2017 looks to be ending on a high note. AJ Styles vanquished Jinder Mahal, which pretty much means Mahal is dropping out of the title picture, at least for now. What lies ahead for AJ in 2018? It’s a brave new world out there; what sorts of dangers await him there?

Here are some people who could be challenging AJ Styles for the WWE Championship next year.

 

Baron Corbin

This may seem an odd answer, but hear me out. Corbin just lost the United States Championship to Dolph Ziggler, and he is seething. All signs point to Ziggler perhaps dropping the title to Bobby Roode, but that’s something for a different blog post. Should Roode and Ziggler be locking horns for the star-spangled belt, this frees up Corbin to move up the card.

I truly believe that Corbin has grown as a performer. He’s improved immensely, and to deny that is absurd. Whether or not he is WWE Champion material is another story altogether, it’s not out of the question to see Corbin challenging AJ Styles.

This could be a good match. Styles and Jinder Mahal just had an excellent match, so there’s no reason to assume that Corbin and AJ couldn’t do the same. Their US championship match on Smackdown was pretty great. Don’t sleep on Corbin.

Sami Zayn

Right now, Sami Zayn is sort of embroiled in a blood feud between Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon. However, there’s no reason that he can’t fight AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. What better way to stick it to Shane McMahon than to become the champion of his show?

This angle would have to be written carefully, though, as we would want to avoid turning the WWE Championship into an afterthought. We would not want to see the WWE Championship despoiled in an overbooked finish where Kevin Owens interferes, Shane restarts the match, Randy Orton RKOs Sami Zayn, etc.

If they were given the time, AJ Styles and Sami Zayn could absolutely tear the house down. That much is certain.

Randy Orton

It’s been 5 months since Randy Orton was in a WWE Championship match, so it’s probably safe to put him in one. People may complain about Orton being in a title match, but they won’t be complaining when his opponent is AJ Styles.

Remember that match they had on Smackdown a few months ago? The one with the fake RKO? Yeah, that was a pretty good match. Now imagine if they fought on PPV. For the WWE Championship. That would be an instant classic.

People have been crapping on Randy lately, and I think it’s a bit undeserved. His matches against Jinder were actually solid, not bad matches. Sure, he doesn’t care most of the time, but when he does, he’s on another level. He will care against AJ Styles. They will steal whatever show they’re on.

Shinsuke Nakamura

It’s almost amazing when you realize that AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura have not faced each other in their whole time on Smackdown. Sure, they were in the Money in the Bank match, but that doesn’t really count because Nakamura was gone for approximately 87% of the match. They stared at each other for 20 seconds, then punched each other for another 5. Doesn’t count.

If and when Styles and Nakamura face each other for the WWE Championship, it will be electric. This is a special match that should be saved for a big occasion. Some people would love to see this match at Wrestlemania, and I’m cautiously optimistic, but I’m worried they might not throw Nakamura that bone.

Sure, he may be damaged goods for now, but it’s nothing some good booking can’t fix. Just have him kick some ass, and boom, he’s ready to go.

Steve Carrier

Steve is the Founder of RingsideNews. He has been writing about professional wrestling since 1996. He first got into website development at the time and has been focusing on bringing his readers the best professional wrestling news at it's highest quality.

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