By Jason Powell
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The following are the highlights of Steve Austin’s interview with AJ Styles that was broadcast live on the WWE Network on Monday, June 20.
-Steve Austin noted that Mick Foley filled in for him last week. He said he’s been waiting a long time to interview AJ Styles. They shook hands. Austin acknowledged that he had rotator cuff surgery, then said Styles nearly pulled his arm out of socket.
-Styles said he wasn’t sure what it would be like before he joined WWE because he’s heard stories. He said he’s been treated like gold in WWE thus far. He said the roster makes him feel at home. Austin told him you can never become comfortable. He asked if Styles is happy where he is in WWE. Styles said he is and said he likes working hard to earn things. He said he’s not the biggest guy in WWE so he has something to prove.
-Austin was censored a couple of times while giving Styles advice about facing John Cena. Austin apologized and said that he figures that viewers should get a pair of four-letter words from him for their $9.99 per month.
-Styles said he was born on a Marine base. He said his father is a Marine, but they moved to Gainesville, Georgia. Styles said he has a lot of respect for Marines. Styles said he knew his father loved him and his three brothers. Styles said his father had a drinking problem and he was a terrible father when he was drinking. Styles said he still knew that his father loved him and supported him in every sport he took part in. Styles said they hoped that their father wasn’t drinking because they knew someone would get tore up. Styles said he didn’t want to put his dad in a bad spot, but he went too far with spanking and breaking things. Austin asked about beatings. Styles said he could say that.
-Styles said he is a father of four and that 100 percent affected how he raised his own children. Styles said he has a dad voice that he got from his father and provided a demonstration, but he also said he learned from his father’s mistakes.
-Styles said he grew up playing football, baseball, and basketball. Styles wasn’t able to play football until the ninth grade because they didn’t have a football team. “It killed me,” Styles said of not being able to play on a team. Styles said he was a hustler in basketball and he did pretty well. Styles said a lot of kids were afraid of the baseball, but he had two brothers who threw the ball at him full speed, so he had to catch it.
-AJ spoke about getting into wrestling via the encouragement of his football coach, who was also the wrestling coach. Styles said he wanted to quit because of how difficult the conditioning was, but his coach asked him for one more week. Styles spoke about a wrestling rival.
-Austin brought up AJ being religious and questioned what type of language he used when he was trash talking. Styles said he was using foul language at that point in his life, but it changed when he went to college.
-Styles spoke about growing up with four brothers and living in a trailer and the living conditions. He said that was their life. He said he looks back on those days and it makes him appreciate the things he has today.
-Styles spoke about dropping out of college during spring break. Austin said he dropped out with 17 hours left, so Styles was smarter than he was by quitting earlier.
-AJ recalled a friend of his who wanted to train to be a wrestler. Styles told him he would go with him if he found a place to train. Styles said he immediately thought that he could do it once training started. Styles said his wife was a cheerleader when they were dating, and he learned how to do his flips when he worked with her.
-Austin asked if it was true that Styles started as a masked wrestler named Mr. Olympia. Styles said it was true. Styles said it was the promoter’s idea. He said he would be embarrassed to watch the match now, but he was so happy just to be a part of it.
-Austin asked how long it took Styles to learn how to put a match together. Styles said it didn’t really click until he started talking with Terry Taylor, then raved about how helpful Taylor has been to him.
-Austin asked about Styles being a cruiserweight. Styles said he can adapt to the person he is in the ring with and work that style. Austin asked who influenced his in-ring style. Styles mentioned there were things Lance Storm did that he loved, but he spoke about how impressed he was by Shawn Michaels and how he could adapt to working with any opponent.
-Austin asked what AJ’s wife thought about him traveling the world as a wrestler. Styles said his wife is awesome. He said it was difficult to be away from her and she didn’t have anything to do. Styles said they had their first son and then things became about him.
-Austin brought up AJ’s brief run in WCW and how the company was purchased by WWE. Austin asked if WWE just didn’t see anything in him. Styles said John Laurinaitis gave him his job in WCW and then was also the one to tell him that WWE wasn’t picking up his contract. Styles said he wasn’t ready at the time and he would have fizzled out if WWE had picked up his contract. Styles spoke about how it motivated him to tear it up elsewhere. Styles praised Christopher Daniels as being the reason he started getting booked around the world and said he remains one of his best friends in the world.
-Styles said he was offered a developmental deal. He said his wife was in college and he didn’t feel right moving, so he had to turn down the offer. He said his wife told him to go.
-Austin mentioned TNA by name. Styles said he didn’t care and it was just another booking to him for the first six months. He praised Low Ki as a guy he had some great matches with. He said TNA was bought by Panda and they started running in Orlando and he thought they had something going.
-Austin brought up Dixie Carter. Styles spoke about Jeff Jarrett bringing in Samoa Joe. “He and I did some amazing stuff,” Styles said. He said Christian followed, and then Kurt Angle. Styles said he was shocked when Angle showed up because no one knew. Styles raved about his friendship with Joe, Daniels, and Frankie Kazarian. He said they came together on the independents and they were doing something special.
-Styles said they thought at the time that TNA could be competition for WWE and even UFC. Austin asked if Styles felt like he was second fiddle to other wrestlers that TNA brought in. Styles said you can’t always be in the top spot and he didn’t care in that if the top guy was doing well, everyone did well.
