to WWE. Fortunately, for their soon-to-be-former employees, the pair saved the best for last.

The fact that this bout is remembered so fondly - despite occurring immediately before the Match of the Year between Okada and Tanahashi - speaks volumes. Yes, both men used their expertise to craft a wonderful sequence of events, but the little things helped bring it to life. From Nakamura catching AJ's imaginary bullet (and eating it) to the fist-bump after the final bell, this bout was an early sign that Styles wasn't just going to do fine at his new home. Countless good workers have found some WWE success, but here AJ proved that he had grown into a masterful storyteller, and a wrestler destined for much more.

Now if only WWE would hurry up and book the rematch...

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]