While WWE’s output on its main roster shows have ranged from stagnant to embarrassingly hokey as of late, despite NXT remaining steadily watchable and full of promise, the landscape does have potential to become interesting, if not downright exciting. In case you somehow missed all the commotion, hot on the heels of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s annual major Wrestle Kingdom show, reports were flying that AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Bullet Club pillars Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows had given notice to the company with WWE contracts waiting to be signed. Other details came into focus a bit further along the way, yet all the particulars of who will be there, when, and in one capacity are yet to be determined.
Most germane to this weekend’s big Royal Rumble event, which always has a direct impact on the WWE’s focal point Wrestlemania, is the fact that AJ Styles has signed and is available to work, even teasing his appearance at an indie show. I’ve heard authorities – not Kane and J and J Security, but people highly regarded as being knowledgeable on all things pro wrestling – have read into Styles’ declaration in opposing ways. First, it seemed to be too obvious a statement to make thus eliminating his chances of being a surprise entrant into the 30-competitor match known for having at least a handful of surprise participants. Later on, I’ve seen opinions shift more to the ‘eh…maybe’ sort, perhaps feeling the fact that WWE is really hurting for intriguing developments.
With possibilities swirling about my head and being stoked over some recent AJ Styles activity (that match with Shinsuke Nakamura from Wrestle Kingdom is st, I formed a bit of a scenario involving AJ Styles that I wouldn’t go so far as calling a prediction, since WWE’s logic is vastly different than its fans, but something I do think would be very interesting and not completely out of the realm of conceivable. Even if it doesn’t happen, I would make a strong case that this could make for a very compelling Wrestlemania build and general direction for the company (though I am sure some would call my thinking delusional). Imagine if you will…
The Rumble is in full effect, and Lesnar is out of the match…Screwed over by someone who will likely be his Wrestlemania opponent in the absence of a higher profile outsider’s return. If it were up to me, this would be Kevin Owens who is ready for the big things. I know many feel this could end up being Bray Wyatt after the way the close of the most recent RAW unfolded, and it is possible but looking at Smackdown a few days later, I think the Wyatts are just meant to look like a major threat to all in the battle royale. Owens could lose his IC title match to Dean Ambrose and still come out of the night looking strong by taking out a lot of heads in the Rumble match and causing Lesnar to be eliminated in underhanded fashion…..So we get to a later point with number 1 entrant Roman Reigns hanging in but struggling, and suddenly AJ Styles is called and makes his way to the ring. He would get a huge reaction from a city that knows him quite well. He could go on to play to that babyface reaction, taking people out left and right, and forming an implied alliance with Roman Reigns. This could take them through battle with the League of Nations or The Wyatts…Probably both. And at some point during this skirmish, as the two heroes seem to be getting the upper-hand, AJ Styles would grab Reigns from behind and unceremoniously eliminate him, thus becoming the new Heavyweight Champion, and half of the main event at Wrestlemania. The victory would probably get a mixed reaction with many ‘smart’ fans being happy for Reigns to lose and especially happy to see Styles go over, but I think this would be met with a nice balance of boo’s from more mainstream fans unfamiliar with Styles that have been getting behind Reigns. The turn would be solidified with Hunter and Steph coming out to congratulate AJ Styles and reveal him as the new ‘face of the company,’ part of the plan all along.
OK, I’m already hearing the hollering about the problems with this idea. I’ll address those.
What is so dastardly about eliminating Reigns that it would get AJ over as a heel? It is an every man for himself match.
True but it could be done in such a way that Reigns did not see it coming. It would be easy for them to establish an understanding that once they eliminated the heels they would face off fair and square, making AJ appear cowardly by taking advantage of a turned back. There could even be one or two heels in the ring with him when Reigns is eliminated, who clear out after it is done, making them stooges to the Authority machine.
Authority? Aren’t you sick of the Authority?
Yes, but it is a convenient storytelling device that does not have to be thrown out completely if it serves to set up exciting things down the road. Styles being new could use their backing to put him over if he is going to be put into such a prominent spot right away like I am proposing. This is an alternative, mind you, to one of the more talked about Wrestlemania possibilities, Reigns VS Triple H, which would be that much more of an Authority retread and one with a far less credible premise for athletic competition to buy.
We are talking about WRESTLEMANIA. You do realize how many tickets this is supposed to sell? How could you possibly propose half the main event be a brand new guy in the company?
This is the hardest point to argue, based on what I know about the conventional wisdom of Wrestlemania being the WWE’s biggest event, attracting casual fans and having the pressure to sell out bigger and bigger stadiums. I could point to the fact that we once had a main event of John Cena VS The Miz. But I realize pro wrestling has been taking a beating and can’t take a built-in audience for granted.
Does this mean that only the most familiar talent can sell Wrestlemania? Not in my book. To me, the only sure thing that WWE needs is a big heap of CHANGE. A brand new star with the presentation that suggests being taken seriously could bring just that if he had the talent to back it up. AJ Styles could be just the wrestler to do it. With so many guys on the roster getting stop-start momentum, someone brand new made to look like a superstar could draw lots of positive attention otherwise alluding WWE right now.
Then, there are some other things I like about this story…
First is Styles’ incredible talent. After injuring his back, he still put on an incredible exhibition against Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 10. Throughout his stint in NJPW this year, he has put on incredible matches with Okada, Tanahashi, and Ibushi to name a few. There is little doubt he could bring Reigns or most any other WWE wrestler to a stellar main event match.
While Styles could be positioned to come in as a baby face, he has worked a heel persona in New Japan beautifully and could surely do so again in WWE.
If Styles were to be brought in as The Authority’s new face of the company this would be a clear message to Seth Rollins: You’re Out. This would in turn set up a baby face Rollins to return to a hero’s welcome after his injury with a legitimate gripe against The Authority. It would also establish a program between Styles and Rollins, which would be out of this world. Taking this a bit further, it could come to pass that Gallows and Anderson are brought in as a team, also under the Authority’s sphere of influence to back up Styles, which in turn could lead to a reunited Shield with Reigns, Rollins, and Ambrose realigning in their most successful from as The Shield to battle who regardless off their WWE name, we would knows as the individuals in the Bullet Club.
While there are plenty of other more likely situations, I am holding out hope we see Styles in the Rumble and something along these lines taking shape.