AJ Styles vs John Cena from the Royal Rumble 2017 is the most recent match on the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches…List. It’s strange that there’s nothing from 2016…the year that had the mind-blowing match between Sami Zayn and Shinsuke Nakamura! However, out of the three matches between Styles and Cena, I’m not sure whether I’d put their second bout on this list instead of this bout. Their first “dream” match as a letdown, their second match was brilliant. But the third match relied on Cena’s attempt to match Ric Flair’s record of holding sixteen World heavyweight championship titles. There’s no denying it was a great match. But I do prefer their second bout…
John Cena was simply given this opportunity to fight AJ Styles for his WWE Championship. As I said, if Cena was successful, he’d equal Ric Flair’s record of sixteen World titles. Of course, the two had a history, facing off against each other twice in 2016. Styles beat Cena on both occasions (one dirty, one clean). So if you think about it, Cena hadn’t earned a title shot at all! This was the beginning of his part-timer phase, so he popped in every now and again to steal the spotlight from somebody. That was part of the storyline build-up; Styles moaned that Cena didn’t deserve a title shot. And he was right!
When you start watching this match, just take a moment to soak up the crowd atmosphere. This is the reaction you don’t hear much in these dark days of WWE. This is a big match feel! You can’t help but get carried away by the raucous crowd. Styles and Cena didn’t disappointment. For almost half an hour, they put on a wrestling clinic, replete with big moves, twists and turns. Usually Cena’s impressive strength and endurance (read: no-selling) drags down matches; here it was employed as part of the match’s psychology. He was the dominant being here, battering Styles with monster clotheslines over and over again. Cena even breaks out a new move or two (which don’t look as silly as his springboard stunner!).
Some may argue that it descends into a frenzy of near falls towards the end, but that’s part and parcel of the story. These are two of the best in the world (in storyline terms, anyway!). Of course they’re going to kick out of each other’s respective finishers! It feels as if they are trying to prove who is the best in the world, as well. That’s why the match feels so special! It’s still a fantastic bout, one of the best of 2017 (I have yet to write my list of Best WWE/NXT Matches of 2017…but this would be 2 or 3. 1 would be Pete Dunne vs Tyler Bates!). But I still prefer their Summerslam 2016 bout. However, I understand that WWE put this on the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches…List because Cena had a chance to equal Flair’s record. Sometimes, the 100 Best Matches…List isn’t about the best matches at all!
VERDICT: 9/10. Cena and Styles put on one of the best WWE matches of 2017 here. I do prefer their bout at Summerslam 2016, but that’s just personal preference.
Does this match belong in the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die? Leave your comments below!
Click here for my review of #69 Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Triple H (Three Stages of Hell Match, WWE No Way Out 2001)
Click here to view my list of reviews of the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die
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