In his short time in WWE, AJ Styles has main evented two pay-per-views, sold a whole ton of merchandise, given us some of the best matches of the year and has generally breathed life back into at least part of the company’s product. His wrestling style feels like something new and revolutionary and his matchups seem brand-new … because they are.
Since former WWE champion Seth Rollins returned from his knee injury, he and Styles have been paired together on WWE Live Events (AKA house shows) and have been reportedly tearing the roof off every building in which they mix it up. Given Rollins recently told fans that Styles is his dream WrestleMania main event opponent, this might be an audition of sorts for a future main event program between the two. We can dare to dream, anyway. By all accounts, their matches have been … phenomenal.
During a triple threat main event on Saturday night in Jackson, Miss. that also featured WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns, Styles and Rollins busted out a move that has been banned in WWE almost as long as it has been around: the Vertebreaker.
This is just one of the innovations that Styles and Rollins – two wrestlers that are unlike any main event performer WWE has ever had – are bringing into the ring. Just a week or so ago, they showed off a SWANK Styles Clash into Pedigree transition.
As for the Vertebreaker, the move hasn’t been seen in a WWE ring in about 15 years. The maneuver (and what a maneuver) was the finisher of “Sugar” Shane Helms in WCW, before he came to WWE and was repackaged into the Hurricane. As the Hurricane, Helms only used the Vertebreaker on a few occasions before WWE told him he could no longer perform the move.
Sean Ross Sap at Wrestling Inc. relayed this quote from Helms himself, talking about when WWE told him he could no longer use the Vertebreaker way back in 2001:
“Yeah, the move was over, but it didn’t affect me because there were very few guys in the WWE I could do it to, especially as the Hurricane. All of my feuds were with big guys and I couldn’t pick them up. That came from Vince himself. I didn’t try to argue my point or anything. Vince tells you to do something, you kind of just do it. It wasn’t that big of a deal, I didn’t need to go to Vince and have a debate about it. It wasn’t a big loss to me,” Helms said.
Rollins himself, of course, is no stranger to banned moves. Back in July of last year, WWE banned Rollins’ then-finisher, the Curb Stomp. Rollins later explained the move was taken away due to PR concerns, after which he transitioned into using his current finisher, the Pedigree.
But with Styles and Rollins tossing all the rules out the window, how long will it be before the Phenomenal Forearm is dodged and reversed into a devastating springboard Curb Stomp? WrestleMania 33, we have an ending!