Per the order of Shane-O-Mac, WWE Champion AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan threw down with the title on the line three days early on SmackDown LIVE.
A contentious atmosphere permeated through the arena with each Superstar hellbent on walking out of Atlanta with the WWE Title over their shoulder. The two wasted no time bringing the energy, exchanging several high-impact moves in the early goings. None were bigger than a suicide dive by Bryan to Styles on the floor that definitely did its damage to AJ, but Bryan appeared to tweak his knee.
Soon, The Phenomenal One targeted Bryan’s harmed knee, focusing a vicious attack on the body part while looking to ground The “Yes!” Man for good. Bryan refused to stay down, however, and he fought back with a barrage of strikes that had the Georgia native reeling. Styles would not relent on the left knee, though, and he suplexed Bryan over the top rope before conking him onto the announcer’s table.
Never one to surrender, Bryan fought back yet again, feeding off his adrenaline, despite Styles continuing to target the knee. Bryan seemed to be closing on the title when he locked The Phenomenal One in a series of submission holds, but Styles fired back and caught Bryan in the Styles Clash. AJ then locked in the Calf Crusher; the agonizing pain to Bryan’s already battered knee was too much, and he had no choice but to submit.
After the match, with no bitterness present, Bryan extended his hand in a sign of respect to Styles. AJ accepted the handshake, and the two embraced. However, the magical moment was short-lived, as Samoa Joe came out of nowhere to attack both men. The Samoan Submission Machine first took out Styles with a Coquina Clutch before locking the deadly hold on Bryan and boldly raising the WWE Title above his head.
The message? Joe ain’t planning on leaving the WWE Title picture anytime soon.