AJ Styles had a great year in the WWE in 2017 and was named the top wrestler in the entire company on their official website. He also was part of the best match of the year by the WWE website as well, although he came out on the losing side of that match when John Cena won the WWE world championship at the Royal Rumble last January. Now, as the 2018 Royal Rumble closes in, Styles is the reigning world champion once again, and this is something that only five wrestlers before him have done. As Sportskeeda points out, AJ Styles is one of only six men to start off a year and then end it as the world champion.
AJ Styles 2017 Year In The WWE
When the 2017 year began, AJ Styles was the WWE world champion on SmackDown Live and was preparing for one of the biggest matches of his career. Styles faced John Cena, a man he had beaten more than once in 2016, with the world title on the line.
John Cena won that match and tied “Nature Boy” Ric Flair with 16 total world title wins. While AJ Styles lost the match, it was called the best of the year by the WWE and was a match that Styles said he was very proud of. Styles said when asked about the significance of the match that it was something they knew would be special before it started.
— PWM (@ProWrestlingMag) December 28, 2017
Jinder Mahal won the WWE world title midway through 2017, and AJ Styles focused on the United States Championship. However, right before Mahal was supposed to wrestle Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series, the WWE pulled the trigger and had Styles beat Mahal for the title.
After that win, Styles held the title until the end of the year.
The AJ Styles WWE Record
Only five men in WWE history have ever opened the year as the WWE champion and then finished that year still holding the title. Those names are Bruno Sammartino, who did it for seven straight years (1964-1970) and then again from 1974 through 1976. Bob Backland held it for four consecutive years, Hulk Hogan accomplished it three times, and CM Punk did it in 2012.
In 2017, AJ Styles had his title reign end at the Royal Rumble against John Cena. This year, there is no word on who Styles will defend his WWE world title against. Both Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura are going to compete in the Royal Rumble.
Possibilities for the Royal Rumble this year include Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, and Jinder Mahal, although none of them are likely to take the WWE title away from AS Styles this year.