Why WWE Star AJ Styles Says His NJPW Run 'Changed Everything'

After 12 years as one of the top stars in TNA Wrestling, AJ Styles took his years of experience to New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2014 where he immediately made it clear that he wanted to become the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. That dream became a reality a few weeks after his initial debut as he went on to defeat Kazuchika Okada, and as the leader of Bullet Club, spent the next two years becoming the best wrestler in the entire world before joining WWE in 2016.


In a new interview with Sports Illustrated, "The Phenomenal One" admitted that all of the success he has had since 2016 wouldn't have had if it wasn't for his time in NJPW.

"The creative changed everything for me," Styles said. "If I were bringing somebody over to be in my company, the last thing I would do is have them win the heavyweight championship as soon as they got there. But that's what they did. And it worked. It put me on the map immediately."

During his time in Japan, Styles not only dethroned Okada, but he also got to mix it up with the likes of Hiroshi Tanahashi, as well as Shinsuke Nakamura before he also left the company to join WWE just a few weeks after Styles and The Good Brothers did. 


"I got to be in the ring with incredible talent like Shinsuke, Okada, and Tanahashi," Styles gushed. "Those guys, they're big-time. And there were no handcuffs. Whatever I wanted to say or do, I could." He also admitted that Nakamura didn't know that Styles knew about his pending departure, but that after hearing of Nakamura's exit, Styles talked to Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson about their futures, and as the old saying goes, the rest is history.

Please credit "Sports Illustrated" when using quotes from this article, and give a H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.