“The Viper” vs “The Phenomenal One.” This Sunday at WrestleMania, two main event players go to battle as Randy Orton and AJ Styles square off in a battle for the ages. A match that we have only seen a glimpse of. A match where both men are fighting to prove one thing and one thing only. Whose house is SmackDownLIVE?
Randy Orton and AJ Styles have yet to truly cross each other’s paths since AJ Styles joined the WWE in 2016 except for a single match on SmackDown two years ago. What happened in that first match was the extremely smart move by AJ Styles when he would fake out Randy Orton on the phenomenal forearm because he knew he would just be apart of another highlight reel with that RKO. Of course, Styles would still go on to lose the match as Orton would eventually propel Styles in the air for the RKO and the victory that would allow him to go to WrestleMania that year to become the WWE Champion.
Since their one bout, both men have done plenty. Orton would win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 33, as said previously, while also becoming a grand slam champion by winning the United States Championship for the first time and even defend it at WrestleMania last year while AJ Styles would hold the WWE Championship for 371 days, including a successful title defense at WrestleMania 34 a year ago. What is even weirder and seemingly forgotten is that AJ Styles also won the United States Championship during these two years since they last met, which may show that these two men have been on a collision course ever since their one and only matchup.
This matchup would start to take shape when Orton would surprise Styles from behind in the now infamous gauntlet match before the Elimination Chamber PPV, as Orton would strike with an RKO on the Phenomenal One and win the gauntlet. They would then meet again inside the Elimination Chamber, when Styles would attempt to hit the Phenomenal Forearm and Orton would catch him before he could even lift off, hitting yet another RKO on Styles and eliminating the former champion from the Chamber match. When Orton got one over on Styles again, it was clear that Styles wasn’t going to let this one go. Following interview’s being interrupted repeatedly, they would finally have a face to face.
This feud caught fire quickly when both men went into the ring to confront each other on the March 12th episode of SmackDown LIVE. Orton and Styles would enter a war of words with each other. Before Styles would even make it to the ring, Orton would question why in the world was SmackDown LIVE the house that AJ Styles built when he has only been there since 2016. Questioning the bingo halls and what Styles was doing in TNA while he was becoming the company’s youngest world champion ever. Styles would of course answer by saying how Orton could never hang on the indies. They would bash each other more and more, telling each other they have stolen stuff from the past. Styles saying Orton’s RKO is just a lesser Diamond Cutter while Orton would state how he and his “indie pals” stole the “Too Sweet” hand gesture. It would really come to blows when Styles would say Orton always needed help from some group that he was involved in through the years like Evolution or Rated RKO. Orton would respond and shut it down in the best way possible. Orton said Styles didn’t get to choose if he has the upper hand or not, “As long as you want to rent a room out in my house, see I’m the landlord and rents due you son of a bitch.” Styles would answer by simply challenging Orton to a match on the grandest stage of them all, and now that is where we are.
The careers of both Randy Orton and AJ Styles are legendary, and that is what makes this match a main event worthy one. Randy Orton has won everything you could possibly think of in the WWE. He is a 13-time world champion, 9 of which were the WWE Championship. He has won both the Intercontinental and United States Championships in his career, as well as being a two-time tag team champion. As said earlier, being a grand slam champion isn’t something that just happens. Orton has won the Royal Rumble match twice (2009 and 2017) as well as the Money in the Bank. He has done it all in the WWE and has done all before the age of 40.
For AJ Styles, he has travelled the world winning multiple championships and being the best wrestler of this generation. The gold that the Phenomenal One has dawned around his waist is almost unmatchable by present-day wrestlers. Styles is a three-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, six-time TNA X-Division Champion, two-time TNA World Heavyweight Champion, and has held one of the most prestigious championships in wrestling, the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, two times as well. All these achievements which don’t even include his WWE career. In his WWE career to this point, he has become a two-time United States Champion and two-time WWE Champion including his year-long run with the most prestigious championship in WWE’s history.
All these accolades for both, and a simple story of two megastars wanting to prove who’s house it is. While the main event for the show has been set for WrestleMania, it is not ridiculous to think that these two men could main event this big show if there was a championship involved. Will Styles get his win back against Orton? Or will we witness yet another special WrestleMania sized RKO from The Viper? We will certainly see, but without a doubt, this battle between two of the biggest stars of the past two decades is certainly one you will want to witness come Sunday night.