AJ Styles on the Royal Rumble, part-timers, and John Cena’s place in WWE history
Posted: Jan 30th 2017 By: Nick Schwartz
WWE World Champion AJ Styles had arguably the best rookie year of any WWE star in the history of the company, and on Sunday he'll try to beat John Cena for the fourth time at a pay-per-view in an epic Royal Rumble headliner
With just a few days left until Sunday's megashow, Styles spoke with Fox Sports about his matchup with Cena, his recent beef with Al Roker, and potential WrestleMania main event opponents.
The Royal Rumble will begin at 7:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, January 29th, on the WWE Network.
Fox Sports: The underlying theme of your title match with John Cena seems to be respect. Has your opinion of John Cena changed in your first year in WWE?
AJ Styles: Listen, the fact of the matter is, John may be a part-timer - at least sometimes in the WWE - but that guy works harder than anybody I’ve ever seen. i mean, the guy’s on The Today Show in the morning and and comes and does live events, or comes and does SmackDown Live. The guy works hard, I get that. And to tell you the truth, I’ve become a better performer because of John Cena, and I like that. But as far as respect goes, I want it all. I don’t just want it from John Cena, I want it from the guy and the girls on The Today Show. I want it from the people who made the Royal Rumble poster.
Fox Sports: Did you see The Today Show’s response to what you said on SmackDown?
AJ Styles: Yeah, they had, really, nothing. They basically said I need curlers, or something like that?
Fox Sports: The host said you had hair like Farrah Fawcett.
AJ Styles: Well, shoot, she’s got beautiful hair. I’ll take that. But, you know, again… the fact of the matter is, if you’re going to interview someone, or someone’s going to be on your show, maybe you should research what they do for a living. In the case of the young lady, she’s just terrible at her job, I guess. I don’t really know how to put it. And Al [Roker] should know better. Al jumps on the bandwagon and makes fun of my hair when he doesn’t have any. I’m just going to chalk that up to him being jealous.
Fox Sports: You mentioned part-timers before… is there any real animosity in the locker room among guys like you - I don’t think you’ve missed a show this year - toward part-timers?
AJ Styles: My thing is, and this is personal… the more shows I do, the more opportunities I have to make a living for myself. So I don’t understand what the problem is? I don’t think anybody should be angry with anybody who says ‘well, you know what, I’m taking this time off.’ Well, hey, maybe they need it? If you run these guys into the ground, what good are they going to be to us later? So let them have their time off, let them… they’re still stars. That’s not going to change. It’s more of an opportunity for guys like me to support my family and do well as long as I can. So, am I angry at guys who go part time? Absolutely not. It [means] more opportunities for guys like me.
Fox Sports: In the ring on Tuesday you talked about not being respected by the people who are running the show. Given your history and all you did before coming to WWE, were you concerned at all before last year’s Royal Rumble that you might not be accepted as a ‘WWE guy’ and given the same advantages?
AJ Styles: Well, yeah. I mean, sure. I think that was put to rest as soon as I walked out at the Royal Rumble. The WWE is based on, I think, reaction. You know, if you can’t get a reaction, that means you can’t put butts in the seats. But I think we answered whether or not people were excited to see AJ Styles at the Royal Rumble at my debut.
Fox Sports: Should John Cena win, he’ll match Ric Flair’s record of 16 world titles. Would you say John Cena deserves to be remembered as the greatest champion in of all time?
AJ Styles: I think John Cena’s going to be recognized as that whether he is a 16-time champ or not. I don’t think many people realize what he’s done for the business of WWE. This guy’s been going hard for a long time. So I think that’s going to happen regardless of 16 title reigns or not.
Fox Sports: You’re match at SummerSlam was, for a lot of people, and for me definitely, the match of the year in WWE. Do you feel like you’re under pressure to raise the bar, and what’s going to make this match better?
AJ Styles: Well there’s a lot at stake in this match. There was no WWE Championship at SummerSlam, now there is. There’s that at stake, and I would say, for AJ Styles, a lot of pride as well. I feel like I’m not being respected, the best way is to take it out of them. As far as going back and forth verbally between John and I, it’s already better because we had the opportunity to talk a little smack against each other. And you know who AJ Styles is. He’s a legit competitor in the WWE. There’s no question about that. And now I’m going to go against the biggest star in the WWE in John Cena. The bar is already raised based on that alone.
Fox Sports: WWE recently had you re-watch the footage of your debut and you talked about how nervous you were before your debut. Do you still get nervous before huge matches or events?
AJ Styles: It depends. When I know something great is about to happen, I get those butterflies, and I love that feeling. I love that feeling. You know, you jump a little bit higher, react a little bit faster, you’re a little more sharp. So I enjoy that feeling when I get it, but I’ve been doing this for 18 years, so it comes and goes. I’ll have them, definitely, at the Royal Rumble.
Fox Sports: The winner of the Royal Rumble could potentially be facing you at WrestleMania in a few months. Who is your pick to win this year’s Rumble?
AJ Styles: That’s like asking me who my dream match is, and that’s not up to me. The pick is whatever the fans want. I want them to pick who they want, and I want to go at it. I think it would be fun to face someone like The Undertaker. There’s a number of guys I’ve yet to be in the ring with, like Randy Orton. So you never know who it might be, but regardless, it’s going to be amazing.
