(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles – TNA Genesis 2010
By Alex Podgorski on 30th October 2023
No wrestler has done a better job of bridging the amateur/legit and professional wrestling worlds better than Kurt Angle. He entered a world of larger-than-life cartoon characters and absurdist storylines and not only did he blend into this world; he thrived in it. One could make a reasonable argument that in pro-wrestling Angle was jack of all trades and king of them too. He could wrestle, brawl, dive, use weapons like the best ECW wrestler, be funny, be wacky, be serious, be insane, and so much more. It was as if he shifted from role to role on a weekly basis and embraced whatever storyline and match requirement was presented to him with the same gusto.
But Angle’s intensity came at a steep cost. Years of wrestling with a broken body held together by a mixture of iron will and prayer led to his departure from WWE and a mixed bag of a career in TNA. While he managed to create an entire second leg to his career post-2006, he also became a different creature. With his personal life falling apart and his physical condition deteriorating, Angle began throwing caution to the wind and wrestling with what appeared to be a genuine death wish. He became crazier, more comfortable taking insane risks, and less concerned with his physical well-being. In other words, Kurt Angle became Perc Angle.
Some fans look back at this era of Angle’s career fondly, especially considering how much effort he put into matches great and small. But was his match output really that great, or was he simply wrestling at a higher standard than the constantly-lowering bar that defined much of TNA at the time? Read on to find out.
Previously I was writing for a site called TJR Wrestling and now this series is coming to Blog of Doom. For now you can check out the series in its entirety here.
Two weeks earlier, Angle challenged Styles for a shot at the TNA World Title but came up short. Frustrated, Angle wanted a rematch and was granted one, but with the added caveat that if he lost this second match he could never challenge for it again so long as Styles was the champion. This was a match that fans wanted to see, especially since Angle and Styles had shown to have some solid chemistry if given the freedom to wrestle their way and without shenanigans.
But that was the key thing: without shenanigans. For all the good wrestlers TNA had, its booking was hit or miss on its best days. Fans who wanted simple, competitive wrestling were often met with shenanigans, swerves, and controversy. Could Angle beat Styles this second time around, or would Styles out-do him once again?
This match originally took place on January 17, 2010. It was rated **** out of five by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer.
This is fot Styles’ TNA World Heavyweight Championship. They lock-up and Angle gets a clean break in a corner as the crowd sounds like they’re more pro-Angle. A chain grappling sequence ends with Styles taking Angle’s arm and Angle getting a ropebreak. Angle single-legs Styles but Styles escapes almost instantly. Another chain grappling sequence ends with a grounded headlock and some quick one-counts. Angle tackles Styles with a shoulderblock but moments later Styles returns the favor. After a short stalemate Angle goes for a German suplex but Styles lands behind him. Styles tries a single-leg but Angle does some wicked counter into a schoolboy pin for a one-count. Another frenetic exchange ensues and ends in loud applause for both wrestlers.
They do a Greco-Roman knuckle lock and Angle overpowers Styles until Styles counters and reverses the pressure. Angle gets a ropebreak and on their next exchange Styles takes over with a standing dropkick. Styles lands a snapmare/spine kick combo for a one-count. Angle escapes a chinlock so Styles hammers Angle’s historically bad neck with forearms. A pendulum backbreaker gets Styles a two-count and he goes back to the neck-targeting chinlock. Angle escapes but Styles elbows him so hard he falls to ringside. Styles lands on the apron but Angle pulls him down causing him to hit the apron face-first and then Angle lands a big clothesline on the ringside mats.
Back in the ring, Angle gets some two-counts and starts working over Styles’ ribs. Styles escapes but runs into a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker that gets Angle another two-count. Angle works Styles over with some simple slams and strikes but only manages more two-counts. Styles fights out of a long bodyscissor and lands some punches to land a comeback. He blocks a back body dropwith a kick to Angle’s face and charges but Angle counters with a German suplex. Angle gets another two-count of a rib breaker and applies another chinlock with his knee in Styles’ back. Styles fights out again and then both men hit midair crossbody presses, sending both of them to the mat.
Both men take their time getting up as Ric Flair makes his way down to the ring. Both guys trade punches and then Styles knocks Angle off the apron. Styles follows with a flip dive to the floor which leads to “TNA” chants. Back in the ring, Angle blocks a corner charge but Styles counters with an ushigorishi, driving Angle’s head and neck into his knee. Angle sends Styles onto the apron to block another charge buy Styles retaliates with a springboard forearm for another two-count. Angle powers out of a Styles Clash attempt and hits his three rolling Germans. Styles counters an Angle Slam with an armdrag and teases a German of his own, only for Angle to counter it and land an even stronger German that causes Styles to land on his stomach for another two-count.
