Tonight at a WWE live event at Madison Square Garden, fans were shocked to see AJ Styles defeat Kevin Owens and win the United States Championship. They were shocked, of course, because it is extremely rare to see a WWE title change hands at a live event. So does this title change even count? Is AJ Styles now officially the U.S. Champion?
Yes, a title change does count even if it takes place at a live event. Even though this match was not broadcast on television, AJ Styles is now officially the United States Champion.
It’s rare for a title to change hands at a live show, but it’s not unheard of. This happened most recently in April 2016 when Samoa Joe defeated Finn Balor to win the NXT Championship at a live event in Massachusetts; the win was not broadcast on TV. Another notable instance of a title changing hands at a house show was in 2008, when CM Punk and Kofi Kingston lost the World Tag Team Championship at a live event, being defeated by John Morrison and The Miz.
Certainly, though, this does not happen very often, and so it led to some confusion on social media on Friday night as fans tried to grapple with the fact that AJ Styles really did just snatch the title from Kevin Owens, and there wasn’t even a way for them to see the match. The two are still expected to have their scheduled match at Battleground in two weeks; the only difference is that now, Kevin Owens will be the challenger instead of AJ Styles. Obviously, this major shift will be dealt with on SmackDown Live this week.
The crowd at the live show was quite shocked to see AJ Styles win, as you can see in the following video capturing the stunning moment:
So why did the WWE have AJ Styles defeat Kevin Owens at this live event? There is now speculation that Owens may need some time to recover from an injury, but probably this was just done as a swerve and as a way to make the live events that much more of a draw. Changing titles at an occasional live event promotes the idea that anything can happen and that the house shows are just as significant as what airs on television and on the WWE Network.
Battleground, the WWE pay-per-view where AJ Styles and Kevin Owens are scheduled to fight for the U.S. Championship, airs on July 23rd.