AJ Styles defended his WWE Intercontinental Championship against Drew Gulak Friday night during SmackDown on FOX. The match was initially set-up two weeks ago on SmackDown when a ceremony was held to crown Styles the new champion after his tournament finals victory over Daniel Bryan three weeks ago. During the segment, Bryan goaded Styles by saying he should have no problem granting Gulak a title shot since he had defeated Styles recently. Styles ended up facing (and losing to) Matt Riddle that night, but the seeds were planted for the eventual Gulak match.
Styles and Gulak worked a technically sound, very good match that was given quite a bit of television time. Gulak was decked out in patriotic red white and blue trunks, and Daniel Bryan appeared viz Zoom throughout the match to give commentary and insight on his "coach," Gulak.
Gulak got in a lot of offense throughout but couldn't quite put away the champion. At the end, Styles in a Styles Clash after countering an offensive maneuver from Gulak and hitting a power bomb. However, Styles didn't immediately go for the cover and said "not like that." Styles then pulled him to his feet, draped him against the ropes, and went to the opposite side of the ring to springboard across with a Phenomenal Forearm.
Styles then covered for the pinfall. Graves and Cole said Styles was making a statement and sending a message to the locker room, including Bryan and Riddle, with his impressive victory.
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