*Author's Note: I've been working on this piece for a few weeks with Adam Testa as my editor, so give him props too. Hope you like the article!
When the moniker Total Nonstop Action Wrestling comes to mind, most people think of one man.
It's not Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle. It's not wrestling legend Mick Foley. It's not even TNA founder Jeff Jarrett.
Instead, people think of one man who is the total package—one man who can do it all, who has done it all in TNA. They think of one man, one man named "The Phenomenal One" A.J. Styles.
Born in Camp Lejeune, N.C., in 1978, Allen Jones did not live in luxury. His family lived in a small trailer and couldn't afford cable television, preventing Jones from watching professional wrestling.
Jones attended Anderson College in South Carolina on an amateur wrestling scholarship. He later left Anderson to pursue a career in professional wrestling.
He enrolled at the wrestling school of National Championship Wrestling and was trained by Rick Michaels. Styles debuted in 1998, the same year he left college.
He wrestled as Olaf the Russian Bricklayer, and he lost his first match to Michael Brooks. In about a year, Styles had captured the NCW Television Championship.
Then, when NCW merged with NWA Georgia, the wrestling world lost the Russian Bricklayer. Rising from the ashes was the man known as A.J. Styles.
Leaving The Past
After the merge, A.J. defeated K-Kwik (WWE's R-Truth) for his second NCW/NWA Georgia Television Championship. Styles would feud with "Air" Paris over the Television title after Styles lost the title to Eddie Golden before a heel turn.
World Championship Wrestling soon noticed the hype from their feud and signed them both to a contract. They would debut as "Air Raid," a high-flying tag team that wore G-suits (anti-gravity suits).
Once WCW was bought out by Vincent Kennedy McMahon's company, World Wrestling Entertainment, Styles didn't have a full-time job, and he only worked on WWE's (then known as World Wrestling Federation) Jakked on Saturdays.
So when WWF/E offered him a developmental contract in Ohio Valley Wrestling, where performers work before becoming a WWE superstar, he declined because his wife had college plans, and Styles has said that he puts family before his job.
In 2002, Styles debuted at TNA's inaugural pay-per-view event, and word quickly spread about his high-flying moves and amazing strength.
A.J. would become the first NWA-TNA X Division Champion and would also win the NWA-TNA World Tag Team Championship in a heel tag team with X Division companion Jerry Lynn.
Soon, tag team partners would become bitter rivals, as Styles and Lynn constantly argued. Matches were set up, and each competitor scored one win over his opponent.
After his feud with Lynn, Styles would align himself with Sport Entertainment Xtreme, a stable managed by Vince Russo. But, as SEX tried to interfere on his behalf in an NWA World Heavyweight title match, Styles attacked his former teammates and defended Jarrett.
The cocky Styles instantly converted into a fan favorite, but it was a change that wouldn't last long. On Impact, in a three-way dance with Jarrett and Raven, Styles would capture the NWA title with help from Russo. Styles reverted to his heel persona.
In a storyline with art impersonating life, Styles would soon become a man who still had issues about his childhood in poverty. Many TNA officials, such as Mike Tenay, and TNA competitors, like Rhino, tried to help Styles, but the "Phenomenal One" didn't want anyone to help.
He annoyed so many people that Rhino had to fight him in a Elevation X match at Destination X 2007 to get it through his thick skull that TNA "is here to help."
Styles would then join Angle's Alliance, a heel stable along with Kurt Angle, Tomko, Christian Cage, Karen Angle, Ms. Brooks, Robert Roode, and Jeremy Borash.
Styles had hoped that after Christian was kicked out of the stable and formed his Coalition, that both teams could merge as one group.
He was kicked out after Angle found out Styles was having a kayfabe affair with Karen Angle, Kurt's wife.
Vengeful, Styles would form the TNA Frontline with Rhino, a team of face wrestlers that would rebel against the newly-formed Main Event Mafia, headed by Kurt Angle. In doing so, Styles turned face once again.
At Sacrifice 2009, A.J. Styles defeated Booker T for the TNA Legends Championship and become the very first Grand Slam Champion in TNA history.
Today In TNA
Styles is feuding with Booker T and the Main Event Mafia. The faction started when Kurt Angle's actions got out of control, and since then, Styles has been helping to lead the Frontline group into war against Angle and the Mafia.
On the June 8 edition of Impact, Styles defeated his best friend Christopher Daniels for the right to fight in the King of the Mountain match at Slammiversary 2009 against Jeff Jarrett, Mick Foley, and Samoa Joe and one other competitor yet to be named.
If TNA decides to present Styles as their best man, then as a prediction for Slammiversary on June 21, Styles could unify the Legends Championship with the World Championship... and win the King of the Mountain match.
But, then again, another heel turn could be in Styles' fate, like in 2002, when Styles turned heel after Vince Russo helped him win the NWA Heavyweight Championship.
Pros of heel turn:
- Styles can carry the company, whether he is face or heel.
- He can attract more viewers because of his title and his excellent move set as a heel or face.
Cons of heel turn:
- Styles wouldn't get booed anymore; people see him as their champion because of the childhood angle.
- A lot of kids like Styles, and having him as a heel would turn a lot of them off TNA and onto WWE and John Cena.
There is a logical argument for both sides, but Styles does better as a fan favorite.
A.J. Styles is the most decorated talent in TNA with being a three-time NWA World champion, a four-time NWA Tag Team champion (twice with Christopher Daniels, once with Jerry Lynn, once with Abyss), a one-time TNA Tag Team champion (with Tomko), a one-time Legends champion, a six-time X Division Champion, the first ever Triple Crown Champion (repeating that two more times), TNA's only Grand Slam Champion and Mr. TNA from 2003 to 2005, as voted by the fans.
He has won the TNA Tag Team of the Year in 2006 with the Fallen Angel, as well as the TNA Match of the Year the same year. With that being said, TNA overlooks all of that, putting Styles in matches where he loses to wrestlers who have already had their time to shine.
We've seen him with titles before; he'll do whatever it takes to keep, even going as far as putting himself in death-defying matches.
By now, TNA should know that A.J. is the only hope to beat WWE; no one wants to see Angle as champion; that's like showing us fans a play, and then showing the same play again. We already know what's going to happen.
With Styles, we haven't seen him as a adequate champion with the new, experienced talent.
Before TNA set its goal to best World Wrestling Entertainment, company leaders would have already made Styles the champion and face of TNA.
However, because of that goal, management has decided to push the performers who most people know, and Styles is not put into the spotlight because of his popularity compared to that of Kurt Angle.
Right now, WWE is in a very bad situation; storylines have been becoming stale and the product is not fresh.
If TNA can push Styles to the top, he will be able to prove himself like he has before, the fans will rejoice, and TNA could possibly become the next big thing in wrestling.
TNA should focus on one man, one man named A.J. Styles.