AJ Styles defended his WWE Championship on Tuesday in the opening match of the second-to-last episode in 2016 of WWE SmackDown Live at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Styles got sweet revenge on James Ellsworth, making short work of him. But he must now defend his title against Dolph Ziggler and Baron Corbin on December 27 in a Triple Threat Title Match.
With a Triple Threat Match for the final 2016 episode of SmackDown Live next Tuesday, WWE is loading up the card even further for one last big bash ahead of January’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view. But Tuesday’s chance of a shot at the title could be the last chance for Ziggler. What’s next for the former two-times World Heavyweight Champion if, as widely expected, he fails to win the title?
First, a quick rundown on how AJ Styles ended up having to defend his WWE Championship in a Triple Threat Match next week.
After retaining his title by demolishing Ellsworth within seconds, AJ Styles continued assaulting the hapless challenger for several minutes, as if determined to end the opponents wrestling career once and for all. He slammed Ellsworth’s face into the ropes, then pulled him out of the ring to manhandle him on the floor before throwing him on the announce table and then into the steel steps.
Medics eventually arrived to remove Ellsworth from the ring area on a stretcher.
The orgy of savagery must have been cathartic for Styles who returned to the ring to savor his victory, saying that 2016 was over as far as he was concerned, and he was now looking forward to greater things in 2017. But top contender Dolph Ziggler came out to the ring area to remind him about their title match scheduled for next week on SmackDown. Ziggler mocked Styles, wondering why it took him so long to beat Ellsworth. But Styles boasted that defeating Ziggler would be a cake walk because he was only good at losing.
Baron Corbin then interrupted the back-and-forth between the champion and the challenger. Wondering aloud how many chances WWE would give a born-loser like Ziggler, Corbin declared that he, and not Ziggler, should get the title shot. He said that Ziggler was getting the title shot only because Corbin was not at SmackDown last week and that he would have won the No.1 contender match had he been in it.
Corbin then attacked Ziggler. Ziggler tried to fight back, but Corbin hit him and took him down. Ignoring fans’ call to hit Ziggler “one more time,” Corbin left the ring.
Very upset about being attacked and beaten, Ziggler complained to SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan, saying he would like to face Corbin later in the night. Bryan agreed, but he set a condition that if Ziggler loses, Corbin will get the title shot instead.
Ziggler got the chance for his revenge fight against Corbin later in the evening and Corbin a chance to snatch Ziggler’s spot as No. 1 contender. But the match ended in a double-count after Corbin catapulted Ziggler into Styles, who was at the ringside as a guest commentator.
Amid the chaos that ensued, The Phenomenal One got up and hit Ziggler and Corbin in turn with a steel chair. This prompted Bryan to announce that Styles would defend his WWE Title against Ziggler and Corbin next Tuesday in a Triple Threat Match.
Although many fans wondered why Ziggler chose to put his top contender status on the line after winning it dearly in a Fatal 4-Way Elimination Match on SmackDown Live a week earlier, very few believed that the former world heavyweight champion could make good use of the opportunity of a shot at Styles’ title.
Everyone expected that he would lose against The Phenomenal One just as he lost the title match in July against then-champion Dean Ambrose, after emerging as the winner of a Six-Pack Challenge.
His shot at Style’s title seems to be his last chance to salvage the recent disappointments that earned him the reputation of a loser. And while it does not seem that the Triple Threat Title Match changes the expectations that Ziggler would fail to win the title, infusing Corbin, unexpectedly, into the mix makes things more interesting.
But some, such as Bleacher Report’s Ryan Dilbert, have suggested the Ziggler should find a “new focus” to revitalize his flagging career, such as tweaking his ring persona to heel status.
[Featured Image by WWE]