For the past 6 months, the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) has been highly complimentary of Triple H‘s full return to Creative for the WWE. In fact, I have even agreed that he’s been doing a great job and I was also praising HHH’s work during late 2022 when he inserted Sami Zayn into the Bloodline group. So yes, an older and wiser Triple H has finally figured out the correct TONE of the WWE’s creative presentation.
That said, before we award Triple H the prestigious “Booker of the Year” award (which the Observer Boys will award to Tony Khan), let’s take a step back and discuss a situation where the booking went wrong and was in “overkill” mode.
On the December 15th, 2023 edition of WWE Smackdown, you had Randy Orton openly challenge Roman Reigns for a match at Royal Rumble. Cool moment and that will be an epic match at the Rumble, particularly now with each wrestler at different stages in their careers. Their match-up at SummerSlam 2014 wasn’t that great, but Roman was inexperienced as a solo performer back then and Randy is much more humbler as a veteran wrestler. With Orton challenging Roman in this segment, it easily set up Randy Orton vs. Jimmy Uso to main event Smackdown. All fine and dandy.
Then, we had the Main Event with Randy Orton vs. Jimmy Uso which was a highly entertaining match, as Randy was still crisp in the ring and Jimmy has come a long way as a solo wrestler. Because this match was a “brick building” bout to eventually build Roman vs. Randy, the match had potential interference with Solo Sikoa about to arrive but he was ambushed by LA Knight. This allowed Randy to get the win…
However, it’s the aftermath that became overkill and goes to show that WWE is in “hotshot” mode right now to pop ratings in order to score a big Monday Night RAW television deal.
After the match, the Bloodline hits the ring to make it 3 on 2 with Roman/Jimmy/Solo against Orton/Knight. The heels get the upperhand, but then AJ Styles makes his return and joins the babyfaces to help fend off the heels.
This was the PERFECT ENDING to Smackdown that night and could have set up multiple sets of singles or tag matches for WEEKS to help build up Royal Rumble. Just next week, we could have Roman/Jimmy/Solo vs. Orton/Styles/Knight and that will pop a serious number on FOX for Smackdown. Then, in the weeks to come, you have variations of each members for singles or tag matches to keep milking that number.
But nope, they won’t be able to do this… Why?
Because after Orton/Knight/Styles scared off the Bloodline, AJ Styles turned HEEL on LA Knight by attacking him only.
It’s the classic Jim Cornette phrase of “placing a hat on a hat”.
The AJ Styles heel turn was so unnecessary following a great ending and was complete overkill. The WWE could have easily milked that eventual heel turn and make it even bigger than the weak impact this heel turn will likely cause. Again, by turning AJ Styles heel instantly, it erases that the Bloodline might have a real threat against them with a strong babyface group challenging them. Instead, there is now uncertainty within the babyface ranks and the Bloodline STILL has the upperhand. If there is ONE criticism of the Bloodline that sometimes sticks well, it’s that they are too dominant at times as a group.
The WWE blew it on this AJ Styles heel turn and should have waited to do it WEEKS later, not seconds.
And now, the Creative Team may have to work into overdrive to get you to care about LA Knight vs. AJ Styles, and once Knight dispatches Styles, nobody will care about Styles.
Hotshot booking helps nobody. The best storylines have time to build… Why was the Sami Zayn storyline so successful during 2022? For one, the WWE could easily capitalize on the YEARS of storylines and feuds with Kevin Owens. Secondly, Sami Zayn was trying to impress the Bloodline and be a part of that faction as far back as late April 2022 and between May and September, Sami had to prove himself in order to become the “Honorary Uce”. For months, things were going well until through January, you could see Sami start to question his decision to join the group. This built up to the famous ending of Royal Rumble 2023 where Zayn finally turned on the group by refusing to beatdown Kevin Owens. This then led to Roman vs. Sami at the next Pay Per View, a WORLD TITLE match for Sami, and then Sami/Kevin getting revenge on the Usos by taking their undisputed tag titles away.
Did you catch that? Sami Zayn’s storyline arc was a solid year in character development.