Styles avoids another Angle Slam and hits a Pélé kick for yet another two-count. Angle avoids another Clash and a corner clothesline and then hits a clothesline of his own. One, two, Styles kicks out. Styles escapes an ankle lock and lands another clothesline. Styles flips out of a corner but Angle counters with a belly-to-belly back into it. One, two, Styles kicks out.
Styles fights from the top turnbuckle and hits a diving headscissor. He misses a springboard 450 splash allowing Angle to hit the Angle Slam. One, two, and – no, Styles survives. Angle goes for the moonsault and eats canvas. Styles tries capitalizing with the Clash. Angle counters into an ankle lock. Styles escapes and then lands a springboard crossbody press for another close two-count. Styles attempts a Clash from the top rope. Angle blocks it and answers a dive with a Styles Clash of his own. One, two, Styles survives again and then counters another Angle Slam with a DDT.
Both men take their time getting up and then Angle misses a corner charge to hit the ringpost. Styles follows with an Angle Slam on Angle but only manages a two-count. Styles goes to the top turnbuckle but takes too long. Avalanche Angle Slam! Styles kicks out at 2.8. Ankle locked applied. Styles tries reaching to different sets of ropes and tries kicking Angle off but Angle refuses to let go. Angle grapevines the leg as Styles tries with all his might to hold on. He’s running out of time when suddenly Flair yanks the ref out of the ring. The ref never sees Styles tapping out. An infuriated Angle goes after Flair but runs into a forearm from Styles. Flair tosses Styles the belt and Styles hits Angle with it. Then Flair tosses the ref into the ring and he does a slow count to three. Styles retains via shenanigans!
Winner and STILL TNA World Heavyweight Champion after 28:55: AJ Styles
Disappointing match given the names involved. Styles and Angle had solid chemistry and knew how to wrestle very well yet this wasn’t anything even remotely resembling a MOTYC. Despite having some great moments and some reality-defying athleticism from Angle (anyone who followed his career at the time just how knackered Angle was when he wasn’t in the ring), things never got into highest gear. This was a great match but not an excellent one. Despite having some exciting moments, a hot crowd, and the kind of in-ring action that made TNA worth watching, it all fell apart at the end thanks to a terrible finish.
One reason many people watched TNA was because it was supposed to be an escape from the bad finishes and poor creative that plagued WWE at the time. Unfortunately, the same problems found in that company ended up in TNA as well. In this case, a solid match was ruined by a garbage finish that didn’t make any sense whatsoever. Flair pulled the ref out of the ring yet he didn’t call for the bell the instant he was lucid enough to remember someone made physical contact with him. He just counted a slow pin and never checked to think that something might’ve happened while he was out. Stupid finishes like that which bury the referee worsen matches by putting a damper on the atmosphere.
Within seconds the excited crowd that was hoping for a big win for Angle had their hopes dashed with a cheap cop-out of a finish. And it’s not like they couldn’t have come up with something more creative. If the goal was for Styles to turn heel (which is baffling enough in itself), then there were plenty of other ways to go about it. Instead, this was the easiest and laziest way of doing so, one that made Styles look out of place as a newly-christened cheater and the referee as a piece of glass in a zebra-patterned shirt.
Final Rating: ***1/2
This had the potential to be a solid match and a great way for TNA to start 2010. But instead of starting the year on the right foot with an interesting storyline with a proper conclusion, the match ended with a weak finish that nobody wanted to see. All of Angle’s and Styles hard work in the ring meant nothing at the end. Earl Hebner, perhaps the most famous and tenured referee from the past two decades, should’ve known better when Flair came down. It was asinine to see him ignore Flair’s presence and for him to blindly count after being hit in a clear and blatant act of chicanery.
This is why a great match can be ruined by a bad finish. It rendered all that effort moot and took the story in a random direction that served no purpose other than a random swerve. On one hand, Angle would bounce back from this disappointment with an amazing steel cage match with Mr. Anderson in the months ahead. On the other hand, Styles would find himself in a cheap Four Horsemen knockoff group called Fortune that was another pitiful attempt at recreating the wheel only to have mixed results at best.
And unfortunately, this would be far from the last time that TNA would crippled good wrestlers with bad finishes.