AJ Styles Talks WWE Royal Rumble, Longevity, and More

WWE Royal Rumble Preview

Wrestlemania season kicks into high gear this weekend with the WWE Royal Rumble, live from Tropicana Field in Tampa. This year’s pay-per-view will feature not only the classic battle royal format—with 30 Men and 30 Women battling all at once until there’s only one competitor left standing—but a massive four-way championship match between current Universal Champion Roman Reigns and Randy Orton, L.A. Knight, and AJ Styles.

Ahead of this weekend’s massive showdown, DISH spoke with AJ Styles to get his thoughts on his championship match, strategies for the Royal Rumble, and his advice for younger stars who are just breaking into the wrestling biz.

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Questions and Answers have been edited for clarity.

DISH: It’s fitting we’re talking to you in the lead up to the Royal Rumble, given your debut came during the 2016 Rumble as a surprise entrant at number three. What do you remember about that night? 

AJ Styles: I got to tell you, it was a little stressful. Not because it was the Royal Rumble, it was because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how people were going [to respond]. Did they even remember me? It was actually the perfect place to have the Royal Rumble for me, being that I spent a lot of time in Orlando, Florida, wrestling down that way. But it was still nerve-wracking because I spent time in [New Japan Pro-Wrestling] for so long, I didn’t know if I was going to be remembered. And lo and behold, it was an unbelievable pop from the crowd when I walked out and I thought, ‘Okay, the hardest part is done,’ you know?


You’re a veteran of a rumble or two now, can you give us some insight into the strategy behind a rumble. I mean, we’ve seen people teaming up with their enemies, hiding under the ring, just straight brawling like they’re the only two people there. What’s your take on the strategy behind a battle royal of that scale? 

AJ Styles: I think you got to make the best of your situation. Meaning that if there’s an opportunity to throw someone out, take advantage of it. They’re not looking, get them out of the ring. If you can find someone that can team up with you, if there’s a tag team partner, then do that. Try to stay out of the way. Don’t let someone get you because you’re just there in their way and they get rid of you. There’s a way to go about it. Now, I would love to tell you how good I am at it, but I haven’t won one yet, so I’m getting better [laughs]. I’m going to miss it this year, obviously, because I’m having my own match for the WWE championship. Maybe I’ll get another opportunity next year.


You obviously made a heck of an impact returning to SmackDown about a month ago and didn’t waste any time gunning for Roman. The Roman run is pretty incredible, but you’re no stranger to titles yourself. What do you think of his title reign, and can you give us any insight on how you intend to end it? 

AJ Styles: Listen, he’s had it for almost three years, or maybe he’s had it for three years, I’m not exactly sure, but it’s time for him to release it [EDITOR’S NOTE: Roman’s reign started in August 2020, about 3.5 years ago]. It’s time to let someone else run with it for a while and we’ve got myself and three other men [going for it]. One’s going to try to keep it, two other guys besides myself are going to try to win it. It’s a recipe for an unbelievable match. Four guys that can absolutely get after it and have an entertaining match.

As far as what I’m going to do…again, this is a hard one, because you got so many guys that want it so badly, the championship. So we’ll see what happens. I haven’t really come up with a plan that seems like it’s going to work at this moment, but sometimes you come up with it while you’re in there. I think you’ve got to isolate Roman Reigns, or anybody for that matter, to be able to get the win, because there’s always someone lurking that’s going to maybe pull you off the pin, or whatnot.


How do LA Knight and Randy Orton change things? Do you think their involvement helps nullify any impact the Bloodline might have? 

AJ Styles: Well, maybe. Maybe they can help with the Bloodline, because we know they’re going to try to get involved in some way, somehow. But the thing about it is, even if the Bloodline isn’t part of it, we went from a 50-50 chance, if it was just Roman and myself, to now I’ve only got a 25% chance of winning this match. So it makes it a little bit harder, especially when you’re in there with Randy Orton, who’s been WWE champion numerous times, and LA Knight, who hasn’t, which makes him want it that much more. And it’s been a minute for me as well, to be WWE champion, and I know what it feels like to be there. And then, of course, Roman Reigns, who wants to hold on to what he’s got. So that’s a good recipe for an unbelievable match.


You’ve managed to not only survive, but thrive in a pretty brutal business for a while now. What advice would you have for the younger guys and girls in the back? And who should fans keep an eye on as maybe the next AJ Styles? 

AJ Styles: Well, I think I always have a backup plan. This is a very tough and rough sport that I’m in. Takes a lot of ability, a lot of experience, and at some point all of us are going to get injured. So always have a backup plan because you never know what’s going to happen.

And as far as the next AJ Styles, well, who knows? They may not be in wrestling yet. Maybe they’re starting. You never know who that’s going to be. But I would say the next AJ Styles will be a guy that is obsessed with wanting to be great and is willing to go out every night and put on a show. No matter how many people are there. Whether it be one person or 10,000 or 20,000 people, he’s going to put on his best effort.

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