There are a lot of questions surrounding AJ Styles’ future with TNA Impact Wrestling after Bound for Glory on Sunday, Oct. 20 from the Viejas Arena in San Diego.
Will he stay with TNA? Will he go?
That makes his main event match at the pay-per-view with heavyweight champion Bully Ray all the more intriguing.
Styles, who’s been with the company since its inception, shares something in common with his opponent. They have reinvented themselves.
In Styles’ case, his persona has developed an edge with a lone-wolf mentality. He says his current character evolution developed from all the things that happened to him.
“I’m able to bottle up and transform this character that I have to this darker, more evil character,” Styles said during a recent conference call. “I don’t have sympathy. My character doesn’t have sympathy to stop or not do a move or not go the extra mile to hurt someone. It’s not just about just pinning you. It’s about beating you and doing it convincingly. If he can’t beat you, he’s going to make you wish you had never gotten in the ring with him. That’s the difference between the old AJ Styles and the new.
“The fact that we are bringing both of those characters together, he is going to go all out and not hold everything back. You aren’t going to have to put him down, but you are going to have to keep him down…He is determined. The fact that AJ Styles hasn’t had the world heavyweight title for almost a year and hasn’t gotten the opportunity to wrestle for is all the drive that I need.”
With that said there are certain roads the devout Christian will not travel down.
“I think the greatest thing about working for TNA is they respect where I come from and believe in,” Styles said. “There are some things or a line I just won’t do or cross. It can be from the little things like cuss words. It may not be a big deal to some people, but they are to other people. So I don’t want to cross that line if I don’t have to. I honestly believe words are just words. It depends on how you take them, but I don’t want to be a stumbling block for someone else. So I try not to use words that may be too offensive. At the end of the day they know where I stand, and there are some things I will not do, but that’s a good thing.”
His current storyline involves TNA President Dixie Carter., who has also gone in a different direction onscreen. For Styles, it can be art imitating life at times.
“People want to feel like they are a part of what you’re doing,” Styles said. “I’ve tried to get answers for the same questions they’ve asked, and it’s becoming a real-life issue. There is stuff that I want to know, these fans want to know. I’ve called Dixie out on it, and I think that is a good thing. People want to be entertained, and they also want to have a bit of that real-life story going on. It doesn’t get much more real than what Dixie and I are doing. It’s good television. It’s not reality television, but its good television.”
The TNA original has been there for all of the promotion’s growing pains. After more than a decade, Styles can say he is used to ups and downs as the company continues to build an audience and fan base.
“It’s second nature,” Styles said. “Everything I’ve been through. The rollercoaster ride that I’ve been on being with TNA and seeing people come in and people leave. Guys that I thought have the ability to do something and make a big difference here in TNA. It’s like a rollercoaster ride, and I’ve gotten so used to it. It’s become I’ll believe it when I see it.
“Kurt Angle, I may have heard little things about it, but became a matter of I’ll believe it when I see it. Wow, when he showed up on television it was a huge surprise. There are other things like that. I never thought we would get rid of the six-sided ring, but the first time I took a bump in the regular old four-sided ring I was much more happier.
“I didn’t realize how stiff the six-sided ring was compared to the square one. It’s just growing pains, ups and downs. It’s become, ‘Oh, we are going to go to Fox Sports’ and ‘Oh, we are going to be on Spike TV.’ …That sick feeling when you go down that first drop on the rollercoaster, I don’t get that anymore.”
When he isn’t on the road Styles is currently working on an autobiography of a small town boy who accomplished big things. Through the book, the “Phenomenal One” wants to see him as an everyday person.
“I’m a real guy,” Styles said. “Yes, I’m pro wrestler, but when I’m home I take my kids to school. I pick them up from a public school. I help coach my son’s football team. I’m a regular guy that does something on television. I love what I do, but at the end of the day I’m just a real person who has real issues and problems that I have to deal with. That doesn’t mean you can’t overcome them no matter what they are to do something and be something people respect.”
He is looking forward to seeing the project’s release, but is also excited for his TNA title match with the Bully. The winner of the Bound for Glory Series has high hopes for the confrontation.
“I think that’s going to be an incredible match,” Styles said. “Bully Ray is definitely one of the toughest guys in the wrestling business. Everybody wants to talk about how AJ Styles has changed, but Bully Ray has changed. In fact he has changed his name, but I think it’s going to be a very entertaining match and one you don’t want to miss. I can tell you this is the biggest pay-per-view of the year for us, and I’m not going to leave anything out…
“It’s going to be one of those kinds of matches that is going to be breathtaking, hard to watch I think sometimes, but at the end you say, ‘That’s what I paid for. That’s what I paid for to see.’ Then you won’t be hesitant about getting that next pay-per-view.”
