Regarding AJ Styles winning the WWE Title from Jinder Mahal on this week’s SmackDown, The Wrestling Observer Newsletter reports that Styles vs. Mahal was originally scheduled for the December 17th Clash of Champions pay-per-view from Boston. The Styles vs. Rusev match that had been planned for this week’s SmackDown was to have Styles win, making him the final member of the men’s Team SmackDown at Survivor Series. Plans were changed and Styles won the title while free agent John Cena was announced as the final member of Team SmackDown. AJ will now face WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series but there’s no word yet on what Mahal will be doing.
No word yet on why Vince McMahon changed plans but lack of interest in Jinder vs. Lesnar may have been a factor. Jinder’s WWE Title reign was done to help with their long-term expansion in India and it was widely believed that if Jinder were to drop the title, it would be after the India live events on December 8th and December 9th.
Cena was set to be the special referee for Mahal vs. Lesnar and that decision was actually finalized late last week, after the Styles vs. Mahal match was announced for SmackDown. There was speculation on Cena costing Mahal the match at Survivor Series, leading to a Cena vs. Mahal feud that could end with Cena winning the WWE Title again. The change in direction included removing Cena from the match as there was no reason for him to be there since his role was originally done to set up a future match. WWE is not planning on doing Cena vs. Lesnar or Cena vs. Styles.
For what it’s worth, Bryan Alvarez noted on Wrestling Observer Live that as of last Thursday, Styles vs. Mahal was not to end in a title change but Vince reportedly changed his mind on Saturday.
WWE workers who needed to be aware of the title change were not told until around Monday, one day before the match. Those same people were not clear about whether Jinder would get the title back before Survivor Series as Lesnar’s feuds are all booked in advance and Lesnar was told he would be facing Jinder all along. It’s possible they have Jinder win the title back before the live events in India or Styles could be added to the India tour to do the change there, then the rematch at Clash of Champions. Styles is currently scheduled to work SmackDown live events while the RAW brand is in India but he could be added to the tour. Jinder Mahal & The Singh Brothers are the only blue brand talents currently booked for the India live events.