I watched A.J. Styles’ Raw debut. Boy, he sure sounds Southern. Why did WWE hire a hick like that?
Because Styles is really good, that’s why. And if (very) early returns are any indication, WWE may give Styles something they seldom give a star created elsewhere: A fair shake.
That has little to do with Styles’ ability, which is considerable. Or his reputation, also considerable. Or WWE’s lack of stars, which gets more and more evident.
It’s about money. Specifically, how much WWE is paying Styles.
Styles is a businessman, first and foremost. A mercenary, not a mark. He decided long ago that maximizing income would be most important when it came to his wrestling career. MAKING MONEY, and not necessarily getting a shot at “the big time.”
So, for WWE to sign Styles, they had to be the highest bidder. There was no other way. For Styles to work WWE’s schedule and lose the relative freedom that accompanied working New Japan/ROH/indies, WWE had to pony up.
WWE did. Styles’ downside guarantee is reportedly in excess of $500K, about $100K more than he made in 2015. The locker room is probably thrilled about that.
When you get that kind of dough, you’re an investment. If somebody fresh out of NXT that makes crap doesn’t impress initially, no big deal. Toss him on the scrap heap. Next!
But when you make what Styles makes, you’re much more likely to get a legit opportunity to succeed. WWE wants to justify the investment.
That’s why Styles lasted 28 minutes in the Royal Rumble. That’s why Styles beat Chris Jericho in his first singles match.
When Styles negotiated a lucrative contract, he simultaneously negotiated a push.