Allen Neal Jones[9][10] (born June 2, 1977),[10][12] better known by the ring name A.J. Styles (also formatted as AJ Styles), is an American professional wrestler who is currently signed to WWE.

Styles is mainly known for his 11-year tenure in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) from 2002–2013,[8] along with his work in Ring of Honor (ROH) from 2002–2006 and 2014–2016, as well as his tenure in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) from 2014–2016 as a member and a co-leader of Bullet Club.

Styles made his debut in 1998, briefly appearing in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 2001. He wrestled internationally before joining the NWA-TNA promotion – later renamed Total Nonstop Action – upon its foundation. While in TNA, Styles held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship three times and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship twice. He was also the inaugural X Division Champion, a title he held six times. Styles is the first professional wrestler ever to complete the TNA Triple Crown Championship (five times) and the TNA Grand Slam Championship (two times). In 2010, Styles became the first ever TNA-contracted wrestler to be ranked number one on Pro Wrestling Illustrated's annual PWI 500 list.

In ROH, Styles won the ROH Tag Team Championship (with Amazing Red) and the ROH Pure Championship. In March 2014, he signed a non-exclusive deal with NJPW and took the promotion's top championship, the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, in his first match with the company. Between TNA, ROH, and NJPW, Styles has held seven world championships and 23 total championships.[13][14] He has also had various championships reigns while competing on the independent circuit, winning titles such as the PWG World Championship and the RPW British Heavyweight Championship, among many others.

Styles first appeared in WWE (then the World Wrestling Federation, or the WWF) in 2002, but turned down a developmental deal he was offered with the company. He signed a multi-year contract with WWE, fourteen years later in January 2016, and made his official debut at that month's Royal Rumble pay-per-view. After appearing at his first WrestleMania that April, Styles headlined two consecutive WWE pay-per-views in May 2016, challenging for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Payback and Extreme Rules.

Early life

Jones was born in Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He grew up in poverty with an abusive, alcoholic father. He attended Johnson High School in Gainesville, Georgia, graduating in the class of 1996.[15] He left college (in Anderson, South Carolina, where he was on a partial wrestling scholarship) to try professional wrestling,[16] entering a professional wrestling school because his friends were doing it and to find out whether he had a natural aptitude for it. To supplement his income, he worked by mowing lawns and driving an ambulance.[16]

Professional wrestling career

Early career (1998–1999)

Jones was trained by Rick Michaels and debuted in 1998.[9] In the Georgia-based National Championship Wrestling promotion he wrestled as Mr. Olympia, a masked wrestler, losing to Michael Brooks in his first match.[9] By August 1999, he had won the promotion's Television Championship.[9]

Independent circuit (1999–2002)

From 1999 to 2001, Styles competed in less notable independent promotions.

On October 26, 2001, Styles participated in All Pro Wrestling's King of Indies tournament. He defeated Jardi Frantz in his first round match but was eliminated by Christopher Daniels in the quarter finals the following night.[17]

On November 13, 2001, Styles debuted in X Wrestling Federation, competing in a battle royal against Christopher Daniels, Juventud Guerrera, Kid Krash, Billy Fives, Prince Iaukea, Psicosis and Quick Kick for the XWF Cruiserweight Championship, but was unsuccessful in winning the title. Later that night, Styles defeated Josh Mathews in a match taped for XWF television. The following night, Styles was defeated by Daniels, again in a match taped for the XWF television program.[17]

Styles debuted for Australian promotion World Wrestling All-Stars (WWA) on February 24, 2002, making his pay-per-view debut at WWA: The Revolution against Super Nova, Christopher Daniels, Low Ki, Shark Boy and Tony Mamaluke in a six-way cruiserweight survival elimination match, in a losing effort. On April 7, Styles would team with Chuck E. Chaos to face Jerry Lynn and Super Nova, in a losing effort. On April 10, Styles faced Lynn and Nova in a three-way-dance, in a losing effort. On April 12, Styles defeated Nova in a tournament semi-final match at WWA: The Eruption for the WWA International Cruiserweight Championship. Styles would progress to the final later that night in which he defeated Jerry Lynn to win the title, which he would vacate soon after.[18]

On March 2, Styles debuted in the East Coast Wrestling Association (ECWA), entering the promotions 6th annual Super 8 tournament. He defeated Xavier in the first round, as well as The Amazing Red in his semi-finals match, but was defeated in the final by Donovan Morgan.[19]

On June 15, Styles debuted in Game Changer Wrestling, entering the Jersey-J Cup tournament. In the first round, Styles defeated Qenaan Creed, he then progressed to the quarter-final, defeating Colt Cabana. In the semi-final, he was defeated by Reckless Youth, and was eliminated from the tournament.[20]

In October, Styles would travel to the UK, debuting in the Frontier Wrestling Alliance (FWA) on October 13, suffering a loss to Jonny Storm in his debut match at FWA: British Uprising. On October 15, Styles was defeated in a FWA British Heavyweight Championship number one contender round robin challenge three-way match by Jerry Lynn and Doug Williams at FWA: Seasons Beatings. Later that night, Styles defeated Jody Fleisch in the same round robin challenge.[21]

On November 1, Styles debuted in IWA: Mid-South, taking part in the promotions annual Ted Petty Invitational tournament, but was defeated by Christopher Daniels in the first round.[22]

National Wrestling Alliance Wildside (1999–2001)

In December 1999, NCW merged with NWA Georgia to form NWA Wildside, and Jones was renamed A.J. Styles.

Styles won his second Television Championship on January 8, 2000. He lost the title to Eddie Golden on April 1 and regained it for a third time on January 6, 2001, defeating Air Paris during his run as a villain in NWA Wildside as a member of attorney Jeff G. Bailey's NWA Elite stable, an alliance of wrestlers. His final reign ended on February 21 when he lost to Robbie Rage in Athens, Georgia.

World Championship Wrestling (2001)

Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling (WCW) had observed Styles' and Paris' program in NWA Wildside, and offered each a contract in early-2001. Styles (renamed Air Styles) and Paris were placed in a tag team, "Air Raid".[9] The team's gimmick saw both men dress in G-suits. Air Raid appeared on Thunder three times.[23] The teams most notable WCW match occurred on the March 5, 2001 episode of Nitro, in which they were entered into a tournament for the newly created WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship.[9] They were eliminated from the tournament in the first round by the eventual winners, Elix Skipper and Kid Romeo.[9]

Return to NWA Wildside (2001–2005)

Following his stint in World Championship Wrestling, Styles returned to Wildside and began pursuing the NWA Georgia Championship, then held by Rick Michaels. He defeated Michaels for the title on December 22, 2001, at Christmas Chaos.[9] While champion, Styles engaged in a feud with former manager Jeff G. Bailey's client Jason Cross, who debuted as a doppelgänger of Styles, complete with a similar attire and moveset. Styles lost the NWA Wildside Heavyweight Championship to David Young in a Three Way Dance that also included Rick Michaels on March 23, 2002, at Hardcore Hell.

Shortly thereafter, Styles signed a contract with NWA: Total Nonstop Action and only returned to Wildside for sporadic special appearances due to an increase in his higher profile bookings. These special appearances reached an apex at Freedom Fight in July 2002, where Styles was the final man entered into the "Holy Wars" steel cage match for the Wildside Championship. He made several more appearances throughout 2002, defeating Sonny Siaki, Jorge Estrada, and Jacey North in various singles matches.

In March 2003, Styles was defeated by former rival K-Krush at Hardcore Hell. In October 2003, he headlined another Wildside card, facing Rainman. Styles had been the NWA World Heavyweight Champion at the time of booking, and this was scheduled to be a title match, but Jeff Jarrett defeated Styles for the title just three days prior to the scheduled bout. As a result, Jarrett agreed to defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in a three way match. Jarrett, however, withdrew from the event at the last minute, leaving Styles and Rainman to fight one another in a non-title match which was won by Rainman following interference from Jeff G. Bailey. Styles defeated David Young at Christmas Chaos in December 2003. On March 26, 2004 at the two-night Hardcore Hell event he defeated his protégé Seth Delay in an impromptu match, then teamed with Gabriel and Altar Boy Luke (with Dusty Rhodes in their corner) to defeat Rainman, Azrael and "The Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels in a six-man tag team main event on the following night.

After an absence of almost one year, Styles wrestled for the final time in Wildside on March 25, 2005, which he lost to David Young in a match that received a standing ovation from fans in attendance. After this match, Styles presented an award to Wildside's promoter Bill Behrens, along with David Young and Rick Michaels.

World Wrestling Federation appearances (2002)

Styles made two appearances for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF): on the January 26, 2002, episode of Metal, in a losing effort against The Hurricane, and in a dark match prior to the January 27 episode of SmackDown!, where he was defeated by Rico Constantino. In April, Styles would be offered a developmental deal by the WWF, where it would require Styles to relocate to Cincinnati, Ohio, where the Heartland Wrestling Association (HWA) developmental territory was located,[9] with Styles ultimately declining the deal, as the move would interfere with his wife's college plans.[9][24] Despite this, Styles would wrestle one non-contracted match for HWA, on February 19 against Matt Stryker, in a losing effort.[25]

Ring of Honor

Early years (2002–2004)

Styles debuted in Ring of Honor (ROH) at its third show, 2002's A Night of Appreciation,[26] and quickly became a main eventer (e.g., performing in matches against Low Ki for the ROH World Championship at Honor Invades Boston).[26] After failing to win the title, he became the first holder of the "Number One Contender's Trophy", which was viewed within the promotion as a secondary championship, at the time.[26] At the One Year Anniversary Show in February 2003, Styles competed against Low Ki and Paul London in a three-way match, with the winner receiving a shot at the ROH Championship later that night. London won the match but failed to defeat Xavier for the championship. After the show, Styles and London agreed to form a tag team and compete for the ROH Tag Team Championship. Instead, Styles competed by himself and defeated The Backseat Boyz (Johnny Kashmere and Trent Acid), The S.A.T. (Jose Maximo [Julio Ramirez] and Joel Maximo [Kelvin Ramirez]), and The Carnage Crew (HC Loc and Tony DeVito) to receive a title shot. He chose Amazing Red as his partner, and the two defeated The Prophecy (Christopher Daniels and Xavier) for the championship.[26][27] When London returned, he was upset when Styles chose to remain a team with Red instead of forming one with him. The two wrestled against each other at Night of the Grudges, with the match ending in a draw.[26] Styles and Red, as the ROH Tag Team Champions, defeated the Briscoe Brothers (Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe) on three separate occasions. The duo, however, were not as successful against The Prophecy. At Wrath of the Racket, Jim Cornette made his first appearance in ROH and aligned himself with Christopher Daniels and Dan Maff. During intermission, he convinced the two to attack Amazing Red, who was already suffering from a knee injury, while he was signing autographs. With Red unable to compete, Styles chose Maff's former trainer Homicide as his partner, and the two defeated The Prophecy.[26] Styles then had to vacate the title due to Red being sidelined with a knee injury.[27]

