Earlier this month, it was reported that AJ Styles, along with three other New Japan wrestlers – Shinsuke Nakamura, Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson – had reached an agreement with WWE. Almost immediately after the story broke, everybody began speculating about what Styles’ role would be — would he go to NXT? Is he going straight to the main roster? Would he be a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble?
While none of those questions have officially been answered, the belief is that WWE is planning on having Styles be a surprise entrant in this Sunday’s Royal Rumble match. Then, after Sunday, he’ll be on the main roster and make regular appearances on RAW and SmackDown.
Earlier this week following a match in the United Kingdom, AJ Styles said that he hadn’t officially signed with WWE. Furthermore, Styles toldWhat Culture that he’s free on January 24, which is the date of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
Of course, even if Styles is booked for the Royal Rumble, he’s not going to spill the beans early because that would ruin the surprise.
On Wednesday, WWE’s top man John Cena posted a photo of Styles on his Instagram page, which only furthered the speculation that Styles would be in the Royal Rumble match on Sunday.
On Thursday, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer weighed in on the AJ Styles speculation, saying that he will be appearing at the Ring of Honor show the day before the Royal Rumble, however, ROH won’t be allowed to film Styles’ appearance, which is a strong indication that he has officially signed with WWE.
Meltzer also said that WWE’s original idea for Styles was to have him be a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble, which is why they were so upset when the news broke that Styles had told New Japan that he was heading to WWE.
“AJ Styles could be at the Royal Rumble. The one thing about the situation is, he’s going to be at the Ring of Honor show on Saturday, but he cannot be filmed. So that tells me that the (WWE) deal has to be done, because how can they stop them from filming if he’s a free-agent. The deal was done when he gave notice to New Japan, don’t get me wrong. So, he gave his notice to New Japan, he did his farewells in England. So, it’s pretty obvious that he’s going to WWE, and I don’t know if he’s in the Rumble, but originally that was the idea.”
Since the news broke that Styles and the three other NJPW wrestlers had given their notice, WWE has continued to tease that all four men will end up in WWE at some point. Which tells you that they’ve all signed with WWE.
If Styles shows up as a surprise entrant on Sunday, that’ll be something new because surprise entrants are usually guys from the past, or guys returning from injury. Someone having their WWE debut as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble when they haven’t had any affiliation with the company in a major way has never been done before.
It also looks like WWE is going to let Styles keep his name, which is something that WWE doesn’t do very often, especially if they’re signing someone for the main roster. Someone like Samoa Joe got to keep his name because WWE had no plans of bringing him up to the main roster when they signed him. But guys like Prince Devitt (Finn Balor) and Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens) had to change their name so WWE could own the character because they’d eventually be called up to the main roster.
[Image via Cageside Seats]