The line-up for the World Title match at the ‘Bound for Glory’ event in San Diego on the 20th October has been decided – with AJ Styles set to challenge Bully Ray for the Heavyweight Championship.
Styles defeated Austin Aries and Magnus at ‘No Surrender’ last week, claiming victory in the Bound for Glory Series, while Ray successfully defended his World Title against his Aces & Eights counterpart Ken Anderson, in a ‘Last Man Standing Match’.
As ever, Bully’s match was laced with controversy. Anderson dominated the early stages, launching a tirade of blows both in and outside of the ring, stalking him across the arena with a steely determination. Ray called for a steel chair, but before he was able to make use of it, Anderson lashed out with a kick and knocked it from his grip, picking it up and using it himself across the back of his club president.
But as Anderson went about setting up a weapon of his own, a table he had retrieved from under the ring, Ray was able to respond with the chair and send the vice-president sprawling to the canvas.
Brooke Tessmacher and the other members of the Aces & Eights: Knux, Wes Brisco and Garrett Bischoff, all combined to inflict further pain on Anderson, who was twice counted to nine by referee Earl Hebner before hauling himself bravely to his feet.
Ray belatedly concluded the match by striking Anderson with a steel chain wrapped around his fist, before crashing him through the table the vice-president had himself prepared in the corner of the ring.
A bloodied and beaten was knocked out cold, and a delighted Bully had no hesitation in stripping the Aces & Eights jacket off of his dejected former colleague and friend.
Meanwhile, victory for Styles came as something as a surprise to many. With the top four qualifying for the series finals from the original list of 12 competitors, AJ needed victory in last week’s gauntlet match to sneak into that exclusive group at the last possible opportunity.
The 20 points he won took him to the top of the standings and allowed him to pick his opponent, Aries, for the first semi-final, leaving Magnus and Bobby Roode to face-off in the second semi-final.
After losing to Aries in August in one of the most dramatic and talked about matches in recent TNA history, Styles was keen to exact revenge and earn his place at Bound for Glory the hard way.
A tense opening to the pair’s latest meeting ensued, both men grappling with each other and struggling to gain an advantage until Styles, springing back off the ropes, was met by an Aries drop-kick that sent him flying out of the ring and onto the ramp leading down to the stage.
As a dazed Styles staged around the edge of the ring, Aries sensed his opportunity, launching a ‘double axe-head’ from the ropes, down onto the top of AJ’s head, before sliding him back into the ring. Styles attempted to sling back over the ropes before Aries was able to re-enter the ring himself, but the self-proclaimed ‘greatest man in the world’ was able to side-step the attack and leave AJ to crash into the floor once again.
However, Styles was able to slowly work his way back into the match, with his quick thinking and clever counters preventing Aries from pulling off a fully-fledged combo attack during his period of dominance.
Styles then turned defence into attack with a backbreaker across the knee and a pin attempt – the first of the match – for a two count. Next, Styles lifted Aries up and over the ropes onto the ring apron and used his forearm to smash Aries down to the floor, following it up with a slingshot cross-body block that left both men struggling to haul themselves back into the ring.
Despite another unsuccessful pin attempt, Styles looked to be well on top, but as he attempted to set up his iconic move – the ‘Styles clash’ – Aries countered with a hurricane flip, following it up with a drop kick and the brain-buster move he had been looking to pull off earlier in the contest.
A shaken Styles’ was able to break the pin attempt for two, only for Aries to turn it into a neck-break submission attempt, which also came to nothing.
Frustrated, Aries made his way to the top rope, but Styles beat him to the attack with an overhead kick that appeared to knock Aries cold. This allowed Styles to unleash the Styles Clash from the top rope and secure both the pin and the victory.
In the second semi-final, Magnus survived an early scare to shock the heavy-favourite and former World Champion Bobby Roode.
Roode looked set to breeze through the match after dominating early on, trapping his opponent in the corner of the ring and repeatedly landing kicks to his stomach and chest.
The ‘It Factor’ followed up this barrage with consecutive back drop’s that resulted in two unsuccessful pin attempts, before angrily pinning the neck of Magnus against the ropes until he was forced to break the hold by the referee.
Pin attempts came at regular intervals for Roode, who attacked with several devastating combos, including a submission attempt that saw his arms wrapped around the neck of Magnus.
The Main Event Mafia man fought back, dropping the elbow with a jump from the ropes, before pinning Roode in a submission attempt of his own, locking the legs of his opponent and forcing him to battle hard to reach the ropes.
As Roode got to his feet, he kicked out hard at Magnus but, perhaps wearied by his attempts to break the submission hold moments earlier, his attack was countered, and Magnus was able to use the roll up, pinning Roode in a tight ball with his shoulders to the canvas, and claim the surprise win.
In the final match both Styles and Magnus were clearly wearied by their tough semi-finals, AJ clutching at his lower back as the pair grappled evenly in another tense opening.
Magnus did his best to use his superior size to his advantage, knowing that if he was sucked into AJ’s preferred high-pace match-up, he would be unlikely to come out on top. Twice he got Styles into position for a pin attempt, but both times AJ broke the pin by the count of one.
An angered Roode, along with associates Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian, briefly interrupted the match, but they were quickly and efficiently dragged away by additional officials who rushed to the ring.
Magnus came close to victory after the re-start, punching Styles out of the air with expert timing, after AJ had attempted a springboard move from the top rope, and pinning the phenomenal one for two.
The pair traded further pin attempts before Magnus was again on the back-foot, trapped in the ‘cat killer’ submission attempt from Styles that appeared to cause serious damage to his left knee despite his escape.
Styles went to follow up the attack with a spin kick, but it was caught by Magnus who responded by slamming AJ back down to the floor of the ring for a pin count of two.
Magnus proceeded to lift Styles onto the top rope, but as he attempted to climb up himself, a rapid series of forearms and elbows to the head of Magnus sent the Brit tumbling back down to the canvas. AJ then unleashed the spiral tap move from the top rope and claimed both the win and the Bound for Glory Series.
A devastated Magnus held his head in his hands at the side of the ring, while the triumphant Styles announced to the crowd that he had a big ‘wake-up call’ for TNA, which he would announce next week.
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