WWE Champion AJ Styles made his name known while in TNA Wrestling, now known as Impact Wrestling, from 2002–2013 well before he signed with the WWE.
Styles first appeared on WWE television in 2002 but turned down a developmental contract he was offered by the company. He signed a multi-year contract with WWE fourteen years later in January 2016 and made his debut at that month’s Royal Rumble event.
Former WWE creative team member Jimmy Jacobs talked about how Vince McMahon was skeptical of Styles at first during a recent interview with Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful.com.
“When AJ Styles came into WWE, Vince McMahon was skeptical of him for every reason you might think. He came in at Royal Rumble, got a great reaction when he came in and Vince was still skeptical and said ‘well that’s just one audience.’ Can he talk? What’s his character? Does anybody know who he is? All the reasons you would think. But it was Vince McMahon’s idea to have AJ work with Roman Reigns a few months later. We had all pitched our ideas and figured you’d want to give him a strong heel. The strong heels we had at that point were Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens, and Vince was like ‘we’re going with AJ Styles.’ You have to give the devil his due in those moments.” said Jacobs.