A.J. Styles says that SmackDown Live is the house that he built. He’s not wrong, and now he should be given an opportunity to be the show’s top champion for an extended period of time.
Up until Tuesday night, every single one of WWE’s champions were heels. Brock Lesnar is more of a tweener, but he’s in no way, shape or form a white meat babyface. Natalya, Baron Corbin and The Usos are all heels on the blue brand. Alexa Bliss, The Miz, Enzo Amore and The Bar are all heels for the red brand. Tack on Pete Dunne and the U.K. Championship — and who knows what is actually going on with that belt — and the “bad guys” have been reaping a majority of the spoils lately.
Before this week, you would have had to go all the way down to Full Sail University to watch Drew McIntyre compete in NXT if you wanted to see a face champion.
That has changed now that Styles has dethroned Jinder Mahal, who was in the midst of one of the longer championship runs in recent memory. A bit of diversity is important when it comes to good storytelling, and creative did a stellar job of taking us along for the ride as Styles overcame the adversity Mahal and the Singh Brothers presented.
The Phenomenal One must now prepare for a dream match against Lesnar before figuring out what’s next on SmackDown Live. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Mahal interfere during the Survivor Series contest, which would extend his feud with Styles for at least a few more weeks.
Regardless of what the exact plans are after Survivor Series, Styles should be allowed to hang onto the belt for the foreseeable future. He’s arguably the best performer in the company, and routinely is involved in outstanding matches with the rest of the top talent in the WWE. Styles is about as over as a face can be these days, and gets strong reactions regardless of where he’s working.
More importantly, a lengthy title run could carry Styles all the way to WrestleMania 34 on April 8. That may feel like a long time from now, but a run to the first week in April would still be several weeks short of the run Mahal was just given. It was fun to see someone new given the opportunity to roll with the title, but Styles is an incredibly deserving champion.
This will be his third WrestleMania — though it seems like just yesterday he debuted at the Royal Rumble — and he’s worked with Chris Jericho and Shane McMahon. Both of those matches were fine (and the latter was given virtually no build) but neither really gave Styles the opportunity to have that all-important WrestleMania moment.
Giving him a long title run leading up to the show would give the veteran a real chance to shine at the top of the card, and he’s only going to have so many more opportunities to do so moving forward. He’ll turn 41 in June, and while he’s clearly still in great shape, the stars may not align for him again.
The WWE would never admit it, but they’re going to have to do something big to compete with Kenny Omega vs Jericho, which is slated to take place on Jan. 4. They’re also going to have plenty of competition in New Orleans that weekend, as is typically the case when ‘Mania takes over a town.
Styles gives them the best bet to have a five-star match steel the show, and he’s done more than enough in the company to have earned that opportunity. Fair or not, many fans feel that Mahal’s rushed run delegitimized the SmackDown Live championship. There’s no one better to build it back up than the Phenomenal A.J. Styles.