INDUCTION: AJ Styles vs. Larry Zbyszko – If You’re Dreading AJ vs. Shane, You’d Probably Best Not Read This!

25 Submitted by on Thu, 23 March 2017, 20:00

TNA, 2003

The year 2016 was a momentous occasion in that it was the first time in history a WrestleMania was able to take home the coveted Gooker Award, our annual award for the very worst of the very worst in pro wrestling. It was a show that seemingly never-ended, and sources have told this reporter that the 2017 version isn’t going to be any shorter, but in fact may be longer.

I don’t even know how that’s possible.

Further complicating matters is the somewhat baffling line up. While I’ve heard many bemoan the fact that two part-timers, in the form of Goldberg and Brock Lenar, will be in the main event, that doesn’t really bother me. I mean, I grew up in the mid 80’s when top stars such as Hulk Hogan were very rarely on the weekly shows, and honestly, that helped build my interest as a fan. They were by their very presentation special attractions, and I think we are seeing the same thing here.

No, my bigger concern is how other talent is being utilized. The guy everyone hates, Roman Reigns, taking on an Undertaker who looks so hobbled as to legitimately be one foot in the grave? About 47 different multi-team, multi-man, and multi-woman matches? The annual geek battle royal that continues to demean the good name of Andre the Giant?

John Cena in a MIXED TAG MATCH?

With THE MIZ????

Wait, wasn’t that a WrestleMania MAIN EVENT a while back? I mean without the women? And didn’t it stink so much that we inducted it?

Why I think we did!

Sigh. Eh, on the plus side, it did give us this fantastic skit in which Maryse proves to be better at playing the role of Nikki Bella than Nikki Bella is at playing the role of Nikki Bella.

Hotter too.

Still, this all begs the question: is anyone at all even remotely interested in this show?

Let alone sitting through like seven hours of it?

Speaking of, hi AJ.

Wait, no. Wrong one.

Hi AJ.

Jeez, that’s freaking horrible. Maybe you do deserve to be saddled in a match with Shane McMahon.

No, wait.

You don’t.

No one does.

But that’s what we’re getting so I guess we all need to just accept it and hope for the best, the best meaning that whatever high thing Shane jumps off doesn’t actually kill him this time. And while I know none of us are happy about this stupid match that is hitting us in the face in about 10 days, we can take condolence in the fact that AJ is used to taking on old guys.

Case in point (or I guess induction in point): Larry Zbyszko.

Yes, THAT Larry Zbyszko, the guy who basically retired before he started commentating on Nitro. A quick check of the ever accurate Wikipedia says that he joined the crew in 1996, so no doubt when you read that, you, like me, are racking your brain trying to figure out how this could even be possible. After all, I never remember seeing AJ Styles on my television screen prior to say the late 90s, so how on earth could their paths have crossed? WHEN could their paths have crossed?

The answer lies in 2003 in TNA of all places. Typing that sentence is pretty amazing in and of itself, the fact that TNA is still alive FOURTEEN YEARS LATER. Sure, it’s on its deathbed but its been there forever. Consider this: the original ECW lasted nine years. WCW truly came into existence when Turner brought out the Crocketts in 1988, so that means it lasted 13 years. TNA has outlasted either of them. That’s horrifically depressing on countless levels.

When the company was originally founded, the idea was not to do weekly television shows, but weekly pay-per-view shows. That’s right – the basis of its existence was that they would put out weekly shows you had to pay to see with no television whatsoever to support it. You will be shocked to learn that didn’t really work out for them. But hey, it was the location of our subject today so I guess it does have that to hang its hat upon.

At the time, AJ Styles was an up and coming star, yet one who felt he wasn’t getting his just due, namely championship opportunities. As characters in the Russoverse are prone to do, he staged a sit down protest and threatened to hold the show hostage unless he was given what he wanted.

You know what, kid, if it’s watching you sit in a chair or forcing me to watch another stinkin’ Cheex match, you just stay put.

But lo and behold, we get someone else entirely making his way to the ring: the living legend himself, Larry Zbyszko. He speaks of how he’s come to the NWA-TNA (its original name) because it is steeped in tradition. I should note he says this while girls are dancing in cages in the background.

Yep, just like during those classic Race-Flair matches of old.

Larry explains that Styles has sold his soul to the devil, in this case apparently meaning Vince Russo.

Now how can you call my pal Vince Russo the devil? Look at his angelic face!

Styles eventually gets sick of Larry’s yakking and slaps him in the face. And thus the match is on: the high flying AJ taking on the never ending stallmeister Larry!

Believe it! This match actually happened.

