AJ Styles Says TNA Faltered When It Tried To Be ‘WWE-Lite’

Former Total Nonstop Action superstar AJ Styles believes that his former employer began its downfall when the company tried to emulate the WWE.

During an appearance on Ring Rust Radio (via Wrestling News), Styles talked about the direction TNA went about six years ago. Instead of relying on the talent already within the company, TNA started to bring in a bevy of new talent — mostly comprised of former WWE stars — which Styles thinks hindered the company’s progression.

“I think around 2009-10 they were headed in the wrong direction. They were trying to be WWE-lite, and you can’t do that, you have to be different. I think that’s where the biggest mistakes were made, and they didn’t trust the guys that got them to the ball game in the first place. They had all the talent they needed and didn’t need to bring in other talent. I think people were misinformed about what they could get out of it.”

Not only did TNA sign a lot of in-ring talent, the company invested a lot of resources to bring in legends like Hulk Hogan and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Several people — including fans and performers — attribute some of TNA’s woes of the last half-decade due to the financial commitments to Hogan and Flair and the minimal impact they had.

[Image via Impact Wrestling] [Image via Impact Wrestling]However, Styles says that bringing in former WWE superstars didn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Several prominent performers from WWE have made their way to TNA and enjoyed successful stints. The main priority, in Styles’ mind, was that the company needed to be “different” instead of recycling wrestlers and concepts of days gone by.

“The dial never changed when they brought in this higher talent as they thought it would. I will say, Christian Cage, when he came over was such an asset; he was the start of it. Then they brought in Kurt Angle, which was unbelievable, and they could have stopped there and we would have been fine. They have got to be different and turn it up. If WWE can’t do something because they are publicly traded, then there is your advantage. That just doesn’t apply to TNA, that applies to ROH as well.”

Styles’ last appearance for TNA was in 2014, when he lost the World Heavyweight championship to former guest of The Inquisitr, Nick “Magnus” Aldis. After that match, Styles returned to the independent circuit where he’s enjoyed a lot of success. Not only is Styles a regular for ROH, he’s also one of the biggest stars in Japan for New Japan Pro Wrestling and a former two-time IWGP Heavyweight champion.

[Image via Impact Wrestling] [Image via Impact Wrestling]Despite his post-TNA success, Styles still has fond memories of working for the promotion. At first, he thought of TNA as ” just another indie” and didn’t concern himself with his position in the company. But as Styles, Jerry Lynn, and Low Ki, “were always having the best matches on PPV,” Styles believes it catapulted him into the main event.

Overall, Styles’ longest tenure with one company was his time with TNA, and despite how things ended, he has no regrets over his time with the promotion.

“As many bad things that did happen at TNA, there were plenty of good things as well. As I walk down to my man cave, I have old posters of TNA. Sometimes I think I should take them down, but then again I’m not ashamed of what I accomplished there. It is what it is and despite where TNA is now when I look back it was a very positive thing for me, and I learned a lot there.”

[Featured Image by Mark Suleymanov]