BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Special guest referee Shane McMahon made the consequences of either AJ Styles or Kevin Owens putting their hands on him perfectly clear ahead of their United States Title Match at SummerSlam. However, a furious Owens disregarded the warning and paid for it, as Styles left the sold-out Barclays Center with his star-spangled title in tow.
From the onset, Shane’s job as special guest referee was not an easy one; he was forced to pull Styles and Owens off each other before the bell even rang to start the match, then had to corral them back in the ring. The two competitors went right after each other, with Owens resorting to underhanded tactics like going after Styles’ throat to gain the upper hand.
Owens continued his punishment of The Phenomenal One even while criticizing the job McMahon was doing as referee, accusing SmackDown LIVE’s Commissioner of being out of position on several occasions. Styles refused to give in and eventually battled back to his feet, trading blows with Owens and planting him into the canvas with a devastating slam.
Perhaps seeing his United States Championship opportunity slipping out of his grasp, Owens used McMahon to his advantage, first shoving Shane into the ropes to knock Styles off the top, then pulling the Commissioner into the way of The Phenomenal One’s springboard 450 Splash. Styles collided with Shane-O-Mac again when Owens kicked the champion off him, thereby knocking Shane out of the ring. That proved to be a pivotal moment, as The Phenomenal One locked on the painful Calf Crusher and forced Owens to tap out, but McMahon was dazed outside the ring and did not see it.
An infuriated Styles accosted McMahon, but turned his attention back toward his challenger, eventually connecting with the Styles Clash. Owens survived and ducked a Phenomenal Forearm, then planted Styles with a Pop-up Powerbomb for what he thought was a three-count. He did not see Styles get his foot on the bottom rope, but Shane did, just as his hand hit the mat a third time. McMahon immediately waved off the count and notified Owens, who furiously shoved the official. Having made the consequences of such an action well known to both Superstars ahead of SummerSlam, Shane-O-Mac shoved KO back, right into the waiting arms of Styles, who connected with a Phenomenal Forearm and an earth-shaking Styles Clash to retain his title.
Though Styles feels he may have decisively defeated Owens once and for all, The Prizefighter will no doubt continue to believe there is a conspiracy to keep the United States Title away from him. Just how the SmackDown LIVE Commissioner chooses to deal with that on SmackDown LIVE will certainly have lasting repercussions for Team Blue.