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Plus, how PUGB has taken over The Phenomenal One’s life.

This Sunday, April 8th, AJ Styles will put his WWE Championship on the line against 2018 Royal Rumble winner Shinsuke Nakamua at the Grandest Stage of Them All, WrestleMania 34.

Despite the mega-card also containing Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar, Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka, and the hotly-anticipated in-ring return of Daniel Bryan, Styles is determined to steal the show with his title match. I spoke to the champ about ‘Mania, why facing Nakamura is his own personal dream match, those injury rumors, life after wrestling, PUBG, and more!

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AJ Styles, on the road to WrestleMania 34.

The Dream of Nakamura

Facing Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleMania has been a personal goal of AJ’s. “I think we’re both unique and just from having been in the ring I know that he and I work well together,” Styles explained. “I can only say that from one experience, where we wrestled a one-on-one match, but I don’t know how to explain it. There’s just a flow to a match, to our match, that I really can’t compare to a lot of people. He’s so unique and unorthodox in his character and we just work so well when get step in that ring.”

“I think there’s always something special about a build,” Styles continued. “The fact that Shinsuke and I haven’t really touched each other these past few months. And that we’ve also never had a one-on-one match in the WWE. So it’s like, these guys are going to be in the ring together and they’re going to have to to go at it. No one’s going to stop it or break it up. The referee is going to either count to three or someone’s going to tap out. It’s going to happen.”

Styles vs. Nakamura, naturally, isn’t the only title match at WrestleMania, but AJ already knows that his bout will have a different feel than Brock vs. Roman. “Those two have been grabbing chairs and just blasting each other back and forth. It’s been non-stop contact this whole time. Shinsuke and I haven’t touched. It’s different already. And that’s a good thing. You want things to be different and for there to be variety at WrestleMania.”

About Those Injury Rumors…

Fans have been in a panic ever since a ref through up the “X” sign at a live event a few weeks back. Since then, fears about an actual injury preventing Styles from making it to ‘Mania have been taking hold. “I would say that I’m not injured,” Styles revealed. “Injuries are stuff that you can’t work through. Everybody works through pain, and I can definitely do that. I’m going to be at the top of my game when it comes to WrestleMania. I’ve been doing live events and what not and it’s not one of those things that’s hindering me whatsoever. So I’m good to go.”

Daniel Bryan and Life After Wrestling

Now that Daniel Bryan’s been cleared to wrestle in WWE again, and Styles vs. Bryan is an absolute possibility, how does AJ feel about this all-new dream match up? “There are a few things that I’m selfish about and selfishly I’ve been wanting to wrestle Daniel Bryan in WWE for a long time,” he said. “When he got hurt, I just figured it wouldn’t be a possibility. But now that he’s back, my mind is racing and I can’t wait to meet him in the ring. I’m so happy he’s back and able to live out his dreams and follow his passion.”

Like Bryan, all Styles has ever known is wrestling. If his career came to an end, what would he be if he wasn’t a wrestler? “Wow, that’s a good question and I wish I had a clear answer for you,” he admitted. “I would find a way to support my family, for sure, and make sure they have everything they need and…sometimes there’ve been times I’ve talked about maybe being a cop or something like that. I’m not sure, but that’s the first thing I think of. A police officer, and then maybe working my way into S.W.A.T. and then bigger and better things.”

“After Daniel Bryan made his retirement speech on TV, I went back after my match to talk to him and to express my condolences and how bad I felt for him,” Styles added. “It was heartbreaking. I think at this point, thankfully, if my wrestling career came to an end I’d like to think I’d have the opportunity to work in WWE. It’s definitely a place I’d love to work.”

Old School Heroes

Thinking back to what first got him into wrestling, what first made him a fan, Styles’ mind turned to Animal and Hawk – the Road Warriors. “I really enjoyed that team,” he said. “Every now and then, the old antenna on the TV would pick up TBS and we’d get the opportunity to watch a little bit of the Road Warriors. I just liked how crazy they were and how they beat the crap out of everyone. It wasn’t just one match, that I can think of, but I relished any opportunity to see those guys. The next thing that would happen after seeing them would be me and my brother beating the hell out of our stuffed animals. That’s what went down after seeing them wrestle.”

Of course, Styles would go on to have a very different wrestling style from Animal and Hawk. “You know, you find out what you’re capable of doing,” he continued. “At the time, I could do these crazy flips so that’s why I was thrown into the ring so quickly. But you find out that there’s so much more to what we do in the ring that just flipping. It’s all about the little things that make it great. At this point in my career, that’s what I’m trying to instill in the other guys. Everyone can do those things and so it becomes less of a big deal. It’s about the flow of the match and all the little things that make it stand out the most.”

Time to Play the Gaaammmes…

With The Rock starring in a Rampage movie, Styles has some thoughts on what other video games might be ready for a movie adaptation. “I think Tekken’s put out a movie before, kind of with a game that came out, but I’ve always liked the characters and the story from Tekken,” he said. “It’s probably one of my favorite fighting games. So to see a Tekken movie that’s well done and with good characters, I think that’d be exciting to see. We had Street Fighter, of course, but it was terrible. So to see one of Tekken would be cool.

“Even all the shooting games that have come out, like PUBG and Fortnite, you could do some cool movies based on those. So there’s a lot of things that could be turned into movies. I certainly didn’t expect Rampage. I think older games might even be easier to adapt because people don’t even know they’re games. Kids today won’t know about something like Rampage. It’s like when kids watch Wreck-It Ralph, do they know who Q*bert is? But it was cool for us adults to see it.”

As for what Styles is currently playing…”Dude, this freaking PUBG is killing me. My wife is threatening to divorce me. And on top of that, my two older boys are into Fornite, so they’re getting in trouble. And I can’t get on them because I know what they’re going through. They’re playing Fornite, they’re yelling, it’s madness. They have Fornite and I have PUBG.”

“Fornite is doing better than PUBG, I think, but PUBG is more realistic and I like that. I really do. I think that PUBG is a little bit harder to win. There’re so many times where you don’t know who’s shooting at you and you can’t just jump in a house, or even build a house, so you have to find out where they are. There’s strategy to it. It reminds me of SOCOM, from back in the day.”

Matt Fowler is a writer for IGN and a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA). Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler and Facebook at Facebook.com/MattBFowler.





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