On Sunday, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe will face off for the WWE Championship, the first time they’ll match up against each other for that title on live television in their careers. The long-awaited and highly-anticipated matchup on WWE’s grand stage of SummerSlam comes 17 years after they met on the independent scene and 13 years after they competed in arguably the greatest match in TNA history — Christopher Daniels vs. Joe vs. Styles at Unbreakable 2005.
Despite their transcendent tilt, Styles and Joe spent most of the years following Unbreakable floundering in relatively meaningless rivalries, while TNA transformed into WCW-lite. Both had main title runs, but nothing could come close to their triple-threat match (other than maybe Joe-Kurt Angle). Frustration with the promotion that helped put Styles on the map, and maintained Joe’s elevation into the national spotlight, has remained in the background for the most part since the current WWE champ landed with the leader in sports entertainment.
That is until Tuesday, when on Smackdown, and later in an interview with ESPN, Styles expounded on his time in TNA (and elsewhere), specifically comparing his and Joes’ prior time in the wrestling world as a “cockroach-infested apartment complex” with “stale pizza.”
“When I say ‘cockroach-infested’ that means, ‘Listen dude, we went through a lot of crap, we’ve worked in a lot of places to get to where we’re at, mainly with TNA,'” Styles told ESPN. “The guys that TNA didn’t want to push to the absolute tippity-top are also the guys in one of the biggest matches in SummerSlam for the WWE championship.”
For Styles and Joe, Sunday provides an opportunity to give the figurative finger to those who held them back before getting to WWE. Styles, for his part, certainly seems ready to add another classic to his 280-plus day run with the company’s top belt.