Before Styles' first-round Intercontinental Championship tournament match against Shinsuke Nakamura last week on SmackDown, the announcers revealed that Styles had been traded to SmackDown from Raw on a permanent basis for Superstars to be named later.
Styles has long called SmackDown "The House That AJ Styles Built," and he told Graves he is happy to be back on the blue brand, especially after the release of OC members Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson:
"It's moving to Fox and I think they're doing a good job, so I'm excited about that. Doing something different is good for me. I needed a change. Losing Gallows and Anderson really hurt me. Getting away from Raw helps me get over it—I don't know if I'll get over it, but it helps change the atmosphere around me and to do something different. My whole time on Raw was basically with them. To get away from that and get to SmackDown, where I've had a lot of success, it's a good thing."
WWE released Gallows and Anderson last month as part of wide-ranging budget cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gallows and Anderson are close friends with Styles in real life, dating back to their time together as part of Bullet Club in Japan.
In the months preceding their release, Gallows and Anderson were part of The OC stable with Styles. They even aided him in the Boneyard Match between Styles and The Undertaker at WrestleMania 36.
Styles told Graves the release of Gallows and Anderson hit him hard:
"I brought their names to WWE and when they got released, I immediately felt responsible for them because I helped them get here and I wanted them to stay. I thought, if I hadn't encouraged them to stay maybe they wouldn't be behind right now. A lot of it fell on me and I felt like I let them down. I talked to them about this and I was just crushed. I'm the oldest and I didn't take care of them. That really bothered me. And it still does."
While the release of Gallows and Anderson was a bummer to Styles and many WWE fans, it did open the door for Styles to return to SmackDown, which is where he held the WWE Championship on two occasions.
The Phenomenal One is going for the IC title, and the bracket is playing out in such a way that he could meet Daniel Bryan in the finals. That match and feud may be precisely what Styles needs to move forward.
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