WWE Champion AJ Styles recently spoke with former WWE ring announcer Lilian Garcia on her Chasing Glory podcast. During the interview, he talked about the decline of TNA from 2009-2010.
Styles made his name known while in TNA Wrestling, now known as Impact Wrestling, from 2002–2013 well before he signed with the sports entertainment company.
While in the promotion, Styles held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship three times and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship twice. Also, he was the first holder of the X Division Championship, a title he held six times.
“When you want to become a lesser version of something else, and when I say that, I mean WWE Light, you’re not giving people an alternative.” Styles added, “if they want to watch WWE, they’re going to watch WWE. You’ve got to be something different, so they went with a regular square ring. I thought that was a big mistake. You [brought] in guys that I don’t know people wanted to see anymore because they had grown so used to a certain style of wrestling that was happening at TNA. There were a lot of things that [brought] it down and it was guys like Christian and Kurt [Angle] who came over before all this happened that really sparked TNA and made it something bigger. It was growing because of them. But around 2009, 2010, around there, they forgot who they were and didn’t rely on the guys that got them there to the ballgame in the first place, the big game, anyway. And therefore, it started going downhill.”
“Despite all that, I saw myself as, ‘this is my home,’ and I was loyal to TNA,” Styles reflected. “But when you don’t allow me to provide for my family the way I think I should be able to by all the time and all the years I put in, well then, it’s not making much sense to me. And so, ultimately, that’s why I left, because they wanted me to take less than I was making. I hadn’t done anything wrong and I tried to be the best ambassador for the company that I could. A lot of things I thought I did right, but they didn’t see it that way, so I left. I bet on myself and I left.”
In 2014, Styles signed with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) and won his first of two IWGP Heavyweight Championships in his debut match with the company.
Styles first appeared on WWE television in 2002 but turned down a developmental contract he was offered by the company.
He signed a multi-year contract with WWE fourteen years later in January 2016 and made his re-debut at that month’s Royal Rumble. Also during this interview, he addressed his decision to go to WWE despite being offered a deal by TNA.
“It wasn’t too long after that [NJPW stint] that TNA came back to me and said, ‘okay, we’ll give you pretty much when you’re asking for to come back.’” Styles elaborated, “I said, ‘well, I’m not coming back without somebody. I need Anderson and Gallows.’ I said, ‘I want them to come with me.’ We actually had a meeting over at Dixie Carter’s house. There were still some things we weren’t sure about and I had talked to WWE a little bit, but they hadn’t gotten back to me, so I just assumed they had other things going on. They didn’t need AJ Styles, which… WWE is a big place. I get it. I’m not the most important person in the world. I know that. But luckily, Triple H and I, we had a great conversation, like a 30-minute conversation the first time we talked. I said, ‘oh, this is going well.’ And within a week, the ball really started rolling.”
H/T to Wrestling Inc for the transcript