Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Heel Turns: Styles back on top

Posted by Achilles Heel On November 12

A.J. Styles’ historic victory over Jinder Mahal on Smackdown has added some juice to Survivor Series. With no disrespect to Jinder Mahal – all right, with a small dose of disrespect – far more people want to see Styles face Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series than Mahal.

By winning the WWE Championship at Smackdown in Manchester, England, Styles takes Mahal’s place in the champion vs. champion non-title match at Survivor Series.

Styles also made history. This was the first WWE Championship title change on Smackdown since 2003, and it was the first time the title has ever changed hands in a match held outside of North America.

Looking ahead to Sun., Nov. 19, the title change elevates the champion vs. champion bout. Mahal has not produced championship-level matches as champion. His best title defenses have been good. None of them has been great. And, to be honest, Lesnar’s defenses of the WWE Universal Championship haven’t been all that great, either.

Replacing Mahal with Styles, who has lived up to his “phenomenal” nickname in the ring, should make the Survivor Series match much better. The smaller Styles can bump all over the place for Lesnar, which Mahal is not as well-equipped to do. Styles will also make the match faster-paced, with much more action, than it would be with Mahal.

One problem with the match is that the buildup has been all about Mahal challenging Lesnar. It was a bold challenge on Mahal’s part. And the Singh brothers have been mocking Paul Heyman’s introduction of Lesnar. All of that is wasted now. WWE will have to quickly change gears this week and give fans a reason, other the potential for an exceptional match, to watch Lesnar vs. Styles.

One has to wonder why WWE switched directions. Adding to the impression that the title change was not the original plan were reports the previous week that John Cena might be named guest referee for the Mahal-Lesnar match. The Greek God of Wrestling is going to avoid speculation about Mahal. Without evidence, that is unfair to Mahal.

A possibility is that this is a reward for Styles. As was mentioned in Heel Turns two weeks ago, Styles flew back from the South American tour to face Finn Balor at the TLC pay-per-view after illness knocked Bray Wyatt out of the match. Despite the difficult travel schedule, Styles than wrestled the next night on Raw and again the following night on Smackdown.

Putting the title on Styles makes sense. Taking it off Mahal at this moment doesn’t make sense. As Achilles Heel mentioned several paragraphs ago, the buildup for the Survivor Series match centered on Mahal having the, as Heyman might refer to it, chutzpah to challenge Lesnar. Mahal also is supposed to headline a WWE tour of India in December. He’s a better headliner as WWE champion. (On its Web site, WWE is teasing that Mahal will face Triple H in India on Dec. 9!)

The reason for the title change is unclear. But the Greek God of Wrestling is pleased that, with Styles as WWE champion, the champion vs. champion match with Lesnar at Survivor Series should feel like a main event.


TAG TITLE CHANGE: The WWE Championship wasn’t the only title to change hands last week. On Raw, aided by a distraction by The New Day, who teased another Smackdown invasion, Sheamus and Cesaro defeated Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose to win the Raw Tag Team Championship.

The title change makes the Survivor Series match between the Raw and Smackdown tag team champions a heels vs. heels match. Jimmy and Jey Uso are also heels, so, from that standpoint, this title change doesn’t make sense to Achilles Heel.

The result also leaves Rollins and Ambrose out of Survivor Series. If Roman Reigns remains sidelined by illness, no members of the Shield will be involved in a match at Survivor Series. It seems hard to believe that is going to happen.


CENA JOINS SMACKDOWN TEAM: John Cena, who hasn’t been on WWE shows for a few months, returns at Survivor Series as the fifth member of Team Smackdown for the traditional Survivor Series 5-on-5 elimination match. Earlier in the week, the Raw team was completed with the addition of Samoa Joe, Finn Balor and Jason Jordan (although Achilles Heel wouldn’t be shocked to see Jordan taken out and replaced with, if he’s healthy, Roman Reigns or Seth Rollins or Dean Ambrose).

Team Smackdown consists of Shane McMahon, Randy Orton, Bobby Roode, Shinsuke Nakamura and Cena. Team Raw consists of Kurt Angle, Braun Stroman, Jordan, Balor and Samoa Joe.


ADDING MEMBERS: Two members were added to Team Raw for the 5-on-5 elimination style match at Survivor Series. Asuka and Shasha Banks were added to the team, which already had captain Alicia Fox and Nia Jax. Bayley is the obvious woman left out, but there is one spot remaining on the team. Expect the drama over whether Bayley will fill that final spot to be an issue on Raw this week. (This is a long shot, but perhaps Paige is ready to return.)

Team Smackdown has been set for several weeks. Becky Lynch will be the captain for a team that includes Charlotte Flair, Naomi, Carmella and Tamina.


NOT-SO-GLORIOUS: No match at Bound for Glory, which Impact Wrestling describes as its biggest show of the year, was better than good. From an in-ring action perspective, the show peaked with the six-man X Division Championship match that opened the show.

But Bound for Glory was built around the return of Alberto El Patron rather the matches. This was a wise move because, as the Greek God of Wrestling suggested last week, the return of El Patron was more intriguing than any match on the show. El Patron cut a promo earlier in the show and then interfered in the main event, knocking out both Eli Drake and Johnny Impact before placing Drake on top of Impact for the pinfall, enabling Drake to retain his title. This led to a huge brawl between Impact and El Patron in the main event slot of Impact Wrestling on Thursday.


