AJ Styles To Stay On 'SmackDown' & Feud With Randy Orton Over WWE Championship

Andy Slawecki

In the span of a little more than a year, AJ Styles went from the WWE's hottest free agent acquisition, to a high-level player in marquee programs with Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns and John Cena, to a world champion and finally, to the rumored centerpiece in this week's Superstar Shakeup. But all indications after Monday's episode of RAW are that AJ Styles appears to be staying put on SmackDown Live.

When Vince McMahon first announced the direction of the Superstar Shakeup last week, it was rumored that the two superstars the company was building the concept around were Roman Reigns and AJ Styles. However, at some point over the course of the week, officials changed their minds and decided that both Roman and AJ weren't going anywhere.

One of the rumors gaining the most traction over the past few days was the idea that AJ Styles would be reuniting with Gallows & Anderson to reform The Club. While it won't be happening on RAW, it is entirely possible that the reunion could take place on SmackDown. There are less than 12 hours from this posting until the start of Tuesday's taping, at which point we'll find out if the former tag team champions are relocating.

Gallows & Anderson don't have a significant direction at the moment on RAW, seeing how The Hardy Boyz will be defending the titles against Cesaro & Sheamus, so if officials wanted to move them to SmackDown, it wouldn't hurt any current storyline. Much of the speculation around a potential AJ Styles move was based on that idea as well. AJ's program with Shane McMahon was always designed to be a one-off at WrestleMania and then Styles could move on.

Last week on SmackDown, the company teased a potential AJ Styles babyface turn when he and Shane shook hands following their encounter two days earlier on the grand stage. Styles did fake a punch as they separated but held back as the crowd oohed and aahed. Crowds around the country have been cheering AJ despite his status as a heel and the show of respect last week led many to believe that the turn was coming soon. But his next proposed feud may delay it even further.

According to the most recent episode of Wrestling Observer Radio, AJ Styles will most likely enter into a top program with Randy Orton on the SmackDown brand shortly. There are still plenty of pieces that have to fall into place before that can officially begin, however. Despite Bray Wyatt moving over to RAW during Monday's portion of the Superstar Shakeup, they are still moving forward with the Wyatt-Orton rematch for the WWE Championship. That will be a cross-promotional match at Payback, and the potential headliner of the pay-per-view with Brock Lesnar not scheduled for the show.

It could actually be one of two (and maybe more after Tuesday's taping) dual-branded matches at Payback depending on what happens with Kevin Owens on SmackDown. The Miz came over to RAW in the Superstar Shakeup and they won't be using both mid-card titles on the same show so the United States Champion, Owens is likely going to Tuesday nights, but he's still booked to face Chris Jericho at Payback. By staying on the blue brand and without a current program, AJ Styles will not be wrestling at Payback.

The next SmackDown-exclusive pay-per-view is Backlash on May 21 in Chicago. It's expected that AJ Styles and Randy Orton will face off there for the first time on pay-per-view with the WWE Championship on the line. That would mean that Orton will escape Wyatt's House of Horrors match with the title at Payback and keep the belt on SmackDown. Bray is then expected to move on to a program with Finn Balor. Kevin Owens would eventually be an opponent for Styles, but not until AJ completes the face turn down the line. Shinsuke Nakamura is in line to occupy a top position on Tuesdays, but SmackDown will still need a replenishment during the latter half of the Superstar Shakeup.

[Featured Image by WWE]