Corey Graves welcomed AJ Styles on After The Bell where the two caught up and discussed Styles' move to SmackDown. Graves asked Styles about his transition from working outside of WWE to going into WWE, and Styles talked about how he didn't really change much but worked on developing his ring psychology over the years.
"Listen, I think they had a different kind of plan for me when I got to the WWE, but of course, I had other plans," Styles stated. "I didn't want to be an upper [card guy]. I want to be one of the top guys, and and I wasn't going to change my style to get there as well. It's gotten me this far. Let's see how far it can take me, but I just kept doing what I've been doing. A lot of times, the question was, did you have to change your style? Not at all.
"Everywhere, I went I never changed my style. It developed into better psychology as the years went on. I think that's the biggest difference and the intensity that you bring with that psychology. People want to believe. I'm going to give them that opportunity to do that because my strikes aren't exactly the lightest sometimes, and I know that, but it's that believability and trust me if I hit you hard, I want you to hit me hard. That's the way I want it. It takes me to a different level. The intensity, I just love it."
Styles shared a backstage story where Vince McMahon pulled him aside to tell him that he needed a pitbull. This led Styles to increase his intensity with his character, and he feels that changed everything for him.
"But nothing really changed in my direction where I was going now that I was gonna get there," Styles noted. "I had guys pull me aside and say, 'hey, keep doing what you're doing. You're doing everything great just keep doing it. Keep working working hard. Do whatever you got to do man. Just keep do it.' So I must have been doing something right, and even when I had my first match against, I think it was Curtis Axel, and he had a couple of the guys with him, Vince brought me to the back. He goes, 'I got guys that can do what you do. I got guys that can do that. I got guys that can do what you just did out there. What I need is I need this. I need this pitbull. That's what I need,' and I go, 'oh, I know that guy.' I was trying to be what I thought a babyface is supposed to be in WWE.
"When he told me that, now I was like, 'OK, I can be this guy who just wants to eat freaking people alive. It got to a point where, I think it was a make-or-break when it was Miz TV on RAW I think it was. It could've been SmackDown. Who knows? A couple guys came up to me and said 'listen, you got to put it on. Like what? Like you gotta put it on him. I was like what? Of course, I go out there, and I'm just super intense doing doing it. I didn't get him with any shots or anything. I wasn't gonna do that, but what they wanted to see was that intensity. I think that that's what changed everything."
Graves asked if there was ever any social media encounters that Styles remembers. Styles talked about how a fan called him out for going to WWE solely for business. He stated that wrestling was a business, and it is a business that has helped support his family.
"I remember there was this guy, I don't know if he had a podcast or whatever but basically just buried me because how dare I go somewhere based on business and when I talk about business like money," Styles reflects. "When I worked at TNA, the reason why that fell apart was because they wanted me to do the same amount of work but wanted me to take less money, and I didn't feel that was right because I always did everything to the best of my abilities [and] represented TNA well, and now they're going to cut me because you make bad mistakes. That's not how it works. When you work hard, you're supposed to get rewarded for it, and so I bet on myself, but the fact that he questioned my loyalty because of money. I'm like, hold on a second. This is all a business. This is how I support my family.
"Loyalty can only go so far, and trust me, when you're not getting the job done, in the ring or wherever they need you, where's the loyalty there? This is a business, and they have to do what's best for their business and I have to do what's best for mine. I am very loyal. When I'm under contract to that company, I am as loyal as they come. I will sacrifice everything to put on the best product because I am loyal to that contract and the agreement that we signed together. So that just really bothered me that he questioned whether or not I could succeed outside of TNA and where my morals were as far as like I should stay loyal to a company that helped me get my start. That's that's just not how it works in this business."
Styles said that telling him that he is not worth what he is asking for put a chip on his shoulder. He talked about betting on himself to prove that he could be a star in WWE.
"Well, listen, if you want to put a chip on my shoulder, go ahead and basically tell me what I'm not worth what I'm asking for," Styles said. "I feel like that's what happened to me is that everything you did for us, it was great, but you're not worth as much as you're thinking you are. OK, I'm gonna go show you. I'm gonna show everybody that I am worth [it].
"I'm going to bet on myself, and that's what they didn't understand either is that these guys that were kind of ripping me from not being loyal to TNA, they didn't understand that not only was I leaving and going to pursue something else. I was literally betting on myself. That's a risk that not a lot of people were willing to take, and I was willing to take that risk and it paid off. That just really really bothered me. Those same guys are also the ones that said he'll never make it WWE, but I will say this to their credit, they basically said well, we were wrong. He had what it takes to be a star in the WWE. So to their credit."
Styles is a long-time veteran in the wrestling industry. Graves wondered if Styles has ever given advice to anyone, and Styles named Ricochet and Cedric Alexander. He talked about how valuable it is to maintain a positive attitude no matter the situation in front of you.
"The guys like Ricochet and Cedric Alexander, like I've wrestled those guys on the indies. It's really kind of showing them my support, like guys I get it, and trust me, I've been there," Styles admitted. "It may not be in WWE that I've been where you're at right now because sometimes you don't know where you're going, what direction they have you go in. You have no idea what's going on, but it is a roller coaster ride, and you just have ride it and see where it takes you, but if you're positive and have a good work ethic, then it will benefit you in the long run. You just got to stay at it.
"So I just try to help those guys have a positive attitude because the attitude changes everything. Once your attitude turns sour, your performance turns sour as well."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit After The Bell with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.