AJ Styles has got to be stopped.
AJ Styles IS going to kill somebody.
For those of you who don’t know AJ Styles, he is a very talented athlete who, for 15 years, has regularly performed in just about every major professional wrestling organization except WWE. Some years ago, when WWE was contemplating producing a show centered around smaller, cruiserweight wrestlers, Styles was reportedly offered a contract and reportedly turned it down because reportedly WWE had the audacity to suggest he spend some time in their developmental league to better adapt to the very unique style employed on WWE television.
What a shame. Perhaps if he’d have gone, at least two wrestlers wouldn’t have suffered broken necks with at least four others severely injured at the hands of AJ Styles.
You see, WWE, ever concerned about the image of their publicly traded company, if not for the health of their performers, began banning certain moves they deemed particularly hazardous or with a high degree of potential injury, most especially targeting moves that risked damage to the head and neck area. This came after several superstar’s careers such as those of Edge, Kurt Angle, and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin were cut sort due to repeated trauma leading to deterioration of discs and vertebrate in the neck or from an outright accident. Former NFL player-turned-WWE superstar Darren Drozdov became a quadriplegic during the October 5, 1999 WWE Smackdown! taping when his opponent, D-Lo Brown, accidentally dropped him on his head during a sequence that did not involve a particularly risky maneuver.
While much of the viewing public thinks professional wrestling is “fake,” the physical, high impact nature of a craft that sees 300-plus pound men picking each other up, throwing each other around, and moving at speeds that increase velocity and impact ten-fold means that while there is a lot of skill necessary to perform these feats without seriously maiming or killing the person a wrestler is in the ring with, they must also be double-tough and able to endure an inhuman level of pain. It is estimated that one “bump,” whereby a wrestler falls to his back onto the canvas, creates roughly the same impact as a head on car collision at 40 miles per hour.
I explain that in order to explain to you this: The very first thing these guys learn in pro wrestling school, beyond the techniques, beyond creating the illusion of unrestrained violence, beyond even selling tickets and making money, is a tenet that every performer that laces up boots is supposed to hold nearer and dearer than any other: PROTECT. YOUR. OPPONENT.
The wrestlers in the ring are performing a sort of high stakes dance, where an inch the wrong way in any direction could mean broken bones or worse. Both guys in the ring trust each other with their bodies, their physical well-being, which, also, happens to be their livelihoods. They learn how to perform these moves in a manner that protects each other from serious bodily injury. Or, at least they’re supposed to.
AJ Styles’ finishing move, as you can see in these videos culled by Brad Davis at SEScoops, is a move called the “Styles Clash” and involves Styles, just under six feet tall and just over 200 pounds, picking his opponent upside down, looping his feet over their outstretched arms, thereby gaining absolute control of all movements except their head, and pancaking them face first onto the mat. To the casual viewer, this might look like a pretty simple move. Looks can be deceiving.
Pretty much the second thing you are taught in wrestling school is something that applies to just about everything you do inside a wrestling ring—every move. TUCK. YOUR. CHIN. The idea behind this is that when you hurl your body toward the mat, or are driven to it by your opponent, tucking your chin into your chest protects you from landing wrong and accidentally breaking your neck. It’s such a basic and required part of the performance that trainees are put through drills over and over to train their reflexes to perform this task reflexively, without even really having to think about it.
The “Styles Clash” mandates that the recipient of the maneuver look upward. This flies absolutely contrary to everything the performers are drilled to learn and taught, in a Pavlovian way, to do. In a craft that requires its participants to act counter-intuitively to their natural instincts as it is, the “Styles Clash” requires something of a counter-counter-intuitive action in order to avoid serious injury.
Like the ones suffered by Frankie Kazarian, Roderick Strong, Sterling James Keenan (recently retired NXT concussion syndrome sufferer turned commentator Corey Graves), Stevie Richards, Lion Heart, Yoshi Tatsu, and Satoshi Kojima.
Each of these men can be seen having their heads plunged into the mat with their own full body weight as well as that of Styles driving them in with force. The lucky ones required a lot of physical therapy and missed several months from the ring while they recovered. In the cases of Lion Heart and Yoshi Tatsu, they ended up with broken necks.
Now, I need you to understand. This is not “a pro wrestling gimmick.” This is not part of AJ Styles “persona.” What this is, quite simply, is a reckless move that has now injured far too many performers far too badly, and it needs to be stopped.
There are “smart fans,” those who fancy themselves to be “inside” on what the reality of professional wrestling is who I am sure will try to argue that these men “took the move wrong.” They’ll try to defend Styles, saying things like, “he’s done the move hundreds of times, only two broken necks.”
What you’re not understanding is that two broken necks is TWO. TOO. MANY.
Jason Namako of Wrestleview posted this open letter Lion Heart published on his Facebook page that he had hoped would get back to AJ, not condemning him or even faulting him, but merely pleading with him to stop using this dangerous maneuver. Styles arrogantly ignored this plea, and now both Tatsu and Kojima will be out of the ring for indefinite periods of time while they try to heal up.
Then, on top of all of this, comes this report from the Talk TNA Podcast that detailed Styles’ interview on the popular Talk is Jericho podcast hosted by Chris Jericho. In it, Styles addresses both Strong and Lion Hearts injuries callously and selfishly, claiming that Strong, who makes his living from wrestling professionally, for some reason took the move wrong “on purpose” so as to make himself look tougher, and bemoaning the fact that Lion Heart’s letter spent too much time warning against the dangers of the move and not enough time assuring the public that Styles wasn’t to blame.
Are you kidding me?
After hearing Styles’ comments and countenance for myself, it has become clear that Styles is too overwrought with his own hubris and ego to really give a damn any longer about that all important number one tenet of professional wrestling, that being to ensure the safety of a guy who is putting his body and trust in your hands. AJ Styles has proven, I believe beyond a shadow of any doubt, that he cannot be trusted to make the right decision here and would rather cling to a rather basic, often sloppy, not-even-that-impressive-when-hes-not-practically-killing-someone move than to make certain that what has happened to these men does not happen to someone else.
Here are the facts: The “Styles Clash” is far too dangerous, it requires action that goes against every instinct a wrestler is taught, Styles is not big enough or strong enough to maintain true control of most people he hoists into the position, as evidenced when he stepped on Kojima’s hand and drove him head first into the ground, and quite frankly, he just doesn’t seem to give a damn.
That’s why I’m hoping you do.
Professional wrestling is entertainment, but there is nothing entertaining about someone getting their neck broken, let alone multiple people. Doesn’t matter whose fault it is or isn’t. The statistics have already been proven, and ONE is ONE too many.
If you are an independent wrestler and are booked against AJ Styles, let him know you refuse to take the “Styles Clash.” No matter how many years a “veteran” has on you, you should never agree to any move you don’t feel 100 percent comfortable performing.
If you are a booker, do not put your wrestlers at risk. If you book AJ Styles, let him know you will not allow him to use the maneuver on YOUR performers.
And if you are a fan, join me, and let AJ know what you think of the “Styles Clash.” Tweet and share #StopTheStylesClash. Let your voices be heard, and this time, for a really good cause.
Maybe eventually, AJ Styles will wise up and do the right thing. If not, mark my words.
AJ Styles is going to kill somebody. It’s only just a matter of time.