AJ Styles and Bobby Roode are two veterans who went through a pretty smooth transition into WWE. After spending decades honing their skills around the world and making names for themselves, they each took full advantage of their respective opportunities on the grand stage.
Styles’ journey began straight into the main roster where the current United States champion made an impactful debut in the Royal Rumble. Now into his second year with the company, the 40-year-old has fully embraced his surroundings.
“I’ve become more comfortable,” Styles said, shortly after a Make-A-Wish Foundation event in New York City. “This is my home. As before, I was the new guy. Although I’ve been in the business for a long time, when you come to somebody else’s house, it’s a different story. Now to be part of this family, it means everything to me.
“I think maturity has a lot to do with that. As you get older, you mature. Even though guys and girls are adults when they finally get here, they are still a maturity that has to go on and an understanding of how this business works. That way you can be a better part of the team to put your best foot forward and make the team better and not just focus on yourself. If the team plays well, then everyone does well. That’s what I want because this place is like a family, and I want everybody to do well.”
Roode arrived on the scene via NXT, WWE’s developmental brand. Much like Styles, the 40-year-old came in with a solid body of work and reputation, but knew he had to prove himself all over again. He had an open mind.
“Everyone at the Performance Center from Matt Bloom and his coaching staff down there, it has been incredible with how hands-on they all are,” Roode said while on the red carpet for the WWE2K18 Kickoff event during SummerSlam weekend.
“Triple H himself has been very hands-on. I had the opportunity over the last several months to sit down and be mentored by Shawn Michaels himself. So, it has been a really cool experience. Even though I’ve been in this business for almost two decades, this last year has been really gratifying. I’ve got to learn a lot and continue to learn. That’s one of the best things about being in this business is you never stop learning.”
It didn’t take long for Styles and Roode to live up to the hype. The “Phenomenal One” raised the bar in every match against the likes of John Cena, Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens. The Georgia native enjoys the pressure that comes along with working on top.
“You put a pressure on enough coal and you will make a diamond,” he said. “There is a motivation to always do better, and that’s a good thing.”
Styles is happy with the landscape of WWE at the moment with many of his friends getting the spotlight. He knows how hard they have worked to get to WWE.
“Samoa Joe is one of my best friends, so to see him in the ring with Brock [Lesnar] and doing that stuff, it was pretty awesome to see that,” he said. “Any time I see Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows doing their thing, I’m always excited for them. Then seeing others like a Bobby Roode, Bobby Fish, guys that. I like seeing them in that position and doing well.”
Roode has emerged one of the most popular performers in NXT and WWE as whole. The former NXT champion brings fans to their feet right when his entrance music hits. The “Glorious” theme song has taken on a life of its own. Instead of the traditional wedding walk down the aisle, one groom even made his Roode-inspired.
“Not just weddings but sporting events,” he said. “The Nashville Predators used the song for their playoff run last year. There have been some basketball teams as well. It’s cool. I was blessed to get that song and spend the last year-and-a-half with it. I will continue to have fun with the gloriousness of that song and look to social media for more videos of people using it.”
Fans at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn erupted on SmackDown Live when Roode arrived. The “Glorious One” is now able to reach a bigger audience and the potential for greater fame. No matter what else he accomplishes moving forward, Roode will always remember his run as NXT champion.
“It is probably the most special thing to happen to me,” he said. “Being able to headline TakeOver events, especially during WrestleMania weekend with [Shinsuke] Nakamura into SummerSlam weekend. It has become a huge time for NXT…
“I really don’t go out of my way to take anybody under my wing, but people do come to me for advice and certain things like that, which is really cool. It has been this gratifying experience. To be looked upon as a locker room leader and someone who can be counted on is nice.”
Within his inaugural year in WWE, Styles was headlining pay-per-views and winning the WWE championship. He has done more in a short span many others won’t do their entire careers. It’s not all lost on the humble superstar. At the same time, the driven performer isn’t one to rest on his laurels.
“There is the obvious milestone of main eventing WrestleMania,” Styles on what he still wants to accomplish. In the past, I have set things almost out of reach. That way if I reach that goal, then what an amazing trip that was. Then if I don’t, it was kind of out of my reach anyway. So, there are things like that I work to and look forward to. I always prepare for the next big thing.”
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