The first-ever WWE match between Seth Rollins and AJ Styles delivered as advertised.
They are two of the very best, move for move, hold for hold, step for step in pursuit of the top title on WWE’s flagship show.
It was the sort of battle that pay-per-views were created to accommodate, and World Titles were meant to showcase.
That Rollins won to retain his Universal Title wasn’t necessarily a surprise — he’s on too much of a hot streak to be slowed by anything short of divine intervention — but it was an accomplishment, as Styles brought each and every one of his hard-earned skills to bear.
The Phenomenal One was as crisp as Rollins was wild; while The Beastslayer is a typically methodical competitor, he seemed set on winning in emphatic fashion.
Rollins flew around the ring with abandon and relentlessly hounded Styles while he tried to recover. The Phenomenal One answered where he could with crisp, pinpoint defense that always seemed to come at the right place at the right time and forced Rollins to start from scratch. In terms of a style clash (no pun), it was surgery vs. sledgehammer.
That’s not to say Rollins was undisciplined in his efforts. Both Superstars’ game plans were clearly well-scouted; with both champion and challenger narrowly evading or reversing what would otherwise have been homerun swings from the other.
It was only when they dug deep into their playbooks that advantages started to form. Rollins dished out the reverse variation of his superplex/Falcon Arrow combo, and Styles locked in a torturous Calf Crusher that The Beastslayer was woefully unprepared for.
As one could have expected, it came down to a dead heat, and who wanted it more. Dueling chants, dueling blows and dueling reversals. First, the move of the match by Styles when he turned a Stomp into a Styles Clash; and, later, a last-gasp interception of the Phenomenal Forearm by The Beastslayer that led to a Revolution Knee and, finally, a decisive, match-ending Stomp.
It appeared, for a moment, as though the hostilities would not even end there — Styles stormed the ring during Rollins’ victory lap, seemingly ready to throw hands. Instead, The Phenomenal One offered his hand, which Rollins clasped after a long, hard pause in a mutual show of respect, and, perhaps, solidarity.
In a match that was founded on the question of which Superstar was “second best,” the main takeaway was that neither man was. Clearly, these two stand alone, together. Second best is everyone else.