With AJ Styles reportedly on the verge of joining WWE, former employer TNA claimed Friday that the 38-year-old star reneged on a contract agreement.
According to PWInsider (h/t Marc Middleton of WrestlingInc.com), Styles, Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows and Shinsuke Nakamura of New Japan Pro Wrestling are all slated to join WWE soon, with Styles perhaps debuting as soon as Sunday's Royal Rumble in Orlando, Florida.
While Styles signing with WWE may be imminent, TNA insisted on its website Friday that the former three-time NWA and two-time TNA World Heavyweight champion, as well as Anderson and Gallows, backed out of a signed contract with the promotion:
For the past several months, AJ and TNA were involved in serious discussions to bring him back home to TNA. Creative discussions escalated and two additional wrestlers, Drew Hankinson [Gallows] and Chad Allegra (Anderson), were enthusiastically added.
These discussions culminated on December 14th in Nashville, Tenn., where all attended a meeting at [TNA President] Dixie Carter's home. A handshake and written deal between AJ, Drew, Chad and TNA was agreed upon and signed by all. Start dates were determined, creative decided, merchandise designed and plane tickets purchased.
Over the Christmas holiday, and after the lawyers finalized the long form agreement, all communication with TNA stopped.
AJ's lawyer contacted TNA and stated the wrestlers had changed their mind and would not be honoring their commitment to TNA.
In response to TNA's statement, Styles' lawyer and agent Bill Behrens told PWInsider (h/t Middleton) that while negotiations were held, nothing was signed:
No contract was ever finalized nor signed by the parties.
That I would need to be involved in the contract process was known by TNA prior to my involvement and understood by them.
TNA and its 1st lawyer did not present in a timely fashion a contract that accurately reflected previous discussions at all. That created great concern tied to past experiences. In that time and prior there was other interest and there were other firm offers on the table and other discussions.
TNA was aware of other interest and various conflicts. TNA was aware a final contract was required. It was creating that contract and controlled that timetable. Too much time passed early on. Other things came into play. No contract was ever finalized with TNA.
To suggest I make any decision for my clients is to misunderstand my role and diminish the role each talent has in making their own decisions, and insults the talent in the process.
Styles is perhaps the biggest star in TNA history, but he left the company in 2013 to compete for Ring of Honor and eventually NJPW.
With TNA recently moving to a new television network in the form of Pop TV, securing a performer the caliber of Styles would have been a major coup.
Adding Gallows and Anderson to form the popular Bullet Club stable on TNA programming would have added even more intrigue to the mix.
TNA was ultimately unable to close the deal despite its claims that contracts were signed, which has created a situation eerily similar to NBA star DeAndre Jordan's decision to spurn the Dallas Mavericks in favor of the Los Angeles Clippers this past offseason.
While nothing has been made official on the WWE front, every indication is that the No. 1 brand in sports entertainment once again managed to prevail in the battle for Styles' services.
It isn't yet known if TNA intends to take any legal action against Styles, Gallows, Anderson or WWE, but a potential appearance by Styles in the Rumble will undoubtedly sting the company that helped make him a star should it come to fruition.
Regardless of where Styles ends up, it seems clear that he isn't going back to TNA, and that is a major blow to a struggling brand that would have benefited greatly from his return.
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