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Is it time for A.J. Styles to retire the Styles Clash?

With two broken necks in nine months and several near misses over the years, maybe it's time for A.J. Styles to retire the Styles Clash from his repertoire.

Has the Styles Clash become too dangerous for AJ Styles to execute safely?
Has the Styles Clash become too dangerous for AJ Styles to execute safely?
Rick Diamond/Getty Images

A hot topic of conversation in recent days has been whether AJ Styles should retire the Styles Clash from his repertoire after a number of wrestlers have recently been injured by landing incorrectly when taking the move.

A.J.'s run of bad luck with the Styles Clash started at the Jan. 4th, 2014, Ring Of Honor tapings in Nashville, TN, when Roderick Strong was accidentally planted on his head as Styles forcibly executed his finisher. A video of the botched spot can be seen below:

As a result of this error, Strong suffered a minor neck injury and missed a month's worth of dates as he recovered from the ailment.

Unfortunately, much worse was yet to come. Similar to Strong, British wrestler Lionheart (real name Adrian McCallum) erroneously tucked his head when he was hit with the Styles Clash at the end of his match with A.J. Styles on a Preston City Wrestling (PCW) show on Feb. 28th and as a consequence he broke his neck in two places. Unsurprisingly, McCallum has yet to fully recover from this injury, but is targeting a return to the ring next March for PCW.

The third time this happened came on New Japan Pro Wrestling's Power Struggle iPPV on Nov. 8th when former WWE wrestler Yoshitatsu made the same mistake as Strong and McCallum had before him and ended up seriously hurt too. Initially, he was misdiagnosed with a bad neck sprain and attempted to work New Japan's next tour two weeks later, but he had to throw in the towel after just one match due to the pain. An MRI taken a few days later revealed two breaks of his cervical vertebrae and that Yoshitatsu had come very close to paralysis.

This led to McCallum posting on his Facebook page an open letter to A.J. Styles imploring him to ditch the move, not because he executes it unsafely, but because the natural instincts of any wrestler is to tuck their head when taking it:

"I'll make the assumption he sees this somehow so please read and share... I'd like to openly address him...

Firstly, I hope things are well for you and family... I wanted to write you because I feel it's important someone speak up in a more formal and diplomatic manner, as opposed to simply throwing abuse via anonymous social media ramblings...

Here's the truth... The move is not directly dangerous... It's a simple move in principle... Arms and legs locked, you fall forward, guy looks up/back, easy... The Styles Clash 'on paper' is a fairly safe and basic process...

That said, what is dangerous, is the instinctual reaction of your opponent... The wrestler taking the move, who like any wrestler taking any move, their safety and welfare is the priority...

Without ANY injuries, it could be argued that the mechanics of the move are unnatural, and injury could easily happen due to the physical restrictions and instinctual habits of the recipient... The numbers now are surely too great to even call it an argument?

I'm more than happy to be educated on my statistics, but there can be no move in wrestling history that carries more (documented) serious and potentially career threatening injuries than this... This, is what makes the move dangerous, whether indirectly or not...

Thus far, more specifically the last 12 months, several performers, actual experienced athletes, have been injured with this, 2 of them now with broken necks... The question I want to put to you honestly is, what does it take? What will it actually take for you to stop using this move, at the very least on an independent level, with people not necessarily exposed to the experience of working with you and taking the move semi regularly... How honestly will you feel the day you receive the news that the man you just wrestled has a broken neck and will never walk again? Statistically, that day is coming... It is a mathematical certainty...

I take this opportunity now, to openly and publicly beg you... Please, stop using the Styles Clash... You are unquestionably one of the greatest in ring performers of our time, I truly believe that... But the time is now, to put all pride, ego, blame aside, and acknowledge that irrelevant of fault, circumstance or anything else, the move is a direct risk and a danger to the safety and well being of your fellow wrestler...

All the best.


So far Styles has yet to heed McCallum's plea, leading to another embarrassing botch of his finisher just a few days ago on Satoshi Kojima. Four high profile mistakes and three serious injuries as a result in less than twelve months is not a good batting average at all for any wrestler's finishing move.

Some people have defended A.J. by arguing that he safely executed the move for years before this recent run of problems. However, that's not exactly true, as Frankie Kazarian in 2003Sterling James Keenan in 2006 and Stevie Richards in 2010 all landed on their heads after botching their falls. They were all just lucky they weren't seriously hurt from the mistake. With such a poor track record, it's hard not to agree with McCallum that the Styles Clash needs to be banned from wrestling, even if A.J. was blameless for every single incident.

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