After his reign as ROH Tag Team Champion, Styles took on fellow Georgia wrestler Jimmy Rave as his protégé. While coaching Rave, who was competing in the "Field of Honor" tournament, Styles attempted to become the ROH World Champion. He defeated Bryan Danielson at Main Event Spectacles to become the number one contender for the title. At War of the Wire, Styles challenged Samoa Joe for the title, but was once again unable to win it.[26] At the Second Anniversary Show, however, he competed in a one night tournament to become the first ROH Pure Wrestling Champion. He defeated his protégé Jimmy Rave in the first round, Matt Stryker in the second, and CM Punk in the finals to take the title.[26] His title reign, however, was short-lived. Not long after the Second Anniversary Show, ROH owner Rob Feinstein was caught by an internet sting trying to solicit sex from a minor,[28] which caused tensions between ROH (where Styles was not under contract) and TNA, where Styles was under contract. Despite this, Styles returned to ROH at the following show, At Our Best, and defeated CM Punk in a rematch with Ricky Steamboat as the guest referee.[26] The match turned out to be Styles' final match in ROH for 2004, as TNA withdrew all of its contracted wrestlers from all ROH events.[29] Styles left ROH and vacated the Pure Wrestling Championship.

Feud with Jimmy Rave (2005–2006)

In the summer of 2004, Styles' protégé Jimmy Rave was "fired" by Ring of Honor due to not winning any matches. He was brought back to the company by Prince Nana and became known as "The Crown Jewel of The Embassy". He began to use the Rave Clash, better known as the Styles Clash, as a finisher while claiming that Styles stole it from him. Eventually, Styles had enough and returned to Ring of Honor for one night only at the Third Anniversary Celebration: Part Two to wrestle Rave. Styles was unsuccessful in defeating Rave, who won after he sprayed air freshener in Styles' eyes.[26] Several months later, Styles returned to wrestling for Ring of Honor full-time. He made his return at Death Before Dishonor III, defeating fellow TNA wrestler Petey Williams, who was brought in by Prince Nana to face Styles instead of having Jimmy Rave fight him.[26] Styles got a match and a win, against Rave at the following show. Rave, however, after losing, he put a plastic bag over Styles and attempted to suffocate him.[30] During his feud with Jimmy Rave and The Embassy, Styles formed an alliance with Generation Next, who were also feuding with The Embassy due to their former leader Alex Shelley joining them. Styles first defeated Generation Next member Roderick Strong at Fate of an Angel in mid-July. The following show, The Homecoming, Styles faced and lost to Jimmy Rave in a Street Fight when Alex Shelley attacked him and Rave hit the Rave Clash. Following the match, Styles was attacked by The Embassy, with Rave performing the Rave Clash on him. Austin Aries and Roderick Strong attempted to come to his aid, but they were fought off. At Glory by Honor IV, Styles once again faced off against Jimmy Rave, with this match having a special stipulation: the loser could no longer use the Rave/Styles Clash in Ring of Honor. With Mick Foley in his corner, Styles hit Rave with the Styles Clash off of the second rope, through a table to win the match.[26] Styles then took a short break from ROH before returning at This Means War in late October. He defeated Generation Next leader Austin Aries, who was attacked by The Embassy following the show. The following show, Aries defeated the former Generation Next leader Alex Shelley. Following the match, he was attacked by The Embassy, until Generation Next member Matt Sydal came to his aid. Later that night, Styles and Sydal defeated Embassy members Jimmy Rave and Abyss in a tag team match. At Vendetta, Styles had his final match against The Embassy when he, along with Austin Aries, Jack Evans and Matt Sydal were defeated by Rave, Shelley, Abyss and Prince Nana in an eight-man tag match.[26]

Following his feud with The Embassy, Styles set his sights on winning a Ring of Honor title. At A Night of Tribute, Styles faced Christopher Daniels and Matt Sydal in a triple threat match, with the winner receiving a shot at the World Championship later that night. Daniels won the match, but was unable to defeat Bryan Danielson for the title. On the first show of 2006, Styles wrestled and defeated Matt Sydal. Following the match, the two agreed to form a tag team and challenge for the ROH Tag Team Championship, which were held by Sydal's Generation Next teammates Austin Aries and Roderick Strong. Before receiving a shot at the tag team title, Styles received a shot at the ROH World Championship when he was handpicked by Danielson. Despite having won both of his previous encounters against Danielson in ROH, Styles was unable to defeat him for the title.[26] At the Fourth Anniversary Show, Styles and Sydal received their shot at the Tag Team Championship, but were unable to defeat the champions.[26] Following the match, Aries and Strong were attacked by The Briscoe Brothers, who had made their return to ROH for the first time since 2004. Styles and Sydal came to their aid and chased away The Briscoes.

Styles then appeared less frequently. After an absence, Styles returned at Death Before Dishonor IV, defeating Davey Richards. Styles returned at Time to Man Up, losing to Samoa Joe.[26] In a pre-taped promo, Styles said he would be taking several months off from ROH following the match. ROH commentators, however, continually referred to the match as his final match and even played a special tribute to him after it.[3]

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling

NWA World Heavyweight Champion (2002–2004)

In May 2002, Styles was signed to a non-exclusive contract by Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) and dubbed "The Phenomenal" A.J. Styles, a nickname originally coined by NWA Wildside commentator Dan "The Dragon" Wilson. He appeared on the first weekly TNA pay-per-view, teaming with Jerry Lynn and Low Ki and losing to The Flying Elvises (Jorge Estrada, Sonny Siaki and Jimmy Yang).[9] The following week on June 26, Styles defeated Lynn, Low Ki and Psicosis in a double elimination match to become the inaugural TNA X Division Champion.[9] He won a second title on the third TNA pay-per-view, teaming with Lynn and defeating Lenny Lane and Bruce in the finals of a tournament for the vacant NWA World Tag Team Championship.[5] Styles successfully defended both his titles in the following weeks, but began to bicker with the veteran Lynn during their matches together. On August 7, Styles lost the X Division title to Low Ki in a three-way dance also involving Lynn.[5] The following week, he and Lynn fought Ron Killings and Jeff Jarrett to a no-contest, and the Tag Team Title was held-up as a result.[5] The following week, he and Lynn fought one another in a Falls Count Anywhere match (which was won by Lynn), a No Disqualification match (which was won by Styles) and a ten-minute Iron Man match, which ended in a draw after both men scored three pinfalls.[5] On August 28, Low Ki defended the X Division Championship against Lynn and Styles in a ladder match and lost his title to Lynn.[5] Recruiting Mortimer Plumtree and Sonny Siaki as allies, Styles continued to feud with Lynn in successive weeks.[5] On October 23, he defeated Syxx-Pac for the X Division Championship, thus becoming a two time champion.[9] He lost the title to Lynn a second time on November 6 and tried unsuccessfully to regain it throughout the remainder of the year.[9]

In 2003, Styles began focusing on the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. After defeating David Flair on January 15 to become the number one contender, Styles recruited the help of Larry Zbyszko and associated himself with Vince Russo's Sports Entertainment Xtreme (S.E.X.) stable.[5] Styles faced NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Jarrett on February 19, but was defeated.[5] In the course of the match, Styles became a fan favorite, attacking S.E.X. as they tried to interfere on his behalf because he did not want to win in that manner.

Styles formed a new tag team with D'Lo Brown in April 2003.[9] The tag team amicably disbanded on May 28 so that both men could pursue the NWA World Heavyweight Championship once again.[9] They fought one another on June 4 in a number one contendership match which was won by Styles, and on June 11, Styles faced Jarrett and Raven in a three-way match for the Heavyweight Championship.[9] Styles won the match and the title (becoming the first TNA Triple Crown winner in the process) after Vince Russo entered the ring and struck Jarrett with a guitar, then celebrated with Russo following his victory, thus becoming a villain once again. Throughout July 2003, Styles successfully defended his title in matches against Brown. Throughout the remainder of his reign, he defeated a myriad selection of opponents before losing the title to Jarrett on October 22.[9] Following his loss, Styles reverted to being a fan favorite, while Jarrett became a villain. Despite Jarrett's demand that Styles return to the X Division, Styles continued to pursue the World Heavyweight Championship. On November 12, he teamed with Sting to defeat Jarrett and Lex Luger. Styles faced Jarrett for the Heavyweight Championship on December 3, but lost following interference from Kid Kash.[5]

Styles feuded with Jeff Jarrett and Abyss throughout January, and on February 4, 2004 after Styles demanded a title shot, Jarrett's ally Don Callis forced him to team with Abyss in a match with the NWA World Tag Team Champions, Kevin Northcutt and Legend. Abyss hindered Styles's efforts before abandoning him completely. Styles, however, defeated both of his opponents, thus becoming a two time NWA World Tag Team Champion with Abyss as his partner.[9] The following week, Styles defeated Abyss in a match for both tag team titles by disqualification after Jarrett interfered. His victory was overturned by Callis, leading to another match the following week which was won by Abyss after Lex Luger interfered, thus granting Abyss control of both titles.[9] Abyss and Styles continued to feud, and on March 17 Abyss defeated Styles to become the number one contender to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.[5]

On April 21, Chris Harris, who was scheduled to face Jarrett in a title match that night, was attacked by Raven. As a result, Vince Russo, by now the TNA Director of Authority, selected Styles to face Jarrett in his place in a steel cage match. When Jarrett tried to hit Styles with his guitar, Russo tried to stop him through the cage, allowing Styles to get up and shatter the guitar mid-swing with a Pelé kick. Styles pinned Jarrett to become a two-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion.[9] He successfully defended the title in matches with Ron Killings, Raven and Chris Harris, and on May 19 he defended against all three men in a four-way title match. Styles lost his title to Killings after Jarrett interfered in the match, hitting him with a guitar.[5]

