Should The Styles Clash Be Banned?
In 2002, I really got into the independent wrestling scene, which back then was really just Ring of Honor. I remember my first show in Dayton, Ohio because I was pumped to see my favorite wrestlers CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, and Samoa Joe. These were wrestlers that I never thought would make it to the WWE, so shows in a field house consisting of 400 people were very new to me. That night, the newly established TNA let AJ Styles wrestle Jimmy Rave, and I was blown away by Styles’s athletic ability. He took a lot of risks with his own body, as well as the body of Jimmy Rave. This was never more apparent than when he hit a brainbuster on the ring apron, which really was AJ dropping Jimmy on his head with no support. It was brutal, it was disgusting, and I ate it up.
Flash forward 12 years and AJ Styles is considered an in-ring veteran now. His matches in TNA were some of the finest pure wrestling matches that had been put on in the past decade, with the highlight being the three-way matches he had with Christopher Daniels and Samoa Joe. After leaving TNA, Styles moved on to New Japan Pro Wrestling, becoming a member of the Bullet Club and winning the IWGP Heavyweight title in his first match there. But if you have been a follower of his career like I have, one can notice that there has been something that has changed in AJ…he is getting sloppy.
No wrestler is perfect and accidents do happen, but I have seen a steady decline in the accuracy of some of AJ’s moves. He still likes to catapult into the ring for forearms and will occasionally go for the spinal tap or the back flip into a reverse DDT, but you can tell that age has crept up on the veteran and he will, more often than not, over shoot his target. Those aren’t really big deals, most can be saved by a few seconds of timing or having to adjust how he grabs his opponents, but one move has done more damage than good and that is the Styles Clash.
In the past year, AJ Styles has broken the necks of the English wrestler Lionheart and NJPW wrestler Yoshi Tatsu. I have not seen the Lionheart incident from the PCW show, but I did watch the Yoshi Tatsu neck break on NJPW World (for only 9.99....yen!) Styles picked him up for the Clash and Yoshi honestly had no idea how to take that move. He tucked his head instead of leaning back, which is a natural reaction in that position, and AJ dropped Yoshi on his head. Most people would then put the blame on Yoshi for not being prepared, but I feel the blame goes to AJ Styles for not properly preparing his opponent on how to take the move. It was brutal, it was disgusting, and I hated every minute of it.
There have been multiple other incidents where the Styles Clash has hurt someone this year. On November 29th at a NJPW show, AJ lifted up a much larger Satoshi Kojima for the Styles Clash. Normally when he had issues with larger wrestlers, AJ would go to finish them off with the Heel Hook, which makes perfect sense because it took the larger man off his feet. This time Styles went for the Clash, picked up Kojima who tucked his head in the correct position, and AJ fell backwards, landing on Kojima’s head. On August 29th during night on of the Pro Wrestling Guerilla annual Battle Of Los Angeles tournament, Styles had Brian Myers positioned for a Styles Clash off the second rope but he lost his footing and dropped straight down onto Myers head, drug him to the middle of the ring in the position, and locked in a modified Boston Crab that just looked painful.
Luckily Myers and Kojima were not injured, but most wrestling fans should be left thinking, is the Styles Clash worth the risk? Lionheart doesn’t think so. Lionheart took to his Facebook page and wrote a letter to AJ Styles asking him to stop using the Styles Clash. He stated that being an independent wrestler, some of the people who AJ wrestles do not have the medical coverage to help out with a major injury like a broken neck. Lionheart has been out of wrestling for over a year, and is scheduled to make his return in March. According to his letter, he was left to his family and friends in the wrestling business to help support his family. In a move that has pretty much made me denounce any fandom of AJ Styles that I used to have, Styles released a new t-shirt on pro wrestling tees that has a the word BAN in bright red over the words Styles Clash. The shirt then says, Breaking Necks and Cashing Checks. This seems to spit in the face of every wrestler he has injured in the last year. It also seems to turn on the Christian values that used to be a huge part of his personal character outside of the ring that was always played up in early Ring of Honor shows.
Do I think the Styles Clash should be banned? I would probably have to say yes to a point. If you are not going to go out of your way to make sure everyone in the match is protected, then there is no need for that move to be done. If an opponent outweighs Styles by 100 pounds, then go to the Heel Hook. But if you practice the move and protect your opponent like Styles did to Tetsuya Naito at Wrestle Kingdom 9, then I say go for it. But again, the risk outweighs the reward to me. Injuring a wrestler isn’t going to make me turn away from being a fan. Openly mocking the people you hurt in a t-shirt, that will make me never support you again.