Ring of Honor and New Japan Star AJ Styles was recently on Ring Rust Radio, he covered several wrestling topics, you can check out the highlights below and the podcast at this link.
Ring Rust Radio: On Friday, you are scheduled to square off against Jay Lethal for the world title at Ring of Honor’s Final Battle. What are your expectations for your match against Lethal and what kind of atmosphere are you expecting inside the old ECW Arena in Philadelphia?
AJ Styles: I have to tell you man, I love it when I get butterflies. The more you wrestle the fewer butterflies you get and you need that extra energy, know what I’m saying? You have to get pumped before your match. Just talking to you guys I am getting excited about it. Jay Lethal is one of the best in the world. You are not the Ring of Honor champion because you suck. This guy is amazing and I have watched him grow as a pro-wrestler and a human being. He is going down a different path and I understand it, I have been there before. I think it is going to be an amazing match.
Ring Rust Radio: What do you expect from the Philadelphia crowd?
AJ Styles: They probably are one of the best crowds on the planet. These guys know what wrestling is, they respect it and when they see something great, they go crazy. That’s what I want. Every time I have been in front of a Philly crowd they have been amazing.
Ring Rust Radio: Recently, there have been rumors of you working through a back injury. Can you talk about what kind of injury you’re dealing with and how it will impact your status for Final Battle and New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom?
AJ Styles: I’m not going to let it have an impact. I’m going to be wrestling at Final Battle and Wrestle Kingdom and I will find a way. I’m not missing these amazing events for anything. I am going to be there, I have been hurt before, and I just work through it. Everyone has at some point; it’s just what you do as a wrestler. You ignore the pain and when that adrenaline starts running it doesn’t matter what’s bothering you, you will put on the best show you can.
Ring Rust Radio: The demand for you is as high as any wrestler in the world right now. You’re a top guy in both ROH and New Japan, and while that’s great for exposure, I imagine it can be taxing on the body as well. At this point in your career is there any consideration given to pulling in the reins a bit or taking less dates to preserve your health?
AJ Styles: Maybe less dates because I have been going hard ever since I left TNA. I have been rocking it. Maybe less dates is something that I should look to, but as far as slowing down in the ring; no way. I have one gear and it’s all or nothing with me. That’s the reason why I came home early from the tag tournament over in New Japan. If I got back in the ring, I would have hurt myself worse because I just can’t slow down. It doesn’t matter how many people are in attendance, you are always going to get everything I have.
Ring Rust Radio: I’ve been a huge fan of yours since I first saw you in WCW and was excited when you joined TNA in 2002 and they quickly pushed you as one of the top talents. Do you recall knowing TNA would look to make you the face of the company when you signed with them, or were you surprised when this happened since you were still just a few years into your career? Also, what are you fondest memories of building TNA in its early years?
AJ Styles: It’s funny cause when it first started I thought it was just another indie. I didn’t worry about what they would do with me; I just knew I was there to put on killer matches. As it grew, I had to ignore rumors that they were going out of business and that I might be done there after I felt like I was part of the company. I don’t know that I was shocked that they were giving me a title. Jerry Lynn, Low Ki, and myself were always having the best matches on PPV. So it wasn’t a surprise they wanted to put us in the main event. As many bad things that did happen at TNA, there were plenty of good things as well. As I walk down to my man cave, I have old posters of TNA. Sometimes I think I should take them down, but then again I’m not ashamed of what I accomplished there. It is what it is and despite where TNA is now, when I look back it was a very positive thing for me and I learned a lot there.
Ring Rust Radio: You have spent almost two years wrestling in New Japan. What has it been like working as a top heel in front of the Japanese fans?
AJ Styles: You try to be the biggest turd you can be over there. The fact of the matter is if you put on a good show they are going to respect you either way. While they are going to go crazy for Tanahashi, Okada, or Nakamura, it’s funny that I still get praise in the same light as them even though I am a heel. It’s because they respect wrestling so much and they really enjoy it. So it’s really fun being over there and you try to be the best heel you can be, but sometimes you just give up and are this grey area of the wrestling world.
Ring Rust Radio: Wrestling from America and Japan is very different. How have you managed to find so much success during the transition to the New Japan’s unique style?
