Before AJ Styles was WWE Champion, before he was one of New Japan Pro Wrestling's biggest foreign stars, he was one of the top guys in TNA, even though Styles says it didn't seem like his former employers felt that way.
At a Q&A panel at Wizard World Portland, Styles compared his time at Ring of Honor, NJPW and TNA and said all but TNA treated him with respect. He said going to WWE was a no-brainer as they are the pinnacle of the pro wrestling industry for wrestlers to go.
“Ring of Honor treated me real well, and New Japan treated me like a superstar," Styles said. "So I’ve got to give credit to them, who helped boost my ego a little bit because it was definitely flattened due to TNA’s service. But then — doing all that and then having the opportunity to come to WWE and…you know, whether people like it or not, WWE is easy, the biggest — you know, when it comes to wrestling, it doesn’t get any bigger than the WWE. And being there means you’ve finally made it.”
When directly comparing TNA to WWE, the former WWE Champion put WWE over by saying "it is thus far head and shoulders over any other place I’ve ever worked."
Styles was asked about whether or not Styles or Samoa Joe, who is now a member of the Monday Night RAW roster, knew in their time in TNA whether or not they knew they would end up in WWE, but Styles' focus at that time was to make TNA the must-see wrestling promotion.
“Well, at that time Joe and I were hoping to make TNA a big deal," Styles said. "You know, that was what we wanted to do. The problem was, the person who owned the company, she didn’t see that in us. She didn’t see us as the stars that put TNA on the map and not just me but like, Jerry Lynn and Christopher Daniels, and Low Ki, all those guys who did great things and she just didn’t see it. Go put it bluntly, she wanted to be WWE-lite and nobody wanted to see that. They wanted to see something different. And at one point in time, it was a great place to work.”
In his time in TNA, Styles was a two-time TNA World Heavyweight Champion, a six-time TNA X Division Champion and a two-time TNA World Tag Team Champion, among many other accolades. He wrestled for the company from 2002-13 before a successful three-year run at NJPW, where he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship twice.
The full panel can be seen at this link.