For so long wrestling fans have wanted to see former TNA and Ring of Honor star AJ Styles make waves in WWE — but there’s always been an underlying fear. Wrestlers who come to WWE after becoming famous elsewhere often have to start at the bottom of the ladder, and work their way up. It can take years — and sometimes never happen at all, as almost the entire WCW roster can prove.
But this is a new era. Now WWE has a roster — in NXT — made up of some of the biggest names from the independent scene. And that means someone like AJ Styles can come into the company and have one of the greatest first years of anyone in the history of WWE.
Styles debuted in January 2016 at the “Royal Rumble” as a surprise entrant in the 30-man battle royale match and from there, skyrocketed. He had a long feud with Chris Jericho that culminated in a match at “WrestleMania 32,” before entering WWE Championship contention and beginning another long feud with John Cena.
That took Styles through the summer until he defeated Cena at “SummerSlam” and went on to beat WWE Champion Dean Ambrose at “Backlash.” Between the championship and the victory over Cena, WWE’s brightest star, Styles has become, as he likes to loudly proclaim, “the face that runs the place.” In less than a year, he’s made an indelible mark on WWE — and that’s great news for the burgeoning indie scene.
At age 39, AJ Styles has become a household name, and there’s seemingly no end in sight. While in the past those that got their notoriety outside of WWE never seemed to reach those heights after joining the company — sorry “Diamond” Dallas Page — Styles has broken that mold, and it’s not a moment too soon.
At the moment, former TNA stars Samoa Joe, Austin Aries and Bobby Roode are all in NXT — ready to take the next step toward WWE’s main roster. Thanks to Styles, they might just get the chance to be the huge stars they all deserve to be after all.