To say 2021 was far from a banner year for AJ Styles would be an understatement the size of Omos, the massive rookie he spent the year teaming with as part of the Raw brand's tag team division.
At a time when the flagship show could have greatly benefited from his star power in the main event scene, he was wasted as the veteran performer in a tag team.
With the breakup of his Championship-winning duo with Omos, Styles can now refocus himself on a singles run and title chase.
Both of which may be among the last in his storied, Hall of Fame career.
Big Match Potential
Awaiting Styles on the red brand are two marquee matches against top babyfaces, the first being with Edge.
The Rated R Superstar and 2012 Hall of Famer previously expressed his desire to battle The Phenomenal One, whom he missed out on competing against following the neck injury that forced him into premature retirement in 2011. That particular showdown would be a dream match.
Edge is a master storyteller, while Styles is still one of the elite athletes in pro wrestling. On the surface, their strengths mesh well and the crowd would understandably be hot for the all-timers. As we have seen in recent years, the right combination of stars brings about the desired reaction, even if the creative fails the wrestlers. Theirs would be a sure-fire Match of the Year candidate, even if by sheer will power if nothing else.
Then there is the WWE Championship feud with Big E.
Styles has not been a regular contender for the title in what feels like forever, but he is one of the few stars who can maneuver in and out of title feuds because of the credibility he has built among the audience. After a year spent in tag teams, he could easily step up to Big E next week, challenge him for the title and fans would buy into it.
A feud with the reigning champion would do more for Big E, though.
Big E is a champion still finding his footing. He has some quality wins but has yet to be presented as a champion at the tippy top of the company. Working with Styles, having those show-stealing matches and further proving himself worthy of the spot he finds himself in will help establish him as that champion.
If WWE Creative opts to turn Styles babyface, hinted at by his appearance Wednesday night on NXT and an impending match with upstart Grayson Waller, there is a feud with Seth Rollins that could easily captivate audiences. The two highly touted performers have yet to compete against each other in a high-profile feud in the company, despite sharing the ring more than once. A feud between them would keep both busy for months as the quality of their matches would almost certainly command followups.
Either scenario helps elevate the star power on Raw and removes Styles from a tag team division he appeared to have outgrown from the start.
His Last Run?
At 44 years old, there is no telling how much Styles has left in him. Coming up on his 24th year in the industry, he will have a ton of wear and tear on his body. His style is physically demanding and the numerous gimmick matches he has competed in across Impact Wrestling and WWE have surely taken their toll. With only so many runs at the top of the card with championship aspirations, these opportunities become more and more imperative.
Once he gets past Omos on Monday's Raw and has his match against Waller (presumably at NXT New Year's Evil), WWE should put all of its efforts into pushing Styles into the upper echelon of the Raw brand. Let him battle for titles, feud with former champions and return to the glory he experienced prior to the tag team run.
Let him work with Big E, Edge, Rollins, Lashley and Kevin Owens.
WrestleVotes reported Tuesday that there are considerable plans for Styles, so hopefully those matches and more are on the horizon.
Just keep him far away from Randy Orton. We’ve seen that one more than enough at this point.
Let Styles be Styles so that a new generation of fans, who may only know of his exploits as world champion or in some of the best matches of the last two decades, may experience The Phenomenal One in all his glory.
The performer has earned it, the fans deserve it and the WWE product will benefit from it.