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March 28, 2014 / Bill Thompson

Matt Hardy vs. AJ Styles from NEW 2014

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Thoughts from Bill Thompson:

I’ve been a big Matt Hardy fan ever since I first watched him and his brother Jeff back in the original Organization of Modern Extreme Grappling Arts. I saw a lot of promise in Matt back then, and in certain areas he came across as a fully polished wrestler. I’ll contend until the day I give up on wrestling that Hardy throws some of the best worked punches in the game. He has snap and connection behind his, they look like they should hurt, and that’s a little thing that matters to me. Anyways, the point is that I’m a Matt Hardy fan, always have been and always will be. Even during his darkest period when he wasn’t in the right place to be wrestling he was still pretty darn good. Of course that may just be bias on my part, and that’s why I’m disclosing my fandom right from the start.

No such fandom exists between myself and AJ Styles. He’s a wrestler I like, in fact I almost always enjoy watching Styles wrestle. But, for one reason or another AJ has never grabbed me and made me want to seek out his work on a consistent basis. It’s not bad to be a wrestler I know I can count on to be consistently good, but AJ was never more than that for me.

Both wrestlers have experienced a bit of a renaissance in 2014, yet my feelings on them remain the same. I seek out Hardy’s matches, and only watch AJ’s work if I stumble across it. Still, I know how good, neigh great, both men can be in the squared circle and that’s why this match interested me. Both men at the beginning of a period when people started saying they had it again, well, that’s just a recipe for a high quality match if I ever read one.

This is a high quality match, make no bones about that. It’s not a great match, but it’s a really, really good match and a lot of fun. There are some slight miscommunication moments at the onset, and a mishap with a Hardy Moonsault Press later in the match that is rather glaring. However, my main issue with the match is a long segment where Styles has Hardy in a Chinlock. Maybe Styles was tired, maybe Hardy was tired, or maybe they just needed a minute or so to get on the same page. I understand all of those reasons for the Chinlock, but it still manages to grind the momentum of the match to a halt. Luckily both men rally for a hot closing stretch, but that Chinlock segment sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise very well worked match.

My favorite aspect of the match is how both men slide into specific roles. Hardy plays the wily vet, while Styles is the brazen star. Styles doesn’t have much of a plan, he simply believes he is better than Hardy and throws whatever he can think of at Hardy believing eventually he will be able to put him away. Hardy is the exact opposite, as he tries a few different plans, targets specific body parts, and shows on a few occasions that he is thinking more about the match than his counterpart. There’s one sequence that involves AJ avoiding a Backbody Drop by rolling over the top of Hardy, but Hardy has prepared for the counter move from Aj and ducks to hit the Back Bodydrop he initially missed. It’s a tiny moment, but in that moment is the entire story the match is trying to tell.

The finishing run is quite hot, missed Moonsault Press be damned. Both men pull out all the stops, but they stick with the story. Hardy is trying to set up his moves, he’s attempting to play Styles at chess. Meanwhile Styles has no time for a chess board and tries to take a bulldozer to it by throwing out moves that should finish the match. They never do, but a series of nearfalls with excellently timed kickouts by both men ensue. Hardy and Styles get together to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end, that is executed to a very high quality.

Hardy delivers like I know he can deliver, and Styles is able to keep pace and at times outwork Hardy. It’s not perfect by any measure, but the ride is far more smooth than it is bumpy. Two old, and it hurts to type that, hands get in the ring and ply the trade they know oh so very well. That’s all anyone should want out of wrestling, and that’s why this is a match worth taking the time to seek out.

Bill Thompson

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