Hardcore Gamer had the chance to spend the week in San Francisco with 2K Games, where we were able to play WWE 2K17 as well as interview the developers, former Raw Women’s Champion, Sasha Banks, and the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, AJ Styles. As the game’s release draws closer, we will be providing more content from the event. First up is out exclusive interview with “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles.
[Hardcore Gamer] When you were in NWA Wildside wrestling Air Paris in two out of three falls matches while Jeff G. Bailey was searching trailer parks, did you ever thing you would be WWE World Heavyweight Champion?
[AJ Styles] Yeah, absolutely! There was a part of me that you couldn’t tell me that I wasn’t gonna be champion.
You were determined and here’s the proof.
I told my wife – my girlfriend at the time, that it would pay off and it certainly has. I’ve been wrestling for 17 years and in 2001, I got hired by WCW and this is how I’ve made my living ever since.
You’ve been one of the best-reviewed wrestlers of all-time in terms of match quality – what did you do before wreslting that gave you this work ethic? Clearly it’s in your blood and at a cellular level, you’re a hard worker.
I love to compete and I’ve done it my whole life. T-Ball – everything I did led up to what I did in wrestling. T-ball, baseball, football, and collegiate wrestling!
Where did you get the athleticism? Because no one was doing Fosbury flops in ’02!
(laughs) I’ve got some Irish blood in me and they’re pretty good athletes – or who knows what’s going on. Being the smallest boy with three brothers, I had to keep up with them. Maybe that’s what pushed me.
You didn’t have the gift that age gave them – so you had to make up for it with moxy.
Didn’t have the size either! I was the runt of the family.
From football to wrestling – there’s been a few! First game was No Mercy.
That was a good one because it had the pancake, and that would just be a modified clash – like you did to Abyss.
Yeah, that’s right!
You couldn’t quite get your legs around that big guy, so you just got him up and put him down.
Yeah! That was the first game I could really make myself in when it came to wrestling games.
The style of it allowed your style to be replicated. Fire Pro Returns did as well and had a very smiliar character to you.
[AJ] BJ Smiles?
Something similar – Aaron Smiles or something. Did you update that for your later moveset? In New Japan, you became a different wrestler and added so many moves like the reverse tombstone and the Bloody Sunday.
It’s all about doing different things. I’m more ground-based not because I can’t fly, but because there were times to do it and times to not. It’s about discipline.
Maybe not flip off the Ultimate X.
More like fell off it! (laughs) There’s some stuff that’ll never happen again.
Probably for the best.
No kidding – my body will appreciate it as I get older.
[I remember seeing that live and thinking “please, never again!”
What match in WWE have you been most proud of?
I hope it’s my next match.
So you want your best match to be your next match.
I want to have a better match every time I’m in the ring. The past doesn’t get me paid – the future does!
Reminds me of an interview Jerry Lynn did saying that when he was ECW Champion, that and a dollar got him a coffee.
There ya go.
How long do you see yourself competing? Is your back all healed up?
Actually, it wasn’t a back thing – it was a butt thing! The gluteus minimus, which pulls on everything was pulling my back and everything. A little DDP Yoga and I’m on my way.
Talk about a guy who has turned his wrestling life and used it to help others – do you have any aspirations to help others after wrestling?
I enjoy putting together matches – maybe it’ll be down at the Performance Center. I definitely want to stay in WWE and I see as many great kids down there.
They’ve got the passion you had years ago where they knew where they wanted to go. I’m not exactly sure of the journey, but I know the destination and I’m gonna get there.
That’s it! I love seeing the passion on peoples’ faces and the excitement of putting together something great.
We had a lot of fun interviewing AJ and it was nice to see how humble he is even as one of WWE’s top champions. He has been a regular part of WWE’s roster since the 2016 Royal Rumble, where he made his full-time debut after a hall of fame-worthy two year run in New Japan Pro Wrestling – the number two pro wrestling company in the world,and a 12 year run in TNA Wrestling/Impact Wrestling, where he stole the show more often than not. AJ makes his WWE game debut, and his first official appearance in a game since 2008’s TNA Impact, in WWE 2K17 on October 11. It will be released across all consoles, giving Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owners a chance to play as him. For more on the game, be sure to read our hands-on preview.