“The Phenomenal” A.J. Styles debuted in WWE less than nine months ago, and is already in his first reign as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. A.J.’s success has brought him countless fans throughout the WWE Universe, and it should come as no surprise that a wrestler with this kind of magnetic talent has managed to make a few friends in the business. A.J. has only wrestled for WWE a few months now, but he has been a top star of the independent scene in America for the past few decades, along with stints at the top of Total Nonstop Action and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Styles is a veritable international superstar, and indeed he’s made his fair deal of companions all around the globe.
With a career spanning nearly two decades, although A.J. has already started making new friends in WWE, the majority of this list is going to focus on the people he knew while the A.J. Styles name was growing into the international smash that it is today. Many of these superstars teamed, feuded, or otherwise regularly interacted with Styles in the ring, although a few of them have only tenuously been connected to the so-called Face That Runs the Place. Of course, as A.J.’s profile has grown over the years, his friends were probably all begging that they would be picked to be in the ring with him, and he’s no doubt gone out of his way to make sure they’ve gotten the honor at least once or twice. Keep reading for some insight on who might join the so-called camp of the champ with this list of 15 pro wrestlers you had no idea were close friends with A.J. Styles.
15. Xavier Woods
Everyone on this list has something in common with Styles in that they work in the wrestling business. However, the mere fact that these people work together, or at least did at one point, isn’t quite enough to create lasting friendships. Add more shared interests to the list, however, and deeper connections may be found. One thing Styles loves to do during his free time is play video games, and therefore he has found a natural close friendship in the host of UpUpDownDown, Xavier Woods. Styles and Woods have both been gamers and pals for as long as we’re aware, with Styles appearing on UpUpDownDown alongside Woods and Bayley in April of 2016. The two actually began their friendship as many as eight years prior to that episode, however, back when Woods was known as Consequences Creed. Creed and Styles even teamed together as members of the TNA Front Line, although Woods wasn’t quite the same level of star as his friend. More recently, Woods wrestled a rare solo match against Styles on SmackDown Live, with many assuming that the bout was A.J.’s idea to give his friend the rub of working with a rising star.
14. Seth Rollins
A.J. didn’t take the normal path to becoming a WWE superstar, considering he made quite the name for himself around the world before ever signing a contract with Vince McMahon. During his long road to the top, he interacted with plenty of future top WWE talent, and on only one special occasion, that included The Architect, Seth Rollins. Rollins himself has fondly remembered the match ever since, referring to A.J. as one of his idols, and saying that he couldn’t wait for the two of them to lock up in the ring again. The idea of Rollins and Styles doing battle once more doesn’t seem like something that could happen in the immediate future, but they have taken their friendship in a different direction at live WWE events. Rollins joined A.J. and other members of The Club during a dark match after the June 20, 2016 Raw taping while wearing Styles’ vest, and even busted out a few of his signature moves throughout the match. The idea of a continued team between the two, or another match, is a far off possibility at best, considering the two are currently on different rosters. Given their friendship, however, it could only be a matter of time before they ask WWE to let them lock up once again.
13. Luke Gallows
The career of Luke Gallows has been one filled with ups and downs, generally based on the caliber of talent he’s been paired with on screen. Now that Gallows is friends with A.J. Styles, not to mention the other members of The Club, the man once known as Festus is performing on a level higher than what many probably even imagined was possible of him when he first walked into a WWE ring. Gallows was forced to tag with the much less talented Jesse back when he debuted, and although a stint with CM Punk in the Straight Edge Society was nothing to scoff at, there’s no denying Gallows achieved his greatest success as an ally of the Phenomenal One. The era of The Club wasn’t destined to last forever, though, as the group’s era as a trio came to an end when A.J. was drafted to SmackDown, and the others have since become members of the Raw brand. Gallows admitted the initial split came as a total shock to all three, and at first, he claims they, “might not have looked at it as a positive.” Nonetheless, with all three prepared to enjoy sterling careers, The Club overcame the separation and remained friends, with Gallows alleging he still texts with Styles every day.
