What a long, strange, and interesting year 2016 has proven to be in many facets thus far. The landscape of professional wrestling has seen many major twists, turns, and swerves and as we roar into the final months. I’ve been finding myself thinking a lot, as I tend to do. This time though, it isn’t just misappropriated thoughts of how much I dislike a Roman Reigns match, or why the WWE continues to under-deliver and make me question my sanity for watching week in and week out. My thoughts, especially recently as I’ve been stumbling around trying to catch-up on the atrociously large back-log of WWE programming I have to watch, have been about one man in particular. You may know about him, he’s the current WWE World Champion: AJ Styles. Styles has always been one of, if not my unanimous favorite wrestler throughout his career. Facts are facts, and it’d be hard for me to not say that AJ Styles is one of the greatest, if not the greatest wrestlers currently alive and working today. There’s always been one thing about Styles, however, that has drawn a little bit of criticism. No, I’m not here to talk about AJ Styles the person and whatever flaws he may have. I’m talking about AJ Styles the performer, the character. One of the biggest draw-backs or potential downsides for Styles has always been his mic work and just a general showing of confidence while cutting a promo or doing anything that’s involved talking.
For the most part, he hasn’t had to rely on any sort of charisma or talking to get him over. He’s known more for his command of the ring and his opponents than the microphone. In the past, he hasn’t really had to showcase any sort of talking ability, either. TNA just let AJ be and AJ and put on phenomenal (see what I did there) matches with whoever he wanted to work with. New Japan was more of the same, and AJ strongly benefited from performing in front of the crowds of Japan. Arguably some of his best in ring work that really propelled him to the greatest of all time status he’s currently entrenched in came from the previous year’s work with the likes of Okada, Nakamura and Tanahashi.
That’s all in the past, though, as Styles is now in the wild, wild, world of sports entertainment and the WWE. What brought him to the big dance wasn’t going to be enough to squeak by. If AJ Styles was going to succeed to the levels that both he and his fans knew he was capable of, he needed to add the shine, the luster, to the finished product that was AJ Styles the performer. Week after week, month after month, we saw Styles grow a confidence and cockiness on the microphone, almost like he was untouchable, and then it hit me the other night. I was watching an episode of SmackDown on Hulu, since I rarely get the chance to watch live these days, and something just resonated with me. Ever since the brand split, SmackDown has been delivering top quality and top tier content as opposed to its Monday night counterpart. One of the driving forces behind it, since they’ve largely been without The Face That Runs The Place, has been AJ Styles.
If you watch any of the promos or in-ring work with Styles since becoming THE guy for SmackDown, it’s incredible to see. We’ve always known that Styles has been an incomparable worker, but now we see a confidence that we’ve never seen in the man before. He’s dragged masterpiece matches out of the likes of Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, John Cena, and even got watchable and respectable matches out of Chris Jericho, which is a feat in of itself. Then, we add in the incredible promo work. I’ve never gone on record to say that a Styles promo has either floored me or really made me believe totally in what he’s saying, but his recent promo on post No Mercy SmackDown Live really resonated with me and drove the point home. As someone who’s been enamored and followed Styles for a lot of his career, the fact that he’s suddenly added this incredible mic game to his repertoire excites me. It also leaves me wondering what else can Styles do to really reinvent and add more depth to the man known as simply phenomenal. Time will tell, but I’m happy I was wrong about my outlook for Styles’ WWE career. After a rocky start, Styles has persevered, as he always does, and shown why he is the best performer currently out there.