NZPWI had the opportunity to speak to “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles in the middle of his whirlwind promotional tour to Auckland last weekend.
Styles, a former TNA World Heavyweight Champion, spent the past week in Australia and New Zealand to promote TNA’s 10 year anniversary.
Impact Wrestling has been screening in New Zealand on SKY’s the BOX channel since January, with Styles being a mainstay of the show’s action. The show airs Saturdays at 9.30pm.
AJ Styles wrestled on TNA’s first pay-per-view event back in 2002, making him a true TNA original.
Styles has held the TNA World Heavyweight, Tag Team, X-Division and Television Championships. Pro Wrestling Illustrated ranked Styles number one on their annual PWI 500 list for 2010.
After a visit to the IPW training facility on Saturday morning, NZPWI’s David Dunn spoke to Styles in the middle of a meet and greet attended by around 100 fans.
Styles spoke about being signed to WCW at the start of his career, his loyalty to TNA Wrestling, “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels, and his video game addiction, among other things.
Styles also promised to report back to TNA President Dixie Carter how important it is that TNA Wrestling come to New Zealand.
David Dunn: AJ Styles, welcome to New Zealand.
AJ Styles: Glad to be here.
Is this your first time in the country?
How are you finding it – what are your thoughts so far?
I love it. You guys keep complaining about the weather although it’s not really cold. I think, probably, that I may have brought summer with me over here. That’s why it’s so warm over here right now. Maybe that’s what’s going on.
Thank-you for that.
Yeah, you’re welcome. We’ll take it out on taxes and everything. You guys’ll pay me later for that.
You spent the earlier part of this week in Australia. What have you been doing over there?
Same thing, just getting the word out that TNA’s been around for 10 short years and making sure that everyone recognises the fact that we are a great company – check it out. If you haven’t had the opportunity to do that, we’ve got some of the best wrestlers in the world, and you’re missing out. If you don’t watch Impact, you’re missing out.
Before TNA started, you were actually briefly signed to WCW, correct?
What was that like for you, getting signed by one of the biggest companies in the world only for them to go out of business?
It was just a dream come true. I got signed by one of the biggest companies in wrestling. And then a short five months later they were out of business and I was out of a job. But I was thankful for the opportunity – the people that I got to meet. A lot of people ask “what was it like when WCW was going out of business?” I didn’t know they were going out of business, I was just happy to be there. Overall it was a good experience, and I just went back to the independent scene after it was over and worked my way to TNA.
When you started off with TNA you were doing shows with NWA Wildside – you’d been with Ring of Honor as well – did you always intend for TNA to be your home promotion per se, where you’d spend the next 10 years as it turned out?
Let’s be honest, I decided they were going to be my home promotion when they started paying me well. If Ring of Honour would have had the opportunity to do the same thing I’m sure I would have been floating more towards their way, but I’m glad that I’ve been with TNA for so long. I’m glad I’m one of the first ever to be with TNA. I take pride in it, I love it. I want to see TNA succeed, get bigger and better, and I think it’s only a matter of time.
What is it about TNA that makes you so loyal that’s let you put in 10 solid years with the company?
If you do anything for 10 years you’re going to get better at it, and I think TNA gave me that platform to get better as a wrestler and in that I’ve kinda fell in love with TNA. Blood, sweat and tears – literally – in that ring. Ten years is a long time to do anything and I just feel like I’m a part of that company and whatever I can do to help make it succeed is exactly what I’m going to do. It’s in my blood.
Over that 10 years you’ve been involved in so many memorable moments. Is there one that really stands out for you as your defining moment of your TNA career?
For me it was winning the X Division title. And I say that not because it was a title, but it was the X Division that started off TNA. The X Division was the foundation of TNA and why people watched it. Not saying we’re the cream of the crop or we were the best thing going, but we were pretty darn good. And we were something different, so I take pride in that. But a lot of people, they can’t seem to forget about the match with Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels and myself. More people rank that up than anything. It was announced the other day that it’ll be Samoa Joe, Christopher Daniels, myself, and add Kurt Angle to the mix at Hardcore Justice. That’s a lot of pressure. I know people are expecting a great match and I expect the same.
Do you think it has the potential to top Unbreakable 2005?
There’s no reason why it shouldn’t. We already know that Daniels and Joe are great, and we all work well together, and we also know how great Kurt is, so I don’t know how we can screw this up to be honest with you.
That’ll be great!
Yeah, I think so.
You’re working with Daniels now. You’ve been working with him on-and-off since 2005 – even earlier – do you find it a struggle to keep things fresh when the two of you get in the ring?
I do, and I’m very proud of it when we do something new or something unexpected. Sometimes we have to go to lengths of really hurting ourselves to make sure that happens. The last man standing match that we had was – I thought – one of the better matches we’ve ever had. It was totally different to any match we’ve ever had, but it was how we did it. Just something so different than him and I were both used to. The bumps that we took on the stage were big bumps, but we felt like that’s what we had to do to make it different and we did that, and it was just one of those matches where it’s like “wow, that was really good” and I’m excited about it. To be honest with you, I’m all sick of working him, and I think he would tell you the same thing. It’s time to move on and do different things and wrestle different people for Pete’s sake. We’ve been doing it for, god, 10 years or longer, but they’ve always been great matches.
