World Heavyweight Champion AJ Styles survived his Bound for Glory rematch against Bully Ray, but his future with the TNA wrestling company remains uncertain after he turned down President Dixie Carter’s offer of a new contract.
Styles emerged victorious from a predictably controversial match, in which the shock return of Ken Anderson, former Vice-President of Ray’s Aces & Eights, greatly aided his success.
Anderson was last seen challenging Ray for the World Title in mid-September, when he failed in his attempts to defeat his former colleague and left the arena on a stretcher.
But a fully-fit Anderson emerged at the start of the night, breaking up Ray’s attack on AJ Styles and tackling on site security, before returning at the end of the evening to help AJ retain his Championship.
It became clear as the show progressed in Salt Lake City that the events of Bound for Glory were still continuing to resonate throughout TNA.
Dixie Carter emerged to supposedly offer a heartfelt apology to AJ Styles, and "welcome him back" to the company – informing him that the rematch she had ordered between him and Bully Ray, following Bound for Glory, need not take place if he ‘sided with Team Dixie.
A furious Ray came to the ring, but Styles declined Dixie’s offer and informed Ray that he would have the rematch he desired. Always keen to claim an early advantage, Ray attacked AJ, but within moments Anderson was sprinting to the ring, separating the pair before he himself was dragged away by security.
New Knockout’s Champion Gail Kim emerged for a tag team match alongside partner for the evening Brooke Tessmacher, and her recently revealed cohort Lei’d Tapa. They faced off against ODB and Velvet Sky, and unsurprisingly it was the giant Amazonian who made the divisive impact, tackling Sky while the referee’s back was turned and allowing Kim to make the pin.
Ethan Carter III, nephew of Dixie, completed his second regulation victory against an unknown opponent, handpicked for him by his Aunt. Dewey Barnes was his latest victim, and it will be interesting to see how well EC3 performs when he faces up to a more meaningful challenge.
Elsewhere, Kurt Angle challenged Bobby Roode to a rematch of their spectacular Bound for Glory clash, while the three duo’s beaten by the Bro Mans for the Tag Team title: Storm and Gunner, Eric Young and Joseph Park, and Bad Influence, all made their case for a shot at ending Jesse and Robbie’s reign in its infancy.
But it was Styles and Ray who were once again the centre of attention. The champion dominated the early stages, which culminated in a drop kick and an attempted pin that earned a two count.
Bully worked his way steadily back into the match, attempting to take advantage of the stomach/chest injury AJ sustained in their previous match, hurling him twice over his shoulder, sending him crashing both times into the canvas with an alarming thud.
Twice Ray launched a Samoan drop, pinning AJ for two on each occasion, while Styles’ iconic Springboard move earned him similar success.
Styles looked to have claimed victory when he rolled Ray into a calf killer submission hold and the challenger tapped out, but with referee Earl Hebner down in the corner after being caught by an earlier blow, he was unable to award AJ the victory, and his celebrations were soon cut short as both parties realised the match was not over.
Ray attacked AJ with his steel chains and went for the pin just as Hebner recovered to his feet. The referee started the inevitable count, and it looked certain that Bully was going to regain his title until somehow, agonisingly, Styles hauled a shoulder off of the canvas.
As a stunned Ray moved back for another blow, the decisive moment occurred, with Anderson grabbing Bully from behind and causing him to drop his weapon. AJ took advantage of his opponent’s confusion by launching the ‘Crucifix’ move and claiming the win.
After the match, Carter emerged with a new and improved contract for Styles. But AJ could not be won over, turning down the offer and walking calmly out of the arena.
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