WWE
Matt Wilansky, ESPN.com 15d

AJ Styles grabs shock title win in Manchester, shaking up SmackDown and Survivor Series

WWE

Some guy named Tom posted a tweet Tuesday that read: "Brock Lesnar vs AJ Styles omg I think I may pass out."

Yeah, you and the rest of the wrestling crazies out there, Tom.

In Manchester, England, Styles finally ended the Jinder Mahal championship era with a match-ending Phenomenal Forearm that pushed an already raucous crowd into a state of delirium. The result also gave Survivor Series a drastic makeover, as Styles will now clash with the Universal champion Lesnar is a delicious battle of champions.

Hyperbole? No chance. Styles, arguably the most popular performer in the business, finally got the gold back. He became the titan of Tuesday, his second reign as the WWE champ. Yes, the timing of the result might be questionable, but the reality is that for most of the year, Styles didn't seem like the guy who was the de facto MVP in 2016. Multiple stints as the U.S. champ were great, as was his rivalry with Kevin Owens, but Styles is hardly someone who should be vying for the secondary titles, not yet anyway.

Speaking of timing, nothing like upstaging Ric Flair and the debut of his 30 for 30 film, right? The 16-time legend suddenly became the second-most important performer Tuesday, if only for a moment.

But enough of the cheerleading. There are some major ramifications here -- the first being the aforementioned Survivor Series shakeup. Styles-Lesnar might be the most enticing Super Bowl-esque matchup we've had all year. And that's saying something, considering Lesnar already faced Braun Strowman and John Cena duked it out with Roman Reigns at No Mercy in late September.

So, yes, Survivor Series has become a whole lot more enticing. A week ago, we wrote that too many intersecting storylines were making an already scripted television show that much more implausible. While that remains true, the idea of having a true marquee event in Styles-Lesnar detracts from the obvious shortcomings of a forced brand vs. brand brouhaha with little to no build.

And who knows, there's a possibility that Survivor Series could get another major facelift if Charlotte Flair takes out Natalya next week for the women's championship, setting up a new match for Alexa Bliss in Houston.

There's no definitive reason the WWE decided now would be a good time to pull off such a stunner and completely change the dynamic of not only SmackDown, but the upcoming big-four pay-per-view. But it's been clear for months that the creative team has put less onus in meticulous, slow story-building, instead opting for the instant humdinger.

Still, next month, the WWE will be touring in India, where Mahal's celebrity status has risen tenfold since winning the heavyweight championship against Randy Orton at Backlash in May. Should we expect Mahal to get the belt back after Survivor Series, if only briefly? After all, many a title in recent months have bounced back and forth between the cruiserweights, the tag-team champions on both shows and the United States championship.

A jobber-turned bonafide champ, Mahal finally went down after 170 days with the title. True, he wasn't the best in-ring performer, but give him credit for the way in which he handled Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura, among others. Outside the ring, Mahal often spoke of the unrelenting work he put in to make it in this business, especially after he was released by the WWE in 2016 before re-signing two years later.

Even if he had his share of haters, Mahal's old-school jingoistic approach worked, and his mic skills vastly improved as the months went on. He leveraged his sidekicks, the Singh Brothers, the way a well-versed heel should.

But this day was about the return of Styles the champion, and no one else. It was the kind of result that makes you wanna go, "Wooo!"

Hits & misses

  • The traditional five-on-five men's match was missing one performer after Tuesday night's show, but early Wednesday morning Shane McMahon announced that John Cena would be the final competitor in the match, filling up SmackDown's team.

  • Speaking of bad guys doing badly, what was the point of turning Zayn into an insubordinate evildoer if his role is to, well, roll over for everyone in his path? On Tuesday, Zayn lost to Kofi Kingston in an energetic, entertaining match. Still, it was another L. Outside of an epic victory against Mike Kanellis recently, Zayn hasn't won a televised singles match since May.

  • Turns out Rusev is who we thought he was -- the guy who can't for the life of him find any semblance of traction since joining SmackDown months ago. Once again, he fell to Randy Orton, and once again, it looks like the Bulgarian Brute will be a non-factor during a high-profile moment. Maybe a down-in-the-dumps beef with Dolph Ziggler wouldn't be the worst idea. Then again ...

  • It wasn't like James Ellsworth ever had a chance to beat Becky Lynch anyway. But outside the predictable outcome in the "battle of the sexes" bout, it was nice to see Carmella superkick her sidekick after the match. Might be time for the Money in the Bank winner to go solo and shed the irreverent, goofy shtick she has going on. For Ellsworth, he could then go find a lesser, but more competitive, opponent in Zayn.

  • Here's hoping the Jey Uso injury Tuesday was a work, but by the looks of it, and the awkward, abrupt ending against Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable, it might not be. Jey, one half of the SmackDown champion The Usos, could not put pressure on his left leg after a nasty chop block by Gable outside the ring. If he's down and out, the tag-team battle at Survivor Series will likely see a complete overhaul now that The Bar are the new Raw champions as of Monday.

  • As mentioned, Charlotte will have her chance at the women's championship and the right to face Alexa Bliss at Survivor Series, if she can beat Natalya next Tuesday. Based on the direction the WWE creative has been going lately, it seems nothing short of the most eye-popping matchups will be in place for the pay-per-view. But after all the effort to make Natalya into something more than a perennial mid-carder, it would be a shame to not see her get her moment she deserves in Houston.

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