A.J. Styles

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A.J. Styles
AJ Styles WrestleMania 32 Axxess.jpg
Styles in April 2016
Birth name Allen Neal Jones
Born (1977-06-02) June 2, 1977 (age 39)
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Jacksonville, North Carolina, United States[1]
Residence Gainesville, Georgia[2]
Alma mater Anderson University[3]
Spouse(s) Wendy Jones (m. 1995)[2]
Children 4[2]
Website AJStyles.org
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Air Styles[4]
A.J. Styles[4]
AJ Styles[4][5]
Mr. Olympia[6]
Billed height 5 ft 11 in (1.8 m)
Billed weight 218 lb (99 kg)[5]
Billed from Gainesville, Georgia[7]
Trained by Rick Michaels[8]
Perry Saturn
Debut 1998[8]

Allen Neal Jones[8][9] (born June 2, 1977),[9][10] better known by the ring name A.J. Styles (also formatted as AJ Styles), is an American professional wrestler who is currently signed to WWE on the SmackDown brand.

Styles is widely known for his 11-year tenure in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) from 2002–2013.[7] While in TNA, Styles held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship three times and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship twice. He was also the first X Division Champion, a title he held six times. Styles is the first professional wrestler ever to complete the TNA Triple Crown Championship (five times) and the TNA Grand Slam Championship (two times). In 2010, Styles became the first ever TNA-contracted wrestler to be ranked number one on Pro Wrestling Illustrated's annual PWI 500 list. He simultaneously appeared in Ring of Honor (ROH) from 2002–2006, winning the ROH World Tag Team Championship (with Amazing Red) and the ROH Pure Championship. In 2014, he signed with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) and won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in his first match with the company, later becoming co-leader of Bullet Club. Between TNA, ROH, and NJPW, Styles has held seven world championships and 23 total championships.[11][12] He has also had various championships reigns while competing on the independent circuit, winning titles such as the PWG World Championship and the RPW British Heavyweight Championship, among many others.

Styles first appeared in WWE (then the World Wrestling Federation, or the WWF) in 2002, but turned down a developmental deal he was offered with the company. He signed a multi-year contract with WWE, fourteen years later in January 2016, and made his official debut at that month's Royal Rumble pay-per-view. After appearing at his first WrestleMania that April, Styles headlined two consecutive WWE pay-per-views in May 2016, challenging for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Payback and Extreme Rules.

Early life

Jones was born in Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He grew up in poverty with an abusive, alcoholic father.[1] He attended Johnson High School in Gainesville, Georgia, graduating in the class of 1996.[13] He left college (in Anderson, South Carolina, where he was on a partial wrestling scholarship) to try professional wrestling,[14] entering a professional wrestling school because his friends were doing it and to find out whether he had a natural aptitude for it.[1] To supplement his income, he worked by mowing lawns and driving an ambulance.[14]

Professional wrestling career

Early career (1998–1999)

Jones was trained by Rick Michaels and debuted in 1998.[8] In the Georgia-based National Championship Wrestling promotion he wrestled as Mr. Olympia, a masked wrestler, losing to Michael Brooks in his first match.[8] By August 1999, he had won the promotion's Television Championship.[8]

Independent circuit (1999–2002)

From 1999 to 2001, Styles competed in less notable independent promotions.

In December 1999, NCW merged with NWA Georgia to form NWA Wildside, and Jones was renamed A.J. Styles. He appeared sporadically even after signing with NWA-TNA, and is a former NWA Georgia Championship, having defeated Rick Michaels for the title on December 22, 2001, at Christmas Chaos.[8]

On October 26, 2001, Styles participated in All Pro Wrestling's King of Indies tournament. He defeated Jardi Frantz in his first round match but was eliminated by Christopher Daniels in the quarter finals the following night.[15]

On November 13, 2001, Styles debuted in X Wrestling Federation, competing in a battle royal against Christopher Daniels, Juventud Guerrera, Kid Krash, Billy Fives, Prince Iaukea, Psicosis and Quick Kick for the XWF Cruiserweight Championship, but was unsuccessful in winning the title. Later that night, Styles defeated Josh Mathews in a match taped for XWF television. The following night, Styles was defeated by Daniels, again in a match taped for the XWF television program.[15]

Styles debuted for Australian promotion World Wrestling All-Stars (WWA) on February 24, 2002, making his pay-per-view debut at WWA: The Revolution against Super Nova, Christopher Daniels, Low Ki, Shark Boy and Tony Mamaluke in a six-way cruiserweight survival elimination match, in a losing effort. On April 7, Styles would team with Chuck E. Chaos to face Jerry Lynn and Super Nova, in a losing effort. On April 10, Styles faced Lynn and Nova in a three-way-dance, in a losing effort. On April 12, Styles defeated Nova in a tournament semi-final match at WWA: The Eruption for the WWA International Cruiserweight Championship. Styles would progress to the final later that night in which he defeated Jerry Lynn to win the title, which he would vacate soon after.[16]

On March 2, Styles debuted in the East Coast Wrestling Association (ECWA), entering the promotions 6th annual Super 8 tournament. He defeated Xavier in the first round, as well as The Amazing Red in his semi-finals match, but was defeated in the final by Donovan Morgan.[17]

On June 15, Styles debuted in Game Changer Wrestling, entering the Jersey-J Cup tournament. In the first round, Styles defeated Qenaan Creed, he then progressed to the quarter-final, defeating Colt Cabana. In the semi-final, he was defeated by Reckless Youth, and was eliminated from the tournament.[18]

In October, Styles would travel to the UK, debuting in the Frontier Wrestling Alliance (FWA) on October 13, suffering a loss to Jonny Storm in his debut match at FWA: British Uprising. On October 15, Styles was defeated in a FWA British Heavyweight Championship number one contender round robin challenge three-way match by Jerry Lynn and Doug Williams at FWA: Seasons Beatings. Later that night, Styles defeated Jody Fleisch in the same round robin challenge.[19]

On November 1, Styles debuted in IWA: Mid-South, taking part in the promotions annual Ted Petty Invitational tournament, but was defeated by Christopher Daniels in the first round.[20]

World Championship Wrestling (2001)

Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling (WCW) had observed Styles' and Paris' program in NWA Wildside, and offered each a contract in early-2001. Styles (renamed Air Styles) and Paris were placed in a tag team, "Air Raid".[8] The team's gimmick saw both men dress in G-suits. Air Raid appeared on Thunder three times.[21] The teams most notable WCW match occurred on the March 5, 2001 episode of Nitro, in which they were entered into a tournament for the newly created WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship.[8] They were eliminated from the tournament in the first round by the eventual winners, Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo.[8]

World Wrestling Federation appearances (2002)

Styles made two appearances for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF): on the January 26, 2002, episode of Metal, in a losing effort against The Hurricane, and in a dark match prior to the January 27 episode of SmackDown!, where he was defeated by Rico Constantino. In April, Styles would be offered a developmental deal by the WWF, where it would require Styles to relocate to Cincinnati, Ohio, where the Heartland Wrestling Association (HWA) developmental territory was located,[8] with Styles ultimately declining the deal, as the move would interfere with his wife's college plans.[8][22] Despite this, Styles would wrestle one non-contracted match for HWA, on February 19 against Matt Stryker, in a losing effort.[23]

Ring of Honor

Early years (2002–2004)

