EDITORIAL: Superstar Centerpiece – A.J. Styles needs to be framed by WWE as “The Face that Runs the Place,” nothing less

By Dustin Mayle, guest writer

A.J. Styles (photo credit Ross McAdam © PWTorch)


The past month we’ve seen the second World Championship crowning of the “Phenomenal” AJ Styles, a well-established performer and deserving WWE Champion. Fans of WWE, and pro wrestling in general, have been behind him consistently each week since Styles made his WWE debut at 2016’s Royal Rumble. Finally, it seems the WWE has come to realize the star power AJ holds and awarded him his rightful position as the top babyface champion of Smackdown Live and the WWE collectively. From this point on, and as a result of his quite over appeal, we should see him as the focal point of Smackdown Live each week, right? Apparently, that’s still absolutely out of the question.

Since AJ’s crowning as champion, Smackdown Live’s main storyline has continuously revolved around Shane McMahon and his issues. I would be somewhat okay with this had AJ been a part of that storyline, but he’s been pushed to, largely, the middle segments of the show in order to keep viewers tuned in just long enough to still stay present for the McMahon angle capping off the show.  Though Shane still has some throwback star power, it still doesn’t compare to the star power of Styles.

I can understand keeping this format had someone unappealing, like Jinder Mahal, still been champion, but AJ’s grand appeal is a large reason why has been crowned the champion. Therefore, he needs to be booked like he is.

Currently, AJ is booked as a really good mid-card superstar who is simply holding the World Title. Baron Corban is booked even worse as the U.S. Champion. What’s the prestige in being a champion if you’re not being treated as the main man in the brand?

I understand it’s a common conception in the WWE that some wrestlers are just bigger than the title, which I suppose I agree with; however, that’s why you build wrestlers up for the championship instead of placing it on someone just because they look the part, i.e., Jinder Mahal. Even regarding this notion though, AJ Styles has all the build-up that he needs and more in order to fulfill a champion’s role. So, it’s not a matter of him not being built up enough at all, which WWE apparently doesn’t care about anyway.

One could say that Jinder still is not a draw, so the rivalry between AJ and Jinder shouldn’t be the primary angle. However, AJ has continuously brought a praising crowd with him to every angle he’s been involved with, champion or not. His draw alone could produce greater success than the current McMahon-Owens angle.

Even further than that, if AJ’s limelight still depends on who his rival is, then why wasn’t he the critical angle of the Survivor Series war between the brands? If you ask me, the ultimatum in a brand war should be between the respective brands’ top champions. Even with the top champions being AJ Styles and Brock freaking Lesnar, WWE still did not seem to feel it necessary.

After analyzing it, I can come up with two conclusions: Either Vince McMahon just doesn’t know how to book the small and mighty Styles, or we’re dealing with a McMahon family ego that requires them to hold the limelight. If the latter is the truth, then we have a reason to confirm Smackdown Live as the “B” show.

If they want to produce a truly competitive and entertaining ratings war between the brands, the WWE needs to do more than just place AJ Styles as its champion. They need to book him like he truly is “The face that runs the place.”

NOW CHECK OUT THIS RECENT EDITORIAL: EDITORIAL: A Means to an End: The success of Roman Reigns as Intercontinental Champion is key to him achieving WWE’s vision

1 Comment on EDITORIAL: Superstar Centerpiece – A.J. Styles needs to be framed by WWE as “The Face that Runs the Place,” nothing less

  1. Totally agree with the central theme of the article – AJ as a popular babyface WWE champ should be front and center of Smackdown LIVE storylines. The underlying reason why this isn’t going to happen is simply down to Vince not wanting to rely completely (from a business model) on a handful of elite superstars (no matter how talented like AJ).

    Vince has seen in the past that when WWE superstars that he has basically helped to create, get too “mainstream” popular, like for example Hogan, Rock and now Cena, they start looking for opportunities outside of the WWE environment and subsequently leave a huge hole for Vince to back fill when they do eventually go! So from Vince’s perspective, to offset that from happening in the future, he has especially in the past 3-4 years been really pushing “family feuds” revolving around Shane, HHH or Steph as his “top” storyline, as he knows that he can rely on them long term (to be around) while top tier talent like AJ Styles, Cena or Lesnar could leave for a variety of reasons (injuries, don’t renew contract, other opportunities like UFC in the case of Lesnar).

    So its this underlying fear of Vince of having to “totally” rely on just a few top tier stars to sustain WWE Network subs especially for the Big 4 PPV’s which I think drives Vince’s deliberate policy of positioning McMahon related family feuds as the top tier storyline above all the other storylines WWE creative generates for the regular non-Mchmaon family “talent” on weekly TV and PPV’s.

    As for ratings, I am sure Vince would love to have higher TV ratings then the dismal figures they currently have, but in terms of importance, TV ratings seems to have slipped below pushing the WWE Network subscriptions at the present time. No doubt having a weekly network deal is still vitally important for them in terms of weekly exposure to sell the Network PPVs, but its no longer the “be all” for current the WWE business model and so therefore no need “super” push the likes of Styles, Reigns or Cena.

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