-Styles said he prefers the six-sided ring because it made them different. Styles said Hulk Hogan came in and changed that.
-Styles said Dan “The Dragon” Wilson referred to him as The Phenomenal AJ Styles, then a buddy called him “Phenomenal One” and they just ran with it.
-Austin asked why Styles decided to leave TNA. Styles said that when you work hard, he believes you should be paid for that. He said he was asked to take a pay cut. He said he believed in himself and bet on himself and worked elsewhere and it worked out.
-Austin asked about working in Japan compared to the United States. Styles recalled how he replaced Finn Balor in Bullet Club. He recalled beating Kazuchika Okada in his first NJPW match to win the IWGP Title. Austin spoke about how he and Arn Anderson drank a lot of beer in Japan to maintain their sanity. “Sounds like Gallows and Anderson,” Styles said with a laugh.
-Styles said he had been to Japan before so he knew what to expect, but he said he didn’t realize how good Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura were. Styles recalled seeing a fan crying in the front row because the man was afraid that Tanahashi was going to tap out while Styles had him in a hold.
-Austin asked how Styles came up with some of the sequences and moves he uses. “You execute with malice and intent to harm,” Austin said before adding that Styles is very safe. Styles said he wants viewers to think of him, not another wrestler when he performs moves, so he tries to be unique. He said he saw Misawa perform a forearm from the ropes, but he thought about how he could make it his own.
-Austin brought up Styles knocking out Miz’s teeth with a spinning back fist and asked if he had any heat. “None at all,” he said. Styles said he brings it in the ring, but he also makes sure his opponents know it’s coming. Styles said he likes being hit. He said the harder he is hit, the more he is into it.
-Styles was asked about his favorite moments. He said many of them have happened recently. He still looked awestruck by being in the Royal Rumble match. He said he was worried that the fans wouldn’t know who he was. He said he thought there was a chance because they were in Orlando. He said he could have soaked up their cheers on the stage for five minutes.
-Austin asked about Styles finally coming to WWE. He said there was an opportunity. He said he got in touch with a friend, who got in touch with Triple H, who said he was going to call me. Styles said Hunter did not call him and he was okay with it because he was happy with where he was at. Styles said he got a call two weeks later. Styles said not being able to get back home from Japan if something happened to one of his kids really scared him.
-Styles said he was talking with TNA, as well as ROH and NJPW. He said Triple H called and he ended up having a 30-minute conversation with him even though they had never spoken before. He recalled the “oh, no” reaction of NJPW booker Gedo when he was informed that Styles, Anderson, and Gallows were leaving. He said they couldn’t have been better to him.
-Styles said WWE is the most professional place he’s ever worked. “They have great catering here,” Styles said. I didn’t really have it anywhere else. Austin asked whether Styles has input. Styles said he knows there’s one man in charge and if he can’t talk to him then he can go talk to Triple H.
-Austin asked if he believes WWE is doing everything they can with him. Styles said they are giving him an opportunity to make a name for himself, and he makes the most of it when put in those situations.
-Austin asked about Styles working at WrestleMania 32 in front of the record setting crowd. Styles said his knees were shaking. Styles said he couldn’t hear a thing in the ring. He said he knew the fans were making noise, but all the sound was going up. Austin said the same issue had he Vince McMcMahon concerned that the hair vs. hair match involving Donald Trump wasn’t doing well with the live crowd.
-Austin said he heard that AJ’s kids were upset when he lost at WrestleMania. AJ said he told them he lost in the ring, but he won that night because he was at WrestleMania.
-Austin asked if Styles prefers being a heel or a babyface. Styles said he prefers working wherever he’s needed. He said he will have fun either way. He said it’s a lot easier working as a heel.
-Austin asked what the future holds for Styles in WWE. Styles said the work ethic and relationships will hopefully lead to him holding a job in the company after his career is over.
-Austin said WWE is shark infested waters. He asked if Styles feels there’s a glass ceiling and he’s being held down. “Absolutely not,” Styles said. “I don’t understand that. How can someone hold you down if you don’t let them. I’m going to go out there and it’s my job to get AJ Styles over. It’s my job to make sure people want to see me in that ring. That’s my job and I’ll take that because I’ll make the best of that. So I don’t feel like you can be held down if you give them what they want to see.”
-Austin asked whether Styles has only scratched the surface with his physicality in WWE. Styles said he has only scratched the surface and there are things that he saves so that they are special.
-Austin spoke about how he loved the matches with Reigns and the MITB match with Cena. Austin said they are shark infested waters in WWE and only the strong survive. Austin said he enjoyed talking with Styles and he has enjoyed his work for a long time. Austin gave a shoutout to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kevin Love for wearing his gear. Austin said he would be back in a month or two, but he didn’t know who he would be talking to. This concluded the interview.
Powell’s POV: Styles is such a likable person in this setting that it leaves you wondering whether WWE isn’t missing out by not tapping into his true personality and showcasing him as a babyface. The most fired up that Styles got was late in the interview in response to being asked whether there’s a glass ceiling or if he’s being held down. If most guys said the same thing he said, I would have wondered if they were giving a speech for Vince McMahon sitting off-camera, whereas Styles is just so genuine and passionate in his response that it seemed genuine. I like that Austin is giving him a heads up about politics and navigating those waters, as it seems like Austin truly wants to see Styles succeed in WWE.
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