After defeating Damian Priest in six minutes, AJ Styles receives a crack at the title.
AJ Styles overcame the seldom-beaten Damian Priest to earn a WWE United States Championship fight on next week’s edition of Raw, resurrecting WWE’s “beat the champion to win a championship match” cliche.
Styles defeated Priest in a six-minute heated bout that saw both men trade blows and counters some of their hallmark moves until AJ caught the charging champ with a Phenomenal Forearm to knock him down. After more than a year on the main roster, it was Priest’s second pinfall loss.
— WWE (@WWE) February 8, 2022
The sudden announcement of a US championship contest – which was also advertised as a chance for Styles to walk out of Elimination Chamber as a two-time champion – wasn’t wholly unexpected. However, Kevin Owens gave Priest his first pinfall loss in a title contender’s match last month, then won the ensuing United States Championship match by DQ two weeks ago, and that hasn’t been followed up on.
On paper, Priest vs. Styles appeared to be a solid contest, and Monday’s appetizer backed up that opinion. However, the entire “beating the champ” thing catches you off guard, notably because it appears out of nowhere like this.
Priest has held the title of United States Champion for six months, dethroning Sheamus at SummerSlam 2021. Priest has been well-protected by WWE, but it was just a matter of time until his winning run ended. He did lose a 2-on-1 handicap match against The Miz and John Morrison via pinfall won on Raw on April 12, 2021.
Priest hadn’t been pinned in a singles bout since the NXT: New Year’s Evil pay-per-view on Jan. 6 of last year, when he lost to Owens. Priest made his WWE main roster debut by competing in the Royal Rumble just weeks after the loss.
WWE has been chastised in the past for booking top NXT talent poorly after they hit the main roster. However, the corporation has done a good job of exploiting Priest’s abilities, and he has shown the potential to be a major event hero. Priest’s unbeaten record was nothing short of remarkable, and it helped him establish himself as a formidable mid-card superstar.