Certain topics always come up when wrestling fans talk to each other. One of the common scenarios goes something like, “If you could pick 5 wrestlers to start a company with, who would they be?” And for the past decade, my number one pick has been AJ Styles.
First, to for the uninitiated. AJ Styles spent much if his career in TNA. And like Samoa Joe, or Bobby Roode, or a half dozen others, AJ was completely wasted on that company. AJ is the ultimate babyface, a wrestler that makes the crowd want to cheer him, much the same as Daniel Bryan did. AJ should have been the face of the company. Instead, he was regulated to their X-division and being a goofy sidekick. Since finally leaving TNA, AJ has proven his merits as a heel, showing off a new side to him in New Japan that I wasn’t sure existed. The AJ Styles coming to WWE is a well-traveled veteran who has mastered nearly every aspect of his craft.
The question becomes, what will the WWE do with him?
An important caveat: Everything that follows is assuming that WWE wants to make AJ a success. With WWE, it isn’t always a given that they would want that to happen. Vince McMahon is notorious for not wanting to push people who are not home-grown talents. Going forward though, we have to assume it will be different with the recent acquisitions, because otherwise, what’s the point?
I’m starting out a bit leary though, as I was hoping they would start running promos for him on Raw this past Monday. This was not the case. The story is, WWE was hoping to keep AJ a surprise, like how no one knew Del Rio was coming back. Well, the cat is out of the bag, so they might as well build up to his debut. The smartest thing to do would be to give a few generic video promos, and have him debut at the Royal Rumble. As much as I love AJ, I don’t believe he has the name recognition with casual fans to get a massive reaction as a surprise.
Which brings us to the Rumble itself. It’s a fairly safe assumption that AJ will debut during the Royal Rumble match. Does he have any chance to actually win it? I will be writing a Royal Rumble speculation post in the future, but for now, the answer is Yes. He doesn’t have a good chance, but it’s not impossible. If the WWE wants to make a big impact, AJ walks out of the Rumble as the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion. There are so many reasons this can’t happen. Vince doesn’t push guys he doesn’t make. The risk in putting a belt on someone who is unproven on the WWE stage, a smaller guy with questionable promo skills.
But there are so many reasons none of those excuses matter. The WWE needs to shake things up. With so many injured wrestlers, the WWE has to do something to get people to tune in. Roman Reigns isn’t working. They already did Lesnar. Cena is injured. Why not put the belt on someone out of nowhere? Build up the surprise angle, and let the viewer know that anything can happen on any given night. A predictable Rumble winner (anyone who has been WWE champ before) would be the worst thing WWE could do. Even Lesnar, easily the most exciting wrestler in WWE, would give a vibe of “been there, done that.”
Could AJ headline Wrestlemania as WWE champ? No, not a chance. But the WWE champion wouldn’t have to headline the show frankly. Mania will probably have Roman Reigns vs HHH, a Lesnar match, and an Undertaker match, and I’m sure the Rock and Austin will be around somewhere as well. None of those matches need the title to feel important or sell tickets. AJ defending the title could easily be a headliner on that car.
Who does AJ fight? Aj can have a great match with anyone, there’s no doubt about that. It will depend on if Bullet Club AJ shows up or not. AJ is one of the best babyfaces in wrestling, so my ideal match up is him vs Kevin Owens. I’d like to see him take on Sheamus as well, and the Wyatts. Really any heel. Since I think Owens might be busy at Wrestlemania, I think a AJ Styles vs. Bray Wyatt match could be a really great title match.
It’s crucial for AJ to avoid the win-trading that is so prevalent in WWE currently. If he comes out at the Rumble, makes the final four, and then has a program with, say, Dolph Ziggler, then all of Style’s potential falls away and he becomes just another guy. WWE is reportedly spending plenty of money on AJ, let’s hope they see the value in what they have.