12. Vince Russo
Most fans of A.J. Styles are aware that his first breakout success came in Total Nonstop Action, where he was a six-time World Heavyweight Champion, amongst a variety of other huge accomplishments. People are also probably aware that Vince Russo was booking TNA for a good portion of A.J.’s tenure with the company, and yet it still may come as a surprise to some to discover Russo and Styles are good friends. Russo remains one of the most controversial people in wrestling history due to his tenures in WWE and WCW, and his time in TNA wasn’t exactly perfect, either. Nonetheless, he and A.J. apparently always got along, and they continue to do so years after they stopped working together. Another thing fans may be aware of is the fact that Styles is a devout Christian, which is part of what brought him and Russo close together. Their successes in the ring together no doubt helped, but it was the fact that Styles and Russo attended the same church that Russo would later claim brought them together. Plenty of people criticize Russo’s booking and general attitude, but Styles never had these problems with him, and the two always maintained a solid relationship as a result.
11. Jeff Jarrett
Outside of a select few to somehow become good friends with their boss, most people would agree it can be hard to pal around with the person who signs your paychecks. That doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate their company in some ways, though, and grow some sort of friendship out of a mutual respect for one another’s abilities. WWE employees have for a long time purported that Vince McMahon was difficult to get along with, but staff members during the early days of TNA apparently didn’t have this problem, if the positive relationship between A.J. Styles and Jeff Jarrett is in any way indicative of how Jarrett’s other employees feel about him.
Jarrett is the co-founder of TNA, and was still the President and primary person in charge alongside his father Jerry Jarrett during A.J.’s first run as NWA World Champion. Styles actually defeated Jeff to win the championship, thus directly making Jarrett responsible for A.J.’s success in more ways than one. Despite A.J. having gone on record many times that his time with TNA was far from perfect, he never had any problems with Jeff Jarrett himself, and has since claimed that the two still have a strong relationship.
10. Chris Candido
It is a testament to the magnetic personality of Chris Candido in how many friends he made during his brief time on this planet. Candido only worked for TNA for four months prior to his untimely demise, and those four short months were more than enough time for him to create countless friends within the company. One of the first friends Candido met was A.J. Styles, who defeated Candido in Chris’s first match with the company. Candido would go on to badly break his leg at TNA Lockdown on April 24, 2005, and four days later he passed away from complications relating to his reconstructive surgery. Candido’s death sent waves throughout the entire wrestling community, with TNA holding the Chris Candido Memorial Tag Team Tournament in his honor. TNA’s next Pay-Per-View, Hard Justice, was also dedicated to Candido, with Styles winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in the main event. Candido had held the same title just over a decade earlier. Styles reflected on Candido’s loss by saying, “He was a joy to have around the locker room, and he’s certainly going to be missed…he was a good friend.”
9. Bobby Roode
Now that A.J. Styles has proven that a TNA Original can win the WWE World Championship, there should be no hesitation for any former TNA star to consider entering the WWE Universe. Plenty of others had already started following in his footsteps prior to his championship win, including a glorious new entrant to NXT named, Bobby Roode. Roode has a whole lot more in common with Styles other than the fact that they both spent time in TNA, as the two were actually neck and neck for years in terms of which of the two was the top superstar in the company (at least when they weren’t on the same team as members of Fortune). Roode is the longest reigning TNA World Champion in company history, and therefore is one of the only superstars from that company who could claim to have been as big of a deal in Orlando as Styles. Nevertheless, the two became good friends during their stay with the company, such to the extent that Roode admitted a tinge of grief when Styles departed TNA for New Japan in 2014. Roode still supported A.J.’s decision to exit, though, and knew his friend would be successful anywhere he went. The two are once again working for the same company, so it may only be a matter of time before their successes converge again.
