Chances are you’ve heard of AJ Styles by now. If you missed his stint in the Royal Rumble, you may have caught him beating Chris Jericho on his Raw debut, or watched him on Smackdown Thursday night. But who is he exactly? He also goes by The Phenomenal One, and up until about a week ago he was dubbed the hottest free agent in the world. Now he’s a well paid member of the WWE roster.
In all honesty you could make a solid argument that AJ Styles is the most talented wrestler in the world right now. In 2010, he was number one on PWI's annual list of top 500 wrestlers, the first time a TNA wrestler had been awarded that particular accolade. He’s 38 now and therefore still at his peak in the ring, but by the same token he’s relatively late to the WWE party. In any event the WWE have significantly boosted its roster with the addition of AJ Styles.
For more than a decade he was the face of TNA. Along the way he’s seen the likes of Sting, Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle, Ric Flair and the Hardy Boyz come into that company, but Styles had been the one constant until his sudden departure at the end of 2013.
He’s accumulated a shed full of titles and accomplishments through the years, not only at TNA but at several other brands all over the world. And it’s not hard to see why. He's technically brilliant in the ring, he’s an excellent worker and perhaps most crucially of all he knows how to involve the crowd in a match. He’s just as good from the top of the turnbuckle as he is going toe to toe with the big guys on the mat. He’s inventive and creative, and was a much loved and respected figure in TNA. How exactly the WWE uses him remains to be seen, but the options are endless.
Here’s 15 things you should know about AJ Styles.
15 He Rejected WWE Back In 2002
Styles has actually wrestled for Vince McMahon's company before. In early 2002 he lost a match to The Hurricane on an episode of Metal, before losing again the following day to Rico Constantino in a dark match before Smackdown that night. A couple of months later he was offered a $500-per-week developmental contract by the company which would've meant moving to Cincinnati, so he rejected the deal. At the time his wife Wendy was still in college and it would've meant her moving back in with her parents. As the sole provider Styles preferred to stay back and support his wife instead of chasing his dream, family ideals he's maintained to this very day.
14 He Also Had A Brief Run In WCW
Prior to those two matches for the WWE, WCW spotted AJ Styles along with Air Paris who had been wrestling each other with the NWA Wildside promotion in Georgia. They were both offered a chance in WCW, and introduced as a tag team called Air Raid, with AJ now known as Air Styles. They won a tag team match on Thunder before being booked on Nitro to wrestle for the newly created Cruiserweight Tag Team title. They lost to Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo in the first round and that was about it for Styles in WCW.
13 He Nearly Went Back To TNA
TNA released a statement two days before the Royal Rumble claiming that a written agreement had been struck and signed to re-sign AJ Styles, along with wrestlers Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson. Barely 48 hours later AJ Styles emerged as the third entrant in the Royal Rumble match, confirming once and for all that he'd signed with WWE.
Styles' lawyer Bill Behrens has since released a statement claiming no contract was ever finalized between his client and TNA. AJ Styles told TNA he would do what was best for his family and is reportedly set to make a minimum of $500,000 in the WWE. That's clearly more than what TNA could produce.
12 He Was Good Friends With Chris Candido
Chris Candido's debut match in TNA was against AJ Styles in January of 2005, a match which Styles won. Later that year Candido suffered a horrible leg break during a steel cage match, and AJ Styles saw him in the locker room that night. "At least I can look back and know the last thing that I'd done or said to Chris was that I gave him a hug when he broke his ankle," Styles said in a subsequent interview. "I just gave him a hug and told him 'You'll be alright, it's not a big deal'." Candido had surgery to fix the leg the day after the injury, but fell ill three days later and died from a blood clot.
11 He Knows Ric Flair Very Well
This could come in quite handy as AJ Styles looks to establish himself in WWE. Styles knows Flair from when the Nature Boy had a run with TNA, and Flair actually helped Styles cheat to beat Kurt Angle in a title match almost as soon as he joined the company. The pair struck up a relationship with Flair taking Styles on as a protege, hoping to make him the next Nature Boy. It was a storyline Styles believes TNA didn't milk for its full value. Some of the ideas Flair and Styles had were occasionally being filmed coming out of a plane called 'Flair Force One', and a spoof Hangover skit which would show them waking up after a huge night out in a hotel room with no memory of the night before. Neither skit sketch ever made it to air.
10 He's Been In A Country Music Video
The song was 'Something To Do With Your Hands' by Sarah Darling and the year was 2011. The video debuted on Valentine's Day that year, with Darling's team saying she'd been looking to get someone with a bit of star power to beef up the video. Styles plays the handyman significant other of Darling, wearing a dark blue shirt embroidered with Mr Handy. Throughout the clip he can be seen tending to a leak under the sink, fixing a few light bulbs and making the TV work again. Worth a look for the cringe value if nothing else.
