With a litany of former TNA mainstays already under their roof, the WWE is reportedly interested in current IWGP and former TNA World Heavyweight champion AJ Styles after changing their stance on him, according to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via LordsofPain).
Styles, 37, left TNA last year after struggling to negotiate a new contract with the company. With WWE not interested in him at the time, Styles went on to rock the independent circuit, winning championships in promotions such as Family Wrestling Entertainment and competing for Ring of Honor, in addition to his success in Japan.
The report states that Styles sees NJPW as his home and is currently under contract with the company. In addition to holding a championship in NJPW, Styles is also a member of the popular Bullet Club faction alongside wrestlers such as the Young Bucks, “Machine Gun” Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, and others.
In an interview with the Talk N’ Shop podcast last December (via Wrestlezone), Styles sounded adamant in the fact that he is not interested in working for WWE, mentioning reasons such as the company’s struggles with the network and more.
“Why would I want to go to WWE? AJ SI mean honestly … They’re struggling right now with the Network … I’m in the hottest wrestling company in the world—New Japan—and I’m with the hottest wrestling group. We can say it over and over again. It’s absolutely true.”
However, in an interview this past March after winning the FWE World Heavyweight championship, Styles gave a more open answer about wrestling for championships in various organizations when asked about representing two companies in two different parts of the world as a champion.
“You don’t get into wrestling just to have matches, you get into wrestling to win the competition. Once I set my eyes on something, it’s hard to get my eyes on something, it’s hard to get them off of it. When I have a belt in sight, I want it. It’s just the way it is, anytime there’s an opportunity to wrestle for a belt, I go after it.”
With Samoa Joe’s recent debut with WWE, many of TNA’s former top superstars are now under the WWE umbrella, with guys such as Sting, Bully Ray, and Rob Van Dam having either appeared or signed on with the WWE in some capacity.
In the case of Joe, his contract is entering a new territory, as his deal enables him to wrestle on the independents while competing for WWE for their NXT brand. Therefore, if Styles does find a interest in working for WWE, the company might be more open to allowing him to work elsewhere simultaneously.
The final part of the report states that WWE wants to have three different touring brands in 2016, thus the company wants to stack up on quality performers. However, with his current commitments, contractual obligations, and perceived preferences, we likely will not see Styles in a WWE ring until early 2016 at the earliest.
[Image by Mark Suleymanov]