Pro Wrestling Illustrated, a magazine dedicated to professional wrestling, does an annual ranking of their top 500 wrestlers. They keep track of wrestlers all over the world. Wrestlers from New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and various independent promotions are rated alongside those who compete in the WWE. The magazine has just unveiled the cover of their April 2017 edition, and it reveals just who is Wrestler of the Year. It just so happens to be none other than AJ Styles.
Styles has had a phenomenal year since debuting back in January 2016. He made his official debut in the Royal Rumble, entering at No. 3 in the eponymous match. He lasted for almost half an hour in the match before being eliminated by Kevin Owens. He would later team with Chris Jericho in a tag team called Y2AJ, but failed to capture the Tag Team Championships from then champions The New Day. Jericho turned on Styles and set up a match at Wrestlemania 32, which Styles lost.
The next night on Raw, a fatal four way match was held to crown the No. 1 contender to Roman Reigns’ WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Styles won the bout by pinning Jericho, but would lose to Reigns at Payback. During this time, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, his stablemates from Japan, also debuted for the WWE and formed a stable called The Club, although Styles was initially hesitant to join. Gallows and Anderson interfered in his match at Payback on his behalf, but Styles still lost. Styles got a rematch against Reigns the next month at Extreme Rules but lost again to Reigns despite interference from The Club.
The night after Extreme Rules, Styles turned heel by aligning himself with Gallows and Anderson and attacking a returning John Cena. Styles and Cena faced off at Money in the Bank in a match that was billed as 15 years in the making, as Styles and Cena had never crossed paths before. Styles won due to interference from Gallows and Anderson, and lost to Cena at Battleground in a six-man tag match that saw the Club face Cena and his allies, Enzo and Cass. Prior to Battleground, both Cena and Styles were drafted to Smackdown.
Styles and Cena would face off again at Summerslam, where Styles beat Cena clean, without any interference. After beating Cena, Styles demanded a title match against WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose at Backlash, which was the first brand-exclusive pay-per-view since 2007. Styles was able to beat Ambrose after a low blow and became champion just eight months after joining WWE. He retained against Ambrose in a rematch on Smackdown after interference from John Cena. He also retained in a triple threat match at No Mercy against Ambrose and Cena.
Styles would feud with Ambrose for the rest of the year. The feud culminated in December at Tables, Ladders, and Chairs in the titular match. Styles was able to retain after interference from James Ellsworth, who had beaten Styles prior thanks to help from Ambrose, and felt he could beat AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. Styles beat Ellsworth and retained his title.
In January, Styles lost to Cena at the Royal Rumble, ending his reign at 140 days. Cena became a 16-time World Champion, but lost it just two weeks later to Bray Wyatt at Elimination Chamber. Styles is currently the No. 1 contender to Wyatt’s championship, but Royal Rumble winner Randy Orton turned on Wyatt and claimed his title match, which will lead to a match on Smackdown to determine the No. 1 contender.
Styles has already achieved so much in just his first year on the roster, and he is one of the most over acts on Smackdown. With such an excellent showing from him, it is no wonder he was crowned “Wrestler of the Year” in a landslide decision.
[Featured Image by WWE]