X Division Champion (2004–2005)

Styles returned to the X Division shortly thereafter, winning a four-way match to become the number one contender to the X Division Championship on the June 4 episode of Impact!.[9] On June 9, he defeated Frankie Kazarian to become a three-time X Division Champion.[9] In the following weeks, Styles feuded with Kid Kash and Dallas,[9] while successfully defending his title in matches with Kazarian and Mr. Águila. An additional match on June 23 with the debuting Jeff Hardy was interrupted by Kash and Dallas.[3] On July 28, he defended the title against Kazarian and Michael Shane in an Ultimate X match.[33] After Kash struck Styles with a crutch, Shane and Kazarian simultaneously retrieved the belt and became co-X Division Champions.[33] After several abortive attempts to regain the title, Styles fought Kash in a number of matches, culminating on September 8 in a tables match which was won by Styles.[3] In October he began feuding with Petey Williams, by now the TNA X Division Champion, and on November 7 at Victory Road, the first monthly pay-per-view held by TNA, Styles challenged Williams for the X Division Championship.[35] During the weeks preceding the match, Styles even went as far as to use Williams' own finisher, the Canadian Destroyer, after Williams himself performed the Styles Clash on others. Williams retained his title with the help of his manager, Scott D'Amore. Later that night, Jeff Jarrett retained the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in a ladder match with Jeff Hardy after Scott Hall and Kevin Nash interfered in the match.[35] Following the bout, the trio proclaimed themselves the Kings of Wrestling and issued an open challenge to the rest of the TNA roster. Several wrestlers charged the ring in response to the challenge, including the 3Live Kru (Ron Killings, Konnan, and B.G. James), Randy Savage, and Styles.[35]

At Final Resolution on January 16, 2005, Styles won the X Division Championship for a fourth time in an Ultimate X match, defeating Chris Sabin and the reigning champion Petey Williams.[3] On the January 21 episode of Impact!, Christopher Daniels accused Styles of "ducking him", as he and Styles had never faced one another in a singles match in TNA.[37] After Daniels challenged Styles to a match at the next monthly TNA pay-per-view, TNA Director of Authority Dusty Rhodes announced that Styles and Daniels would wrestle that day, with Daniels receiving a title shot if Styles could not defeat him within ten minutes.[37] Daniels lasted ten minutes and subsequently faced Styles in a thirty-minute Iron Man match for the X Division Championship at Against All Odds, which ended in a draw with both men having scored a single pinfall.[37][38] Rhodes restarted the match with "sudden death" rules, and Styles defeated Daniels to retain his title.[38] The feud between Styles and Daniels continued, and at Destination X on March 13, Styles lost the title in an Ultimate X Challenge against Daniels, Ron Killings and Elix Skipper.[39] Skipper eliminated Killings and Daniels eliminated Skipper, thus reducing the match to a singles contest.[39] With the referee unconscious, Styles was able to retrieve the belt, but Daniels knocked him out with the Angel's Wings and then embraced the title belt.[39] When the referee recovered shortly thereafter, he saw both men prone – but Daniels with the title belt – and awarded the match and the X Division Championship to Daniels.[39]

Having lost the X Division Championship, Styles began feuding with Abyss. At Lockdown, he defeated Abyss in a steel cage match to become the number one contender to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.[3] Styles went on to defeat the defending champion, Jeff Jarrett, at Hard Justice on May 15.[41] After Jarrett pushed the special guest referee, cage fighter, Tito Ortiz, Ortiz knocked him down with a punch, enabling Styles to hit the Spiral Tap and pin Jarrett for his third NWA World Heavyweight Championship.[41] Styles lost the title at Slammiversary to Raven in a King of the Mountain match.[4] Styles then returned to his perennial pursuit of the X Division Championship, entering the TNA 2005 Super X Cup Tournament, which granted the winner a shot at the X Division Championship. Styles defeated Matt Bentley in the quarter-finals and Petey Williams in the semi-finals, but lost to Samoa Joe at Sacrifice.[4] As Christopher Daniels (the reigning X Division champion) had interfered in the match, TNA Director of Authority Larry Zbyszko added Styles to the resultant title bout. On September 11 at Unbreakable, Styles defeated Samoa Joe and Daniels in a three-way match to become the TNA X Division Champion for a fifth time.[4] In addition to being rated a 5 Star Match by Dave Meltzer, this match also finished as the first runner up for Pro Wrestling Illustrated Match of the Year honors.[45]

Teaming with Christopher Daniels (2005–2006)

The following month at Bound for Glory, Styles successfully defended the title against Christopher Daniels in the second thirty-minute Iron Man match between the two.[4] The following month at Genesis, Styles successfully defended the title against Petey Williams. At the same event, Samoa Joe brutally beat on Christopher Daniels with a chair and put him out of action indefinitely.[47] Styles then started a feud with Joe, claiming that he had broken the unwritten "code of the X Division".[47] On December 11 at Turning Point, Styles lost the X Division Championship to Joe. After the match, Joe tried to take out Styles, until Christopher Daniels made his return and saved him.[4] On February 12, 2006, at Against All Odds, Styles and Daniels challenged Samoa Joe for the X Division Championship in a rematch of Unbreakable. Styles lost the bout when he was given a Muscle Buster by Joe, who then pinned him to retain.[49] Samoa Joe defended the X Division Championship against Styles and Daniels in an Ultimate X match at Destination X and lost the belt to Daniels.[50] After Daniels lost the belt back to Samoa Joe, Styles went on to join forces with Daniels and challenge America's Most Wanted for the NWA World Tag Team Championship. After losing to America's Most Wanted in title matches on two occasions, Styles and Daniels won the NWA World Tag Team Championship at Slammiversary.[51]

On an episode of Impact!, Styles and Daniels introduced contracts for all tag teams on the TNA roster, which sparked a rivalry with The Latin American Xchange (Homicide and Hernandez) (LAX), who signed the contracts for a match at Hard Justice which Styles and Daniels won.[52] On the August 24 episode of Impact!, Homicide and Hernandez defeated Styles and Daniels in a Border Brawl to win the NWA World Tag Team Championship.[53] At No Surrender Styles and Daniels defeated LAX in a tag team Ultimate X match to regain the titles after Styles hit a Styles Clash on Homicide through a table, allowing his tag team partner Christopher Daniels to capture the hanging belts.[54] They lost the titles back to LAX at Bound for Glory in a Six Sides of Steel match after Homicide hit the Gringo Killer on Styles as Daniels was tied up to the cage by Konnan with a coat hanger.[55]

On the November 2 episode of Impact!, Styles pinned Chris Sabin to begin his sixth reign as the new X Division Champion.[56] The match was also the quarter-finals of the Fight For The Right tournament for number one contendership to Sting's NWA World Heavyweight Championship. On the November 9 Impact!, Styles won the semi-final match but was pinned in the finals by Abyss after interference by Christian Cage (Jason Reso) and Sabin.[57] On the November 16 episode of Impact!, the show's debut in primetime, Styles lost the X Division Championship to Daniels in a three-way match when Daniels scored the rollup pinfall on Sabin while Styles was outside of the ring dealing with Cage.[58] At Genesis, Styles lost to Cage.[59] During the match, Daniels attempted to stop Cage from using a steel chair in the match, which led to Styles rolling up Cage, which Cage reversed for a rollup of his own and the 3 count.[59] After the match, Styles and Daniels shared harsh words, which led to Rhino coming to the ring to settle things.[59] Styles refused to shake Daniels' hand and walked away.[59] Styles and Daniels teamed up for the last time on the Thanksgiving Day episode of Impact!, defeating The Naturals.[60] After the match, Rhino came out to the ring to raise both of their hands. Styles pulled his arm away, and left the ring, saying that he was tired of Rhino getting into his business.[60] He yelled at Rhino again during an interview on Impact! to once again become a villain. At Turning Point, Styles beat Rhino after faking a knee injury and rolling him up for the pin.[61]

Mexican and Japanese partnerships (2006–2013)

During his stay in TNA, Styles worked in various Japanese and Mexican promotions due to a partnership with TNA.

On September 17, 2006, at Verano de Escándalo, Styles made his debut for Mexican promotion Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA), as part of a cross promotion deal between TNA and AAA. Team TNA (Styles, Homicide, Low Ki and Samoa Joe) defeated Vipers Revolution (Abismo Negro, Charly Manson, Electroshock and Histeria) in a semi finales tournament match then later defeating The Mexican Powers (Crazy Boy, Joe Lider and Juventud Guerrera) in the finals.

During a partnership between TNA and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), Styles made four appearances for NJPW in 2008. On January 4, at Wrestle Kingdom II, Styles teamed with Christian Cage and Petey Williams to face RISE (Milano Collection AT, Minoru and Prince Devitt) in a six-man tag team match, in a winning effort. On February 17, Styles faced Hiroshi Tanahashi in a losing effort on Day 8 of New Japan's ISM Tour.[62] On August 15, Styles teamed with Shinjiro Otani to face Kurt Angle and Masahiro Chono on Day 5 of New Japan's G1 Climax - Heroes of Supremacy event, in a losing effort. The following day on Day 6 of New Japan's G1 Climax - Heroes of Supremacy show, Styles teamed with Tanahashi to face the team of Shinsuke Nakamura and Angle, again in a losing effort.[63]

On July 26, 2008, Styles made his debut for Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), taking part in the promotions last annual 16-man elimination International Gran Prix tournament, representing Team International. Styles would defeat Rey Bucanero of Team Mexico in his first match but would later be eliminated from the tournament by Último Guerrero. Guerrero went on to lose to Team International member Alex Shelley later in the night, with Shelley winning the tournament for Team International.[64]

Styles returned to AAA on December 16, 2011, at Guerra de Titanes, as part of the TNA invasion storyline. He faced El Mesías in a match to earn a shot at the AAA World Heavyweight Championship, but was unsuccessful.[65]

On November 3, 2013, Styles would once again return to AAA, this time to successfully defend the TNA World Heavyweight Championship (which had been vacated by TNA just days before) in a rematch against El Mesías.[66]

On November 16, 2013, Styles made his debut for Japanese promotion Wrestle-1, successfully defending the TNA World Heavyweight Championship against Seiya Sanada.[67][68]

Christian's Coalition (2006–2008)

On the December 22 episode of Impact!, Styles teamed up with Samoa Joe for the first time to compete against Rhino and Kurt Angle.[69] Styles and Joe won after a roll up pin on Rhino by Styles, but Kurt Angle and Rhino continued to beat down Styles and Joe.[69] At Final Resolution, Styles faced Rhino in a Last Man Standing match.[70] After a Gore by Rhino, Styles decided to let Rhino win the match despite the fact that he was almost to his feet at one point.[70] This was due to the fact that Styles saw that Rhino was setting up a table to use on him and did not want to continue.[70] At Destination X, Styles participated in the first-ever Elevation X match against Rhino, which he lost.[71] On the following episode of Impact!, he tried to assault Rhino, but was unsuccessful.

