This was released in May 2014
The interview was conducted by Rob Feinstein
It runs at three hours and fifty-seven minutes long
The video starts with AJ talking about how the Independent scene is not dead at all and puts over how the promotions today are more professional when he first broke into the business.
AJ said he was a fan of wrestling growing up but since he did not have cable TV as a kid, he did not get to see much wrestling and did not see it live until he wrestled his first match. He then talks about being in college and watching WCW, which was really taking off at that time. AJ said he was doing amateur wrestling then, something he said helped him a lot when he was training to be a pro wrestler.
AJ trained at NCW, which later became NWA Wildside. He had two high school friends that encouraged him to go to wrestling school and AJ said after his first bump, he knew he wanted to do this as a job. After a month he wrestled his first match. He also worked with Chuck Palumbo, Sonny Siaki, Jimmy Yang, and Jason Cross. He also said he wrestled as the “Natural Born Thrillers” with Jason Cross but that name went to the guys who got signed by WCW. AJ also puts over how Ron Killings always had a star quality and that he really good at that time.
On how he got into WCW, AJ said he was in the midst of a good feud with Air Paris and that WCW would come down to see the shows and they offered them a dark match, which he thanks Jeremy Borash & Bob Ryder for giving them that spot. He then said that Terry Taylor was the one who offered them a contract. AJ also said he was wrestling in tennis shoes and windbreaker pants and had a terrible look but after getting signed he got a pair of wrestling boots.
In WCW, AJ puts over Shane Helms and Chavo Guerrero for helping him out. He also talks about being shocked that WCW was running house shows in high school gyms at this time. They wanted to call him “Air Styles” as part of an Air Raid team and they gave them fighter pilot suits but that was only for one match. AJ said he didnt notice any panic backstage regarding the state of the company as he was naive and just tried to be friendly and get out of everyone’s way.
When WCW got bought out from the WWE, AJ got a call from the WWE to say they were not picking up his contract. About a year later, he wrestled Hurricane Helms for a TV taping and impressed the office so they had him wrestle Rico Constantino at another show then sent him to a one-week tryout camp. AJ said he figured the WWE had seen his high-flying moves so he just mat-wrestled at the camp and they ended up offering him a Developmental Deal. However, he would have had to relocate to Cincinnati and his wife was in college at the time so he did not want to have her move back in with her parents so he politely declined the deal, citing family issues.
AJ is now asked about NWA-TNA. He heard rumblings that the Jarrett’s were starting a company then said he wrestled David Young at a show where they impressed the Jarrett family. AJ also said during a trip for WWA, Jeff Jarrett talked to him and offered a deal.
On Ring of Honor, AJ said he loved the crowd. AJ made his debut at the “Night of Appreciation” show in April 2002. He loved it so much he thought about moving to Philadelphia. He lost to Low Ki in his first match and said he had no problem at all doing the job as he was the new guy. He said Ki chopped him so hard that after a while he had to put up his hand to soften the blow then said he thought it was good to learn this style because it was different than in the South. AJ puts Ki over as an incredible worker and likes him as a person too. On if Ki takes himself too seriously, AJ said that Ki is very passionate about his character but does agree that he has cost himself money with his actions.
He is now asked about Jerry Lynn. AJ calls him an amazing worker and a great guy who helped him out a lot. AJ said Lynn does not get the credit deserves. On his match against Sean Waltman, AJ talks about how Waltman admitted he was high in this match and never called anything in the ring but they ended up having a good match, with AJ adding how great of a worker Waltman was. He also loved working with the Amazing Red and said he was great and a happy-go-lucky guy and that Rey Mysterio stole the 619 from Red, who AJ thinks could have been a star if not for recurring knee injuries.
AJ said he had zero faith in the weekly PPV format and did not think it would go anywhere at first as he treated it as a regular independent company. On the TNA Asylum venue, AJ said it was the worst he had ever seen as it had one bathroom for them to dress in but they made it work.
On the TNA office at this point, AJ said it was the Jarrett’s who ran everything and that they were approachable. He did say they never conducted a talent meeting but puts them over for spending their own money to launch the company and looking back thinks he should have had more respect for Jeff for that reason.
When asked about CM Punk, AJ said he did not know much about him at first but that they got along. AJ said he was not the most happy go lucky guy but they had some good matches together.
