Who Should AJ Styles Face At WrestleMania 33?
The WWE Championship will not be in AJ Styles’ WrestleMania plans. Despite holding the title longer than anybody else in the past year and being the best wrestler in the world in the eyes of many wrestling fans, online experts & people in the business, AJ’s loss to Randy Orton on Tuesday night sets the match between Orton & current champion Bray Wyatt in stone.
So what will AJ Styles do now? If his actions on Talking Smack are any indication, he’s taking his discontent with SmackDown’s management team of Shane McMahon & Daniel Bryan to another level. The Styles vs. Shane match has been speculated about online for quite some time now and it’s safe to say we’ll see it officially added to the card sooner rather than later. Fans, for the most part, seem to have accepted it as inevitable. Do we want to see it? Not really. We realize that the WWE Universe cares about Shane and his match will garner a lot of attention in the WrestleMania build, but we’d like to see Styles given something better to work with from an in-ring perspective.
Surely there’s a better opponent on the SmackDown roster, or in the company in general, for AJ Styles at a WrestleMania. WrestleMania isn’t really about great matches these days, but I’d like to think that having one would be a swell idea. This column will be an attempt to come up with other ideas for AJ Styles at WrestleMania.
I mean, we’re talking about one of the best wrestlers in the world here. It can’t be too hard to come up with something. I’m leaving out guys that are officially booked and guys like John Cena & Dean Ambrose who don’t have anything official yet but have a direction pretty well set in stone. Yes, Cena vs. Styles would automatically be the best option, but we can safely assume Cena/Nikki vs. Miz/Maryse will be booked pretty soon.
Harper was getting a bit of a push recently as a thorn in Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton’s side, but he wasn’t mentioned during this week’s SmackDown Live and his loss to Styles the previous week eliminated him from championship consideration. He may be heading to the aforementioned battle royal…unless he suddenly remembers that Styles cost him his shot at revenge on Bray Wyatt and decides to take out his frustrations on the Phenomenal One. Harper’s had very strong in-ring performances lately, and a match with Styles on the grandest stage of them all would give him the chance of a lifetime to insert himself into SmackDown’s upper echelon on a permanent basis.
The Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal
If WWE wants the Andre Battle Royal to mean more than it currently does, at some point they need to have some of the upper echelon guys that aren’t Kane & Big Show in it. It’s nice that guys like Mojo Rawley & Apollo Crews get to have something to do, but they really need to add some more substantial people to make this any more than filler. AJ already scored a tie in a battle royal this year, so there’s a pretty good chance he could go all the way in this one.
Man, would smart wrestling fans love to see this one. Styles & Nakamura had an absolute classic at Wrestle Kingdom 10 back in 2016, just before they both left New Japan for WWE. Fans would love to see a rematch, and I have to believe that we will at some point. Maybe not as soon as WrestleMania 33, but it wouldn’t be the hardest thing to do to have Nakamura show up defending Shane from Styles and have that lead into a match.
Tag Team Match against American Alpha
What kind of smark wouldn’t get overly excited over the idea of AJ being in the same ring with Chad Gable & Jason Jordan? American Alpha’s been solid in the ring since being called up, but haven’t quite won the hearts of the entire WWE Universe yet. I maintain this is because of the low quality of SmackDown’s tag team division & the fact Gable & Jordan are constantly working with people that most of the fans don’t really care about. Some might see this as a serious downgrade for Styles, but I see it boosting the prestige of SmackDown’s Tag Team Championship by having quality workers vie for it.
The one issue, of course, is the fact that AJ doesn’t have an obvious choice for a tag team partner. His best friends in WWE are Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson, and they’re occupied these days with defending the Raw Tag Team Championship. Let’s see if we can come up with some suggestions…
Dolph Ziggler: Ziggler’s been treading water since his heel turn, much like he was treading water during his run as a babyface. He has history with Styles as a rival, but I don’t think their personal issues were anything that couldn’t be rectified.
Jack Swagger: He’s not doing anything else. In a world where Swagger had been utilized properly for most of his career, I think he’d be a great choice for Styles as a tag team partner. He’s a big ol’ country boy that loves God & America, just like AJ! He’s also a good hand inside the ring, he’d more than hold up his end of the match.
Somebody from NXT: There are a number of people currently competing on the NXT roster that have history with Styles and would be able to form a cohesive unit with him. Bobby Roode is a tag team specialist, previously holding the TNA tag team titles with Eric Young & James Storm. He hasn’t teamed with Styles on a regular basis before, but they were both part of the Fortune group for quite some time and are very familiar with each other. Eric Young & Kassius Ohno are also familar with AJ, but I think Roode would be the best choice out of that group. To the best of my knowledge there are no rules in the books prohibiting one from holding the NXT Championship and another WWE-sanctioned title at the same time.
It looks like all the other champions on SmackDown have other plans at the moment, so this would be Styles’ best chance to get some gold. Or silver, I suppose.
OK, go with the Shane thing. But make it a little more interesting.
It was kind of hypocritical of Daniel Bryan to stand out there and talk about how the Royal Rumble Winner has always gone on to the Main Event of WrestleMania & challenged for the championship. Surely Bryan hasn’t forgotten WrestleMania XXX, when he added himself to the WWE Championship match that Batista earned by winning the Royal Rumble.
If I’m AJ Styles, I use Bryan’s past to my advantage. Since Bryan’s set a precedent for people to interject themselves into WrestleMania title matches by beating an authority figure earlier in the evening, why not challenge Shane to a match where if AJ wins, he can add himself to the Wyatt vs. Orton match and get another WWE Championship opportunity? That would at least add a bit more meaning to this match. Shane’s matches usually have some greater consequences like the future of the company or brand supremacy on the line, so it’d fit in with his usual thing.
The only downside of all this…Shane would probably win to keep Orton vs. Wyatt one on one. And I think we can all agree that the only thing worse than the idea AJ Styles wrestling Shane McMahon at WrestleMania is the idea of Shane McMahon beating AJ Styles at WrestleMania.
Which one would you prefer? Do you have a better idea? Should we all stop complaining and accept the fact that Shane McMahon isn’t terrible and the crowd will really be into the match? Let us know via comment section, e-mail or social media!
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!