World Wrestling Entertainment Superstar, A.J. Styles, is currently the Raw Tag Team champion, alongside newcomer Omos. However, the 2x WWE Champion hasn’t put singles action behind him. In the lead up to the upcoming Money in the Bank pay-per-view, Styles has been featured heavily in qualifying matches with other contenders on Monday Night Raw. Although he hasn’t qualified for the eight man ladder match yet, his heel character isn’t above bending the rules and pulling a fast one.
On the most recent installment of Fox Sports’s podcast Out of Character With Ryan Satin, Styles told host Satin that the key to being a good babyface was being a good heel first, and that when in heel mode, his character was “25%” him, while babyface A.J. Styles was “100%” him. Authenticity, comic timing, and a versatile moveset ranging from flying finishers to merciless submission locks are some of the defining facets of Styles’s brand. In his 45 minute chat with Satin, Styles touched on aspects of his storied pro wrestling career, as well as his life out of character, such as his well documented enthusiasm for vintage arcade games. Here are some highlights from their conversation:
On Being WWE Champion
To Styles, the WWE championship was never just a prop. “When they put the championship on you,” he confided to Satin, “they’re saying ‘you’re our guy’.” Holding the belt means being a more heavily featured performer, and Styles stressed that it was a lot of work. He expressed especial pride at being part of a history making WWE championship moment with Jinder Mahal. Styles’ second title run was the first time that the WWE championship had changed hands in the UK. To Styles, being champion meant “work(ing) your tail off,” and he feels that current WWE championship and Universal Champion, respectively, Bobby Lashley and Roman Reigns, understand the work behind the belt.
On the WWE Returning to Crowds
Ryan Satin asked A.J. Styles if he agreed with other WWE superstars that bumps hurt more without a crowd. Styles agreed emphatically, that the adrenaline provided by a live crowd cannot be replaced and is vital to pro wrestling. The feedback from a live crowd, Styles confided, also impacts the WWE’s content direction, like “who’s a babyface, and who’s a heel.” Styles was proud of the cheers that tag team partner Omos got at WrestleMania 37, and is excited for more crowds to see him live.
On his Boneyard Match with the Undertaker
In 2020, Styles was honored to be the Undertaker’s last scene partner, in his retirement match at WrestleMania 36. Due to the needs of the global pandemic, 36 was the first WrestleMania to be crowdless and pre-recorded. Styles and Undertaker’s boneyard match was one of the show’s most well received elements, a cinematic boneyard match that drew off different eras of the Undertaker’s persona, leaving Styles to “rest in peace” in an open grave whilst he rode off to his Metallica theme.
Satin asked if Styles and the Dead Man talked about the match afterwards, and Styles revealed that he wanted to give Undertaker, AKA Mark Calaway, a meaningful gift. Styles consulted Calaway’s wife, former WWE superstar Michelle McCool, for ideas. McCool suggested that a pair of Styles’s gloves would mean a lot. Calaway sent Styles a pair of his own gloves in return, along with a heartfelt thank you note.
On his Own Retirement
A.J. Styles admitted that certain stunts in the ring don’t come as easy, and that some moves he wouldn’t try not just for fear of hurting himself but someone else, as he ages. However, his original goal was to retire from WWE at 40, and he has already surpassed that timeline, at 44. Styles was nothing like definitive on the subject of retiring from pro wrestling, and it’s easy to surmise why:
Styles is a performer with much left to give the WWE universe. From his first, surprise appearance at 2016’s Royal Rumble to the current suspense about his character’s role in the Money in the Bank race, Styles is always full of surprises, and always one to watch.
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