In a match that lived up to the hype, AJ Styles defeated Daniel Bryan on Friday’s SmackDown to win the Intercontinental Championship for the first time in his WWE career. For Styles, the Intercontinental Championship marked the lone singles title the Phenomenal One had yet to win. Styles is now just one tag team title reign away from becoming both a Triple Crown and Grand Slam Champion (Styles would achieve the distinctions simultaneously) in the company as well as joining Kurt Angle as the only two men to capture both the WWE and TNA triple crowns.
Having recently found himself in need of a change of scenery following the departure of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, Styles was traded to SmackDown shortly after the Intercontinental Championship tournament began. In the first round, Styles defeated Shinsuke Nakamura in his best match in some time and one that eclipsed their prior bouts. Styles then took advantage of an unfortunate set of circumstances presented to Jeff Hardy, allowing the Phenomenal One to secure a bye into the finals where he faced Daniel Bryan.
Bryan, who was looking to recapture the Intercontinental Championship for the first time since he relinquished it due to what was at the time, his retirement, earned his spot in the finals after defeating Drew Gulak and Sheamus. With aspirations on returning the title to its workhorse roots, it was only fitting Bryan would wrestle one more match than Styles throughout the tournament. However, perhaps Bryan’s own stupidity, as Styles referred to it as, was his downfall.
— WWE (@WWE) June 13, 2020
Styles and Bryan wrestled a fantastic match that was evenly matched from the beginning. Both men were at their best and gave fans a match reminiscent of when they last faced off for the world championship, shortly before Styles was traded to Raw. That time, it was Bryan who would take advantage of a ref bump and shockingly turn heel to defeat Styles for the title. The outcome was a little different on Friday. With both men exhausted and Bryan nursing a bad leg from their brutal showdown, Styles countered an attempt at the running knee into a Styles Clash but was unable to muster the energy to make the cover. He managed to make it to the ropes however and hit the Phenomenal Forearm to lead to the three count.
Following the match, Styles was asked his thoughts on winning the Intercontinental Championship for the first time and the new champ didn’t mince words. He simply noted that he was the best champion in WWE, as he had been telling people all along.
— WWE (@WWE) June 13, 2020
Since returning to the blue brand, Styles has already started to regain some of the allure that made him so successful in his first run, when SmackDown became the “House that AJ Styles Built.” It remains to be seen what Styles’ title reign will look like. As a heel champion, it is unlikely the workhorse gimmick and defending the title every week will play out. That said, there are any number of people Styles could defend the championship against and produce a top quality match in the process.
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