In 2016,‘The Phenomenal’ AJ Styles made his long-awaited debut in the WWE at the Royal Rumble. It was a huge moment for the WWE Universe, or as a pro wrestling fan as a whole. Styles coming to the WWE was something that nobody would have expected as he spent his career on the independent scene honing his craft.
‘The Phenomenal One’ was mixing it up with some of the all-time greats including Chris Jericho, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, and lastly Cena. Before Styles defeating Ambrose and winning the WWE Championship, he unsuccessfully challenged for the WWE World Heavyweight Title against Reigns. Immediately afterward, ‘The Face That Runs The Place’ made his return to the WWE.
This was a huge moment as Styles and Cena were pioneers of pro wrestling who for the first time were in the same place at the same time. Both superstars appeared to be on the same page as Styles’ running buddies Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows came down for a beat down. Moments later, it was a huge ruse as ‘The Phenomenal One’ and his buddies beat the holy hell out of Cena. The two rivals would compete in some of the greatest matches over the next few months.
Fresh off an impressive victory over Cena as the 2016 SummerSlam pay-per-view, Styles would set his on then-WWE Champion Dean Ambrose. All it took was one low-blow and a massive Styles Clash for ‘The Phenomenal One’ to become the WWE Champion. After mixing it up with the former champ, Styles would defend his title against the fifteen-time Cena. Cena would not only be fighting out of respect against the cocky champion, but he would also be seeking to do the impossible and that’s tying Ric Flair’s World Title record.
Styles and Cena would create magic once again inside of the squared circle at the 2017 Royal Rumble pay-per-view. Both superstars delivered a fantastic match with many false finishes and reversals, and an incredible ending which saw Cena hit a top-rope Avalanche Attitude Adjustment on top of another one. ‘The Face That Runs The Place’ solidified his legacy in WWE with a historic Sixteenth World Championship win. Even though Styles is now on Monday Night Raw and Cena is off doing Hollywood if these two in-ring performers faced-off again it would be nothing short of magic. A terrific story would be told in front of a sold-out arena. I believe ‘The Phenomenal One’ had one hell of a debut year in WWE and his rivalry with Cena is often overlooked.