Christopher Daniels vs Samoa Joe vs AJ Styles – Ecstasy of Gold

650full aj styles vs. samoa joe vs. christopher daniels tna unbreakable 2005

In stories, sometimes it goes beyond a singular protagonist and antagonist. Sometimes, there’s an additional hero or villain or even an antihero. Characters may go through arcs that change who they are or remain static, where their actions inform who they are at their core. Either way, if told well, with the right precision, these characters feel real and tangible, like an art painting or each stanza in a poem. This is a wrestling story of just that very thing.

When you create a new company, who do you build as the future stars of your wrestling promotion? How do you treat them? Sure, fill the main event with stars, but start putting puzzle pieces together while you can, so others can take these jigsaw pieces and put together something beautiful. 

On September 11, 2005, TNA did just that, when they pit X-Division Champion Christopher Daniels against the indomitable Samoa Joe and the plucky underdog, AJ Styles in the main event of that year’s Unbreakable card. Going in, each man knew their roles and executed them perfectly with amazing chemistry, as though they’ve been wrestling each other for decades and knowing that they would do just that for those decades yet to come. This Triple Threat Match displayed a level of professional wrestling intimacy between dance partners in the world of violence, and among the great matches in wrestling history, this one helped transcend wrestling into pure art.

Samoa Joe came into this one as a brutal wall of force with the knowledge of what to do with it – his mind and body a weapon of devastation, with a deadly combination built for apocalypses. AJ Styles was the purveyor of innovative offence and exceptional performance, be it high-flying or technical; early on Styles was a star befitting of many galaxies. The glue was in this story’s champion and villain himself, The Fallen Angel, Christopher Daniels, cunning and desperate in his bid to retain his special treasure. 

It all started from the 2005 Super X Cup Tournament, where Styles made it to the finals. If he won here, he’d be eligible to challenge X Division Champion Christopher Daniels, who took that very title off of him earlier in the year. The only problem was that Samoa Joe was in the final as well. As if that didn’t bode well, Daniels interfered in the match, costing Styles the opportunity. 

As I was twelve years old at the time of watching, I was more used to the stars I grew up with in WWE and WCW, and the stars on the rise from the promotion of Titan Towers. It was mind-boggling to see wrestlers I knew in another promotion when only one big boy stood in town, but it opened my eyes to the talents I would know to grow and love later on. For now, I wanted to see if my favourites, Samoa Joe or AJ Styles, would win.

Fortunately, Styles would be granted another chance, courtesy of Larry Zybyszko, and the destination was set for the Unbreakable 2005 event, making the main event match a three-way. 

The excitement was in the air, for the X Division matches were always something to look forward to. It’s a title for those willing to put in the work and demand required. It harkened back to the likes of a junior heavyweight or cruiserweight, but anyone could fight for it, so long as a match was set and anyone was willing to work to obtain and defend it.

Samoa Joe enters first, in black and white shorts, with the signature look of his white towel draped across his shoulders. AJ Styles emerged, fiery and filled with angst and determination under a red hood. The look in his eyes says it all. Finally, Daniels broods out in his black hood to flashing lights, with the arrogance that leads one to think he believed himself to be sent by a higher power to be a champion. He’s so full of himself here.

The bell rings, and Daniels informs Joe and Styles that they’ll never beat them, and with that said, both of them gang up on him, serving him humble pie in the process. So much so that they take turns in competition kicking the back of the champion, who eventually has enough. They kick him anyway. It’s amazing how on-the-same-page you are with another person when someone else is being an asshole.

AJ and Joe enter a war of attrition until Daniels returns and flies around the ring. It’s his gold, and he must protect it. However, the force known as Samoa Joe says otherwise as Daniels finds himself in between the Submission Machine and the Phenomenal One in an unholy sandwich.

The dynamic here is very well stated; Joe is power and strength, throwing opponents to the outside, to the mat, and to each other, while AJ is quick on the air and on the ground to be too much at times even for Joe, while Daniels is sly and dirty in his tactics. Together, they impress the crowd beyond the six sides of the ring. Their murmurs became roars in an era where wrestling felt like more than what was seen on other channels.