Styles with Matt Sydal at a ROH event in 2006

Styles debuted in Ring of Honor (ROH) at its third show, 2002's A Night of Appreciation,[24] and quickly became a main eventer (e.g., performing in matches against Low Ki for the ROH World Championship at Honor Invades Boston).[24] After failing to win the title, he became the first holder of the "Number One Contender's Trophy", which was viewed within the promotion as a secondary championship, at the time.[24] At the One Year Anniversary Show in February 2003, Styles competed against Low Ki and Paul London in a three-way match, which was won by London. After this, Styles competed by himself and defeated The Backseat Boyz (Johnny Kashmere and Trent Acid), The S.A.T. (Jose Maximo [Julio Ramirez] and Joel Maximo [Kelvin Ramirez]), and The Carnage Crew (HC Loc and Tony DeVito) to receive a title shot. He chose Amazing Red as his partner, and the two defeated The Prophecy (Christopher Daniels and Xavier) for the championship.[24][25] Styles then feuded with London, who was upset that he had chosen Red as his partner, wrestling to a draw at Night of the Grudges.[24] Styles and Red then defeated the Briscoe Brothers (Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe) on three separate occasions, but lost to The Prophecy. At Wrath of the Racket, Christopher Daniels and Dan Maff put Red out of action and Styles picked Homicide as his replacement partner. Styles and Homicide beat The Prophecy,[24] but Styles had to vacate the title due to Red being sidelined.[25]

After his reign as ROH Tag Team Champion, Styles took Jimmy Rave as his protégé and attempted to become the ROH World Champion, defeating Bryan Danielson at Main Event Spectacles to become the number one contender. At War of the Wire, Styles unsuccessfully challenged Samoa Joe for the title.[24] He then defeated Rave, Matt Stryker, and CM Punk in a one night tournament at the Second Anniversary Show to become the first ROH Pure Wrestling Champion.[24] Styles defeated Punk in a rematch with Ricky Steamboat as the guest referee at At Our Best for his final match for ROH in 2004,[24] as TNA withdrew all of its contracted wrestlers from all ROH events and ROH vacated his title.[26]

Feud with Jimmy Rave (2005–2006)

Styles returned to Ring of Honor at the Third Anniversary Celebration: Part Two to wrestle Jimmy Rave, who accused him of stealing the Styles Clash (which he called the Rave Clash) from him, though he was unsuccessful in defeating Rave.[24] During his feud with Rave and The Embassy, Styles formed an alliance with Generation Next, who were also feuding with The Embassy. At Glory by Honor IV, Styles defeated Rave with Mick Foley in his corner, with the stipulation that the loser could no longer use the Rave/Styles Clash in Ring of Honor.[24] At This Means War, he defeated Generation Next leader Austin Aries, who was attacked by The Embassy following the show. At Vendetta, Styles had his final match against The Embassy when he, along with Austin Aries, Jack Evans and Matt Sydal were defeated by Rave, Shelley, Abyss and Prince Nana in an eight-man tag match.[24]

Following his feud with The Embassy, Styles set his sights on winning a championship. At A Night of Tribute, Styles faced Christopher Daniels and Sydal in a triple threat match, which Daniels won. On the first show of 2006, Styles wrestled and defeated Sydal. Following the match, the two agreed to form a tag team and challenge for the ROH Tag Team Championship, which were held by Sydal's Generation Next teammates Austin Aries and Roderick Strong. Before receiving a shot at the tag team title, Styles received a shot at the ROH World Championship when he was handpicked by Danielson, but he was unsuccessful.[24] At the Fourth Anniversary Show, Styles and Sydal received their shot at the Tag Team Championship, but were unable to defeat the champions.[24]

After an absence, Styles returned at Death Before Dishonor IV, defeating Davey Richards. Styles returned at Time to Man Up, losing to Samoa Joe.[24] In a pre-taped promo, Styles said he would be taking several months off from ROH following the match. ROH commentators, however, continually referred to the match as his final match and even played a special tribute to him after it.[27]

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling

NWA World Heavyweight Champion (2002–2004)

In May 2002, Styles was signed to a non-exclusive contract by Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). He appeared on the first weekly TNA pay-per-view, teaming with Jerry Lynn and Low Ki and losing to The Flying Elvises (Jorge Estrada, Sonny Siaki and Jimmy Yang).[8] The following week, Styles defeated Lynn, Low Ki and Psicosis in a double elimination match to become the inaugural TNA X Division Champion.[8] He won a second title on the third TNA pay-per-view, teaming with Lynn and defeating Lenny Lane and Bruce in the finals of a tournament for the vacant NWA World Tag Team Championship.[4] Styles successfully defended both his titles in the following weeks, but began to bicker with the veteran Lynn during their matches together. On August 7, Styles lost the X Division title to Low Ki in a three-way dance also involving Lynn.[4] The following week, he and Lynn fought Ron Killings and Jeff Jarrett to a no-contest, and the Tag Team Title was held-up as a result.[4] The following week, he and Lynn fought one another in a Falls Count Anywhere match (which was won by Lynn), a No Disqualification match (which was won by Styles) and a ten-minute Iron Man match, which ended in a draw after both men scored three pinfalls.[4] On August 28, Low Ki defended the X Division Championship against Lynn and Styles in a ladder match and lost his title to Lynn.[4] Recruiting Mortimer Plumtree and Sonny Siaki as allies, Styles continued to feud with Lynn in successive weeks.[4] On October 23, he defeated Syxx-Pac for the X Division Championship,[8] but lost the title to Lynn on November 6 and tried unsuccessfully to regain it throughout the remainder of the year.[8]

In 2003, Styles began focusing on the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. After defeating David Flair on January 15 to become the number one contender, Styles recruited the help of Larry Zbyszko and associated himself with Vince Russo's Sports Entertainment Xtreme (S.E.X.) stable.[4] Styles faced NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Jarrett on February 19, but was defeated.[4] In the course of the match, Styles became a fan favorite, attacking S.E.X. as they tried to interfere on his behalf because he did not want to win in that manner.

Styles briefly teamed with D'Lo Brown, but disbanded for their world title aspirations, challenging each other on June 4 in a number one contendership match which was won by Styles. Styles defeated Jarrett and Raven in a three-way match for the Heavyweight Championship (becoming the first TNA Triple Crown winner in the process) on June 11 with assistance from Russo, becoming a heel.[8] Throughout July 2003, Styles successfully defended his title in matches against Brown and a myriad selection of opponents before losing the title to Jarrett on October 22.[8] Following his loss, Styles reverted to being a fan favorite, while Jarrett became a villain. On November 12, he teamed with Sting to defeat Jarrett and Lex Luger, though his bid for the title on December 3 was unsuccessful due to interference from Kid Kash.[4]

Styles feuded with Jeff Jarrett and Abyss throughout January, and on February 4, 2004 after Styles demanded a title shot, Jarrett's ally Don Callis forced him to team with Abyss in a match with the NWA World Tag Team Champions, Kevin Northcutt and Legend, which Styles' won, despite being abandoned by Abyss.[8] The following week, Styles defeated Abyss in a match for both tag team titles by disqualification after Jarrett interfered. His victory was overturned by Callis, leading to another match the following week which was won by Abyss after Lex Luger interfered, thus granting Abyss control of both titles.[8] On March 17, Abyss defeated Styles to become the number one contender to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.[4] Russo granted Styles championship steel cage match against Jarret on April 21, where he won his second world title.[8] He successfully defended the title in matches with Ron Killings, Raven and Chris Harris, and on May 19 he defended against all three men in a four-way title match. Styles lost his title to Killings after Jarrett interfered in the match, hitting him with a guitar.[4]

