Former WWE Champion AJ Styles has recalled his WWE debut, recalling his early interactions with then-WWE CEO Vince McMahon.
Styles made his WWE debut in the 2016 Royal Rumble match. He was instantly presented as a top WWE name, not only getting fast-tracked to the main roster, skipping NXT, but facing off against then-WWE Champion Roman Reigns during his first few minutes with the company.
Speaking on the My Love Letter to Wrestling podcast, Styles revealed that WWE initially had no plans for him following his Royal Rumble debut:
“I’m not sure how I snuck in there. I think maybe the success of the BULLET CLUB helped for sure with maybe some of the (WWE) writers if they asked him, ‘What do you think about A.J. Styles?’
“I don’t how it worked out but I can tell you this, Vince McMahon had no idea who I was. There’s no way because he had no plans for me after the Royal Rumble.
“I wasn’t supposed to be at Raw the next day. Yeah, so he just thought it was a fluke that I got the pop that I did in Orlando and I didn’t need to be on TV but I was and I had a very basic match because I thought that Vince wanted to see a babyface be a babyface.
“He brung me back and he sat me down and I’m so grateful that he did, he says, ‘Listen, I got a thousand guys that can do what you do’ and I said, ‘Hmm.’ He goes, ‘I need a Pitbull’ and I go, ‘Oh, oh! I know that guy’ and that’s exactly the guy I was in New Japan and everywhere else.
“So it was easy for me to come out and be that guy that he wanted to see and that’s when I think I gained his trust. Like okay, this guy sees my vision and is gonna go out there and show it and so, yeah, that’s the way that worked.”
The Phenomenal One ultimately competed at that year’s WrestleMania 32 event, in a losing effort against Chris Jericho.
Styles will face Seth Rollins for the new World Heavyweight Championship at this weekend’s Night of Champions premium live event.
The card for WWE Night of Champions 2023 on Saturday, May 27 is as follows:
World Heavyweight Championship – Seth ‘Freakin’ Rollins vs. AJ Styles
Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championship – Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn (c) vs. Roman Reigns & Solo Sikoa
Raw Women’s Championship – Bianca Belair (c) vs. Asuka
SmackDown Women’s Championship – Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Natalya
Intercontinental Championship – Gunther (c) vs. Mustafa Ali
Cody Rhodes vs. Brock Lesnar
Becky Lynch vs. Trish Stratus
Transcription via POST Wrestling.
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