AJ Styles has taken the WWE by storm since debuting at January’s Royal Rumble. Styles, himself, questioned whether or not the WWE Universe would even know who he was when he entered the Rumble that night as the third entrant. But the reaction he received proved he was a star, and his unquestioned ability inside the ring meant he was here to stay and destined to become a fan-favorite. But did it necessarily mean a main-event push for the Phenomenal One?
AJ Styles made his name wrestling for other promotions like Ring of Honor, New Japan, and TNA. It’s been well-known for years that Vince McMahon and top WWE officials prefer creating homegrown stars, molded from their own designs. Well, Vince and those same officials have had a change of heart recently and are capitalizing on the star that is AJ Styles. According to a report from Daily Wrestling News, Styles is receiving massive support from those top officials and has left a positive impression on Mr. McMahon in the two-and-a-half months he’s been with WWE.
AJ has already made a dent in the merchandising side of things, as fans continually buy his wristbands, sweatshirts, T-shirts and gloves. But perhaps more importantly, or at least in conjunction with the merchandise, WWE management views AJ Styles as their most marketable new talent. It certainly didn’t hurt Styles that he had already established a reputation wrestling around the world, but despite some minor promo deficiencies, he seems to have a leg up on some of the newest members of the main roster.
Styles quickly established himself as a dynamic performer who could help carry a match or feud on his abilities in the ring alone. His lone feud thus far saw him square off with Chris Jericho from the night after his debut, all the way up until WrestleMania. The two put on clinics on Monday Night RAW and Smackdown!, and then again on the pay-per-level at Fastlane and ‘Mania. And never did their program feel stale or recycled. Sure, Jericho turning heel played a big part in that, but Y2AJ consistently entertained with their top-notch performances inside the ropes.
AJ Styles has demonstrated in countless interviews — both for WWE and with outlets covering it — that he is the ultimate team player. He was a recent guest on the Sam Roberts’ Wrestling Podcast, saying that he would even have agreed to change his name had the WWE requested him to. They did it for Dean Ambrose, for Kevin Owens, for Apollo Crews, and countless others. But not for AJ Styles. He told Roberts he was willing to play ball in any way he could, as transcribed by Wrestling Inc.
“‘Oh, he’s BJ Smiles!’, like I’m a wrestler from Fire Pro Wrestling. I literally was like, ‘you know what, man? I’ll do whatever you guys want to do. Sure, I’d like to keep my name, but who wouldn’t? But that’s not going to stop me from going to the WWE. I want to do what’s best for my family and my career, so if it works out, it works out [and] if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.’ A lot of prayer went to this stuff, but everything worked out the way that it should’ve and they knew, I mean, it just goes to show how smart they are as well, because when the word ‘phenomenal’ popped on that screen [at WWE Royal Rumble 2016], it was like, that was the right thing to do.”
Three months ago, he was the hottest free agent on the wrestling market. Now, AJ Styles finds himself as the number one contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and in the main event at Payback. The decision to put him in that spot was made just recently, but it also may be part of the driving force behind turning Roman Reigns heel. Either way, it appears Styles has cemented himself (for now) in WWE’s upper-echelon.
[Image via WWE]