Hours away from his match against Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania 32 — the first Wrestlemania of his career — “The Phenomenal 1” AJ Styles will cap off a historic five-month domination of the pro wrestling world.
In late December last year, Styles competed at Ring of Honor’s (ROH) biggest event of the year, Final Battle, in a match against Jay Lethal. A few weeks later, Styles tangled with fellow WWE newcomer, Shinsuke Nakamura, at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s (NJPW) Wrestle Kingdom 10. Now, after he steps onto the biggest stage pro wrestling offers — possibly in front of 100,000 fans — Styles will have wrestled at three of the biggest stages in just a matter of months.
However, before Styles became a WWE superstar, his former employer, Total Nonstop Action (TNA) wanted him back. The company released a statement prior to his WWE debut, claiming that TNA and Styles’ camp reached an agreement for him to return to TNA.
In an interview with Between The Ropes to promote Wrestlemania 32, Styles denied that he signed any sort of contract to return to TNA — a company he wrestled for from 2002-2014.
“I had signed a letter of intent. I agreed to ‘this is what you said you were going to pay me, so you can send it to legal,’ there was no contract whatsoever involved. What we signed was nothing. It was not a contract in any shape or form.”
Styles, 38, left TNA in early 2014, moving on to establish himself as one of the most popular and well-traveled performers on the independent circuit. He also became one of the top performers in NJPW, capturing the IWGP World Heavyweight championship on two different occasions. Meanwhile, TNA was struggling to keep themselves on television as their deals with Spike TV and Destination America ended under questionable circumstances.
TNA agreed to a deal with PopTV ensuring that the company would remain on television. With their future a bit more stable, TNA decided to bring in some established names as they prepared for a new start and they looked no further than their former homegrown mainstay. In the aforementioned statement, TNA revealed that Styles and two other performers in the popular Bullet Club faction agreed to deals with the company.
“These discussions culminated on December 14th in Nashville, Tenn., where all attended a meeting at Dixie Carter’s home. A handshake and written deal between AJ, Drew, Chad and TNA was agreed upon and signed by all. Start dates were determined, creative decided, merchandise designed and plane tickets purchased.”
By disclosing such information, TNA suffered a lot of backlash from fans and people in the industry. Styles said that he “thought they did a great job of making themselves look like crap by putting out that statement. Just let it go. Things didn’t work out.”
Styles isn’t the only big name that TNA has lost in recent years. Following his departure, performers such as Austin Aries, Samoa Joe, and Sting made their way to the WWE. Recently, two more former TNA World Heavyweight champions, Bobby Roode, and Eric Young, announced their departures. Roode was seen at NXT Takeover: Dallas on Friday night, leading to speculation that he has signed with the company.
While Styles said he is proud of his accomplishments in TNA and his overall body of work, he praised his decision to sign with the WWE.
“From what I’m hearing, man did I make a great decision coming here. I’m not shameful of what I’ve done in the past with another company, but I’m disappointed.”
[Featured Image via WWE]