Reflecting On AJ Styles’ Yearlong Reign As WWE Champ: Success or Bust?

Photo Credit: Bill Pritchard

The following editorial was written by Tyler Treese and does not reflect the views of WrestleZone as a whole. Feel free to chime in on the AJ Styles WWE Champion reign in the comments below.

As of tonight, AJ Styles will have held the WWE Championship for 365 days. That’s an entire year since he won the prestigious title from Jinder Mahal on an episode of SmackDown. The veteran wrestler obviously deserves the accolade as he’s widely recognized as one of the best talents that the company has today, but has his reign been a success or a disappointment?

Let’s take a look back at what he’s done in the past year to find out if the AJ Styles WWE Champion run has been a success.

Who Feuded With AJ Styles WWE Champion

AJ Styles WWE Champion

Photo Credit: Bill Pritchard

Styles won the belt on the November 7, 2017 episode of SmackDown by defeating Jinder Mahal. His first major match after his shocking television victory was a great match against Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series, although the newly crowned WWE titleholder came up short against the Universal Champion. He then closed out the rest of the year by defending his belt against Jinder Mahal both at live shows and in an okay match at Clash of Champions.

Afterwards, Styles feuded with both Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, who had a messy but fun handicap match at Royal Rumble. Styles had previously feuded with Owens the year before, but the two simply don’t have the best chemistry in the ring together. After retaining his belt in a fun 6-Pack Challenge match at Fastlane, Styles went on to have a very long feud with Shinsuke Nakamura that lasted from WrestleMania 34 through Money in the Bank. None of these matches were as spectacular as their match in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, so it wound up being a pretty underwhelming feud despite some hilarious moments where Nakamura constantly kicked Styles in the groin.

Finally, Samoa Joe and Styles have been feuding since SummerSlam with Styles coming out on top every time besides one DQ loss. So, if you look at the yearlong reign it can largely be split into four main feuds with some additional matches (such as facing off against Daniel Bryan last week) thrown in as well.

Saving Disappointing Feuds With Solid Matches

AJ Styles WWE Champion

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I’ll be among the first to highlight how great Styles is in the ring, but none of these feuds have been all that memorable. Nobody really wanted to see Jinder in the main event scene, the Nakamura feud never delivered on high expectations, and the Samoa Joe just seems like a choke specialist that “chokes” himself during big moments. Additionally, Owens & Zayn’s feud with AJ largely felt like Styles was playing second fiddle to the Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan storyline at the time.

However, I don’t want to sound too negative on the run. This has largely been an issue of writing, and I don’t want to diminish Styles’ contributions inside the ring. He has consistently put on good to great matches at big events (including last week’s SmackDown), and I can’t name a bad match he’s had since winning the belt. He might not be delivering classics with regularity (but who really is in WWE?), but he’s a dependable hand playing the role he’s dealt with success.

Having AJ Styles as the champion for an entire year sounds like a dream come true for WWE fans, but the reality hasn’t really been that. I wouldn’t call his championship run bad by any means, as his matches have still been largely good (even if they haven’t lived up to his high standard), but it hasn’t been an all-time great one either. Thankfully, Styles is still the champ, and if WWE is smart they can close out his run in top-notch fashion with some big matches starting with his rematch against Brock Lesnar.