How WWE could book a dream fight between AJ Styles and Finn Balor
There's nothing quite like a bit of fantasy booking, and this time round we'll be looking at the potential masterpiece of Styles vs Balor.
Bullet Club. Two words which can create something of a polarising reaction among WWE fans around the world. Some think that the group should be reformed on the biggest stage possible, meanwhile, others believe that it should be left alone in order for the former members to forge their own legacy within the company.
Whatever you may believe, you cannot deny that the two most successful ex-leaders of the group - AJ Styles and Finn Balor, are well on their way to WWE greatness. Ever since AJ made the jump last January, there have been desperate pleas for the company to build towards a feud between the two men, however, all we've had so far is one backstage segment.
For now, that's absolutely fine. Finn is on Raw and AJ is on SmackDown as has been the case since the brand split, meaning that we get to wait and wait, knowing that one day they will collide. However, now as Finn's shoulder injury continues to heal and AJ is running the show on the blue brand as WWE Champion, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the aforementioned 'day' is rapidly approaching.
So, how do we plant the seeds for the encounter and where do we have it?
For part one of that question it'll take a while to explain, however for the latter part there's only one answer - WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, Florida.
Let's start things off on the January 17th edition of the blue brand's show. After toppling Heath Slater in what was essentially a squash match, Styles is seen backstage getting ready to leave the arena. After putting on his jacket, he delves into his pocket to uncover an amusing picture of himself from back in Japan with the caption "too sweet".
Styles chuckles to himself before uttering the words "Gallows, classic".
A week later, we've arrived at the SmackDown Live before the Royal Rumble. General manager Daniel Bryan has put AJ Styles in a tag team match with Dolph Ziggler as his partner to take on the team of John Cena and Apollo Crews.
As we see Styles backstage walking to the ring, a man in a black hoodie bumps into Styles before continuing to walk past him, as the Face that runs the Place shouts a parade of insults to the hooded figure before he disappears into the distance.
After he leaves, Styles notices that the man dropped something. Upon picking it up AJ opens it to see the lower half of a t-shirt, with the image on display being a symbol for "The Club" faction that included himself, Gallows and Anderson. The WWE Champion smiles, assuming that this is some kind of message from the tag team that they have his back.
We then fast forward six days later to the Royal Rumble. We once again see Styles in a backstage segment with an interviewer, and following its conclusion, he heads back to his dressing room to finish preparing for the match later in the night.
On the door, there is a polaroid picture of the hand symbol that Bullet Club have used since their inception. On the back are the words "brothers for life". Upon seeing this, Styles issues a small smirk before pushing away the cameraman and slamming his dressing room door behind him.
During his actual WWE Championship match against Cena, there are a number of occasions Styles has Cena in danger but his arrogance prevents him from securing the victory. As Cena slowly starts to work his way back into the match, Styles continually looks towards the Titantron but Gallows & Anderson are nowhere to be seen.
As the match draws on it becomes evident that Styles has begun to panic, letting his guard down in the process.
Cena realises this and after a thrilling back and forth exchange he has Styles in position for the Attitude Adjustment, but a dark figure underneath the ring pulls on Cena's foot as he's too close to the ropes, leading to Cena dropping Styles down from the hold with the referee none the wiser as to what just happened.
Cena looks over the ropes as he's convinced someone specifically grabbed his foot, but upon turning around AJ nails the Styles Clash before once again pinning Big Match John to retain his title. Styles has absolutely no idea what's just happened, but assumes that Gallows & Anderson have something to do with it.
After rushing backstage AJ confronts the two men and asks them why they didn't just text or call him to discuss what the plan was. Neither Gallows nor Anderson has any idea what AJ is talking about, and the WWE Champion is left feeling like he's going clinically insane.
Later on in the night the Royal Rumble match is in full flow, and the crowd are counting down to the entrance of number 30. After the buzzer hits, the lights go out, and out of the smoke emerges the returning Finn Balor.
The Alamodome is utterly stunned, and following a pulsating final few minutes, The Demon King eliminates Seth Rollins to win the Rumble and book himself a one-way ticket to the main event of WrestleMania 33.
As he climbs the ropes to celebrate and his music is playing, AJ Styles appears at the top of the ramp with a look of sheer confusion and bewilderment on his face. Balor stares him down before pointing to the Titantron where a handheld video reveals that the other half of the t-shirt Styles was given a few weeks ago actually read "Balor Club".
In a state of shock and anger, AJ retreats backstage as Balor continues to bask in the glory of his triumph.
The following night Balor doesn't appear on Raw, but instead there is a mysterious vignette that simply says "tomorrow". Twenty four hours later on SmackDown Live, Balor appears to address the crowd. During his promo, he reveals that he manoeuvred a trade over to the blue brand because the one thing he has truly desired throughout his entire life is becoming WWE Champion.
