Why did AJ Styles leave TNA? The former World Champion left the company under a cloud in 2014, moving to Japan away from the promotion where he made his name.
He was considered “Mr TNA” and many thought he would never leave, even with WWE sniffing around him.
Read below to find out the reasons behind him leaving and just how much TNA offered him to stay, and which other promotion wanted him to join them.
Why Did AJ Styles Leave TNA?
AJ Styles left TNA due to the company offering him a shockingly low salary for his contract extension. The former TNA World Champion was insulted by the offer and would not accept a lower offer after being one of the biggest stars in the company for past 11 years, since the company was first formed.
AJ Styles spoke with WWE announcer Corey Graves on his “After The Bell” podcast and explained why he left TNA;
“When I worked at TNA, the reason why that fell apart is because they wanted me to do the same amount of work but wanted me to take less money.
And I didn’t feel that was right, because I always did everything to the best of my ability. I represented TNA well, and now they’re going to cut me because you made bad mistakes. That’s not how it works. When you work hard, you’re supposed to get rewarded for it.”
In a separate interview with Title Match Wrestling, AJ Styles revealed that his final contract offer from TNA (now known as Impact Wrestling), AJ Styles revealed that Dixie Carter (then TNA President) offered him a 40% pay cut, if not more, despite being the biggest name in the company alongside Kurt Angle and Sting.
He also revealed that as a father, he had to do what was best for his family and taking a pay cut was not in his best interest when he had four children and a wife to support.
“I think that saying 60% is being generous, to be honest with you. That’s kinda crazy when that’s the first offer you know like, ‘wait what! That doesn’t make any sense! I’ve worked here for 11 years and hard for 11 years. I haven’t gotten less popular here in TNA, in fact gotten more popular, especially in the last year, so I don’t know what’s going on.“
I am a family man. That’s my job, and my job is to take care of them. You don’t know how much I made, or how less I made. But if you are going to take a pay cut at your job, I’m gonna take a pay cut at my job. But think about that! Because you’ve got mouths to feed.”
AJ Styles decided against re-signing with TNA after feeling insulted by the offer. He was also contacted by Triple H with the view of him joining NXT.
They had recently signed a number of top independent talent, including El Generico (Sami Zayn) and Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens) and would have made him one of the top stars in the developmental promotion with a view of moving up to the main roster.
However, the offer was similar to the one offered by TNA, so he instead decided to try his luck in Japan by signing for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
He made the right call as he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in his first bout, defeating the legendary Kazuchika Okada at Wrestling Dontaku. This made him the sixth Gaijan (foreign) wrestler to hold the title, and the first since Brock Lesnar.
His incredible run would culminate with a match against Shinsuke Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom 10 which would catch the eye of WWE again.
Both men were immediately snapped up by WWE and signed contracts with the company, with a salary much higher than AJ Styles was offered by TNA.
AJ Styles debuted in WWE at the 2016 Royal Rumble, entering as a surprise appearance at number 3 in the match.
He impressed in the match and quickly gained the respect of Vince McMahon for his fantastic performances in the ring against opponents like Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley), John Cena and Roman Reigns.
He did make a one-time return to TNA, now renamed Impact Wrestling, in 2022 as part of their 20th anniversary celebration.
He appeared on the big screen, sharing a video congratulating the company on making it to 2 decades and recalling some of his fondest moments with the company.
However, it appears the way he left still leaves a bitter taste in his mouth due to the way he was treated by management on his way out.
TNA On Why AJ Styles Left
TNA released a statement after AJ Styles left, disputing why he left the company.
Total Nonstop Action claimed that AJ Styles backed out of an agreed deal, dealing in bad faith and signing a contract with NJPW instead of TNA.
You can read the full statement down below:
AJ Styles has always been synonymous with TNA and TNA synonymous with AJ Styles. AJ helped build the foundation of IMPACT WRESTLING, and his phenomenal body of work lives in our rich history : something we are very proud of.
In the last few weeks, rumors have swirled about AJ Styles, his future and TNA Wrestling. Fans have asked for the status and wrestling media have made numerous inquiries. For the past several months, AJ and TNA were involved in serious discussions to bring him back home to TNA.
Nashville, Tenn., where all attended a meeting at Dixie Carters home. A handshake and written deal between AJ, Drew, Chad and TNA was agreed upon and signed by all. Start dates were determined, creative decided, merchandise designed and plane tickets purchased. Over the Christmas holiday, and after the lawyers finalized the long form agreement, all communication with TNA stopped. AJs lawyer contacted TNA and stated the wrestlers had changed their mind and would not be honoring their commitment to TNA.”
What did you think of AJ Styles leaving TNA? Let us know in the comments or click below to read about why Triple H won’t be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.