A.J. Styles vs. Chris Jericho
February 9, 2016
Moda Center (Portland)
It is sort of shocking that WWE’s best feud of 2016 has involved the 45 year old, semi-retired Chris Jericho and the 38-year old A.J. Styles who is just a few weeks into his first WWE run.
Of course, much of the success of their feud is owed to the Miz, who has been a wonderful heel catalyst in what is (for now) an all babyface rivalry. The Miz has been the straw the stirs the drink (the Miana!) . He is also arguably WWE’s best pure heel at the moment. The rivalry has developed at a steady and logical pace which is of course rare for WWE in 2016. The story feels like it is going somewhere and it feels as if they are getting there naturally. That might not be a lot, but for current WWE it is.
The matches – for the most part – have been solid but nothing special, which is not nearly as unexpected of a development.
Jericho gained a reputation for being an outstanding worker by being just solid enough, just flashy enough, and in the ring with quality opponents on enough occasions in order to give off the impression of greatness. In this match, he didn’t blow anything outright. Jericho worked slow-ish submission reversal spots (a favorite of his going way back) while peppering in his moderate high spots (lionsault, code breaker) along the way. He was in the ring with the wrestler who might have been the best in the world in 2015. The match was sort of a snapshot of Jericho’s entire career if you are looking for a hyperbolic take.
Another Jericho staple has been his ability to have good or very good matches with quality wrestlers, but never great matches. Shawn Michaels might have wrestled his best matches with Jericho (and even that is not cut-and-dry) but I am hard pressed to think of anyone else who did. Styles is a great wrestler on a heck of a roll, but against Jericho all that meant was another good-not-great bout. Obviously, a chunk of that has to do with WWE bastardizing Styles in some ways. At the same time, Styles should be having significantly better matches with a supposedly great worker like Jericho than he is having with the Miz. That has not exactly been the case thus far.
This match – the second in their series – has received some hype as an excellent television match. It was good, but ultimately I thought it was empty and unremarkable. I’ve felt that way about a lot of Chris Jericho matches over the years. They did a lot of stuff that good workers supposedly do. They exchanged submissions in a Benoit/Angle like fashion (although slower). They went long. They rolled out a litany of near falls. But not once did the match feel like a truly great match. There was nothing exceptional about it.
The ending was also a bit clunky. Some have moaned about Jericho winning but the bigger deal was that the finish felt rushed and fell flat. There is nothing wrong with Styles trading wins with Jericho before taking the series (assuming that is where this is heading), but the ending came off poorly. I think the idea was for Jericho to “steal” a victory. Instead it just came off like Styles was had by some weak looking offense. I am sort of surprised they didn’t bother trying to edit the finish in some way to hide the flatness of it. I don’t know – maybe someone thought it looked fine.
Solid TV match – particularly for Smackdown – but great this was not.