X Division Champion (2004–2006)

Styles in 2005

Styles returned to the X Division shortly thereafter, winning a four-way match to become the number one contender to the X Division Championship on the June 4 episode of Impact!.[8] On June 9, he defeated Frankie Kazarian to become a three-time X Division Champion.[8] In the following weeks, Styles feuded with Kid Kash and Dallas,[8] while successfully defending his title in matches with Kazarian and Mr. Águila. An additional match on June 23 with the debuting Jeff Hardy was interrupted by Kash and Dallas.[28] On July 28, he defended the title against Kazarian and Michael Shane in an Ultimate X match.[29] After Kash struck Styles with a crutch, Shane and Kazarian simultaneously retrieved the belt and became co-X Division Champions.[29] After several abortive attempts to regain the title, Styles fought Kash in a number of matches, culminating on September 8 in a tables match which was won by Styles.[30] In October he began feuding with Petey Williams, by now the TNA X Division Champion, and on November 7 at Victory Road, the first monthly pay-per-view held by TNA, Styles failed to regain the title from Williams.[31]

At Final Resolution, Styles won the X Division Championship for a fourth time in an Ultimate X match, defeating Chris Sabin and the reigning champion Petey Williams.[32] Styles faced Christopher Daniels for the first time on January 21, 2005, and after failing to defeat him in ten minutes, qualified for a thirty-minute Iron Man match for the championship at Against All Odds,[33][34] where Styles defeated Daniels to retain his title after initial tying and going into "sudden death" rules.[34] The feud between Styles and Daniels continued, and at Destination X on March 13, Styles lost the title to him in an Ultimate X Challenge also featuring Ron Killings and Elix Skipper.[35]

After defeawting Abyss at Lockdown become the number one contender to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship,[36] Styles won his third world championship from Jeff Jarrett at Hard Justice,[37][38] which he lost to Raven in a King of the Mountain match at Slammiversary.[39] Styles then entered the TNA 2005 Super X Cup Tournament, which granted the winner a shot at the X Division Championship. Styles defeated Matt Bentley in the quarter-finals and Petey Williams in the semi-finals, but lost to Samoa Joe at Sacrifice.[40] As Christopher Daniels (the reigning X Division champion) had interfered in the match, TNA Director of Authority Larry Zbyszko added Styles to the resultant title bout. At Unbreakable, Styles defeated Samoa Joe and Daniels in a critically lauded three-way match to become the TNA X Division Champion for a fifth time.[41][42]

Styles at a TNA house show in London, England in September 2008

At Bound for Glory, Styles successfully defended the title against Christopher Daniels in the second thirty-minute Iron Man.[43] The following month at Genesis, Styles successfully defended the title against Petey Williams. [44] Styles then started a feud with Joe, claiming that he had broken the unwritten "code of the X Division" by brutally beating Daniels.[44] At Turning Point, Styles lost the X Division Championship to Joe.[45] Styles was unsuccessful in retaining the title in a triple threat matche, also featuring Daniels, at Against All Odds,[46] and in an Ultimate X match at Destination X, which Daniels won.[47] After Daniels lost the belt back to Samoa Joe, Styles joined Daniels to challenge America's Most Wanted for the NWA World Tag Team Championship. After losing to America's Most Wanted in title matches on two occasions, Styles and Daniels won the NWA World Tag Team Championship at Slammiversary.[48] They successfully retained against The Latin American Xchange (Homicide and Hernandez) (LAX) at Hard Justice,[49] only to lose the title to them in a Border Brawl on the August 24 episode of Impact!.[50] They regained the title at No Surrender,[51] but dropped them back to LAX at Bound for Glory in a Six Sides of Steel match.[52]

On the November 2 episode of Impact!, Styles pinned Chris Sabin to begin his sixth reign as the new X Division Champion.[53] The match was also the quarter-finals of the Fight For The Right tournament for number one contendership to Sting's NWA World Heavyweight Championship; Styles won the semi-final match on the November 9 Impact! but was pinned in the finals by Abyss.[54] On the November 16 episode of Impact!, Styles lost the X Division Championship to Daniels in a three-way match when Daniels scored the rollup pinfall on Sabin.[55] At Genesis, Styles lost to Christian Cage, which Styles blamed on Daniels, who had tried to intervene on his behalf.[56]

He next feuded with Rhino for attempting to reconcile him with Daniels. At Turning Point, Styles beat Rhino,[57] and on the December 22 episode of Impact!, Styles and Samoa Joe defeated Rhino and Kurt Angle.[58] Rhino then defeated Styles in a Last Man Standing match at Final Resolution[59] and at Destination X in a Elevation X match.[60]

Teaming with Tomko and TNA Front Line (2007–2009)

Styles making his entrance at Lockdown

Styles aligned with Christian Cage for Lockdown, forming Team Cage (later Christian's Coalition), who were defeated by Team Angle at Lockdown.[61] Styles teamed with Tomko to face Sting and Abyss at Victory Road, but were defeated.[62] At No Surrender, Styles and Tomko won a ten-tag team gauntlet match to earn a tag team title match at Bound for Glory against Team Pacman (Ron Killings and Adam Jones),[63] where they defeated them to win the TNA World Tag Team Championship.[64] They successfully defended against LAX on the November 1 episode of Impact!,[65] and at Genesis, against The Steiner Brothers (Scott and Rick Steiner).[66] Later that night, Styles and Tomko inadvertently cost Christian his match and helped Kurt Angle retain his championship.[66] Over the next few weeks, Styles struggled to choose between Cage and Angle,[67] until finally deciding on Angle at Final Resolution, where he joined The Angle Alliance.[68]

In February 2008, Styles was, in storyline, married to Karen Angle.[69] Meanwhile, Styles and Tomko lost the World Tag Team Championship to Kaz and Super Eric.[70] With Kurt constantly accusing Styles and Karen of an affair and both denying anything beyond friendship, Styles quit the Alliance. In retaliation, Tomko cost Styles his King of the Mountain qualifying match against Booker T.[71] At Slammiversary, Styles defeated Kurt, but was beat-down by Kurt and his former tag team partner Tomko after the match.[72] The feud continued through Hard Justice, with Styles and Angle trading wins and, on the following episode of Impact!, he defeated Angle for his Olympic gold medal.[73] Styles also won the rematch ladder match the following week, ending the feud, but he was later asked to give Angle back his gold medal by Jeff Jarrett, in an effort to try to mend things with Angle.[74]

Styles at a TNA show in 2008

At Bound for Glory IV, Styles faced Christian Cage and Booker T in a three-way match in which Booker T won.[75] Shortly after that, Booker T, Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash and Sting formed The Main Event Mafia, and Styles teamed up with Samoa Joe to fight them.[76] On the October 30 episode of Impact!, Styles and Joe formed a faction of younger wrestlers known as the The TNA Front Line to combat the Mafia, while the Mafia recruited Scott Steiner.[77] Styles challenged Sting for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship at Turning Point,[78] and again in an eight-man tag team match at Final Resolution, but was unsuccessful each time.[79] On the January 22, 2009, episode of Impact!, Angle vowed to end Styles' career and later that night beat Styles in a tables match, where Styles was (kayfabe) injured.[80]