And this actually happened as well – Larry outwrestled AJ.


And over.

And over.

Hold after hold after hold we got, with Larry controlling a good 95% of the match. After Larry threatened a top rope dive (!!!!), AJ was able to take over.

And it went about as well as you’d expect. I’ve heard of wrestling yourself to get a match over before, but that’s a bit ridiculous.

Somehow AJ nearly crotching himself then falling flat on his back led directly to the finish of the match, wherein he grabbed Larry, shoved his head in his nether regions, and pinned him for a three count with his feet on the ropes for leverage.

You know, that’s one thing in wrestling I’ve just never understood – how on earth does putting my feet on the rope give me additional leverage? Grabbing the tights I get, that makes sense, but somehow removing a good chunk of my body weight as a cheating method I don’t get.

But hey, the right guy went over.

Well, until the rematch.

Yes, the following week Larry came out once more, browbeating AJ for not going through the school of hard knocks. Pretty sure this was the exact same promo as the week before, with the exception of Larry “double dog daring” AJ to yet another match. But this time it had a stipulation: if AJ couldn’t beat Larry twice in the span of 10 minutes, Larry would become his manager.

And just like the prior match, Larry takes complete control from the outset…

…with more holds…

…than you ever did see…

…or for that matter…

…ever wanted to see, including…

…unearthing the STUMP PULLER out of the mothballs! Somewhere, Doink the Clown (or was it Big Bully Busick? Maybe both?) nods in appreciation. If Shane uses that in the Mania match, I’d almost forgive WWE for putting the match together in the first place.

Finally out of nowhere, AJ scores a pin after an inverted DDT. But again, that doesn’t make him the winner – remember, he has to get two pins for whatever reason to give him the duke. So we go into the final 180 seconds (yes, the first part with all of Larry’s wacky holds took nearly seven minutes!) with…

…yes, Larry applying MORE HOLDS!

AJ’s former manager, Mortimer Plumtree (remember him? Of course you don’t!) shows up and hands Styles brass knuckles…which he immediately drops.

Then he attempts to throw salt in the eyes of Larry.

Which Larry ducks. Man, that guy is a terrible manager. And I should know, because back in the day I was a terrible manager myself.

The rest of the match? It’s basically Larry and AJ just exchanging random blows then running into each other and falling down. The match doesn’t end with AJ winning; it ends with Larry getting a two-count on AJ.

And yes, that means that AJ Styles lost to LARRY ZBYSZKO.

This is where I would generally say something witty, but honestly, I just can’t.

If 25 year-old AJ lost to to 51-year old Larry, what chance does he possibly have against Vince McMahon’s much younger (Shane’s a spry 47!) kid?

Get those Gooker votes at the ready, kids!


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25 Responses to "INDUCTION: AJ Styles vs. Larry Zbyszko – If You’re Dreading AJ vs. Shane, You’d Probably Best Not Read This!"
  1. Thomas says:

    More TNA inductions!

    • Alfonzo Tyson says:

      For the love of God, PLEASE more TNA inductions! Abyss and the Magic Rings! Bisexual Orlando Jordan! August 1st Warning! Brooke Hogan! Willow! Black Reign! The list goes on!

  2. John C says:

    Yes, the lost “Total Bellas” tapes is the greatest work Miz has ever done in or out of a ring. I was pretty shocked at how hard they hit on Ce-ella in those videos.

    The big question for the AJ-Shane match is will it appear in hour number 37 or 413 of the show.

  3. Andre Reichenbacher says:

    I was never the biggest fan of Larry Z but I dont dislike him either. I still think it was funny how in early ’98 on Nitro, Scott Hall started burying Larry on the mic about his time in the AWA, about how he was only champion cuz his father-in-law owned it, and how it went out of business with him on top. And it was funny how that promo probably went over the heads of about 90% of the audience that night. At least according to Bryan and Vinny in their video were they discussed that particular Nitro episode. I still love it to this day!

    • Guest says:

      It’s funny though considering how Hall getting the title in WW only seemed to happened because he was associated with Hulk Hogan.

    • CP says:

      Funny how Scott never mentions that his hatred of cold weather kept him from achieving a world title…because Larry got the spot he vacated to go to the NWA.

  4. Justin Henry says:

    If TNA can bring back LAX, ODB, and Karen Jarrett, surely they could bring Lollipop back as well. I mean, if they truly wanted my weekly viewership.

  5. Sean Bateman says:

    Burt Reynolds’ favorite nephew, RJ > Mortimer Plumtree

  6. CF says:

    Yet another example of V**** R**** “grey goo booking” — because god forbid the audience get to see an ending of any kind, much less a positive ending (I was going to write “happy ending”, but…).

