AJ Styles speaks on his WWE success, working with John Cena, the Atlanta Falcons and more
Posted: Jan 30th 2017 By: Brian Fritz
To say it's been a big year for A.J. Styles would be an understatement.
Following a successful two-year run in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Styles burst onto the WWE scene a year ago, debuting at the Royal Rumble to a raucous ovation. While he didn't win the match, the "Phenomenal One" left quite the impression.
Since then, he was put in marquee matches against some of the best in the WWE. That includes Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho, Dean Ambrose and John Cena. And all along the way, he has set the bar incredibly high for his in-ring performances, always rising to the occasion to deliver a memorable performance.
His match against Cena at last year's SummerSlam has arguably been his best match since joining the company as the two put on a blow away match that is among the tops of 2016. Styles and Cena will square off again for the WWE Championship in the latest chapter of their feud this Sunday at the WWE Royal Rumble airing live on the WWE Network at 7PM ET.
Sporting News recently spoke with the Gainesville, Georgia-native about his first year in the WWE, in-ring chemistry with Cena and the chances of seeing some old friends joining him in the WWE.
SPORTING NEWS: Does it feel like it's been a year since you joined WWE?
A.J. STYLES: It feels like I've been here a lot longer than that. WWE feels like home which is a good thing. Yeah, only a year but it feels like I've been here about ten.
SN: When do you think Vince McMahon realized what he had with you?
AJ: It's hard to say. I do know it was his call to have me face Roman Reigns in the first place (last May for the WWE Championship). It had to be within the first couple of months I'd been there. He had to have seen something. Definitely Vince's call and it had to be in the first couple months.
SN: You and John Cena have had some fantastic matches already. I think everyone expects that again on Sunday. It seems like the chemistry has been instant between the two of you. Have you felt that way?
AJ: It's odd when you think about it because John and I are so very different in body types and wrestling and pretty much everything. The whole thing is true: Opposites attract. It's got to be true about John and I as far as in the ring. We just work well together. It's just magic in there. The chemistry is great. I don't think anyone expected it but there's something about the way he and I work together. It's great.
SN: A lot was made on SmackDown this week during the back and forth between yourself and John about the SummerSlam poster with you being in the background and he being in the foreground. What was your reaction when you first saw the poster?
AJ: It's actually people reacting on Instagram and Twitter showing me. I think they were a little more upset than I was. I get what's going on here on the poster. Those are your stars that have been here for a long time. So I get it. They're in marquee matches as well. They're faces that people recognize. Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy with it. I think that the WWE Champion should be definitely up front but, at the same time, I understand the reasoning for the poster.
SN: Has there been any plans or any kind of talk about you going on "Today" to get your moment of rebuttal considering that they called you "the guy from Atlanta?" (John Cena appeared on "Today" earlier in the week and when talking the Royal Rumble, hosts Al Roker and Tamron Hall did not know Styles' name.)
AJ: No, I don't think they want to hear what I have to say. You would think that on the "Today" show they'd have people that would research, at least, what John Cena does for a living. But, apparently, they don't because the chick had no idea what John did. So, it is what it is. There is no rebuttal coming, it doesn't look like but I would love to get on there and do that.
SN: Especially with Al Roker. Al should know better.
AJ: Yeah. Al made fun of my hair. I don't know if you saw that but I think that's just a bit of jealousy from Al since he has no hair.
SN: Do you realize the firestorm that you started a few months ago when you said that you wanted to face Shawn Michaels at the Royal Rumble?
AJ: (laughs) I didn't realize ... I was just retweeting a picture that I thought was really cool. I didn't know people would see it like that. Shoot, if it got Shawn Michaels back in the ring again, it was worth it. I got to respect Shawn for saying that when he retires, he going to stay retired. He's not going to go back on his word or going back on when The Undertaker basically made him retire. He said something pretty cool or, at least, I thought it was him that said that everybody wants to see Lebron James and Michael Jordan go at it but that's just not going to happen. I appreciate the fact that he said Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
SN: Another guy he recently brought up that, although he's not coming back but if he was ever going to, another guy that he thought he could do something cool in the ring with was Samoa Joe. There's been a lot of buzz about him possibly moving from NXT to the main roster. What would it be like for you to possibly have Joe around and a potential opponent considering the history you guys have?
