The power of a Tiger.
The speed of a Gazelle.
The heart of a Lion and the resiliency of a Phoenix.
There is no denying the impact AJ Styles has had on the wrestling business, but it was a fairytale career that almost didn't play out.
In the beginning
Growing up in Gainesville, Georgia, Allen Jones never knew of the world of professional wrestling. Unlike many of today's stars, he couldn't play out what he say on the screen with his brothers, he couldn't go to the shows and cheer on the performers. His family could not afford cable television.
He lived a simple life, which makes his journey to the top even more spectacular.
His first taste of wrestling came when he won a partial wrestling scholarship to Anderson College, South Carolina. It was here that he was able to hone his natural athletic ability into the art of amateur wrestling.
At the end of his college tenure in 1996, AJ began to pursue a career in professional wrestling, holding down multiple jobs to earn enough money to pay for the training, to fulfill his dream on his own merit.
He wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and showed this the entire length of his journey. He was willing to work to get into the business.
The next step
AJ's first step into the professional wrestling world was at NWA Wildside, being packaged as "The Russian Bricklayer" Olaf.
Although this wasn't a successful gimmick, his determination and heart caught the eye of the NWA trainers, who taught him the tools of the trade to make it big.
It was after the merge of NWA Wildside and the Georgia-based National Championship Wrestling that he adopted the AJ Styles name as his own.
His natural talent and charisma made him an instant hit with the fans, making him one of the biggest stars on the Indy circuit.
His popularity also gave him success, with him winning the NWA Television championship three times before he left the promotion.
It was during this time that he became a well known star, with promoters regularly attempting to sign contracts with him, but he always refused.
It was in the latter part of his tenure that he engaged in some of his more notable feuds with the likes of Paul London, Ron Killings, and Air Paris, his eventual tag team partner.
Moving up the ladder
AJ's unique style was able to catch the attention of another major promotion: WCW.
Shortly after his departure from NWA, he began to perform in WCW as part of the tag team "Air Raid." This led to him adopting the new moniker of "Air Styles," both a reference to the team and his high-flying ability.
His team, comprising of himself and fellow NWA alumni Paris, became a staple in the tag team division, mostly used as enhancement talent for more established partnerships.
However, the takeover of WCW by WWE meant that AJ never really got the chance to show his worth on a larger stage, as he was released from contract by the company.
WWE stepped in and offered AJ a developmental contract with the promotion, but he turned it down on the basis of not wanting to move away from his wife's town and college. Instead, he went back to NWA, where he achieved huge success.
It was during the early years of his career that he turned his talents to Ring of Honor, becoming a major star in the promotion and regularly competing for the main event titles.
In two years, he was able to win the ROH Tag Team Championship and become the first ever ROH Pure Champion.
The birth of the Phenomenal One
In May 2002, AJ signed an exclusive contract with the upstarting TNA. He competed on the first Pay Per View event, losing a six-man tag team match to the Flying Elvises.
A week later, AJ defeated Jerry Lynn, Low Ki, and Psicosis to become the first ever TNA X Division champion.
As they say, the rest is history!
On June 11, 2003, AJ won a Triple Threat match against Raven and Jeff Jarrett to win the TNA Heavyweight championship, becoming the first ever TNA Triple Crown champion in the process.
In the years that followed, he won the Triple Crown twice more, becoming the only multiple time winner in TNA history.
He added to the prestige when he defeated Booker T for the TNA Legend's title, becoming the only Grand Slam champion in TNA's seven year history.
Since its inception, AJ Styles has been seen as the backbone of TNA, credited with helping to carry the company during its early years.
Many of his early feuds with Jeff Jarrett, Abyss, Jeff Hardy, and Christopher Daniels have been regarded as some of the best of the promotions history, helping to establish him as both a firm fan favorite and a spectacular competitor.
The extent of his impact
Sure, he is one of the men that made TNA what it is today. He has become, arguably, the most successful star of TNA. He has the honor of being the most decorated wrestler in TNA's history.
But his impact on the business extends further than that.
So, he may not be a mainstream star. He may not have his face on multiple DVD covers, or on Hip-Hop CD's.
He may not be a household name all over the world, but he has done something more than that.
He single-handedly redefined what it meant to be a wrestler.
At 5'10" and 215 pounds, he is on the smaller side for a wrestling star, but that is what makes his impact more important.
In a sport which usually favors size over substance, he has been able to both equal and surpass the credentials of his larger competitors, opening the eyes of everyone who wants to enter a wrestling ring.
He has inspired people from all walks of life to follow their dreams and to literally fight to be seen in the wrestling world.
His pure, untapped energy has made it acceptable to see men jump from the highest points and defeat their opponents, all while taking the fans breath away.
His impact also relates to the substantial amount of titles and awards he has won.
Since competing in TNA, he has held:
NWA:TNA Heavyweight Championship (Three times)
TNA X Division Championship (Six times)
TNA Tag Team Championship (Once)
TNA Legends Championship (Once)
NWA:TNA Tag Team Championship (Four times)
Triple Crown Championship (Three times)
Grand Slam Championship (Once)
His success isn't just linked to TNA. He has gained critical acclaim from many powerful members of the wrestling community, including a much sought after "Five Star Match" from Dave Meltzer (AJ Styles vs Samoa Joe vs Christopher Daniels; Unbreakable 2005).
Despite his short length of time as a professional wrestler, AJ Styles has become synonymous with TNA, an icon for thousands of fans, and an inspiration for almost every new wrestler on earth.
AJ is almost a shoe-in for any Hall of Fame, the first name in someones head when talking about TNA, and the owner of two of the most recognisable moves in wrestling, The Styles Clash and the Spiral Tap.
Sure, he may not be Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Stone Cold, John Cena or Triple H, but one thing is for sure:
They weren't phenomenal!
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