The WWE website has reported that AJ Styles will face Shinsuke Nakamura on SmackDown Live on Tuesday, May 15. AJ Styles and Nakamura are set to face each other at Money in the Bank for the WWE Championship, but the two will meet on SmackDown in a non-title bout. These two athletes had a historic contest in 2016 with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and they have recently had a trio of matches in the WWE. While some of the recent outcomes may have some fans upset, the company is telling a story between the two wrestlers and building heat for their Money in the Bank title match.
“The Phenomenal One” defended his title against “The King of Strong Style” at WrestleMania. Shinsuke lost that contest and turned heel after the match. The two had their rematch at the Greatest Royal Rumble, and both competitors were counted out. The WWE superstars continued to fight each other after the contest ended, which led to the stipulation for their next contest. At Backlash, Styles and Nakamura fought for the title in a no DQ bout. Where this would normally decide a clear-cut winner, it ended in a “no contest” when both men were counted out due to mutual low blows.
Because of all of this, the two WWE superstars will square off once again on SmackDown, but the winner will decide the stipulation for their contest at Money in the Bank. The idea is that since no regular bout can contain them, the winner can figure out what type of match will end this once and for all. Logic would ask, if they could have a regular bout with a decisive winner this Tuesday, then why do they need a special stipulations match at MITB? But this is pro-wrestling, so we roll with the punches.
The outcome of this story could go in a number of directions. Having these two superstars in multiple matches without the title changing hands, at least once, wouldn’t be the normal booking. So, Styles could win on Tuesday, and Nakamura could become the champion at MITB. Given the fact that the pay-per-view is centered on ladders, a ladder match would make sense.
It seems that the WWE is protecting Styles, to a certain degree, and losing in a way where he’s not pinned or submitted accomplishes that. A last man standing match is also a popular stipulation that the company likes to use, to not only end feuds, but to allow for outside interference as well. This would also take the championship off “The Phenomenal One” while keeping him protected.
On the flipside of the coin, Shinsuke is one of the most accomplished wrestlers in the world. Any superstar could lose to him without hurting their persona. “The King of Strong Style” could win clean on Tuesday night, or because of some shenanigans, and AJ could be the one choosing the stipulation. The WWE has recently been changing the way they book feuds, like with Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns, so Nakamura may not even get the strap at MITB. They seem to like to throw the WWE universe for a loop, and Nakamura not getting the title could do just that.
— WWE (@WWE) May 15, 2018
Regardless of the WWE’s endgame with these two, AJ Styles facing Shinsuke Nakamura on SmackDown should lead to an interesting stipulation at Money in the Bank.