AJ Styles is the best wrestler in all of WWE right now. It's a statement I can't imagine many fans of the WWE would have much of an argument against and with a flashy move set and great skills on the mic it's not hard to see why so many of the WWE universe are behind him. Sure some may point that finger at Daniel Bryan, NXT viewers may say Tommaso Ciampa or Johnny Gargano, and fans more in touch with the indies may say Finn Balor, wrestling fans love to argue but at the end of the day I imagine if not the number one AJ features in everyones top five at least.
Since his musical first hit at the 2016 Royal Rumble, his WWE tenure has been an incredible tidal wave of fan adoration and cheers which he has ridden to WWE championship and Wrestlemania matches. His trajectory hasn't been without some rocky moments, but then again who even remembers Y2AJ, and it has been invariably sky wards from that fateful night in Orlando.
In fact the success of "The Phenomenal One" has been somewhat of a surprise to many the more negative WWE watchers who predicted that at 40 years old the TNA standard bearer would be a brief fascination of WWE's before he was pushed under the rug and into the mid card like so many promising acquisitions before him. but instead of the predicted burial AJ has been allowed to develop into one of the few true face (good guy) wrestlers in the current era, loved by both the younger audience and the older, perhaps more cynical fans.
It is this positioning of AJ as the guy who everybody loves that makes me question, if not the booking, then at least the chosen opponents of AJ since he has debuted in WWE. It seems sometimes that AJ has been thrown against the odds of being cheered when you look at the people he has battled and defeated since he joined the company. If we look first at AJ's first feud in WWE against Chris Jericho, who has established himself as a Hall of Famer in waiting and is always going to get sheered by the fans no matter what he does, AJ had a steep hill to climb from the off as he and the veteran initially seemed to be forming a tag team until Jericho dashed that hope, and in doing so maybe saved AJ from a year spent floundering in tag team hell.
But as I originally said, who even remembers Y2AJ. After that initial feud AJ battled WWE's Big Dog, Roman Reigns against who he would never be booed, following Roman AJ turned heel (bad guy) to battle WWE's gatekeeper to the main event, John Cena, against who many expected he to be buried but to everyone's surprise, HE WON!! What is slightly more surprising is that despite his heel turn AJ maintained a steady fan base even amongst the younger audience to the point that following a his first WWE title win against Dean Ambrose, another big time fan favourite amongst all generations of wrestling fans, AJ turned face again to battle Kevin Owens for the US Title.
Now in his second WWE title reign, the longest ever in Smackdown history I may add, AJ Styles is maybe the second biggest active name in the company right now and he has the fans firmly behind him. From an indy darling to the WWE champion it's quite the story and now is where i hit the crux of this article. AJ has somehow become the guy WWE pits again all the other fan favourites who may look to emulate AJ's climb to the top.
Take for example AJ's first title win against Dean Ambrose. Ambrose was a fan favourite who had just come off the back of an incredible pair of victories against his old Shield brethren and looked to be the man to carry the WWE title forward following the new WWE brand split. however after a dull altercation with Dolph Ziggler he was put against AJ who had failed to be booed even when battling the leader of the Cenation. Despite his status as a heel AJ's victory over Dean, through dubious methods as well, was still cheered. After the victories Dean had pulled out recently the loss of his title was met with the cheers of the crowd.
Following this AJ battled Baron Corbin and Dolph Ziggler in a triple threat where he was the only person in the ring with any heat whatsoever before losing the title to John Cena. For his first Wrestlemania AJ was served a flat feud against Shame McMahon, because nepotism has always had a place in wrestling, ending in AJ once again turning face. Now despite what I say about nepotism Shane McMahon has somehow always managed to maintain a surprising fan base and Dean Ambrose was the only member of the Shield who, post break up, had never been booed and yet AJ's cheers constantly rang out despite them both and his face turn felt almost forced upon WWE.
And now in AJ's second title reign he has been pitched against the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura who's Royal Rumble victory and subsequent push was something the WWE fans were desperate for and following AJ dispatching the King of Strong Style and sending him back to the mid card AJ then battled the rising star of Rusev who's Rusev Day shtick was loved by all the WWE fans and in now back down in the lower card following Rusev's loss to Styles.
Now it may just be me, but AJ has seemingly been set up as the guy who is there to keep all the other popular stars heads down, not in a malicious way mind you, but it seems to me that where he is now is WWE saying that they are rewarding this indy guy and showing that they can give the older fans a champion but, like the old Highlander tag line, there can only be one. It feels like WWE are only allowing one man to stand tall against all the other the crowd would elevate and they have picked AJ. Nakamura who made his name in Japan was cheered but when he cam up against AJ not only did he fall but he was made heel in the process. Rusev started the Rusev Day chants and it caught on, but WWE sunk that ship's hopes of being WWE champion using AJ as their canon.
And maybe it is just paranoia but that is how AJ is starting to feel to me. he is a weapon WWE are using to shoot down the rising stars of other WWE talent and they are getting away with it because people love AJ. Now I am not saying that AJ is burying other stars, I don't believe that at all. I love AJ as much as I love Ambrose and Nakamura and Rusev and maybe it is just me being bitter about my favourites all being pitted against each other, you can decide that. I'm simply saying that is feels like this is all part of some very smart plan on WWE's part to seemingly give the fans what they want, while also using the fan's guys to keep the other fan guys down.