For the first time in his storied career, AJ Styles headlined a WWE pay-per-view (PPV) at tonight's (Sun., May 1, 2016) Payback event at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. He did so challenging the company flagbearer, Roman Reigns, for the WWE world heavyweight championship, one of the few top titles he's never gotten his hands on.
Predictably enough, Reigns was heavily booed. As in, you could hardly hear yourself think when his music hit. It was a sustained verbal assault on his very presence, and it created the perfect atmosphere for a main event match.
The match was incredible.
Reigns was in control throughout the first half, absolutely playing to the crowd that hated him each time he found a great new way to assert his dominance, like a roll up tease that was really a transition to a powerbomb. When Styles made his comeback, it involved a Phenomenal Forearm to Reigns on the outside, crashing them both through the table.
Styles was able to get back into the ring but couldn't drag Roman in before the referee counted to 10. That meant he won via count out, keeping the title on Reigns.
Everyone was upset when Shane McMahon came out and said they were restarting the match -- it's a new era, or whatever -- and there would be no count outs in this one.
This time, they built to a spot where Reigns hit a low blow on Styles, though he didn't necessarily mean to. The bell was called for and Styles was declared winner but Reigns, of course, would keep the WWE world heavyweight title.
Naturally, this led to Stephanie McMahon coming out and saying the match would be restarted under No Disqualification rules.
They fought outside and did a spot or two on the barricade and on the announce table. On the way back in, Styles tried the Phenomenal Forearm but Reigns countered with the Superman Punch. So Reigns stood him up and did it again. He went to the corner for the spear and that's when Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows showed up and attacked the champ.
They took him out with the Boot of Doom before encouraging Styles to get in and pin Reigns. He came in with the Phenomenal Forearm and it looked like that would be the finish but Roman was near the ropes and got his foot on the bottom rope in time.
That's when The Usos showed up and brawled with Anderson and Gallows. Reigns then sent Styles off the top into all of them. Roman then came over the top with a splash that took everyone out except for AJ.
He hit TWO Phenomenal Forearms but couldn't get the pin. He kept trying time after time after time but ultimately, Reigns ducked one more, built momentum using the ropes, and hit a big spear to get the pin to retain the title.
What an unbelievable match.
For complete Payback results and coverage of every match on the card click here.