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August 10, 2008 / JP

AJ Styles vs. Kurt Angle (Last Man Standing) (8/10/08)

TNA Hard Justice 2008
August 10th, 2008 East Rutherford, NJ

Recap

Despite being a Last Man Standing Match, TNA decided to utilize “Texas Death” rules (something they have done in the past with some Last Man Standing matches of theirs) in that the winner has to pin their opponent and they have to remain down for the count of ten.

TNA were still using clips from their video game in the entrance videos at this point. That game had a lot of potential that did not fully come to fruition. Fitting to describe TNA in ways. This match also contains two WWE employees: AJ Styles and Rudy Charles.

Angle’s head is bandaged up from a bad cut he got from a ladder on an Impact before this match. Angle powedered to the floor at the start. He told current WWE referee Rudy Charles to back AJ up. Back in the ring then Angle went out to the floor again. One more time and Angle goes to the floor. He spits at AJ and AJ gives chase. Angle goes in the ring first and sets up the attack on AJ. Strikes and a European Uppercut from Angle. He stomps AJ in the corner. Snap Suplex from Angle and a pinfall attempt for 1. He locks in a headlock as the dueling chants start for AJ and Angle. AJ strikes out. AJ continues to throw some of the best punches in the business currently. Angle rakes the eyes of AJ. European Uppercut and Angle goes to the ropes right into Phenomenal Dropkick from AJ. AJ clotheslines Angle out of the ring. AJ goes to the ropes and does a Somersault Senton over the top rope onto Angle~! Pinfall attempt on the floor by AJ for a 2 count. AJ drives Angle’s head into the apron and the guardrail. Kick to the chest and back in the ring. Scoop Slam mid ring by Styles followed up by a jumping knee to the head for a two count. He goes to grab Angle and Angle dumps AJ through the ropes to the floor. Angle tosses AJ into the guardrail. Irish whip and AJ jumps over the rail. AJ then jumps off the rail for an attempt at a DDT. Angle catches AJ midmove and hits a Northern Lights Suplex on AJ into the rail~!

Angle arrogantly covers AJ for a two count. Angle slams AJ’s head into the steps. Strike exchange on the floor with AJ getting the upperhand. They fight to the ramp. Angle goes for a snap suplex on the ramp, but AJ counters into a snap suplex of his own on the ramp~! That only gets a two count. AJ first to his feet and they fight to the stage. AJ backs Angle up to the edge of the stage with three strikes. He goes for a fourth but Angle ducks and Angle hits a Back Suplex off the ramp, causing AJ to do a backflip to the floor~! Angle then hits a flipping Senton onto a standing AJ off the ramp~! That gets a two count. Angle headlocks AJ and pulls AJ down the ramp, striking him on the way.

Angle sends AJ face first into the announce table then sends AJ back into the ring. Kick to the ribs. Angle picks up AJ for a backbreaker and goes for a pair of pinfalls, both only getting two. Angle goes to a headlock, keeping AJ grounded. AJ fights his way to his feet. AJ slowly backs Angle into the corner. AJ scores a leaping enzugiri to the side of Angle’s head. Irish whip out of the corner, Angle reverses. AJ floats over sending Angle into the corner. Chop by AJ. AJ whips Angle again and Angle counters into a Standing Release Belly-to-Belly Suplex. Scoop slam by Kurt Angle for a two count. Angle goes back to the side headlock. AJ is starting to pass out but will not give up. AJ gets to his feet. Elbows to Angle’s abdomen and AJ scores several strikes. Irish whip, Angle ducks under, and both meet mid-ring in a crossbody attempt, knocking each other to the mat. Rudy starts counting and Angle makes it to his feet first. AJ counters strikes from Angle and takes him down with three clotheslines. Irish whip to the corner, Angle counters. AJ gets his feet up and gets sent to the apron. AJ hits a Springboard Shoulder Block. AJ then locks Angle in the Torture Rack and spins him out into a rack bomb for a two count.

Angle is down and AJ gets to his feet. AJ sets up Angle for the Styles Clash until Angle counters into an Ankle Lock. AJ kicks Angle off. Angle charges at AJ and AJ hits a Farooq-esque Spinebuster. AJ goes to the top rope for the first time of the match. Angle springs up the ropes at him and AJ knocks him down. AJ flies at Angle and Angle counters AJ into a powerbomb for a two count. He attempts to transition into a Styles Clash of his own, but AJ counters into an Ankle Lock of his own, even grapevining the leg. This causes Angle to tap out~! The count starts for Angle, who gets to his feet at the count of 9 by using the ropes. AJ charges at Angle and gets sent to the apron. AJ hits a pair of punches and goes for the Stylin’ DDT. Angle backs up and hits a Low Blow on Styles. Angle limping grabs Styles and hits four German Suplexes, the last being a release German Suplex. Angle gets a two count. Angle puts down the straps and stalks AJ as he gets to his feet. Olympic Slam attempt, but AJ gets out of it, ducks under an Angle clothesline attempt, and scores the Pele as some fans chant Ole! Two count for AJ.