8. Ric Flair
A.J. Styles has been calling himself “The Phenomenal One” since almost the very start of his career, and he’s only been able to get away with it thanks to having the skills in the ring to back it up. Even his most diehard fans would have to admit that he wasn’t always the best on the microphone, though, albeit he has been getting significantly better as his career has progressed. One of the things Styles credits for his oratory improvements is being under the tutelage of Ric Flair and the main member of Fortune, and the fact that his relationship with The Nature Boy extended far beyond what took place between the two on camera definitely played a role in these advancements. Flair’s time in TNA isn’t looked on entirely as positive, nor is the fact that Styles started doing a blatant Flair impression for a brief period when the two were together. However, the results speak for themselves as Styles came out of the angle with more confidence on the microphone than ever before. Styles referred to Flair as his mentor and an icon, reflecting on his first meetings with Ric by repeating his disbelief that Flair would be so nice to him. Although the two have stayed away from each other since Styles joined WWE, the past connection the two formed is unlikely to go away just because the cameras have stopped rolling.
7. Frankie Kazarian
It makes sense that A.J. Styles would want to be linked up with his friends on camera as often as possible, and therefore most fans must have known that it was only a matter of time before Frankie Kazarian popped up on this list. Kazarian and Styles have known each other for over a decade, and both men include one another on the shortlist of their absolute best friends in the business. Not coincidentally, most of the time Kazarian and Styles were paired up together on screen, Christopher Daniels was also involved, as one of the many things Styles and Kaz have in common is that they both refer to Daniels as their best friend. Instead of becoming jealous over a shared BFF, they’ve bonded and become friends as well, with Samoa Joe often forming the fourth member of their alliance of friendship. Daniels, Styles, and Joe were the joint best men at Kazarian’s wedding, and the four of them wrestled one another for Joe’s final match with Ring of Honor, showing how far back their bond with one another is. Kazarian had the unfortunate honor of playing an integral role during the Claire Lynch saga, perhaps the low point of A.J.’s career, but their friendship has survived nonetheless.
6. Chris Jericho
From the moment that A.J. Styles debuted in WWE at the 2016 Royal Rumble, he was already a huge star, as his debut brought the Florida crowd to their feet. Nonetheless, there were plenty of fans amongst the WWE Universe who weren’t entirely familiar with the Phenomenal One fresh out of the gate, and his first feud was thus integral to the legacy A.J. was going to write for himself in WWE. Styles tussled with former multi-time World Champion Chris Jericho during the Royal Rumble match itself, and before long, the two were in a full-fledged war that quickly let those fans in on what they had been missing. Styles and Jericho had a great series of matches against one another, which shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone paying attention for a number of reasons. On top of the fact that the two are among the best wrestlers in the world, Styles and Y2J had been friends outside of the ring before Styles ever entered WWE. From the very beginning, Styles had been hoping for a WrestleMania moment that a big name opponent like Jericho would be able to provide, and thus he was overjoyed at the chance to lock it up in the ring with an iconic friend. Although Jericho won the match, A.J.’s career prospects weren’t exactly harmed, so it would be safe to say that the friendship between the two remains strong.
5. Karl Anderson
Most of the members of both the WWE and New Japan iterations of Bullet Club have had some level of friendship, and A.J. Styles and Karl Anderson are no different. Interviews with Anderson paint his true best buddy as Prince Devitt, who A.J. ultimately replaced in The Club when Devitt signed with WWE and became Finn Bálor in 2014. An interesting dynamic of the Anderson-Styles friendship is that neither of them ever considered themselves the official leader of Bullet Club during their time together, opposed to the other eras of the group when a top member was always defined. Outside of mere mutual respect in Club matters, Anderson has called Styles one of his best friends, and said the decision to join WWE was made all the better by the fact that Styles was coming with him. Similarly to Luke Gallows, Anderson was disappointed when their tag team was separated from Styles during the 2016 roster split, but nonetheless was certain their friendship would be able to survive. The initial bond of the Club was created through all members being foreigners in Japan, and now that the three are foreigners in WWE, they still have plenty to talk about.
