Last weekend, AJ Styles made a surprise appearance at an Independent Wrestling event, carrying the US Title belt in tow. Such a thing is so rare that some were wondering how it was even possible.
On the most recent episode of his podcast, "Dinner With The King," Jerry Lawler explained the ins-and-outs of WWE wrestler contracts, and how AJ Styles might wind up appearing at an NWA Wildside Reunion show.
"When you sign a contract with WWE, it’s pretty much exclusive. However, WWE wrestlers are, technically tax-wise, considered independent contractors. In that sense, you are really truly, supposedly, work wherever you want to. But it’s just an understanding, and it’s in the contract, that WWE will basically keep you booked where you’re not available to do anything else.
"I think they call them 'third-party appearances.' That’s been a long-standing thing that if somebody else wants to book, say for instance AJ Styles, I’m sure what they did was call the office and made an offer. Then the office will look and see if it’s a viable thing; if AJ isn’t working that night.
"So say you have an independent show, and you call WWE, and you say you want John Cena. If he’s available, and they tell you what his fee would be; if you are still conscious, if you haven’t fainted, and you say you can pay that, they call John and tell him they have an offer for him and if he would accept it.
"And why you don’t see WWE superstars at these shows, the reasons are money, it’s prohibitive for a promoter to be able to pay these guys what WWE is asking. And usually when these shows happen are on the weekend, when WWE are running their shows. Or a day off; days off are few and far between. They relish a day off; they wouldn’t want to do a third-party appearance on their day off.”
You can listen to the segment about AJ's indy appearance at the top of the page, or the entire podcast below.