The WWE pulled one of its few remaining major surprises out of their hat last February when Shane McMahon returned to the company for the first time in nearly seven years. In terms of storyline, Shane’s initial WWE return interrupted Vince McMahon’s presentation of the Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence Award to Stephanie McMahon. That morphed into Shane stating his claim to takeover the WWE, which then led to Vince setting up the match between his son and the Undertaker at WWE WrestleMania.
A year later, it was revealed that that Hell in a Cell match inside AT&T Stadium was the biggest draw on WWE’s biggest night of 2016. In terms of real life, Shane was convinced to come back thanks to phone calls from his father and the Deadman. Vince had to engage in some out-of-the-box thinking due to several of his top WWE superstars missing the show because of injury.
Shane was only scheduled, however, to return to the WWE for that two month stretch and then disappear again after WrestleMania. Vince was apparently so overcome with the response his son was getting that he convinced him to remain with the WWE for the foreseeable future. Despite a disjointed storyline, Shane was tasked with running WWE RAW on an interim basis until being named full-time Commissioner of SmackDown Live after the brand extension.
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Fast forward to the present where the WWE is embarking on its next big WrestleMania event, and again, Shane finds himself positioned for a marquee match on the card. Shane is in line to face AJ Styles in Orlando, an angle that has floated on the periphery for months but came to the forefront following last week’s SmackDown taping. Their plans should come further into focus this week with an official announcement set for Tuesday or the following week at the latest.
Creative plans for a Shane McMahon-AJ Styles match on the WWE’s grandest stage started leaking last month and has been met with a considerable amount of backlash since. But according to a new report from SportsKeeda, Vince McMahon perceives things a lot differently than a good portion of the WWE Universe.
Due to the success and reception of Shane’s encounter with the Undertaker last year, Vince looks at his son on the same level as other WWE stars like the Deadman, Brock Lesnar, Triple H and Goldberg. Part-time stars who can draw and inflate ratings. Even though the fans were hoping for something bigger for AJ Styles, Vince looks at it as a reward for AJ who, you could argue, was the WWE’s biggest star last year. Vince and his top WWE officials look at having a match with Shane McMahon at WrestleMania as a privilege and one that will only continue to elevate AJ.
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As had been noted in the past, coming out of his WWE World Heavyweight Championship program with Roman Reigns last year, Styles was receiving major praise from the WWE Chairman. Vince was reported as saying that he had wished he had signed AJ a decade earlier. Ironically, he had his chances and even when Styles left TNA in 2013, the WWE didn’t offer him a contract.
It was Vince that made the ultimate call to end Dean Ambrose’s WWE Championship reign earlier than anticipated in order to get the title on Styles. Now it’s being rumored that when the WWE rehashes the brand extension draft, Styles will be headed to RAW. In fact, he and John Cena are the top names under consideration to switch brands, while Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar are the headliners who may be shifted to SmackDown. A potential AJ move is being looked at as a further ascension up the WWE food chain.
As for Shane McMahon, the report indicates that he was largely responsible for the spike in viewership among WWE’s audience leading into WrestleMania 32. Not only that, but McMahon-related storylines generated a higher search rate on Google than ones that did not have one involved. WWE officials are hoping that by putting him with Shane, the casual fan will learn more about AJ than they might have if he had a match with someone else.
Hardcore members of the WWE Universe have been clamoring for matches between AJ Styles and Finn Balor, and AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura since all gained employment with the WWE. The company believes that by facing Shane McMahon first, those dream matches will feel even bigger when they eventually take place. Backstage, there is a big-match feel to the Shane-AJ program and WWE officials have been instructed to again, think outside the box. That’s the reason the company pulled the curtain back after last week’s SmackDown. Expect more unorthodox booking over the next three weeks.
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