‘On This Day’ is a commemorative article series. It is dedicated to specific events, matches, and occurrences in wrestling history. We revisit those key moments and look back at how they went down and what they meant to the wrestling industry. AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe vs. Christopher Daniels is that match Triple Threat from TNA Unbreakable 2005.
When the Monday Night Wars ended, the wrestling landscape became a difficult landscape. With WCW and ECW gone, there was no longer any force strong or rich enough to challenge WWE’s juggernaut.
But someone tried.
The Jarrett family created a new promotion that was meant to be the alternative to WWE. It was supposed to showcase everything that wrestling fans wanted from WWE but didn’t get.
That promotion became known as TNA. And one of their biggest selling features was a greater emphasis on high-flying athleticism. To achieve that goal, they created their ‘X Division’, which had the tagline, ‘it’s not about weight limits; it’s about no limits’. This meant that anyone of any size could clash in this division, creating some unique and interesting match-ups.
The match revisited today is widely considered the best match in TNA history and a perfect example of that ‘no-limits’ philosophy in action. It’s the three-way dance from the 2005 PPV Unbreakable between AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and Samoa Joe.
Triple Threat – TNA Unbreakable 2005
This match pitted three opponents against each other in a match for the X-Division Championship. First, there was AJ Styles. At the time, he was a rising star with incredible talent as a high-flyer that could also do pretty much anything else.
Then there was Christopher Daniels, the defending champion and at the time, longest-reigning X-Division champion. He was also a high-flyer but was also more well-rounded than Styles.
Lastly, there was Samoa Joe, the heavyweight monster of the match that could do crazy dives if necessary. And going into this match, he was undefeated/unpinned in TNA. So he had higher stakes than the other two wrestlers because he had something on the line without even being champion.
The action explodes
Daniels tried to talk some trash to both of his opponents, but they quickly turned that against him. They took turns punting Daniels in the back, almost in a comedic way. But Daniels certainly wasn’t laughing. But as soon as the slapstick ended, the short-lived allegiance fell apart as Styles and Joe went after each other.
From there the match evolved into one of the most exciting triple threat matches in wrestling history. All three men came up with clever and innovative ways to make the most out of the three-man stipulation. From Daniels landing a bulldog on Styles while kicking Joe to Daniela monkey-flipping Styles into a powerbomb countered into a huirricanrana, this match was off the charts. These three wrestlers created truly iconic wrestling sequences that’ve enabled this match to withstand the test of time.
Styles vs Daniels vs Samoa Joe
At times, one man was out of the ring leaving two to duke it out inside it. In one instance, Daniels tried to rely on his speed against Joe, but he exposed himself too much, allowing Joe to lock in his Coquina Clutch. But these moments were few and far between. Because anytime any wrestler got close to scoring a fall, another could come out of nowhere to break it up. So as the match progressed, there was this omnipresent sense of urgency and unpredictability that never went away.
And with that urgency came desperation. All three wrestlers had to take increasingly higher risks to try and win. Styles broke up a pin with a Spiral Tap dive, hurting himself in the process. Daniels tried to pin Joe after landing a Death Valley Driver, which must’ve been extremely difficult given Joe’s size. And Joe himself did something incredible: he landed a corkscrew plancha out of the ring despite weighing 280lbs. it was great that the wrestlers themselves were following the ‘no-limits’ mantra of the X-Division.
Triple Threat – TNA Unbreakable 2005
But that wasn’t the only type of desperation. Sensing that he couldn’t out wrestle Styles or out-power Joe, Daniels resorted to underhandedness. He grabbed the title they were all fighting for and sought to use it as a weapon to score a cheap victory via disqualification. Joe stopped him at first, but then Daniels used the referee’s distraction as another opportunity. As Joe held the very weapon Daniels sought to use, Daniels kicked it against Joe’s head behind the referee’s back. This eliminated Joe as a threat, allowing Daniels to work on a weakened Styles, who had taken a brutal Muscle Buster right before this sequence began.
But in the end, Daniels’ efforts to retain the title would fail him. Though he managed to escape Samoa Joe the human wrecking ball, he couldn’t beat Styles. As Daniels prepared to land his Angels Wings finisher, Styles countered into a bridging pin while hooking Daniels’s arms. Unable to move, Daniels fought with all his might to escape before the referee’s three-count. But he couldn’t. and with that, AJ Styles became X-Division champion.
Many people call this the greatest triple threat/three-way match in wrestling and it’s hard to argue against that. Point blank, these three men put on a fantastic match that put athleticism above all else. It was all about the wrestling: the big moves, the counters, the dives, the drama, the twists and turns, and the unpredictability. There was no need for overt and unnecessary theatrics or vaudevillian gimmickry. It was as ‘pure’ a wrestling match as one could find in mid-2000s North America.
And the best part was that the finish made sense from a storyline perspective. Styles won the match so history would show that he beat Daniels clean. But Daniels had an out since he could claim that, in a one-on-one fight, he could out-wrestle Styles. And Joe, the unstoppable monster, wasn’t harmed by this loss since he wasn’t part of the deciding fall. simply put, everyone benefitted from this match, both from its execution and from its finish. Very few matches are put together in that way, making this a must-watch/must-revisit match.
You can watch the full match here.