AJ Styles vs. Dean Ambrose (c)
WWE championship match
It is more significant that this match that is happening in general than the story that is driving this feud. That’s partially because there isn’t much of a story driving it at all.
AJ Styles earned a title shot probably the hardest way someone could - he defeated John Cena twice in a row on consecutive pay-per-views (PPVs). The second time was clean as a whistle. He’s the top of a short list of people who have done that in the last decade. Hell, it’s possible he’s the only person on the list.
And Styles knows it. Since notching that big time victory, he’s taken to calling himself The New Face that Runs the Place and wearing John Cena’s armband on his arm, like a spoil of war. Pretty much he’s been a super douche about it.
Such a feat warranted a WWE title shot according to SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan. At one point Styles had to fight Dolph Ziggler in a match where if Dolph won, he got added to the title match. Not surprisingly, Dolph did not win.
Dean Ambrose has been WWE champion since Money in the Bank, successfully defending the title against Seth Rollins, both Rollins & Reigns in a triple threat, and Dolph Ziggler.
These two haven’t had much tension between them in this build, partially because there was only a short time between SummerSlam and Backlash. The peak of their drama was when AJ Styles tried to attack Ambrose using his Phenomenal Forearm and the champ knocked him down so that he landed on with the ropes between his crotch. Then Dean Ambrose made some jokes about it the next week and gave Styles a bowling trophy.
What’s of more interest is the fact that AJ Styles, within a year of entering the WWE, has a legitimate chance to win one of their top prizes. While Styles had title matches against Roman Reigns after WrestleMania, there was little doubt that Roman would walk out champion after those matches. But in this case, it almost feels like Styles is destined to win the top prize of the SmackDown brand, even if it isn’t tonight.
That’s something we can attribute to the brand split. While it’s certainly possible that even without the split, WWE would run Ambrose/Styles, it’s not definite. With main eventer on the other brand such as Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and now Kevin Owens, there were plenty of other places they could have gone with a single WWE title. And there was much less of a chance of AJ actually winning the title. With the brand split, it seems more than a possibility that the former face of TNA will become the face of the SmackDown brand.
Tonight, AJ Styles will have a chance to grab the brand’s top prize to follow up his more impressive feat of consecutive wins against John Cena. To do that, he’ll need to defeat Dean Ambrose, who will look to continue as the top man on the SmackDown brand. They will face off for the WWE title at Backlash tonight on the WWE Network, which starts at 8 EST. And keep it here at CagesideSeats.com for all your Backlash coverage.