AJ Styles Should Be Raw's Top Star and WWE Is Wasting Him

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2021


There are many things contributing to WWE's uninspired main event scene on Raw.

Miscasting talent is a big part of the problem.

No better example exists than AJ Styles. He's stuck in the tag division and used as a piece to help build up the colossus that is Omos.

Normally, that sort of role wouldn't be so bad for Styles if one didn't consider any other factors. If, for instance, the main event scene were humming along with a rightful headlining act and not giving fans reasons to ignore it, Styles stuck in a tag role would be just fine.

But the main event is a disaster of WWE's own making. The company mishandled Drew McIntyre when it mattered most, ending his dominant pandemic-era run by unceremoniously stripping the belt off him before WrestleMania, having him then lose at the biggest show of the year and then lose more and more.

With McIntyre deflated, Bobby Lashley hasn't had any momentum as the next top guy because he's simply feuding with McIntyre and Braun Strowman. In essence, the midcard scene's sense of purgatory has pervaded the main event scene.

The infusion of Kofi Kingston doesn't move the needle much, either. Part of that is because it feels like a desperate attempt by WWE to right its missteps over the past few months. Another part of it is simply Kingston himself—his character isn't going to change or do anything dynamic.

That's not to say another underdog tale can't be fun, but Kingston is just another example of WWE squashing its own top babyface guys at the worst moments for no reason—remember when Kingston had a dominant solo run before getting bulldozed by Brock Lesnar on the first SmackDown on Fox, never to even challenge for his title again?

Styles isn't the sort of guy to have these sorts of problems. He's not going to get railroaded by WWE's storytelling because he can play any role. He can assume that underdog babyface position. He can be the dominant, cocky, even fear-inducing heel. And he can be the scaredy-cat bad guy who cheats his way to wins and gold. We are, after all, talking about the man who helped to make James Ellsworth an international sensation.

It boggles the mind that CEO Vince McMahon and Co. haven't broken the emergency glass and punched the Styles button to save Raw. WWE had no problems throwing Styles into the main event scene when he showed up in WWE and even called on him in other emergency situations, flying him all over the place to put on classics.

The Randy Orton comparison will come up, of course. Orton's stuck down in the tag division too with Riddle. But the difference is simple: He spent the better part of last year in title contention and having the huge feud with Edge.

Styles had a stint with the intercontinental title and such, but it's not much of a comparison. His leaping up to the biggest tier of Raw wouldn't be ridiculous. And if WWE isn't going to go all-in on a secret weapon like Keith Lee, it might as well lean into Styles, one of the best outright talents in the world.

Another big part of the reason the Raw main event scene just looks so blah is because it just doesn't stand a chance when holding it up side by side to what Roman Reigns continues to do on the blue brand.

Styles at least gives Raw a fighting chance. Throwing Lashley into McIntyre and Strowman, now with a dash of Kingston, not so much.

One could also argue WWE has Raw in a holding pattern until a massive name like Brock Lesnar returns when fans get back in the stands. But this Raw title scene reeking of holding pattern is another element of the problem—it doesn't have to be this way.

Call it a compounding problem. Everyone in the title scene gets hurt by things feeling this way. Styles isn't gaining any ground in the mindshare of fans by hanging around the tag team scene, either. Bumping him up with a giant bodyguard at his side to provide something fresh wouldn't feel much like filler.

Right now, it's safe to accuse WWE of wasting Styles. Everybody can't contend at the top of the card all the time, but he's not just anybody. And what Raw has going on isn't working.

Knowing Styles, he could be quite the fixer. He's done it before for WWE, so why not once more?