AJ Styles: I think it’s not really a style I wasn’t accustomed to; it’s the same style I have always wrestled. You get in there and do your best and do what you can go entertain the people in front of you. They respect that over there. They are quiet and you can hear everything, but that’s great because I can tell the little girl a couple of rows back cheering for Okada to shut up. I get such a reaction from that. It really is a great place to work from the talent to the office.
Ring Rust Radio: You’re perhaps best known for your long, successful stint in TNA. A lot of fans feel like the TNA product has been moving in the wrong direction for the past few years. As someone who was there for the ups and downs, where or why do you think things might have started moving in the wrong direction, and what ultimately led to your departure?
AJ Styles: I think around 2009-10 they were headed in the wrong direction. They were trying to be WWE-lite and you can’t do that, you have to be different. I think that’s where the biggest mistakes were made and they didn’t trust the guys that got them to the ball game in the first place. They had all the talent they needed and didn’t need to bring in other talent. I think people were misinformed about what they could get out of it. The dial never changed when they brought in this higher talent as they thought it would. I will say Christian Cage when he came over was such an asset; he was the start of it. Then they brought in Kurt Angle, which was unbelievable, and they could have stopped there and we would have been fine. They have got to be different and turn it up. If WWE can’t do something because they are publicly traded, then there is your advantage. That just doesn’t apply to TNA, that applies to ROH as well. Everybody can do something different than WWE. I will say ROH wrestling is out of this world and nothing can compete with that. TNA they just have to change it and be different.
Ring Rust Radio: Many fans consider you the pound for pound best wrestler in the world. What does that mean to you and who do you feel is your strongest or biggest competition for that honor?
AJ Styles: It’s tough to even accept something like that because you are only as good as the guys you get in the ring with. For them to say that it makes me feel good. There are so many guys out there that I think are better like Samoa Joe, Nakamura, Tanahashi, Okada, Jay Lethal, these guys have earned that right to be called the best. Not to proclaim it themselves, but for others to give them that name. It’s an honor, but I don’t think I can accept because there are so many other great wrestlers out there.
Ring Rust Radio: Many wrestling fans would love to see you in WWE’s NXT brand. There have been recent rumors about your interest level, but is a run with NXT something that interests you and would seeing several familiar faces booked well make the jump easier?
AJ Styles: I’m going to be honest with you guys: The thing that makes wrestling most interesting to me is going to be the business that occurs after the match is over. A lot of people frown on that and say money isn’t everything. Well I say it depends on how much you have saved. My goal when I retire is to not be in a wheel chair or walk with a limp. Wherever I go, I will do my best, work harder than anybody there, and that’s just what I do. I only have one gear and if someone is looking for that and I can support my family while doing it, then that is what I will do.
Ring Rust Radio: A lot of wrestlers look at WWE as the ultimate goal, and maybe feel like there’s a void in their career if they don’t make it to that point. From your perspective, what more do you need to do to ensure that your career’s complete? Is WWE part of that equation?
AJ Styles: It’s not, it really isn’t. I get to work in the Tokyo Dome on January 4th in front of thousands and thousands of people. That’s pretty awesome. I don’t know about you guys, but the first time I watched New Japan and saw them walk down that long ramp to the ring it was unbelievable. The fact that I get to do that, that is my wrestling moment. I wouldn’t say I would never go to WWE, but if it didn’t happen I wouldn’t go, “Oh man, I missed out. I’m the one guy that missed out.”
Ring Rust Radio: There are a lot of dreams matches fans would love to see from you, but if you could or could have wrestled anybody in history, which would be your top choice? What is your ultimate dream match?
AJ Styles: I think I am going to get the opportunity to have one of my dream matches. I have never wrestled Rey Mysterio one on one. We are going to be in England at Five Star and we are finally going to get the chance to lock up. I’m looking forward to that match, I think it’s going to be fun, and it’s going to be entertaining. It’s Rey Mysterio, this guy is amazing. To be able to step in the ring with him, it’s kind of a dream come true for me. Not because I have watched him for so many years, but he is such a great guy and I never had the opportunity to have that match with him. I would have loved to wrestle Eddie Guerrero, but obviously that can’t happen. I think Rey Mysterio is definitely a big one for me.
Ring Rust Radio: What are your impressions of Lucha Underground and is that something that you may be interested in working for?
AJ Styles: Again, where ever the business takes me that is where I will go. Lucha Underground does great and crazy stuff over there, and it’s a little bit of what we talked about with doing something different. Where ever the business takes me, that’s where I am going to go.