WWE just attempted character development in AJ Styles in ONE NIGHT.
For one, AJ Styles officially returned to the WWE and it’s the first time he returned since doing an injury angle at October’s Fastlane PLE. BY THE WAY, how did AJ Styles get injured?!? Oh yeah, Solo Sikoa attacked him backstage before he could even have his match.
So, AJ Styles returning, itself, would be a big headline and just having a return match would be welcome news.
But then he returned to help even up the odds for Randy/Knight against Roman/Solo/Jimmy. OK, I’m 100% for that given that a Bloodline member injured AJ Styles back in October. 100% on board and it would make sense for Styles to join a babyface trio to apply “strength in numbers” against the Bloodline, who always uses that idea to their advantage.
Nope, AJ Styles turns heel in an idiotic and impatient booking decision to immediately burn that great ending to Smackdown right to the ground.
And AJ Styles just WALKS by the Bloodline after he attacks LA Knight. You know, the same Bloodline who freakin’ injured him 2 months ago! Just walks by them… Shouldn’t he be PISSED at Solo Sikoa for injuring him? Shouldn’t he be pissed possibly by Roman or Paul Heyman for orchestrating that? Nope, he just walks by them…
So now, we’re back to square one… Bloodline is way too strong and has no groups of babyface wrestlers to challenge them. Now, we’ve rushed not only AJ Styles’s return, but a character change on him during the Holiday Season when maybe not as many people are paying attention. Imagine if they did this during early January?
I would suggest the ONLY possible redeeming factor could be if AJ Styles becomes a Bloodline flunky, with the motto of “if you can’t beat them, join them”. I don’t know… He just doesn’t fit that role as Sami did last year. It would seem like an odd fit, but I’ll be honest, I though that Sami Zayn’s career was mostly finished after the Jackass crew mostly dispensed of Sami Zayn at Wrestlemania 38.
I guess we’ll have to say “wait and see”, but I truly thought that the WWE rushed the HEEL turn of AJ Styles here. We could have had WEEKS of match-ups to make it appear as though Orton/Styles/Knight were a solid trio to challenge the Bloodline, but then an unexpected heel turn by AJ Styles could have torn that all down. Hell, Styles turning heel at the Rumble on LA Knight, during Orton vs. Reigns, could have worked. As Orton gets the upper hand on Roman, Jimmy and Solo run down to the ring. Then, Styles and Knight come to offset that possible interference. It’s THEN that AJ Styles turns heel and that would be more effective because it has WEEKS to tell that story.
Instead, there is ZERO story to AJ Styles turning heel unless it’s a cheap “if you can’t beat them, join them” thing that they fabricated as what AJ Styles was contemplating for the past 2 months. Again, that’s stupid because we haven’t seen AJ Styles contemplate that for the past 2 months because he’s been away. Last we saw him, Solo Sikoa was kicking his teeth in to ruin a PLE payday… Why isn’t he more pissed off about that?!?!?
It’s clearly a hat on a hat… AJ Styles returns, helps the babyfaces fight off the heels, and then just turns heel on 1 wrestler. Huh?
It’s a missed opportunity, and no Creative Team is going to do things correctly or perfectly.
It definitely seems to me that the WWE is trying to pop ratings, which is why CM Punk is spreading the wealth but is now firmly planted on the RAW brand. Having AJ as a surprise for the ending will spur interest, too, but the heel turn was overkill.
What the WWE has to realize is that right now, their roster is STACKED. They don’t need to hotshot storylines earlier when they have such a great roster of stars. The conflict is the Bloodline is a HEEL group and they win repeatedly because they are unified. They were really lethal as a group when it was 5 (Usos, Sami, Solo, & Roman) and strong with 4 (Usos, Solo, & Roman)… However, with Jey Uso gone and always some friction between Roman and the remaining 2 brothers in Jimmy and Solo, NOW is the time for babyface wrestlers to unify. A Knight/Orton/Styles would have been a great group to root on for WEEKS against a Bloodline clearly on the ropes. Nope, let’s turn AJ Styles heel NOW!!!!!!!!!