It was later revealed that he was the first member of Christian Cage's team at Lockdown.[72] At Lockdown, Team Cage was unsuccessful against Team Angle.[73] On the May 31 episode of Impact!, Styles defeated Tomko in a King of the Mountain qualifying match.[74] Styles teamed up with Tomko to face Sting and Abyss at Victory Road, but were defeated.[75] At No Surrender, Styles and Tomko won a ten-tag team gauntlet match to earn a tag team title match at Bound for Glory against Team Pacman (Ron Killings and Adam Jones).[76] At Bound for Glory, Styles and Tomko defeated Team Pacman for the TNA World Tag Team Championship.[77] Styles and Tomko defeated LAX on the November 1 episode of Impact! to retain the World Tag Team Championship.[78] Then Styles challenged Scott Steiner to a takedown challenge, which he lost by disqualification. At Genesis, they retained against The Steiner Brothers (Scott and Rick Steiner) after hitting Rick with a low blow and then a chair shot.[79] Later that night, Styles and Tomko cost Christian his number one contender's shot by arguing and distracting him, and they helped Kurt Angle retain his championship.[79]

After Christian Cage accepted Angle's invitation to The Angle Alliance on the circumstance that Cage be the leader, Angle and the rest of the alliance attacked Cage, with the exception of Styles (who made an attempt to save Cage) and Tomko (who walked away up the ramp). On December 28, Styles and Tomko lost to The Motor City Machineguns (Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley) in a tag team match due to Eric Young's attempt to help Styles with his decision problems in the middle of the match.[80] Later on the show, Styles came down to the ring to watch Booker T and Christian Cage take on Kurt Angle and Robert Roode; he was pressured to choose between Christian's or Angle's team, but could not decide before the show went off the air.[80] At Final Resolution, he turned on Christian Cage by siding with Angle.[81] The next week on Impact!, Styles was crowned the "Prince of Phenomenal" by Angle, which was incorporated into his ring introductions.

The TNA Front Line (2008–2009)

On the February 14 episode of Impact!, Styles was, in storyline, married to Karen Angle.[82] The next several weeks showed videos of Karen Angle and Styles on their honeymoon, talking, getting close, and acting like a married couple. The following week on Impact!, Styles came to Karen's rescue when she hit her head (she was pushed by Kurt when she came out to check on him).[83] Karen later revealed that she wanted a separation from Kurt. Meanwhile, Styles and Tomko lost the TNA World Tag Team Championship to Kaz and Super Eric.[84] With Kurt constantly accusing Styles and Karen of seeing each other despite both vehemently denying anything beyond friendship, Styles snapped and quit the Coalition. In retaliation, Tomko (after Styles teamed with Super Eric while he was out in Japan) cost Styles his King of the Mountain qualifying match against Booker T.[85] Styles turned into a face again on the May 29 episode of Impact! after being assaulted backstage before his entrance.[86] He then ran to the ring several minutes later to help Karen, only to be beat down by Team 3D and Kurt for the second week in a row.[86] At Slammiversary, Styles defeated Kurt, but was beat-down by Kurt and his former tag team partner Tomko after the match.[87] The feud continued through Hard Justice, with Styles and Angle trading wins and, on the following episode of Impact!, he defeated Angle for his Olympic gold medal.[88] Styles also won the rematch ladder match the following week, thus ending the feud, but he was later asked to give Angle back his gold medal by Jeff Jarrett, in an effort to try to mend things with Angle.[89]

At Bound for Glory IV, Styles faced Christian Cage and Booker T in a three-way dance in which Booker T won after performing the axe kick from the middle rope on Cage.[90] Shortly after that, Booker T, Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash and Sting (who had turned heel) formed the team now known as The Main Event Mafia on the October 23 episode of Impact!, where Styles teamed up with Samoa Joe against Sting and Nash, but came up short after Nash hit Joe with Sting's TNA World Heavyweight Championship belt.[91] Following this, Styles and Joe were both attacked by the Main Event Mafia.[91] On the October 30 episode of Impact!, Styles and Joe formed a faction of younger wrestlers also featuring Jay Lethal, Consequences Creed, Petey Williams, Eric Young, ODB and The Motor City Machineguns – later collectively known as the The TNA Front Line.[92] Later that night, they were once again assaulted by the Main Event Mafia when Scott Steiner returned and joined them.[92]

He challenged Sting at Turning Point for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, but lost thanks to a distraction from Kurt Angle and Booker T.[93] At Final Resolution, Styles was once again unsuccessful in capturing the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, losing in an eight-man tag team match to the Main Event Mafia.[94] Since then, The TNA Front Line recruited Rhino and Team 3D into their ranks, and also had to deal with problems with The Motor City Machineguns, who showed little respect to the other members and gang style attacks on members, such as Petey Williams, Brother Ray, and Samoa Joe, from The Main Event Mafia. On the January 22, 2009, episode of Impact!, Angle vowed to end Styles' career and later that night beat Styles in a tables match, where Styles was (kayfabe) injured.[95]

At Against All Odds, Styles returned and attacked Booker T after his defense of the TNA Legends Championship.[96] After doing so, he stole Booker T's Legends Championship belt, then went on a rampage of weekly consecutive backstage sneak attacks on Booker T, which ended once Booker and Scott Steiner goaded him into trying the same in the ring in order to get him arrested. At Destination X 2009, Styles defeated Booker T to become the new Legends Champion and the first TNA Grand Slam Champion.[96] Styles defeated Booker T in an "I Quit" match for the TNA Legends Championship at Sacrifice when Jenna Morasca threw in the towel on Booker's behalf.[97] At Slammiversary, Styles competed in the King of the Mountain match for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, but was unsuccessful after Samoa Joe turned his back on Styles, helping Kurt Angle win, and in the process, Joe turned heel.[98] At Victory Road, Styles lost the Legends Championship to Nash via pinfall.[99] Following the loss, Styles began a "Best of Three Series" against Matt Morgan for entry into the TNA World Heavyweight Championship match with Sting and Kurt Angle at Hard Justice. He won the first match, but lost the following two, resulting in Morgan advancing to Hard Justice.[100][101][102]

TNA World Heavyweight Champion and Fortune (2009–2011)

On the August 20 episode of Impact!, Styles came to the ring to announce his retirement because of his recent setbacks, but ended up being talked out of it by Sting, who said he had chosen Styles to carry the torch after him. Styles then went on to gain his place in the No Surrender main event in a tournament on the August 27 episode of Impact! by defeating Chris Sabin and Doug Williams in singles matches. On September 20, 2009, at No Surrender, Styles won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship in a five-way match against Matt Morgan, Sting, Hernandez (who was cashing in his Feast or Fired briefcase), and defending champion Kurt Angle.[103] One month later at Bound for Glory, Styles retained his title against Sting, ending his undefeated streak at Bound for Glory in the process.[104] in a match that was later voted the match of the year by the fans of TNA.[105] Styles was mysteriously attacked by an anonymous assailant backstage leading him to believe it was Samoa Joe or Daniels, both of whom he faced the following month at Turning Point to retain his TNA World Heavyweight Championship in what was heavily hyped as the rematch from the Unbreakable main event, four years earlier.[106] On the December 10 episode of Impact!, Styles successfully defended the world title against Desmond Wolfe.[107] Later that month at Final Resolution, Styles defeated Daniels to retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.[108] On the January 4, 2010, live three-hour Monday night episode of Impact!, by order of Eric Bischoff now running TNA with Hulk Hogan, Styles was forced to defend his title against Angle before Genesis, and he defeated Angle in the main event, despite further interference from the unknown attacker.[109] Styles' mystery attacker was revealed on the January 14, 2010, episode of Impact! as his former tag team partner Tomko, who Styles defeated Tomko in a match to retain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, before being assaulted by Tomko after the match, until Angle came to his rescue and offered a handshake, with Styles looking to Ric Flair at the commentary table and instead just exited the ring, hinting at a possible heel turn.[110] At Genesis, Styles turned heel and defeated Angle in a Last Chance match after hitting him with the title belt, while Ric Flair was distracting the referee.[111] On the January 21, 2010, episode of Impact!, Flair announced that he had aligned himself with Styles and would make Styles "the New Nature Boy". On the same episode, Hulk Hogan announced that due to Flair's interference in the Genesis match, Kurt Angle would get a rematch that same night, and if Flair were to interfere, Styles would be stripped of the title and awarded to Angle. During the match, Angle applied his signature move, the Ankle Lock, on Styles, who reversed it and applied the same move to Angle, when suddenly referee Earl Hebner, paid off by Flair, called for the bell although Angle did not submit, essentially repeating the Montreal Screwjob.[112] At Against All Odds, Styles retained his title against Samoa Joe, with help from Flair, in a match refereed by Eric Bischoff.[113] On the March 8 Monday night episode of Impact!, Styles teamed up with Ric Flair in a tag team match, where they faced Abyss and Hulk Hogan. During this time, Styles began wearing Flair's signature style of robe to the ring and reverted to his old short trunks ring gear. Abyss won the match for his team by pinning Styles.[114] Afterwards, the returning Jeff Hardy saved Abyss and Hogan from a beatdown at the hands of Styles, Flair and Desmond Wolfe.[114] The following week, Styles was defeated by Hardy in a non-title match.[115] At Destination X, Styles defended his title against Abyss in a match that went to no contest, after Abyss chokeslammed Styles through the ring.[116] On March 29, 2010, Styles became the longest reigning TNA World Heavyweight Champion in history by beating Sting's reign of 189 days as champion. The following month at Lockdown, Styles successfully defended his title against D'Angelo Dinero in a steel cage match.[117] The following day on Impact!, Styles dropped the TNA World Heavyweight Championship to Rob Van Dam, ending his reign at 211 days.[118]

