Not often do two legends step foot inside a wrestling ring to do battle. Even less often do two legends from different eras collide in a match that passes the torch from one era to another. However, exactly that happened when “The Icon” Sting went one-on-one with “The Phenomenal One” AJ Styles for both the most prestigious prize in TNA Wrestling and on the biggest stage in TNA Wrestling.
Today, as I make my return to face Kevin Berge for the most prestigious prize on WrestleEnigma, I look back at the best match in Bound For Glory history as TNA’s showcase event quickly approaches for the year of 2012.
So I ask you to simply sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Since TNA opened it’s doors in 2002, hundreds of wrestlers have given their blood, sweat and tears inside of the ring. Whether it was in Nashville, Tennessee, Orlando, Florida or elsewhere, these wrestlers have laced up their boots, stepped inside the squared circle and risked their health to entertain the fans.
These men have come and gone from the company, as you would expect. One man, though, hasn’t left. He’s stayed put and become the brightest shinning star out of an entire galaxy of stars. That man would be none other than AJ Styles.
From humble beginnings to deafening highs, Styles has seen it all. He’s a pioneer of TNA’s X-Division as a six time champion. He’s been the world champion four times and overall is the most decorated superstar in the history of TNA. He’s a mortal lock for the company’s brand new Hall of Fame, and is widely speculated to be one of the best wrestlers on the planet.
Styles has seen many legends enter into the company he’s considered the face of, perhaps the biggest of those names being Sting.
Sting’s illustrious career speaks for itself. Wrestling since 1985, the Stinger has accumulated 25 championships, including an astonishing six times as the WCW World Heavyweight Champion and four times as TNA’s World Heavyweight Champion. One of which reigns came to a screeching halt at No Surrender in 2009 at the hands of the aforementioned Styles.
AJ Styles had reached a low a point in his career, and had decided he wanted to step away from professional wrestling due to injuries. But Sting had other ideas and talked him into staying.
You were the Chosen One, now you’re a loser, AJ. Because that’s what losers do; they quit! Get your head back in the game and claim what is supposed to be yours!
-Sting to AJ Styles
Just a month later Styles defeated four other men at No Surrender, including Sting, to again be crowned TNA’s world champion.
Styles believed Sting chose to go after Matt Morgan in the end rather than breaking up his pin on Kurt Angle so he could pass the torch to him—something Sting vehemently denied.
The match at Bound For Glory was then set: AJ Styles versus Sting for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. The man with a 3-0 record at Bound For Glory, all three wins being world title wins, was putting his streak on the line to have the chance to attain another Bound For Glory moment.
AJ Styles on the otherhand wanted to give Sting a world title match as a sign of respect, though he also wanted to tear down the house for the fans.
The bell rang as the pre-match introductions concluded. The two circled around the ring and shook hands in front of Sting’s hometown crowd.
They locked up after teasing such, and Styles quickly wrenched in a headlock on The Icon, which Sting reversed into headlock of his own.
Styles responded with a hip toss taking his opponent to the mat for the first time. Another headlock from Styles resulted in a hip toss from Sting.
AJ wanted to take the crowd out of things by grounding and pounding their hometown hero before taking it to the air. Adversely, Sting knew if he got off to a hot start, there’d be no way to stop all the momentum that would build inside the arena.
The feeling out process continued. The two kept reversing each other’s moves as Tenay and Taz compared the match to Sting versus Ric Flair at Clash of Champions 20 years prior.
Sting believed that match put him on the wrestling map, and if Styles could win this match, he could submit his already legendary legacy and become the undoubted face of TNA Wrestling.
Styles took Sting down and landed a kick to his back, picked him back up and promptly sent him right back down with a slam, following up with a thunderous knee drop. Sting would kick out of an unsuccessful cover with ease at the count of two.
AJ irish whiped Sting into one of the six corners, with Sting responding by flipping AJ into another corner. AJ began to favor his back with the crafty veteran Sting watching on.
Sting immediately sent him flying across the ring back first into another turnbuckle. Was Sting going to take advantage of AJ’s sore back?
Of course he was.
Sting pulled him into the middle of the ring, going for some kind of submission. However, Styles knew better and simply ran from the attempt. Sting hit a running clothesline over the top rope as AJ’s back slapped the floor on the outside.
Styles recovered and Sting opened up the ring ropes as a sign of great sportsmanship. Without hesitating, Styles got back in the ring and back to square one we were.
They locked up in the corner. AJ tried a kick, but Sting caught his leg. A second kick, one they like to call the Pele wouldn’t be stopped by this from AJ’s foot to the back of Sting’s skull.
AJ methodically went to work, starting with a basic vertical suplex and then a failed pin. He knew he wasn’t getting out of this thing that easy, but he was taking more energy from Sting each time he made him kickout. Sting had already temporarily lost his breath with the previous suplex.
It was now AJ who shot Sting into the corner to further wind him. He bashed Sting’s head into the top turnbuckle, slapped his chest and elbowed him in the head. He again whiped Sting across the ring, bent down for a back body drop, but Sting refused and instead opted for a punt-like kick to AJ’s shoulder.