9 The Meaning of his Tattoo
Down his right hand side, over his ribcage and almost down to his waist, AJ Styles has a rather unique tattoo. The majority is a vertical AJ in creative font, and underneath are three dates which are the birthdays of his first three children, Ajay, Avery and Albey. Since the tattoo, Styles has had another child with his wife Wendy, a daughter Anney who was born in October of 2014. There might be just enough room to get that tattoo amended.
8 He's A Devout Christian
AJ Styles falls into the same boat as the likes of Sting, Ted DiBiase and Shawn Michaels in that he is strongly devoted to God. Speaking on the subject of wrestlers who find God, Styles once said "This wrestling business is so hard that when it comes right down to it, when they hit the bottom, they realize what's important, and it's not wrestling," said Styles.
"It's where you're going to be, what's going to happen to you when you die. Jesus Christ? There's nothing else like that. Even if these guys have had a kid, then they've got to know how precious life is, and how only God can do something like that."
7 He Once Made A Gay Slur During A Promo
Back in 2003 AJ Styles used the word f****t on an episode of TNA, and received instant criticism from many people across the wrestling spectrum. In an interview a few weeks later, Styles apologized and explained his actions. "To me, it's a word you just say when you're goofing off. Unfortunately it is not the right thing to say, I wouldn't say it in church so I shouldn't say it anywhere else. It just slipped out... Nevertheless, it was wrong, and I apologize."
6 He Has Similar Credentials To Brock Lesnar
AJ Styles had a run with New Japan Pro Wrestling once he was finished with TNA. His first match with the company was a shot at the IWGP World Heavyweight title, where he defeated Kazuchika Okada. He held the title a bit over five months, and regained it again in February last year for another near five months run with the belt. Sound familiar? Brock Lesnar won the same belt in October of 2005 and held it until July the following year.
5 He Has An Awesome Move Set
AJ Styles has arguably the best move set of any wrestler in the world and he's equally adept at flying through the air as he is at producing the technical goods on the mat. His Styles Clash finisher is brilliant. He also boasts the Pele kick, dished out to Chris Jericho on Monday Night Raw, the flying armbar and the rack bomb. From the top rope he occasionally pulls out the shooting star press, spiral tap, and a very graceful 450 splash. Plus the frog splash, which he missed against Jericho before securing a very impressive debut win.
4 The Styles Clash Is A Real Life Neckbreaker
As impressive as AJ Styles' finisher is, it's proven to be very dangerous. Several wrestlers have suffered a broken neck for failing to take the move correctly. Former WWE star Yoshi Tatsu broke two bones in his neck in 2014 after landing incorrectly. Wrestlers are encouraged to tuck their heads in to survive most dangerous looking moves but for the Styles Clash, the opposite is necessary.
British wrestler Lionheart suffered a similar fate after a botched Styles Clash while Kazarian and Roderick Strong have also landed very awkwardly. Jeff Jarrett has come out defending AJ Styles, saying the onus is on the recipient to take the move correctly.
3 He Believes Hulk Hogan Joining TNA Was A Failure
Hulk Hogan signed with TNA in late 2009 alongside Eric Bischoff. From the get go the pair made significant waves in the company, and not in a good way according to Styles. For starters they were behind TNA changing from its iconic six sided ring to the traditional squared circle. Despite the square ring being much more forgiving for the wrestlers, the move was a significant blow to TNA's identity. Styles has stated several times since then that he hated the ring change. He also feels Hogan failed in his promotional duties after joining the company and didn't do enough to pump up the brand.
2 He's A Real Rags To Riches Story
AJ Styles grew up in a poor household with an alcoholic and abusive father. He didn't even watch wrestling as a child because they couldn't afford cable television. All they had was a little antenna they used to twirl around to try and pick up stations, but that was about it. Styles actually grew up thinking he'd be a professional sportsman, either playing football, basketball or baseball. It was only when a friend of his talked him into trying out wrestling that he stepped into the ring for the first time. Almost instantly he was hooked and the beginning of his successful career had taken root.
1 He's Won Everything
Well, just about everything he could have won. Three times he was the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, and four times he held the NWA tag team crown. He's a two time TNA World Heavyweight Champion and two time tag team champion, one of which came alongside Kurt Angle. He also won the company's X Division Championship six times, and the Television Championship twice. He's been the champion at several other promotions including Ring Of Honour, Revolution Pro Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and even the Christian Wrestling Federation among many more. You get the feeling it won't be too long before he adds a WWE belt of some type to that list.
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