AJ: Well, Joe is an amazing wrestler. There's no doubt about that. Always has been. Joe is one of my really good friends. It's just a matter of time before he's on the roster. It wouldn't surprise me if he showed up on Sunday. There's always surprises in the Royal Rumble and you try not to get surprised, you try to see it coming but that's what makes the Royal Rumble so fun. If Joe doesn't show up on Sunday, he'll definitely show up soon. I know it.
SN: We're now on the road to WrestleMania which is coming up here in a few months. When do you start thinking about WrestleMania?
AJ: I think, for me, after the Elimination Chamber match (in February). I'm basically on the road to WrestleMania. Therefore, that's when I'll start thinking about it.
SN: The last time that I saw you was a couple of days before SummerSlam. About 20 feet away from us was Bill Goldberg and you had commented that you had never met him before. Have you had the chance to meet him?
AJ: Yeah. Bill's a good dude. It was good to meet him and let him know I'm a Georgia guy too. Just meeting the guy was cool.
SN: And now you have your Falcons going to the Super Bowl.
AJ: That's it, man. That's huge. Let me tell you a little bit about the champions from my hometown. DeShaun Watson, also from Gainesville, Georgia, led the Clemson Tigers to the national championship. The Falcons now, not out of Atlanta, by the way. I don't know if you knew this. (The team's headquarters are) in Flowery Branch, Georgia which is Hall county and, of course, the city of Hall county is Gainesville. So, there's a lot of champions coming out of G'Ville here lately.
SN: Is it going to be renamed the City of Champions?
AJ: It should.
SN: A big billboard coming into the city, your name on it, DeShaun Watson, maybe the Falcons.
AJ: (laughs) Maybe DeShaun Watson for sure.
SN: I mentioned Samoa Joe. There's also been a lot of buzz about Kenny Omega. Obviously, you know him well from your days working over in New Japan. What would you think about him coming to WWE? What kind of impact do you think he could have? (Since this interview, Omega announced that he is expecting to sign a one-year deal with New Japan.)
AJ: I think that he could have the same kind of impact that I had here. Kenny's amazing. The stuff that he does, and I know I've used that word for two different people in Samoa Joe and Kenny Omega, but, really though, they are. They've made an impact anywhere they've ever been. They always have been talked about. If Kenny wanted to come here, I think he could do well. This is top of the line. This is where you go. It's the WWE. Everybody knows that. Even if you work somewhere else, you know that WWE is the place to be. WWE has more eyes on it than any other place in the world.
SN: You recently had a couple of items taken from you at a show. Has there been any update from the police on your stolen belongings?
AJ: No, no. Nothing yet. I'm thinking about putting out a tweet out there, maybe I can give a little reward in Jonesboro, Arkansas for anyone that wants to turn the guys in. We'll see. I didn't get robbed, by the way. I had things stolen from me. A lot of people are thinking I was robbed at gunpoint. I was not. It was something that was left. I was trying to get out the building as fast as I could because I wanted to get to the hotel, get to bed and for some reason, I forgot one of my most important items, my baby, if you will. (Items taken were a small screen TV, an Xbox 360, and six Xbox 360 games, an iPhone, a set of Beats headphones along with some money.)
SN: You are still on the top of your game. You're the WWE Champion, you're as good as you ever have been. Considering the success that you've had in WWE so far, does it make you think that you want to continue your in-ring career a little longer that maybe you had been planning previously?
AJ: You know, I've thought about that. Yeah, maybe so but that's all going to depend on my body. If my body is able to do what I'm still doing right now, I've got one gear and if I can't in that one gear it's time for AJ Styles to retire. That's what made me who I am. That's why people call me phenomenal. I still want to be that guy but if I can't, then it's time for me to retire.
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- 04-29 2007 Bad Boy & Outlaw became the MSWA Mid-South Tag Team Champion
- 04-29 2011 The Unknown & Johnny USA def. Michael H & Mr. Big for the NCW Tag Team Champions
- 04-29 2011 Mr. Big became the NCW Heavyweight Champion
- 04-29 2012 Sam Stackhouse def. Prophet for the BYEW Heavyweight Champion
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