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, he 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.
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