On this past Tuesday’s episode of Smackdown Live, AJ Styles defeated Jinder Mahal to win the WWE title and will take his place against RAW Universal Champion Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. In the latest edition of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via Wrestling Inc), more details were revealed about why the title change happened and what the original plan was.
The championship match between Styles vs. Mahal was originally set for Clash of Champions on December 17 on the WWE Network in Boston. The plan for last Tuesday’s episode of Smackdown was to have Styles vs. Rusev, with Styles winning and joining Team Smackdown at Survivor Series. John Cena would have been the guest referee for Mahal vs. Lesnar. Instead, Styles won the title and Cena took the final spot on the team. As of now, Mahal doesn’t have a spot on the card.
There’s no word on why Vince McMahon changed his mind and gave Styles the win but it’s believed that a lack of interest in Mahal vs. Lesnar could have been a reason. Mahal’s title reign was done to help the company’s expansion into India and it was believed that if Mahal was going to lose, it would have been after the India live events on December 8-9.
When Cena was set to referee the champion vs. champion match, there had been rumors that Cena would cost Mahal the match and lead to a feud between the two with Cena winning the title again. There was no reason for Cena to referee the Survivor Series main event since his role was to set up a future match. WWE is currently not planning Cena vs. Lesnar or Cena vs. Styles.
Bryan Alvarez said during Wrestling Observer Live that Styles vs. Mahal was going to end with Mahal winning as of a week ago, but Vince changed his mind on Saturday. WWE workers who need to know of the change weren’t told until Monday.
It’s unknown if Mahal will get the title back before Survivor Series, as Lesnar’s feuds are booked in advance and Lesnar was told he would fight Mahal. It’s also possible that Mahal could win the title back before the live events or Styles could be added to the India tour to have Mahal win the title there, then a rematch at Clash of Champions. Styles is currently set to work live events for Smackdown while RAW tours in India. So far, Jinder and the Singh Brothers are the only Smackdown talents set to work in India.