The contained chaos reaches unrestricted chaos once it reaches the outside, as Styles topples the giant and grounds the angel to the backdrop of Gretchen Wilson’s 2005 album, All Jacked Up dressed on the apron.

In one memorable moment, Daniels has the wherewithal and awareness to transition Joe’s whip reversal into a catapult, sending AJ into Samoa Joe. Daniels flies too close to the sun, slapping a Samoa Joe who only grows angrier, steam flying out of his nostrils, who fighting Daniels into a Coquina Clutch, broken just in time for an aerial Styles. 

Joe eventually has the champion hung upside down on the ring post in a Tree of Woe, setting up to a dropkick that incites a thunder in the audience, before he himself flies across the ring to bring down Styles. Daniels strikes, leading to a Death Valley Driver, and all eyes are firmly on the three – the audience is eating this up. Whether it’s strikes, near falls, or outright dodging, the energy is palpable. I’m getting goosebumps at the sheer magnitude of the  performance on display. 

Each time it seems like AJ Style is out of the picture, he comes back, defiant as ever, sometimes to his own disadvantage as Joe slammed him and Daniels from the top rope. AJ still doesn’t give up. There’s the inherent urge to win what was almost taken from him as he nearly overwhelms Samoa Joe.

Sensing the end is near, Daniels snuck in his championship belt, which is countered by an amazing slam, the speed of which damn near gives me whiplash, and he taunts Daniels for this failed attempt, holding the belt in front of the Fallen Angel. Stupidly, he lingers here as Daniels enziguri-kicks the belt right into Joe’s face, delivering him to the outside once more.

Another war transpires between AJ and Christopher, with back and forth exchanges until Daniels gains higher ground, soaring with a Best Moonsault Ever, with a nearfall broken by a returning Samoa Joe who is greeted with a Jawbreaker and a Flatliner, and Joe is not heard of again.

AJ, however, has had enough time to recuperate, and Daniels is nearing exhaustion. With a slam from the top rope, he cannot get back up, but neither can Styles. It provides little solace, however, as Samoa Joe crawls in, ensnaring Daniels with a lock that weakens the already worn citizen of the City of Angels. 

Joe is fully in control, the same Samoa Joe we know from every other match he’s had in TNA, Ring of Honor, and Pro Wrestling NOAH. It, however, is countered with a Pelé Kick before a failed Styles Clash, interrupted by Joe, who just gives up and throws AJ out, focusing on the weary Daniels. 

The sly angel uses Joe’s momentum against him and ducks from the charging behemoth as he spills out to the floor outside.

In the middle of a saliva and sweat stained mat, Daniels employs his Angel’s Wings – and he would have had it won, had it not been for AJ’s reversal as he flips Daniels over and bridges for the one…two…three! AJ Styles is the new X Division Champion!

Gabriel mourns as he is now a Lucifer, while the jubilant, crimson Styles rested well, knowing that his hard work, determination, and heart led him to this massive victory against all odds. Joe can only rest on the outside, knowing he did not eat the loss directly – still unpinned, still unsubmitted, he was only too late. Yet, the loss weighs heavily upon him nonetheless. This was to be his moment.

This is an example of why I love triple threat matches. Another player with so much to fight for brings an element of drama, as everyone has to think of contingencies either in advance or on the fly that alliances must be made and everyone can turn into an enemy. Exhaust every option you can and throw caution out the window. Risk and your willingness to see it through are your friends here. All the while, everyone plays to their strengths and targets the character flaws.

I did not understand it at the time, nor a world post-ECW and WCW where WWE was reigning dominant, but matches like these the imagination of my preteen self, a moment forever stuck in my mind. This was the magic of professional wrestling.

Everyone executed their role perfectly – Joe played to his reputation as an unconquerable monster, as AJ’s quick timing and acrobatic glory kept him in the game. Daniels, however, knew to be in the right place at the right time and in looking great himself, he aided both men play to their strengths and see to a conclusion that was written in logic and reasoning, both in the match and in storyline.

Perhaps that is why this match stands out as unbreakable as the event itself, as three men battled in the ecstasy of gold.

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