A.J. Styles is known as the phenomenal one in the ring, and he's expanding that influence to the realm of comics.
Styles is part of BOOM! Studios' new Royal Rumble Special, a celebration of one of WWE's biggest events. Styles took some time to talk with ComicBook.com about his writing debut, where he revealed he didn't have access to comics early on as much as he'd like. That said, his first story is all about his big WWE debut, a moment he sought to recreate alongside
"Well, comic books are comic books so they're a little different than how things actually happened, but as far as the Royal Rumble and me making my debut, there was nothing like it ever in my career," Styles said. "The eruption of the crowd and me being just blown away by that. Man, it's a moment in time that I will never forget and probably one of the biggest moments of my career."
In the story Styles runs into the WWE marketing team, who tries to stick him with the name Redneck Rookie. Styles admits the first part of that might have some truth, but the second isn't even close.
"Well, it was always A.J. Styles because of the problem of having a large tattoo on my side that says A.J. on that," Styles said. "I don't think we'd be able to hide that, but there was a point I think where they were calling me a rookie, to some degree. I'm like I don't know if you can really call me a rookie. I haven't been here in the WWE, but I don't think you can call me a rookie. Redneck, absolutely. There's no way I could hide that. That's exactly who I am, but as far as the rookie thing, that was the only thing that was not ever going to stick."
That mentality of "it didn't happen unless it happened in WWE" comes up a few times in the story, especially in a confrontation with John Cena. Styles understands how that can happen, even with someone that holds his resume.
"Well, the thing is, is when you're stuck in a bubble, you're stuck in a bubble," Styles said. "You don't really notice too much going outside of it. There's so much going in the WWE. A guy came up to me and says, "Man, I have no idea what you've done outside of here." I totally understand because when I was in Japan I was in that bubble. When I was somewhere else I was in that bubble and it's hard to focus on someone else or what's going on somewhere else because you're so consumed with what's going on around you. I would get that."
That bubble theory can also pertain to signature moves.
"Truth of the matter is, I've seen a lot of moves done outside of the WWE and then someone does them in the WWE and now automatically they invented it," Styles said. "That was the move that they came ... I've seen it. The joke has always been, if you do it on TV first you're the one invented it. Michelle McCool apparently, or Crash Harley, I've seen him doing the Styles Clash so was it their move? But then again, if you didn't watch WCW in 2001 then you didn't see me do the Styles Clash then, so I'm just throwing that out there."
Even a story that you're are innately familiar with can be difficult to flesh out into a full narrative, and adapting his debut had its set of challenges.
"It's blurring that what's real and what isn't," Styles said. "What really happened? Also, making it very entertaining at the same time. That was hard for me because how do you come up with a story. I mean there are stories that are presented to me and I'm able to act those out or do whatever I need to do with those to make it entertaining but to write it down, that's difficult for me. When it comes to punctuations and whatever, and how
Styles tackled the story alongside Michael Kingston, and when we asked him who else he would be interested in writing a story on he seemed to already have a person in mind.
"Wow, that's interesting," Styles said. "I think that the easiest one for me would be somebody like Kalisto, or Sin Cara, someone who has a mask. How did they get to that point where they started wearing the mask and what it represents. I could tell that story of who they are and why they are this WWE superstar. I think for me, that might be the easiest thing to write because their story's already built in with the mask."
WWE Royal Rumble 2018 Special #1 is written by Lan Pitts, Ryan Ferrier, Kevin Panetta, AJ Styles, and Michael Kingston. Art is provided by Rodrigo Lorenzo, Doug Garbark, Dominike Stanton, Kendall Goode, and Daniel Bayliss. The cover is provided by Xermanico, and you can find the official description below:
"Every January, Royal Rumble takes the world by storm in a battle royale free-for-all in one of the most celebrated annual events. Featuring 'The Debut of AJ Styles,' written by WWE Superstar AJ Styles and Michael Kingston (Headlocked)! From Ric Flair winning his first rumble to Shawn Michaels going the distance after teetering on the edge, we're packing this special with the greatest hits throughout Royal Rumble history. Featuring an all-new story from WWE Superstar 'The Phenomenal' AJ Styles!"
WWE Royal Rumble 2018 Special #1 is in comic stores now.