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CHICAGO — The Kevin Owens Show continues on a technicality. The United States Champion defeated AJ Styles at WWE Backlash in a manner that was hardly decisive, but certainly enough to keep the star-spangled title on The Prizefighter’s shoulder.
The Phenomenal One entered to a hero’s welcome in the Windy City and The New Face of America did his best to spoil it, unleashing a barrage that was half as pretty and twice as effective. Owens blasted the challenger with fists, forearms and knees; Styles, having found himself in a fistfight, decided to fight on Owens’ terms. The Phenomenal One answered the champion with some back-alley brawling that he only occasionally augmented with moves a little more scientific, like the Ushigoroshi.
The maneuver was enough to put the match back on an even ground, but it left The Phenomenal One with a tweaked knee. Styles’ proverbial attempt at a home-run —a Styles Clash off the apron — was then thwarted when Owens slammed The Phenomenal One’s leg against the turnbuckle, threw him cartilage-first into the steel steps, and strung AJ up in the ropes so his knee took the full brunt of a Cannonball.
Miraculously — phenomenally, even — Styles managed to hang on, though his knee was so banged up almost all his big moves were taken away from him. Worse, the ones that he could hit took as much out of him as they did Owens. (He attempted a Phenomenal Forearm and collapsed on the ropes; later, he almost couldn’t stand up after landing a Pele Kick.) Styles took the fight to the outside with a suplex to the ring apron and a Phenomenal Forearm off the timekeeper’s area.
However, as AJ attempted to seal the deal with a Styles Clash atop the commentary table, The New Face of America showed that he was ready. He writhed free of the setup and shoved Styles’ leg into the monitor hole while the ref approached the ten count, returning to the ring just in time to retain his title. When the official attempted to free a visibly frustrated Styles following the loss, Owens administered one final superkick that could truly be described as a cheap shot. As the commentary team pointed out, KO might owe this one to luck more than anything else. But in Kevin Owens’ America, as in all other Americas, a win is a win.