I’ll go out on a limb here and start off by stating that AJ Styles is the best free agent the WWE has signed within the past decade. Now before any of you hardcore CM Punk or Daniel Bryan fans harp on me, allow me to explain. All other free agents the WWE has signed from the indies within the past decade had to go through an extensive amount of repackaging. By the time Punk or Bryan hit their stride in the WWE, they were different from what they originally debuted as. At the same, their changes weren’t overly drastic. The WWE just felt like they needed some more seasoning.
AJ Styles on the other hand has transitioned more seamlessly than any other competitor I can think of. While he was a heel throughout his last run in NJPW, he really isn’t that different. Heck, he’s still pretty close to his Bullet Club brethren. The only difference is that he now chooses to win on a more respectable note. With his character he’s gotten over tremendously with the WWE fan base, and has been dynamite in both of his feuds.
So what makes AJ the best free agent that the company has signed within the past decade? It’s the fact that within four months he’s already proven that he belongs in the main event, and nowhere else. Also, there’s been no other free agent that can emulate the “big match” aura Styles has delivered. However, if I’m forgetting someone, please do remind me. One can say that he was thrusted into the main event scene due to all the injuries, and I can agree with that, but it’s not the only reason. They could have easily resorted to pushing someone else into the main event with Roman. Someone they consider more reliable and known to the crowd. Names such as Jericho, Sheamus, Triple H, Del Rio, Ambrose, Wyatt, or even Owens could have all made a claim for that spot. Instead the company chose to go with a different option in Styles. I believe that deep down they knew he was the best choice. The timing was definitely perfect for him, but his unquestionable talent probably played more of a role.
Getting Anderson and Gallows involved in this feud has actually benefited Styles. Of course they could have been lazy with his character, and turned him heel, but they didn’t. Instead he’s playing off his two friends very well. His good morals allow for them to gain heat, and that in return makes it easier for him to be cheered by anybody in the audience. However, that can’t just be done with anybody. Styles himself is brilliant at playing a convincing babyface that wants to do the right thing.
Obviously, a lot of this has to do with his popularity amongst the wrestling community, and maybe some other communities. Nobody within the past decade has had as big of name as AJ before entering the WWE. Styles spent so much time in TNA, that if you live in North America and follow wrestling, you should recognize the him. However, in this day and age, the WWE has done masterful job at making it seem like other companies don’t exist. I’m sure there’s many fans out there that have been affected by that, and might not have any clue on who AJ was upon his debut. Believe it or not, I actually had other fans (mainly WWE casuals) ask me whether Styles could cut it in the “big leagues”. He’s had to work hard within the past few months to get rid of that “well he’s not in the WWE, so he can’t be that good” stigma. I don’t blame fans for thinking that, because that’s how they’ve been conditioned to think. So to win over most of the casual audience in a short period of time is nothing less than spectacular.
I’m just going off what we’ve been given since AJ Styles’ debut. For all we know, he could be feuding with R-Truth by Survivor Series (a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point). Many times us fans like to criticize the WWE for botching debuts, returns, and overall character development. So far, it looks like they’ve knocked the ball out of the park with AJ.