AJ Styles Is Low-Key MVP of WWE of the Last 6 Years

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2022

The Phenomenal One has been invaluable to WWE since signing in 2016.
The Phenomenal One has been invaluable to WWE since signing in 2016.Credit: WWE.com

For as much time as he spent racking up accolades in practically every promotion worldwide before joining the company, AJ Styles has more than earned the title of being a "WWE guy" since signing in 2016.

Not only that, he's become a crucial cornerstone for Vince McMahon and Co. and a low-key MVP of WWE programming.

That's why news of Styles sticking around with WWE for the foreseeable future, per Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select, was so refreshing to read for so many disenchanted fans of the product.

At a time when every top talent seems to either be getting released or leaving on their own accord, The Phenomenal One is a great get and can contribute in a multitude of ways for years to come.

While speaking to Bleacher Report during the WrestleMania weekend, the 44-year-old explained that it was less of a case of him re-signing with WWE than it was a simply extension of the existing deal.

"I can be done tomorrow," he said. "Information that you're receiving on the internet isn't exactly accurate. There wasn't a new contract. It was an existing... lengthening of the [current] contract. I'd like to be here for the long haul, but my body's probably saying, 'Hey, man, don't get any ideas.' So, we'll see in the future.”

After originally re-signing with WWE in 2019, the two-time WWE champion teased in an interview with Phillip Martinez of Newsweek that he wasn't far off retirement from the ring. Three years later, though, he's still going strong and hopefully has a few more years left in him before he calls it quits.

All Elite Wrestling has put together a tremendous talent roster since 2019, but there was no reason to think Styles would be among those looking to leave. WWE recognizes his worth and is willing to do whatever it takes to retain his services.

It's easy for fans to underestimate the importance of Styles to WWE at the moment with how deemphasized he's been over the last year or two, but that's merely because he's viewed as bulletproof by the company hierarchy. He can be put in just about any position—face or heel, tag team or singles—and will thrive.

Only an elite few Superstars in WWE today can be booked the way he has and still maintain their popularity. He went from losing to Omos as a teammate at the onset of 2022 and being eliminated from the men's Royal Rumble match by Madcap Moss to facing Edge in a high-profile WrestleMania 38 contest.

That's a testament to the once-in-a-lifetime performer Styles is and how he's a perennial main event player.

The former face of TNA Wrestling made an immediate impact in his WWE debut at the 2016 Royal Rumble and quickly rose up the ranks in the months that followed. His feuds with Chris Jericho and Roman Reigns allowed him to showcase his skills to the world, but it wasn't until he beat John Cena clean at SummerSlam that he truly entered another level of superstardom.

The run he's had from that point forward has been nothing short of sensational. He's battled and beaten the best the business has to offer, headlined WrestleMania with The Undertaker, and become a triple crown champion. His list of accomplishments speaks for itself.

Above all else, no one has come close to capturing the same magic he does any time he steps inside the squared circle. His trilogy of matches with Cena was legendary, along with instant classics against Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, Randy Orton, Undertaker and others.

Almost everyone who has made the jump to WWE has had to change their name if not their entire identity. Styles was established enough that he didn't have to, and he remains in a league of his own for being able to inject new life into stagnant shows.

His presentation, promo skills and his in-ring abilities have helped him stand out from everyone else on the roster and become such a special part of the program. No matter how formulaic some of the storylines have gotten at times, Styles continues to bring a must-see vibe to everything he's involved in.

There's no official timetable for when he plans to hang up his boots for good, which is why WWE should make the most of him as an on-screen performer until then. His feud with Edge has been fresh and featured an above-average outing at WrestleMania, but once that runs its course, he should be back in championship contention.

It's been nearly four years since he last held the WWE title, and although he's reigned as intercontinental and United States champion since then, there is a story waiting to be told with him chasing the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship for one final run.

Roman Reigns is one of the only opponents Styles could never beat. That's a rivalry that must be revisited eventually, but there isn't much he hasn't done in WWE aside from winning a Royal Rumble or Money in the Bank.

Seth Rollins and Reigns often get their just due for being the glue that holds WWE together in the modern era, but Styles should be included in that conversation as well for everything he has done to benefit the product in the past half-decade.


Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.