Seth Rollins vs. AJ Styles at WWE Night of Champions.
Seth Rollins beat AJ Styles in an excellent 20-minute opener at WWE Night of Champions 2023 in Saudi Arabia. Rollins' win makes him the new WWE world heavyweight champion after Triple H revived the belt last month.
The WWE World Heavyweight Championship was a tough sell since the moment it was unveiled. Starting its lineage in the opening match didn't help either. Outside of being a beautiful championship belt, the WWE World Heavyweight Title offered diminished marginal returns as Roman Reigns already carries two world titles.
Suddenly, pro wrestling is beginning to emulate boxing in the worst way. WWE feels one world title away from having a Ring Magazine World Championship. It didn’t help that Triple H’s introductory promo felt like WWE had panicked and broke the glass case on an emergency belt. On The April 24 broadcast of Raw, Triple H claimed the belt was being commissioned since Roman Reigns negotiated a lighter schedule.
Following Cody Rhodes’ elimination in the opening match of the WWE World Heavyweight Title Tournament, the focus immediately shifted to Rhodes’ budding feud with Lesnar. This was a microcosm to the pecking order of Night of Champions, Because Rhodes vs. Lesnar feels bigger than the crowning of WWE’s bronze medal disguised as a world title.
The Rhodes-Rollins feud suffered from barriers that kept them apart throughout its entirety. Some barriers were out of WWE’s control, like Seth Rollins shooting Captain America: New World Order. Others, like WWE’s insistence of having a draft, were self-inflicted. Seth Rollins being on Raw—where the new world title will reside—is all but a dead giveaway that Rollins will prevail.
As of this writing, Rollins is a massive -2,000 favorite.
Despite getting off on the wrong foot, however, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship comes with upside. Rollins and AJ Styles were the perfect wrestlers to have a match worthy of crowning a first world champion. The two had an underrated classic at SummerSlam 2019, and followed up with a match at Night of Champions that was almost as good. Long-term booking is all the rage in WWE (despite a few hiccups), and WWE is already telling the story of Seth Rollins vs. Roman Reigns. During his sit-down interviews on the go-home Raw this past Monday, Rollins sent warning shots to Reigns.
“I love Roman Reigns, but I don’t like Roman Reigns,” said Rollins
“The person he has become and the champion he has become—I’ve got no respect for that.” Rollins went on to call Reigns “selfish.”
With WWE back to exclusive rosters, Survivor Series projects to be a Raw vs. SmackDown showdown between Rollins and Reigns.