When Shane McMahon returned to WWE in February 2016, many fans were glad to see him back. The prodigal McMahon had finally come home, and he brought an energy that made the brand extension between Raw and SmackDown Live that much more exciting.
But instead of just being a corporate character on TV as his sister Stephanie had, it quickly became obvious that Shane was back for much bigger things. Eventually he found himself booked in a match with the legendary Undertaker at WrestleMania 32, while most of the WWE faithful groaned.
It wasn’t necessarily because Shane was going to wrestle again. McMahon turned in some good work during his active years in the company, and everyone he was ever in the ring with gave him mad respect. From Kurt Angle to Shawn Michaels, one Superstar after another had nothing but good things to say about Shane’s ability between the ropes.
But facing The Undertaker in 2016 was much different than facing Angle in 2001. This Shane was older, he was still not a full time wrestler, and it was all being done to advance the storyline between him and his sister. Or maybe it was being done because WWE just didn’t have another opponent for The Phenom.
Therein lays the problem. Taker is arguably the biggest star that WWE has ever produced, especially in terms of longevity. He’s one of the most respected talents to ever perform in the ring, and he’s considered to be one of the top attractions in the history of the business.
But after 25 years of running through every top name in the industry, Undertaker was at an impasse. He had no real competition left, and WWE had no options. Apart from Sting, there was no real dream match left for The Deadman and WWE didn’t seem all that interested in cultivating a proper feud in the first place.
So instead, Shane was fed to Undertaker. The match itself made no sense, and the Hell in a Cell gimmick was nothing more than a way for McMahon to pull off the Mick Foley dive to the floor. The company was obviously hoping for big reactions and historic match highlights that would last forever.
But in terms of how the overall match looked, there was nothing historic about it. Taker did the best he could with what he had, and Shane did what he could do. However the match just didn’t quite live up to the epic scale that WWE was promoting. So what would make anyone in the company believe it will be any different for Shane versus AJ Styles?
At first glance, it’s not a bad idea. Styles is 12 years younger than Undertaker. He’s faster, he’s more athletic, and he’s not banged up physically. In fact Styles has really never looked better in his career, as he’s become a legit top draw in WWE. AJ can do it all; he can work anyone on the roster, and he can have a five-star match on any night of the week. That’s what WWE is evidently hoping for now.
There’s also the fact that Shane is not really stepping over anyone to work AJ. Styles has already had marquee matches with John Cena, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Apart from working Shinsuke Nakamura or Samoa Joe in a WWE ring, or perhaps even The Undertaker himself, Styles really doesn’t have a massive line of WrestleMania dream match opponents at his door.
But similarly to Shane versus Taker in 2016, fans just do not seem all that excited about Shane versus Styles. Once again it feels as though WWE just didn’t have a plan, so the plan became whatever sounded good on paper. Considering the year AJ had in 2016, a match with Shane is not the way to follow it up.
Styles did become a top draw in WWE, he did conquer a new company, and he did it on his own terms. WWE didn’t change him. They didn’t send him to NXT to find himself. He kept his name, he kept his gear, and he kept his move-set. AJ Styles came into Vince McMahon’s company as himself, and he remained just that every step of the way.
Styles rose to power in front of an audience that was divided between fans who knew him, and fans who had only heard of him. He had one classic match after another, and he earned the respect of everyone in WWE. If anyone deserves a high profile main event match on the Grandest Stage of Them All, it’s AJ Styles.
But instead it does appear that Styles versus Shane is indeed going to happen. There’s no title involved. There’s no major stipulation attached, at least not yet. In fact the match hasn’t even been officially booked as of this writing. However WWE is probably moving forward and once the decision is made behind closed doors, there’s very little stopping it.
AJ deserves more. Shane doesn’t need to be booked. WWE has better options. All of these statements are true. WWE often doesn’t care about what the fans think, and unfortunately, that’s a true statement as well. Only time will tell if Styles versus McMahon is a good idea. Only the fans will determine if it’s worth their time.
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomclarkbr
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