Appearing on the latest episode of the Steve Austin Show, Shane McMahon said he was "humbled" to get to face AJ Styles at WrestleMania 33 earlier this year.
The son of Vince McMahon discussed that match and much more during a wide-ranging interview with Austin.
"I was humbled to be in there. AJ's a great talent," McMahon told Austin. "I've always been an AJ Styles fan. Really enjoyed his work, all the way from Japan to what he was doing at TNA. It's a different time in the business now. So, guys usually of AJ's size and stature, you know, had to work so much harder. Shawn always had to work so much harder, and Marty. And now those doors are wide open because now it gets down to caliber and quality of performance."
Many fans criticized the match between Styles and McMahon, saying it was a step down for "The Phenomenal One" after spending his entire time since the brand split either feuding with John Cena, contending for the WWE Title or defending it. Styles rebuffed those critiques prior to WrestleMania 33. Meanwhile, McMahon said the match was intended to maintain momentum for Styles.
"It all comes down to what's the right booking," McMahon said. "I think what people were reacting to specifically was the caliber of AJ Styles, just coming off of being WWE Champion, working with Cena and they wanted him to be much more in that championship, dare I say, ranking. I think that's much more of what everyone was trying to articulate but not saying. They want to see AJ in the title hunt, and the card's not there at the moment."
McMahon also discussed the build to the match with Styles, noting the importance of coming up with a quality story.
"I learned the business completely backwards, because I never thought I would be in the ring, but I always learned psychology. I learned psychology first. And all of those years of sitting and it's almost through osmosis, listening to Pat Patterson and talking to guys of what to do, what not to do, when to do it, why to do it, that just became innate in me. When I first got booked with AJ, my questions were, 'OK, well what's our story?' They were like, 'well, we're trying to figure this out.' I was like, 'No. We need to figure out exactly what we're doing, what's our story' and then if you will go back and watch the weeks leading up to that, what we did is we started telling our story. Including AJ's promo on the go-home, and it was all about—again, this is not going to be your typical Shane McMahon match. It's not no holds barred. This is his ring. He wants to embarrass me. We're going to wrestle. … that's exactly the story that we started to tell in the ring."
McMahon went through his various preparations for the match -- a combination of strength & conditioning training, muay thai, jiu-jitsu, and amateur wrestling that Austin likened to a fight camp.
McMahon continues to play the role of on-screen commissioner for WWE's Smackdown brand.
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