In the main event of SmackDown Live on Tuesday, WWE champion AJ Styles faced Shinsuke Nakamura in a non-title bout. Instead of wrestling for the WWE Championship, the two were competing in a match where the winner gets to decide the stipulation for their Money in the Bank contest. Though they have worked with each other in the last three pay-per-views, this is the first time the two have battled each other on SmackDown.
The O2 Arena in the United Kingdom was on fire for this one, and throughout the match, chants of “AJ Styles” and “Nakamura” echoed throughout the building. After going back and forth in the beginning, “The King of Strong Style” took control. Shinsuke delivered his usual stiff blows and nailed a flying kick to Styles’ face that left the live audience agasp. The two WWE superstars told a great story in the ring, and the crowd was even enthusiastic during their rest holds.
Shinsuke continued to lead the match until “The Phenomenal One” was able to counter a move with a Pele kick. Much like the beginning of the contest, the momentum continued to shift between the two. Both WWE competitors successfully countered each other’s finishing moves, until Nakamura successfully hit a Kinshasa. As expected, AJ Styles barely kicked out in time.
In a ref-spot near the end of the finish, the official’s view was obscured, and Nakamura pretended that he was the victim of a low blow. While AJ was explaining to the referee that he didn’t throw any illegal kicks, “The King of Strong Style” took advantage of the opportunity and successfully hit a reverse exploder. He then followed it up with another Kinshasa, and the audience counted in unison as the referee reached the three-count.
Nakamura received a huge ovation, and the commentators stated that he will now decide the stipulation for Money in the Bank. As the screen faded to black, Shinsuke cradled Styles’ head as he stared diabolically into the camera. It seems the WWE is going to tease this one, perhaps saving the announcement of Nakamura’s stipulation at next week’s SmackDown.