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WWE Royal Rumble: AJ Styles vs John Cena Still Raising the Bar

Two of the greatest ever are about to square off for the gold. Sure, the excitement levels surrounding the WWE Royal Rumble 2017 are second only to WrestleMania. And this year is no different. But this year, with AJ Styles set to defend the WWE World Championship against John Cena, even saying that the anticipation is through the roof would be an understatement.

Last week on SmackDown Live, Cena and Styles hyped up their match for the Royal Rumble with their contract signing. As these contract signings often go, it ended with an overturned table and one of the wrestlers blindsiding the other (never change, WWE). But before that was the sparring match of words, both John Cena and AJ Styles proved why they’re basically already legends in the business. The promo they cut for their WWE Royal Rumble showdown simply showed they were still raising the bar. Beating Raw on the ratings for the first time during proved that.

A Battle of Words

You see, most promos are just an arbitrary mix of “I’m gonna beat you” and “I’m the greatest champion ever.” But last week’s promo upped the ante by bringing real-world gloats and criticisms against either player on the stage.

First, Styles lashed out at Cena, referencing how, just one year ago, the Cenation Leader challenged him to prove himself. Now, he’s on top of the WWE, holding the most prestigious title of them all. Styles quickly pointed out how lucky Cena was to be given an opportunity upon his return. He jabbed Cena on a slate of truths. That he’d already beaten Cena thrice; that Cena would never be as good as the Rock in Hollywood; that his time may be up.

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But John Cena’s reply was quite clear, though. People have been saying that about him for years now. And he’s made a career out of shutting those kinds of people up. Cena backed himself up with his decorated history, realizing that he apparently needs to remind “chumps” like AJ why he’s still there.

Real-World Stakes

Let’s forget for a minute that Baron Corbin interrupted signing and ruined the flow. So there, we have two industry giants whose promo brought in reality into the spectacle. Forbes called it the gold standard in the reality era. It’s a time where the WWE Universe recognizes the performance aspect of the show, and still wants it to have some weight.

Cena and Styles have managed to do just that. And while fans already have all sorts of predictions for the WWE Royal Rumble 2017, Styles and Cena have been able to do something important here. They’ve reminded the world that, even for a scripted show, the stakes can be very real.

The WWE Royal Rumble happens on Jan. 29 at San Antonio’s Alamodome.

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