Fox Sports: Kurt Angle, someone who you have a lot of history with, is going in the Hall of Fame, and he said that if he were to come back, he’d like to face AJ Styles.
AJ Styles: I would love that. Kurt and I have had a lot of matches together, and I would love to jump in the ring with him one more time. Is that possible? I don’t know… but it sure would be fun and I would love the opportunity to do that.
Fox Sports: As a guy from Gainesville, Georgia, what’s been your reaction to the Falcons’ run and how do you think the Super Bowl will play out?
AJ Styles: The same city as Deshaun Watson, who led the Clemson Tigers to a national championship, is from. Also the Atlanta Falcons, where they train, their facilities and everything is in Hall County. So my prediction for the Super Bowl? I think that the Falcons are unstoppable. I think, without a shadow of a doubt, they’re going to win the Super Bowl.
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Spotlight in History
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Week of Sun 01-14 to Sat: 01-20
- 01-14 1966 Lorenzo Parente def. Danny Hodge for the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion
- 01-14 1983 The Great Kabuki def. Bugsy McGraw for the WCCW Texas Brass Knuckles Champion
- 01-14 1995 Shane Cortez def. Flamon Raymon for the WWEmp Light Heavyweight Champion
- 01-14 2017 Duke Swellington & became the ComPro Tag Team Champions
- 01-14 2018 Tyson Jaymes became the ASP Mid-American Champion
- 01-14 2018 Brock Landers def. Drake Gallows for the ASP 5-Star Champion
- 01-14 2018 Tristan Thorne def. Prince Mahalli for the ASP Heavyweight Champion
- 01-15 1966 Lorenzo Parente def. Jack Brisco for the TSW Missouri Junior Heavyweight Champion
- 01-15 1974 The Great Mephisto def. Jose Lothario for the WCCW Texas Heavyweight Champion
- 01-15 2005 The Fantastics (Tommy Rogers & Bobby Fulton) became the SCW Southern Tag Team Champion
- 01-15 2006 Ryan Davidson def. The Lone Shining Star for the MSWA Tri-State Champion
- 01-15 2006 The House of Strange (Draven Cross & 3rd Rail) def. Aaron Neil & Kevin James for the MSWA Mid-South Tag Team Champion
- 01-15 2010 Dane Griffin became the GPCW Heavyweight Champion
- 01-15 2011 Ignition def. David Kyzer for the TAP Adrenaline Champion
- 01-15 2011 Tim Rockwell def. Dutch Hagen for the TAP Oklahoma Heritage Champion
- 01-15 2011 Rolling Thunder became the UWE United States Champion
- 01-16 1967 Fritz Von Erich def. Joe Blanchard for the WCCW Texas Heavyweight Champion
- 01-16 1981 Ernie Ladd def. Jake Roberts for the MSW Louisiana Champion
- 01-16 1985 Ted DiBiase def. Brad Armstrong for the MSW North American Heavyweight Champion
- 01-16 1999 Red Eagle def. The Great Bolo 2nd for the OPW Oklahoma Heavyweight Champion
- 01-16 2009 Brandon Bishop def. Carnage for the GPCW Heavyweight Champion
- 01-16 2010 Anarchy 2nd became the UWE Heavyweight Champion
- 01-16 2015 The Imperialists (Charlie Haas & Griffin) def. Simply Irresistible (Matthew Palmer & James Johnson) for the NWA-TXO Tag Team Champions
- 01-16 2016 Drake Gallows became the WFC Hometown Heroes Champion
- 01-16 2016 Ky-Ote def. Montego Seeka for the IWR Revolutionary Champion
- 01-17 1980 Mike Sharpe, Jr. def. Mike George for the MSW Mississippi Champion
- 01-17 2009 Seth Allen def. Dustin Heritage for the IZW Impact Division Champion
- 01-17 2014 Dane Griffin became the NWA-TXO Heavyweight Champion
- 01-17 2014 Genesis (Carrion Arcane & Kristopher Haiden) def. Dane Griffin for the NWA-TXO Tag Team Champions
- 01-17 2014 The Dark Circle (Tim Storm & Apoc) def. Genesis (Carrion Arcane & Kristopher Haiden) for the NWA-TXO Tag Team Champions
- 01-17 2015 Ethan Cole def. Diamond for the SRPW United States Champion
- 01-18 1980 Ernie Ladd def. Mike Sharpe, Jr. for the MSW Louisiana Champion
- 01-18 2004 Ty Magnus & Li'l Joe became the ACW Tag Team Champions
- 01-18 2004 Angel Williams became the ACW Heavyweight Champion
- 01-18 2014 Brian Breaker def. The Canadian Red Devil for the OWA Heavyweight Champion
- 01-19 1980 Mike George def. Bill Watts for the MSW North American Heavyweight Champion
- 01-19 2008 Jeff Knight became the GPCW Cruiserweight Champion
- 01-19 2013 Team Remix (Cody Jones & Copycat) def. Randy Price for the IZW Tag Team Champions
- 01-20 2013 Impact, Inc. (Jermaine Johnson & Jordan Jacobs) became the MSWA Mid-South Tag Team Champion
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