Fuck You/I Love You or Why A.J. Styles Has Me Hating Myself
Oh man. It’s the one night a year where we as members of the ‘WWE Universe’ *rolls eyes* have no idea what to expect. I mean, yeah we know exactly what to expect because TV has shoved Roman Reigns down our throats for the past 18 Months and he’s the only person with any modicum of build going into the Royal Rumble match where -get this- he has to defend his WWE Championship against 29 other men in the match! Wow! Look at those odds! How will The Rock’s moody, contact wearing, long hair sporting, tater totting. chest protecting, suffering succatash son cousin overcome those odds? At the time of writing Paddy Power has Triple H at 1/7 odds to win the Rumble and it’s been obvious for quite some time that they’ve been building up young blue eyes so he can fall down and win the title for a third time in 6 months at Wrestlemania to effectively sweep the past year under the carpet and pretend that they got it right all along. With all that going on and being the obvious narrative there’s been the elephant in the room that has been looming since the WWE put out this article which more or less confirmed that 4 of the internet’s indie darlings are headed to WWE programming. With Nakamura still having commitments in Japan and Anderson/Gallows likely heading to NXT, the big question is not if but when will A.J. Styles make his debut. Being an unannounced entrant into the Rumble (with little chance of actually winning the thing but #LetMedream) seems likely at this point and I am desperate to see The Phenomenal One come in with a bang but to say I am conflicted is an understatement. See while Styles does live up to his billing as one hell of an athlete he also comes with a similarly sized amount of baggage.
I am not disputing his skill as a competitor — his dream match with Shinsuke Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 10 a few weeks ago really did smash any expectations I had — but what makes me feel so uneasy about the signing of Styles to reportedly one of the fed’s most lucrative contracts is this one simple, incontrovertable fact: A.J. Styles is a homophobe. In an age where the WWE is trying to clean up a lot of the mess from the 80s and 90s (with everything from holding back Daniel Bryan’s return because his of concussion history to firing Hulk Hogan for that racist tirade from the 90s) paying so much money to a man who has cut promos where he’s liberally used the word ‘faggot’, has refused to talk to someone who asked him about his following in the ‘gay community’, and has even reportedly hurled homophobic abuse towards crowds just doesn’t sit right. I know that Styles is a hardcore devout Christian and everything but that doesn’t give him carte blanche to bring his morally reprehensible views into a public forum let alone a wrestling ring. There’s no doubt that with its heavily scripted PG promo segments he’ll go nowhere near the threshold of being able to bring those sorts of sentiments to the WWE but I don’t think I’ll ever really be able to get properly behind him knowing that he harbours those sorts of opinions.
With its current crisis of injuries, the WWE had to do something. John Cena, Seth Rollins, Tyson Kidd, Cesaro, Nikki Bella, Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan are all currently injured with no idea of when they’ll return. To put that another way, every champion coming out of Wrestlemania 31 (+ Orton) is currently shelved. Animosity towards Roman Reigns is dying down a little but many — myself included — aren’t ready to accept him as the face of the company and doubt that he is ready for the responsibilities that, for better or worse, big match John has carried around for the past decade. Signing two of the wrestling world’s biggest stars at a time where the company’s biggest draws are incapacitated is a shrewd piece of business from McMahon, Levesque and co. and it promises a whole host of exciting storyline opportunities from the reignition of Styles’ feud with Samoa Joe to the possibility of the WWE’s very own version of Bullet Club that they’ve already been pushing for a while (I unashamedly own the t-shirt because I’m a dirty, stinking, no-good mark). That is without even mentioning the sorts of matches that The King Of Strong Style could have with the likes of Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins.
In spite of it being a time where the product is at a low of predictable storylines and stale 50/50 booking that takes wrestlers around in circles the possibilities that the four New Japan imports promise make this arguably the most exciting time to be a wrestler since the Yes movement saw Daniel Bryan main event Wrestlemania XXX. Because of that buzz I’ll be watching the Royal Rumble tonight with an optimistic excitement I haven’t experienced watching wrestling for ages and should Styles debut within the main event I’ll be marking out like a complete idiot declaring that the Wrestling Revolution is here. When the dust settles however I don’t know how much I’ll be able to enjoy the revolution when one of the people at its core holds beliefs and opions that I essentially consider evil, and if can really participate in it because of that.