In a shocking turn of events, AJ Styles defeated the WWE Champion Jinder Mahal at the SmackDown Live tapings in Manchester to become the new WWE Heavyweight Champion. It happened just weeks from Survivor Series, a pay-per-view in which Brock Lesnar vs Jinder Mahal was supposed to be the big-ticket main event and it took place at a show that was bound to have spoilers of the results leaked well before the broadcast aired in North America.
The question is why? Why, after months of keeping Jinder Mahal as the WWE Champion would the WWE choose now to make the title switch? Is it a failed experiment with Mahal, is Styles the better option? Is this only temporary?
Here are Five Reasons WWE Gave The WWE Championship to AJ Styles Before Survivor Series.
Perhaps this title change is meant for shock value and not something permanent. It's possible the WWE has no intention of keeping the belt on AJ Styles heading into Survivor Series and his win is just to draw viewers to SmackDown Live on television knowing that people will tune into the see the title change.
There is a proven history of title changes affecting ratings and if the WWE knew spoilers would get out, they essentially had free marketing for the show that was guaranteed to spark interest. There's nothing saying Mahal can't win it back next week or at a live event.
The idea of giving Jinder Mahal the title in the first place was for shock and to reach the audience in India where the WWE Network and other products were launching. People were shocked that the WWE continually kept the title on him well after that promotional blitz.
AJ Styles is likely a better draw for the pay-per-view and will probably attract more interest in the main event since Brock Lesnar vs AJ Styles is a dream match for a lot of fans in the WWE Universe.
One of the problems WWE was facing with Jinder Mahal as the opponent for Lesnar was just how fans view Mahal as an undeserving champion. He should be given huge credit for resurrecting his WWE career, but he's not at the same level as an AJ Styles in terms of respect factor and WWE was using most of their promotional efforts just to sell the audience that Mahal stood a chance in this match.
Lesnar versus AJ Styles still leans toward Lesnar—especially since AJ has lost some high profile matches of late—but Styles will always be viewed as an opponent who could beat Lesnar. If Mahal were to win, it would have to have come thanks to interference.
We don't want to start a rumor or speculate that Mahal did something to sour him with management backstage, but from most accounts, WWE was happy with the way things were going despite criticism that Mahal was the champ. Even Triple H had come to bat for Mahal as a respected champ and worthy title-holder.
Why change all of a sudden? If you don't think Mahal can sell the pay-per-view (even with Cena as a special guest referee) and things were working well for the Mahal/India relationship, what do you benefit from taking his belt? Unless he did something to warrant removing it.
There's no way for us as fans to quantify how well making Jinder Mahal worked for the WWE in terms of promoting to an India-based audience, but the speculation was that was solely the reason Mahal was still champion after many expected he'd drop the title much earlier.
This title change could be the first sign the WWE no longer feels that experiment is working. Conversely, the company might feel they got what they needed out of that marketing effort and it's time to move on.
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