AJ Styles: Not So Phenomenal Right Now

Matt ClementsCorrespondent IJune 24, 2010

I'll admit.  I was excited to hear about Hogan and Bischoff's involvement with TNA wrestling.  I'd caught Impact sporadically over the years and started watching every week about a year ago.  The writing wasn't the best, but the caliber of wrestling was a breath of fresh air to what I was seeing at the WWE.

The person who exemplifies that style is, coincidentally enough, AJ Styles, arguably the most popular wrestler outside of the WWE of the last 10 years.  His move set never ceases to impress anybody new to what he does.  Even fundamentals like dropkicks and flying forearms take on a new pizazz with Styles.  His style (pardon the puns!) has often been imitated and outright copied over the years, from Michelle MCcool's finishing movie to John Morrison's pele kick.  He is, in my opinion, the best flyer out there right now and one of the most captivating wrestlers to see on TV.

So during the inaugural Hogan/Bischoff show in January, I was excited to see Styles and Angle go at it in a 20 minute match that was a solid PPV caliber match.  Here was the opportunity for a new audience, which I considered myself part of, to see two of the best in the business going at it and drawing attention to the excitement of what TNA wrestling had to offer and to the stale wrestling of WWE.

Then came Ric Flair.

At first, I was excited to see the heel turn.  I know Styles has done them in the past, but with somebody like Ric in the corner, it was only going to help bolster his career and bring him more exposure.  I enjoyed Styles becoming more like Ric, and I liked how Flair's mic skills were rubbing off on somebody whose never had the best.  Here was a chance to really showcase this talent as a complete package to the wrestling audience, and it seemed like a great pairing.

Then he stopped flying.

I don't know whose decision it was to 'ground' Styles and make his wrestling more akin to the dirtiest player in the book, but it was the wrong decision.  The man known for springboard 450's, springboard moonsaults into DDTs, and Fosbury Flops from the ring to the apron shouldn't become the guy that goes for low blows and figure-four leglocks.  His style became stale, and at the worst possible time for him.  TNA is trying to build an audience, and for those not familiar with what he can do, seeing him bumbling his way in the ring like a Flair wannabee became disappointing and sad.

Then came the jobbing.

This man is the Franchise of TNA, and to have him losing cleanly to a clearly ring-rusty Jeff Hardy was sad.  Seeing him lose to the Pope on TV was disappointing, no matter how much I enjoy the Pope or whether they had a good match on PPV that hardly anybody bought a ticket for or watched on TV.  And finally, seeing him lose to RVD and be relegated to the midcard jobbing to Jay Lethal and potentially now Kazarian is again-- sad.

AJ is not Jericho.  Jericho has the experience and presence in the ring to both push an Evan Bourne and also headline Wrestlemania.  AJ jobbing for an audience that doesn't quite know him yet is not solid booking.  Quite the opposite, in fact, and it's another thing to add to TNA becoming a worse product since the Hogan/Bischoff era began just 6 months ago.

TNA.  Please.  Allow AJ to fly again.