On the May 3 episode of Impact!, Styles defeated Abyss in a Monster's Ball match, and later in the night, attacked Rob Van Dam after his title match with Desmond Wolfe, and announced he was invoking his rematch clause for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship at Sacrifice,[119] but was once again defeated by Van Dam.[13] With Styles' recent shortcomings against Rob Van Dam, Flair adopted Kazarian as his newest protégé. Styles quickly grew jealous of Kazarian and in trying to impress his mentor, first ruined a beatdown of Flair's most recent enemy, Jay Lethal, and the following week was pinned by him in a three-way match also involving Kazarian, after which Flair ordered him to go home and think about his future.[13][13] At Slammiversary VIII, Styles attempted to win Flair back by defeating Lethal, but ended up on losing side again, this time in a singles match.[13] On the following episode of Impact!, Ric Flair, who had aligned himself with Styles, Desmond Wolfe, Kazarian, Robert Roode and James Storm, announced that he would reform the Four Horsemen under the new name Fourtune, stating that each of them would have to earn their spots in the group and that in order for Styles to earn his spot, he needed to become the Arn Anderson of the group.[13][13] Flair, wanting peace between Styles and Kazarian, booked them in a tag team match against Samoa Joe and Rob Terry at Victory Road.[13] The plan seemed to work as Styles and Kazarian were victorious due to outside interference from Desmond Wolfe and in the process earned themselves spots in Fourtune.[13] On the July 22 episode of Impact!, Styles defeated Terry to win the Global Championship, formerly known as the Legends Championship, for the second time, after some assistance from Kazarian.[13][13] The following week, Styles renamed the title the TNA Television Championship.[130] That same night, Fourtune's lineup was seemingly completed with the addition of Robert Roode and James Storm as the final two members of the group.[130] However, on the August 12 episode of Impact!, Douglas Williams and Matt Morgan were added to Fourtune, as the stable attacked EV 2.0, a stable consisting of former Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) performers.[131][132] The following month at No Surrender, Styles defeated EV 2.0 leader Tommy Dreamer in a non-title "I Quit" match.[133] In the weeks leading to Bound for Glory, the stable's name was tweaked to Fortune to represent the expansion in the number of members in the group.[134][135] At Bound for Glory, Styles, Kazarian, Morgan, Roode and Storm were defeated in a Lethal Lockdown match by Dreamer, Raven, Rhino, Sabu and Stevie Richards, when Styles was pinned by Dreamer.[136] On the following episode of Impact!, Fortune formed an alliance with Hulk Hogan's and Eric Bischoff's new stable, Immortal.[137] At Turning Point, Fortune defeated EV 2.0 in a ten-man tag team match and, as a result, EV 2.0's Sabu was released from TNA.[138] The following month at Final Resolution, Styles lost the Television Championship to former stable mate Douglas Williams, who had turned on Fortune on the November 18 episode of Impact!.[139] On the December 23 episode of Impact!, Styles challenged Williams for the Television Championship in a 20-minute Iron Man match, which ended in a 1-1 draw, setting up another match at Genesis, where Styles would put his spot in Fortune on the line against Williams' title.[15] However, Styles was forced to pull out of the match, after suffering a legitimate hip injury, which was expected to sideline him for 6–8 weeks.[15] Styles, who was replaced in the title match by Abyss, ended up interfering in the match and costing Williams the title.[15] On the February 3 episode of Impact!, Fortune turned face by attacking Immortal, when they interfered in a TNA World Heavyweight Championship match between Mr. Anderson and Jeff Hardy.[15][15] On the February 10 episode of Impact!, Styles made an in-ring return from his hip injury, teaming with Kurt Angle in a tag team match, where they defeated Jeff Hardy and Jeff Jarrett.[15] Ric Flair, who did not take part in Fortune's turn due to a torn rotator cuff, returned on the February 17 episode of Impact!, turning on Fortune during a match between Styles and Matt Hardy and jumping to Immortal.[15][15] On the March 10 episode of Impact!, Styles faced Flair and Hardy in a three-way street fight, which turned out to become more of a two-on-one handicap match, in which Styles was pinned by his former mentor following a low blow from him and a Twist of Hate from Hardy.[15] At Victory Road, Styles defeated Hardy in a singles match, despite interference from Flair.[15]

On the following episode of Impact!, Styles was sidelined with a storyline injury after Flair helped Bully Ray powerbomb him off the entrance stage through a table.[150][151] On the March 31 episode of Impact!, Christopher Daniels made his return to TNA by saving the three remaining members of Fortune from Immortal, vowing to avenge Styles.[152] Styles made his return on April 17 at Lockdown, attacking Bully Ray and helping Daniels, Kazarian, Roode and Storm defeat Immortal representatives Abyss, Flair, Matt Hardy and Ray in a Lethal Lockdown match.[153] On the May 5 episode of Impact!, Styles and Daniels defeated Bully Ray and Gunner via disqualification when Tommy Dreamer turned heel and attacked Styles. It was later revealed that Immortal had forced Dreamer to join them in order to save his job.[154] At Sacrifice, Ray cost Styles his no disqualification match against Dreamer by hitting him with a chain.[155] On the May 26 episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles and Daniels defeated Ray and Dreamer in a no disqualification Street Fight, with Styles pinning Dreamer to avenge his loss at Sacrifice.[156] On June 12 at Slammiversary IX, Styles was defeated by Ray in a feud ending Last Man Standing match,[157] after which Ray put over Styles' resilience.[158] On July 10 at Destination X, TNA's first ever all X Division pay-per-view, Styles defeated fellow Fortune member Christopher Daniels in the main event of the evening.[159] After weeks of asking for a rematch, Styles finally granted Daniels one on the September 1 episode of Impact Wrestling, where Daniels managed to pick up the win. After the match, Daniels refused to shake hands with Styles.[160] On the September 22 episode of Impact Wrestling, Daniels refused to return the favor and give Styles a rematch, which eventually led to a brawl between the two, but when the two were finally separated from each other by Kazarian, Daniels kicked Styles in the groin, completing his heel turn.[161] Two weeks later it was announced that, at Daniels' request, he and Styles would face each other at Bound for Glory in an "I Quit" match.[162] On October 16 at Bound for Glory, Styles defeated Daniels in the "I Quit" match, but after the match was attacked by him.[163] On the November 10 episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles first defeated Daniels in a singles match after Rob Van Dam prevented Daniels from using a screwdriver and then, at the end of the evening, he confronted new TNA World Heavyweight Champion Bobby Roode, who had turned on Fortune and won the title from James Storm the previous week, and challenged him to a match for the title.[164] On November 13 at Turning Point, Styles failed in his attempt to regain the TNA World Heavyweight Championship from Roode.[165] The following month at Final Resolution, Styles and Roode wrestled to a 3-3 draw in a 30-minute Iron Man match.[166] Styles and Roode wrestled a sudden death overtime period on the following episode of Impact Wrestling, where Roode managed to retain his title.[167]

During the following episodes of Impact Wrestling, Styles and Kazarian, the last two members of Fortune, made it to the finals of the Wild Card Tournament.[168][169] During the final match against Magnus and Samoa Joe on the January 5, 2012, episode of Impact Wrestling, Kazarian abandoned Styles and aligned himself with Christopher Daniels, effectively ending Fortune.[18]

Feud with Bad Influence (2012)

On the February 9 episode of Impact Wrestling, Kazarian, now seemingly a reluctant associate of Daniels, helped him defeat Styles in a singles match.[18] Three days later at Against All Odds, Styles was defeated by Kazarian in a singles match.[18] On the February 23 episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles was attacked by Kazarian during his Television Championship match with Robbie E, which allowed Robbie to retain the championship.[18] On the following episode of Impact Wrestling, Kazarian defeated Styles in a gauntlet match; had Styles been successful, Kazarian would have to explain his alliance with Daniels.[18] On the March 8 episode of Impact Wrestling, the returning Mr. Anderson aligned himself with Styles to help him in his rivalry with Daniels and Kazarian.[18] On March 18 at Victory Road, Styles and Anderson defeated Daniels and Kazarian in a tag team match, with Styles pinning Kazarian for the win.[18] The rivalry continued on April 15 at Lockdown, where the two duos were on opposing teams in the annual Lethal Lockdown match. Styles' and Anderson's team, led by Garett Bischoff, ended up defeating Daniels' and Kazarian's team, led by Eric Bischoff.[18] On the May 10 episode of Impact Wrestling, Kazarian revealed that he originally aligned himself with Daniels to keep him from revealing Styles' secret, but changed his mind after learning what the secret was. Daniels then revealed the secret, a series of photographs insinuating a relationship between Styles and TNA president Dixie Carter.[18]

Three days later at Sacrifice, Daniels and Kazarian, the new TNA World Tag Team Champions, cost Styles his match against Kurt Angle. However, after the match, Angle turned on Daniels and Kazarian, saving Styles from a beatdown.[18] On the May 24 episode of Impact Wrestling, Hulk Hogan chose A.J. Styles as the next challenger for World Heavyweight Champion Bobby Roode. Styles went on to fail in his challenge against Roode, who, in the process, also broke his record for the longest reign as the TNA World Heavyweight Champion.[19] The following week, Styles defeated Daniels in the main event of a live episode of Impact Wrestling. After the match, Daniels and Kazarian attacked both Styles and Angle, who attempted to make the save, before rolling an audio of a phone conversation to prove an affair between Styles and Carter. The tape was abruptly cut short by Carter ending the show.[19] On June 10 at Slammiversary, Styles and Angle defeated Daniels and Kazarian to win the TNA World Tag Team Championship.[19] On the following episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles entered the 2012 Bound for Glory Series, taking part in the opening gauntlet match, from which he was eliminated by Daniels.[19] On the June 21 episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles and Carter revealed their secret; they were not having an affair, but were instead together helping an addicted pregnant woman named Claire Lynch overcome her problems.[19] The following week, Styles and Angle lost the TNA World Tag Team Championship back to Daniels and Kazarian, after Kazarian, who had originally teased dissension with Daniels following the previous week's reveal, hit Styles with a steel chair. Following the match, Daniels admitted that Styles and Carter had told the truth about Claire, but claimed that they had left out the part about Styles being the father of her unborn baby.[19] On July 8 at Destination X, Styles defeated Daniels in a Last Man Standing match.[19] On the August 16 episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles again defeated Daniels in a Bound for Glory Series match and, per the pre-match stipulations, earned the right to get a paternity test on Claire's baby.[19] The following week it was revealed that Claire was not pregnant after all with her attorney revealing Daniels' and Kazarian's plot to blackmail Styles, effectively ending the storyline.[19] According to Styles, the storyline was booked poorly. He, Daniels and Kazarian discussed about and the original idea was to put a hot woman in Lynch's place. However, Lynch wasn't hot and spoiled the storyline.[19] Also, Lynch was supposed to be Dixie's relative and the end of the storyline, a paternal test where we would discover Styles was not the father.[20]

