Keith Lee, Riddle, and AJ Styles met in the ring on the November 30 episode of WWE Monday Night Raw in a Tripe Threat match to anoint the challenger for Drew McIntyre’s WWE Championship at WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs. All three men were laser-focused on the championship opportunity, sounding the depths of their respective movesets for their most aggressive maneuvers. Though the formidable Lee and the swift, agile Riddle gave him a merry chase, Styles prevailed. With his spot in TLC secured, Styles’s next move was to ally with the Miz and Morrison to supplant McIntyre by cashing in the Money in the Bank contract.
Both Riddle and Lee put up strong showings. Lee’s combination of physical strength and surprising agility make him an athlete capable of not only genuinely overpowering his opponent with relative ease, but also intimidating them. Lee used such mind games when he hinted at flying over the ropes towards Styles and Riddle, who had taken the action to the barricade. They quickly abandoned their scuffle to scurry at the mere thought of Lee taking the air in their direction. When the two men made it back into the ring, no one spared their fire on each other. Lee delivered the hard blows one would expect, directing much of his fury towards his old NXT comrade, Riddle, as if on a mission to prove that friendship means little when a championship opportunity is on the line.
AJ Styles at times seemed to be pacing himself while the younger talent duked it out, which served him well, giving him the time and energy to set up some of his classic moves, which proved effective here. Delivering a well-timed cross body, Styles managed to get a cover on both Riddle and Lee in rapid succession, though they both kicked out at the crucial moment. He attempted his signature Clutch on Riddle, but as is becoming his signature, the wily Bro was able to wriggle out of his opponent’s grasp. As Riddle recovered, delivering a series of swift kicks, Styles was able to deflect with a Wing-Chun-esque combination.
Lee was eliminated by Riddle, who soon met his own defeat at the end of Styles’s Phenomenal Forearm. It was official: the veteran performer Styles would be the man to face the WWE champion, Drew McIntyre, at TLC.
The Miz, however, had a different outlook on events. He and tag partner John Morrison waylaid Styles and his bodyguard, Omos soon after Styles’s victory, with a proposition: for Styles to get involved in the duo’s tag match with McIntyre and Sheamus, giving Miz the opportunity to cash in the Money in the Bank contract. Styles seemed game, if only flippantly, telling Miz he’d be much easier to face than McIntyre at Tables, Ladders, and Chairs.
AJ Styles’ involvement seemed imminent as he sat ringside providing guest commentary, with Sheamus taunting him off and on to get in the ring. Although Morrison especially was at his most impactful, McIntyre and Sheamus dominated, with the ease and zest of a comfortable old partnership. McIntyre was set to put Miz away, but Sheamus urged his old friend to tag him in and let him finish Miz off; before McIntyre could make the tag, Morrison knocked Sheamus off the ropes, and Styles once again utilized his Phenomenal Forearm, on McIntyre. After a bit of abuse from Styles, Morrison, and Miz, the champion recovered and ended the proceedings on his terms with a Claymore, before Miz could cash in the Money in the Bank contract. For his part, Styles backflipped onto Omos’s shoulders; as McIntyre threw him a feral glare, Styles’s bodyguard conveyed him to safety.
Is the accomplished Styles shook at the idea of facing McIntyre at TLC? And with just weeks before the event, will he, Miz, and Morrison find another opportunity to depose McIntyre before the event? While clearly relishing the win of a championship opportunity, Styles also seems interested in crafting it to his advantage.
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