AJ Styles drew one of the loudest pops at the Amway Center in Orlando on Sunday night, when he emerged from backstage as the third overall participant in the Royal Rumble.
The "Phenomenal One" was making his debut with World Wrestling Entertainment after a decade-plus of dominating the ranks in Total Nonstop Action (TNA). Or, well, so it seemed.
We unearthed this old clip of Styles wrestling in the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF) way back in January 2002 ... just before he began his long tenure with TNA.
This old match had Styles battling The Hurricane, a former character/superhero, who really lacked any super powers at all.
Styles lost the match, but not before delivering his own rendition of Sweet Chin Music and an impressive shooting-star press from the top rope — perhaps previewing his future in TNA, which had him assert himself as one of pro-wrestling's best risktakers, high fliers and technically-sound grapplers of them all.
This was actually one of the two reported matches that Styles had with the WWE, before reportedly turning down a development deal to have stops in Ring of Honor and TNA.
While the WWE Universe was thrilled to see Styles on Sunday night during the Royal Rumble, we can't help but wonder how much bigger his name and career might have been if he was in the WWE all along.
Simply said, Styles can do things in the ring that just can't be duplicated. He's regarded as a 1-of-1 wrestler, sort of like the only exclusive sports car put into production by an automaker.
How else do you think he earned the nickname "The Phenomenal One"?
He was eliminated just past the halfway point of the Rumble by none other than Kevin Owens, so it will be interesting to see if a feud between the two sparks on Monday Night Raw and beyond.
Nevertheless, it's good to have AJ Styles (back) in the WWE.