When They Were Young: “Phenomenal” AJ Styles

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Hello! Today, we will look at the upbringing of the former WWE, NWA, TNA and IWGP Champion, the “Phenomenal” AJ Styles.

Allen Neal Jones was born at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina on June 2nd, 1977. Little is known about his Mother, but his Father served in the marines, so there’s a good chance she did too. When he was one, the family moved to Gainesville, and he grew up in a trailer park with his brothers.

AJ Styles

Because of their location, they lived in poverty and could not afford cable television, so AJ couldn’t watch much wrestling as a kid. They had a TV with an antenna, which he would twirl around to pick up stations, but that was all they would get. The fact he saw little wrestling growing up likely helped him, because he didn’t get in to the business trying to mimic anybody else. With very little to entertain as a kid, it explains why he became a video game enthusiast as an adult.

His Father was abusive and an alcoholic. On the Stone Cold podcast, Styles had the following (talking in the past tense, meaning he has passed away) to say about him:

“When he was drinking he was a terrible Father. Took it too far a little bit sometimes, coming home looking for a fight, and took it out on his kids and sometimes his wife. There were some difficult times. Even though bad stuff like that happened, I still knew that my Dad loved me.”

Despite the abuse, his Father ensured he would get an education at Johnson High School, and take part in sports, like football, basketball and baseball. AJ grew up with the dream of being a pro in football, basketball or baseball, and not wrestling. He graduated in 1996 and went on to Anderson University in Anderson, Carolina.

Wrestling Career

After earning a partial wrestling scholarship to study Physical Education, he did not complete his studies and dropped out to attend a professional wrestling school. Influenced by friends, he wanted to see if it was something he would be naturally good at, and he decided it was for him after taking the first bump. He paid for his lessons by doing odd jobs, like mowing lawns, taking driving jobs (like ambulances), and supplying water. AJ completed his training under Rick Michaels and set out on his pro wrestling career in 1998.

With no major backing, he wore a mask and adopted the name Mr. Olympia, which he was happy about. He had to work extra hard to get noticed on the independents, but it didn’t take long until he picked up his first title, the NCW Television Championship in August 1999. In December the same year, NCW merged with NWA Georgia to form NWA Wildside, which is where talent scouts from the WWF and WCW noticed his potential.

AJ Styles

Now as a tag team called Air Raid, both Air Styles & Air Paris were offered contracts by WCW in early 2001. They appeared on WCW Thunder three times, and on the March 5th episode of Nitro, were beaten in the first round of a tournament for the WCW Cruiserweight tag team titles. WCW folded not long after this, and his contract was void. In July 2001, AJ Styles faced off against his trainer Rick Michaels in a WWF tryout before a taping of Raw, but they did not offer him a contract.

He had two more tryouts in 2002. Two months before joining Jeff Jarrett’s new “NWA:TNA” promotion, the WWF offered Styles a developmental deal, but the timing was wrong because his wife was in college. Management asked him to move to Cincinnati, Ohio, so he could work for the Heartland Wrestling Association, but he didn’t feel it was right for his family. Working for TNA, ROH and other lesser promotions, he wouldn’t be away as much, and this suited him for many years.

The rest is history. AJ Styles became the biggest TNA original in the company’s history, and to this day remains its most valued asset in their library. He is now wrestling for WWE, like he dreamed of for so many years, yet he’d be welcomed as a top star in any other promotion, until the day he retires. Please let me know if you would see more of these, and thanks for reading!

Sources

Childhood Biography*: https://childhoodbiography.com/aj-styles-childhood-story-plus-untold-biography-facts/

*I’m assuming the childhood image of AJ Styles used in their article isn’t correct, because his eyes are not the right color.

The Daily Reporter: https://web.archive.org/web/20160201173858/http://www.spencerdailyreporter.com/story/1524070.html

Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.J._Styles 

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