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Is WWE teasing an AJ Styles face turn?

Right off the top, my own personal opinion on this is that - as with Roman Reigns over on Monday nights - the way SmackDown LIVE depicts AJ Styles is an indication WWE is finally figuring out how to present the post-’heels-and-faces’ characters they’ve been wanting to for a long time. The Phenomenal One leans a little more traditional villain than the Big Dog, but they both exist in the middle ground where their defining trait is supreme confidence in their own abilities.

So, as with Reigns respectfully putting down Undertaker - but putting him down nonetheless, Styles offering his hand to Shane McMahon after the commissioner proved he could hang in the ring isn’t a turn, just something a cocky sunnamagun does when an opponent proves he can hang. Or, as JBL says in the above video from the April 4 SmackDown, “warriors respect warriors”.

Shane O’Mac followed that up with his comments about the scene on Talking Smack:

It was great. Classy move, he put out his hand, and it meant a lot to me. You know, the crowd was awesome and... just fun. But AJ putting his hand out, and it was a show of respect we had a good little moment in there and I felt it. Would love to be able to do that any time again. He is phenomenal. Truly phenomenal.

The mutual respect wasn’t the most significant thing about the segment, in terms of embracing the fact crowds want to support Styles, even if he’s playing rudo in most of his matches. No, for my money, that would be acknowledging the cheers by having AJ defiantly declare himself the face of many fans’ clear-cut favorite brand:

I don’t want to go anywhere. Because you know it, these people know it - SmackDown LIVE is the house that AJ Styles built. I’ll be DAMNED if somebody else is gonna come over here and try to take that from me.

Rumors indicate moving Styles to Monday nights is exactly what’s going to happen in next week’s “Superstar Shake-up”... but won’t that just make him more of a fan favorite if the (lower case ‘a’) authority trades him in defiance of his, and the fans’, wishes?

It’s an interesting discussion, and one we’ve been having about Reigns for months. So let’s bring the man who asks to be introduced as “the Face That Runs The Place” into the debate...

How do you think of AJ Styles on the face-heel spectrum? What, if anything, should WWE do to move him one way or the other?

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