I know I’m in the minority here, but I think the James Ellsworth storyline is a classic example of short-sighted booking. Moreover, having AJ Style lose twice to an enhancement talent is potentially damaging to the WWE Champion.
I get it; everyone loves a good underdog story. There is something intriguing about seeing someone who more closely resembles a wrestling fan, then an actual wrestler, overcome seemingly impossible odds. In fact, I don’t dislike the storyline in theory. It’s provided some entertaining moments in the past with acts like Gillberg, Rey Mysterio and the 1-2-3 Kid. That being said, it would seem to make sense to try and establish Styles as a formidable champion, instead of dropping two matches in a row to a jobber. I hate to use the J word, but let’s be honest, that’s what we are talking about here.
The first issue I have here is putting Ellsworth over, instead of a talent with a bit more upside, assuming WWE is insistent on doing an underdog angle. What’s the long-term potential for this character? Sure, it’s fun to do a tongue and cheek Goldberg style chant for Ellsworth. Hey, you might even sell a few t-shirts and get a good crowd reaction when he pulls off an upset. However, that’s probably the extent of the characters upside. I know it’s a new era in WWE and all, but can you see Ellsworth booked in a meaningful WrestleMania match? Would you really want to? If the creative team insists on doing this type of angle, why not go with a minor upset, maybe Apollo Cruz or another mid-card act, who might be able to gain some momentum with a win over the champ. Ellsworth seems to lack the athleticism of his cruiserweight peers and cosmetically resembles a talent, more likely found on the independent circuit. In an environment where WWE is trying to elevate newer stars, it feels like an opportunity may have been missed here.
I think the bigger question might be, was now the right time to do this angle at all? I realize the first match was booked in a way that demonstrated Styles could win easily, if not for Dean Ambrose’s officiating. Still, why derail your newly crowned champ with a humiliating loss, when he’s still in the process of establishing himself as champ? What will the casual channel surfer or occasional viewer think when they see the WWE Champion losing via pin fall to Ellsworth? Moreover, I think the angle makes less sense with a character like Styles, who is a relatively small by wrestling standards. Ellsworth is being billed as an undersized underdog, while Styles is clearly a bit larger; he hardly towers over his allegedly undersized foe, which unintentionally makes Styles himself seem smaller. Losing the first match would have given the champ more than enough reason to want revenge on Ambrose, making the second loss seem completely unnecessary.
The second match served primarily as an opportunity for Ambrose to do an open mic style comedy skit, in an attempt to distract Styles and throw him off his game. WWE does a lot of things well; unfortunately, I would argue comedy isn’t usually one of them. Having one of your top stars telling bad jokes, while your World Champion loses via DQ to an enhancement talent, is a bad look all around. Instead of heading into next week’s Smackdown, fresh off another pay per view win over John Cena, Styles will be facing Dean Ambrose, fresh off of two losses against James Ellsworth. I realize the idea is to demonstrate that Ambrose has the mental edge going into next week’s match, but what does that say about Ambrose’s character if he doesn’t get the win? Does this mean Ambrose can’t beat the guy that just dropped two matched to James Ellsworth? On the other hand, if Styles loses, he will have lost three matches in a row, which is not a good look for a world champion. I understand the need to hype up the AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose feud, but was this really the best way?