A certain cliché that has been tossed around wrestling circles and boards for years is that TNA is the house that AJ Styles built. AJ Styles is the one wrestler that epitomizes TNA, the guy that the company was built around for its first nine years of existence.
It may be a cliché, but all of it is true. With Sting already in the Hall of Fame and Kurt Angle set to join him this fall, it is important to discuss the fact that with the exception of Jeff Jarrett, no one wrestler has done more for TNA.
The TNA Hall of Fame is already looking like the WWE Hall of Fame in one way: It is being used as a chip in a political game of wrestling poker. Angle was decided to be the second inductee for the TNA Hall of Fame not because of his wrestling career there (although it was substantial), but because TNA is worried about Angle leaving the company very soon to go finish up his career in the WWE, something that Angle has indicated in countless interviews over the past year that he is interested in doing.
But you know what? Sting was the wrong choice to be the first inductee and Angle was the wrong choice to follow him. If TNA wasn't going to induct Jarrett, then they should have gone with AJ Styles. For some reason, TNA never likes to acknowledge what AJ Styles has done for them. If you watched Impact, TNA talks way more about how important Jeff Hardy is then how important AJ Styles is, which is like saying that the plague was more important to human population growth then penicillin.
No wrestler on their current roster cares more about TNA then AJ Styles. His salary is a mystery, but I doubt that he makes money equal to what Hardy, Angle or even someone like RVD made. AJ most likely could have gone to the WWE and gotten a sizeable push and could have easily became someone like Daniel Bryan. Sure he isn't great on the microphone, but he is probably better than Danielson ever was and look where he is! At the very least, AJ could have made more cash and wrestled for larger crowds in Japan.
But did AJ Styles ever leave? No, he always stayed with TNA, even when they refused to trust him as their world champion, even when they saddled him with a horrendous storyline, even when less talented and less reliable others got bigger pushes simply because they were bigger names. Not only did he never ask out, you never heard any stores of AJ Styles complaining backstage or not doing his job. He always kept his mouth shut and did what he was told, and honestly that may have been his biggest fault. The squeaky wheel gets the oil.
What would happen if TNA lost AJ Styles? It would be horrible, but it would definitely be interesting to see what would happen. The older guys, Hogan, Bischoff, Hardy, etc. would probably bristle at him (kind of like what they do now) and keep on doing what they are doing. But for the undercard guys and guys who have been in TNA for a long time? That would seriously cripple them.
AJ has wrestled 413 televised matches for TNA, that is 40 more than anybody else. When TNA was first starting, people were not buying their weekly shows to see Jarrett vs The Wall, they were paying to see AJ Styles wrestle. TNA never likes to mention that now, but realistically without guys like AJ, their little company that they are so proud of today would have never gotten off of the ground.
AJ Styles is in a group with Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko as the only guys who I have ever watched that could literally do ANYTHING in the wrestling ring (although Aries is getting pretty close). Anytime someone can make a youtube video of your 100 best moves, you know you are doing it right. Angle gets all the praise from TNA about being the best wrestler in the world and of his generation, when in reality and especially currently, AJ wipes the floor with Angle.
Their match at Slammiversary is a great example. Leading up to the match with the HOF induction, everyone talked about how great Angle was while AJ eventually rode out unannounced and put on an absolute clinic. He set Angle up perfectly, giving him tons of lift on his suplexes and setting up Angle's impressive counters. At the end of the day, Angle won the match and AJ's seemingly impressive push took a huge step back (big surprise I know).
AJ's clock is ticking. He just turned 36 with a ton of matches in second-rate facilities on his odometer. He is currently set up with what looks like a big push in a straight copy of Sting and the NWO in 1997, but knowing TNA, it is likely that he will never reach the top of the card and come October, Bully will be locked into a feud with Hogan, Hardy, Angle or some other less deserving competitor. Just remember that nobody deserves a main event slot more than AJ, only that nobody else seems to think so.