You can’t talk about AJ Styles’ career without talking about TNA. Steve Austin had AJ on the June 20 edition of his show to talk about his career. Stone Cold Podcast airs on WWE Network, where as Edge & Christian famously joked, you don’t talk about TNA.
SOMETHING HAD TO GIVE!
That something happened about halfway through the show. Styles had just explained how he turned down a WWE Developmental contract because he didn’t want to ask his wife to move back in with her folks while he packed up and went to Cincinnati (where Ohio Valley Wrestling, WWE’s training partner at the time, is based).
Austin asks if he went to Japan following that, and then there’s a few seconds where neither guy seems to want to say it, but AJ finally does. So Stone Cold says, “dude, let’s talk about TNA.”
It’s probably not as in-depth as some would like. Styles clearly doesn’t want to just outright criticize a promotion that was integral to where he is today. But it’s still a noteworthy 2016 moment - AJ, fresh off putting in some work on Raw for his “Bullet Club vs. John Cena” angle, sits down to talk TNA on WWE Network.
Even the title of the clip on YouTube refuses to mention their name:
Not shown in the clip are Austin’s question about how Panda Energy means Dixie Carter, and Dixie not being a person who’s “not necessarily been in the wrestling/sports entertainment industry before - although maybe been a big fan, and very smart individual” (props to Steve for not calling her a money mark).
AJ’s measured response:
Even though she bought it from the Jarretts, Jeff was highly involved in the storylines, stuff like that. So that was a good thing, cause you had that wrestling mindset still there.
They’d go on to talk about Samoa Joe, who Austin says he’s a big fan of, and how the influx of Joe, Christian and then Kurt Angle made Styles think something special was happening. AJ said at that point, the goal was to be competition for not just WWE, but UFC and every sports entertainment option out there.
When asked if he ever felt like he was “second fiddle” to the next wave of talent they brought in - the Booker T/Kevin Nash/Hulk Hogan/Ric Flair wave - Styles said:
To a degree. Because I knew, uh, that I thought... that I really believe Dixie was more of a fan of who she watched on television rather than they guys that got em to the ballgame.
They wrap on TNA by talking about how painful working a six-sided ring is, and the discussion of how money lead to his exit which is part of the clip embedded above.
If there’s one complaint about this edition of The Stone Cold Podcast, it’s that it’s too short. Trying to cram all the things Austin clearly wants to talk to AJ about into an hour means they move from topic-to-topic just as things are getting good. You want to hear more about TNA, but they need to move on to New Japan.
Still, while no one makes outright disparaging comments about Dixie, none of the ex-TNA wrestlers currently in WWE praise her wrestling mind. And that doesn’t do much for the image of TNA amongst fans as long as she’s the face of ownership.