Come on… Look at this roster!
– Roman Reigns
– Jey Uso
– Jimmy Uso
– Solo Sikoa
– Randy Orton
– LA Knight
– AJ Styles
– Cody Rhodes
– CM Punk
– Sami Zayn
– Kevin Owens
– Seth Rollins
– Drew McIntyre
– Brock Lesnar (oh, he’ll be back)
– Austin Theory
– AND SO MUCH MORE…
NXT is rocking and rolling right now, with a sense of patience there but also positivity. Post Wrestlemania 40 or if the WWE does a Draft soon thereafter, you’re gonna see some call-ups.
The midcarders are clicking, the tag team division is getting better in the WWE, and the Women’s division has stars even with Charlotte Flair going down with an injury. If WWE re-signs Sasha Banks, as I believe it happens by Rumble time, WWE is ready to laugh all the way to the bank for a strong 2024.
Which makes this “hat on a hat” quick heel turn of AJ Styles baffling… You did NOT need to rush Styles turning heel, especially since his focus should STILL be on the Bloodline group that injured him. We’ll just have to see if he’s of he mind of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, but Styles could have really turned the screwed on LA Knight by leading him on for WEEKS as his tag team partner.
What a missed opportunity.
But that’s alright… WWE has been solid for most of 2023 and they can’t all be perfect. I just think that WWE is in hotshotting mode right now, possibly trying to impress Warner Bros. Discovery or Disney to pony up between $1.5 to $2.0 billion over the next 5 years for RAW. But again, just let that loaded roster do the talking and be patient with your storylines.
I would have ended Smackdown on 12/15 on a strong note. 12/22 or 12/29’s Smackdown would have featured Styles/Knight/Orton vs. Solo/Jimmy/Roman in which Randy Orton scores the win by delivering an RKO to Roman Reigns, but there’s a moment in the match where Styles and Knight collided and Styles BARELY kicks out of the pinfall situation. REMEMBER, the Royal Rumble is on January 27th this year… Thus, WWE would have 1/5, 1/12, 1/19, or 1/26 to pull that heel turn off. I would do it by at least 1/12 via a Styles/Knight vs. Solo/Jimmy match where, once again, they accidentally hit each other and that creates a feud.
THEN, you could use the Royal Rumble one-on-one match-up to make AJ Styles go darker into the heel realm. He could cheat to win and then possibly at Elimination Chamber, Styles does the same thing. Keeps getting darker and darker as a heel… Hell, maybe Styles costs LA Knight his opportunities during the Rumble and Elimination Chamber matches for that #1 contendership? Then, Styles vs. LA Knight is the PERFECT Wrestlemania 40 match on the undercard and LA Knight can finally vanquish him. Meanwhile, you’ve just created a 5 month program that drew money.
See what I just did? From my home office, I just wrote a storyline that covers 5 months’ worth of business for 2 great wrestlers on a stacked roster. I also covered 3 Pay Per Views, too, while creating a lengthy feud that fans will remember.
Instead, the heel turn was rushed and we’ll likely only see ONE big LA Knight vs. AJ Styles match that matters. Then, it’s back to the “just another one of the guys” grind for AJ Styles. With Styles getting JACKED with shredded abs and much larger biceps than normal, do you want to treat him as just another brick in the wall?
WWE has a great roster right now… TAKE YOUR TIME… There’s no hurry. Just look at your Sami Zayn storyline of 2022-2023 to see how patient WWE fans really are. We were HOOKED on that storyline and it drew tremendous numbers when it was finished.
I guess this takes off a point for Triple H‘s “Booker of the Year” award possibility, but it’s a good thing that HHH has mostly did a GREAT job for the WWE during 2023 to help offset that. The fact is that AJ Styles’s return was awesome, but the heel turn could have been delayed. Just simple wrestling booking 101 by not throwing too much at the fan, both in terms of crap throwing at a fan that mechanically blows air and your members of your fanbase. Too much is too much, and less is always more.
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