  7. CF says:

    Another marvelous example of Vince’s “grey-goo booking” — because heaven forbid audiences see an ending, much less a positive ending. (I was going to write “happy ending”, but this being Vince….)

  8. Cameron A. says:

    It says something when the name “TNA” is finally scrubbed from the branding after fourteen years – it’s Impact Wrestling now, with heavier focus on owls – and everyone STILL calls the promotion TNA.

    The main-eventers infrequently appearing on television in the ’80s doesn’t quite translate to now. It’s not as if Hogan was in the upper-midcard in 1986 while Bruno Sammartino faced off against Andre the Giant for the WWF Heavyweight Championship. I don’t mind SOME nostalgia at WrestleMania, yet WWE’s used it as a main event crutch in recent years, and it only draws interest for so long.

  9. Guest says:

    “Hold after hold after hold we got, with Larry controlling a good 95% of the match. After Larry threatened a top rope dive (!!!!), AJ was able to take over.”

    …I see AJ on the top rope but Larry hits them causing AJ to get crotched….Also if we want to hang lampshades on spots that don’t make since this golden oldie isn’t better since the turnbuckle (and the ringpost they’re attached to) and ropes are separate things hitting the ropes shouldn’t cause someone to fall off it.

    • IC says:

      Yep, I see the same thing with AJ going to the top.
      Speaking of GIFs on this page, how can you put one featuring Paige and not even reference as to why she’s all over the news lately.

  10. Guest says:

    “You will be shocked to learn that didn’t really work out for them.”

    I know Jeff and father were desperate even from the outset of TNA but really weekly ppv’s?

    I don’t think even the old territory’s would’ve been able to get away with such a ridiculous concept.

  11. Jimbolian says:

    Now you too can recreate this epic battle between AJ Styles and Larry Zybsko in WWE 2K17 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC!

    And I don’t know why WWE and 2K Sports hasn’t hired me to shill their games.

  12. Hulk6785 says:

    How in the hell has TNA lasted longer than WCW AND ECW?

  13. Anonymous says:


  14. RobVanDamIsABallerina says:

    R.D. I look to you as a wise sage of craptastic wisdom, but I whole heartedly disagree with your Goldberg comment, that we should view him as a “special attraction”. Let’s remember this same exact matchup was nearly booed out of the building at a previous Wrestlemania already. Granted they didn’t have the prestige of the storied history of the Universal Championship on the line, but it was similar in that they both looked at wrestling as a side project. At the very least, it will be a part of Wrestlemania taking home the Gooker for the second year in a row. Other than that, another solid induction.

  15. Adam says:

    This match got retroactively worse, considering the Raven/Larry match from a few years later was more watchable.

  16. Don townsend says:

    well wrestling fans get ready because WWE might go back to back with Wrestlemania Gooker awards! Some pretty terrible/predictable/predictably terrible matches await.

    But this induction did remind me why I’ve given Miz the benefit of the doubt in the past. This was legitimately funny as opposed to the normal forced “humor” we see from WWE creative. After watching the Southpaw videos, it seems like the boys are going around the writers.

    Anyway, this WM is shaping up to be lame again. Reigns will likely go over a hurt Undertaker in what could be his final match. Does anybody care about Rollins and Triple H in The Authority vs _______ episode #156? Shane and AJ……..I guarantee someone thinks this is going to be the showstopper match because Shane will jump off a 60 foot beam or something or AJ will hit a Styles Clash off the top rope to the floor through a table. Naw that would actually be dope. Match will be underwhelming.

    And does anyone think Brock vs Goldberg will be more than 4 minutes long? I guarantee some kind of interference or shenanigans that let’s Brock beat Goldberg PDQ. The mixed tag with Cena and Miz is starting to look like the least atrocious of the bunch. Damn WWE, how did we get here?

  17. Zeke says:

    I have no idea why, but that AJ Styles GIF makes me laugh like a goddamn idiot every time I look at it. I freaking love it.

  18. Arcane Azmadi says:

    Still holding out hope that WWE are going to swerve us by having Shane come out and admit that he hasn’t been medically cleared to wrestle after the concussion he got at Survivor Series and has had to call in a substitute (either Daniel Bryan or Kurt Angle).

  19. Larry's Caddy says:

    One thing in this debacle’s expense: Larry Zbysko was actually a wrestler. Shit on his stalling and the Russo booking all you want, but I’ll take “wrestler vs. wrestler” over “wrestler vs. boss’s kid” any day of the week.

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