AJ Styles prioritized his family ahead of a WWE developmental deal.
The newest episode of WWE Untold chronicles AJ Styles' debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble. The opening of the special details the early days of The Phenomenal One's career, specifically his start with WCW. AJ commented on getting scouted, his pay, and the company being acquired by WWE.
"WCW had a developmental deal with Wildside where I was wrestling at. It was literally like, "hey you guys are great, would you like to come to Baltimore and do a dark match?" "Absolutely!" Within a week or two we were signed with WCW. So I got to WCW [and] before I was brought on as talent, we were brought in as extras. I was always trying to just stay out of the way, not getting, you know, [in] anybody's business. Just kind of do what needed to be done by me. Then, once you get signed it was a little nerve-wracking because you're the young guy. I had a deal where I think I got paid $750 a week. That was huge for me.
Then there was talk of, you know, WCW going out of business. I'm like, "this is impossible. It's huge. There's no way something like this will happen." So I was at home when Shane McMahon turned up on my television and I was like, "uh-oh." Johnny Ace called me and basically said, "AJ, WWE has not picked up your contract." We just started talking as far as dark matches and whatnot. Every chance I get, every opportunity I get, I'm going to make the best of it. All I need is an opportunity. All I need is a chance."
AJ's first matches with the company are shown and he comments on how he was more concerned with exciting moves rather than telling a compelling story, all in the name of getting noticed. It was Triple H, however, who stopped him backstage one day and told him to slow down if he needed to.
AJ faced The Hurricane at WWE Jakked in January 2002 and revealed that not long afterwards he was offered a developmental contract, but turned it down so as not to disrupt his family.
"I was coming back the next day from catering and Jim Ross walked over and said, "hey, that was a good match yesterday. Keep doing what you're doing." I was like, "holy crap, he watched." Soon after that they had a camp for a couple of guys and it seemed like it paid off because I was offered a developmental deal, but that developmental deal consists of me moving to Cincinnati. I ended up talking to Johnny Ace and I said, "I really appreciate this but I can't move to Cincinnati and disrupt my family." I feel like my wife's dream came first with her wanting to be a teacher and I didn't want to mess that up. Lo and behold, I think it was the best decision I ever made."
AJ Styles has gone on to have a decorated career, holding the top titles in WWE, IMPACT (formerly TNA), and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
On January 4, AJ Styles announced in a digital exclusive that he is entering the 2021 Men's Royal Rumble Match.
If you use any of the quotes above please credit WWE Untold with a h/t to Fightful for the transcription.