AJ Styles may have lost the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble, but Vince McMahon has made sure to keep him in the spotlight and main event picture in the aftermath. Styles first won the title at Backlash, SmackDown’s first brand-exclusive pay-per-view of the new era, on September 11 last year. It came a little more than seven months after his memorable WWE debut and further cemented one of the greatest first-year runs in company history.
Styles, of course, was a surprise entrant in the 2016 Royal Rumble match and parlayed that momentum into significant feuds with Chris Jericho and Roman Reigns. Despite his unsuccessful challenges for Reigns’ WWE World Heavyweight Championship, AJ remained white-hot, and Vince recognized this by inserting him into a program with John Cena leading up to and beyond the reincarnation of the brand split.
Vince penciled-in Styles as the fourth overall pick in the brand extension draft, behind only Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose (the champion at the time) and Charlotte. And the Styles-Cena rivalry was arguably the most compelling feud on television in 2016, and one that carried over to the new year, providing an early match of the year candidate at the Royal Rumble.
At the time of the rivalry between AJ Styles and Roman Reigns, which featured two high-caliber main events at Payback and Extreme Rules, reports surfaced that Vince had become infatuated with Styles. He was going as far as to say that he wished he had signed The Phenomenal One 10 years earlier. Vince realized he had a wrestling star that he could plug anywhere on the card, in any role, and it would work.
As noted, Reigns went over in their feud from last May, but you have to wonder if Styles wouldn’t have become champion earlier if Roman violated the WWE Wellness Policy a month before he did. Reigns ended up in Vince’s doghouse for a brief stretch and wound up being selected two spots after AJ in the draft.
Fast forward to the present, where recent reports have suggested that Vince and other WWE officials are planning on another draft sometime after WrestleMania; likely in June. One of those reports, from the Inquisitr, indicated that Reigns might be one of the more high-profile names on the move, bound for SmackDown in what could be a sign of a demotion or at least an indicator that he’s no longer the guy Vince was grooming for his top spot.
And perhaps in response to that rumored transaction, IWNerd is reporting that Vince wants AJ Styles moved to RAW at the proposed upcoming draft as well. Styles remains high on Vince’s radar, and even though there has been a major push to elevate SmackDown, Vince still views RAW as the top priority and the much more important show. Switching brands would also likely turn AJ back to the babyface he was for the first four months of his WWE career.
Vince has enjoyed Styles’ work so much that he originally wanted AJ to defend his WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble against the Undertaker. He still likely would have dropped the belt, but there was also consideration put into a triple threat between AJ, Undertaker and John Cena at WrestleMania. Plans, however, for the big show were in constant flux, and much of the WWE Championship blueprint was scrapped over the last two months.
When that idea was nixed, along with plans for a WrestleMania showdown between Brock Lesnar and Shane McMahon, Vince felt AJ Styles would be the perfect replacement to face his son on the grand stage. The rumored match has not been met with many positive reviews, but unless they find a way to re-insert AJ into the title picture, that is the direction they’ll be headed for April 2.
Either way, we should expect Styles to change brands in about four months with Vince campaigning to make him one of RAW‘s top draft picks.
[Featured Image by WWE]