And neither of you suffered any injuries coming out of that match at Destination X?
Not long term. We were very sore the next day, but no, we made it to the next week.
What is the worst injury that you’ve had in your wrestling career?
The worst injury… when I tore my hip labrum, that kinda sucked. It was just one of those – probably the worst pain I’ve ever had in my life, which sounds silly, but I don’t know what it is about your hip. When you hurt that, man, it kills you, ‘cause you can’t move. You can’t do anything. It’s brutal, but luckily I came back pretty quickly from an injury like that and I don’t think about being hurt like that. I’ve forgotten what hip it is at this point, so it’s a good thing.
When did that happen? Was that in a match?
I had strained my hip but didn’t realise it, so when I was at home I kind of took off on a scare run – one of my started running a squirrel up a tree. I took off after him from a scared dad just reacting and that’s when I tore it, and I didn’t even know at the time, but the next night I couldn’t even walk. Had to be helped to the car. Got to the hospital, had to get a wheelchair. It was that bad I couldn’t walk.
Who would you say your favourite opponent has been in your 10 years in TNA?
That’s hard. We’ve got so many guys. Low Ki, Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, Samoa Joe, Red, Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash, there’s so many guys that are so different but we’ve had so many great matches – Bully Ray – classic matches, so to pick one is impossible. Not this past Impact – last – James Storm and I tore it up. We gelled real well together and I thought we put on a show.
You mentioned Angle and Daniels – you’ve been tag team champions with both them. How do you find wrestling tag matches? What’s your preference, singles or tag wrestling?
I really wanted to tag with Kurt and go on with this for a while, but it wasn’t in the cards. It depends, when you feel like you’ve got something like Kurt and I felt like we had – whatever it was we had it together – I thought we would have made a great tag team. But like I said it wasn’t on the cards, and I have no problem going out there in singles and doing my thing there either.
You’re in the Bound For Glory series at the moment. If you’re able to win, who are you hoping is going to be the world champion come Bound For Glory? Who do you want to wrestle on that huge stage?
That’s not really a question I would ask myself. I’d ask who the fans want to see me wrestle. I think I got a pretty good idea, but it’s whatever they want. I wanna make sure they’re entertained instead of myself, obviously, but it could be any one of those guys in the Bound For Glory series and it’d be a great match.
Did you ever have a moment in your career where you were able to take a step back and think you’ve made it as a pro wrestler, you’ve made the right choice?
As in made the right choice? Absolutely. There’s no question I made the right choice, there’s no regrets in what I’ve done. I turned WWE down years ago and within a couple of months TNA started up, so to me it was just a blessing. It was a hard pill to swallow not going there, but it was the right decision.
You’re a fan of video games, right?
I have an addiction, yes. Video games.
What was that like for you then when TNA Impact the video game came out and you got to see yourself as a video game character?
More than that, I was one of the guys that helped work on the game. Samoa Joe and I had sit-down input. “This is what we’d like to see, this is what we want from it.” And Chris Daniels, myself, and Sonjay Dutt did the motion capture. So I had a lot to do with that game. I wish it would’ve been better. Sony cut us big time so a lot of the moves did not get in the game, which hindered a great deal. But I’m hoping to get out another video game soon, in the next couple of years. I’m not worried about graphics as much as I’m worried about gameplay. We’re not going to beat WWE at their graphics, or their library of moves. What we’ve gotta do is beat them at gameplay.
So, appearing in a video game, have there been any other perks that you’ve found from being a wrestler, sort of your celebrity status. You were in a music video for “Something to do with your Hands,” is that right?
Yes, it was a country music video – a young lady, Sarah Darling – and it’s a great song. Her manager asked me to be a part of it. I was, and it turned out to be something really great. Little things like that I just love doing. I love being a part of that. I’ve had a chance to meet some of my guys I look up to. It’s just little bitty things like when you’re signing autographs I got a beanie, I got that and a scarf and little things like that, like that’s cool, that was really cool. I got hooked up by North Melbourne Kangaroos, so I’m definitely a Kangaroos fan, AFL, but you guys don’t watch that down here. Just so you know I have my Warriors jersey and I’ll be attending a league game tomorrow which I’m super excited about, so those are just some of the little perks that I get to do and enjoy doing.
And finally AJ, I’ve got to ask, you’re out here, what’s the chance of bringing TNA Impact Wrestling as a whole, getting a live tour down here?
I’ve been asked that question already before and I want TNA down here as bad as anybody else. It’s just finding the way to do it and making it cost effective. We don’t have all the money that WWE has so it’s a little bit harder, and the fact THEY aren’t coming down here means it’s not as cheap as you might think. We’ve got to find a way to make it cost-effective and I think that we could put on a great show, dare I say probably one of the best shows you guys’ve ever seen. So it’s all about getting the fans in here, making sure they know what it’s all about, and then when we’re done I guarantee you they’ll be at the next show. We’ve got to get down here first, and I’m going to do my best to go back and report to Dixie how important it is that we come down here and how the fans want us down here, and what a bunch of great fans they are.
Fingers crossed something comes from that.
Yes, yes sir.
Thank-you very much for your time today, AJ. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you, and thank-you for making the effort to come down and see us all in New Zealand.
No problem, loved it.