AJ Styles has been the poster child for SmackDown Live since the blue brand became its own entity in the summer of 2016, and after accomplishing everything imaginable on the program, he's ready to be moved to WWE Raw post-WrestleMania 35.
No one has been more synonymous with SmackDown over the last three years than Styles. Had it not been for The Phenomenal One, there is a decent chance the show would not have been superior to Raw for the first year of the renewed brand split when he was riding high as WWE champion.
He was a recurring highlight on SmackDown during his various feuds with Dean Ambrose, John Cena and Shane McMahon, and he always brought the best out of his opponents.
Whether he was a face or a heel, Styles' claims of being the face who ran the place rang true, because nobody else helped make SmackDown Live the success it is today more than he did.
With all that said, 2019 has been an interesting year for Styles so far. After failing to regain the WWE Championship from Daniel Bryan at both the Royal Rumble and at Elimination Chamber, he started to become more of a background player on the program.
In fact, his appearances on SmackDown lately have been limited to brief backstage interactions with Randy Orton. During each of Styles' interviews with Kayla Braxton, Orton would interrupt him and proceed to question his status as SmackDown's number one man.
As of this writing, a one-on-one bout between the two hasn't been announced for the Fastlane pay-per-view on Sunday, meaning their match will likely be saved for WrestleMania in early April.
Since Styles joined WWE three years ago, he and Orton have collided in singles competition only once. It was on an episode of SmackDown in March 2017, when the winner advanced to WrestleMania to contend for the WWE title.
Orton emerged victorious on that occasion, so it's logical to assume Styles would be more than happy to avenge that loss at the Show of Shows. There isn't much of a reason for them to feud beyond that, though it's possible WWE finds a way to heat up their rivalry between now and then.
All things considered, it would be a fitting farewell for Styles from SmackDown. Orton aside, there aren't any other fresh faces for him to face on the blue brand, whereas Raw would be the perfect place for him to continue to thrive.
WWE sending Styles to Raw in the 2016 draft would have been the wrong call. He wouldn't have been afforded the same opportunities that he's been given on SmackDown, nor would he have been positioned as the face of the franchise ahead of Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar.
Even one year later, there was still so much left for Styles to do on SmackDown. He spent several months rehabbing the United States Championship and making it mean something before setting his sights back on the WWE title and embarking on a record-setting reign that ended up lasting an astounding 371 days.
Through all of these achievements, Styles has cemented himself as a household name in WWE. He doesn't need SmackDown as much as he once did (and vice versa), so if there was ever a time for him to switch shows, it would following the culmination of his storyline with Orton.
Based off how he has been on the back burner of SmackDown in recent months, it's clear he would benefit from a change in scenery sooner rather than later. Although Raw is uncharted territory for him, he would have no trouble settling into a top spot and eventually making his presence felt in the Universal Championship picture.
For those concerned with Styles being overshadowed by someone such as Reigns, it's entirely possible The Big Dog swaps shows with Styles post-WrestleMania to ensure the blue brand has enough star power for when it debuts on Fox later this year. That would leave Styles and Rollins as Raw's biggest babyfaces, and of course, it would merely be a matter of time before those two crossed paths.
From Finn Balor to Braun Strowman to Drew McIntyre, there is a plethora of opponents for Styles to work with on Raw, as well as a few titles he has yet to hold.
If Styles were to stay on SmackDown past April, he would run the risk of growing stagnant and becoming just another wrestler on the roster. He deserves better than that, which is why a run on Raw is exactly what he needs in the near future.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.