WWE TLC 2017 played host to a certified dream match between two of the best wrestlers in the world today, AJ Styles and Finn Balor. Back at the beginning of this week, nobody would have ever imagined that a Styles vs. Balor encounter would be in the cards. For one, Balor is a member of the Raw roster, while Styles is a member of the SmackDown locker room. The world sometimes works in mysterious ways though, and an illness left Balor’s scheduled opponent Bray Wyatt unable to compete, necessitating a nearly last-minute opponent to be named.
While some fans have rightfully questioned the logic of Styles being suddenly brought over from SmackDown to a Raw pay-per-view for the purposes of this match – after all, the two shows are portrayed as rival programs on WWE TV – the match itself almost instantly became most people’s pick for potential match of the night. Styles and Balor are considered two of the most talented performers in the world, and despite extensive experience working in various worldwide organizations, the two men have never before competed in a one-on-one match.
The “Phenomenal” Styles and the “Demon King” Balor came into TLC with the weight of fan expectations for a dream match on their shoulders, and thankfully, they delivered. Both men are arguably in the prime of their long careers at this point, and both are in excellent physical shape. Both Styles and Balor also possess excellent conditioning, able to keep up the pace even after a long battle. All these attributes were put to the test at TLC.
Styles and Balor held nothing back, keeping up a breakneck pace for nearly 20 minutes of high-flying, hard-hitting action. Both men made great use of their biggest offensive weapons, and had clearly studied footage of the other, despite the short time they’ve had to prepare for such a monumental contest. While both Styles and Balor characteristically spent a lot of time flying through the air, they also made use of their respective striking games, going blow for blow and counter for counter.
The closing sequence of Styles vs. Balor saw the self-proclaimed “face that runs the place” rock Balor with a top-rope hurricanrana for a two-count, then attempt to finish him off again with a springboard 450 splash. Balor avoided the contact, then put Styles away with his patented dropkick into the corner/Coup de Grace double stomp combo. Despite his defeat, Styles reacted in a classy manner, exchanging a “Too Sweet” salute with his fellow former Bullet Club member. This was the first ever meeting between Styles and Balor, but it’s doubtful that it will be the last.
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