The cliché thing to say would be that only one word describes AJ Styles’ rookie year in WWE: phenomenal. But, to be honest, I think it takes more than one word to describe it, 5 words do: The Greatest of All Time.
I know AJ Styles has been wrestling for 18 years, but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to speak strictly about his WWE run, because there have been plenty of wrestlers with storied careers outside of WWE that weren’t as successful once they joined WWE. When you think about what AJ has accomplished in less than 1 year as a WWE wrestler, it’s pretty hard to find a good comparison. The closest that come to mind are Goldberg & Brock Lesnar. Both of those men are genetic freaks, physically designed to be pushed to the top. AJ Styles is a 5 foot 11, 218-pound man who had to claw his way to the top. A man who was supposedly going to be squashed by Ryback upon entering the WWE. Let’s take a look at AJ’s phenomenal year.
January 24th, 2016 marks the date the WWE was introduced to “The Phenomenal One." He came through the curtain worried the crowd wouldn’t know he was, only to be received by the biggest pop of the night. A pop big enough to change Vince McMahon’s perception of him. A pop big enough to set up a lengthy feud with WWE legend Chris Jericho. Despite losing to Jericho at Wrestlemania, AJ shortly found himself contending for the WWE Championship against Roman Reigns. While AJ lost that feud too, it didn’t stop him from still being over and positioning himself upward.
May 30th, 2016 marks AJ’s best moment in WWE, when he finally came face to face with John Cena. AJ’s feud with Cena lived up to the decade long hype it had been building since 2006. Every single match they had was worth watching, and stole the show. In what very few people saw coming, AJ Styles actually went over 100% clean against John Cena, as a heel. He’s the only person that holds a 3-0 record against Cena, something even The Rock or Brock Lesnar haven’t done.
September 11th, 2016 marks the date AJ Styles received the validation he deserved, in the form of the WWE Championship. After beating John Cena, AJ had another memorable rivalry against Dean Ambrose. A rivalry filled with insults, cheap shots, and crazy spots. AJ dethroned Smackdown’s champion, and dubbed himself “The Champ That Runs the Camp”.
It took only nine months for AJ Styles to become the new face that runs the place. Only nine months to debut in the WWE, get over, and become WWE Champion. When you look at the grand scheme of what AJ has done in WWE, it’s only been onward and upward, regardless of whether he wins or loses. Styles hasn’t had a bad feud or a bad match in WWE since his arrival.
Looking at Dave Meltzer’s ratings for AJ’s PPV matches, he’s had seven 4-star matches out of the 11 PPVs he’s competed in. Meaning anytime you see AJ on a card, you know you’re going to get quality. You know you’re going to get something phenomenal.
(PS if you want to see some of AJs best matches and their ratings, feel free to check this Reddit link)