AJ Styles once again earned his nickname at WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs on October 22.
The Phenomenal One filled in for Bray Wyatt against Finn Balor, and the two men made magic in the ring. It was the first time Balor and Styles had faced off, and many fans are hoping it will not be the last. Considering the war that's brewing between Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live, there's a good chance these two Superstars are not finished.
Styles is not only a major part of the angle that's playing out on the road to November 19's Survivor Series; he's the key to making it all work.
AJ is the wild card of this storyline, and with good reason. The man who made his living on the independent circuit for nearly 18 years finally came to Vince McMahon's company in 2016. The wrestling world was happy for him, but the surprise was palpable.
Many fans believed Styles would never come to WWE and that he would fall through the cracks if he did. This belief had nothing to do with AJ's talent; Styles was regarded as arguably the best wrestler in the world.
The concern had more to do with WWE's penchant for not delivering when it mattered the most. If Styles ever did sign with the company, there was a good chance that WWE Creative would have no idea how to handle him.
WWE would change him. Styles would have to conform to McMahon's vision and would be lost along the way. That man would leave defeated, forced back into the world from which he came.
But WWE allowed AJ to be himself, and he has flourished as a result.
Styles not only made it in WWE, but he rose to the top of the company. Much of that was due to his booking, but there was also no way he would be held back. Fans wanted Styles, and that's what WWE gave them.
AJ became WWE champion. He reigned over his peers, who had been in WWE for much longer than he had. The company recognized his ability and gave him the opportunity to succeed. He did just that.
So while it came as a surprise that Styles was booked against Balor at TLC, it shouldn't have. WWE needed a top talent to face The Demon, and every star on Raw was already booked. So why not use the man who continued to defy the odds at every turn and always impressed fans when his number was called?
But the match between Styles and Balor was about much more than just filling a spot on the card. This was likely a crucial move in terms of building toward Survivor Series. Styles appears to be with Team SmackDown, but is he a mole for Team Raw? Will AJ's presence at TLC mean a change for him, and he will jump ship to the red brand?
Those questions are being asked, and that means the intrigue surrounding Survivor Series is growing. That's a good thing, especially since the reaction to SmackDown's invasion of Raw has been mixed at best. Why were top babyfaces like The New Day working side by side with top heels to viciously attack other babyfaces on the Raw roster?
Why would guys like Baron Corbin and Rusev suddenly agree to follow the lead of commissioner Shane McMahon, whom they have never shown any respect for? Was all of this done to just take fans from TLC to Survivor Series, and that's it?
This is where WWE Creative comes in.
There should be a logical plan in place to take both brands to Survivor Series and beyond. There should also be a major emphasis on Styles, who could be the link between both programs. There is no question AJ is one of the most talented wrestlers in the world, and he's arguably the best in WWE today.
With a talent like that in the mix, there is no reason to not shine the spotlight on him.
AJ's work in the weeks leading up to the Survivor Series could lay the groundwork for what's to come. A defection to Raw on November 19 could drastically change the landscapes of both Raw and SmackDown.
Styles could take other talents with him. He may even form a WWE version of The Bullet Club with Balor. If anyone in the locker room could make it work while also maintaining a high level of fan interest and still get himself over, it's Styles.
AJ is the most integral part of this storyline, and that could become obvious very soon.
Raw general manager Kurt Angle was the wild card in the WCW/ECW Alliance angle that ran in 2001. Sixteen years later, Styles has the chance to make that kind of impact as well. WWE has given AJ the opportunity to shine, and he's always risen to the occasion. He can do so again now.
The Phenomenal One is everything he says he is and much more. He's proved that time after time. Survivor Series will be no different.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, iHeartRadio, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online at boinkstudios.com.