AJ Styles' WWE Legacy Grows After Impressive Win vs. Jinder Mahal

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterDecember 18, 2017

Credit: WWE.com

There's nothing AJ Styles can't do in a WWE ring, is there?

The Phenomenal One closed out Sunday's Clash of Champions pay-per-view with a stellar performance in a big match. Those have been the norm for Styles. It doesn't matter if he's facing a powerhouse like Mahal or a high-flyer, a marquee star or a midcarder, he delivers like no one else in the company once the bell rings.

Expectations were understandably subdued heading into the WWE Championship bout in Boston's TD Garden.

Clash of the Champions is far from a premier PPV. Mahal's time in the main event scene has been uneven at best. And this feud wasn't scorching.

Yet, Styles concocted more magic. He elevated a largely disappointing PPV with a quality main event, the latest in a long line of standout contests.

Awkwardness and one too many referees stagnated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn vs. Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura. The lumberjack stipulation hampered Charlotte Flair vs. Natalya. Then came Styles sauntering down the entrance ramp with gold around his waist to change the dynamic of the PPV. 

Mahal controlled much of the early portions of the match, his power forcing the champ to remain on the defensive. As The Maharaja went on the prowl, smashing Styles into the security barricade, the announce table and the ring ropes, the babyface helped make his foe look like a fearsome beast.

Styles collapsed, flailed and writhed in such dramatic fashion that one couldn't help but be sucked in.

When it was The Phenomenal One's turn to go on the attack, he provided the match with bursts of energy. He soared from the ropes, taking his usual smooth, graceful flights. Mahal yanked him off the ring apron and he landed on his feet, the champ looking like a cat in tights. 

His springboard 450 splash, as usual, was a beautiful sight to behold, an Edouard Manet painting of a wrestling move.

AJ Styles' in-ring arsenal is stunning.
AJ Styles' in-ring arsenal is stunning.Credit: WWE.com

On TJR Wrestling, John Canton wrote of the champ's performance: "Styles' ability in the ring is unmatched in WWE, and he showed it again." 

Mahal had his career-best performance on Sunday. The much-maligned challenger looked a certified main eventer at Clash of Champions.

That's no coincidence; Styles is among the best WWE has ever seen at elevating his adversaries.

Any intelligent best-of list for 2016 and 2017 will have Styles' name all over it. He has thrived against Roman Reigns, John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Dean Ambrose, Finn Balor and others. He led a 40-year-old Shane McMahon to a show-stealer at WrestleMania this April. At Survivor Series, The Phenomenal One inspired the best one-on-one showing from Lesnar in years.

Styles is on a historic pace. 

Masked Man Show co-host and at-large Bleacher Report writer Dave Schilling saluted Styles' first two years in WWE:

The way that the champ has been able to produce in the ring at this level this often means you don't judge him in comparison with his peers. You instead have to discuss what he's doing in an all-time context.

Styles isn't in competition with Reigns or Seth Rollins, he's vying for a spot above the likes of Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle. Each performance is a step closer to the Hall of Fame. Each thriller between the ropes is an argument to push Styles higher up the list of WWE's best ever.

He now marches into 2018 with the WWE title in hand, looking to continue this sizzling run, well on his way to legendary status.

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