At WrestleMania 34, AJ Styles successfully defended his WWE Championship against the winner of the men's 2018 Royal Rumble, Shinsuke Nakamura. The win for Styles was a little surprising as many had Nakamura pegged to win the match. Styles coming out victorious was hardly the most surprising moment of the night, however.
Shortly after the match, Nakamura shocked the WWE Universe by turning on AJ, delivering a low-blow to the champion following the match. It appears the loss to Styles was just too much for Nakamura to take. He ended up regressing to his days in CHAOS for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Styles and Nakamura had met before, of course. Nakamura defeated Styles inside the Tokyo Dome to defend his IWGP Intercontinental Championship. With the series between the two top stars tied at one win a piece, perhaps we have only scratched the surface of where this rivalry will go.
At 40 years old, Styles has saved the best part of his career for last. As a result, there are some facts about Styles you might not be aware of. Here are 15 little known facts about the current WWE Champion.
15 Wrestled In WCW
There aren't many performers still active today that wrestled in WCW but AJ Styles is one of them. Styles wrestled four matches for the promotion in 2001 during its dying days.
Styles wrestled with Air Paris as the team Air Raid and would wrestle against teams such as the Jung Dragons and 3 Count. Air Raid even defeated the team of Alex Wright and Disco Inferno on an episode of Thunder. It was the only match AJ would win in his short career with the company.
A little-known fact about WCW's dying days was the revamped emphasis on the Cruiserweight division. The promotion even introduced Cruiserweight Tag Titles as well. Air Raid lost to Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo in the first round of the tournament to declare the first champions. WCW closed before anything of note happened with the belts.
14 TNA Turned Him Into Mini Ric Flair
For reasons only those involved in the decision can understand, TNA Wrestling once decided to make AJ Styles the next Ric Flair. We don't mean they tried to make him a successful World Champion, we mean they literally dressed him up as Ric Flair.
TNA had him come to the ring in a Ric Flair-esque robe and basically had him portray a Ric Flair gimmick. It was something no wrestling fan was asking for but got anyway.
What TNA failed to recognize at the time is that Styles and Flair are two entirely different types of wrestlers. Styles was also not as confident on the microphone compared to today. It was one of those moments in TNA wrestling history which made fans scratch their heads and wonder how the company's management team could go ahead with such a ridiculous idea.
13 Won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship In His Bullet Club Debut
It's a popularly misconstrued fact that AJ Styles won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in his first match for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Actually, Styles won the championship in his first match for the promotion in six years. While a member of TNA Wrestling in 2008, Styles wrestled a handful of matches for New Japan Pro Wrestling including dropping a match to Hiroshi Tanahashi.
It was, however, AJ Styles' first match as a member of Bullet Club in 2014 when he defeated Kazcuhika Okada for the championship. Styles was brought in by the promotion when they learned Prince Devitt, aka Finn Balor, would be leaving. Styles became the first non-Japanese wrestler to win the title since Brock Lesnar in 2005. It should be interesting to see if NJPW makes Styles an offer to return after his deal with WWE is up.
12 Was Once Christian's Underling
For almost four years between 2004-2008, Christian had his own faction in TNA Wrestling. In TNA, Christian would add the last name Cage to his moniker and founded the Christian's Coalition which was sometimes referred to as Team Cage. AJ Styles was a prominent member of the group. He would often team along with Tyson Tomko. Unfortunately for Christian, both Styles and Tomko would turn onhim and join with Kurt Angle's, Angle Alliance.
TNA does have a long history of putting future stars in minor roles. CM Punk was once an underling for Raven and Kazuchika Okada was once a bodyguard for Samoa Joe. TNA may have wished they did a better job at utilizing those talents while they had them. By the time Styles got to WWE, however, Christian was already retired due to the impacts of multiple concussions.
