AJ Styles and Samoa Joe are in the midst of a very intense, very personal rivalry in WWE. Styles and Joe are putting in some great work thus far, both in the ring and on the mic but many fans are actually having a problem with the content of their conflict.

As illogical as it may seem to some, this feud is receiving criticism due to things Samoa Joe has said in regard to AJ’s family. Fans are asking if Joe has gone too far with his comments. Better yet, is WWE going too far with this feud? The fact is that Styles and Joe are doing good business right now and no amount of uncomfortable heat should change that.

This is not the first time that WWE has embraced controversy with a storyline of course. But it is more of a rare instance in this PG era. Styles versus Joe is a throwback to The Attitude Era in some ways, if only because of the deeply personal tone of the rivalry.

Joe committed the unforgivable sin when he decided to drag AJ’s family into the feud. Styles was his usual unshakable self when Samoa Joe entered the WWE Championship picture but that did not last long. Joe managed to rattle The Phenomenal One and now AJ’s anger is getting the best of him. It’s the perfect strategy for Joe, who knows he cannot simply pound the champ into submission.

Watch Joe taunt AJ backstage on SmackDown Live:

AJ Styles has to be restrained from attacking Samoa Joe: SmackDown Exclusive, Aug. 14, 2018

AJ is too resilient. He has too much heart and he never stops fighting. He’s held the WWE Championship for nearly 300 days and that’s due both to his ability and his drive. AJ is not a man that simply rolls over and plays dead when an insurmountable challenge presents itself. He’s beaten every top opponent that’s come his way. Samoa Joe knows all of this. But he knew it long before he arrived in WWE.

Joe is familiar with the kind of man AJ is. Joe knows that Styles is rock solid both as a talent and as a champion. He and AJ have gone to war many times before so they are no strangers. But familiarity does indeed breed contempt and that contempt has led Joe to take the low road. It’s not about destroying AJ’s family. It’s about getting inside AJ’s head and forcing him to lose focus. But that’s all storyline. So what is the truth behind this rivalry?

The fact is that nothing is out of bounds in pro wrestling. The moment WWE or any other company, refuses to try certain storylines is the moment that the product can become stale and tiresome. This is not to suggest that WWE will do anything to gain attention as it did during The Monday Night Wars. Certain limits have to be in place due to content standards and fans certainly understand that by now.

But just because there are certain places WWE will not go anymore, does not mean that all drama has been abandoned. Watching Samoa Joe use AJ’s family as bait to lure the WWE champion off his game is enough drama to keep fans tuned in. It’s psychological warfare of the highest order and it’s been used many times in the past. But for Joe, this is something new.

Watch Joe cross the line with AJ:

Samoa Joe again crosses the line while attacking AJ Styles: SmackDown LIVE, Aug. 21, 2018

Joe is a punch first, ask questions later kind of guy and he always has been. He can cut a good promo but if he never spoke, he would more than get his point across in the ring. Samoa Joe is the Samoan Submission Specialist for a very good reason and more often that not, his actions speak much louder than his words. But this new take on Samoa Joe is intriguing because he is now relying on his wits more than his fists.

Joe doesn’t necessarily have to play mind games with AJ Styles or anyone else but that’s exactly what he’s doing. It’s adding layers to his character and making him much more dangerous than he ever was before. Samoa Joe is obviously a warrior between the ropes but mentally, he’s a monster. He’s dissecting AJ Styles one promo at a time and even though some believe WWE is going too far, that should not stop the story from unfolding. If AJ’s family is okay with the angle behind the scenes, then the fans should be okay as well. Nothing else really matters.

But what does matter is who will walk away from this rivalry with the WWE Championship. This is AJ Styles’ toughest challenge to date and his title has never been in more jeopardy. This is a good thing for AJ, especially if he retains the belt at Hell in a Cell on September 16. AJ’s mettle is being tested and his back is against the wall so if he goes over, then his legacy will only grow as a result.

Of course if Samoa Joe were to become the new WWE champion, then the timing may be perfect. Styles is the longest reigning WWE champion of the New Era and has proven his worth as well as his value. Fans know that AJ Styles is a star and he’s already a legend in the industry. If this title run were to end at HIAC, then all sides would view it as a success. He and Joe could continue to wage war and SmackDown Live would keep rolling along with two of the industry’s best on top.

Watch Joe cross the line again with Styles:

Samoa Joe is going to pay a visit to the Styles home: SmackDown LIVE, Aug. 28, 2018

But AJ’s title reign is one of the biggest stories in WWE right now and it’s hard to imagine he will lose the championship any time soon. The company may love doing the unexpected with titles at times, but keeping the gold on a guy for extended periods of time is also a go-to move. 

This may very well be the case once again at Hell in a Cell. AJ Styles and Samoa Joe are indeed in the middle of a personal rivalry that is only getting more intense with each passing week. This rivalry may or may not lead Joe to title glory but it will definitely reinforce AJ as the fighting champion that he is. More importantly, it’s telling a very compelling story that fans just cannot stop talking about. At the end of the day, that’s what matters the most.


Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Wrestling Rumors. His podcst, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on iTunes,YouTube, iHeart Radio, boinkstudios.com and live every Friday at 12pm EST on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live


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