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Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Sunday, April 15, 2018

2018 Ongoing MOTY List: Bryan vs. Styles

22. Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles WWE Smackdown 4/10

PAS: It has been 12 years since these two matched up in a ROH title match in 2006, according to cagematch, they only had a half a dozen matches against each other, so it is pretty cool that we get to see them work a nifty TV match, with a finish this would rank up with some of the great 10 minute TV sprints of the last quarter of a century. The execution of both guys is so spot on, everything hits clean, and is executed with snap and force. Loved all of the mat scrambling, Styles isn't really thought of as a mat worker, but he has great explosion on his takedowns and counters, he really attacks limbs.  Bryan is still slick as goose shit, his counter of the Styles clash into the Yes lock was awesome. I could see the no finish coming a mile away, and it makes sense, but that kept this from being more then just a fun exhibition, but it was a hell of a fun exhibition.

ER: Remember how Daniel Bryan had to retire a few years ago due to concussion-related injuries? I don't think Daniel Bryan remembers that. Either the guy is crazily devoted to pro wrestling or he just genuinely doesn't remember what's happened over the last three years. He stepped into the ring and didn't miss a single beat, nothing at all was different. You go in thinking "well maybe he's going to work a bit different now, work a safe grounded style or work more like Lawler, some choice big bumps (like into a ringpost) but a safe well-executed striking style. Maybe he's going to do that weird Checkmate mat gimmick that he joked about on Total Divas" and then you see him get a superplexed reverse and basically land on the back of his head from the top rope and you know that Bryan is just crazily obsessed with pro wrestling and will wrestle matches the exact way he wants to wrestle matches, until he cannot physically do so. Just like Hunter Pence, who so infamously struck up with Bryan during the Giants' 2014 run to the World Series, with Pence adopting the YES! chants during team celebrations. Pence is 35 now and always plays at full speed, still runs out singles, dives on balls he probably shouldn't be diving for, but he has aged seemingly overnight. His body is catching up with him and years of playing hard have caught up to his body. And here's Bryan, spiritually bonded to Pence by YES and by beard, also now with a built in sympathy. I watch Pence and wonder when he will be fake DL'd so that he can take a break with some dignity, and now I'll be watching Bryan and wondering if they'll ever have to stop a match because of Bryan falling wrong. I like Bryan, I don't want to see him become Shibata. It adds a new layer of tension to his matches, makes him more of a sympathetic figure. He has built in inherent drama.

As Phil mentioned these two have been in different places for a dozen years, and this is an awesome condensed TV version of these two guys who came up at the same time, some 20 years ago. And it's cool that it really would have played well no matter which year of their career they played it. Bryan gets his leg worked over early and it comes back later after a nasty dragon screw, and all the actual movement is very well done, everything well executed, very professional and yet exciting. Bryan has great running elbow strikes and a nice heavy dropkick, love his corner dropkick and his dropkick to stop a springboard move, really all his kicks in the match looked good (The Yes! kicks really snapping and some corner kicks looking tough). The Calf Crusher is a cool submission, and I liked the counter into Yes! Lock, and the Pele kick felt logical (and between this match and WrestleMania weekend I've been seeing a lot of Riddle and Styles doing Pele kicks this week). We all knew this wasn't ending with a pin, and the heel Nakamura stuff was well done. Bryan seals the declaration on his craziness by taking a running knee from Nak to the back of the freaking head. Nakamura is nothing if not careful and tidy in his ring work, never one to be sloppy or half-assed. Definitely a guy I'd trust to knee me in the back of the head had I just missed 3 years of work due to two many brain injuries.


2018 MOTY MASTER LIST



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