It’s December, and while that means that the WWE is well on the road to WrestleMania it also means it is awards season. There has been something of a changing of the guard in WWE this year, with John Cena taking a part-time roll and Randy Orton being shuffled out of the main event scene. While it has had its negatives, this change has also opened up the WWE Wrestler of the Year award. There are several worthy candidates, but only one can take home the coveted title. So why should it be AJ Styles?
The Phenomenal One
AJ Styles started the year as WWE Champion, and barring any surprises he should finish the year as WWE Champion. Styles has been absolutely incredible in the ring this year, for many it was the first time they really appreciated the genius of Styles’ ring work, and while there is always that section of the fanbase that will say “yeah but he was better in Japan!”, there is no doubting that he has lived up to his phenomenal billing.
It started with his clash against Cena at the Royal Rumble. It wasn’t quite to my own tastes, but there is no doubt that for many it was WWE’s match of the year. He then helped to carry the Elimination Chamber match and dragged a great match out of Shane McMahon at WrestleMania. The screwy finishes and poor booking of his Kevin Owens feud still leaves a sour taste, but the in-ring work there was outstanding, and then there was his impromptu match with Finn Balor at TLC which was easily Balor’s best in WWE. As if that wasn’t proof enough he then coaxed a good match out of Jinder Mahal and lifted the shadow of his title reign from SmackDown Live.
In short, if this were an award for best in-ring worker there would be no debate and no argument. It would be more emphatic than a Harlem Globetrotters win. Except this is WWE, so there is always more to just the bell-to-bell of it.
One of Styles’ biggest question marks when he came to WWE was how well he would handle the scripted promos. He had always been solid in Japan, but that is a company that encourages its American workers to ad-lib, curse, and generally be entertaining over telling directed stories. In WWE you get handed a script and told to recite it perfectly, and it can throw people off.
There is no doubt that Styles was one of those people early on, but he soon found his feet and has become a solid promo. Only, solid doesn’t really stand out in the WWE. There are a lot of very good talkers in WWE, and several extremely good ones. When AJ talks it carries weight, because he can back it up, but he doesn't often snatch attention and hold it like The Miz or Enzo do.
Why he probably won't win
There is a lot of stiff competition, from Neville's amazing heel run to Braun Strowman's incredible rise and the ever-present Roman Reigns. Unlike those three though, AJ suffers from his position on SmackDown Live. For as much as the move to a live Tuesday night has helped the show, SmackDown remains firmly the younger brother to Raw, and that makes it less watched, less talked about, and less important.
Do you think AJ Styles has earned the right to be WWE's Wrestler of the Year for 2017?