When it comes to big match performers in the WWE over the past year, there’s been no one better than AJ Styles. As of now, word around the campfire is that Styles will be taking on Smackdown Commissioner Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 33 in Orlando. Why you ask? Well, I honestly can’t say. Certainly the bosses son is smart enough to know that Styles has the ability to make anyone look incredible inside of the ring.
For starters, let’s be clear, I have nothing against Shane O’Mac – WWE has been a far better product since he returned on that Monday night in Detroit. That said, it hasn’t been because of his wrestling, it’s been because of his mind.
While there doesn’t seem to be any demand to see Shane O’Mac back in the ring following his embarrassing performance at Survivor Series, he is a McMahon. They run this ship and we’re all just along for the ride. But what if, just what if we could find Styles a better match at WrestleMania. I mean, let’s be honest, he’s no spring chicken. He may not have very many more WrestleMania moments left while still in his peak physical shape. Why not give the man something more, why not give the fans a little something more.
Here are five matches I believe would do just that.
1. AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
Here’s the problem with this one – all signs are pointing to Bobby Roode defending his NXT title against Nakamura a main event rematch at NXT TakeOver the night before Mania. Here’s my solution – take a chance on Kassius Ohno and have him headline against Roode. His work as Chris Hero on the indie circuit over the years has made him a fan favorite due to his ‘Strong Style’ in-ring work and his indelible charisma.
The only argument you could make against Ohno headlining a WrestleMania weekend TakeOver would be that he hasn’t been built up enough on NXT programming yet. To that I say – take a look at your audience. The fans that fill the stands for NXT shows are some of the smartest wrestling fans in the world. They know all about Hero’s work and most of them are aware of the magical 2016 he had. That magic deserves to be shared in front of a sold out Amway Center.
The time for Shinsuke Nakamura to move up to the main roster was months ago. Having him lose to Roode again or even get revenge to become the first 3-time NXT champion in history seems like a waste when you could add him to WrestleMania.
The built-in history with these two men wrestling the final singles match of their respective careers in Japan against one another at Wrestle Kingdom 10 and then both of them coming over to the States at the same time (Nakamura beginning with NXT and Styles immediately coming up to the main roster) make this match a no-brainer. And speaking of charisma, Nakamura oozes it. He may be the only man on the roster who could get the crowd to boo AJ simply because most fans will want Nakamura to get over.
There’s no need to wait on this match. While I don’t usually agree with the “Wins and losses don’t matter” philosophy – I do believe that it comes into play for this particular match. Nakamura likely gets over here being the new hotness which makes Styles 0-2 at WrestleMania. Don’t worry, losing to Jericho last year at Mania didn’t exactly bury him now – did it?
2. WWE Championship Triple Threat Match: Bray Wyatt (c) vs. Randy Orton vs. AJ Styles
The last time we had a full length triple threat main event at WrestleMania was at 30 when Daniel Bryan beat Triple H in the opener to join the Royal Rumble winner, Batista, and the WWE Champion, Randy Orton, to close out a memorable night inside of the
The story leading up to the match and D-Bry being at the height of his popularity provided fans with one of the most memorable WrestleMania moments in history. The match itself also worked with Orton and Batista working extremely well with Bryan and The Authority, throwing everything they had at the undersized fan favorite only to see him survive to win the title and celebrate with the great Connor ‘The Crusher’, leaving us grasping for our kleenex while chanting “YES!” along with the 75K plus in New Orleans.
If done right, putting AJ Styles in the main event alongside Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton doesn’t take anything away from their ongoing storyline – as a matter of fact it could help it. While inserting Luke Harper in this particular match may be the more logical choice, Styles’ starpower immediately turns an already intriguing main event into a potential match of the year candidate. Plus, it gives creative more time to let Wyatt and Orton lead each other on with the show still a handful of weeks away.
With Styles in the main event, Wyatt could convince Orton to re-enter to help him fend off AJ and retain the title. You could keep them together all the way up to the match itself and have them turn against each other at the end of the show with AJ escaping with the title while Orton and Wyatt continue to feud through the summer.
Just imagine the amount of gorgeous spots you could do with Orton and Styles (these worlds have yet to collide) and the ‘New Face of Fear’ in Wyatt. There’s absolutely no way you could screw this match up.
3. Inaugural Trios Championship Match: The Club (Styles, Anderson & Gallows) vs. The New Day
With anyone who means anything on Smackdown Live booked up for ‘The Showcase of the Immortals’, there’s always the option to trade Styles to RAW in the coming weeks. We’re likely to see Styles flip out on Shane McMahon after not being able to either win his match against Harper on Tuesday or being taken out of the main event after winning the #1 contenders match which would plant the seeds for the match nobody wants to see. Instead of these two locking horns in a meaningless WrestleMania match, why not have Shane and Daniel Bryan trade Styles to RAW for being aggressive towards management?
Now, looking at the RAW roster there’s about just as many options for Styles on the Smackdown roster. So why not reunite him with your current RAW tag team champions for a couple of months until this year’s draft? Heck, why not introduce some shiny new titles while we’re at it. I know, I know – there’s already way too many titles since the brand split. Well, introducing the Trios titles (or you could call the 6-man tag titles if you want to be a dick about it) would give talent the opportunity to hop back and forth between brands (as “guest stars” if you will) and form new alliances. We certainly aren’t going to have separate trios titles for each brand.
Putting The Club back together against your WrestleMania 33 hosts wouldn’t exactly be my first pick for Styles, but I would take it over a singles match between him and McMahon. This temporary reunion gives The New Day something to do other than cracking jokes and it could also lead to a surprise Finn Balor run in. Why not have him join his old pals as a heel on the RAW brand to build toward that eventual singles feud with Styles.
Let’s be honest, New Japan, ROH and Lucha Underground are all already on board with this. And for all the weeks that 6-man tag team matches main event RAW, don’t you think we’re long overdue for this? Oh ya, how does a Shield reunion sound to you? This also makes that annoying ‘Freebird’ rule nonexistent.
4. AJ Styles vs. Cesaro
Two of the most talented workers we’ve ever witnessed in this business doing battle against on another on the biggest night of the year. This match steals the show without question. Everybody wins – especially the fans.
5. Kurt Angle vs. AJ Styles
This year’s Hall of Fame headliner has been vocal about wanting one more match against Styles and there’s no better stage to have it then at WrestleMania. As we’ve already stated, Styles can make anyone look good. Angle put it perfectly in his interview on Lillian Garcia’s podcast earlier this year (transcribed by Forbes):
“I wrestled AJ in TNA, and I can tell you that he is every bit as good as Shawn Michaels. The thing with AJ Styles, and I want everybody to realize this–you don’t have to do anything with him. He does all the work. So it’s an easy match for you. He flies around the ring. He does all the bumping.
“AJ is a special individual where you can go in that ring and literally just stand in the middle and he does everything for you. I have never had a match with anybody that’s been so easy, and every time I worked with him it was a five-star match. So AJ’s that kind of talent. He only comes around once in a lifetime, so I’d really love to shake it up with him one more time if I could.”
Giving fans the opportunity to say goodbye to Angle by watching him perform one final time in a WWE ring provides us with another historic WrestleMania moment on a card that gets exponentially better with this match on it.