11 Replaced Finn Balor in Bullet Club
When Prince Devitt, aka Finn Balor, let NJPW know he was leaving to sign with WWE, the company had two different plans to replace him. The first idea was to bring in Kenny Omega, who was signed to DDT at the time. The other option was they try to sign AJ Styles.
When they were able to sign Styles to a deal, they had Omega come in and cut weight to be a junior heavyweight until Styles would leave the company as well in 2016. Omega would then assume leadership of the stable in NJPW (kind of) after Styles left. Styles and Devitt's time in the faction did not overlap much and the two have had little to do with each other over the years. Even now in WWE, Balor and Styles have been kept on separate brands.
10 Almost Re-Signed with TNA Over WWE
In 2016, when AJ Styles finally signed with WWE, he was apparently also in contract negotiations with TNA Wrestling. Oh, how things could have worked out differently for him had he made a different decision.
Dixie Carter was still running TNA at the time and she was none too happy about Styles buffing their offers and going to WWE. She made a public statement about how Styles and Impact had come to a verbal agreement only for Styles to back out of the deal. Styles, however, has a very different recollection regarding just how close to a deal he and TNA were at the time.
Styles made an immediate impact when he debuted in WWE at the 2016 Royal Rumble. Since debuting in WWE, Styles is a two-time WWE Champion and arguably the top performer in the company.
9 Heat With the LGBT Community
AJ Styles has ruffled a few feathers in the LGBT community a couple of times, though nothing too bad. In the early days of TNA Wrestling, back when Vince Russo's faction of "Sports Entertainment Xtreme" was the big heel stable, Styles was caught using a slur towards Disco Inferno. Styles would later apologize.
He again caught the attention of the LGBT community during a Q and A session when a fan asked him about his large following in the LGBT community. Styles was evidently just as confused as anyone regarding him having a following in the gay community. He repeatedly asked "the gay community?", with a bit too much emphasis on the "gay" part of the community's name. While his reaction may have just been due to surprise on his part from the question, many took it as him taking offense to having such fans.
8 Wrestled on WWE TV In 2001-02
A popular miss conception holds that AJ Styles wrestled his first WWE match at the 2016 Royal Rumble. This is incorrect by about 15 years. Styles' first WWE match was actually held in 2001. WWE was in his hometown of Atlanta, GA and Styles wrestled his trainer, Rick Michaels in a dark match. The following year, Styles lost to the Hurricane on an episode of Jakked. Styles then lost to Rico Constantino the following night. He would not return to the company again until the 2016 Royal Rumble.
Following his dark matches in WWE, Styles signed with TNA Wrestling where he would go on to be a pioneer for the X-Division. While this part of TNA's history is often over-looked, TNA's X-Division would go on to have a lasting impact on the wrestling industry.
7 Only Member of Bullet Club to Win IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Despite Bullet Club's five year existence in New Japan Pro Wrestling, AJ Styles is the only member of the faction to win the promotion's most prestigious championship.
Although Bullet Club members Kenny Omega and Prince Devitt would both challenge for the championship at one time or another, only Styles would be successful in any of his attempts. Styles initially won the championship in 2014, though he would lose it and regain it again in short succession. Ultimately, Kazuchika Okada would win back his title and hasn't lost it in the nearly 700 days since regaining it from Styles.
Styles is one of a handful of non-Japanese wrestlers to ever win the title. Some feel his run with the belt in NJPW helped improve the company's popularity outside of Japan.
6 Ranked #1 on the PWI Top 500 List in 2010
AJ Styles became the first TNA Wrestler in history to top the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Top 500 list in 2010. While the ranking criteria for this list is vague and mysterious, it always seems to list the top wrestler in the world right where they should be. In 2010, that wrestler was AJ Styles.
In 2010, WWE had a bigger hold on the wrestling industry than they do today. That year in the PWI top 500, Styles was one of only two non-WWE wrestlers to crack the top 13. The other non-WWE wrestler in 2010 to make the top-13 was Shinsuke Nakamura, his WrestleKingdom 10 and WrestleMania 34 opponent. Styles could easily top the PWI top 500 list again this year, though many of his old NJPW buddies are in the running for it as well.
