Source: Scott Fishman of The Miami Herald
It was 2001, and A.J. Styles received what was his biggest opportunity to date working for World Championship Wrestling.
Unfortunately for the up-and-comer, WCW was in its last days before World Wrestling Entertainment purchased it. More than a year after seeing the end of one company, Styles started with another in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.
The man billed from Gainesville, Ga. found things happen for a reason. He has won countless championships and remains one of the main faces of TNA, which has evolved into a worldwide entity.
On top of that, Styles was aligned with the legendary Ric Flair.
“As Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff were coming in was around the time they were thinking of putting me with Ric Flair. I was on board,” Styles said. “To work with the Nature Boy Ric Flair, it would be stupid not to take that chance.”
From the robe to the hair, Styles embraced his association with one of the most decorated pro wrestlers in history. Despite more than a decade in the business, the 32-year-old found he could still learn a few things from someone who helped paved the way.
“My confidence in cutting promos is far better than it used to be,” Styles said. “Getting the opportunity to study from Ric Flair and get his input means the world to me. I’ve met him before, and he was always a nice guy. He was unbelievably nice.
“He is an icon. I thought how he can be so nice and humble. It’s who he is. He is a good guy, in spite of the rumors you may have heard.”
Some longtime fans of Styles aren’t on board with his character’s latest evolvement. Styles disagrees with those who said he has turned into a Flair wannabe. After all, he is his own man.
“I would say when you are being mentored by someone or around friends who talk a certain way or act a certain way, you tend to act like those friends and talk like those friends,” Styles said. “It’s kind of the same thing. I’m not Ric Flair. Ric Flair and I, our move set is not the same. I may throw in a figure four or a chop. Other than that, I would not say I’m being like Ric Flair.
“If they are complaining about that, I would say how can you complain about someone trying to be like Ric Flair? As long as they’re entertained, then I’m going to keep doing it. If they are not, I’ll find out sooner or later.”
Styles, Beer Money (Robert Roode and James Storm), Desmond Wolfe and Kazarian recently formed a heel unit under Flair’s direction. Flair announced on a TNA iMPACT! telecast on Spike TV that he would be forming Fortune, a new faction that resembles the Four Horsemen.
“I think they are going with it,” Styles said. “I think it would be a great tag team and a great storyline.”
During his eight years with TNA, Styles seen his share of storylines, with wrestlers coming and going. Styles believes the company is at a point where it can make its own names.
“I don’t think it’s about bringing in guys who are known,” Styles said. “We are able to make our own names. Guys who we know on the independents, there are a lot of guys that I want to see in TNA. If I ever get someone to listen to me, hopefully, we’ll get that opportunity. I just think that here is enough talent here to build the TNA brand and let us not worry about outside guys — unless it’s someone we can’t just pass up.”
It was his stellar matches in the beginning of the X-Division that made Styles a can’t-miss attraction. His high-flying style lived up to his phenomenal moniker. However, integrating a mat based game has made him well-rounded in the squared-circle.
“There is a time to slow down and a time to speed up,” he said. “Not that I know everything about this business, but I know when to speed up and to slow down. I think that probably the most important part of pro wrestling is knowing when to do that.”
Jay Lethal, his recent opponent at TNA’s pay-per-view Slammiversary, has also grown through the X Division. Styles takes a lot of pride in putting the division on the map.
“I think the X-Division is very important,” Styles said. “I was the first guy to hold that belt. It means a lot to me. Getting back to the X Division is great because you never know where it will take you. There are a lot of guys like myself and Jay Lethal who have come out of those X Division ranks.”
The sky’s the limit for TNA and one of its homegrown stars.
“The way we got to keep moving forward is having great storylines and great matches,” he said. “We have to get it to where they can’t change the channel because there is so much going on. That’s what we got to capitalize on right now. We have to be very creative. Not just with our matches but with our stories. The rest will take care of itself.”
Read the original article here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/06/25/1700993/styles-guides-flairs-newfound.html#ixzz0ru4OhSV7
Source: Scott Fishman of The Miami Herald