He did not remember when TNA shut down for two weeks in September of 2002 because he was still working on the Independent scene. After that, he is asked about being annoyed at all of the run-in finishes in TNA at the time as AJ said it was getting ridiculous but he was not in a position of power to do anything about that. He did say at one point, they planned to have women’s wrestler Trinity win the X Division title as AJ said he spoke up about that and no disrespect to Trinity but they worked too hard to build up the title so as a punishment, the Jarrett’s made him wrestle dark matches, which AJ said he didnt care because he loved wrestling.
Now, AJ is asked about Dixie Carter coming in with Panda Energy. AJ thought Dixie was just involved in advertising at first as she was not hands-on with talent. AJ credits them for painting the Asylum and making it at least look a bit better. He said most of the guys were in the dark as to who exactly owned the company at this point.
AJ said that he thought Vince Russo never should have been with him because he was a lot taller and made him look like a “little turd.” He laughs at how ridiculous the SEX faction was then tells a story when he wrestling Disco Inferno and he was supposed to get some “color,” he ended up accidentally hitting his head against the wall and bled hardway as Disco came up to him and congratulated AJ for blading the way he did.
He is now asked about guys he worked with in RoH. AJ does not know why Xavier never got over as he was doing some cool stuff. On Bryan Danielson, AJ said he wrestled him once and decided to do some amateur wrestling that ended in a stalemate but accidentally split his head open and felt awful. He added that they had a great match in their first encounter. He loves Paul London as a person and a worker. AJ also said he got knocked out twice in his triple-threat match at the RoH 1st Anniversary Show against Low Ki and Paul London. AJ says that today, the Briscoes are their favorite characters in wrestling today and are very talented.
AJ said TNA promised him the TNA World Title right before his contract was up as a way to entice him to stay. He said that the belt did not get him any more power and that they claimed they did not have enough to give him a raise.
On Christopher Daniels, AJ said he never got his just due in TNA, who screwed Daniels over for giving input. AJ puts Daniels over for having great ideas but TNA never did anything with them. AJ said that Bad Influence are great and when asked about their deals coming up soon, AJ said both guys have to take care of the family first but he wants them to know that the Independents are not dead.
He talks about enjoying his first title run and not being upset about going back to the X Division because he enjoyed wrestling that style.
AJ is asked about working with Lex Luger and said he was not sure if Lex was all there because he seemed either drunk or messed up on pills.
When asked about Samoa Joe, AJ said he is one of the best workers as he can do everything in the ring. AJ said TNA absolutely dropped the ball on him and when the crowd chanted “Joe’s Gonna Kill You” then you should portray him as a killer. He also said it was dumb to have Kurt Angle beat him right when he came into the company.
Early on in his career, he considered RoH is home instead of TNA. However, he had to choose TNA because financially, it was better for his family.
AJ said when he first heard about the King of the Mountain match he did not even understand the rules and thought how could the fans follow it if that’s the case. However, AJ said they managed to pull it off.
He does not know why Chris Harris failed to become a star then says sometimes, your mind gets thrown off and you become frustrated. AJ said James Storm found a way to get the cowboy character over though. He said that Bobby Roode is one of the best workers in the business and hopes he ends up in the WWE one day. AJ confirmed that Kid Kash had an attitude problem and they had tension but that also helped them have good matches together. He was excited when Christian came into the company and calls him a ring general. He also did not mind doing comedy with him as AJ that’s a part of the business you need to learn and do at times.
On the Fox Sports Net TV deal, AJ said they were excited because it meant they were growing as a company. He said the Impact Zone was a great place to be at the beginning but at the end, they ended up seeing everything and the reactions were less. AJ also said the fans were spoiled as the tickets were free.
AJ said he tuned out the press regarding TNA going under and the criticism of their storylines because it became too much.
He talked about the Ultimate X match against Samoa Joe and Christopher Daniels and how Joe had pink eye after coming back from Mexico and he gave it both of them.
When Kevin Nash slapped Samoa Joe backstage, AJ said that the company told Joe to shoot on Scott Hall and Nash had no idea and was pissed. AJ thinks the company was trying to pit the two against each other.
