We're live from backstage at WWE RAW in Phoenix, Arizona with the latest Steve Austin "Stone Cold" WWE Network podcast. His guest is AJ Styles. Austin opens by congratulating the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers on winning the NBA Championship this week. He thanks Kevin Love for the various Stone Cold tributes. Austin says Foley did a good job filling in for him last month but he's back. Austin introduces his guest, the Phenomenal One - AJ Styles. Austin welcomes him.
Austin gives AJ some advice - next time he gets Cena on the mat and the chance to stomp him, do it because those opportunities are rare. Austin tells AJ to turn the volume up because he doesn't want to get lost in the shuffle. Austin talks about doing a lot of research on AJ and how he's been around the world. They talk about AJ being born at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina as his dad is a Marine. AJ talks about how his dad was a terrible father when he drank too much but he still knew his dad loved him and supported him in sports. AJ admits his dad went too far with some of the spankings he gave, saying they got beatings sometimes. AJ says the way he was raised absolutely affected how he raises his kids. He learned from his parent's mistakes. They talk about how AJ was into football, baseball and basketball when he was younger. They also talk about collegiate wrestling and Austin brings up how Kurt Angle puts over AJ as one of the most talented wrestlers he's been in the ring with. Austin brings up AJ being a religious guy. He talks about going to a Baptist college and didn't feel right about hurting his opponents and talking trash like in high school. He didn't finish college. He talks about his parents not being good with money and they were dirt poor, living in a trailer. He says that was their life for a long time. AJ dropped out of college and really didn't have a plan B but he knew he was going to marry the girl he was dating. He went home to get a regular job and two "jacked up" friends from school ended up getting him into the business.
AJ talks about how he was never afraid of doing flips, which is how his style was developed. He learned some from his now-wife, who was a cheerleader then. He briefly talks about debuting under a mask with the name Mr. Olympia. He talks about really learning a lot after sitting down with Terry Taylor, maybe 8 years after he had already been in the business. Styles can't say enough about how Taylor helped him. Regarding his style, Styles says he can wok any style that a match needs to happen and Austin says that's one of his strong points. Styles says at the beginning, he was more influenced by the athletes like Lance Storm but as he got into storytelling, he admired how everything Shawn Michaels did mattered. He felt the little things Shawn did made his matches great.
Austin asks how AJ's wife adapted to the rough business. AJ says she's awesome and they have dated since high school. Having kids kind of settled them down and they just made it work. Styles mentions how he was a little depressed after WCW. He says John Laurinaitis was the one who gave him his job in WCW and then told him that WWE wasn't picking up his contract when they bought the company. AJ says at the time, he didn't need to be there. He says he wasn't ready and would have fizzled out. Styles says it's all part of God's plan to him. Styles gives Christopher Daniels a lot of credit for helping him make a living on the indies. WWE offered him a deal years ago and wanted him to move to Cincinnati for developmental but his wife was in college and he just didn't feel it was right to make her go live with her parents again. His wife wanted him to go but he still passed on it.
They bring up TNA. Styles says he was wrestling on a World Wrestling All Stars tour when he met Jeff Jarrett. He struck a deal in Australia and believes he was the first guy TNA ever signed. AJ says he spent 11 strong years in TNA. AJ says for 6 months he didn't care, it was just another indie where he was able to earn some bucks. AJ says after a while he realized they had something going there. He talks about having amazing matches and the company getting bought out by Panda Energy, then moving to Orlando and big things happening. Austin asks what AJ thinks about Dixie Carter running the company, someone with no experience in the business. Styles says everything was going good as they still had the wrestling aspect there from the Jarretts. He talks about top talents like Samoa Joe, Christian, Kurt Angle, Frankie Kazarian and Daniels. Austin asks if they ever felt they were legit competition for WWE. Styles says at the time they thought they could be competition for WWE, that was the goal, but then they realized they needed to be competition for everyone, including UFC, and just needed to go at it. Austin asks if Styles ever felt second-fiddle to the big names. Styles says he felt Dixie was always a fan of who she saw on TV but he still had a part to play. Austin asks about the six-sided ring and says it looked like a pain in the ass. AJ thought it made them different and different is good, he still thinks that to this day. He mentions Hulk Hogan coming in and changing things to a traditional ring. He admits the six-sided ring is a lot more rough.
AJ talks about getting the Phenomenal nickname on the indies. Austin asks who the Phenomenal One is. AJ says he's someone who will give you something special in the ring any tine, any place. At the same time, he's enjoying himself in the ring. Austin gives Styles props for his confidence and how well he did in a town like Las Vegas against John Cena at Money In the Bank.
He asks why AJ left TNA. AJ felt like when you work hard, you should get paid. They wanted him to take a pay cut and he didn't think that was right. AJ says he bet on himself and he believes in himself, and everything worked out. Austin gives him props for that.
They talk about working ROH and New Japan next. AJ says he went straight to the top and talks about Finn Balor leaving, and AJ revealing himself to be in The Bullet Club. AJ talks about how he didn't realize how good some of the Japanese talents like Okada, Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura would be. Austin asks how AJ came up with some of his moves because he's never seen them before. AJ wants all his moves to be unique so people think of only him when they see it. He talks about how all moves have been done but there are ways to put little twists on them. Styles goes on and talks about how he likes to get hit hard, to "make a sound" and protect the business.
Some of his career highlights have been lately since coming to WWE, like being in the Royal Rumble for the first time. He talks again about being worried no one would know who he was and then he couldn't believe the reaction he got. Austin asks why AJ decided to come to WWE now, all these years later. AJ says there was just an opportunity. He got in touch with a friend who knew Triple H, who said he was going to call him but never did. AJ realized he was 37 and would be happy if they never called. Two weeks later, he got the call. He just wanted to get back home to his kids and talked to a few different groups, including TNA. He said he had a 30 minute talk with Triple H, their first ever, and after that he knew WWE was where he belonged. Austin asks how WWE is ran compared to other groups. He says WWE is the most professionally ran organization he's worked for. He's impressed by catering, saying he never really had that anywhere else. They agree WWE is the major leagues. Styles says he knows who is in charge and he can go to the source. He wasn't sure who was in charge of other places. Styles knows Vince McMahon is in charge but if he's busy, he can go to Triple H or someone else and talk about it. He does feel WWE is giving him every opportunity to make a name for himself. Vince told him he wanted the "pitbull" AJ and he knew he could pull it off. He also talks about his first WrestleMania experience and says it doesn't get better than being there. AJ admits his kids were upset he lost at WrestleMania.
Austin asks if AJ prefers to work heel or babyface. AJ says he prefers to work where he's needed but it's easier to work as a heel because of what you can get away with. He's having fun. Austin asks what the future holds for AJ in WWE. He hopes the work ethic he's showing will provide some kind of office job when he's done with the ring. He doesn't believe in the while glass ceiling talk. He says it's his job to get over and doesn't believe someone can hold you down if you give people what they want to see. AJ says he's just scratched the surface when it comes to his physicality and he may have some tricks to pull out in the future. Austin praises Styles and warns him that these are shark-infested waters. Austin says he will be back in a month or two but isn't sure who his guest will be. Austin signs off for AJ and ends the podcast.