By 2016, AJ Styles was ready for a full-time wrestling spot in America and would have done anything to make it work.
AJ Styles’ debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble is one of the most celebrated moments in WWE history in the last decade. The clip of his debut has surpassed over 10 million views on YouTube end in retrospect, AJ Styles is one of the few wrestlers to debut in the last decade that was able to skip the line and not spend any time in NXT.
Speaking on Out of Character with Ryan Satin, Styles explains that he was ready to be on American soil full time after a great run after a great run in New Japan-Pro Wrestling.
“It was one of those things that I was like, ‘Hey, listen if they're looking for an AJ Styles, I would be happy to give it a shot’’ and I was willing to go down to NXT for a couple of months to get my feet wet and then get to a main brand like a Raw or SmackDown,” AJ said of his early discussions with WWE. “I had no idea what was going to happen. There was talk of, ‘Hey, I don't know if we can keep your name.’ I said, ‘Well, that's fine, I'll be whoever you want me to be but I have this huge tattoo on my side that says AJ, but you can call me whatever you want.’ Listen, I was worried about this southern accent that I can't shake, that Vince was going to make me wear overalls and come out to a little country song or something with a banjo. I was more worried about that."
Regarding being one of the only Superstars to jump the line and not have to go to NXT, AJ would say that he was surprised but attributes it all to timing.
“Absolutely, the fact that Samoa Joe was still in NXT and I was able to jump the line I was like, 'Okay.' I was not going to argue with them about it. I was happy to get the opportunity.”
He continued, “Timing. I think that had a lot to do with it. Being in Orlando was a huge thing for me, being in TNA for so long. Then, to have the opportunity to be number three, as crazy as that sounds, in the Royal Rumble, was huge for me. It was huge.”
AJ would go on to say that because of the way things are done now, he doesn't think a debut like that will ever be done again and says he feels fortunate to have been on the lucky side of timing.
This year, AJ Styles became a WWE Grand Slam Champion when he won the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship with Omos. Meanwhile, Samoa Joe just returned to NXT, something that Triple H says was in the works for a long time. Learn more here.
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