A seasoned veteran of the professional wrestling industry, 'The Phenomenal' AJ Styles is adjusting to life in the WWE and getting ready for his first WrestleMania. He shares some of his thoughts on wrestling's biggest show as the AT&T Stadium mega-event nears...
On finally getting the chance to perform at WrestleMania...
Styles: It's awesome. I can't say enough great things about the experience I've had here in the WWE, and to hopefully get the opportunity to wrestle at WrestleMania is unbelievable because I never thought this would happen. You know, I have the WWE Network, I've watched all these moments, and felt that I may never have it. But now, a couple weeks away, it's a big deal. It really is. I can't put into words how big a deal it is for me. It's a milestone in my career that I never thought I'd get the opportunity to cover.
Have you had any other big career moments in Dallas or is WrestleMania going to take the cake?
Styles: Literally going to take the cake - it's WrestleMania. There's nothing that compares to it. It's the biggest stage that I'll ever be on.
How 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Sting has influenced his career...
Styles: Well he definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. It's been a long time coming. Very proud to call him a friend, and to see him in the Hall of Fame.
If you watch a lot of my stuff you'll know how much impact he's had on my career. I have the clothesline in the corner, but it's really the Stinger Splash. I do the Scorpion Death Drop - you know, I put a back flip into it, but it's still the Scorpion Death Drop. So, he had a lot of influence on my career.
I really liked Sting a lot growing up. I always thought of him as like a superhero wearing the paint. Then, he switched over to this 'dark Sting' which is one of my favorites, the crow Sting, if you will. He was one of my favorites for a long time, and he still is. He's one of my favorite guys in this business.
On his path to choosing a career in pro wrestling...
Styles: As far as I was concerned, I was going to be a pro football player, basketball player, baseball player, something like that. It never really got in my head that I was going to be doing wrestling.
It was kind of just one of those things - me and my little brother, we beat up the stuffed animals just like most boys do, jumping off the dresser giving them elbow drops - I did all that. But it wasn't something where I thought I'm going to be a pro wrestler when I grew up. It just kind of happened, as crazy as that sounds.
When wrestling got so big back in '96, '98 I really started watching a lot, as did everyone. Told a couple guys who were very involved with watching pro wrestling that if they ever found a place to train - because they were looking - that I'd go with them. They found a place about 20 minutes from the house - I went. Lo and behold, 17 years later I'm talking to you.
Was working with Chris Jericho always the plan as you came into WWE?
Styles: Don't know. Wasn't really sure how it was going to work out - I knew nothing. I just wanted to come in, and have great matches and put on a great show. They never said who exactly I'd be working with. So, it was a pleasant surprise to know that I'd be working with Jericho.
If you had a choice, who else on the roster are you looking forward to work with?
Styles: I want that whole roster. I want to get in there with every one of them, and just have great matches with all of them because it'd be very easy to do. There's different wrestlers from the bigger guys to Kalisto, who's one of the smallest, but at the same time I know it'd be fun to get in there with him, as well. Then again, I want to get in there with the Big Show.
Which 'Mania matches are you looking forward to?
Styles: That's a tough one. You got the ladder match - that'll be crazy. You got Roman Reigns and Triple H, but you've also got Shane McMahon and The Undertaker. I think the reason why I'm so interested in that is I have no idea what might happen. The Undertaker, well...he's The Undertaker. Shane McMahon, a lot of people look past the fact that he's a great athlete. He's not just the promoter's son, Vince McMahon's son, he's an athlete, and from what I've seen here lately, the guy's pretty scary.
Will you get a chance to see the NXT TakeOver in Dallas?
Styles: I hope so. I hope I get the opportunity to drop by, and watch those guys. It's going to be a great event. Shinsuke Nakamura, it'll be his first opportunity to show what he can do, and against Sami Zayn, it'll be a great match - one you don't want to miss.