When TNA Wrestling superstar “The Phenomenal” A.J. Styles was growing up, his idols were athletes who were big stars but were smaller in stature: Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders and Atlanta Hawks guard Spud Webb.
“I always looked up to guys who were underdogs,” Styles said. “They might not be the biggest guys, but they could stand in there with the rest of them.”
What did he admire about them? “They were guys you can’t ignore, they are smaller but you can’t ignore their ability.”
The same can be said for Styles, who is TNA’s only “Grand Slam Champion,” having held the promotion’s tag-team, television, X Division and World Championship belts; he currently is the TV title belt holder. Styles is not the biggest guy in the ring, standing at a shade under 6 feet tall, but he is arguably the biggest star to many longtime TNA fans.
Local fans will get a chance to see Styles in action Thursday when “TNA Live” comes to the Mathewson Exhibition Center at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia. Other TNA wrestlers scheduled to perform in Sedalia include D’Angelo Dinero, Jeff Jarrett, the Motorcity Machine Guns (Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley), Knockouts champion Madison Rayne and Velvet Sky.
The Sedalia show is one of about 100 live events TNA puts on each year. Styles was in Grand Rapids, Mich., preparing for a live event Thursday when he called The Democrat to talk about his career and the company he helped build.
Styles has been with TNA Wrestling since it started in 2002, but he started his career in 1999.
“It was not something I was pursuing,” he said. “I went to help (some friends) find a place to train. It was close to where we lived,” so he started going along. When he took his first bump, or fall in the ring, he was hooked, and he has been going strong ever since.
His current schedule: TV tapings in Florida on Monday and Tuesday, home Wednesday, then back on the road for live events Thursday through Saturday or Sunday. As the father of three boys, it takes a toll.
“Thank God for Skype,” he said of the software that allows phone calls over the Internet.
Indeed, Styles said the hardest thing about road life is “being away from my family.” He’ll be on the phone with his boys and they will start in with, “Dad, when are you coming home?”
“They want you to be there, and (the separation) takes a toll on them,” he said.
But if not for wrestling, he has no idea what he would be doing. “Who knows where I would have ended up? Thank God I have a wife (Wendy) who is a lot smarter than I am.”
That said, Styles finds a lot of positives in all of that traveling. He gets to go all over the world, doing what he loves to do: perform in the ring and interact with fans.
“I get to go places where some people never get to go, experience different things and hang out with good people,” he said. “These guys I am with (on the road) are my best friends.”
TNA shows are known as being fan-friendly events. Company founder Jarrett earlier said that from the time a ticketholder walks in the door, he or she is catered to by every TNA employee on-site. Merchandise pitchman Don West offers special package deals on T-shirts and DVDs all night, while a couple of TNA wrestlers provide autographs before the event. During intermission, one of the Knockouts, TNA’s female wrestlers, does an autograph session. Then after the show, there is an autograph party and, for a fee, fans can have their photo taken in the ring with one of the wrestlers.
When people come into the company, it is made clear that they must interact with the fans. And Styles said that is not a problem.
“They’ve gotta know that (the fans) are the people who make sure you get paid. It’s not a big secret — we gotta take care of them.”
“It’s fun,” Styles said of the live events. “If you have been to a (TNA) show, you know we have some of the best fans. Especially being the bad guy, if they are not yelling at me, I’m not doing my job. I like to be in the middle of the chaos.”
So what can fans expect from The Phenomenal One on Thursday at the Mathewson center?
“The same thing you always get with A.J. Styles, you’ll get your money’s worth,” Styles said. “Whether I’m the bad guy or the good guy, I’ll make sure you are entertained.”
Profile: A.J. Styles
Hometown: Gainesville, Ga.
Favorite food on the road: Pizza. “It’s not the healthiest thing, but I love it.”
Favorite city to perform in: “The one that has the craziest fans. It’s hard to pick just one.”
Favorite musician: Tripp Lee
Favorite TV show: Football — college, NFL. “If they are throwing the pigskin around, I’ll watch”
Wrestlers he most enjoys facing in the ring: Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe, Kazarian
Win tickets to ‘TNA Live!’
Want to see “TNA Live!” up close? The Sedalia Democrat and TNA Wrestling are providing tickets for Thursday’s event at the Mathewson Exhibition Center in Sedalia. Answer a couple of TNA trivia questions and you will be eligible for a drawing for two pairs of tickets or a family pack of four tickets. Not sure about the answers? Surf around on tnawrestling.com and you can find all you need to know and more.
Entries can be submitted via e-mail to email@example.com or dropped off at The Democrat office at 700 S. Massachusetts Ave. in Sedalia. Be certain to include your name, city of residence and a daytime telephone number with your entry.
Deadline for entries is noon Tuesday, and winners will be notified by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Winners will be required to pick up their tickets by noon Thursday at The Democrat office.
Readers may enter all three drawings; winner of the family pack will be drawn first, then the winners of the separate pairs will be drawn. Once you have won, you will be ineligible for the other drawings. Only one winner per household.
Fortune Four Pack
1. Who is the current TNA World
2. What night can “iMPACT” be seen on Spike TV?
Tag Team Pair
1. Which longtime wrestler is the founder of TNA?
2. The tattooed tag team of Jesse Neal and Shannon Moore are known by what name?
1. Which three female wrestlers make up The Beautiful People?
2. Who is the current X Division champion?