AJ Styles is one of the hottest acts on the WWE’s main roster, while Austin Aries has already proven to be one of NXT’s top talents. That was never supposed to be in the cards. For either of them. CM Punk may have paved the way for some of the stars — like Styles and Aries — that we see today, but it’s Styles himself who is changing the game completely, opening up new doors that were previously kept shut.
Styles might not get all the credit, however, as it’s partially due to the product of their environment, too. The upcoming WWE Draft and brand extension will offer more roster spots than ever before. How that bevvy of talent is then used will be largely up to the talent themselves. If things remained how Vince McMahon and other top WWE officials perceived them, Styles would have never sniffed a main event, and Aries would have either re-signed with TNA or be touring the independent scene.
According to the latest edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, AJ Styles was originally brought in to be no more than a mid-carder whose experience would help enhance the younger mid-carders who still had hopes of climbing the ladder. Now? Styles is considered one of the top five talents on the roster, pegged to be drafted to a Smackdown brand led by John Cena where he’d be the top heel. Two years ago, neither of those scenarios seemed even remotely plausible, according to Ringside News.
When TNA went to Styles with the proposal to take a pay cut, WWE did come calling. However, their offer was so laughable that Styles wisely turned them down and opted for New Japan instead. He excelled so much with NJPW that WWE was forced to make a legitimate offer to bring him in. Despite allowing Styles to use his name and bypass NXT altogether, there were no grand plans initially. But the reaction he received as a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble and subsequent program and matches with Chris Jericho gave Vince and WWE officials no other choice but to elevate him into the main event.
Before the recent suspension, WWE had every intention to keep Roman Reigns the WWE World Heavyweight Champion for a long stretch, so Styles may have never had a shot in winning it in the first place. But he proved, in a short period of time, that he belonged in the picture, and he’d be back in that spot before long. The brand extension will now likely get him there quicker than if they remained with one title.
As for Austin Aries, he first had a shred of opportunity with WWE by trying out for Tough Enough. However, he didn’t even make the final cast, one which was eventually won by Andy Leavine. The laugher in this case is that Aries is one of the best wrestlers in the industry and Leavine barely lasted a year with WWE developmental. Not even qualifying for the Tough Enough cast nearly forced Aries to retire, but he eventually worked his way to TNA where he, like Styles, achieved great success.
The success Aries has had with NXT also came as a surprise to WWE officials who thought he could put on good matches, but nothing more. He’s proven that he’ll be worthy of main-eventing NXT shows when their roster is raided for the brand split, or be called up because RAW or Smackdown could put him to good use as well.
The last time AJ Styles and Austin Aries wrestled for a promotion in the United States came during the 2013 No Surrender show for TNA. Now, there’s a chance they could square off in a WWE squared circle at some point. A proposition that was completely preposterous in the minds of WWE management not too long ago.
[Image via WWE]