Okay, I admit it: I have often kicked against the idea of AJ Styles being the guy who will dethrone Bully Ray. It's not personal, mind you; it's just that I have been enjoying TNA more than any wrestling promotion in more than a decade and don't want the story told so soon, so easily.
So when my friends, family, readers and anyone who watches TNA began to talk about AJ Styles as the Crow Sting to Bully's Hulk Hogan, I acknowledged the comparisons but threw in some other names.
Matt Morgan, for instance. Long before he stepped up to challenge Sting for the No. 1 contender spot, I thought he could be a dark horse coming out of nowhere to defend general manager Hulk Hogan, who wouldn't give him a shot, against the man whom Hogan handed the opportunity, Bully Ray.
I admitted it was just a possibility, but then again so was AJ Styles.
Of course, I threw in the name of the guy whom I call "The Best in the World," Batman, Bobby Roode. Not only is he my favorite TNA wrestler, but he is the longest-reigning TNA champion. By that regard, he should be called upon at some time to stand up and try to protect what is rightfully his.
I could throw in other names because we are about to embark on what could be the greatest Bound for Glory series in the history of TNA. So many guys could peak at the right time, and almost all of them will have a personal grudge with Bully Ray, should he still be the champ.
But on Thursday night's Impact, we saw the patching in of AJ Styles. And minutes later, AJ Styles tore that patch off.
Here, courtesy of TNAWrestling, is the video of the segment that closed Impact Wrestling.
First, I was impressed by the presence of the president of Aces and Eights, Bully Ray. This alone signified the importance of the event. While it has been Mr. Anderson doing the grunt work to try to recruit AJ Styles, when it came to finishing the job, the big guns came out.
This included Devon holding the rope for AJ Styles and Bully Ray pointing out how significant that was. Finally, somebody treated AJ Styles with the respect he seems to desire.
Bully Ray pointed out that AJ Styles has never had a beer and asked him to have one with him. Surely, if AJ Styles were going to dismiss Aces and Eights, he would do it now.
But AJ Styles had a beer instead.
And step up to take the Aces and Eights cut, AJ Styles did as well. AJ Styles went with it to the point that the fans began to chant, "You sold out."
And when Kurt Angle interfered and Aces and Eights cornered and held the Olympic gold medalist? AJ Styles took the hammer to the knee of Kurt Angle the same way Bully Ray took the hammer to Jeff Hardy.
But then AJ Styles turned the hammer on Aces and Eights and walked out.
And from that moment, the story that was AJ Styles as Crow Sting and Bully Ray as Hollywood Hogan took on a life of its own. This story has now added a layer that is most intriguing. With the guts to take out both TNA's Kurt Angle and Aces and Eights, AJ Styles has made himself the anti-Bully Ray.
It is and has been the claim of Aces and Eights that they were mistreated by TNA. Because of this, they formed a club, a brotherhood, a group of men who would ensure that when you ride with the Aces and Eights you never walk alone.
Well, AJ Styles does walk alone.
He is not with team TNA or with Aces and Eights. He is nothing that they are and everything they're not.
And this is how you step out of the crowd. While most people copy the most popular trend (like trying to form Fortune to combat Aces), the man who stands out will do the opposite—he will begin the next trend.
Bully Ray has, in some ways, made the clubhouse cool. He is easily the best heel in professional wrestling right now. He is the only man who can harass Brooke Hogan one week and vow his love to her the next. He is the only man who can thwart Jeff Hardy in his own match. He is the only man who can get the best of both Hulk Hogan and Sting on any given night. And, after doing all this, he surrounds himself at the table with his brothers and some beer.
Yes, Bully Ray can do it all, almost.
But the one thing he can't do is the one thing AJ Styles just mastered: walking alone.
And while there is still a Bound for Glory series and many wonderful future opponents for Bully Ray, AJ Styles just moved leaps and bounds beyond the majority of them.
I've seen the man wrestle—I know he can jump.
But the leap he took on Thursday night in taking no side may be what differentiates him from every other guy in TNA. It may even launch him into the main event at Bound for Glory.
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