Source: The Wrestling Observer Newsletter
As seen during Tuesday night’s WWE SmackDown! Live broadcast, AJ Styles defeated Jinder Mahal in the main event to win the WWE Championship. Styles will now face RAW Universal Champion Brock Lesnar at WWE’s Survivor Series pay-per-view event.
According to sources, WWE had originally planned to do the Styles vs. Mahal WWE title match at the Clash of Champions pay-per-view event on December 17th in Boston, MA. The original plan for last Tuesday’s WWE SmackDown! Live broadcast was to have Styles face Rusev, with Styles winning the match and joining Team SmackDown! at WWE Survivor Series. John Cena would have been the special guest referee for the Mahal vs. Lesnar match at Survivor Series. When plans changed and Styles won the title, John Cena was awarded the final spot on Team SmackDown! at Survivor Series. As of this writing, Jinder Mahal does not have a spot on the WWE Survivor Series card.
As of this writing, there is no word on why Vince McMahon changed his mind and had AJ Styles win the title but the belief within the company is that it was done due to the lack of interest in a Jinder Mahal vs. Brock Lesnar match. As previously reported, Mahal’s WWE title reign was done to help with the company’s expansion into India. It was originally believed that if Mahal was going to lose the title, it would have been done after WWE’s live events in India on December 8th and 9th.
Also, when Cena was set to be the special guest referee during the Mahal vs. Lesnar champion vs. champion match, there were rumors that Cena would have wound up costing Mahal the match, leading to a feud between the two with Cena coming out on top and winning the title again. The only reason for the original plans calling for John Cena to referee the match was to set up Cena’s next feud. As of now, WWE is not currently planning Cena vs. Lesnar or Cena vs. Styles matches.
During a recent edition of Wrestling Observer Live, Bryan Alvarez noted that the Styles vs. Mahal match on SmackDown! Live was going to end with Mahal winning as of a week ago, but Vince changed his mind on Saturday. Most WWE creative team members and the workers involved weren’t told of the plans changing until Monday so it was a very last-minute change.
There is no word on if Mahal will get the title back before WWE Survivor Series, as Brock Lesnar’s feuds are booked well in advance and Lesnar was originally told that he would be facing Jinder Mahal. It’s also possible that Mahal could win the title back before Survivor Series or AJ Styles could be added to the India tour and have Mahal win the title back there, then a rematch between the two could take place at the Clash of Champions pay-per-view. As of now, Styles is currently set to work live events for SmackDown! while the RAW brand tours India. So far, Jinder and the Singh Brothers are the only SmackDown! Superstars who are booked for RAW’s tour of India.