At Against All Odds, Styles returned, attacking Booker T and stealing his TNA Legends Championship.[81] Styles defeated Booker T to become Legends Champion (and the first TNA Grand Slam Champion) at Destination X,[81] and he retained in a rematch at Sacrifice.[82] At Slammiversary, Styles competed in the King of the Mountain match for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, but was unsuccessful after Samoa Joe turned on Front Line and helped Angle win.[83] Nash won Styles' Legends Championship at Victory Road.[84] Following the loss, Styles began a "Best of Three Series" against Matt Morgan for entry into the TNA World Heavyweight Championship match with Sting and Kurt Angle at Hard Justice. He won the first match, but lost the following two, resulting in Morgan advancing to Hard Justice.[85][86][87]

TNA World Heavyweight Champion and Fortune (2009–2011)

On the August 20 episode of Impact!, Styles was talked out of retiring by Sting, who said he had chosen Styles to carry the torch after him. At No Surrender, Styles won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship in a five-way match against Matt Morgan, Sting, Hernandez, and defending champion Kurt Angle.[88] At Bound for Glory, Styles retained his title against Sting, ending his undefeated streak at Bound for Glory in the process.[89] Styles was mysteriously attacked by an anonymous assailant backstage leading him to believe it was Samoa Joe or Daniels, both of whom he faced the following month at Turning Point to retain his TNA World Heavyweight Championship.[90] He continued to successfully defend his title against Desmond Wolfe on the December 10 episode of Impact!,[91] against Daniels at at Final Resolution,[92] against Angle on the January 4, 2010 episode of Impact!,[93] and against Tomko, who had been revealed as his mystery attacker, on the January 14 episode of Impact!.[94] At Genesis, Styles turned heel and defeated Angle in a Last Chance match with assistance from Ric Flair.[95] On the January 21, episode of Impact!, Flair announced that he had aligned himself with Styles and christened Styles "the New Nature Boy". On the same episode, Hulk Hogan announced a Genesis rematch, where if Flair were to interfere, Styles would be stripped of the title and awarded to Angle. During the match, Angle applied his signature move, the Ankle Lock, on Styles, who reversed it and applied the same move to Angle, when suddenly referee Earl Hebner, paid off by Flair, called for the bell although Angle did not submit.[96] At Against All Odds, Styles retained his title against Samoa Joe, with help from Flair, in a match refereed by Eric Bischoff.[97] On the March 8 episode of Impact!, Styles teamed up with Ric Flair in a tag team match, in a losing effort against Abyss and Hulk Hogan.[98] Styles defended his title against Abyss at Destination X in a match that went to no contest, after Abyss chokeslammed Styles through the ring.[99] At Lockdown, Styles successfully defended his title against D'Angelo Dinero in a steel cage match.[100] The following day on Impact!, Styles dropped the TNA World Heavyweight Championship to Rob Van Dam, ending his reign at a then-record 211 days.[101]

Fourtune hopefuls: (from left to right) Desmond Wolfe, Robert Roode, Styles, and James Storm

Styles faced Van Dam in a rematch at Sacrifice, but was defeated again.[102] With these shortcomings, Flair adopted Kazarian as his newest protégé. Styles became jealous and tried to impress his mentor; after failing to defeat Jay Lethal, Flair ordered him to go home.[103][104] At Slammiversary VIII, Styles attempted to win Flair back by defeating Lethal, but lost again.[105] On the following episode of Impact!, Ric Flair, who had aligned himself with Styles, Desmond Wolfe, Kazarian, Robert Roode and James Storm, announced that he would reform the Four Horsemen under the new name Fourtune, stating that each of them would have to earn their spots in the group.[106][107] Styles and Kazarian earned their spots by defeating Samoa Joe and Rob Terry due to outside interference from Desmond Wolfe.[108] On the July 22 episode of Impact!, Styles defeated Terry to win the Global Championship (formerly the Legends Championship), for the second time.[109] The following week, Styles renamed the title the TNA Television Championship.[110] Fourtune (soon renamed Fortune) then feuded with EV 2.0; at No Surrender, Styles defeated EV 2.0 leader Tommy Dreamer in a non-title "I Quit" match,[111] although Fortune were defeated in a Lethal Lockdown match by EV 2.0 at Bound for Glory.[112] On the following episode of Impact!, Fortune formed an alliance with Hulk Hogan's and Eric Bischoff's new stable, Immortal.[113] At Turning Point, Fortune defeated EV 2.0 in a ten-man tag team match and, as a result, EV 2.0's Sabu was released from TNA.[114] The following month at Final Resolution, Styles lost the Television Championship to Douglas Williams, who had turned on Fortune.[115] On the February 3, Fortune turned face by attacking Immortal, when they interfered in a TNA World Heavyweight Championship match between Mr. Anderson and Jeff Hardy.[116] Ric Flair, who did not take part in Fortune's turn due to an injury, returned on the February 17 episode of Impact!, turning on Fortune during a match between Styles and Matt Hardy and jumping to Immortal.[117] Styles faced Flair and Hardy in a three-way street fight on March 10, where Styles was pinned by his former mentor, with assistance from Hardy.[118] At Victory Road, Styles defeated Hardy in a singles match, despite interference from Flair.[119]

Styles facing Bully Ray at Slammiversary IX

On the following episode of Impact!, Styles was sidelined with a storyline injury after Flair helped Bully Ray powerbomb him off the entrance stage through a table.[120] Styles made his return on April 17 at Lockdown, attacking Bully Ray and helping Fortune defeat Immortal.[121] He then feuded with Tommy Dreamer, who joined Immortal to save his job;[122] Ray cost Styles his match against Dreamer at Sacrifice by hitting him with a chain.[123] On the May 26 episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles and Daniels defeated Ray and Dreamer in a no disqualification Street Fight, with Styles pinning Dreamer to avenge his loss at Sacrifice.[124] The feud ended at Slammiversary IX, where Ray defeated Styles in a Last Man Standing match.[125] Styles then defeated fellow Fortune member Christopher Daniels in the main event of Destination X.[126] After weeks of asking for a rematch, Styles finally granted Daniels one on the September 1 episode of Impact, where Daniels won. After the match, Daniels refused to shake hands with Styles.[127] At Bound for Glory, Styles defeated Daniels in an "I Quit" match.[128] After defeating Daniels again on the November 10 episode of Impact, Styles entered into a feud with TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bobby Roode,[129] failing to capture the championship at Turning Point, [130] tying him in an Iron-Man Match at Final Resolution,[131] but losing the sudden-death tie-breaker on the following Impact.[132]

During the following episodes of Impact, Styles and Kazarian, the last two members of Fortune, made it to the finals of the Wild Card Tournament.[133][134] During the final match against Magnus and Samoa Joe on the January 5, 2012, episode of Impact, Kazarian abandoned Styles and aligned himself with Christopher Daniels, effectively ending Fortune.[135]

Feud with Bad Influence (2012)

On the February 9 episode of Impact, Kazarian, now seemingly a reluctant associate of Daniels, helped him defeat Styles in a singles match.[136] Three days later at Against All Odds, Styles was defeated by Kazarian in a singles match.[137] On the March 3 of Impact, Kazarian defeated Styles in a gauntlet match; had Styles been successful, Kazarian would have to explain his alliance with Daniels.[138] Mr. Anderson then aligned with Styles, defeating them in a match at Victory Road,[139] and at Lockdown, where the two duos were on opposing teams in the annual Lethal Lockdown match.[140] On May 10, Kazarian revealed that he originally aligned himself with Daniels to keep him from revealing Styles' secret, but changed his mind after learning what the secret was. Daniels then revealed a series of photographs insinuating a relationship between Styles and TNA president Dixie Carter.[141]