Being in TNA for so long, Styles has seen many come in go. He recalls the Nashville company’s early days were rooted in the diversity of its roster.
“I think the one thing that made TNA different from the beginning was the fact that all these guys were from all over the world,” Styles said.
“Our style was so different, that it made us something special. We weren’t cookie-cutter. We grew up on the indies and made a name or ourselves on the indies. I think that is what made us different. There were so many styles of professional wrestling. That’s what made it interesting. I think we have to open the door for guys to come from the indies, not necessarily from WWE or wherever else. If they have the talent please come. If you still have the passion, I want you here. I want you to be excited about making this company bigger than what it is.
“If you don’t have that or if you think you are too good, we don’t want you. If you want to come in to have some great matches, and believe you me I’ve great matches with, but there are guys who I’ve wrestled on the indies who are not here that I know I can have great matches. We have to open that door and get them in here and make them want to stay. I don’t want them to make a name for themselves in TNA and then go somewhere else. I want them to be proud of being here...”
In many circles Styles is seen as the franchise player of TNA, but it hasn’t been without ups and downs.
“There are times when you are so frustrated you are willing to try everything or anything,” he said. “I think the reality is, if this doesn’t work, how are you going to pay your bills, much less take care of your family? Family is very important to me, so that is always the go-to. Is it best to suck it up or have other options? Much of those times it’s, ‘OK, deal with it. It may suck right now, but it’s a rollercoaster ride. Things will change. You have obligations to your family right now.’ Sometimes it sucks, but sometimes you have to trust other people to write good storylines or whatever. You just have to trust. For me, I have to trust in God, and that he is going to get me through this.”
The Georgian has virtually done it all in TNA and is most deserving of an induction in the promotion’s new Hall of Fame someday. He would join Sting and this year’s honoree Kurt Angle, who will be recognized during this Bound for Glory weekend.
“I will tell you if they try to induct me before Jeff Jarrett, I will not accept it,” Styles said. “He is the guy who started this company and is responsible for my career at this company. The fact that he put so much time and effort and money. In my opinion -- and I love Sting and Kurt -- Jeff would have been my first choice. Jeff isn’t done wrestling, neither is Kurt or Sting. I want to be done before I want to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. That’s just my opinion.”
Styles’s accomplishments speak for themselves, but he is always working to raise the bar. With the lights on bright, Bound for Glory is the ideal platform to do just that.
His goal: “I think it’s to put on quality matches where people go, ‘You know what. I watched other pay-per-views, but this one was different. I got my money’s worth when I got this pay-per-view.’ Or, ‘I turned on Spike TV and what a great show that was. I didn’t even pay for it, but gave me everything I wanted.’ I want them to say that about AJ Styles…I think that is the thing that keeps me going. Sometimes when I jump in the crowd and fans are grabbing on me trying to be a part of everything. That is what it’s all about. That’s when it’s fun. When it stops being fun, there is no reason to be in this anymore.”
• Follow AJ Styles @AJStylesOrg.
• AJ Styles challenges Bully Ray (with Brooke Tessmacher) for the TNA championship in the main event of TNA’s Bound for Glory pay-per-view at 8 p.m. EST Sunday, Oct. 20 from the Viejas Arena in San Diego.
Also, Ultimate X for the TNA X Division title: Austin Aries vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Manik vs. Samoa Joe vs. Chris Sabin (with Velvet Sky).
TNA Knockouts champ ODB vs. Gail Kim vs. Brooke Tessmacher.
Kurt Angle vs. EGO’s Bobby Roode.
Sting vs. Magnus and more.
A gauntlet tag team match with EGO’s Bad Influence (Christopher Daniels and Kazarian), Chavo Guerrero Jr. and Hernandez, Joseph Park and Eric Young, and The BroMans during the Bound for Glory preshow on Spike TV. The winners get a title shot against TNA tag champs Cowboy James Storm and Gunner later on the pay-per-view.
Spike TV’s Countdown to Bound for Glory special is 7 p.m. EST before the pay-per-view gets underway.
The Bound For Glory Weekend also includes the popular Fan Interaction and the induction of Kurt Angle into the TNA Hall of Fame.
For full details on the spectacular, visit www.tnabfg.com.
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