WWE: Remembering when James Ellsworth pinned AJ Styles


SmackDown in 2016 was a beautiful place. 

Christened the Land of Opportunity by both Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan, WWE's second show, after Raw, featured the likes of Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, AJ Styles, and Dean Ambrose regularly. 

Dean and AJ were feuding over the WWE World Championship at the time, with AJ holding the belt. 

During the feud, AJ picked James Ellsworth, the jobber who made his name after taking on Braun Strowman and proclaiming that 'any man with two hands has a fighting chance', as his opponent for a one-on-one bout on SmackDown. 

That ruse backfired. 

Daniel Bryan, then the general manager, came out and booked the match, but he added a wrinkle: Dean Ambrose would be the Special Guest Referee.

AJ had Ellsworth beaten after hitting him with a Styles Clash, but Dean opted against counting the pin, and instead picked Styles up and hit a Dirty Deeds.

Dean then picked James Ellsworth's lifeless body off the mat, and draped him over AJ Styles, before hurrying to count the three, only for AJ to kick out, amazingly, at two. 


It should also be said here that AJ Styles' professionalism may have saved Ellsworth's life; he did not sell the Styles Clash properly and could have landed on his head, had AJ not realised and managed to hit the move with a safe landing for his opponent. 

AJ even had Ellsworth in a Calf Crusher, but Dean decided to take a phone call as Ellsworth tapped out. 

The match continued, and Dean hit a second Dirty Deeds, one that AJ Styles could not kick out of. 

Ambrose counted the three, and James Ellsworth pinned the WWE World Champion. For real. That actually happened. 

Ellsworth would go on to have a WWE World Championship match against AJ the next week and hit a super kick for an amazing near fall, going within 0.1 second of becoming champion. 

AJ Styles of course, won, and Ellsworth would go on to turn heel, before aligning himself with Carmella, and helping her win the first ever Women's Money In The Bank match.

Ellsworth has since returned to the independent circuit, though he did briefly appear on Impact Wrestling in 2018.

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