Throughout the month of June, we will be celebrating 20 years of TNA/Impact Wrestling with our #Impact20 series of reviews, columns and podcasts. One particular series will look at a handpicked selection of the best TNA/Impact Wrestling Matches of All-Time.
NWA World Championship #1 Contender’s Steel Cage
AJ Styles vs Abyss
April 25, 2005
I gifted this match to Fred Morlan in the Voices of Wrestling Secret Santa last year, mostly because it’s one of my absolute favorite cage matches of all-time. It also features a stunning performance from AJ Styles, so it was an obvious match to revisit for the #Impact20 series.
AJ was borderline offensively good at this point in time and in this contest he’s akin to an accomplished artist, sketching out a masterpiece on a blank canvas. Ok, that’s a little hyperbolic but I’m sure you get my meaning.
We get eight minutes of action before these two actually get in the cage and the bell rings. In that time, AJ dives out of the ring, slides under the guardrail, hits a diving forearm off the rail, crashes and burns on a dive into the crowd, takes a cage door to the face and blades.
When they do get in the ring, it’s a brilliant big man vs little man clash with AJ attempting to outmaneuver Abyss with his speed but repeatedly getting caught out by one big offensive move.
Abyss’ Black Hole Slam has long been an underrated finisher and AJ sells it like a million dollars here, but the biggest pop of the match comes from a gnarly Styles Clash squarely onto the pile of tacks. For the viewer at home, that spot is made all the better by Don West’s raw, unbridled enthusiasm. This is a man who loves wrestling, loves what he’s watching and isn’t afraid to make that apparent – JR, take note.
The finish was superb as well. Abyss caught AJ as he was attempting to climb out of the cage, goozling him with the chain before attempting to Chokeslam him back in. AJ blocked it though, floating over the top to hit a Sunset Flip Powerbomb into the tacks.
It would be easy to just praise AJ for his virtuoso performance here but it would be remiss to not touch on Abyss. He was excellent and I’d argue that in this match he looked as good of a monster heel as he ever did.
AJ Styles and Abyss had wrestled each other several times previously and would go on to have a number of further meetings before both left the promotion. This match, though, was their peak together and a certified ****½ banger.