AJ goes to the top rope once more. Angle hits him with a few strikes and goes up after AJ. AJ back elbows Angle to the mat. AJ goes up to the top but takes too long as Angle springs to the top rope and hits a Release German Suplex off the top rope for a three count on AJ~! AJ gets up at the count of seven. Angle immediately hits an Olympic Slam for another three count. The count begins again for AJ. AJ crals to the ropes and barely gets up at nine. Angle goes for another Olympic Slam. AJ flips over, sets up Angle for the Styles Clash, and hits it for a three count of his own, with each of them getting two falls on each other. Angle makes it to his feet barely before ten and goes to the corner. Shoulderblock in the corner by Styles and he puts Angle on the top rope. AJ sets up for a Superplex. Angle punches AJ and looks to attempt a top rope belly-to-belly suplex to the floor. AJ fights him out and hits a DDT from the top rope on Angle~! AJ crawls onto Angle for a three count. Rudy starts counting again. AJ is barely able to make it to his feet while Angle is not moving. Angle cannot get up before ten. AJ wins!

Top Rope DDT

Angle holds his neck. AJ walks up the ramp. Rudy calls for more assistance for Kurt Angle from the EMTs. Angle gets put in a neckbrace and on a stretcher. AJ makes it back to the ring and hits a Brainbuster on Angle while yelling at Angle. AJ has snapped. AJ goes back up the ramp and the lights go off. They come back on and Sting is behind AJ and hits a Scorpion Death Drop on the ramp. Now AJ needs help to the back. Mike Tenay and Don West speculate over Sting’s attacks on Samoa Joe and AJ Styles speculating over what the point of Sting’s attacks were as they show replays from the match.

Thoughts
There are a lot of positives to take away from this match, mostly involved in the in-ring aspect. However, the negatives come in the storytelling aspect following the match. Let’s get the negative out of the way first.

This feud took place during a time where I did not pay much attention to what was going on in TNA at the time as I found that the writing and the storylines were really hindering programs that I would normally be interested in based off of the competitors involved such as this feud, not to mention many great competitors in TNA at this time were not put in high positions to succeed. Unlike AJ’s feud with Bad Influence in 2012 which had some rough stuff involving Claire Lynch on TV, when it came to PPV matches in that feud, they left the storylines for TV while using the in-ring story and the wrestling to continue the feud. That was not the case as seen in Angle and AJ’s feud in 2008 in their two PPV singles matches from this period. The post-match highly took away from what should have been a big win for AJ at this time after essentially a year and a half of being pushed to the side in favor of the former Attitude Era talents coming in to TNA. Here, he beat the biggest name in TNA at the time and should have been pushed into the spotlight himself from here. Unfortunately, that was not the case as TNA would find new ways to squander the core talent in the form of the Main Event Mafia.

Gripes to TNA’s storytelling removed, this match was quite good and came off as these two really detested one another and it was a very good finale to their feud at this time. AJ particularly really stood out in his performance in this match by really wanting to do all he could to hurt Kurt while Angle came off as toying with him at times, inflicting punishment when the opportunity struck. Angle had a strong in-ring year for TNA in 2008, one of his best years for TNA in-ring of his entire run in the company and this match was among the strongest of those in addition to being one of TNA’s best matches overall for 2008.

AJ and Angle have had many matches together over the course of their tenure in TNA and this would be among my favorites of theirs. I am a bit more partial to their 20 minute draw from the Impact before Bound For Glory 2009, but that was a very different kind of match to this one. Some may not enjoy aspects of this match as Kurt did at times did get headlock reliant but I felt that was used in a fashion to wear down and ground AJ so he would not be able to rely on his high octane style at this point. Angle could have found different ways to go about it, but it did not really detract from the match for me.

Both of these two are very underrated in terms of their ability to have great plunder brawls. Both of them have consistently delivered whenever put in this kind of environment and while they are highly decorated and praised wrestlers, their work in these kind of matches deserves attention on their already acclaimed list of accomplishments. While I did not think that the Texas Death stipulation was entirely necessary, the action that these two brought to the table was very good and they did not overdo the amount of falls to start the count. The ending was especially devastating and unnerving to watch knowing the extent of Angle’s condition throughout his career.

Strong recommendation to check this match out and/or give it another watch.

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