5 Reasons why AJ Styles' 2016 WWE debut was timed Phenomenally
For years, WWE fans speculated on if - or when - The Phenomenal AJ Styles would sign with the promotion. After years of dominating TNA, Ring of Honor, and New Japan, he finally landed in the biggest wrestling company in the world.
An almost certain WWE Hall of Famer when he eventually retires, Styles burst onto the scene in the dying days of WCW in 2001. He was part of the tag team, Air Raid, with Air Parris before the company folded. From there, he would go on to stardom with Total Non-Stop Action.
During his amazing run there, he became known as 'Mr. TNA', as he was so closely associated with the brand. He would depart the troubled company in 2014 and spend two years working for ROH and New Japan. During that time, he joined the Bullet Club and won the IWGP Championship.
It was a long time coming for the WWE Universe when he finally arrived, but the timing couldn't have been better. Here are five reasons why AJ Styles' WWE debut came at just the right time.
#5. His in-ring reportoire had gotten better at that point
It's hard to believe, but the most talented performer in professional wrestling improved in the two years between his time leaving TNA and joining WWE.
However, New Japan and Ring of Honor helped wake the sleeping dragon. His two years of absolute freedom was a catharsis for the Phenomenal Flyer.
After literally carrying Total Non-Stop Action through a disjointed and confusing era, he almost seemed to lose his passion for the game. Or perhaps he just felt demoralized to see something he worked so hard to build up suddenly seem to be falling apart.
The epiphany came at the right time for Styles. He was ready to rumble by the time he walked through the curtain for his WWE debut.
#4 - Styles needed time to conquer his weaknesses before going to the big time
"Too small, too Southern" was the tag that many critics labeled the young star with when he first started his rise with TNA. While fans loved him, many veterans and journalists said that it was a pipe dream for Styles to make it in WWE. And even if he did? He could be relegated to the cruiserweight division or possibly the United States Championship.
While Styles may have a bit of a slow drawl in his voice, it's set him apart and has made him seem more likable and down-to-earth. His promo work has improved vastly before, and since, his arrival in World Wrestling Entertainment. He wouldn't have been able to play an effective character in his new company if he hadn't already worked all the wrinkles out.
#3 - The Royal Rumble is the perfect place for a debut by a Superstar of AJ Styles' caliber
With the crowd filled with anticipation as the clock winds down, the Royal Rumble is a truly special event. It certainly was for The Phenomenal One, as he received an astounding ovation on that special night.
Everything just clicked, and his grand premier might be one of the greatest in the promotion's modern history. It was the perfect rocket fuel for the performer as he prepared to soar through the WWE Universe.
It also didn't hurt that the event took place in the southern city of Orlando, Florida, as Styles' is a native of the neighboring state of Georgia. So, he was in his element a bit.
#2 - By that time, he was more prepared from the business side of things to deal with WWE
As Styles began negotiating with World Wrestling Entertainment, he knew exactly what he wanted and what he could command. His longtime adviser and mentor, former NWA Wildside promoter Bill Behrens, was there to guide the star as he inked the biggest deal of his life.
By this point, Styles was not just a vastly improved performer, he was also a much more savvy businessman. Not only has he made a great living in the ring, he's effectively marketed his P1 brand. His smarts when it came to positioning himself as his own 'brand' showed not only his intelligence, but business acumen.
#1 - WWE had vastly changed their philosophy by 2016
For years, the WWE empire was known as 'The Land of the Giants', where names like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and King Kong Bundy ruled the top of the card. That trend continued all the way to about the mid-90's
Over 25 years later, WWE has become vastly different, with smaller, high-octane performers like Seth Rollins, Finn Balor and Sami Zayn beginning to change the philosophy of the promotion. They were open to their Superstars being smaller, quicker and more agile. These fine-tuned machines make for great opponents for AJ Styles.
But even more-so than his contemporaries, it was a change in WWE's mentality that really opened the door for The Phenomenal One. As mentioned earlier, Styles was once considered "talented, but tiny".
But since 2016, he's been a titan. That must be why he fits so nicely with the folks at Titan Towers.