At Sacrifice, Daniels and Kazarian cost Styles his match against Kurt Angle, however Angle saved Styles from a beatdown.[142] On May 31, Styles defeated Daniels in the main event of Impact; Daniels and Kazarian then played audio of a phone conversation to prove an affair between Styles and Carter.[143] At Slammiversary, Styles and Angle defeated Daniels and Kazarian to win their World Tag Team Championship.[144] On the following episode of Impact, Styles entered the 2012 Bound for Glory Series, where he was eliminated in opening gauntlet match by Daniels.[145] On the June 21 episode of Impact, Styles and Carter revealed their secret; they were not having an affair, but were helping an addicted pregnant woman named Claire Lynch overcome her problems.[146] The following week, Styles and Angle lost the Tag Team Championship back to Daniels and Kazarian. Daniels subsequently admitted that Styles and Carter had told the truth about Claire, but claimed that they had left out the part about Styles being the father of her unborn baby.[147] Styles defeated Daniels in a Last Man Standing match at Destination X,[148] and again in a Bound for Glory Series match and, per the pre-match stipulations, earned the right to get a paternity test on Claire's baby.[149] The following week it was revealed that Claire was not pregnant after all and her attorney revealed Daniels' and Kazarian's plot to blackmail Styles.[150]

On the August 30 episode of Impact, Styles was eliminated in the 2012 Bound for Glory Series after losing to Samoa Joe.[151] At No Surrender and Bound for Glory, Styles and Angle unsuccessfully challenged Daniels and Kazarian for the TNA World Tag Team Championship.[152][153] Styles was pinned by James Storm in a three-way number one contenders match for the World Heavyweight Championship at Turning Point, also involving Bobby Roode, preventing him from receiving another title opportunity until Bound for Glory 2013 as per the pre-match stipulation.[154] On December 9 at Final Resolution, Styles was defeated by Christopher Daniels in what was billed as their "final match".[155] On the following episode of Impact, Styles said he was tired of doing the right thing and that he was going to do his own thing from there.[156]

The Lone Wolf and final storylines (2013)

Beginning in February 2013, TNA began airing videos at Styles' home interviewing his wife, a friend, and even attempting to interview Styles himself before he angrily forced them to leave.[157][158] Styles, now sporting a beard, unkempt hair and all-black attire, returned to TNA on the March 14 episode of Impact, where he saved James Storm from an assault from Daniels and Kazarian before attacking Storm himself.[159][160] Styles, who remained silent in the following weeks, wrestled his return match on the April 18 episode of Impact, defeating Storm via submission with his new Calf Killer submission hold.[161] Styles then began feuding with Kurt Angle after refusing to tell Angle whether he was with the Aces & Eights.[162] On the May 23 episode of Impact, he seemingly joined the Aces & Eights as they attacked Angle, only to attack them, cementing his status as a "lone wolf".[163] At Slammiversary XI, Styles was defeated by Angle in a singles match,[164] but he beat him in a rematch to earn the final spot in the 2013 Bound for Glory Series.[165] The following week, Styles' first BFG series match with Samoa Joe ended in a time limit draw and as a result, both competitors received two points.[166] On the July 4 episode of Impact, Styles forced Kazarian to submit, earning an additional ten points in the tournament.[167]

Styles filled in for Angle and teamed with The Main Event Mafia in a five-on-five tag team match against Aces & Eights at Hardcore Justice, securing the victory for his team by pinning Devon, though he later said that he had not joined the Mafia.[168] On the August 29 episode of Impact, Styles defeated Bobby Roode in a BFG series match to earn seven points.[168] The following week, Styles won a Gauntlet Battle Royal match by last eliminating Daniels to gain twenty points and secure the top spot in the Bound For Glory series.[169] At No Surrender, Styles defeated Austin Aries in the semi-finals and later defeated Magnus in the finals to win the 2013 Bound for Glory Series and become the number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship at Bound For Glory.[170]

The following week, Styles claimed he was no longer under contract with TNA and insulted Dixie Carter, who responded by saying that Styles was not a great wrestler.[171] In the weeks leading up to Bound for Glory, Styles continued to appear on Impact despite not having a contract with the company. At Bound for Glory, Styles defeated Bully Ray, despite interference from Aces & Eights and Carter to win his second TNA World Heavyweight Championship and fifth world title in the company overall.[172] Styles made his first televised title defense on the following episode of Impact, defeating Ray in a rematch after interference from Mr. Anderson. After the match, Styles refused Carter's new contract offer and walked out of TNA with the title.[173] On October 29, TNA vacated the World Heavyweight Championship.

On the December 2 taping of Impact which aired on January 2, Styles returned to TNA with his championship to confront Carter and Magnus, who had won a tournament to crown the new World Heavyweight Champion. Styles challenged Magnus to a title unification match on next weeks episode of Impact, which Magnus accepted.[174] Magnus won to unify both titles after interference from eight other wrestlers on Magnus' behalf and Sting interfering on Styles' behalf in what would be Styles' final match with TNA.[175][176][177] On December 8, it was reported that contract negotiations between Styles and TNA had broken down and that Styles would be leaving the promotion, becoming a free agent effective December 17 and ending his near twelve-year association with the company.[178]

Mexican and Japanese partnerships (2006–2013)

During his stay in TNA, Styles worked in various Japanese and Mexican promotions due to a partnership with TNA.

On September 17, 2006, at Verano de Escándalo, Styles made his debut for Mexican promotion Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA), as part of a cross promotion deal between TNA and AAA. Team TNA (Styles, Homicide, Low Ki and Samoa Joe) defeated Vipers Revolution (Abismo Negro, Charly Manson, Electroshock and Histeria) in a semi finales tournament match then later defeating The Mexican Powers (Crazy Boy, Joe Lider and Juventud Guerrera) in the finals.

During a partnership between TNA and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), Styles made four appearances for NJPW in 2008. On January 4, at Wrestle Kingdom II, Styles teamed with Christian Cage and Petey Williams to face RISE (Milano Collection AT, Minoru and Prince Devitt) in a six-man tag team match, in a winning effort. On February 17, Styles faced Hiroshi Tanahashi in a losing effort on Day 8 of New Japan's ISM Tour.[179] On August 15, Styles teamed with Shinjiro Otani to face Kurt Angle and Masahiro Chono on Day 5 of New Japan's G1 Climax - Heroes of Supremacy event, in a losing effort. The following day on Day 6 of New Japan's G1 Climax - Heroes of Supremacy show, Styles teamed with Tanahashi to face the team of Shinsuke Nakamura and Angle, again in a losing effort.[180]

On July 26, 2008, Styles made his debut for Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), taking part in the promotions last annual 16-man elimination International Gran Prix tournament, representing Team International. Styles would defeat Rey Bucanero of Team Mexico in his first match but would later be eliminated from the tournament by Último Guerrero. Guerrero went on to lose to Team International member Alex Shelley later in the night, with Shelley winning the tournament for Team International.[181]

Styles returned to AAA on December 16, 2011, at Guerra de Titanes, as part of the TNA invasion storyline. He faced El Mesías in a match to earn a shot at the AAA World Heavyweight Championship, but was unsuccessful.[182]

On November 3, 2013, Styles would once again return to AAA, this time to successfully defend the TNA World Heavyweight Championship (which had been vacated by TNA just days before) in a rematch against El Mesías.[183]

