AJ Styles spent a good amount of time Tuesday venting, yelling and protesting the endless injustice from the past few weeks.
It began with a flashback to last week, when he lost his WrestleMania title shot he had already earned by losing to Randy Orton. Next, Styles accosted Daniel Bryan backstage, lambasting the general manager for cheating him ... again.
Styles eventually made his way to the ring and delivered a strong, stirring opening promo about the unfair treatment that he -- the self-proclaimed greatest-ever WWE superstar -- has received, when in his opinion, he should be gearing up to walk the red carpet all the way to WrestleMania's main event.
Styles' impassioned plea to grant him what he believes he deserves set the tone for the night. The depths of Styles' barbaric side really rose to the occasion on a night in which few other storylines, and even less in-ring action, mattered. He compared himself to John Cena, the undeserving, entitled shell of star, according to Styles: "Do you think Cena jumped through hoops like a circus monkey?" And what about Orton? He burned a house down for heaven's sake, and instead of jail time, he received Styles' shot at the WWE championship.
The saga culminated as Styles paced back and forth in a parking garage, waiting and waiting for the mastermind behind all these wrongdoings, Shane McMahon, to show up. And that's when we got to see a side of Styles that's rarely on display.
He savagely beat down McMahon in the garage, sending the commissioner's head through a car window. And by the way, a nice effort by the production crew for the inside-the-car replay.
- WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) March 15, 2017
Cutting to the chase, Bryan fired Styles for the onslaught, but later, as the show came to a close, McMahon, shirt torn and limping, somehow summoned the strength to make his way from the backstage area to address the crowd for a brief few words. He declared himself Styles' opponent at WrestleMania 33.
As mentioned last week, Styles is, of course, main-event material, but it would have been difficult to get geeked up about watching him in the ring with Orton or Wyatt again. Taking on McMahon will add a fresh dynamic worthy of the biggest event of the year.
Sure, we might not see anything that resembles last year's thrilling moment when McMahon jumped off the top of the Hell in the Cell cage against The Undertaker, but there's little question the overall theatrics between Styles and McMahon will be memorable.
It's more than The Miz looking for revenge
On Tuesday night, she got real.
During a segment of "Miz TV," Maryse stepped out of the shadow of her husband and unleashed years of pent-up anger. She blamed Nikki Bella for foiling her "Total Divas" contract and stealing three and a half years of her life.
Much like the recent heated exchanges between Cena and The Miz, there was a deep-seated disgust from Maryse, who vowed to make Bella suffer. Maryse accused Bella of believing she was untouchable because of Cena, whose influence over the creative brass grants him anything he wants -- such as an unearned title shot at the Royal Rumble.
As expected, the payoff was the official announcement that the four will duke it out in a mixed-gender tag-team bout at WrestleMania. Certainly, this matchup won't give Cena the prominent role he would normally have in the biggest event of the season, but the visceral tension between all four should make for an entertaining battle, and maybe even a standout one.
At one point, Maryse reminded us that Bella doesn't have a wedding ring, essentially because Cena is too selfish to share the spotlight with anyone else.
It's not hard to imagine this is setting the stage for Cena and Bella to win their WrestleMania match, with the 16-time champ then getting down on one knee in front of a sold-out crowd at Camping World Stadium and proposing.
The byproduct of this segment was the continued friction between The Miz and Daniel Bryan, who entered the arena to declare the match a go in Orlando. Multiple times a fuming Bryan said he wanted to punch The Miz in the face. It was yet another reminder of how The Miz, perhaps more than anyone else in the business, can play the heel role with such conviction -- even if Cena was the one garnering most of the jeers Tuesday night.
Hits and misses
After a long, contorted plan on who would face Bray Wyatt for the WWE Championship, Orton finally tried to justify weeks of waffling from the creative team. The plan to subjugate himself as Wyatt's servant was merely a ploy to earn Orton's trust and strike at just the right time. Because that's what vipers do. The bottom line is that we have some clarity in the storytelling, finally. Wyatt appeared on the big screen to retort in his usual over-the-top, diabolical manner, but it worked. It'll be interested to see who fans side with as we close in on WrestleMania.
Luke Harper was nowhere to be seen again. What a disappointment after such a strong push to make him a top-tier guy. Just doesn't feel right.
Odd to listen to the show without the recognizable voice of Mauro Ranallo, whose travel was waylaid by the Nor'easter that rocked much of New England. True, he's been the lead guy on SmackDown for less than a year, but he has a rare ability to instill excitement and energy when there really isn't any, as was the case for a large portion of the night. David Otunga, off filming a movie, also missed the episode.
Believe it or not, American Alpha are currently the longest-reigning champs in the WWE at two-plus months, and there hasn't been a strong push from anyone to seriously contend with them. However, the heel Usos demonstrated attitude and excellent execution in a non-title win. They need to keep this going to give SmackDown more tag-team clout, which the show is sorely lacking at the moment.
I enjoyed watching Carmella lay out both Becky Lynch and Natalya, but if she is going to become a main player, it's time to ditch James Ellsworth. The clown-like accomplice act has grown old, and really, it does nothing to help elevate Carmella to the next level.
- WWE (@WWE) March 15, 2017