America’s Most Wanted vs. AJ Styles & Christopher Daniels (TNA Slammiversary 6/18/06)

Match Reviews

This review was commissioned by Dan Vacura over on my Ko-fi account.

In which America’s Most Wanted reverse engineer the heel tag performance. To this point, I’ve only really covered AMW matches that see them cast as the big, gruff southern babyface tag team brawling through the villains of the company to achieve righteous justice. By this point in 2006 TNA, they’ve turned heel and have adjusted their act accordingly. Most notably, like Team Canada before them, they’ve added some outside insurance to their cause in the form of Gail Kim. The formula’s as clear cut as it gets: Styles & Daniels are a babyface dream team but they just can’t get the job done because Gail Kim keeps interfering for the baddies. For this final shot at the tag belts, Styles & Daniels promise to have some kind of neutralizer up their sleeve to use against Gail Kim.

That being said, the neutralizer doesn’t turn out to be much. It’s a debuting Sirelda taking out Gail Kim late in the match with a chokeslam. It’s a neat enough way to introduce someone new to TV and it’s a functional payoff to finally get rid of Gail from the equation here.

That being said, what the match does best is not tie itself to that singular payoff. Instead, we get something similar in function and structure to the glorious AMW victory against Team Canada the year prior. It’s a match where the spirit of it informs the construction–it’s a match about the heels’ fragile house of cards finally coming tumbling down. In this sense, the opening babyface shine does so much to get the message across. It’s a great sense of pace they keep, starting with the basics of just actually locking up to wrestle before getting into all the wonderful bumping and stooging one wants from this kind of tag match. AMW are an absolute delight in that regard, putting in the work to make themselves look like fools.

One would think it shouldn’t work as well as it does given the size disparity between AMW and the X-Division dream team, but boy do they just absolutely commit to the idea. The forced 69, the accidental skinning of the cat, AMW just constantly get in their own way here. What’s more, it feels like they have to work doubly as hard to regain the advantage even with skullduggery on their side. It’s not just that they yank the rope down and send AJ spilling to the floor, they also have to gut it out with a brawl on the floor, and also have Gail Kim’s help to have even a chance at finally isolating AJ in the ring. There’s a part of me that wishes the heel heat had lasted just a touch longer, with a greater emphasis on that than the eventual finishing stretch they go into, but it’s a neat choice to continue to add to the idea that the heels are losing all control at last.

Much like the Team Canada match the year before though, the finishing stretch is delightfully structured. Once Gail Kim gets neutralized (boy they love that word on commentary tonight), it’s all about AMW unloading the clip with every dirty tactic in the book. A big chair shot, a low blow, the handcuffs as a weapon, all of it’s a desperate ploy to get the job done and none of it works. At the end of the day, they rightfull pay totally for their cheating ways–Storm accidentally knocks out Harris with a beer bottle and Styles & Daniels string together a combo to get the win.

Another beautiful display of one of pro wrestling’s great genres. Tag team wrestling done right feels so damn good.

Rating: ****1/4

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