Luke Harper is one day away from, perhaps, the biggest singles match of his WWE career to date. After chaos reigned during the conclusion to last week’s Battle Royal on SmackDown, Daniel Bryan announced that Harper would face AJ Styles this week in a one-on-one match to determine a new number one contender for Bray Wyatt and the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.
Luke Harper, AJ Styles and eight other superstars, of course, were battling for that very distinction last week, but inconclusive evidence forced the SmackDown general manager to come up with a new plan. That resulted in the booking of the Harper-Styles match set to main event this week’s show. And while the delay in announcing the blue brand’s marquee match for WrestleMania might appear all part of the plan, there is still plenty of debate and confusion backstage.
Two weeks ago, the Inquisitr reported that several WWE officials were pushing for the idea to include Luke Harper in the WWE Championship match at WrestleMania. Even though on television they were teasing the idea of Randy Orton forgoing his own opportunity, the plan would have been for Harper, Orton, and Wyatt to compete in a triple threat match on the grand stage in Orlando.
As things transpired last Tuesday, it became clear that the pitch was still on the table. However, in the aftermath of the Battle Royal, the Inquisitr then reported that the chaotic finish (which saw both AJ Styles and Luke Harper fall to the floor simultaneously) was booked because WWE’s powers-that-be were still uncertain about the ultimate direction they wanted to take the WWE Championship into WrestleMania.
Now, according to a new report, a backstage camp is against the idea of Luke Harper being inserted into the match on April 2 and they are trying to convince Vince McMahon to write him out of this storyline some way. So there is obviously conflict among different WWE officials and members of the creative team, and a decision will have to be made quickly with just five SmackDown tapings left before WrestleMania, including this Tuesday night.
The company has booked themselves into a corner in back-to-back weeks. While Randy Orton is still part of the equation, it just remains to be seen when he’ll reinsert himself back into the picture. Aside from the uncertainty surrounding who might be in the match, officials are also debating whether to turn Orton or Bray Wyatt babyface before the match is set. Luke Harper is transitioning into a face himself, and that transition (along with his stock) would plummet if he’s removed from title contention.
At this point, the only other open spot on the WrestleMania card for Luke Harper to fill is in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. So it’s certainly interesting to consider the gap between the two roles he might occupy on April 2.
The other wild card in all of this is AJ Styles. It’s been rumored for some time that Styles will face Shane McMahon at WrestleMania, and fans haven’t heard any definitive changes to those plans yet. There have been some reports suggesting that AJ is still being considered for the WWE Championship match with Wyatt and Orton, but Luke Harper clearly makes more sense from a storyline perspective.
Those in favor backstage of putting Harper in the main feud are of the belief that he will be a much more believable challenger by defeating AJ Styles in their singles match. Styles, of course, has been a top star on SmackDown, and Luke Harper would benefit tremendously by going over him. Unless news leaks in the interim, fans will have to wait until Tuesday night to find out whether an ultimate decision has been made, but you get a sense of the debate during the peak of WrestleMania season.
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