On the August 30 episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles wrestled his final match in the 2012 Bound for Glory Series, losing to Samoa Joe, which caused him to get eliminated from the tournament.[20] On September 9 at No Surrender, Styles and Angle unsuccessfully challenged Daniels and Kazarian for the TNA World Tag Team Championship.[20] Four days later on Impact Wrestling, Styles defeated Kazarian in a grudge match to earn himself and Angle another shot at the World Tag Team Championship.[20] Styles and Angle received their title shot against Daniels and Kazarian on October 14 at Bound for Glory, in a three-way match, which was won by Chavo Guerrero, Jr. and Hernandez.[20] On November 11 at Turning Point, Styles was pinned by James Storm in a three-way number one contenders match for the World Heavyweight Championship, also involving Bobby Roode, preventing him from receiving another title opportunity until Bound for Glory 2013 as per the pre-match stipulation set up by General Manager Hulk Hogan two weeks prior.[20] On December 9 at Final Resolution, Styles was defeated by Christopher Daniels in what was billed as their "final match", after being hit with his own Styles Clash finisher.[20] On the following episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles cut a promo, saying he was tired of doing the right thing and that he was going to do his own thing from there.[20]

The Lone Wolf and final storylines (2013)

Beginning in February 2013, TNA began airing videos at Styles' home interviewing his wife, a friend, and even attempting to interview Styles himself before he angrily forced them to leave.[20][20] Styles, now sporting a beard, unkempt hair and all-black attire, returned to TNA on the March 14 episode of Impact Wrestling, where he saved James Storm from a post-match assault from Christopher Daniels and Kazarian before attacking Storm himself, turning heel in the process.[21] The following week, Styles was to explain his actions in an interview with Mike Tenay, and despite being asked by both Storm and Tenay, Styles remained silent and ultimately left the arena.[21] Styles continued his silence on the next episode of Impact Wrestling, refusing to answer Storm's ultimatum to either talk or fight and leaving Storm to be attacked by the Aces & Eights.[21] Styles wrestled his return match on the April 18 episode of Impact Wrestling, defeating Storm via submission with his new Calf Killer submission hold. Afterwards, Styles attacked Christopher Daniels and Kazarian, who were in his corner before leaving both them and Storm to be attacked by the Aces & Eights.[21] Styles then began feuding with Kurt Angle, after refusing to answer to tell Angle whether he is with TNA or the Aces & Eights, which led to a brawl between the two on the May 9 episode of Impact Wrestling.[21] The following week, Aces & Eights member Mr. Anderson announced that Styles would be patched in as member of their stable.[21] On the May 23 episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles seemingly joined the Aces & Eights by accepting their signature kutte, drinking his first beer, and aiding the stable in attacking Angle. As they were celebrating, Styles attacked DOC, Knux, and Garett Bischoff before removing the kutte and fleeing the arena, cementing his status as a "lone wolf" and a tweener.[21] On June 2 at Slammiversary XI, Styles was defeated by Angle in a singles match.[21] On the June 13 episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles defeated Angle in a rematch to earn the final spot in the 2013 Bound for Glory Series.[21] The following week, Styles' first BFG series match with Samoa Joe ended in a time limit draw and as a result, both competitors received two points.[21] On the July 4 episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles forced old rival Kazarian to submit to the Calf Killer to earn an additional ten points in the tournament.[22]

On August 22 at Impact Wrestling: Hardcore Justice, Styles turned back face when he filled in for Kurt Angle (who entered rehab two weeks prior) and teamed with The Main Event Mafia in a five-on-five tag team match against Aces & Eights, securing the victory for his team by pinning Devon, which resulted in Devon being forced to leave TNA.[22] On the August 29 episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles clarified that despite helping the Mafia and respecting their intentions, he was not their newest member and reiterated that he was allied with no one.[212] That same night, Styles defeated Bobby Roode via pinfall in a Bound For Glory series match to earn seven points, although he needed ten points via submission victory in order to place in the top four.[212] The following week, Styles won a Last Chance Gauntlet Battle Royal match by last eliminating Christopher Daniels to gain twenty points and secure the top spot in the Bound For Glory series.[22] On September 12 at Impact Wrestling: No Surrender, Styles defeated Austin Aries in the semi-finals and later defeated Magnus in the finals to win the 2013 Bound for Glory Series and become the number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship at Bound For Glory.[214] After his match with Magnus, Styles sent out a message to TNA President Dixie Carter, asking that she show up on next weeks episode of Impact Wrestling for a confrontation.[214]

The following week, on the September 19 episode of Impact Wrestling, Styles claimed he was no longer under contract with TNA, insulted Carter's work ethic, and vowed to make her pay. Carter responded to his remarks by saying that Styles was not a great wrestler and that she was the one who created his "Phenomenal One" persona to get marketing for the company.[22] On the September 26 episode of Impact Wrestling, General Manager Hulk Hogan presented Styles with a new contract, but Carter tore up the contract before he could sign.[22] Following this, in the weeks leading up to Bound for Glory, Styles would continue to appear on Impact Wrestling, remaining employed by TNA, despite not having a contract with the company. On October 20 at Bound for Glory, Styles defeated Bully Ray in no disqualification match, despite interference from Aces & Eights and Carter, to win his second TNA World Heavyweight Championship and fifth world title in the company overall.[22] Styles made his first televised title defense on the following episode of Impact Wrestling, defeating Ray in a rematch after interference from Mr. Anderson. After the match, Styles refused Carter's new contract offer and made her pay by taking the title and walking out of TNA.[22] On October 29, TNA vacated the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.

On the December 2 taping of Impact Wrestling which aired on tape delay on January 2, Styles returned to TNA with his championship to confront Dixie Carter and Magnus, who had won a tournament to crown the new World Heavyweight Champion. Styles would challenge Magnus to a title unification match on next weeks episode of Impact Wrestling, which Magnus accepted.[22] On the December 5 taping of Impact Wrestling which aired on tape delay on January 9, Styles faced Magnus in the title unification match (which Dixie Carter made no disqualification earlier in the night), which Magnus won to unify both titles after interference from eight other wrestlers (The BroMans (Robbie E, Jessie Godderz and DJ Z), Ethan Carter III, Rockstar Spud, Bad Influence (Christopher Daniels and Kazarian) and Bobby Roode) on Magnus' behalf and Sting interfering on Styles' behalf, in what would be Styles' final match with TNA.[23][23][23]

On December 8, it was reported that contract negotiations between Styles and TNA had broken down and that Styles would be leaving the promotion, becoming a free agent effective December 17 and ending his near twelve-year association with the company.[23] According to Styles, TNA offered him $200,000 per year to stay with the promotion.[23] Styles confirmed his status as a free agent on December 16, announcing that he would be taking bookings on the independent circuit.[23] In a subsequent podcast interview with Brady Hicks, a seemingly frustrated Styles said several extremely critical things about TNA as a product, some of the company's recent decisions and personnel moves, including their decision to have him drop the TNA World Heavyweight Championship to Rob Van Dam.[225]

Return to the independent circuit (2003–2012)

On March 14, Styles returned to International Wrestling Cartel (IWC) and successfully challenged IWC Super Indy Champion Super Hentai for the title. On April 13, Styles defended the title in a rematch against Hentai but the match ended in a no contest, meaning Styles retained the title. On May 10, Styles vacated the title. On August 23, Styles unsuccessfully challenged new Super Indy Champion Colt Cabana after the match ended at a twenty-minute time limit draw, meaning Cabana retained the title. On December 12, at IWC: Call to Arms, Styles would once again challenge Cabana for the title, but again was unsuccessful.[23] On April 12, Styles debuted in Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), competing at the promotions 3rd Best of the Best event. Styles teamed with Jason Cross to face Jay Briscoe and Jimmy Rave, in a losing effort. On July 20, at CZW: Deja Vu II, Styles successfully defended the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against Rave.[23] On September 12, Styles debuted in Maximum Pro Wrestling (MXPW), successfully challenging MXPW Television Champion Chris Sabin and Christopher Daniels in a three-way match for the title.[23] On October 4, Styles debuted in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG), unsuccessfully challenging PWG World Champion Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels for the title.[229] On November 7, Styles returned to IWA: Mid-South to take part in the promotions annual Ted Petty Invitational. Styles defeated Todd Sexton is his first round match. The following night, he defeated Jerry Lynn in the quarter-finals but later that night would be eliminated by Danny Daniels in the semi-finals.[230] On March 20, 2004, Styles returned to IWC, entering the promotions Super Indy Survivor Showdown tournament. Styles' first match in the tournament was in the semi-finals due to unknown reasons, in which he defeated CM Punk. Later that night, Styles faced IWC Super Indy Champion Colt Cabana in the final in a winning effort, capturing the title. On April 17, Styles successfully defended the title against Homicide, and on May 8, did so again against Christopher Daniels.[231]

On September 17, Styles returned to IWA: Mid-South, entering the promotions 2004 Ted Petty Invitational. Styles defeated Jimmy Rave in his first round match. The following night, Styles defeated Matt Sydal in the quarter finals. Later that night, Styles defeated Arik Cannon in the semi-finals, as well as defeating Bryan Danielson and Samoa Joe in the final to win the 2004 Ted Petty Invitational. On October 21, Styles won the vacant IWA: Mid-South Heavyweight Championship, defeating Chris Sabin, Christopher Daniels and Petey Williams in a four-way dance match. Two days later, on October 23, Styles lost the title to CM Punk.[232] On April 1, 2005, Styles returned to PWG, defeating Samoa Joe in a PWG World Championship number one contenders match at the promotions All-Star Weekend Day 1. The following night, on Day 2 of All-Star Weekend, Styles successfully challenged Super Dragon for the title. Styles defended the title until August 6, at Zombies Shouldn't Run, where he lost the PWG World Championship to Kevin Steen. On September 3, Styles entered the 2005 PWG Battle of Los Angeles tournament, but was defeated in the finals by Chris Bosh.

