On Sunday night, Kevin Owens defeated AJ Styles for the US title, in a finish that shocked and confused many fans. It was anything but a clean finish, and whilst often this allows WWE to allow rivalries and storylines to continue, the untidy nature to the conclusion of this match has led many to speculate – what exactly was meant to happen?
The finish of the match was awkward, where Owens rolled Styles over while in the Crossface submission manoeuvre, supposedly catching Styles in a pinning predicament. A groggy referee then counted to three. In the immediate aftermath, Styles legitimately looked confused, and stayed in the ring to remonstrate with the referee after the match. There has since been speculation that Styles didn’t get his shoulder up in time as he may have only heard the referee’s hand hit the mat twice. In situations like these, referees are supposed to call the match as they see it, resulting in the three count and the title change.
Going into the match, Styles was the odds on favourite to retain (Yes, you can bet on predetermined wrestling matches). However, on the night, he was the only favourite not to win. Bryan Alvarez has since reported on the Wrestling Observer that yes, the correct person won, but the finish of the match was changed very late on, potentially even during the match.
We do not yet have a definitive answer on the why. In some respects, WWE has resolved the situation by having Styles win back the championship on Smackdown, in a triple threat with a returning Chris Jericho. However, the below interview with Kevin Owens has led me to believe that there is more to all of this than meets the eye.
Kevin Owens, during an interview with At The Shore, was asked how much he enjoyed working with AJ Styles. He gave something of a confusing answer: “Yeah, I don’t enjoy it at all actually. I’d rather never having to work with him again. He has my title, and I have to go after and it looks like we’re nowhere near done. Unfortunately, I have to step in the ring with him several more times. It’s part of what we do.”
Whilst some of that answer appears to be Owens in character, and often he is very good at not breaking kayfabe and remains a true heel, the answer does suggest that there might be legitimate heat between Owens and the Phenomenal One.
Furthermore, if you watch the 3 count, it is my opinion that the referee does ever so slightly hesitate before the 3rd count, and I would also argue that Styles shoulders aren’t fully on the canvas. Will we ever find out the truth about this, or will the feud and the fans move on after Styles win on Smackdown?
Check out the finish of the match here, and let me know your thoughts.