KIM ACHIEVES GLORY: One noteworthy moment from Bound for Glory was Gail Kim winning the Knockouts Championship from Sienna in a triple threat match that also included Allie. Kim is a terrific wrestling who never achieved the heights she should have in WWE, but has been the class of the women’s division in TNA/Impact.


OWENS, ZAYN IN TROUBLE: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn are linked together on television. Now, they’re linked together in a way they would prefer not to be linked. Owens and Zayn were sent home from WWE’s European tour after the ending of a match on Smackdown.

In the match, Kofi Kingston defeated Zayn. Apparently, New Day was supposed to fight off Zayn and Owens in the ring after the match. Instead, Zayn rolled to the outside. According to The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, there is some confusion about whether Owens and Zayn intentionally didn’t take part in the post-match plans or whether there was a misunderstanding about what was going to happen. What’s perfectly clear, though, is that, whether it was a misunderstanding or intentional disregard of plans, Owens and Zayn are being held responsible for the mistake.


SAN ANTONIO SHOWDOWN: Ring of Honor and NXT go head-to-head Friday night in San Antonio. Ring of Honor’s Survival of the Fittest tournament kicks off Friday in San Antonio before moving on to Dallas and Oklahoma City the following two nights. In addition to first-round tournament matches, Ring of Honor world champion Cody Rhodes teams with IWGP United States champion Kenny Omega to battle The Addiction (Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian). Another match pits Dalton Castle, who will challenge Rhodes for the world title at Final Battle on Dec. 15, against IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion Marty Scurll in a non-title match.

NXT is in San Antonio the same night. NXT’s main event pits former Ring of Honor champion Adam Cole against Drew McIntyre for the NXT Championship. Raising the promotional battle stakes even higher is that Shawn Michaels will be the special guest referee for the Cole-McIntyre championship match.


WAR GAMES: One night after the San Antonio showdown with Ring of Honor, and one night before Survivor Series, NXT presents NXT Takeover: War Games on WWE Network (Saturday, 8 p.m.). The main event is a War Games-style match, which means there will be two rings inside a giant steel cage. The teams are NXT Tag Team champions SAnitY (Eric Young, Alexander Wolf, Killian Dain), Undisputed ERA (Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly) and The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar) and Rodney Strong.

In this modified War Games match, which has different rules than the classic WCW version, one member for each team begins the match. The other members of the teams are locked in “shark cages” outside the steel cage. After five minutes, the other members of one group are released and allowed to enter the match. Three minutes later, a second team’s other two members are allowed into the match, with the final team to be completed three minutes later.

Also on the NXT Takeover: War Games show, Drew McIntyre defends the NXT Championship – if he still has it – against Andrade “Cien” Almas. There will be a Fatal 4-way match between Kairi Sane, Ember Moon, Nikki Cross and Peyton Royce for the NXT Women’s Championship vacated by Asuka. Other matches are Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream and Kassius Oho vs. Lars Sullivan.


OMEGA VS. JERICHO: Chris Jericho will face Kenny Omega for the IWGP United States Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 12 at the Tokyo Dome on Jan. 4. Jericho challenged Omega via video at last weekend’s Power Struggle show after Omega defeated Trent Barreta. Also on the Power Struggle show, Hiroshi Tanahashi retained the IWGP Intercontinental Championship against Kota Ibushi in what was supposedly a fantastic match.


TITLE CHANGES: The Combat Zone Wrestling World Championship changed hands twice Saturday Night at Night of Infamy. Joe Gacy defeated Shane Strickland to win the title, and then Ricky Shane Page cashed in his championship opportunity to capture the title. Also on the card, Jimmy Jacobs made his return to the ring by defeating Sami Callihan.


PHILLY IS HARDCORE: Tommy Dreamer presents House of Hardcore 35 next Saturday (8 p.m.) at 2300 Arena. Dreamer will face Joey Mercury in a first blood match in the main event. Billy Gunn will meet Nick Aldis, and Austin Aries will deliver a message.


WHAT’S IN A NAME? Achilles Heel has always enjoyed the inventiveness of CHIKARA, which names each of its events. Friday’s event at Kennebunk Elementary School in Kennebunk, Maine, has one of the best names I’ve seen: Silence in the Library. Icarus battle Rory Gulak in what the Greek God of Wrestling considers the main event. “Mr. Touchdown “ Mark Angelosetti battles Missile Assault Man.

Saturday’s event in Haverhill, Mass., titled “Dark Water,” features the return to the ring of Mike Quackenbush, who will battle Max Smashmaster. “Mr. Touchdown “ Mark Angelosetti squares off with Hallowicked, and Icarus meets Missile Assault Man. At Sunday’s “Kill the Moon” in Enfield, Ct., Grand champion Juan Francisco de Coronado faces the Proletariat Boar of Moldova. Also, Dasher Hatfield meets Keith Lee.

CHIKARA will wrap up its 18th year with “Closing Time” on Dec. 2 at The Wrestle Factory, its home base in Philadelphia.


WHAT’S IN A NAME II? Did rap mogul Diddy really just change his name to Brother Love? Sorry, P-Diddy, there is only one Brother Love – and it’s not you!


SCREWJOB ANNIVERSARY: Last Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of one of the most infamous incidents in wrestling history: the Survivor Series screwjob in which Shawn Michaels won the WWE World Championship from Bret Hart.

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