When the 2010s started AJ Styles was still with TNA where he was the face of the company for a long time. But when the 2010s ended Styles was with WWE, and had won five championships including being a two-time WWE Champion.
Styles reflected back on the past decade when he joined Busted Open Radio.
“I’d been very blessed to be with TNA at the time, doing what I was doing over there, but then betting on myself and going somewhere else from Ring of Honor to New Japan and then that transitioned into WWE. If that were the end of my career that is pretty darn good,” said Styles.
While Styles was in TNA, there was talk that he wouldn’t be a fit for WWE with his size and southern accent. But he proved the doubters wrong, and he discussed being on the mic so often in WWE and being in several high-profile segments.
“Who would have thought that a guy with a southern accent would be talking so much? It’s pretty cool to be needed like that, where I am told that I am needed to be at the majority of the shows sometimes and told that you are not just in the first segment or the middle segment, but you are also in the last segment as well,” stated Styles. “I’m like, oh my God, it’s the whole show. It’s really cool but you have to be ready to step up because you may never get the opportunity again, that’s for sure.”
At the end of Styles’ tenure in TNA, reports came out that they lowballed him a contract offer. It would have reduced Styles’ salary dramatically and he admitted that his ego was crushed with the offer and it led to him departing the promotion after 12 years.
“I was scared. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Nothing is promised. I had no idea where this was going to lead, but I think at the time my ego was crushed because TNA basically said to me that I am not worth the money that we are paying you no matter how hard you work,” said Styles. “My ego took a blow there and I had a chip on my shoulder, but it was still scary because if it was just me it would have been easy. I would have probably left TNA a long time ago but I have four kids. At the time I had three kids that I had to support and my wife had to take care of the kids. That is scary not knowing if you are going to be able to put food on the table.”
After leaving TNA, Styles then spent two years working for ROH and New Japan. Then he joined WWE in 2016 and had to prove himself there just as he proved to TNA that he was indeed worth the money.
“It always feels good but even though we’re talking about 2013-2014 going in there with a chip on your shoulder trying to put on great matches, it never really stops. I had to do the same thing once I got into WWE. I had to show people that I belonged here and went in there with a chip on my shoulder and get after it,” said Styles. “You then still have matches where you say, ‘Okay, they put me in a position where you don’t know if they think it’s going to be a good match but we’re going to show them’, stuff like that.
“There is always moments of showing people that you either still have it or you can still do it, or it doesn’t matter who you are in the ring with you can still go after it.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open Radio with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.