On November 16, 2013, Styles made his debut for Japanese promotion Wrestle-1, successfully defending the TNA World Heavyweight Championship against Seiya Sanada.[184][185]

Return to the independent circuit (2003–2012)

On March 14, Styles returned to International Wrestling Cartel (IWC) and successfully challenged IWC Super Indy Champion Super Hentai for the title. On April 13, Styles defended the title in a rematch against Hentai but the match ended in a no contest, meaning Styles retained the title. On May 10, Styles vacated the title. On August 23, Styles unsuccessfully challenged new Super Indy Champion Colt Cabana after the match ended at a twenty-minute time limit draw, meaning Cabana retained the title. On December 12, at IWC: Call to Arms, Styles would once again challenge Cabana for the title, but again was unsuccessful.[186] On April 12, Styles debuted in Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), competing at the promotions 3rd Best of the Best event. Styles teamed with Jason Cross to face Jay Briscoe and Jimmy Rave, in a losing effort. On July 20, at CZW: Deja Vu II, Styles successfully defended the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against Rave.[187] On September 12, Styles debuted in Maximum Pro Wrestling (MXPW), successfully challenging MXPW Television Champion Chris Sabin and Christopher Daniels in a three-way match for the title.[188] On October 4, Styles debuted in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG), unsuccessfully challenging PWG World Champion Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels for the title.[189] On November 7, Styles returned to IWA: Mid-South to take part in the promotions annual Ted Petty Invitational. Styles defeated Todd Sexton is his first round match. The following night, he defeated Jerry Lynn in the quarter-finals but later that night would be eliminated by Danny Daniels in the semi-finals.[190] On March 20, 2004, Styles returned to IWC, entering the promotions Super Indy Survivor Showdown tournament. Styles' first match in the tournament was in the semi-finals due to unknown reasons, in which he defeated CM Punk. Later that night, Styles faced IWC Super Indy Champion Colt Cabana in the final in a winning effort, capturing the title. On April 17, Styles successfully defended the title against Homicide, and on May 8, did so again against Christopher Daniels.[191]

On September 17, Styles returned to IWA: Mid-South, entering the promotions 2004 Ted Petty Invitational. Styles defeated Jimmy Rave in his first round match. The following night, Styles defeated Matt Sydal in the quarter finals. Later that night, Styles defeated Arik Cannon in the semi-finals, as well as defeating Bryan Danielson and Samoa Joe in the final to win the 2004 Ted Petty Invitational. On October 21, Styles won the vacant IWA: Mid-South Heavyweight Championship, defeating Chris Sabin, Christopher Daniels and Petey Williams in a four-way dance match. Two days later, on October 23, Styles lost the title to CM Punk.[192] On April 1, 2005, Styles returned to PWG, defeating Samoa Joe in a PWG World Championship number one contenders match at the promotions All-Star Weekend Day 1. The following night, on Day 2 of All-Star Weekend, Styles successfully challenged Super Dragon for the title. Styles defended the title until August 6, at Zombies Shouldn't Run, where he lost the PWG World Championship to Kevin Steen. On September 3, Styles entered the 2005 PWG Battle of Los Angeles tournament, but was defeated in the finals by Chris Bosh.

Return to ROH (2014–2016)

Styles defeated Roderick Strong in his return match on the January 4, 2014 taping of Ring of Honor Wrestling,[193] and picked up victories over Jay Lethal at the 12th Anniversary Show and Chris Hero at the Flyin' High event.[194][195] At All Star Extravaganza VII, he became the number one contender for the ROH World Championship by winning a four-way match involving Adam Cole, Michael Elgin, and Roderick Strong. He unsuccessfully challenged champion Jay Lethal at Final Battle.

Styles made his final independent appearance before he began working for WWE at ROH's TV tapings in Duluth, Georgia on January 23, 2016.[196] At the tapings, Styles was interrupted by Jay Lethal and The House of Truth, followed by Roderick Strong. An ensuing brawl saw Styles' former Bullet Club stablemates Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson and The Young Bucks (who had fired Styles from the stable just over two weeks prior) assist him against various members of the ROH roster. At the end of the show, Styles proceeded to join Bullet Club in a group hug, mirroring the famous 1996 WWF Madison Square Garden "Curtain Call".[197]

Second return to the independent circuit (2014–2016)

Styles at a Smash Wrestling independent show in January 2014

Following his departure from TNA, Styles would begin taking independent bookings for the first time in two years, accepting as many dates as possible and more regularly. During his second run on the independent circuit, he competed in various countries around the world, most notably England.[198]

On March 1, 2014, Styles made an appearance for English promotion, Preston City Wrestling, losing to British wrestler Lionheart in the main event. Following the match, Styles gave Lionheart the Styles Clash, during which Lionheart improperly tucked his chin, resulting in him landing on top of his head and legitimately breaking his neck.[199][200]

On February 8, Styles returned to CZW after 11 years, defeating CZW World Heavyweight Champion Drew Gulak via disqualification, which meant that Gulak retained his title.[201]

In August, Styles returned to PWG after 11 years, taking part in the promotions annual Battle of Los Angeles tournament, where he made it to the quarterfinals before losing to Roderick Strong via disqualification.[202]

On March 11, 2015, Styles defeated John Hennigan to win the FWE Heavyweight Championship in a best of three falls match two falls to one; Hennigan won the first fall after hitting Starship Pain, but Styles made Hennigan tap out to the Calf Killer shortly thereafter to score fall number two, and in the end Styles pinned Hennigan following a Styles Clash to capture the belt.[203]

On June 14, Styles captured the Revolution Pro Wrestling British Heavyweight Championship, defeating Marty Scurll at Summer Sizzler for the belt.[204]

In September, Styles made his debut for Chikara, when he teamed with fellow Bullet Club members The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) in the 2015 King of Trios. The team made it to the finals of the three-day-long tournament, but were ultimately defeated by Team AAA (Aero Star, Drago and Fénix).[205]

On January 14, 2016, Styles wrestled a match for 5 Star Wrestling in Sheffield, England, where he faced Rey Mysterio, for the first time.[206] Styles pinned Mysterio with the Styles Clash.[207]

On January 16, Styles returned to Revolution Pro Wrestling in London, England, losing the British Heavyweight Championship to Zack Sabre Jr. Following the match, Styles cut a promo addressing his future and teased entering the Royal Rumble match.[208]

On February 5, Styles wrestled his final independent match (which he had pre-booked before signing with WWE), defeating Corey Hollis at Georgia Premier Wrestling.[209]

New Japan Pro Wrestling (2014–2016)

Main article: Bullet Club
Styles (center - being hoisted) celebrates with Bullet Club after winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in February 2015

