AJ Styles was a guest on a recent episode of the online talk show Louder With Crowder. Hosted by former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder, the show bills itself as “Conservative News, Culture, & Politics”.
So no one should be surprised by the program’s political leanings. Nor should we surprised that Styles would agree with many of the host’s takes on the issues of the day - AJ hasn’t been as vocal about his beliefs since joining WWE, but they’re widely acknowledged and the subject of a few running jokes in wrestling.
Nonetheless, the interview has become a topic among fans on the web today. One question being raised is, did WWE approve of this interview? It’s honestly fairly benign; if you fall on the left side of the global debate or don’t think “social justice” is a bad thing, you probably won’t love what Styles has to say, but there’s nothing overly inflammatory in his talk with Crowder. But there are things about the broadcast Stephanie McMahon would probably prefer not be associated with her brand, such as:
Just started watching this AJ Styles interview on Louder with Crowder. These are the shirts being sold moments before the interview begins. pic.twitter.com/mLbEF6sARD— Ryan Satin (@ryansatin) January 22, 2019
After discussing the controversial Gillette “Best Men Can Be” commercial (for what a talented pro wrestler thinks about an ad for razors, head to this Twitter thread from David Bixenspan, which contains the clips with the following quotes), Styles and Crowder hit on a topic which is relevant to WWE fans - how the company navigates creating product for their deeply divided fanbase...
Crowder: Professional wrestling seems ironically like one of the few industries where kind of the social justice left hasn’t really gotten a foothold. It seems immune to it - why do you think that is?
Styles: You know, I don’t know that that’s as true as you might think. There are some things that we cannot and will not say on the microphone - you don’t want them to come after you... I think that’s because, it’s not a lot of those kind of people watching our show. You’ve got guys - and girls - fighting in a ring. So usually if they’re, maybe PC Culture, they’re probably not watching it as much...
Here’s another thing. We’ve got one guy who’s in charge of everything. Everything. So that helps with a lot of things that may be a problem. It’s just yes or no. And it’s done by one guy and it’s easy to handle.
Crowder: And you’re saying that - I think you’re alluding to maybe Vince McMahon isn’t necessarily the kind of guy who’s getting really keen on the Gillette commercial...
Styles: I think he’s aware about the culture, the PC culture and stuff like that, so we just kind of stay in the middle. We don’t go too far left or right, we just kind of keep it down the middle and, we’re an entertainment show. That’s what we do. We want to get fans. All fans. Not just one type of group or whatever. We want everyone to be able to watch and enjoy.
Crowder: So there won’t be any “check your privilege walk” [swings arms to imitate Mr. McMahon’s signature strut] coming down the pike any time soon, is what you’re telling me?
Styles: I don’t think so. I don’t think so.
Bixenspan notes that most of the interview isn’t political. Even here, AJ manages to mostly discuss his own approach to things (he stays off Twitter for the most part because “you gotta watch out with everything you say, and I just don’t wanna deal with that, you know?” - which isn’t a bad idea regardless of where you fall on the ideological spectrum) even when Crowder tries to lead him into making a more controversial statement on behalf of WWE or the wrestling business.
Personally, I probably don’t agree with Styles on many of the topics Crowder covers on a regular basis (and I certainly won’t be watching more Louder With Crowder unless my job requires it). As such, I bristle at being called “them” or “those kind of people”, but there’s nothing here I felt was worth getting particularly upset about. There are plenty of things in the world which deserve my anger - a conservative wrestler being conservative isn’t one of them.
Overall, one of my takeaways from the interview is the example AJ and others with strong conservative - or liberal - convictions on wrestling rosters set for how to not only get along, but form strong bonds with one another in work settings. Not that it’s unique to that business, but it’s still worth reminding ourselves of how to do it. Don’t man the barricades in every argument. Focus on things you have in common, like the love of pro wrestling, or video games (the WWE locker room should do a PSA on the value of in-person gaming as a community-building tool for people from different lifestyles & viewpoints).
Or, you know, you can get mad online because a former WWE champ doesn’t like a major corporation telling him how to be a man.
It’s your call.