AJ Styles’ surprise move to Smackdown last month was marked in style on Friday as The Phenomenal One defeated Daniel Bryan in the final of the Intercontinental title tournament in one of the greatest WWE TV matches of all time.
The move to the blue brand came as something as a surprise. AJ Styles had been a featured part of Raw this year with the highlight being the Boneyard match with The Undertaker that served as the main event of night one of WrestleMania 36. He was also part of the cinematic style Money In The Bank match in May.
Reports have now emerged, courtesy of Dave Meltzer, that the reason for the move stemmed from tensions with the then head of the Raw brand, Paul Heyman.
These tensions were apparently a result of the release of AJ’s close friends Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows on April 15th.
This surprise release took away not only AJ’s on-screen partners but also his closest friends in the locker room. Although any decision of this magnitude would ultimately have been Vince McMahon’s call, it seems Heyman was the one in the firing line of Styles’ frustration.
Heyman was of course removed from his Raw position earlier this week, leaving Bruce Prichard in charge of both main roster brands.
Early suggestions from AJ Styles suggest that he sees this title win as a chance to restore the prominence of the once-prestigious Intercontinental Champions. If anyone in recent years can bring back it’s reputation as ‘the worker’s belt’, as built by former champions such as Bret Hart, Mr Perfect and Shawn Michaels, it’s Styles.