For the first time since the TNA-NJPW partnership in 2008, on March 27, 2014, it was reported that Styles would return to NJPW and had signed a contract with the company.[210] Styles' return came on April 6 at Invasion Attack 2014, where he attacked IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada after his match and laid him out with the Styles Clash, and challenged Okada to a title match, before revealing himself as the newest member of Bullet Club, establishing himself as a heel in the process.[211][212] Following Invasion Attack 2014, with Styles still working a full schedule on the American independent circuit and only booked to work NJPW's larger events,[213] Karl Anderson was positioned as the new leader of Bullet Club.[214] However, Styles was considered the leader of the Ring of Honor (ROH) version of Bullet Club,[215] a role which was also given to him by NJPW by the end of 2015.[216] Styles wrestled his first match under a New Japan contract on May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2014, where he defeated Okada with help from Yujiro Takahashi to become the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion.[217] With this victory, Styles became the sixth gaijin (non-Japanese) champion in the title's history and the first American champion since Brock Lesnar in 2005.[218][219] The win also made Styles the shortest IWGP Heavyweight Champion in history.[220] On May 17, Styles made his first successful title defense in a three-way match with Okada and Michael Elgin at the NJPW/ROH co-produced War of the Worlds event in New York City.[221] On May 25 at Back to the Yokohama Arena, Styles defeated Okada for his second successful title defense.[222][223] Styles suffered his first loss in NJPW on July 21, when he was defeated by Okada in his first match in the 2014 G1 Climax tournament.[224] Out of his nine remaining matches in the tournament, Styles lost only one, but failed to advance to the finals due to his loss against Okada in the head-to-head match.[225][226] On October 13 at King of Pro-Wrestling, Styles lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship to Hiroshi Tanahashi in his third defense, after the returning Yoshitatsu stopped Bullet Club's newest member, Jeff Jarrett, from interfering in the match.[227][228]

On November 8, 2014 at Power Struggle, Styles defeated Yoshitatsu with help from Jarrett and after the match was confronted by Tetsuya Naito.[229] During the match, Yoshitatsu legitimately broke his neck on a Styles Clash, leading to NJPW pushing Styles as a "killer" and the Styles Clash as a controversial maneuver.[230][231] Later in the month, Styles entered the 2014 World Tag League, alongside Yujiro Takahashi.[232] Despite a win over the reigning IWGP Tag Team Champions, Bullet Club stablemates Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson,[233] Styles and Takahashi failed to advance from their block with a record of four wins and three losses due to losing to Kazuchika Okada and Yoshi-Hashi on the final day.[234] Styles and Naito faced off in a match on January 4, 2015, at Wrestle Kingdom 9 in Tokyo Dome, where Styles was victorious.[235][236] On January 6, 2015, Styles inserted himself back into the IWGP Heavyweight Championship picture, when he pinned Tanahashi in an eight-man tag team match, setting up a title match between the two at The New Beginning in Osaka.[237] On February 11, Styles defeated Tanahashi to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the second time.[238][239] He made his first title defense on April 5 at Invasion Attack 2015, where he defeated 2015 New Japan Cup winner Kota Ibushi.[240][241] His five-month reign ended in his second defense on July 5 at Dominion 7.5 in Osaka-jo Hall, where he was defeated by Kazuchika Okada.[242][243] From July 20 to August 14, Styles took part in the 2015 G1 Climax.[244] He entered the final day with a chance to advance from his block, but a loss against Hiroshi Tanahashi cost him a spot in the finals, giving him a record of six wins and three losses.[245] On October 12 at King of Pro-Wrestling, Styles received a rematch for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but was again defeated by Okada.[246]

In November, Styles entered the IWGP Intercontinental Championship picture by challenging Shinsuke Nakamura to a title match.[247] Later that month, Styles was forced to pull out of the 2015 World Tag League, where he teamed with Yujiro Takahashi, after suffering a back injury.[248] Styles returned to the NJPW ring on January 4, 2016, at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in Tokyo Dome, where he unsuccessfully challenged Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.[249] Hours after Styles' Wrestle Kingdom 10 match, it was reported that Styles had given his notice to NJPW on the morning of January 4, announcing that he was leaving the promotion and signing with WWE.[250][251] The following day, Styles made his final appearance for NJPW, where the rest of Bullet Club turned on him with Kenny Omega becoming the stable's new leader.[252]

WWE (2016–present)

After weeks of speculation and WWE themselves covering the rumors of Styles leaving NJPW for WWE,[253][254] on January 20, 2016, it was confirmed that he had signed with WWE.[255][256] Prior to signing, Styles had also had extensive discussions with TNA and according to them, Styles had agreed to return to the promotion with Bullet Club stablemates Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson,[257] before being offered a "blow-away deal" by WWE.[258] After not being on WWE television since his Metal match in 2002, Styles made his official debut to WWE at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view during the eponymous match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, entering at number three and receiving a loud ovation.[259] Styles went on to eliminate Curtis Axel and Tyler Breeze, before being eliminated by Kevin Owens, lasting just under 28 minutes in the match.[260]

Styles then entered a storyline with Chris Jericho, with the two exchanging victories on both Raw[261] and SmackDown,[262] which ultimately led to an encounter between the two at Fastlane,[263][264] where Styles emerged victorious.[265] After Fastlane, Jericho and Styles formed a tag team, dubbed "Y2AJ",[266] and went on to defeat The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) in two non-title matches.[267][268] This led to a match for the WWE Tag Team Championship on the March 7 episode of Raw, which Y2AJ failed to win, and after the match, Jericho turned on Styles and attacked him, officially ending their team.[269] The two subsequently interfered in each other's matches,[270][271] leading to Styles challenging Jericho to a match at WrestleMania 32,[272] which Jericho ultimately accepted on the March 28 episode of Raw.[273] However, at WrestleMania 32, Styles was defeated by Jericho.[274]

Styles doing one of his signature poses at a WWE live event in April 2016

The following night after WrestleMania 32, on the April 4 episode of Raw, Styles became the number one contender for Roman Reigns' WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Payback, after defeating Kevin Owens, Jericho and Cesaro in a fatal four-way match, pinning Jericho to end their feud.[275] The next week on Raw, Styles would go on to defeat Sami Zayn (who was originally scheduled for the fatal-four way before being attacked by Kevin Owens pre-match) in a singles match to keep his number one contendership; had Zayn defeated Styles in this match, he would have earned a spot in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Payback, which would have made it a triple threat match.[276] On the April 18 episode of Raw, Styles reunited with former Bullet Club stablemates Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows backstage (later known as The Club)[277] whilst he was being interviewed.[278] Later that night and in the weeks that followed leading up to Payback, several indications (such as Anderson and Gallows attacking Reigns) were made that Anderson, Gallows, and Styles were in cahoots with each other in a conspiracy to end Reigns' championship run at Payback, with Styles vigorously denying the allegations stating that he did not need his friends' help to win the title while Reigns remained skeptical due to the trio's history in NJPW.[279] At Payback, he was eventually defeated by Reigns via pinfall after the match was restarted both times, despite Anderson and Gallows' interference.[280] Styles would receive a rematch against Reigns at Extreme Rules in an Extreme Rules match, but was unsuccessful due to interference from The Usos.[281]

Following his loss at Extreme Rules, Styles turned his attention away from the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and on the May 23 episode of Raw he would seemingly disband from The Club.[282] However, on the May 30 episode of Raw, Styles welcomed back a returning John Cena, only to attack Cena with help from Anderson and Gallows, thus turning heel in the process and effectively reuniting The Club.[283] This set up a match between Styles and Cena at Money in the Bank, which Styles won with help from The Club.[284] On the July 4 episode of Raw, The Club would attack Cena as Styles stated that they would "beat up John Cena", but was stopped by Enzo Amore and Big Cass, thus leading to a six-man tag team match between the two teams at Battleground.[285] Which Cena, Amore and Big Cass won.[286] On July 19, at the 2016 WWE draft, Styles was drafted to SmackDown in the first round of picks, being the brand's second pick overall, while Gallows and Anderson were drafted to Raw, thereby splitting up The Club.[287] On the August 2 episode of SmackDown Live, Styles challenged Cena to another match at SummerSlam, which Cena accepted.[288][289] Styles would defeat Cena at the event.[290]

