Never say never in pro wrestling. Despite touring full time with WWE, AJ Styles made a surprise appearance this weekend that absolutely nobody saw coming.
Styles showed up at an NWA Wildside reunion show in Cornelia, Georgia (population 4,160) on Saturday evening, shocking everyone in attendance and probably most of the wrestlers as well.
NWA Wildside is where Styles got his initial exposure in pro wrestling. Styles made his debut in 1998 for National Championship Wrestling, also out of Georgia, but that promotion soon merged with NWA Georgia to form NWA Wildside. Styles started out wrestling as Mr. Olympia (wearing a mask) before eventually becoming the Phenomenal One that we all know today.
The NWA Wildside reunion show on Saturday night boasted that it would see the return of up to 50 former stars from the promotion. The possibilities of performers who would fit the bill as a former star was pretty wide open, though an appearance from Styles probably seemed nearly impossible for anyone attending the show.
Little did they know, the WWE United States champion planned on attending. Not only that, but from photos posted on social media, you can see that he had the WWE U.S. belt with him.
Always a joy to see and chat with @AJStylesOrg Excited beyond words to see and hear him at Wildside Reunion. Just a Southern Boy! pic.twitter.com/xHpGDvnpHH— Papa Hales (@MikeHales9) September 10, 2017
The reunion also featured a question and answer session with some of the company's former performers. Though we haven't yet received a report on what Styles said to the crowd, the above tweet mentions that the fan was excited to hear him speak, and another shot is circulating on Twitter of him inside the ring holding up the WWE U.S. title belt.
So I went to an indie and AJ Styles showed up pic.twitter.com/C373f5fjjv— Gators, Pats & Graps (@BostonNooga) September 10, 2017
While wrestling for NWA Wildside in the early 2000s, Styles captured the NWA Georgia Heavyweight Championship. After he started performing for NWA-TNA upon that company's launch in 2002, he continued to come back and appear for NWA Wildside. While other stars such as Christopher Daniels, Seth Rollins, and CM Punk all worked Wildside at some point, Styles was a fixture in the promotion and remains their most successful former full time performer.