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BOSTON — There would be no second upset for Jinder Mahal, no second trip to the mountaintop, and no Singh Brother-assisted ascent to the WWE Championship. On a night where every SmackDown title was on the line, AJ Styles denied The Modern Day Maharaja and retained his WWE Title, reaffirming his status as the top dog of Tuesday nights and the measuring stick for every Superstar who comes through SmackDown LIVE.
That isn’t to say The Phenomenal One breezed his way through one of 2017’s most memorable success stories. Mahal rose to the occasion and stuck with the game plan that had brought him to the dance in the first place — his strength and his ruthlessness — while Styles focused on chopping away at Mahal’s leg with a series of bruising kicks.
The Modern Day Maharaja, wary of giving Styles free reign within the squared circle, bent the rules to their limit, tossing Styles so viciously over the barricade that it fell apart as he toppled over it. The impact tenderized Styles’ ribs, and Mahal followed that up with a brutal slam onto the announce table and a grueling attack on the champion’s torso once he moved the fight back into the ring.
A timely dropkick that took Mahal out of the sky gave The Phenomenal One a brief second wind, and an electric-chair drop to the challenger finally cut Jinder’s torturous game plan short and allowed Styles to mount a resurgence. Styles crept closer and closer on the strength of his pinpoint timing and some well-placed kicks, but his decimated ribs gave Mahal an easy target to remain one step ahead.
The Modern Day Maharaja got a tad too ambitious in his attempt to finish the match, setting up for what appeared to be a Khallas off the turnbuckle, only for AJ to topple him with a leaping Pele Kick. Sensing he would have to battle through his injury, The Phenomenal One nailed a captivating 450 Splash to Mahal, but The Singh Brothers, who had been conspicuous by their absence, attempted to pull Mahal from the squared circle. AJ disposed of them with a leaping forearm and a Styles Clash on the outside, though the delay allowed Mahal to recover and administer the ring-shaking Khallas. Remarkably, Styles kicked out after a dramatic two-and-a-half.
Once again, Mahal got a bit too ambitious, looking to add insult to injury with a Styles Clash of his own. The Phenomenal One had one counter left in him, rolling out of the maneuver to trap Mahal in a torturous Calf Crusher that targeted the very leg he had focused on earlier in the match. Despite nearly reaching the ropes, Mahal was forced to submit when AJ rolled him back into the middle of the ring, dashing Jinder’s hopes of regaining the WWE Championship, at least for now. The legend of The Phenomenal AJ Styles, however, continues to thrive.