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WWE

One-on-one with AJ Styles

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A few weeks back when I had the chance to sit down with AJ Styles, I separated the interview into two different parts. The first half was about his road to the top of WWE, which can be found here. The second half of the interview was a rapid fire sequence of questions about a wide-ranging list of topics. 

Me: What’s the scariest moment you’ve had in the ring?

AJ: “There’s a match called the Ultimate X and I got kicked by Chris Saban where I turned inside out and fell from like 15 feet. I thought, oh my God I’m landing on the back of my head and then I landed perfect. It was then that I decided I would never, ever do something like that again. But that was the moment where I saw my life flash before my eyes because I thought I was either going to be knocked out or something worse was about to happen.”

“A lot of my stuff, super scary stuff, has been done it seems like somewhere else, whether it be a 450 through a table, a springboard 450 through a table on the outside, or the spiral tap. There’s some goofy stuff I’ve tried to do to make sure some stuff is entertaining. And trust me, I’m not done yet. My brain still works like that. I’ve got one gear and whatever happens, happens.”

If you were stuck on an island, what three video games would you bring with you?

“Oh God man that’s so hard. Do I have Internet?”

“I’ll allow it.”

“I think at this point, after playing Battlefield [1], the newest one. I think I’d have that one because it’s so good. The story is one of the best I’ve played. It’s so great!”

“…God… I want to say Uncharted, but which one do I pick? The collection only has one through three. So you know what, I’d do that because you can play it over and over and find all of the little collectables in it.”

“I think we have to go old school because it never really gets old. I think you could go with Mario All-Stars. That’s an old school game. Get my retro fix.”

“Sounds like you’re playing a lot of adventure games.”

“Yeah! A lot of guys like the sandbox stuff, I don’t. I don’t like going here to get that. More like a Metroid style, I don’t like that. The Grand Theft Auto games I like ‘em, but they’re so vulgar that I can’t play them at home. I keep it safe.”

“Orton sent me some stuff about Mafia III. There are Playboy models that you can pick up. He’s like dude check this out and I’m like oh my God that’s crazy. Some of those games are fun, but they’re not kid friendly, you know.”

What do you listen to on the road?

“I’m more of a…I like Christian hip hop. Or old school R&B.”

You’re theme has a gospel hip-hop flow.

“Exactly. That’s exactly what it is. I think they already had the music ready and available. They were just looking for the right guy to give it to.”

You’ve had some awesome themes throughout your career.

“I’ve had some pretty good ones.”

Is that by luck or did you have input along the way?

“There’s been times where there has been horrible music and I’m like listen bro we cannot come out with this. There’s been close calls for sure.”

What match would you like to go back in time and attend live?

“Oh man…I’d like to see Undertaker and Mick Foley in Hell in a Cell. I’d like to go watch that live. It’s the craziest thing right? Like to see that. Mick Foley falling from the top of the cage through a table. Just ridiculous.”

“I’d say another one is Shawn Michaels vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mike Tyson as the enforcer. Just a great freaking dynamic with everything that was going on. The build up to that was so good.”

Where did your logo come from?

“And friend and I sat down at a restaurant and we were just talking, talking, talking just shooting ideas, spitballing. I came up with the P1 and then I went to a buddy of mine that runs a T-shirt making place and uh, he put his brain to work. I kind of told him what I wanted and he came up with it and I bought it from him.”

If you could play a professional sport right now what would it be.

“Football, no doubt.”

What position?

“Uhh…either outside linebacker or running back. I’d go with safety too. This is going to sound cruel and stuff like that, but when I played football I never tackled somebody to tackle them, unless it was in desperation. I wanted to hurt you when I tackled you. I wanted to put a hit on this guy that he just doesn’t want to run back to my side anymore, or he’s going to do whatever he can to avoid me. It’s part of the intimidation process of the whole thing. I think it’s part of football, you know.”

“And then running back, getting the rock man.”

You were the face of the X-Division in its heyday, the cruiserweight division is back, but they’ve struggled to get real momentum. What do they need to do to get the crowd invested in their matches?

