AJ Styles is now less than a week away from main-eventing his first WWE pay-per-view, and if the first four months of his run with the company are any indication, it certainly won’t be his last. From a storyline perspective, Styles earned the right to face Roman Reigns for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship the night after WrestleMania by winning a fatal four-way match to determine the new number one contender. He earned it behind the scenes with WWE officials because of the reactions he’d been receiving and the merchandise he’s been selling.
His elevation into the main event this Sunday seemed harmless enough at the time, but the arrival of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson has certainly added plenty of intrigue to the feud. Arguably, the AJ Styles/Gallows and Anderson dynamic has been more interesting than anything leading up to WrestleMania with the exception of the Shane McMahon/Undertaker program. Add in the fact that Reigns continues to get booed in every city, despite management hoping for the contrary, and the possible outcomes for Sunday’s main event are endless.
Last week, Daily Wrestling News reported that there were internal discussions within WWE to turn AJ Styles heel. But those not in favor of such a move cite those aforementioned crowd pops and merchandise numbers as reasons not to pull that kind of trigger. Officials voting for the change are broadly looking at the current landscape and don’t see any top heels at the moment. Officially, the biggest heels in WWE are Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens, and they’re both competing in singles matches outside the championship picture.
Unofficially, the biggest heel in WWE is Roman Reigns because of all the heat he generates. But until a tangible move is made, Reigns is neither a good guy nor a bad guy. He’s simply the guy. Reigns is the guy who is skeptical about the relationship between AJ Styles and his former Bullet Club running mates. The Inquisitr reported last week that other WWE officials were wary of airing a backstage segment featuring Styles, Anderson, and Gallows, but they ultimately were convinced it would help the casual fan get an understanding of their past relationships.
For WWE’s creative team, the struggle they face is how the fans will react to a potential AJ heel turn when they clearly despise his opponent, Roman Reigns. Styles is clearly a top babyface, yet on the surface, Anderson and Gallows have been booked as heels or tweeners at the very least. But subtlety, the hints of collusion have heel commentator JBL calling out their tactics. JBL tends to side with the bad guys while chastising Michael Cole and Byron Saxton for supporting the crowd favorites.
In Rolling Stone’s latest RAW review, the author wonders whether AJ will turn heel or if Anderson and Gallows will ultimately cost him the title. That second option might also involve the much-anticipated debut of one Finn Balor, who we know already is in line for a crazy push. Whether that happens as a member/leader of the newly-formed Bullet Club or as a singles competitor on his own remains to be seen.
Right now, WWE fans are left to a game of connect-the-dots between Gallows and Anderson, Finn Balor, and AJ Styles. The latter two originally appeared to be wild cards amid WWE’s plans to run with Roman Reigns as champion into the summer. Now the tables may have been reversed, with Reigns as the x-factor in a potentially major storyline involving the other four. We should have some clarity at the conclusion of Payback, as WWE would be hard-pressed to continue booking both Reigns and Styles as babyfaces moving forward.
[Image via WWE]