World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) star AJ Styles has been a bit-part player since he surrendered his WWE title to Daniel Bryan in the SmackDown episode prior to Survivor Series earlier this month.

Styles was hit a with a low blow by Bryan away from the referee’s view which brought the former’s 371 days as the champion to an end. He was then not seen during the Survivor Series pay-per-view event and during the following SmackDown Live airing at the Staples Center.

It was being suggested that Styles’ presence in the upcoming shows will be limited as he is yet to agree on a new deal with his current contract expiring in 2019. It is a well-known fact that WWE does limit the appearances of stars if they are nearing the end of their deals and a new one is not agreed.

Styles was also pulled from the Mixed-Match Challenge with WWE replacing the former champion with Jeff Hardy as Charlotte Flair’s partner. Initial speculation was again pointed toward his contract stand-off. However, according to Wrestling Observer Radio’s Dave Melzer, there was another reason for his exclusion.

He initially spoke about the number of injuries that have risen due to the Mixed-Match Challenge as it is an added schedule for the superstars. He then focused on the reason for Styles’ removal from the event.

AJ Styles
AJ Styles will get a chance to reclaim his title at WWE pay-per-view TLC when he faces Daniel Bryan. In this picture, AJ Styles and Smackdown women's champion Carmella speak at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, June 24, 2018. Robert Prezioso/Getty Images

Melzer believes the WWE hierarchy did not want Flair to be on the losing side and hence changed her partner, while he later suggested that Styles was also being protected. Hardy is not a priority at the moment and hence was included in the matchup as there is no impact if he loses.

“The whole thing that the Mixed Match Challenge exemplifies is how many people get hurt in WWE. The injury rate is ridiculous,” Melzer said, as quoted on Ringside News.

“I think they replaced [AJ Styles] because they didn’t want to beat Charlotte right now and they don’t want to beat AJ in Mixed Match Challenge, nor should they but they got — so they throw Jeff Hardy in because Jeff can lose. They’re not protecting him to any great degree,” he added.

Styles, however, has since dispelled the speculation and confirmed that his non-participation in the recently concluded Survivor Series pay-per-view was due to the medical team not giving him clearance. He also vowed to give Bryan payback when they meet for a rematch in the year’s final pay-per-view event, Tables, Ladders and Chairs (TLC).

Coming to TLC, most of the focus is on Braun Strowman’s match with Raw acting general manager Baron Corbin.

The outcome of the match is important for both wrestlers as a win for Strowman will see him get a title shot at a later date, while a win for Corbin will see him become the permanent general manager of ‘Monday Night Raw’ – WWE’s flagship franchise.

At the moment, it is unclear if "The Monster Among Men" will be able to make it as he only recently underwent elbow surgery. Another plausible outcome is that Strowman returns and wins easily against Corbin.

The potential fallout from Corbin’s loss, according to Mike Johnson of PWInsider, is that Alexa Bliss could be nominated to become the general manager of Raw. Especially since she was deputed by Corbin during this Monday’s taping of Raw to oversee the entire Women’s division on the red side.

“They could also do a situation where Braun comes back and it’s a completely one-sided thing and he pins Baron Corbin very easily and you know we had heard that if that does happen then Alexa Bliss is gonna kinda be talked about as being slotted right into that GM role as a possibility,” Johnson said, as quoted on Ringside News. “Who knows? Things could always change, she could be cleared to return to the ring but we did see tonight that she was given the chance and she was deputized by Baron Corbin to oversee the entire Women’s Division so that could be the first step in a larger world for Alexa Bliss.”