4. The Young Bucks
The Club may only consist of three members in WWE, but most fans are likely aware of the fact that the true Bullet Club has dozens of members spanning multiple international organizations. A.J. Styles wasn’t a member of the Bullet Club from day one, meaning not every associate of the group is necessarily close friends with him. Nonetheless, his time as a Club associate did offer him more than just the two friends, namely one of the most highly acclaimed tag teams in independent wrestling in Matt and Nick Jackson: The Young Bucks. Styles not only teamed with the Bucks as members of the Club, he also served as the third member of a three-man team when the triumvirate entered the 2015 King of the Trios tournament. The Young Bucks have actually been members of the Bullet Club since before Styles joined the group, and were, in turn, the ones responsible for getting him kicked out of the group prior to his departure from New Japan. Of course, this was all just for show, and Styles and the Jackson brothers proved it with Ring of Honor’s version of the Curtain Call only days before A.J. made his WWE debut. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows joined the three for a middle of the ring hug, and though the Bucks continue to snipe at Styles on Twitter, this incident proved that their true feelings towards the Phenomenal One are far more positive than they let on.
3. Samoa Joe
The fact that A.J. won his first WWE World Championship in under 9 months is a testament to his drawing power and abilities in the ring, considering that many felt a former TNA talent would need to spend far more time proving himself before Vince McMahon handed him the brass ring. However, as fans should be well aware, Styles wasn’t exactly the first TNA superstar to get a chance in WWE, and in fact, one of his best friends had been dominating NXT for over 7 months by the time that Styles signed his WWE contract. Samoa Joe in many ways served a low-key test to whether or not fans would respond well to an outside talent instantly entering at the top of his brand, and the mirror success of Joe and Styles should prove that test was an unmitigated success. Joe and Styles had been positively affecting one another for over a decade before their tenures in WWE, though. In fact, the two had known one another from the very beginning of their careers, with Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels often along for the ride, as well. The four men have been close friends throughout their days training together, and chances are now that Joe and Styles are the only ones working for the same company, they could be becoming the closest friends out of any of the two members of the group.
2. Shinsuke Nakamura
A.J. Styles and his friends in The Club were jointly responsible for some of the biggest changes in WWE throughout the course of 2016, but the three of them actually weren’t alone in their decision to leave New Japan Pro Wrestling. Styles, Gallows, and Anderson were in fact joined in their exodus by Shinsuke Nakamura, who has since gone on to revolutionize NXT the same way Styles and company have been changing things on the main WWE roster. Nakamura was never on the same page as The Club in the storylines, however, the three were still constantly linked to one another on television (generally due to an epic feud Styles and Nakamura underwent throughout most of his tenure in Japan). Despite the fact that Nakamura is in NXT and Styles is on SmackDown Live, it could only be a matter of time before they reignite their feud in a WWE ring. The last time the Phenomenal One and the King of Strong Style stepped into the ring against one another was at Wrestle Kingdom 10, New Japan’s biggest show of the year. Nakamura defeated Styles to retain his IWGP Intercontinental Championship in front of over 25,000 Japanese fans, and that number could only balloon even larger with the WWE Universe properly promoting such a battle. Of course, the friendship between the two will likely persist regardless of whether or not they work together again, as journeys across the globe together bond people in a manner that even wrestling matches tend to lack.
1. Christopher Daniels
It makes perfect sense that many of the names on this list would be inexorably linked with A.J. Styles both on and offscreen, and therefore it comes as a natural conclusion that one of the wrestlers who has spent the most time in the ring with the Phenomenal One would also be the person he calls his best friend. No further testament needs to be said about the connection between Styles and Daniels beyond the fact that they named their sons after one another, with Christopher’s son Joshua Allen’s middle name taken from A.J.’s real first name. Outside of an obvious personal connection in their everyday lives, Styles and Daniels have spent hours together in the ring and on television, as well. The two won the NWA World Tag Team Championships together twice, in addition to wrestling countless matches against one another, and engaging in feuds that spanned throughout several years if not decades. Styles and Daniels wrestled some of the best matches of their careers with each other as opponents, including a triple threat match (which also involved their mutual friend Samoa Joe, that many consider the best match in TNA history).