For those living under a rock the past 24 hours, here is the latest on the AJ Styles/TNA Impact Wrestling (and WWE) drama.
Two days ago, the official TNA Impact Wrestling website posted the following:
AJ Styles has always been synonymous with TNA and TNA synonymous with AJ Styles. AJ helped build the foundation of IMPACT WRESTLING, and his phenomenal body of work lives in our rich history – something we are very proud of.
In the last few weeks, rumors have swirled about AJ Styles, his future and TNA Wrestling. Fans have asked for the status and wrestling media have made numerous inquiries. For the past several months, AJ and TNA were involved in serious discussions to bring him back home to TNA. Creative discussions escalated and two additional wrestlers, Drew Hankinson and Chad Allegra, were enthusiastically added. These discussions culminated on December 14th in Nashville, Tenn., where all attended a meeting at Dixie Carter’s home. A handshake and written deal between AJ, Drew, Chad and TNA was agreed upon and signed by all. Start dates were determined, creative decided, merchandise designed and plane tickets purchased. Over the Christmas holiday, and after the lawyers finalized the long form agreement, all communication with TNA stopped.
AJ’s lawyer contacted TNA and stated the wrestlers had changed their mind and would not be honoring their commitment to TNA.
Certainly strong words from TNA. That was followed up by AJ Styles' agent Bill Behrens a day later:
No contract was ever finalized nor signed by the parties.
That I would need to be involved in the contract process was known by TNA prior to my involvement and understood by them. TNA and its 1st lawyer did not present in a timely fashion a contract that accurately reflected previous discussions at all. That created great concern tied to past experiences. In that time and prior there was other interest and there were other firm offers on the table and other discussions. TNA was aware of other interest and various conflicts. TNA was aware a final contract was required. It was creating that contract and controlled that timetable. Too much time passed early on. Other things came into play. No contract was ever finalized with TNA.
To suggest I make any decision for my clients is to misunderstand my role and diminish the role each talent has in making their own decisions, and insults the talent in the process.
That is where we stand right now. As we ice closer to the WWE Royal Rumble pay-per-view tonight and rumors swirling that AJ Styles will appear, here are my thoughts on everything going on using a simple "FAQ" format...
Why did TNA post this now?
Simple. They wanted attention and are attempting to piggy back off the Royal Rumble weekend buzz.
Let's be honest here folks. TNA had a full month to say something. The time line says all of this took place in December, with communication being cut off over the holidays. Yet, they said nothing. Not a peep about AJ Styles. Suddenly, they can feel the anticipation behind his impending WWE arrival, and BOOM!
Come on. We all know TNA selected this weekend for a reason. They wanted attention, and they got it. Um, congrats I guess?
Was TNA in the right to post the information at all?
I didn't like it.
The whole article stunk from the second I saw it posted to the minute after I read it all the way to now two days later. The whole thing reeked. Whether the company believes they were done dirty or not is irrelevant. Posting that kind of stuff (truth or lies) on the weekend of AJ Styles' assumed big WWE debut? Ugh.
Often times in life, your initial gut reaction is the correct one.
My gut told me this was a petty, bitter cry for attention from TNA.
What about Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson?
Well, rumor has it Doc Gallows was working without a contract. Same with AJ Styles. They were just finishing up their New Japan Pro Wrestling dates in early January. Could be wrong about that. I admit I do not closely follow NJPW. Thus, it was fair game for them to negotiate with TNA, WWE, or anybody else.
In the case of Karl Anderson, this is where TNA stepped on their own toes and made a mis-step. Another reason they should have not even bothered with the article in the first place. Anderson is current under contract to NJPW until the end of January 2016. Thus, TNA claiming they had him sign something is tampering and very much illegal. Look no further than the recent Hernandez debacle. What a mess that was for TNA, huh?
According to TNA themselves, "a handshake and written deal" was "signed by all." Yeah, you can't do that, especially admitting to it out in public like TNA is doing. I have no doubts under the table kind of deals are worked out all the time in sports (and wrestling), but TNA is outright saying it happened. Unreal. If NJPW cared (they probably don't at this point), they could raise a big fuss. Since everyone assumed Karl Anderson is gone anyways in a week, I think the company will just let it all slide.
What is the difference between TNA's website mentioning the three and WWE's website doing the same last week?
TNA is claiming they have "a handshake and written deal." Illegal in Karl's case with his contract.
All WWE's website did was post a story about rumors and then list each wrestler's accomplishments. If they had announced a signed deal or whatever without NJPW's permission, then yeah, it would be similar. WWE didn't do that at all. TNA is the one saying these things. All WWE did was hop on board with all the speculation. No official announcements and certainly no self admission of guilt on contrac tampering like TNA.
Can TNA take legal action against the wrestlers or even WWE?
I don't see it for two reasons.
1. If TNA had a FINAL draft contract signed by all men and everything checked out, they would have already filed suit weeks ago. They would not have waited a month to piggy back off the Royal Rumble PPV for a desparate media grab. Again, if TNA legitimately has what they say, it would be a pretty easy legal win for them and likely handled behind closed doors. Since none of that appears to be the case, they just posted an article that looks like sour grapes.
2. TNA also threatened legal action when reporters said their show was being canceled by Destination America. Remember that nonsense? Just like the previous year where they denied, denied, denied the rumors of Spike TV canceling? It was laughable then and even more laughable when they did in fact get canned. All talk, no action. In this, all talk and no legal action. Sorry but TNA has a BAD track record of lawsuits/legal cases. My guess is each wrestler signed a letter of intent of 'some' agreement. Not a final, final, final contract. That is just my guess though.
Does this change anything for them coming to WWE soon?
AJ Styles is heading to WWE, and no matter what TNA tries to cobble up, they blew it. Low balled him last time in contract talks and let him slip through their fingers this time by dragging their feet finalizing a deal. Then WWE came calling, and in no time, they get a deal done. Shocking that NOT TNA is valuing AJ Styles so much. Sorry, you had not one but two chances to re-sign him. If he meant that much to you, you didn't show it in the last two years. Don't start whining and crying now. As the old saying goes, "You don't know what you have until it's gone."
As for Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows (and Shinsuke Nakamura for that matter), reports have them finishing up their wrestling dates in February or March before heading to WWE (possibly NXT). That is a little bit down the road, so nobody should expect them to show up anytime soon. WWE does their due diligence with the contract/legal stuff, and history tells us TNA does not.
Ultimately, AJ Styles will be inside a WWE ring fairly soon, and his buddies will be joining him i a few months. Meanwhile, TNA (as usual) open up their own can of worms and got egg splattered all over their faces because of something THEY did! Never ceases to amaze me how one company can continue to be their own worst enemy.
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