John Cena & AJ Styles Should Meet At WrestleMania
Bray Wyatt is the new WWE Champion. A deserving one, no doubt. Randy Orton is the Royal Rumble Winner. He says he will not fight Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania. He says he’s Bray Wyatt’s servant. I tend not to believe most of what Randy Orton says, as he’s proven to be a devious individual throughout his time in WWE. I fully expect Orton to go back on his word and challenge his so-called master at WrestleMania. Daniel Bryan can book battle royals to find a new contender all he wants, but I just have this feeling in the back of my mind that Wyatt vs. Orton is where we’re heading. I might be wrong, but I doubt it.
One of the interesting things about this development is that the top two stars on the SmackDown Live brand have been defeated & removed at least temporarily from WWE Championship status. John Cena is WWE’s top superstar. He’s the company’s most decorated & talked about wrestler. He is the guy. However, he will not be challenging for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania. AJ Styles has arguably been WWE’s most valuable performer since he arrived. He & Cena have continually provided the best matches on any show they are booked against each other on. He’s done pretty well with everybody else too. But he will not be challenging for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.
The grandest spectacle of the year should theoretically have the biggest & best stars fighting for the top championship, but that isn’t in the cards for this year. I’m ok with that. Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton have earned their spots in that match. John Cena & AJ Styles will have to find another way to keep themselves occupied on that evening. The problem arises when you start reading the tea leaves and seeing what might be in store for Cena & Styles at WrestleMania.
For Cena, the most prevalent rumor involves him teaming with his girlfriend Nikki Bella to take on The Miz & Maryse. Elimination Chamber saw the first hint in that direction, as Maryse wound up covered in powder during a backstage altercation between Nikki & Natalya. There’s no shortage of hostilities between the four…Cena & Miz faced each other in the main event of WrestleMania XXVII, while Nikki & Maryse’s bad blood goes back to when, as Maryse described it on Total Divas, Nikki & her sister Brie went back on an agreement with Maryse to negotiate a return to the company along with the potential of a reality show together & made the deal with WWE without her. The potential is there for an interesting story featuring some serious personal issues & bad blood.
The downside is that the best big-match performer in the company would be in a mid-card intergender match at WrestleMania. Miz, for his part, seems to be diminishing in importance & esteem if his Elimination Chamber performance as a fraidy cat is any indication. It’s tough to buy him as a credible threat to Cena even when he’s pushed at his best. Miz actually won that WrestleMania main event match, but nobody remembers it that way. As for Maryse, she hasn’t wrestled in seven years. It’s tough to say how much we could expect from her in any type of a match.
Then, there’s the added bonus of even more speculation about postmatch activities. There’s been talk that they might have Cena propose to Nikki after the match, to try and rope in the Total Divas/Total Bellas audience. This seems like an absolutely horrendous idea and would probably get booed out of the stadium, so for John & Nikki’s sake I hope they don’t do it. It’s one thing to get booed during your ring entrance, but to get booed during your marriage proposal would be really rough.
I can see why this whole idea would get approved, but I really hope it doesn’t.
So what the heck does AJ Styles have going on? It hasn’t been properly teased on television yet, but the rumor mill is pumping out plenty of information to make us believe that the Phenomenal One will take on Shane McMahon. In one regard, this has to be considered a pretty strong vote of confidence from the WWE brass towards AJ. Say what you will about Shane & his wrestling ability, but they tend not to use him for things they don’t consider important. He wrestled the Undertaker at last year’s WrestleMania and was part of Team SmackDown at Survivor Series, two very high-profile matchups. Shane is popular with the audience and his feuds draw a lot of attention, so going back & forth with him definitely wouldn’t be a step back for AJ’s momentum as a WWE Superstar.
The downside is that the guy that many people considered the best wrestler of 2015 & 2016 will be working with a non-wrestler at the biggest event of 2017. Hey, Shane is willing to take great risks and do really stupid things to pop the crowd. I give him all the respect in the world for that. But it’s tough to see his style of wrestling really meshing well with AJ’s, or lending itself to the number of stars that AJ’s matches are used to getting from critics. Like Cena’s proposed angle, I understand the reasoning for Styles vs. Shane, but I’m not sold on it being the best-case scenario for the Phenomenal One.
So what would I do?
I’d have John Cena wrestle AJ Styles.
Yes, I realize they’ve wrestled each other Money in the Bank, SummerSlam & Royal Rumble. They’ve met in other multi-man matches such as the Elimination Chamber match and the three-way with Bray Wyatt on Tuesday night. The temptation might be strong in some corners to move on from Cena vs. Styles and get them involved in other things to get more people on the WrestleMania card. From WWE’s perspective, the plans I’ve laid out serve more of a purpose for them.
Speaking as a wrestling fan, as somebody that’s followed John Cena’s career since his stint in Ohio Valley Wrestling, as somebody that’s followed AJ Styles’s career since the first NWA: Total Nonstop Action PPV event, I love the idea of this classic feud between two of the greatest wrestlers of their generation culminating at WrestleMania in one more epic match.
Sometimes it seems like WWE talks themselves out of having their biggest feuds that stand the test of time being given a WrestleMania Moment. Hulk Hogan & Ric Flair’s feud petered out before WrestleMania VIII, there was no reason they couldn’t have had Flair do other things in late 1991 until WrestleMania season when it would have been time to decide who the real Man was. Mankind was Undertaker’s greatest opponent & they faced each other at a bunch of major shows but they never had a match at WrestleMania. Heck, Triple H’s probably still kicking himself over never getting to have a one on one match with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania. They seemingly wrestled one on one at every PPV except that one.
Mistakes of the past don’t always have to be repeated. Let John Cena & AJ Styles have a WrestleMania Moment with each other. Have it be their Final Showdown. The winners will be the fans, and both men for getting to have their greatest match on the biggest stage of all.
The losers would be Brock Lesnar & Goldberg having to follow it.
For more of Steve Cook’s thoughts on pro wrestling, along with his thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati Reds, Nashville Predators, Tottenham Hotspur & University of Louisville sports teams, follow him on Twitter!