What a title match to round out a Phenomenal year. The kickout after realizing Corbin wasn't going to get there in time to break up the pin after Ziggler's superkick was the best running adjustment in a high-stakes environment I've seen in a long, long time. To think he pulled this off after working MSG on Sunday night, and with a bum ankle that is clearly nowhere near battle ready is so much mitigating overhead that I find that I am utterly incompetent to process its ramifications.
When the dust had settled after his debut at the Royal Rumble on January 24, the aftertaste was the kind of temporarily fulfilling but distinctly vacuous sensation that accompanies a climbdown after ticking something off your bucket list. That suspicion appeared to have been confirmed when he jobbed to Jericho at WrestleMania and was all but guaranteed to be ensconced in the welcoming arms of the upper mid-card for the remainder of his run. What has followed in the days, weeks and months since then, however, has demolished virtually every single stereotype that has been or could have been constructed around a 5-foot-10, 215 pound white boy from Gainesville, Georgia.
Onwards, then, to a date with John Cena in San Antonio. It may well be an exercise in futility to expect him to be put over Cena given how long a shadow 16 world titles are capable of casting but, frankly, I am done doubting what this man is capable of.
Each week, his arrival is announced by a loose, ungainly, almost unbecoming scattering song-spiel about blue collar boys, rednecks, southern boys and mack trucks; about feeling pain, giving respect, farmer strength and getting hands muddied. They may as well replace it with a simple sentiment that could have been made with confidence at pretty much any point over the last nine months but one that rings so true now that it admits for little disagreement: AJ Styles is the best clutch professional wrestler in the world today, and we haven't found a close second.