“I would say, don’t be in a hurry to be in a hurry. Take your time. Make it mean something, everything means something, you know. Take the time and let it sink in during the matches. Just because you’re a little bit smaller doesn’t mean that everything is faster. It doesn’t mean that at all psychology wise. Psychology plays a big part in what we do.”

Inside baseball question here; It seemed like you were struggling with nailing down the springboard DDT in a WWE ring.

“It’s me not knowing the ropes that well and you get more familiar with them and understanding how to use those ropes.”

“It looks like you have to stand on the rope and then put your weight on it.”

“Right. Usually it was just like boom, go springboard because of the cables. I immediately springboard. With the ropes you have to sit into it and then now go. Which you know I started doing it with Dean again because I figured it out, but you have to put it in the right spot so you just don’t do it willy nilly and make people go ohhhh…he did that move again.”

“I’ve got a lot of offensive moves and that is definitely a benefit [of working around the world]. And again just because you have them, doesn’t mean you use them all in one match. It’s always good to space your moves out and make people say ohhhh…I haven’t seen that in awhile.”

Kurt Angle to be inducted into WWE Hall of Fame

ORANGE, CA - MAY 08:  Wrestler Kurt Angle arrives at the Lions Gate Premiere of "See No Evil" at the Century Stadium Promenade 25 on May 8, 2006 in Orange, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
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Oh it’s true, it’s true.

WWE announced today that Kurt Angle will be going into their Hall of Fame on March 31st at the Amway Center in Orlando as part of WrestleMania week.

The 1996 Olympic gold medalist is a five-time WWE world champion and regarded as one of the best in-ring talents to ever grace the squared circle. Angle last appeared in a WWE ring way back in August of 2006.

In a press release, WWE’s Executive Vice President Paul “HHH” Levesque said, “Kurt Angle’s accomplishments both in the Olympics and WWE were extraordinary. He was one of the most gifted athletes to ever enter the ring, and we are honored to welcome him into the WWE Hall of Fame.”

WrestleMania 33 will be held Sunday, April 2nd from the Orlando Citrus Bowl live on WWE Network.

WWE Weekly Recap: 2017 Royal Rumble Odds

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For the first time in many years, the favorite to win the Royal Rumble isn’t obvious. In fact, this feels like one of the more unpredictable Rumble matches in WWE history.

Five guys who would be considered a favorite to win the match (Seth Rollins, The Undertaker, Braun Strowman, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar) are rumored to have their WrestleMania programs locked in and none are scheduled to be for either of the company’s main championships.

Instead of being a device that’s used to give an established star a main event spot at Mania, the Rumble might actually be used as a launching pad for a future world champion.

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With that in mind, here’s how I would rank the field:

Baron Corbin 6/1 (+600)

The odds may surprise you, but Corbin has been booked very strong ever since his better-than-expected chairs match with Kalisto at the TLC Pay-Per-View. He was given a lot of offense in the triple threat match for the WWE title on the “Wild Card Finals” episode of SmackDown and “controlled” 80 percent of his match against John Cena this past Tuesday.

Corbin is ascending into the world title picture and it’s totally logical to picture “The Lone Wolf” ending the first PPV of WrestleMania season by pointing at the giant WM sign.

With Goldberg-Lesnar, Undertaker-Strowman, and HHH-Rollins penciled in for Mania, Corbin vs. Styles, Cena or both, is a perfectly fine match (with entrances) to fill 20-25 minutes of the show. Corbin has shown enough in the ring lately for me to buy that he’s ready for a high level match.

Finn Balor 8/1 (+800)

If either Owens or Reigns walk out of the Universal Championship match in San Antonio with the red strap, Balor has a built-in story with either guy.

Balor beat Reigns clean in the middle of the ring during his first night on Raw and after the match Roman said he would love another crack at Balor.

Owens was handed the championship by Triple H, but HHH also has a connection with Balor that could easily be worked up with one or two backstage interactions if creative wanted to go that route.

