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AJ Styles Nearly Returned to TNA: A Look at the Close Call and His WWE Success

AJ Styles and LA Knight (Via WWE/Twitter)

WWE and TNA have been rivals for decades, with WWE facing tough competition from various companies. Despite being at the pinnacle of pro wrestling, many talents opt for different promotions for a more illustrious career. One notable instance is when SmackDown Superstar AJ Styles nearly departed from WWE to return to TNA.

AJ Styles boasts a wealth of pro wrestling experience, having built his reputation in TNA over 11 years before moving briefly to NJPW. In 2016, Styles contemplated returning to TNA and even negotiated a potential contract alongside Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson. However, he ultimately decided to join WWE.

In an interview with SHAK Wrestling, Styles reflected on this critical juncture, revealing, “I mean we went and met with them, so it was that close and we talked about numbers, of course nothing was signed … We kind of signed something but it wasn’t anything that had any value or importance, so it was pretty close.” Styles expressed gratitude for how events unfolded, highlighting financial constraints as a key factor in his decision.

AJ Styles and The OC (Via WWE/Twitter)

AJ Styles made a splash in WWE by debuting in January 2016 during a Royal Rumble match, swiftly engaging in a high-profile feud with John Cena. He rapidly ascended to championship status, becoming a two-time WWE Champ, three-time US Champ, and more. Interestingly, Styles achieved most of these accolades in his initial years with the company, deviating from the management’s intended trajectory for him.

Despite his immense popularity, former WWE CEO Vince McMahon initially underestimated Styles, unaware of his stature. McMahon doubted Styles’ impact following the Royal Rumble cheers, but scriptwriters advocated for him due to his success with The Bullet Club. McMahon outlined his expectations for Styles, seeking a fierce competitor akin to a pitbull in the ring, a role Styles was familiar with from his time in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Eventually, Styles solidified his position in WWE, attaining remarkable success.

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