A.J. Styles says being “liberated” as free agent prepared him for WWE, talks New Japan run, Tanahashi & Nakamura, more

By James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor

AJ Styles Royal Rumble
A.J. Styles (photo credit Ben Tucker © PWTorch)


A.J. Styles says he is beginning his WWE run after feeling “liberated” by developing his own persona outside of any promotion.

Styles left TNA at the end of 2013 and began a new free agent journey at the start of 2014. Styles called it “betting on himself” to be successful on his own before the recent trend began.

Two years later, Styles took a contract offer from WWE over TNA to begin a late-career run on the biggest U.S. stage.

“I tell you what’s liberating, is the fact that you were able to bet on yourself, and it paid off,” Styles told “The Tag Rope” wrestling magazine in a newly-released interview from before Styles joined WWE.

“A lot of people wouldn’t do that, there’s a lot of chance you’re taking when you do something like that but it’s very liberating to feel like, ‘Okay, I did that, and I did it all on my own, and I created a new A.J. Styles and separated myself from something that people only knew me as TNA A.J. Styles.’ Now they knew me as Bullet Club A.J. Styles, which is hard to do and I was very happy that I was able to do that.”

Styles also learned a great deal from working for New Japan, where he expanded on his knowledge base wrestling everyone from top stars Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura to underneath jokester Toru Yano.

“Wrestling Tanahashi, I really feel like that I learned just because I don’t see what’s going on, doesn’t mean he doesn’t. Sometimes, I don’t feel the crowd or I don’t see them so I can’t see the reactions because I’m in a hold or he’s in a hold. But there was a time when I had him in a Calf Killer for what seemed like, ‘Oh man, this is too long,’ but he saw something I didn’t, and literally we had people crying in the front row,” Styles said.

Styles also commented on Shinsuke Nakamura, who is also scheduled to join Styles on the WWE roster after leaving New Japan.

“First of all, Shinsuke’s awesome. He’s his own wrestler, there’s nobody like him, he’s very unorthodox but he’s his own man. You won’t see another wrestler and go, ‘Shinsuke copied him,’ that’s not it. If anything, you could say he does a little Michael Jackson stuff, which makes him so different from everybody else, he’s flamboyant; this guy has all the tricks of the trade. At the same time, he will kick your head off.”

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