Initial word was that while the decision to have Kevin Owens reclaim the United States championship from AJ Styles came at the last minute, and despite a less-than-crisply executed finish, the Battleground title change was planned.
Not so fast.
Several sources are now raising doubt about that, starting with Twitter-er rovert, who posted this video clip of the end of the match - something WWE didn’t show on the Network broadcast or anywhere else since - and questioning the lack of reporting about whether this went to script, when his sources indicated it didn’t:
Dave and Bryan didn't have the scoop on the AJ/Owen finish - I really wonder what sources they have now nowadays? pic.twitter.com/XRsY7p0oFa— rovert (@SoDuTw) July 24, 2017
Fightful followed up on rovert’s report, and found fans in the arena who said Styles wasn’t in the ring after the match to sell the loss, but seemed visibly upset and got into a “heated discussion” with referee Brian Nguyen (who took a bump which didn’t seem to play into the result, and that Jerry Lawler joked with Owens about on Talking Smack). Their sources confirmed the finish wasn’t what was planned as of Saturday, but not whether KO was to reclaim the belt. Wade Keller at Pro Wrestling Torch, however, said on his (subscription required) post-Battleground podcast that AJ was the planned winner, and there was “chaos” backstage after the finish.
Where does this all leave us? Heading into the fallout edition of SmackDown, with more questions than answers. But WWE.com’s preview for tonight (July 25) does give us our first indication the company will use the confusion as part of a storyline:
WWE Battleground had more than its share of controversy, including the United States Championship battle between AJ Styles and Kevin Owens. In managing to reverse a submission hold by The Phenomenal One, KO scored a surprise three-count to reclaim his title and, perhaps, the right to once again call himself The New Face of America.
How will the next chapter in this heated rivalry be written on SmackDown LIVE?
Regardless of what went down, this is certainly a weird turn for a feud that’s already featured a house show title change, and probably cements its place in wrestling lore - just not for the reasons many of us thought a Owens/Styles program would be remembered.