AJ Styles debut in WWE came when he entered as entrant number three during the 2016 Royal Rumble match. Since that moment, he’s been one of the company’s top stars, having memorable feuds with Roman Reigns, Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose and John Cena.
It didn’t take long after debuting with the company for Styles to meet up and feud with John Cena, someone who was in desperate need of new stars to face after his feuds with Kevin Owens and Rusev lead to many saying he buried them. The feud between the two lasted several months, which included Styles pinning Cena in one-on-one competition both times.
During the ARN Podcast, Arn Anderson talked about the debut of AJ Styles, and whether or not he was surprised to see him get signed. He also named a few others he wanted WWE to sign at the time. Anderson also talked about how John Cena, who he was agent to for over a decade, wasn’t too keen on them signing Styles and others from TNA, because he believed NXT was the place where they made new stars rather than signing older veterans from other companies.
“No, I wasn’t surprised [they signed AJ]. I was pleasantly surprised and I pushed for AJ,” Anderson said. “It was at a point when TNA was doing well. I would watch there, sitting with Cena one afternoon, and I said, ‘It would really beef up the company if we went out and stole Bobby Roode, AJ Styles and ‘The Cowboy’ James Storm. If you brought those 3 guys in it would give you a whole plethora of new opponents, it would give a lot of guys new opponents.’ John looked at me and said, ‘We’ve got NXT, we make our own stars.
“I’m sure he was just transferring Vince’s psychology to me when he said that, but I knew at that time what those guys could do in a match for John,” Anderson continued. “If you just gave them 6-9 months to come in and get over – these guys had their experience, they were ready. You could bring them on day one and you have a player. They were all on my radar for a while before they ever made it.”
One of the stars Anderson mentioned who didn’t spend time on WWE’s main roster was James Storm. Storm appeared on 2 separate shows of NXT in late 2015, the first where he defeated Danny Burch and the second where he defeated Adam Rose. Storm decided not to sign with the company and opted to resign with TNA. Anderson also talked about how Storm never appeared on the main roster in WWE and why he thinks any company could benefit from having him on their roster.
“I don’t know if it was his choice, the meeting didn’t go the way he wanted it to go, or if the money wasn’t right. You never know in those situations,” Anderson said. “Any company would benefit from having a veteran like that on their crew. If it’s a guy that can get over, on day one give you a main event match you don’t have to groom that guy, you don’t have to teach him.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit ARN Podcast with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.