The Daniel Bryan vs. AJ Styles match this past Tuesday on Smackdown LIVE was only known by a few people backstage, according to Dave Meltzer in the latest issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
On the format sheet, the listing stated a “Styles/Bryan in-ring segment” that would open the show and then a “match” going through two segments instead of listing who would actually be wrestling in the match.
It is unclear if the finish of this match was intended as “punishment” for Bryan backing out of WWE Crown Jewel. Not only did he — as a main event babyface — cleanly submit on a televised match, but he was then choked out by Samoa Joe when he tried to save Styles. The feeling is that it was likely a “message to the rest of the talent.”
On Wrestling Observer Radio, the discussion even went as far as to suggest that Vince McMahon may now view Bryan as a mid-card type of performer since he has a very strong opinion of his top main event babyfaces never submitting on television under any scenario. With Bryan tapping out, there is much uncertainty about how McMahon ultimately views him as a performer.