SmackDown Live: AJ Styles Losing Clean A Huge Misstep By WWE


Photo by WWE’s Twitter

John Cena appeared on SmackDown Live last night. The WWE’s Free Agent was seeking to earn the a chance to compete in the multi-person Championship match at Fastlane. Adding Cena to that main event was a perfectly fine idea. Having him get in the match by beating the WWE Champ clean, was not.

Remember back in February of 1987, when Hulk Hogan, before his big match with Andre the Giant, lost a hard-fought match on WWE Primetime Wrestling to Paul Orndorff? Or, remember February of 1996, where Bret Hart was upset by the 1-2-3 Kid on Raw just weeks before his Iron Man match against Shawn Michaels? And more recently, who could forget when, in February of 2001, the Rock tapped out to Kurt Angle prior to his Wrestlemania X-Seven match with Stone Cold Steve Austin?

Well, nobody remembers any of these matches, because they never happened. It would be ridiculous to hand their champion a non-title loss just weeks before WrestleMania, right?

Apparently, in 2018, the WWE no longer thinks so. This week on SmackDown Live, they decided to have WWE Champion AJ Styles lose to John Cena. And not only did they book him to lose, they booked him to lose clean in the middle of the ring.

Photo by WWE’s Twitter

The Setup – Cena Must Win To Get In

John Cena, WWE’s “Free Agent”, kicked off SmackDown Live seeking to become a part of the title match at Fastlane. And this, on its own, is fine–there’s certainly nothing wrong with adding some star power to a match that, as it stood, was bogged down with midcarders.

While adding Cena to the Fastlane main event makes sense, the way WWE went about accomplishing it was absolutely illogical. For one, Cena certainly has set a precedent for asking for, and receiving, a title shot at his whim. And, in this era of brand competition, it would make sense that Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon would want Cena in the main event of the SmackDown brand’s February pay-per-view, after Raw just featured him in theirs.

However, even if Cena did have to win to get into the now fatal six-way, there is no discernible reason why his qualifying match opponent had to be Styles, as opposed to any of the four other competitors booked in the match. It would have been a great opportunity to introduce some dissension to the Sami/Kevin partnership, perhaps having miscommunication by one wrestler cause the other to lose.

Or, why not have Cena defeat Dolph Ziggler, who at this point can fairly be described as someone who has made a career out of putting his opponent over? Baron Corbin could have also been the one to take the fall. After all, he has had recent experience doing so, losing to Cena at last year’s SummerSlam.


The Fallout

Instead of any of these more, logical ideas, creative opted for Cena to defeat AJ Styles, the reigning WWE Champion, in the show’s main event.

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The damage as a result of this booking decision is significant for a couple of reasons. First, following their classic bouts at SummerSlam 2016, and Royal Rumble 2017, a third classic Cena/Styles encounter would have been a great pay-per-view to build to down the road.

Instead, it was a throwaway match on free television.

Additionally, and even more problematic, is the fact that AJ jobbing just weeks before WrestleMania detracts from the mystique and hype surrounding the Nakamura/Styles dream match. There was simply no reason to have either of the two competitors in the highly anticipated match lose (and lose cleanly at that!) this close to their showdown in New Orleans.

Next: WWE Fastlane Predictions: A Phenomenal Defense?

Simply put, WWE booking AJ Styles to lose cleanly last night was a phenomenal mistake.