|AJ Styles (photo courtesy of Impact Wrestling)|
By Blake Garris & Ben Morse
For the past 12 months, Impact Wrestling’s favorite son, AJ Styles, has fought and clawed his way back to the top. After enduring major professional and personal setbacks, “The Phenomenal One” took some time away from the spotlight and came back with a renewed killer instinct; now, this Sunday at the Bound for Glory event, he will seek to become Word Champion once more by toppling Bully Ray.
Given the challenges he’s faced, it’s not entirely surprising that Styles came to empathize with Marvel’s ruthless vigilante, Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, at times during his trials. We spoke with him about this connection, his plans for BFG and even his accent.
Marvel.com: It’s been quite a year for you and now you’re back at “Bound for Glory going for the World title. What have been some of the peaks and valleys?
AJ Styles: Well, definitely, I think most of the year’s been a valley for AJ Styles with all the losing matches, keeping out of the World title picture for a while, being accused of [am affair with] some chick that I was trying to help, you know. It goes on and on. A peak was winning the Bound for Glory series and going to wrestle for the World Heavyweight title and I think doing that at the very last second, the last opportunity, I would definitely say that’s the peak of the year for me.
Marvel.com: What are you looking forward to the most out of Bound for Glory, in terms of the match, the show, and even the weekend itself?
|AJ Styles (photo courtesy of Impact Wrestling)|
AJ Styles: I think the whole weekend is pretty awesome. You get to go meet the fans, Kurt Angle being inducted into the TNA Hall of Fame, which is great. It’s San Diego, it’s beautiful. If you’re going to be spending a couple of days [somewhere], it might as well be in San Diego. But Bound for Glory being the biggest pay-per-view of the year and being in the main event—it’s been a while for me, not even being in the main event. So it’s going to be something special and I’m looking forward to it.
Marvel.com: You’ve faced Bully Ray before so what are you on the lookout for this time around?
AJ Styles: Well, I don’t think he’s got any tricks up his sleeves. I mean, he’s World Heavyweight Champion for a reason. He may try to go for his little chain or whatever it is. I’m not too worried about that. I’m not too worried about Aces & Eights because there’s only two left of that whole gang. I don’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of surprises. He’s one of the toughest guys in the business. But, when all is said and done, I think I’ll be the next World Heavyweight Champion.
Marvel.com: How does the out of the ring situation with Dixie Carter affect your mindset going in to the match?
AJ Styles: I’d be lying if she wasn’t in my head a little bit. The fact of the matter is if AJ Styles doesn’t win the World Heavyweight title then I don’t have a job. So it’s all on the line for me. It’s all or nothing. It’s kind of a big deal; it’s make or break, and Dixie’s a big part of that.
Marvel.com: What do you plan to deliver for fans this Sunday?
AJ Styles: I’m going to leave it all in the ring. Or outside the ring, wherever it may be. I’m not going to hold anything back. It’s Bound for Glory, biggest pay-per-view of the year so I’m going to go all out, give them everything I’ve got and make them all appreciate the money they paid to come see this [show].
Marvel.com: You came and visited the Marvel offices earlier this year. Do you remember any highlights walking through here?
AJ Styles: I do have a picture of the Hulk in the office. My kids think that’s pretty cool. But the whole mural, or painting, of all the Marvel comic book characters, I think that was really cool.
Marvel.com: Have you kept up with any of the comics?
AJ Styles: I haven’t been able to keep up like I’d like but I got into the Punisher. Because I could see from what AJ Styles and what he went through was kind of like the Punisher, based on how he felt. But a lot of stuff I didn’t know and it kind of brought me up to speed a little bit.
[The Punisher has] been through it all and went through some rough stuff. It’s not about just winning out; it’s about punishing people along the way. The Punisher, even the way he looks, fit the bill with AJ Styles.
Marvel.com: I wanted to ask to, because we both have southern accents, we’re both from the south. Do you ever get sick of the Gambit and Rogue, the cliché accents?
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Blake Garris, who conducted this interview is from South Carolina, while AJ is from Georgia]
AJ Styles: [I recorded an episode of Marvel Super Heroes: What The--?!] and then I even hammed it up a little bit on the southern accent. I don’t know. I kinda like it. The funny thing is that people that don’t know think that this accent of ours is supposed to be from [people] who aren’t very intelligent, which we know is not true, but most people overseas love our accents. So I’m not feeling too bad about that.
Marvel.com: So you’re saying southern accents there are like European accents here?
AJ Styles: Exactly! That’s exactly what I’m saying. I have never heard someone from overseas say, “I hate your accent,” or “You sound stupid.” They always say they love it. They think it’s cute. That’s the difference, the French accent is supposed to be sexy, the southern accent is cute. I can deal with that.
Marvel.com: So you’re telling me I need to move to Europe for the ladies.
AJ Styles: If you’re looking for girls that think you’re cute because of your accent.
Marvel.com: A ton of Impact Wrestling folks are comic book fans. Why is that, do you think?
AJ Styles: Well, I can tell you that there are some guys that are huge comic book fans and I think it relates to pro wrestling and super heroes. You get to play a character that you wish you could be. You can’t fly around but you do fly in the ring, you jump off ropes and do all these crazy flips and stuff like that; they kind of go hand-in-hand because you get to be somebody that you’re not and the world gets to see it.
Marvel.com: My last question is if you had to emulate any Marvel hero this Sunday at Bound for Glory, who would it be and why?
AJ Styles: I think I would have to say the Punisher because he’s going to take a beating but he’s not going to stop. He’s gonna get back up, you can kick him while he’s down, you can beat him down, but you gotta keep him down and that’s not who the Punisher is. When you do let him back up, you have to pay the consequences. You’re going to be punished.
Tune into Impact Wrestling every Thursday night beginning at 9 PM ET on SpikeTV and watch Bound for Glory on pay-per-view this Sunday, October 20! Visit Impact Wrestling’s official web site for more info!