AJ Styles was destined for RAW. Roman Reigns was poised to make the move to SmackDown Live. The Superstar Shakeup has come and gone, and both Styles and Reigns remain on their respective brands. Twenty-four superstars changed shows, and while AJ and Roman were originally rumored to be the centerpieces of the whole ordeal, plans moving forward call for both to stay right where they are.
The other hot rumor heading into WWE tapings this week involved AJ Styles reuniting with Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson to reform The Club. That was squashed as well, with the only tag teams relocating ended up being the Shining Stars, Heath Slater and Rhyno, and The New Day. WWE officials plan to keep Gallows and Anderson as heels while AJ Styles is being transitioned into a babyface, and if Finn Balor can stay healthy, he too, will remain a face and separated from The Club.
SmackDown Live brought over 13 new performers from RAW by virtue of the Superstar Shakeup, two of which were a part of the show’s opening segment: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Owens and Zayn were also joined by blue-brand incumbents, Baron Corbin and AJ Styles, which helped set up the main event of the show. Corbin, Styles, and Zayn competed in a triple threat match to determine a new number one contender for the U.S. Championship after Payback.
Owens is set to defend his title against Chris Jericho in one of two cross-branded matches on that card April 30, with the winner earning the right to become a full-fledged member of SmackDown Live. Jericho is still a part of RAW, but he is slated to depart from the WWE in order to resume his duties with his band, Fozzy, right after Payback. That will keep the belt around the waist of Owens, who then will defend it against AJ Styles who won the aforementioned triple threat match Tuesday night.
Initially, there was some concern over the mid-card placement of AJ Styles from fans who are expecting him to turn face and return to his spot in the main event scene. But they can rest easy, as the program with Owens is just a placeholder for the time being. As the Inquisitr reported Tuesday, the plan remains for Styles to reenter the WWE Championship picture, perhaps as soon as the May 21 Backlash pay-per-view, but everything else has to fall into place first.
As noted, Payback will feature two cross-promotional matches, though AJ Styles is not involved in either. Owens, now of SmackDown, will face Jericho, while Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt will battle in a House of Horrors match for the WWE title. After Payback is over, Styles will get his U.S. title opportunity against Owens, likely as the main event of an episode of SmackDown, or at Backlash if WWE officials need to extend the Wyatt-Orton feud one more month to settle the score once and for all.
While the prospect of a potential feud between AJ Styles and Kevin Owens is appealing, the thought of a program between the two over a mid-card championship has been deflating. After all, Owens and Styles were both the top champions of their brands in late 2016 and early 2017. With both stars locked into roles on the blue brands, its expected that they will be involved in a significant angle down the line. However, AJ is poised for a title program with Randy Orton, while plans are still being sorted out for Owens beyond the end of this month.
Owens will have the opportunity to engage in three other significant feuds in 2017 now that he’s on SmackDown. As noted, he and AJ Styles will have a lengthy program later on, but before that, expect him to lock horns with the likes of Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura. There’s always a chance he and John Cena could also reunite later this year as well. Owens and Sami Zayn appear inseparable, but it’s not likely the two will have a pay-per-view feud until Zayn is elevated into the main event scene.
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