Look at WWE’s official poster for Royal Rumble 2017, and see if you can find AJ Styles in it. A closer look would reveal that he’s in the back row, mostly joined by mid-carders, tag team wrestlers, and Cruiserweights. And while WWE did its best to fit as many top Superstars as possible into the poster, a lot of fans have expressed disappointment at how “The Phenomenal One” is pictured in the back, despite his WWE World Championship match against John Cena being one of the top-billed matches of the event.
As the first of WWE’s “Big Four” pay-per-view events of the year, Royal Rumble marks the first big step in the so-called “Road to WrestleMania,” as the winner of the event’s 30-man Royal Rumble match almost always gets a shot at the WWE World Championship as their reward for victory. And with all that hype and hoopla connected to the event and its main event over-the-top-rope battle royal, it often serves as a chance for high-profile part-time performers to make one of their few appearances for the year.
Proving the above point were Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, who were announced late last year as the first two entrants in the Royal Rumble match. On this week’s episode of Monday Night RAW, The Undertaker appeared on the show to announce that he too will be in the Royal Rumble match. And prior to that, it was made official – John Cena will be challenging AJ Styles for the WWE World Championship at Royal Rumble 2017, which will take place at the Alamodome in San Antonio on January 29.
The first three men mentioned above all wrestle limited schedules, mainly owing to their advanced age. And while Cena hasn’t reached the point where he appears as infrequently as Lesnar or The Undertaker, he wrestled much less on WWE television and pay-per-views in 2016. And it’s also those four men who make up the front row of WWE’s Royal Rumble 2017 poster, which features a large group of wrestlers posing with an illustration of the Alamo Mission in the background.
The second row of wrestlers features RAW Women’s Champion Charlotte, WWE Universal challenger Roman Reigns, WWE Universal Champion Kevin Owens, and Intercontinental Champion Dean Ambrose, while the third row has Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt, and Big E and Kofi Kingston of The New Day almost blending in with the back row. And it’s in that back row where one can find AJ Styles, right in between Sasha Banks and Cruiserweight Champion Rich Swann.
"Is that Undertaker up in front? I can't see." - AJ Styles pic.twitter.com/xPs2tEPqQn— Ryan Satin (@ryansatin) January 10, 2017
Everyone is complaining about AJ Styles in the back of the poster of Royal Rumble maybe he'll lose the title— Lazaro (@TrueLaz) January 11, 2017
R-Truth and AJ Styles have the same placement on the Royal Rumble poster, you guys. https://t.co/FPmu5h3FEF— David J. McCutcheon (@ZoopSoul) January 10, 2017
WrestlingNews.co posited that WWE may have gone this route with the Royal Rumble 2017 poster to prioritize “marquee” names. But the publication also wrote that a lot of fans didn’t like the fact that AJ Styles was positioned second-to-right in the back row – a disservice, they say, to someone who’s among WWE’s best workers, not to mention the current WWE World Champion. One fan even went as far as suggesting that the poster may be a spoiler for the event – with AJ in the back and John Cena in front with three “part-timers,” the fan suggested that it may be a sign Styles will lose his WWE World title to Cena at Royal Rumble.
Comicbook.com likewise suggested that it wasn’t just AJ Styles “getting the shaft,” but rather the SmackDown Live brand in general.
“Aside from being one of the premiere superstars in the company at the moment, (Styles) is currently Smackdown Live‘s champion and is slated for a match against John Cena. Cena is right up front alongside Undertaker, so why is Styles way in the back? Actually, it seems that SmackDown Live got the shaft overall, as everyone up in the front two rows aside from Cena is either a product of Monday Night RAW or part time.”
Why is it that WWE, to quote AJ Styles’ theme song, “don’t want none” of the Phenomenal One on the Royal Rumble 2017 poster? There’s a chance it may have been a big oversight to inadvertently place him in a very mid-card-heavy row of wrestlers, but in any case, the WWE Universe is talking, and the fans feel Styles deserves much better.
[Featured Image by WWE]