With the likes of HHH, Lesnar and Goldberg now on Raw, Balor's absence shouldn't be too much of a loss during ‘Mania season.
Finn goes on to state that there's more to the story, at which point Styles makes his way down to the ring for a confrontation with the man who has been playing mind games with him for a few weeks now. Before AJ can say a word, Balor says "yes - it was me" indicating that he was the man who cost Cena the WWE Title and helped Styles to retain.
Balor claims he did it because there was only one man who he wanted to face for the belt at WrestleMania, and it was the person that fascinates him more than any other Superstar. Balor talks in detail about how Bullet Club crumbled under AJ's leadership, stating that he wants to make Styles pay for his sins both in NJPW and in WWE.
It looks as if Styles is about to retaliate, but he instead starts attacking The Demon King after a cheap shot. After a small brawl, John Cena interrupts the scrap to seemingly fend off Styles. However, he instead hits Balor with an Attitude Adjustment for costing him the strap and a match between the two is made for the following week.
During that bout, the Undertaker interrupts as the feud between Balor and Cena is well underway. Following that, Styles viciously attacks Balor with a pipe backstage as SmackDown goes off the air.
For two weeks Balor is nowhere to be seen, as Styles spends a fortnight bragging about how Finn won't even be cleared to compete in Orlando because of what he did to him. On the third week, Styles is all set to face Chad Gable in what Daniel Bryan called a "warm-up" match, but a series of odd lighting changes and images on the titantron lead him to believe that Balor is in the building.
Styles goes backstage and cannot find him anywhere, once again showing that Balor has the edge when it comes to mind games. The following week, the same thing occurs but this time footage of Styles in NJPW is shown with an odd voiceover claiming "you will pay for your sins".
As WrestleMania draws closer, the next edition of SmackDown begins with Styles claiming he's going to draw Balor out of his "creepy hole" once and for all. In the last segment of the night during which there is meant to be a scheduled match, Styles drags a battered old man to the ring who is revealed to be Balor's father.
Styles had discovered Finn invited him to the show, therefore working out that Balor planned to return that week during AJ's main event match.
Styles yells down the mic for Finn to come out, all the while holding the same lead pipe he used to put Finn out of action above the head of his father. As he prepares to strike with the weapon, the lights go down and Balor appears from the crowd to initiate a vicious back and forth brawl with Styles.
Finn chases AJ away before tending to his father, with a look of pure hatred in his eyes as the show goes off the air.
In the weeks that follow Bryan declares that neither man can touch the other before Mania, but they refuse to comply so the general manager is forced to have security accompany both Styles and Balor to the ring for separate singles matches.
This goes on for a few shows with WWE running promo packages for the title match at WrestleMania, as both men feature in backstage interviews talking about their past and how they never liked each other from day one.
On the last SmackDown before WrestleMania 33, Styles and Balor meet face to face in what is billed as "The Final Showdown" with Bryan and Shane present to ensure nothing transpires. The two start a verbal back and forth, running down every single thing that has held them back over the years.
Gallows & Anderson make an appearance upon approval from Foley & Stephanie in order to try and talk some sense into both men. They refuse to pick a side, with Gallows simply uttering "how did it come to this?" before storming off with Anderson in pursuit.
Both Styles and Balor say that what this comes down to is being WWE Champion and proving once and for all who is the better man. However, it’s also revealed that Balor’s move to SmackDown has a clause: if he fails to win the title, he must return to Monday Night Raw.
They stare each other down, and the next time they come face to face is in the middle of the ring at the Citrus Bowl.
The two competitors get grand entrances fit for a match of this magnitude. They go 25+ minutes in what will be described years later as an absolute war, as both Balor and Styles give everything they've got to secure the victory.
As they approach the latter stages of the bout, Styles goes for the Phenomenal Forearm but Balor catches him midair with a Pele Kick that knocks Styles out cold. Balor senses an opportunity and heads to the top rope, nailing the Coup de Grace.
As he crawls towards the cover, he stops himself and stares at Styles. He grabs him by the hair and yells at the WWE Champion, slightly taunting him in the process. Following this, Balor decides to go back up to the top rope one more time, however, AJ raises his knees just in time which causes Balor to slip forward and fall face first onto the canvas.
Styles grabs Balor, hits the Styles Clash and pins The Demon King to retain the WWE Championship.
Balor is left devastated as Styles celebrates retaining his belt on the grandest stage of them all, with Balor distraught that he couldn't quite get the job done. AJ nods to Finn as he makes his way up the ramp, looking back only to give him the "too sweet" hand gesture.
Bullet Club For Life.
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