Ivan's Blog

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Sunday, December 11, 2005
Pro Wrestling--- Samoa Joe and AJ Styles Tear Down the House at TNA's Turning Point Pay-Per-View
I have seen the future of the pro wrestling business, and his name is Samoa Joe. I have been a huge Samoa Joe fan, based on seeing his TNA appearances and a few of his Ring of Honor matches, but it wasn't until tonight that it truly hit me that he is the future of the wrestling business.

The incredible match between Samoa Joe and AJ Styles on the TNA Turning Point pay-per-view was a hairline shy of five stars, and I would rank it as the best match I have seen in 2005, even better than the two classics between Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels. (Ironically, the widespread choice up to this point for Match of the Year, which I have not yet seen, also features Samoa Joe in an ROH match where he went against Kenta Kobashi.)

This match blew me away on many different levels that often conflict with each other in wrestling matches, but didn't in this case. There was the sheer brutality of the match from start to finish, contrasted nicely by the excellent technical wrestling skills displayed by both men. There was the brilliant in-ring psychology and the story that the match successfully told, contrasted nicely by the amazing highspots such as AJ Styles' absolutely insane running, over-the-top-rope, onto-the-floor Shooting Star Press.

There were great near-falls where you really believed the match could have ended, culminating with a brilliant finishing sequence as Samoa Joe transitioned from a simple roll-up into a rear naked choke in a seamless, realistic, and unexpected way. Also adding to the match were the rabid crowd (which broke out into chants of "This is awesome!" on several occasions), and the excellent announcing by Mike Tenay and Don West.

But more than anything else, what set this match apart from Angle vs. Michaels and other wrestling classics over the years is that instead of feeling like these two guys were putting on the performance of a lifetime, in a suspenseful but still somewhat theatrical way, in this match it really seemed like they were beating the crap out of each other. Samoa Joe's offense is just sick-looking, and very few people in the business are better at selling than AJ Styles.

The match also showed off just how versatile both wrestlers are, with Samoa Joe executing highspots and Styles having bursts of the brutal-looking offense that is Samoa Joe's trademark. (The only thing that detracted from the match was the post-match angle between Joe and Christopher Daniels, which was a good angle that should have been saved for next week's episode of Impact in order to pay the proper amount of respect to the classic match that had just taken place.)

Unless you have absolutely no regard for in-ring workrate, I honestly can't fathom how anyone's top two proverbial "draft picks" could be anyone other than Samoa Joe and AJ Styles. Joe and Styles are just as good in the ring as the top three in-ring wrestlers in WWE (Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, and Chris Benoit), with one key difference being that Michaels, Angle, and Benoit are all in their late 30's or early 40's, while Styles and Joe are both in their mid-20's and still improving all the time.

The reason that I'm even more impressed with Samoa Joe than I am with AJ Styles is because Joe is "different" than anyone who has ever come before him. You can point to a handful of X Division wrestlers in TNA and say, "AJ Styles is kind of like those guys in terms of his in-ring style, but he's far better than all of them and is also capable of having back-and-forth, brutal wars like this one."

With Samoa Joe, you can't say, "He's kind of like so-and-so, but much better." He is a unique entity unto himself. He's not "kind of like" anyone.

I'll be back in a couple of days with my review of the rest of the TNA Turning Point pay-per-view.

Injury Update from the Wrestling Observer on Monday, December 12:
"There were no major injuries at last night's TNA PPV. James Storm had a stinger and momentarily lost control of his legs, but is fine today. Well, as fine as he's going to be. He will be working the main event tomorrow night. Samoa Joe and AJ Styles were brutalized and the worst off. Styles needed seven stitches on his lip, and Joe suffered a dislocated jaw. Both are also scheduled to wrestle on the TV tapings tomorrow."