14 years ago on the 26th January, AJ Styles made his WWE debut; fast forward 14 years and the Phenomenal AJ Styles made his full roster debut in the 2016 Royal Rumble match. Following months of rumour and speculation, AJ made his debut entering last nights Royal Rumble match at number 3. AJ lasted a solid 20 plus minutes before being eliminated by Indie sensation Kevin Owens. To me; within all the rumours and ideas the perfect way to debut.
For all those in the dark on who AJ Styles is; well he is a pretty big deal. You know how Sting was the biggest name of the 90’s never to compete in WWE? Well AJ Styles is on that same last in the 21st Century. However that statement isn’t exactly true, back in the days where shows like WWE Heat, Metal and Velocity would showcase trial matches for possible newcomers; AJ Styles competed in two try out matches. One against The Hurricane that would air on WWF Metal and another against Rico in a dark match. The then WWF were impressed with AJ Styles and offered him a deal to relocated to Cincinnati to join Heartland Wrestling Association. Surprisingly AJ declined the deal; something in hind sight helped make AJ Styles the performer he is today.
Over the next couple of years, AJ learnt his craft in the new exciting X Division in TNA:NWA Wrestling and in Ring Of Honor. Following multiple title reigns, AJ won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship at No Surrender 2009, cementing his TNA legacy. His long tenure with TNA Wrestling ended at the conclusion of 2013; where following a disagreement over pay. AJ Styles declared himself a free agent and soon moved to New Japan Pro Wrestling for the majority of his appearances.
Rumours circulated early in January 2016 that AJ Styles has been speaking to WWE and would be very likely to debut alongside the Bullet Club at January’s Royal Rumble event. Various reports, including several swerves by WWE to throw fans off the scent fueled the suspicion. WWE.com released several high profile articles on AJ Styles. Surely if WWE.com report it, the rumours must be true. As we approached the Royal Rumble, the plan according the Dave Meltzer was for AJ Styles to debut on the Raw following the Rumble event. Mainly due to the possibility that casual fans might not know his name.
So as Roman Reigns eliminated Rusev and the clock counted down for the third entry; no one expected the reaction and shock the crowd in Orlando had when The Phenomenal One entered the arena. Straight away, JBL and Michael Cole told his back story; compared him to Brock Lesnar by winning the IWGP title. AJ Styles in WWE eyes is a big deal; let’s face it, Roman Reigns body language sold the moment even more.
Now here is the deal; placement is key. If AJ Styles had entered much later on in the Rumble, fan’s would start believing that he should win the match. By being number 3, there is little chance that he can win the match. AJ held his own, was involved in several key moments of the match. Had cracking exchanges with Chris Jericho, Neville, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and more. Another key clever move by WWE is how AJ was eliminated. Rather than being eliminated by a WWE guy, Kevin Owens stole that moment away from AJ. Straight away respect was given by the WWE crowd and universe for AJ Styles. With that move, it is easy to predict that Kevin Owens and AJ will face off at some point in the near future; even if Kevin Owens may have his hands full of Sami Zayn too.
AJ Styles was placed and booked cleverly to educate and treat fans alike on who AJ Styles is. The purists would have loved for AJ to debut with Finn Balor and the rest of the Bullet Club, but let it take time. WWE full credit where it is due; AJ Styles debut was near perfection.
Image Credit: Wrestling News Hub Facebook Page