Last week on SmackDown Live, WWE world champion AJ Styles faced off in the ring with John Cena as the two men cut promos heading into their Royal Rumble match this Sunday. In the promo, John Cena said that AJ Styles did a lot in the indies but that he never needed to because he was built for the WWE. In a recent interview with The Turnstile, AJ Styles said that John Cena probably couldn’t have made it in the indies if he tried.
“I would venture to say as a nobody coming in, eyes would be on John Cena based on his look alone. He’s a tank. He’s a jacked-up man. That’s the first thing people would see, so he would get a reaction on the way he looks. Now, what happens in the ring won’t be as easy because the whole “You Can’t See Me” thing, people aren’t going to go and do that with him because people haven’t seen him before.”
Styles said that there is a lot about wrestling in the independent scene that people like John Cena don’t understand. He said wrestlers will go from one indie promotion to another and there will be fans who have never seen them before so they have to resell themselves instead of just relying on the fact that the world knows who they are like John Cena in the WWE.
When AJ Styles started his career, he was in Georgia for an indie promotion called NWA Wildside. The good news is that it was under the NWA banner so he could fall back on that when other NWA promotions needed bodies. However, when he would go to All Pro Wrestling in California, the promoters might have known who he was but he needed to win the fans over again.
The same thing happened when AJ Styles went to wrestle in Austrailia, the U.K., Japan, as well as in American promotions like the East Coast Wresting Association and IWA: Mid South.
It wasn’t until AJ got a chance to compete in WCW as Air Styles that he got a chance to work out for the WWE in 2002 and then sign with Ring of Honor that same year. That was the first year that Ring of Honor put on shows and AJ Styles was there from the ground level.
AJ Styles also gained more recognition when he signed with Jeff Jarrett’s TNA Wrestling in 2002 and was from then on seen as a TNA Original. While the WWE and John Cena like to pretend that TNA Impact Wrestling and Ring of Honor are just indie promotions, they are worldwide promotions that have a large television reach.
AJ Styles cut his teeth in the real indies and then became a huge star in TNA Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and New Japan. That is where Styles proved that he was more than an indie star and was a legitimate main event star. AJ Styles said no one will ever know if John Cena could have made it taking that route, but he said it wouldn’t have been easy.
“The independent scene is really hard. When I say that, it’s because you may be the guy coming in from a different state that no one knows. So, how are you going to have people react? A lot of that has to take place through stuff they haven’t seen before and stuff they didn’t expect in the ring. Who’s to say whether John would have done well or done terrible in the indies. How will we ever know? We won’t.”
Interestingly, AJ Styles has also said that wrestling in the WWE is very different than wrestling in the indies and might be just as hard. Wrestling Inc reported that Triple H commented that AJ Styles said he wished he could have spent some time in NXT because of the learning curve.
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Regardless, AJ Styles has shot to the top of the WWE in just one year, is the WWE world champion, and puts on the best matches every time he steps into the ring. AJ Styles has made it in the big leagues. One wonders if John Cena could have made it in the indies.
[Featured Image by WWE]