Return to ROH (2013–2015)

After leaving TNA in December 2013, Styles was promptly announced to have agreed to wrestle at a television taping for his former employer ROH as a free agent.[233] On the January 4, 2014, taping of Ring of Honor Wrestling, Styles defeated Roderick Strong in his return match.[234] On February 21, 2014, at the 12th Anniversary Show, Styles defeated Jay Lethal.[235] On March 3, 2014, at the Flyin' High event, Styles defeated Chris Hero by submission.[236] At All Star Extravaganza VII, Styles won a four-way match involving himself, Adam Cole, Michael Elgin, and Roderick Strong to become the number one contender for the ROH World Championship. Then on an episode of ROH TV in October, it was revealed that Styles would receive his title shot against champion Jay Lethal at Final Battle on December 18, but he lost to Lethal.

On January 23, 2016, Styles appeared at ROH's TV tapings in Duluth, Georgia for his official farewell from the promotion. This was his final independent appearance before he began working for WWE on January 24.[237] At the tapings, Styles cut one final ROH promo before being interrupted by Jay Lethal and The House of Truth, followed by Roderick Strong. This led to Styles' former Bullet Club stablemates Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson and The Young Bucks coming down to the ring, resulting in a brawl against various members of the ROH roster in which Styles was assisted by Bullet Club (who had fired Styles from the stable just over two weeks prior). At the end of the show, Styles proceeded to join Bullet Club in a group hug, mirroring the famous 1996 WWF Madison Square Garden "Curtain Call".[238]

Second return to the independent circuit (2014–2016)

Following his departure from TNA, Styles would begin taking independent bookings for the first time in two years, accepting as many dates as possible and more regularly. During his second run on the independent circuit, he competed in various countries around the world, most notably England.[25] During this stint on the independent circuit, Styles won a total of four championships, one of which, he still holds to this day.

On March 1, 2014, Styles made an appearance for English promotion, Preston City Wrestling, losing to British wrestler Lionheart in the main event. Following the match, Styles gave Lionheart the Styles Clash, during which Lionheart improperly tucked his chin, resulting in him landing on top of his head and legitimately breaking his neck.[25][25]

On February 8, Styles returned to CZW after 11 years, defeating CZW World Heavyweight Champion Drew Gulak via disqualification, which meant that Gulak retained his title.[25]

In August, Styles returned to PWG after 11 years, taking part in the promotions annual Battle of Los Angeles tournament, where he made it to the quarterfinals before losing to Roderick Strong via disqualification.[25]

On March 11, 2015, Styles defeated John Hennigan to win the FWE Heavyweight Championship in a best of three falls match two falls to one; Hennigan won the first fall after hitting Starship Pain, but Styles made Hennigan tap out to the Calf Killer shortly thereafter to score fall number two, and in the end Styles pinned Hennigan following a Styles Clash to capture the belt.[25]

On June 14, Styles captured the Revolution Pro Wrestling British Heavyweight Championship, defeating Marty Scurll at Summer Sizzler for the belt.[25]

In September, Styles made his debut for Chikara, when he teamed with fellow Bullet Club members The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) in the 2015 King of Trios. The team made it to the finals of the three-day-long tournament, but were ultimately defeated by Team AAA (Aero Star, Drago and Fénix).[25]

On January 14, 2016, Styles wrestled a match for 5 Star Wrestling in Sheffield, England, where he faced Rey Mysterio, for the first time.[25] Styles pinned Mysterio with the Styles Clash.[25]

On January 16, Styles returned to Revolution Pro Wrestling in London, England, losing the British Heavyweight Championship to Zack Sabre Jr. Following the match, Styles cut a promo addressing his future and teased entering the Royal Rumble match.[249]

On February 5, Styles wrestled his final independent match (which he had pre-booked before signing with WWE), defeating Corey Hollis at Georgia Premier Wrestling.[250]

New Japan Pro Wrestling (2014–2016)

For the first time since the TNA-NJPW partnership in 2008, on March 27, 2014, it was reported that Styles would return to NJPW and had signed a contract with the company.[252] Styles' return came on April 6 at Invasion Attack 2014, where he attacked IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada after his match and laid him out with the Styles Clash, and challenged Okada to a title match, before revealing himself as the newest member of Bullet Club, establishing himself as a heel in the process.[253][254] Following Invasion Attack 2014, with Styles still working a full schedule on the American independent circuit and only booked to work NJPW's larger events,[255] Karl Anderson was positioned as the new leader of Bullet Club.[256] However, Styles was considered the leader of the Ring of Honor (ROH) version of Bullet Club,[257] a role which was also given to him by NJPW by the end of 2015.[258] Styles wrestled his first match under a New Japan contract on May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2014, where he defeated Okada with help from Yujiro Takahashi to become the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion.[259] With this victory, Styles became the sixth gaijin (non-Japanese) champion in the title's history and the first American champion since Brock Lesnar in 2005.[260][261] The win also made Styles the shortest IWGP Heavyweight Champion in history.[262] On May 17, Styles made his first successful title defense in a three-way match with Okada and Michael Elgin at the NJPW/ROH co-produced War of the Worlds event in New York City.[263] On May 25 at Back to the Yokohama Arena, Styles defeated Okada for his second successful title defense.[264][265] Styles suffered his first loss in NJPW on July 21, when he was defeated by Okada in his first match in the 2014 G1 Climax tournament.[266] Out of his nine remaining matches in the tournament, Styles lost only one, but failed to advance to the finals due to his loss against Okada in the head-to-head match.[267][268] On October 13 at King of Pro-Wrestling, Styles lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship to Hiroshi Tanahashi in his third defense, after the returning Yoshitatsu stopped Bullet Club's newest member, Jeff Jarrett, from interfering in the match.[269][28]

On November 8, 2014 at Power Struggle, Styles defeated Yoshitatsu with help from Jarrett and after the match was confronted by Tetsuya Naito.[28] During the match, Yoshitatsu legitimately broke his neck on a Styles Clash, leading to NJPW pushing Styles as a "killer" and the Styles Clash as a controversial maneuver.[28][28] Later in the month, Styles entered the 2014 World Tag League, alongside Yujiro Takahashi.[28] Despite a win over the reigning IWGP Tag Team Champions, Bullet Club stablemates Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson,[28] Styles and Takahashi failed to advance from their block with a record of four wins and three losses due to losing to Kazuchika Okada and Yoshi-Hashi on the final day.[28] Styles and Naito faced off in a match on January 4, 2015, at Wrestle Kingdom 9 in Tokyo Dome, where Styles was victorious.[28][28] On January 6, 2015, Styles inserted himself back into the IWGP Heavyweight Championship picture, when he pinned Tanahashi in an eight-man tag team match, setting up a title match between the two at The New Beginning in Osaka.[28] On February 11, Styles defeated Tanahashi to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the second time.[280][29] He made his first title defense on April 5 at Invasion Attack 2015, where he defeated 2015 New Japan Cup winner Kota Ibushi.[29][29] His five-month reign ended in his second defense on July 5 at Dominion 7.5 in Osaka-jo Hall, where he was defeated by Kazuchika Okada.[29][29] From July 20 to August 14, Styles took part in the 2015 G1 Climax.[29] He entered the final day with a chance to advance from his block, but a loss against Hiroshi Tanahashi cost him a spot in the finals, giving him a record of six wins and three losses.[29] On October 12 at King of Pro-Wrestling, Styles received a rematch for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but was again defeated by Okada.[29]

In November, Styles entered the IWGP Intercontinental Championship picture by challenging Shinsuke Nakamura to a title match.[29] Later that month, Styles was forced to pull out of the 2015 World Tag League, where he teamed with Yujiro Takahashi, after suffering a back injury.[30] Styles returned to the NJPW ring on January 4, 2016, at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in Tokyo Dome, where he unsuccessfully challenged Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.[30] Hours after Styles' Wrestle Kingdom 10 match, it was reported that Styles had given his notice to NJPW on the morning of January 4, announcing that he was leaving the promotion and signing with WWE.[30][30] The following day, Styles made his final appearance for NJPW, where the rest of Bullet Club turned on him with Kenny Omega becoming the stable's new leader.[30]

WWE (2016–present)

After weeks of speculation and WWE themselves covering the rumors of Styles leaving NJPW for WWE,[30][30] on January 20, 2016, it was confirmed that he had signed with WWE.[30][30] Prior to signing, Styles had also had extensive discussions with TNA and according to them, Styles had agreed to return to the promotion with Bullet Club stablemates Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson,[30] before being offered a "blow-away deal" by WWE.[3] After not being on WWE television since his Metal match in 2002, Styles made his official debut to WWE at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view during the eponymous match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, entering at number three and receiving a loud ovation.[3] Styles went on to eliminate Curtis Axel and Tyler Breeze, before being eliminated by Kevin Owens, lasting just under 28 minutes in the match.[3]

Styles then entered a storyline with Chris Jericho, with the two exchanging victories on both Raw[3] and SmackDown,[3] which ultimately led to an encounter between the two at Fastlane,[3][3] where Styles emerged victorious.[3] After Fastlane, Jericho and Styles formed a tag team, dubbed "Y2AJ",[3] and went on to defeat The New Day (Big E and Kofi Kingston) in two non-title matches.[3][3] This led to a match for the WWE Tag Team Championship on the March 7 episode of Raw, which Y2AJ failed to win, and after the match, Jericho turned on Styles and attacked him, officially ending their team.[3] The two subsequently interfered in each other's matches,[3][3] leading to Styles challenging Jericho to a match at WrestleMania 32,[3] which Jericho ultimately accepted on the March 28 episode of Raw.[3] However, at WrestleMania 32, Styles was defeated by Jericho.[3]

