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In interviews leading up to New Japan’s “Wrestle Kingdom” Tokyo Dome Show, A.J. Styles sounded content continuing his schedule of ROH dates, New Japan tours, and select independent shows.
Styles was even slotted as the headliner for select ROH shows and all TV tapings kicking off 2016.
But, WWE presented Styles with what has been described as a “blow-away offer” to recruit Styles along with other New Japan stars Shinsuke Nakamura, Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson.
Styles’s shift to WWE is not official, as Styles still has to go through the signing process. However, WWE quickly started talking up Styles and the other New Japan stars on their website to lay the groundwork for Styles’s eventual debut.
PWTorch has learned that ROH wanted to sign Styles to a six-figure deal where he would have continued to work for ROH and New Japan as part of their partnership. However, WWE topped ROH’s offer.
Styles noted in pre-Tokyo Dome interviews that he was looking for financial stability for his family well after his wrestling career is over.
“The thing that makes wrestling most interesting to me is going to be the business that occurs after the match is over,” Styles told Donald Wood of Ring Rust Radio in December. “A lot of people frown on that and say money isn’t everything. Well I say it depends on how much you have saved. My goal when I retire is to not be in a wheelchair or walk with a limp. Wherever I go, I will do my best, work harder than anybody there, and that’s just what I do. I only have one gear and if someone is looking for that and I can support my family while doing it, then that is what I will do.”
Styles noted at the time that he did not feel like his career would be incomplete if he did not have a WWE run. He was content wrestling for ROH and New Japan, especially getting to walk out in the Tokyo Dome in the semi-main event of Wrestle Kingdom.
But, for Styles, this was about securing his financial future after wrestling a very physically-demanding style for 15+ years. WWE presented the top offer, trumping ROH, which was the frontrunner to sign Styles until WWE came into the picture.
ROH has removed Styles from all dates he was originally advertised for. However, he does have the option to have an ROH farewell date. Whether or not that happen remains to be seen.
Fortunately for ROH, they were able to sign another top act in the Bullet Club, the Young Bucks, to an exclusive deal. Coincidentally, Nick and Matt Jackson are now lined up for singles title matches at ROH’s Atlanta area show on January 23, hoping to fill the void left by Styles in his home market.
1/18 UPDATE: ROH announced Styles’s farewell date in Atlanta (Duluth, Ga.) on Jan. 23. Styles is scheduled for a meet & greet, but not to wrestle.