If not, Balor and Owens could hearken back to their feud in NXT, which produced a set of extremely good matches in the Summer of 2015. Their NXT title match at “Beast in the East” was one of my favorites that year and 30 percent of that was thanks to the streamers that were thrown at the end of Balor’s entrance.

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No matter who Balor works with, he’s going to put on a great performance and if WWE wants to have a NJPW style match at Mania, the Demon King would be the perfect person to insert into it.

Samoa Joe or Shinsuke Nakamura 9/1 (+900)

A debuting superstar has never won the Royal Rumble, but if there was ever a time to do it, this is it.

Joe is the more likely option out of the two, considering that he just dropped the NXT title to Nakamura and failed to beat him in the rematch, but if Nakamura loses the title to Bobby Roode at Takeover: San Antonio (unlikely, but you never know), he instantly becomes a favorite.

If either guy won, it would make sense for them to face Styles for the world title at the company’s biggest show of the year. Joe is one of Styles’ best friends in the business. They’ve made magic in the ring together and understand how to put on a clinic in front of a massive crowd.

Nakamura wrestled Styles in the second to last match at Wrestle Kingdom 10, which is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s version of WrestleMania. It was predictably awesome and if you haven’t seen it yet, set aside a half hour and watch it:

Chris Jericho 10/1 (+1000)

As much as I want to see Team Chris and Kevin face off for the Universal title in Orlando. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. If Owens does somehow hold onto the title at the Alamodome, Jericho would instantly become one of the three favorites to win the Rumble.

Owens and Jericho are the hottest act on the company’s flagship show. Roman Reigns may get a bigger reaction in some cities, but he’s still not ready to be a main event promo, which is exactly what Y2KO have been since September, which is why I’m still holding out hope that this match will be for the title.

If Chris and Kevin are going to feud with each other, someone is going to have to turn and it makes sense for K.O. to beat the crap out of Y2J.

Imagine the verbal jabs between a heel Owens and a sympathetic babyface version Jericho who keeps the same character tone, but plays into the cheers.

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Now imagine Reigns cutting a 5-10 minute promo about defending the title.

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Randy Orton/Bray Wyatt 12/1 (+1200)

It’s easy to see a scenario in which Orton and Wyatt square off at Mania, but what if creative actually has long-term plans for the group?

If Wyatt or Orton were to win the Rumble and wrestle for the world title at WrestleMania, it could set up a title program between the two for the May-July period.

The Miz 14/1 (+1400)

Even though he’s currently in a feud with Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Title, Miz has been one of the best acts on SmackDown since the draft and deserves a main event run.

He and AJ teased a feud during a Miz TV segment a few weeks back, but I think the pair should be saved for a SmackDown exclusive PPV later on in the year.

Miz will eventually climb up the card, but sadly, he’s going to be left out of a high profile match at WrestleMania.

John Cena, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens 17/1 (+1700)

I’m expecting the losers of both title matches to enter the Rumble later on in the night. If I had to rank the four in terms of most likely winners I’d go: Styles, Cena, Reigns, Owens. It would be an interesting swerve to the Cena-Styles storyline if Cena won the title from AJ earlier in the night and then Styles responded by winning the rumble.

Owens is likely locked for a Mania match with Jericho and it would be a major letdown if Reigns won the most unpredictable Rumble in years.

Sami Zayn 25/1 (+2500)

If the Owens-Zayn storyline had any heat left, Zayn would be a logical choice. It would be a genuinely shocking moment and Zayn could use a boost after doing the job for Strowman.

With Owens likely taking on Jericho at Mania and Zayn’s current placement on the card, I don’t expect the taxi driver to make any real impact in the Rumble.

Rusev 25/1 (+2500)

The Bulgarian George Clooney deserves a featured spot in WrestleMania season because he’s one of the most entertaining full-time performers on the roster, but there are only so many spots to go around.

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Big Cass 25/1 (+2500)

I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Big Cass ends up as one of the “Final Four” participants in the Rumble match. Either that or he’s going to have a spot midway through where he runs through a couple dudes before going out quickly.