5 Named His Child After Christopher Daniels
AJ Styles is good friends with another guy who made his name outside WWE, Christopher Daniels. In fact, they are such good friends that Styles would give one of his kids a middle name in honor of his former tag team partner.
Styles' first son is named Ajay Covell Jones, with Covell being Christopher Daniels' real last name. Perhaps Styles was hoping the gesture would help make up for the fact that Daniels was scheduled to be the higher power in the Undertaker and Vince McMahon storyline of 1999 only for Vince McMahon to put the kibosh on it after he discovered how small Daniels really is.
Christopher Daniels is still kicking around Ring of Honor these days. He even won the promotion's World Championship last year only to eventually drop it to the dastardly, Cody.
4 Technically Kicked Out of the Club
This isn't acknowledged by WWE or members of The Club, Bullet Club, or Balor Club, but Styles was technically kicked out of the faction on his last day in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
That he would eventually align with some of the wrestlers responsible for kicking him out of the faction in WWE is not really acknowledged in WWE or by Bullet Club. A game of "let's just pretend that didn't happen" is being played in regards to the events which took place January 5th, 2016.
The day after WrestleKingdom 10, where Styles had lost to Shinsuke Nakamura, Kenny Omega pinned Nakamura in a tag match and then proceeded to give the One-Winged Angel to Styles. Other members of Bullet Club came out, including Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, and the Young Bucks - they proceeded to beat up Styles. Omega then cut a promo firing Styles from the faction and announcing he was moving up to heavyweight.
3 Devout Christian
AJ Styles is a dedicated Christian. He has said in the past he abides by the theory of God first and family second. Let's just hope Vince McMahon doesn't get wind of Styles' Christian leanings. As we saw with Shawn Michaels - Vince is likely to schedule a match where God and Styles team together.
Styles has said in interviews that religion was not forced upon him as a youngster but rather something he found on his own. He said there was a guy at his local church who decided to show Styles what being a Christian was like and Styles evidently took to it. He's also said that for the most part, people in wrestling are respectful of his religious views but he has had a few people try to get a rise out of him for his beliefs.
2 Fan of Christian Hip Hop
According to Styles himself, he knows more about Christian hip-hop than any other person on the planet. Christian hip-hop music is different from traditional hip-hop in that its lyrics are faith-based. The other big difference between Christian hip-hop and mainstream hip-hop is the two genres do not have a shared history. Rather Christian hip-hop developed as its own thing rather than crossing over with its non-religious based musical cousin.
Styles has listed L'il Raskull, FTF, K2S, and L.G Wise as his favorite Christian rappers. He also used theme music from the Christian hip-hop act, GRITS, from 2009 to 2013 in TNA. GRITS is often referred to as Christian Hip-Hop or Southern Hip-Hop. Stacy Jones and Teron Carter from GRITS have remained friends with AJ Styles to this day.
1 Turned Down a WWE Contract in 2002
AJ Styles was offered a WWE contract in 2002 but turned it down. At the time, WCW had just closed, leaving Styles without a job. During WCW's dying days, Styles wrestled in the often forgotten Cruiserweight tag team division.
The deal offered to Styles by WWE was not exactly lucrative, however. Rather he was offered a developmental deal which may never have led to a main roster debut for the Georgia native. Rather than sign with WWE, however, Styles opted to join TNA Wrestling who offered him more opportunity. When TNA first got going in 2002, Styles, along with Jerry Lynn and Low-Ki, helped establish the promotion's X-Division. Matches featuring Styles, Lynn, and Low-Ki were often the most well-reviewed part of the early TNA shows. Had Styles signed with WWE in 2002, there is no guaranteeing he would have ever broken out of the mold in their developmental system.