Sting, back on the offensive, hit two straight bulldogs to faceplant The Phenomenal One into the mat. He unleashed a “Woooo!,” something the crowd echoed and amplified.
He tossed a sprinting AJ Styles into the air with one arm in a picture perfect back body drop.
The two have a mid-ring exchange upon AJ’s recovery, resulting in a drop kick from Styles and another swing of momentum.
Sting rolled out of the ring, tempting AJ to plunge outside the ring only to crash and burn with only the guardrail to pad his landing.
Styles pulled himself up by that same guardrail and scooted out of the way of a Stinger Splash in the nick of time. Sting’s head and chest bounced of the steel (bending it in the process) just as Styles’ had, perhaps at an even faster speed.
Styles headed back into the ring and encouraged Sting to do the same thing in an act of respect. He didn’t want this to turn into a brawl and get a cheap win, but instead wanted to have a classic wrestling match with a clear cut winner for all the fans to see.
An exchange in the middle of the ring drifted into the corner with AJ missing a Stinger Splash move onto Sting. Sting rested in the corner, allowing AJ to catch his breath. When ready, AJ flew across the octagon into the boot of The Icon.
Sting was climbing to the top turnbuckle when AJ positioned him for a piledriver. Sting, though, reversed it into a piledriver of his own.
Sting went for the pin on Styles; 1,2, kickout! The Irvine, California crowd unleashes a groan in support of the man who grew up in that area. It wasn’t because they disliked Styles, but because they loved Sting.
AJ rolled onto the apron. He headbutted and forearmed Sting to get him positioned for a Springboard forearm, who kicked out of the upcoming pinfall at two.
A backbreaker would perhaps do the trick, AJ thought. But it didn’t. It still only received a two count before Sting willed his shoulder up.
We witness a nice string of reversals next that ended with Sting nailing a Scorpion Death Drop sending both men down for the count. The referee counted as AJ stirred first, a bit surprising considering he was the recipient of the move. One could think this is where Sting’s age began to play a factor. Does AJ just have more stamina to finish a match at this stage of his career? Does Sting still have it in him?
“This is wrestling!” chants broke out while Sting vaulted into the corner for a Stinger Splash. The answer to my previous question would seem to have been answered with a resounding yes by Sting himself, but could he maintain this wave of momentum?
Sting twisted AJ backwards and hit yet another Scorpion Death Drop, still only getting a two count before AJ somehow found a way to kickout.
A Scorpion Deathlock followed. AJ screamed in agony as the referee asked if he wanted to give it up. His response? NO! He soon broke the hold, but had the damage already been done?
Styles pursued Sting but was intimidated away when Sting did his chest pound taunt. Sting began chasing Styles around the ring and caught up with a swift clothesline.
Sting took AJ to the top rope, where AJ headbutted him off. When attempting to take advantage, though, fatigue set in and he simply collapsed to the canvas.
Sting bent over the ropes to pull AJ in from the apon but was nailed with a Pele Kick. Sting got shaky and eventually fell to the mat and AJ took advantage with a Springboard Splash; 1,2,3!
AJ Styles had retained his championship over an icon in the best match in the history of Bound For Glory.
Sting congratulated AJ as he celebrated. He exited the ring as Tenay vocalized the question on all of our minds; Is this showtime for the last time?
AJ grabbed a microphone and asked Sting to join him in the ring. He says this is his hometown, his ring. He deserved it after 23 years in the professional wrestling business.
AJ stepped out as Sting stepped in, saying “It’s your time now.”
This is ironic, because it had been Sting’s time. Styles winning meant it was now his time to take the torch into the next era of TNA.
Sting took the mic as fans chanted “Please don’t go” and said; “Thank you. I didn’t really expect to be back here right now because this moment is not about me, it is about our new world champion. But if I’m going to lose, I’m glad I can lose to somebody like AJ Styles. And if I can lose, I’m real glad I can lose at home.”
“You’ve still got it!” interrupted him before he continued; “Thank you. I suppose since I have this platform right now, I should kind of cover what people have been asking me over the past couple months and especially at fanfare here yesterday. But I got to tell ya’…”
“One more year” chants broke out, forcing him to pause once more, “I’m not pulling a Brett Favre on you, I promise but I was not here to make some kind of announcement tonight, all I can say is, and this is not a big kayfabe teaser kind of an answer. I’m being real serious. I don’t know if I’m going to come back, but I’ll tell you this; some of the things you guys told me at fanfare yesterday and the way you’re responding now makes me want to stay forever!”
Though he hasn’t been champion since, AJ Styles is the heart and soul of the company. He’s the face of the company, and has taken a step back in order to allow guys like James Storm and Austin Aries to get the main event spotlight they deserve. I have no doubt in my mind that Styles will one day hold the title in his hands again, before officially passing the torch to someone else as Sting passed the torch to him.
As far as Sting goes, he didn’t retire. He came back better than ever, even hoisting TNA’s world title once more. In fact, at this year’s Bound For Glory, Sting will be the first to be inducted into the TNA Hall of Fame.
Will this be his curtain call?
That’s a question only time will answer.