Any member of The New Day 28/1 (+2800)

Big E is the only legitimate option here. This would be an ideal moment to begin the inevitable breakup between the three, but it needs to be a slow burn.

Dean Ambrose 40/1 (+4000)

He’s headed for another multi-man match for the IC title at WrestleMania.

Seth Rollins 50/1 (+5000)

Rollins is obviously penciled in to face Triple H in Orlando, so there’s no need for him to be near the title picture until after Mania.

Braun Strowman 50/1 (+5000)

He’s most likely facing The Undertaker. While it may seem like Strowman isn’t ready for the level of a match, if the company is serious about pushing him, he needs to be in this spot.

The split rosters have created a need for new stars, which means a clean win for Strowman over the Undertaker could be in the cards.

The Undertaker 50/1 (+5000)

As noted above, Taker most likely has a date with Adam from Tinder at Mania.

Yes, I know I used that line last week, but why not bring it back for round two?

Goldberg and Brock Lesnar 50/1 (+5000)

I’d love to see Brock and Goldberg “draw” the first two numbers and beat the hell out of guys until Braun Strowman eventually comes out.

Kane 70/1 (+7000)

Kane has shockingly been protected since the draft, so don’t be surprised if he has a strong showing in the Rumble. Who knows, maybe he makes it all of the way to the “Final Four.”

Shelton Benjamin 75/1 (+7500)

Benjamin was scheduled to return to the SmackDown brand after the draft, but needed surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. He had a six-month recovery time frame and the Rumble falls perfectly in line with his rehab, so don’t be surprised if “ain’t no stoppin me now” blares over the speakers in San Antonio.

American Alpha 75/1 (+7500)

Enjoy the SmackDown tag team titles. Jordan has a chance to win this in a few years.

Apollo Crews 100/1 (+10000)

He should still be in NXT.

Any cruiserweight 100/1 (+10000)

Nope.

Dolph Ziggler 100/1 (+10000)

The guy’s gimmick is that he loses, so there’s no way he’s going to win.

James Ellsworth 1000/1 (+100000)

Any man with two fists has a chance to be eliminated.

Holy Schnikes moment of the week:

Take it away Becky Lynch.

If you don’t know what see you next Tuesday means, Google it.

Time to “Go Home”

– Stephanie was harder to listen to than Otunga this week. Was it necessary for her to talk down to Sasha and Bayley like that? As a fan, how am I supposed to cheer either of the babyfaces if they don’t have a snarky retort ready to counter Steph’s heelish lines.

– So Nia Jax pins Bayley essentially clean in the middle of the ring just two weeks before Bayley faces Charlotte for the women’s title. Makes sense.

– Has anyone else noticed that Karl Anderson’s pants say #BC on them? I find it a bit strange that no one backstage has said anything to him about this.

– Everything about Neville’s heel turn is great, including the variety of moves he’s displaying in the ring. This week he worked a mat wrestling/submission style that resulted in him using the Rings of Saturn to get the victory over Lince Dorado.

– I like the fire Rich Swann showed when he attacked Neville after the match.

– I thought Natalya and Nikki Bella had an excellent brawl on SmackDown. Nattie caught Nikki with a kick right to the face.

So Seth Rollins is supposedly getting new music after all. Once I heard this version by Downstrait, I got bummed out every time I heard Rollins’ actual music:

– Please WWE, no more Big Cass vs. Jinder Mahal matches.

– I like that Ziggler’s heel turn accelerated this week. The worst thing for his character would have been to come out this week and apologize for his actions. Instead, he beat the crap out of Kalisto after their match and then waffled Apollo Crews with a chair when AC came out to help his “friend” Kalisto.

– This was American Alpha’s best showing since their call-up to the main roster. Gable used his hot tag effectively and Jordan had a very nice amateur wrestling sequence with Bray to begin the match.

– I LOVED Cena’s backstage promo this week. It felt a bit like a Doctor of Thuganomics promo, just all grown up.

The Twitter Machine: @ScottDargis