Styles joins Bryan Danielson as being the only ROH legends voted in the Observer HOF to date. Other members of the 2017 class include Minoru Suzuki, Pedro Morales, Mark Lewin, and Ben & Mike Sharpe.Styles, 40, born Allan Jones on June 2, 1977, has been considered one of the best in-ring performers in pro wrestling for more than a decade. While always a key player in TNA, where debuted in 2002 and worked through 2013, he seemed destined to be one of those guys who would be viewed as a great worker but hardly a Hall of Famer.
His run in New Japan changed that perception, because he was booked as the top foreigner in the promotion in 2014 and 2015, having classic matches with Shinsuke Nakamura, Kazuchika Okada, Minoru Suzuki, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi and others. The general perception is that he was one of the best performers in the business, if not the best. Ironically, even with that, he fell off the ballot with less than ten percent of the vote.
It took two years of being the best all-around performer in WWE to take him from a guy who almost nobody voted for, to a guy who went in. Styles finished third in the voting among reporters, eighth among historians and seventh among active wrestlers. He did not place in the voting among former wrestlers.
It was really his last four years, clearly at Hall of Fame level, after more than a decade of great matches in TNA as well as in places like ROH and PWG, that put him over the top.
Styles turned down a low money WWF offer after the folding of WCW in 2002, and it worked out for the best as in that era, without the national reputation and lack of size, it’s doubtful he’d have gotten very far there. But with TNA, which was focusing on smaller guys, the X Division was his starting point and eventually he became their world champion.
Jones grew up poor, but was a good high school wrestler and got a scholarship for wrestling to Anderson University. He was not a pro wrestling fan growing up, but when friends wanted to become a pro wrestler, he took to it quickly and debuted in 1998. He took the name A.J. Styles and got some fame being one of the better independent wrestlers in the Southeast. He was signed by WCW at the end of its run off the matches and Air Paris had in Georgia, and did well, but the promotion soon folded.
He became a bigger independent star based on word-of-mouth from some matches with Christopher Daniels, enough to where he was invited to the 2001 King of Indies tournament, and faced Daniels in the second round. The King of Indies led to the formation of Ring of Honor, as Rob Feinstein, Doug Gentry and Gabe Sapolsky were watching a tape of the show, saw all the talent, and thought they could start a promotion with those wrestlers performing that quality of matches and they’d be able to successfully market videotapes of the shows.
Styles, by 2002, was getting strong praise for his work in both ROH and TNA.
Styles has held the WWE title twice, the TNA title twice, the IWGP title twice, the NWA title three times, the ROH Pure champion, Revolution Pro and PWG titles. He was also voted by Observer readers as the Most Outstanding Wrestler in the world in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and Wrestler of the Year in both 2015 and 2016.
ROH-RELATED WRESTLING OBSERVER HALL OF FAME BALLOTING RESULTS (60% in favor required to be voted in)
AJ Styles (205 votes for 63% in favor; off the ballot entirely in 2016)
CM Punk (77 votes for 24% in favor; up from 20% in 2016)