The return of Vince McMahon to weekly WWE television brought us this scene between his Mr. McMahon character and AJ Styles on the episode of SmackDown which aired Dec. 25:
It’s the time-honored Mr. McMahon motivational tactic we’ve seen at least since the “Ruthless Aggression” speech gave the post-Attitude Era its name – more or less calling one of his Superstars a “p*ssy” as a way to get them fired up to put some smiles on people’s faces with violence. We all love the greatest hits, and even at 73, Vince plays his very well. AJ’s been coasting a bit in 2018. He’s undoubtedly one of the best to ever do it, but he hasn’t been in the must-see angle on his own show, let alone the entire company, very often lately.
Put that all together, and this segment makes a ton of sense. Yet it still didn’t really land with me, and I’m not sure why.
Was it because we’ve seen it before, and just over a year ago when Vince baited Kevin Owens into headbutting him by mocking KO for kayfabe suing the company instead of fighting his son Shane? Was it the weirdly sexual script about how badly McMahon wanted to see AJ’s animal? That Styles’ post-attack yell was more goofy than intense? Why was Vince surprised and calling for help when his plan seemed to have worked?
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t hate this, and I’m excited to see what happens next. The Phenomenal One needed this, and if McMahon’s gonna be around, it’s cool to see him interact with stars we haven’t seen him work with in the past.
But if you’d have told me a few years ago I’d some day see a scene between AJ Styles and Vince McMahon, and that it would end with the former attacking the latter, I’d have freaked out. Instead, this seemed… just okay.
Feel free to tell me I’m jaded below. But I’m curious if I’m alone. And even if I didn’t get goosebumps like I thought, a segment of this magnitude deserves to be dissected a bit more.
Let’s dig in.