The following is an excerpt from The Miami Herald’s interview with AJ Styles:
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.”