AJ Styles is phenomenal. We all knew that of course, but now everyone within shouting distance of WWE knows it too. Any fan that was perhaps on the fence in regards to Styles’ ability to get over on Vince McMahon’s main event stage is now surely on board.
The reason for that is Payback. Fans expected AJ’s best, and that’s exactly what they got. Styles stepped up as if this was his first real shot at a championship, and he absolutely nailed it. He was believable, he was patient, and he was thrilling to watch.
There was no wasted movement from AJ, no moment when fans could possibly say that he wasn’t on his game, or wasn’t ready. He looked so good, and it became very obvious very quickly, that he belonged there. This was more than just WWE promoting AJ and trying to get fans to buy in. This was AJ stepping in and showing that this is indeed what he’s best at.
AJ is a competitor, and he always has been. He takes his matches seriously, and there is really never a chance to criticize him because he just does everything right. He knows who he is as a character, he knows what he can do in the ring, and he is one of the best in the world right now.
His opponent however, can perhaps not lay claim to that particular title. Roman Reigns is what WWE wants on top, and they’ve invested a lot of time as well as money, into him. It’s obvious that he is their guy, and they will stop at nothing to protect him and guide him along the way.
But his skill level is not that of AJ, and that is why many fans couldn’t wait to see the title change hands at Payback. Maybe it was wishful thinking, or maybe it was a sincere desire to see AJ do well. But either way, the belt stayed with Roman. The WWE’s status quo remained intact, and now critics are left to debate the topic.
But that debate needs to be grounded in reality. The fact is that Styles should not have been picked to win at Payback, and that’s assuming anyone actually did pick him. Styles is a legend, and one of the best in the game. But this is not his time. Many fans likely do not want to hear that, but that is the way of things in WWE.
Roman is the guy, and as long as that’s the case, no one else has a chance of getting the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. That’s not to say he can never lose it, but the likelihood of it happening now is slim to none.
But that’s not really the point here. The real issue is that Roman’s first real title contender is one of the best that WWE could throw at him, and the two men had an outstanding match at Payback. This is exactly what Roman needed, and it’s clear that this story is far from over.
To Roman’s credit, he stepped up as well. AJ’s high flying moves are dynamic and kept him going during the match, but it would have meant nothing without Roman working along with him. Reigns understands that he must have the best challengers, and he was probably happier than anyone that it was AJ he worked at Payback.
The best part is that this match will happen again. Extreme Rules will see the rematch between these two, and the championship will be on the line. Once again AJ will soar and Roman will sell. The Bullet Club was not a factor at Payback and its unknown if they will be at Extreme Rules.
But their non-involvement or possibly involvement means nothing. The fact is these two guys deserve all the acclaim and all the respect fans can give them. The new era of WWE is here, and though it might sound like nothing more than just a tag line, there is some serious truth to it.
Who could have ever predicted that AJ Styles would not only get to WWE, but that he would get a world title shot within four months of his arrival? That is the kind of dream booking that fantasy promotions are made of, but to imagine it would ever become a reality?
That notion alone was ridiculous at best. But now it’s here, and if the Reigns vs. Styles rivalry continues, then it could very well become one of the best world title feuds that WWE fans have seen in years.
Payback was just the beginning.