The following night after WrestleMania 32, on the April 4 episode of Raw, Styles became the number one contender for Roman Reigns' WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Payback, after defeating Kevin Owens, Jericho and Cesaro in a fatal four-way match, pinning Jericho to end their feud.[3] The next week on Raw, Styles would go on to defeat Sami Zayn (who was originally scheduled for the fatal-four way before being attacked by Kevin Owens pre-match) in a singles match to keep his number one contendership; had Zayn defeated Styles in this match, he would have earned a spot in the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Payback, which would have made it a triple threat match.[3] On the April 18 episode of Raw, Styles reunited with former Bullet Club stablemates Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows backstage (later known as The Club)[3] whilst he was being interviewed.[3] Later that night and in the weeks that followed leading up to Payback, several indications (such as Anderson and Gallows attacking Reigns) were made that Anderson, Gallows, and Styles were in cahoots with each other in a conspiracy to end Reigns' championship run at Payback, with Styles vigorously denying the allegations stating that he did not need his friends' help to win the title while Reigns remained skeptical due to the trio's history in NJPW.[3] At Payback, after Styles initially defeated Reigns first via countout and then via disqualification, he was eventually defeated by Reigns via pinfall after the match was restarted both times, despite Anderson and Gallows' interference.[3] Styles would receive a rematch against Reigns at Extreme Rules in an Extreme Rules match, but was unsuccessful due to interference from The Usos.[3]

Following his loss at Extreme Rules, Styles turned his attention away from the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and on the May 23 episode of Raw he would seemingly disband from The Club.[3] However, on the May 30 episode of Raw, Styles welcomed back a returning John Cena, only to attack Cena with help from Anderson and Gallows, thus turning heel in the process.[3] This set up a match between Styles and Cena at Money in the Bank, which Styles won with help from The Club.[3] On the July 4 episode of Raw, The Club would attack Cena as Styles stated that they would "beat up John Cena", but was stopped by Enzo Amore and Big Cass, thus leading to a six-man tag team match between the two teams at Battleground.[327]


Styles has been described by fans, critics and pundits alike to be one of the best all-around and high-flying athletes in the professional wrestling industry today. In November 2012, IGN UK columnist Matt Fowler ranked Styles at number 38 in his top 50 professional wrestlers of all-time list.[3]

In 2005, Wrestling Observer Newsletter publisher/editor Dave Meltzer awarded a rare five-star-match rating to Styles, Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels' triple threat TNA X Division Championship match at TNA Unbreakable.[3] Styles has also won several WON awards (all as A.J. Styles), including the 2005 Best Flying Wrestler, the 2003 and 2015 Best Wrestling Maneuver for the Styles Clash, the 2014 Pro Wrestling Match of the Year for his match against Minoru Suzuki in the 2014 NJPW G1 Climax, the 2014 and 2015 Most Outstanding Wrestler and the 2015 Wrestler of the Year (also known as the Lou Thesz/Ric Flair Award).[3]

Ayub Nouinou, a columnist for The Independent, described him as the "crown jewel" of TNA for more than a decade, before "applying his craft" for NJPW and ROH, among others. Nouinou went on to state that Styles had "established himself as one of the best talents on the planet over the last two years (2014 and 2015)" and noted that, pertaining to Styles' 2016 WWE signing, "the addition of Styles would have to be considered one of the greatest signings since the turn of the millennium". Regarding Styles' financial value to WWE, Nouinou stated that "there is no doubt that "The Phenomenal One" can be a huge draw for the company in all departments – whether that be merchandise, television ratings or pay-per-view buys". Nouinou also noted the impact in which WWE chairman Vince McMahon's perspective on professional wrestlers that may be "too small", may have potentially changed following the signing of Styles, stating that "the acquisition of Styles signifies a change in McMahon's philosophy. Instead of sticking to the stereotypical views of what a main event superstar should look like, it seems like WWE may have accepted that both wrestling ability and the ability to entertain should be prioritised above everything else". Finally, Nouinou made the prediction that "Styles can be the superstar that spearheads WWE into a new era".[3]

Former WWF (now WWE), WCW and TNA writer Vince Russo, who worked with Styles extensively during his time in TNA, made the following statement in January 2016 during a WrestlingInc Podcast episode regarding Styles as a person: "AJ is one of the most class acts through and through that I know. He's a good, good man, a great father (and) a stand up guy".[3]

TNA founder Jeff Jarrett, who played a large role in Styles' initial success and exposure as Styles in his early career after Jarrett signed him to TNA, stated in an interview with The Rack Radio in February 2016 that Styles "has always had the skill set (to be a star)". When questioned on his reaction to Styles' 2016 WWE signing, he responded with the following: "The timing was right, WWE is the leader in the market place for a lot of reasons, they like to do things the right way and they saw the opportunity to bring "The Phenomenal One" on board and I couldn’t be happier for his success".[3]

Retired amateur wrestling 1996 Summer Olympics gold medalist and 18-year professional wrestling industry veteran Kurt Angle made the following statement in a February 2016 ESPN interview regarding Styles' wrestling ability: "I wrestled all the greats, [...] but I would have to say the best wrestler I wrestled was AJ Styles. He's a special talent, a rare breed...".[3]

Styles has been endorsed by numerous WWE Hall of Famers, including: 2007 inductee Jim Ross, who stated in a blog posted on his official website in January 2016 that Styles "is one of the top in ring performers in the world on anyone's list and he's main event money for WWE if he's positioned as such".[3] 2013 inductee Mick Foley stated on his official Facebook page in January 2016: "AJ has been so good, for so long, for so many different promotions, with so many opponents". He went on state that "The sky looks to be the limit for AJ".[3] 2009 inductee Stone Cold Steve Austin described him on an episode of the Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast in February 2016 as a "badass" after watching some of Styles' work in Japan. Austin went on to state that Styles does "dynamic stuff (in the ring)" and said that he is a "great hand" and noted that he would love to see Styles have a "major run" in WWE.[3] 2006 inductee Bret "The Hit Man" Hart stated on his first episode of Wrestlezone Radio's The Sharpshooter Show with Bret "The Hit Man" Hart in March 2016 that Styles has "always been a great wrestler", and went on to say "I've always been a fan of AJ Styles".[3][3]

Other media

In 2003, ROH released Evolution of a Phenom: The Best of AJ Styles, a DVD which covers Styles from his debut to mid-2003. In 2004, ROH released The Phenomenon Continues: The Best of AJ Styles Vol. 2, a follow-up DVD to the original released in 2003. Also in 2004, TNA released Phenomenal: The Best of A.J. Styles, a DVD covering Styles' best matches.

In 2006, ROH released a shoot interview featuring Styles, alongside Christopher Daniels for the promotions "Straight Shootin'" series. In 2007, TNA released Phenomenal: The Best of A.J. Styles Volume 2, a follow-up DVD to the original released in 2004. Also in 2007, Styles was mentioned in the Insane Clown Posse song "Scatterbrain" off their EP Eye of the Storm.

In 2008, Styles helped develop the first TNA wrestling video game known as TNA Impact!, which was released the same year on September 9.[3] In 2009, Styles was featured on MTV's Made trying to help a young high schooler become a professional wrestler alongside Taylor Wilde and The Beautiful People (Angelina Love and Velvet Sky).

In 2011, Styles was featured in the music video for country singer Sarah Darling's song "Something to Do with Your Hands".[3] In 2012, Styles and Montell Jordan presented the award for Best Rap/Hip Hop Record of the Year to Lecrae at the 43rd annual GMA Dove Awards.[3]

In 2013, ROH released AJ Styles - Styles Clash, a 2 disc DVD featuring Styles' best ROH matches from 2002 to 2005.

In 2016, TNA released The Essential AJ Styles Collection, a 4 disc DVD set showcasing Styles' top 30 greatest TNA matches.[3]



2009MadeCoach[3]Episode: "Pro Wrestler: Rebecca"

Music videos

2011Sarah Darling"Something to Do with Your Hands"[3]Mr. Handy

Video games

2008TNA Impact!A.J. StylesPlayable character[3]
2008Pro Wrestling XTechnical consultantDoes not appear in-game


2010Marvel Super Heroes: What The--?!CannonballEpisode: "Winter Games: Day 9"
2016–presentUpUpDownDownHimself/Prince of PhenomenalRegular appearances

WWE Network

2016The Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of AwesomenessGuestEpisode: "Spring Break!" Season 1 Episode 5
2016WWE 24GuestEpisode: "Thank You Daniel"
2016WWE 24GuestEpisode: "Seth Rollins: Redesign. Rebuild. Reclaim."
2016Stone Cold PodcastGuestEpisode 11

Personal life

Jones is married to a schoolteacher named Wendy (since 1995).[347] They have three sons: Ajay Covell Jones (born May 3, 2005), Avery Jones (born February 14, 2007), and Albey Jones (born September 15, 2009), as well as a daughter, Anney Jones (born October 8, 2014).[9][3][3][3] The first child's middle name was taken from the last name of Jones' best friend and fellow wrestler Christopher Daniels, whose real name is Daniel Covell. In 2010, Jones acquired a large tattoo down the right side his torso which reads "AJ 05-03-05 02-14-07 09-15-09", representing the initials and birth dates of his first three children.[3] The family lives in Gainesville, Georgia.[352] Jones revealed on TNA's official website, the TNA home video release Phenomenal: The Best of A.J. Styles Volume 2, and in an interview with New Zealand Pro Wrestling Journalists that he grew up in a poor family and that they could not afford cable television while he was growing up, which resulted in him being unable to watch professional wrestling.[353]


Jones is a devout Christian, stating that in his life, "It's God first and family second."[24][347][353] He is a big fan of Christian hip hop music, and boasts that he can "school almost any rapper" on the genre's history. His favorite groups to listen to are the West Coast-based K2S, Lil' Raskull, FTF, and L.G. Wise. While Jones was working for TNA, he met GRITS members Stacey "Coffee" Jones and Teron "Bonafide" Carter at Universal Studios Florida, TNA's former primary television taping location. Jones would become good friends with the duo, so much so that he used their song "Get Ready To Fly" for seven years as his second TNA theme song and stays in touch with them to this day.[3]

In wrestling

Championships and accomplishments

1 As of 2016, despite being currently contracted to WWE, no reference or statement has been made or put out by Family Wrestling Entertainment regarding Styles' current position with the title, nor whether or not Styles has vacated the belt or has been stripped of it.[4]