AJ said that TNA never pushed their homegrown talent and felt the company thought they had to get stars elsewhere. He talks about feeling angry about this as the company is basically telling their own roster are not talented enough to be stars.
On Jeff Jarrett’s fallout with Dixie Carter, AJ said that creative got worse when Jarrett left and as a result, Dixie brought in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff.
He said that the “Feast of Famine” match is dumb because you fire someone on TV and it was a ripoff of the WWE’s Money in the Bank match.
Originally, his reaction to Hogan & Bischoff coming to TNA was positive. But after a while, they head rumblings about the changes they were going to make and thought it was awful. AJ also said they were not following the product and did not know any of the characters, which led to them bringing in all the older talent they knew. He thought running head-to-head was a stupid idea and TNA did not have the money to “go to war” against the WWE.
AJ never wanted to be the new Nature Boy and told that to Bischoff. He did like being mentored by Flair though and believes he has a big heart then talks about the rumors of Flair running out of money during the European tour.
He talks about being mad that RVD was given the title right when he came in and felt he should have dropped the title instead of forfeiting the belt. AJ does not hold it personally against RVD and thinks he is a cool guy.
AJ was praying that Paul Heyman would come into TNA but heard he declined as he wanted full control and Dixie was not going to give him that.
On Jeff Hardy being impaired in his PPV match against Sting, AJ felt he should have been fired and he was pissed off but glad he’s managed to turn things around.
When asked about the issue of pay checks being late, AJ said his wife managed the account and told him that the checks were not deposited in time. AJ said they were given excuses like holidays for the reason they were happened but he did get every paycheck he was owed.
He is now asked about the Claire Lynch storyline. AJ said the original story was thought up by Christopher Daniels, Kazarian, and himself as the plans called for a hot blonde to portray Dixie Carter’s niece but Dixie did not want that so they instead hired a “hideous” actress to portray a family friend and it became terrible.
AJ said the tension was bad between Russo and Bischoff and that stress led to Russo leaving.
On when he realized TNA was not going to work on the road, AJ said the venues were half-full and that the company never bothered advertising anything. He tells a story of how they stayed at the hotel next to the venue one night and the hotel had no idea they were in town for a show.
He talks about how Bruce Prichard was ragging on TNA before coming into the company and he had people telling him not to trust Prichard. AJ said he got along with him at first but the storylines got worse then after that John Gaburik came in and took his spot.
AJ is then asked about TNA trying to negotiate his contract as he confirmed that the company ignored this until the story of his contract expiring broke on the internet. AJ said he did not feel important at all to the company as a result of this. He talks about the contract they offered and if the rumors that it was a 50-60% pay cut were true as he said saying it was a 60% pay cut would be generous as he was shocked at the offer, stating he had been with the company since it launched 11 years ago. He then said the talent had to pay the price because of all the money the company lost and how that was not fair. AJ then addresses critics saying he should have stayed for less money as AJ says he is a family man and in the prime of his career so who are they to tell him what he is supposed to earn. He also talks about defending the company for years. AJ said he will keep the door open for a return but now he is working dates for Ring of Honor.
On the rumors of the WWE low-balling him a contract, AJ denies that happened. He talks about how he would go there under the right circumstances but would not sign a deal to sit in developmental for several months.
Regarding the Styles Clash and Roderick Strong getting hurt, AJ said its one of the easiest moves to take and the one thing not to do his to tuck your head, adding why would you tuck your head while taking a front bump.
He is asked about the rumors that he will be going to New Japan Pro Wrestling and said if given the opportunity he would go as its the biggest company in Japan.
AJ closes by thanking his fans.
Final Thoughts: Overall, I thought the interview was decent. Its long but hearing from someone who was with TNA since its beginning is not something you get to hear too often. AJ is not the type to bury people and was more about providing for his family than partying or getting caught up in politics.
Its pretty unbelievable to see how TNA shit on AJ at the end. After this interview, AJ reinvigorated himself on the Indepenedent scene and became a star for NJPW, which led him to his WWE contract. In the end, AJ definitely won out.
Listening to the interview its easy to see how TNA got to the position its in today. Just tons of bad management all around. AJ also spoke a lot about his feuds and longtime fans of the promotion would enjoy that.
I do recommend this interview. Its long but an easy listen.