This is the first in a new monthly-ish feature I’m starting up. Back when I used to do predictions for each PPV, I found I would have literally a line to say about some matches, and paragraphs to say about others. So instead of going through every match, I’m going to pick out one match on the day of a PPV, and give my thoughts on it. For Money in the Bank, I’ve actually kind of cheated, because I’ve already written about the ladder match. But here, I’m going to focus on AJ Styles vs John Cena.
First, let’s talk about the symbolic significance of this match. As we all know, John Cena has become WWE’s Mr Wrestling in 2016. You talk to someone who has never watched wrestling, and you can describe it as “that thing John Cena does”. He is a 15 time world champion. He is a lifetime WWE guy. And he will likely be the inspiration for a future generation of wrestlers.
AJ Styles on the other hand, is the champion of what you can achieve in wrestling outside of WWE. He was the face of TNA for 12 years. He was also a prominent figure in many other American independent promotions including Ring of Honor. And he was a two time champion in New Japan Pro Wrestling. He is one of the best technical wrestlers in the world, and for years AJ Styles vs John Cena was considered a dream match that would never happen.
Styles’ heel turn was very cleverly done. Cena returned on Memorial Day in America and gave a speech praising those who fight for the country. Even people who wanted to boo Cena had to cheer that. It’s all too rare, but in that moment, however briefly, John Cena had the whole crowd on his side.
Then AJ Styles showed up.
There was a solid two minutes just made up of duelling chants. It was a special moment, because fans had dreamed of it happening for the better part of a decade. Just having them in the same ring was a big deal. Then, when it looked as though they would have to team up against Anderson and Gallows, it was even cooler. Then when the fans were firmly behind both stars, Styles attacked Cena.
I think it had to happen like that. If the crowd were still polarised on Cena, Styles would have been revered. They needed to find a way to get people behind Cena to get the reaction they wanted in the moment.
And Styles kept going back for more. And more. And more. It was a physical show of the frustration he would go on to talk about in the coming weeks, that the spot Cena has been in for so long could, and arguably should, have been his.
And that is key here. The whole concept behind this feud is nothing new – we’ve already seen elements of it in Cena vs CM Punk, and vs Daniel Bryan. But WWE offered Styles a developmental contract in 2002, which for personal reasons he turned down. He was then offered a low-ball deal when he left TNA, which was nothing more than a token offer. If a more serious contract had been offered at that time, AJ Styles could be a multi-time world champion in WWE by now.
So tonight we finally see two of the biggest names in wrestling face off. And I think it’s really important that Styles comes out of Money in the Bank looking dominant. Since debuting at the Royal Rumble, Styles has won just one of his five PPV matches. It’s not that I’d fear for him if he lost again tonight, he is frankly too good to regress to unimportance. It’s that WWE have the chance to create a superstar, and with the brand split coming up, another name at that status can only be a good thing.
I’m straying into fantasy booking territory here, but for me the ideal scenario would be for Styles to win, then for him and Cena to be on separate brands this time next month. Don’t let them have an immediate rematch. Have Styles be the guy Cena couldn’t beat. Cena won’t be hurt by it, but it could be the making of Styles in the WWE, and he can thrive off the bragging. And when they eventually meet again, whether it’s next year or a few years down the line, it can be the Wrestlemania match WWE are billing this one as.
The match itself tonight could be one of the best of John Cena’s career if they are given time. It’s a mix of Cena’s power and Styles’ athleticism, but we’ve seen Cena works well with that clash of styles in the past. And AJ can have good matches with anyone. WWE keeps telling us this is a Wrestlemania match up, and they are right. On paper, this is one of the biggest matches left in the company, and I expect them to deliver.
I’m excited for tonight, in case you couldn’t tell. We have three matches that could all be great. And I think we all know how high I’ve been on Styles this year. This could be a fantastic PPV, and Cena vs Styles could be the highlight.