Plus, what were AJ’s favorite games of 2017?
In less than three weeks, WWE Champion AJ Styles will head into the Royal Rumble PPV – on January 28th in Philadelphia – to defend his title in a 2-on-1 Handicap Match against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
In anticipation of the event, Boom! Studios has released its WWE Royal Rumble Special 2018, featuring a story co-written by Styles, with Headlocked Comics’ Michael Kingston, spotlighting The Phenomenal One’s surprise WWE debut, two years back, at the Royal Rumble.
I spoke to Styles about writing his first-ever comic book story and, more specifically, his thoughts on Finn Balor’s official “Balor Club” reunion with Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows on RAW. A big part of Styles’ story in the Royal Rumble Special involves him contacting Anderson and Gallows for his famous targeted run at John Cena. “It is what it is, I guess, as far as the way things are supposed to happen,” Styles shared. “Even though I had my own reunion with them shortly after I arrived, and its in the story, I’m not even with those guys right now. They’re on RAW and I’m on SmackDown and I’m kind of doing my own thing by myself. But those three guys being together is something special because, truth be told, those were the three guys who were originally together.”
“If I could look into the future or try to predict things,” Styles offered, “I’d like to think that maybe we can all be together doing something. At some point. But you never know where things are going to lead, but right now I’m very interested in what I’m seeing.”
Another thing brought up in the Boom! Comics story is how some felt like AJ was a “rookie” – the “Redneck Rookie” being the actual moniker used. “I was like ‘Uh, I’ve been doing this for 16 years.'” Styles said. “I’m not a rookie and I’m not even the age a rookie would be coming into anything. So yeah, I kind of tried to squash that as quickly as I could.”
Thinking back though, to that moment when he appeared as an entrant in the Rumble match itself, Styles didn’t know what to expect. “I don’t think anybody, including myself, could have envisioned things turning out like this for me,” he said. “Or envisioned what was going to happen. Just walking through that curtain and having people going nuts the way they did was great on its own. And now to enjoy two more big Royal Rumble pay-per-views after that, as champion, is just really exciting.”
Taking his first stab at writing a comic book story, Styles took solace in the fact that A: He was writing about himself and that “Nobody knows me better than me, obviously,” and B: He was collaborating with Michael Kingston. “For those who haven’t had a chance to look at his work, the Headlocked comic series he does is great. It’s just tremendous stuff, the way he puts everything together. The pictures and stories are just amazing. If you’re going to get advice and work alongside someone on something like this, there’s no one better.”
From comics to games, it’s well known that Styles is a huge gamer, though admittedly an old school-style fan. “Sometimes making a game simpler can make it a lot better,” Styles said of Call of Duty: WWII. “To me, it’s more fun. It’s basic. You don’t have to run on walls to shoot someone. It’s based on guns and what you have to piece together to make your best weapon and I like that.”
“And then also I’m playing Forza 7 on my Xbox One X – with also my QLED Samsung television. I am getting everything I possibly can out of the Xbox with that, man. It was made for that. I actually really enjoy the little things Forza offers, with the costumes and details and stuff like that. My feeling is that I want to get all the cars and then all the suits that you need but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get everything.
Normally not a completionist, Styles says that Forza might change his mind. “I enjoy the game so much that it makes me want to see how much I can do on it,” he explained. “How much I can get done before the next one comes out. And Call of Duty, they did it the same way. It’s not all golden guns. Now you can these crates that have different kinds of those guns within them. It made it really interesting for me to keep going and keep playing, not just to get kills but to see what all I can get in the game.”
“Because I am not an open world guy. Small sandbox? Okay. Huge open worlds? Forget it. I have no interest in that whatsoever. I want to know where to go and when to go there. I guess I’m just old school like that. I heard how great Far Cry was but I didn’t want to kill any more animals just to improve my skills and guns. So I lost interest in that game. But I am excited about the sequel to Cuphead that’s supposedly coming in the future. As far as 2017 is concerned, Cuphead was the best game.”