This article was inspired by Graham Midgley’s CM Punk/ John Cena MITB recap of a match that was the start of a legendary rivalry. This match and rivalry really elevated both John Cena and CM Punk. But I’ll tell you a feud I believe to be more legendary and epic than Punk and Cena. That feud was the feud between John Cena and AJ Styles. The peak of this was their match at SummerSlam 2016. Let’s relive together this epic encounter between two of the greatest of all time as we see AJ Styles vs John Cena at Summerslam 2016.
AJ Styles was already well known to the wrestling world from his time in TNA, ROH, and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Styles had done it all in those companies. He put the X-Division on the map in TNA. In TNA he also had a tag team run with Christopher Daniels that was amazing, he won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship and was also the first-ever TNA Grand Slam Champion. In Japan, he is a former IWPG Heavyweight Champion (same as Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle). But the one thing we hadn’t seen from Styles and weren’t sure if we’d ever see was Styles step into a WWE ring. And in 2016 at the Royal Rumble, we would finally see it! AJ Styles was finally in a WWE ring and based on the crowd’s reaction they couldn’t have been happier!
Now there was the question if AJ could make it in the “Big Leagues.” In TNA AJ was a big fish swimming in a tiny little pond but could Styles really hang with the guys in the WWE or would he fold under pressure?
At first, I wasn’t sure if Vince was sold on Styles as he was being booked 50/50 with Chris Jericho in his first major feud in WWE. This was head-scratching as Jericho is a legend and no disrespect there but if the idea was to push Styles then it didn’t make a lot of sense for him to lose clean to Jericho in his WrestleMania debut. But it turns out Jericho had spoken to Vince directly and told him that AJ GREAT and that they needed to push him. The next night on Raw he would win a fatal 4 way to become the #1 Contender to the WWE Championship. After having a program with Roman Reigns (the top guy) AJ would move onto none other than John Cena.
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows would join Styles reuniting from their days in Japan. They soon debuted the hottest catchphrase of the summer that year and something we saw them do often and that was “BEAT UP JOHN CENA.” After working a small series of matches Styles went onto challenge John Cena for a match at SummerSlam. This was a marquee match for Styles. It was his opportunity to prove to everyone that he could hang with anyone on any stage. And for everyone that watched this match, you know exactly what happens next. AJ Styles and John Cena tore it down that night in a classic that saw Styles defeat Cena clean and earn the respect of all the higher-ups in the WWE. This match single handily made AJ Styles’ WWE career because after this the company had no other choice than to put the WWE Championship on Styles.
After defeating Dean Ambrose Styles would begin his first reign as WWE Champion. AJ turned that championship into what it’s supposed to be and that’s the working man’s championship. AJ held the title until Royal Rumble where he would lose it to none other than John Cena. Had AJ been buried after this I wouldn’t have cared less because my favorite wrestler went from a small promotion like TNA to being the top guy for the biggest company in the industry. However, Styles didn’t get buried. He proved to be the best wrestler in the WWE (better than Roman, Seth, Cena, and everyone) and that comes as no surprise to me.
If the WWE could follow this booking they’d have no problem with creating new stars. I know I’ve talked a lot about AJ but I’d be foolish not to mention John Cena and the ability he has to turn guys into stars. Cena has changed the fortunes for guys like Edge, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and AJ Styles, and while Cena is the golden shovel himself he has shown he’s willing to do the job for the guys that deserve it. For that, I can say I respect that about John Cena.
Thank you to both men for putting on one of the greatest matches that I have seen in my life!
What is your favorite AJ Styles match and why? Tell us what you think down below in the comments!