Phenomenal Free Agent AJ Styles

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Last week, photos began circulating the internet of AJ Styles debuting in NXT, World Wrestling Entertainment’s developmental brand at Full Sail University. It took only a little investigating to prove that these photos were in fact photoshop phonies, and that AJ Styles was not signed to WWE. Wrestling fans across the world wide web rolled their eyes at their gullibility and went on about their lives. News has recently surfaced that reveals while those photos were nowhere near the truth, they are now closer to it than we originally thought.

It turns out, AJ Styles has announced that he is now a free agent, operating under no contract to any professional wrestling organization anywhere in the world. Styles was enjoying a great run in New Japan Pro Wrestling at the time of the announcement, a member of the immensely popular Bullet Club faction. His announcement does come as a surprise, given his success there, so the obvious question that first must be speculated on is why not re-sign with New Japan?

There are so many potential answers to this question that it would be impossible to say unequivocally until Styles himself makes it known to the public. That doesn’t mean one cannot speculate on the reasons. Money is often a factor in these kinds of decisions, as is time away from loved ones. AJ is first and foremost a family man, and the grind of weeks away from your family doing overseas tours can wear down a man easily. Many athletes need new challenges to remain interested in what they’re doing. Styles has accomplished a great deal in Japan. It is possible that like former Bullet Club member Finn Balor, Styles needs a new mountain to climb. Or it could be something as simple as wanting the freedom to work where he desires.

Not since the territory days have there been so many options for places those at the top in the industry could make a living. Granted, the two are incomparable, but the fact remains that if AJ Styles wants to continue to provide for his family by wrestling, there are a number of companies he could work for. There are obvious benefits and detriments to every option.

It would be naïve to believe that fans and maybe even AJ himself hasn’t thought about working for WWE. Talks between the two haven’t surfaced online in a long time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those talks aren’t happening behind closed doors. While Styles has turned down offers from WWE in the past, times and people change.

It was rumoured that AJ turned down a former offer from WWE because of money. With WWE doing everything in their power to hire the best independent talent on the planet (Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Hideo Itami, Finn Balor, Samoa Joe), WWE might have changed their stance on how much Styles is worth. Or perhaps for AJ, money is no longer the factor it once was. It is hard to deny that NXT has one of the richest talent rosters in America and many of those names and faces are familiar to AJ Styles. In fact, with more and more Ring of Honor and Total Nonstop Action alumni signing to NXT, getting the chance to work with his friends for the biggest company on the planet might be the most persuasive factor.

When discussing companies that AJ could work for, TNA or ROH are two companies that would be happy to have him, but he has been there and done that. WWE is uncharted territory for the Phenomenal One, and it is entirely possible that at the end of the day, what he really wants is to have a run in McMahon-land, just so he can say he did it and not leave the business with that one “what if?” question.

For many fans, AJ Styles joining WWE would be selling out. Similarly to Sting, Styles has a lore about him as one of the few men to turn down a contract from them. He is seen as a rebel, and a spiritual representative those who loathe WWE and their corporate mentality. There are just as many who would be excited about the idea, salivating at the possible dream matches and new angles on old rivalries. Imagine a showdown between AJ Styles and Finn Balor, or Styles vs Ziggler? Who wouldn’t want to see another round of AJ vs Samoa Joe or watch Styles and Daniel Bryan tear it up again?

Of course, he has other options. He could join fellow Bullet Club members The Young Bucks and try to carry ROH to another level. Perhaps he could return home to TNA and be the savior most have always thought him to be for the company. While he’s doing that, how about a run in Lucha Underground for a season or two? The truth is there isn’t a single wrestling company on the planet that wouldn’t want Styles on their roster, and who could blame them? In the end, AJ is the only person who can decide where he goes from here, and if he does decide to sign with a major company in the United States, there won’t be a need for leaked photos, because everyone will be talking about it.