Due to his victory at SummerSlam, Styles would immediately re-enter the WWE World Championship picture and would be informed by SmackDown Live general manager Daniel Bryan on the August 23 episode of SmackDown Live that he would receive another opportunity at the title at Backlash against champion Dean Ambrose. However, Styles' arrogance lead to Dolph Ziggler, who lost a championship match over Ambrose also at SummerSlam, attacking him. Later, Styles defeated Ziggler to prevent the match being turned into a triple-threat match also involving Ziggler.[291]

Reception

Styles has been described by fans, critics and pundits alike to be one of the best all-around and high-flying athletes in the professional wrestling industry today. In November 2012, IGN UK columnist Matt Fowler ranked Styles at number 38 in his top 50 professional wrestlers of all-time list.[292]

Ayub Nouinou, a columnist for The Independent, described him as the "crown jewel" of TNA for more than a decade, before "applying his craft" for NJPW and ROH, among others. Nouinou went on to state that Styles had "established himself as one of the best talents on the planet over the last two years (2014 and 2015)" and noted that, pertaining to Styles' 2016 WWE signing, "the addition of Styles would have to be considered one of the greatest signings since the turn of the millennium". Regarding Styles' financial value to WWE, Nouinou stated that "there is no doubt that "The Phenomenal One" can be a huge draw for the company in all departments – whether that be merchandise, television ratings or pay-per-view buys". Nouinou also noted the impact in which WWE chairman Vince McMahon's perspective on professional wrestlers that may be "too small", may have potentially changed following the signing of Styles, stating that "the acquisition of Styles signifies a change in McMahon's philosophy. Instead of sticking to the stereotypical views of what a main event superstar should look like, it seems like WWE may have accepted that both wrestling ability and the ability to entertain should be prioritised above everything else". Finally, Nouinou made the prediction that "Styles can be the superstar that spearheads WWE into a new era".[293]

Gold medalist and industry veteran Kurt Angle made the following statement in a February 2016 ESPN interview regarding Styles' wrestling ability: "I would have to say the best wrestler I wrestled was AJ Styles. He's a special talent, a rare breed...".[294]

Other media

In 2003, ROH released Evolution of a Phenom: The Best of AJ Styles, a DVD which covers Styles from his debut to mid-2003. In 2004, ROH released The Phenomenon Continues: The Best of AJ Styles Vol. 2, a follow-up DVD to the original released in 2003. Also in 2004, TNA released Phenomenal: The Best of A.J. Styles, a DVD covering Styles' best matches.

In 2006, ROH released a shoot interview featuring Styles, alongside Christopher Daniels for the promotions "Straight Shootin'" series. In 2007, TNA released Phenomenal: The Best of A.J. Styles Volume 2, a follow-up DVD to the original released in 2004. Also in 2007, Styles was mentioned in the Insane Clown Posse song "Scatterbrain" off their EP Eye of the Storm.

In 2008, Styles helped develop the first TNA wrestling video game known as TNA Impact!, which was released the same year on September 9.[295] In 2009, Styles was featured on MTV's Made trying to help a young high schooler become a professional wrestler alongside Taylor Wilde and The Beautiful People (Angelina Love and Velvet Sky).

In 2011, Styles was featured in the music video for country singer Sarah Darling's song "Something to Do with Your Hands".[296] In 2012, Styles and Montell Jordan presented the award for Best Rap/Hip Hop Record of the Year to Lecrae at the 43rd annual GMA Dove Awards.[297]

In 2013, ROH released AJ Styles - Styles Clash, a 2 disc DVD featuring Styles' best ROH matches from 2002 to 2005.

In 2016, TNA released The Essential AJ Styles Collection, a 4 disc DVD set showcasing Styles' top 30 greatest TNA matches.[298]

Filmography

Television

Year Series Role Notes
2009 Made Coach[299] Episode: "Pro Wrestler: Rebecca"

Music videos

Year Artist Song Role
2011 Sarah Darling "Something to Do with Your Hands"[300] Mr. Handy

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2008 TNA Impact! A.J. Styles Playable character[301]
2008 Pro Wrestling X Technical consultant Does not appear in-game
2016 WWE 2K17 AJ Styles Playable character[302]

Web

Year Series Role Notes
2010 Marvel Super Heroes: What The--?! Cannonball Episode: "Winter Games: Day 9"
2016–present UpUpDownDown Himself/Prince of Phenomenal Regular appearances

WWE Network

Year Title Role Notes
2016 The Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness Guest Episode: "Spring Break!" Season 1 Episode 5
2016 WWE 24 Guest Episode: "Thank You Daniel"
2016 WWE 24 Guest Episode: "Seth Rollins: Redesign. Rebuild. Reclaim."
2016 Stone Cold Podcast Guest Episode 11

Personal life

Jones is married to a schoolteacher named Wendy (since 1995).[303] They have three sons: Ajay Covell Jones (born May 3, 2005), Avery Jones (born February 14, 2007), and Albey Jones (born September 15, 2009), as well as a daughter, Anney Jones (born October 8, 2014).[8][304][305][306] The first child's middle name was taken from the last name of Jones' best friend and fellow wrestler Christopher Daniels, whose real name is Daniel Covell. In 2010, Jones acquired a large tattoo down the right side his torso which reads "AJ 05-03-05 02-14-07 09-15-09", representing the initials and birth dates of his first three children.[307] In 2016, he added the birth date of his fourth child, reading 10-08-14. The family lives in Gainesville, Georgia.[308] Jones revealed on TNA's official website, the TNA home video release Phenomenal: The Best of A.J. Styles Volume 2, and in an interview with New Zealand Pro Wrestling Journalists that he grew up in a poor family and that they could not afford cable television while he was growing up, which resulted in him being unable to watch professional wrestling.[309]

Religion

Jones is a devout Christian, stating that in his life, "It's God first and family second."[22][303][309] He is a big fan of Christian hip hop music, and boasts that he can "school almost any rapper" on the genre's history. His favorite groups to listen to are the West Coast-based K2S, Lil' Raskull, FTF, and L.G. Wise. While Jones was working for TNA, he met GRITS members Stacey "Coffee" Jones and Teron "Bonafide" Carter at Universal Studios Florida, TNA's former primary television taping location. Jones would become good friends with the duo, so much so that he used their song "Get Ready To Fly" for seven years as his second TNA theme song and stays in touch with them to this day.[310]

In wrestling

Styles preparing to perform the Styles Clash on Matt Hardy.
Styles performing the Styles Clash.
Styles performing the Pelé Kick on Mr. Anderson.
Styles performing a dropkick on Matt Morgan.
Styles applying a figure-four leglock on Kurt Angle.
Styles participating in an Ultimate X match.

Championships and accomplishments

Styles has won numerous independent championships, including being a three-time Ballpark Brawl Natural Heavyweight Champion.
Styles has won numerous titles wrestling in international promotions, such as the RPW British Heavyweight Championship (right hand), and being a two-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion while with New Japan Pro Wrestling (left hand)
Winning the TNA Legends/Television Championship (of which he is a two-time title holder) made him the first TNA Grand Slam Champion.

References

  1. ^ a b c Phenomenal: The Best of A.J. Styles: Volume 2 (DVD). TNA Home Video. 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c Amato, Laura (January 28, 2016). "AJ Styles: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com. Retrieved August 20, 2016. 
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