The Superstar Shakeup has come and gone and it has left us, finally, with one of the most intriguing matches in wrestling history. On Monday Night Raw, we have the Universal Champion Seth Rollins and the former WWE Champion AJ Styles for the very first time. I’ve been waiting a long time for this.
Despite Roman Reigns being at the top of Raw for the last three years the hottest talent, the biggest rise and the most powerful crowd support has been backing Seth Rollins. He was The Man before it was cool to be The Man. The Architect was the first member of The Shield to win the WWE Championship. He is the current Universal Champion and now the literal top man on Raw. Now is the time of Seth Rollins.
Or is it? Some unquestionably expect that Raw will now be ruled by Rollins but the addition of AJ Styles changes things considerably.
Raw had been joined by The Man of SmackDown Live. Styles is just off the back of over a year as WWE Champion. He has produced magic with Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe and Daniel Bryan in that time, as well as wrestling Rusev and Jinder Mahal to arguably their best matches. Unlike a lot of talent with a forthcoming trade, he didn’t go out on his back either. Instead, he defeated Randy Orton at WrestleMania; cementing his position as Mr SmackDown.
In the absence of the literal top stars of John Cena, Roman Reigns and Charlotte Flair, does the WWE trust Seth Rollins to carry the red brand on his own?
Who actually is The Man on Raw?
“I go where needed and maybe Raw needs me.” – AJ Styles
Rollins and Styles have shared a ring together several times, but only once competitively in the WWE. That was a brief interaction during the men’s elimination match at Survivor Series 2016. After a small battle in the ring, they would both tag out and only interact later in the night when The Shield reunited to powerbomb Styles through a table. This is the closest we’ve been to a feud so far.
The two have also shared a ring multiple times with Styles as an honorary Shield member. After TLC 2017 he joined Rollins and Ambrose as a team and of course last week he joined Rollins and Reigns. It’s very clear that the view of the WWE is that these men are both equally elite.
Other than that we have had a glimpse of what a feud between the two could entail, thanks largely to the magic of YouTube.
Released in June 2017, this video shows Seth Rollins entering an arena hosting SmackDown Live to defend his Madden Championship against the Prince of Phenomenal. Xavier Woods is so excited by the occasion that he wears an awesome suit and presents both men with a trophy taller than he is.
If you’ve never seen Rollins in a YouTube video, be prepared. He gets loud. You should also look up the Gang Beasts video with Smosh Games. He gets really loud.
This video is obviously mostly there for entertainment purposes but it does give us a lot of information about the individuals in question and how a feud between them might play out. Styles stays relatively calm on the surface but explodes when impassioned. Rollins meanwhile is much the opposite; going quiet during stressful situations.
So Seth starts a house of fire but starts to lose confidence, meanwhile Styles starts off reserved but maintains control throughout. Unfortunately for AJ, Seth Rollins can not be contained. Which will emerge victorious?
Later in the video, as the tide begins to turn against him, Styles – a perfectionist and a specialist in rehearsal – starts to get overtaken by the wild, vocal improviser. We end up with a pad rubbing against somebody’s junk. Not going to spoil the visual there by ruining who does what.
Why should we care? As fans, what is there to get excited about in this feud? That might be the easiest question I’ve ever heard. AJ Styles is the best in the world. That is a very popular opinion. So what is Seth Rollins? Second best? Third? Eighth? Does he rank at all? Or maybe, just maybe, AJ Styles isn’t the best in the world. Maybe, just maybe, Seth Rollins is the best in the world. NXT are getting five star matches and beyond. Why isn’t Raw pushing harder for this? If Seth and Styles are both pursuing the top titles, well, one of them has it. The other one wants it.
Give me the year. Give me a full season of long term booking on this particular feud. I really don’t see how it could go wrong.
In fact, it’s already beginning.
“I’m going to take down whoever I’ve got to take down and you know how I love being the champion so that Universal Championship, it’s coming my way.” – AJ Styles