When AJ Styles joined the WWE SmackDown roster last year, he set the blue brand alight. Styles was widely lauded as the WWE’s best wrestler, and he helped SmackDown to rival, and sometimes surpass, the viewing figures for Monday Night Raw. Where 2016 was a stellar year for AJ Styles, it would seem that 2017 will be a year to forget. For Styles, the rot set in when he lost his WWE Championship to John Cena at the 2017 Royal Rumble. Last night, things got worse for Styles when he lost his United States Championship to Baron Corbin at the SmackDown exclusive Hell In A Cell PPV.
As reported by the Independent, Styles lost his crown at Hell In A Cell when he was double-teamed by Corbin and Tye Dillinger, in what had become a triple-threat match. Corbin went on to claim the title by pinning Dillinger. To add insult to injury, Styles then had to watch Jinder Mahal retain his WWE Championship by beating Shinsuke Nakamura.
It is worth noting that Styles’ decline has coincided with the rise of Jinder Mahal. Having Mahal compete at the top level makes sense as the WWE is pushing an expansion into the Indian and Asian markets, but let’s not forget that Mahal had previously been cut from the WWE roster.
Styles’ loss at Hell In A Cell is just the latest setback for a wrestling superstar who swept all before him during 2016. Since his loss to Cena at the 2017 Royal Rumble, Styles has largely been out of the title picture. Remember that Styles didn’t claim the United States Championship at a major PPV, it didn’t even happen on SmackDown Live. Instead, Styles won the championship at a “house show” that wasn’t even televised.
As claimed by Forbes, it seems that WWE SmackDown just hasn’t worked out how best to use Styles while they are pushing the likes of Mahal and Kevin Owens. Hell In A Cell was a case in point. As reported on the official WWE website, Styles’ title match with Corbin was third on the Hell In A Cell card. Bizarrely, on an evening that featured no fewer than four championship matched, Hell In A Cell was headlined by a meaningless match between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon.
AJ Styles is a headline attraction, he is believed to shift more merchandise than any other SmackDown star, and yet the WWE has kept him out of the title picture for much of 2017. No one would deny that the WWE needs to push other stars on the SmackDown roster, but to do so at the expense of AJ Styles shows an incredible lack of foresight on the part of the SmackDown creative team.
We can but hope that Styles’ loss at Hell In A Cell marks the end of a period of misuse by the WWE network.
[Featured Image by WWE]