Unless something changes over the next few days, AJ Styles will be leaving TNA for the first time since the company was founded in 2002 next week.
Styles' current contract extension expires on 12/16, PWInsider.com has confirmed. As of 12/17, he is a free agent and has already begun to accept independent bookings via his long-time agent Bill Behrens at Showbis@aol.com
As PWInsider.com has reported for months, Styles and TNA have been far apart on money. The two sides did not really begin negotiating until Styles' last long-term deal was close to expiring and signed a two month extension in order to continue working together while they attempted to seal a new deal.
Unfortunately, the two sides just couldn't make a deal happen. We have heard that it was a situation where TNA just wasn't able to offer Styles what he had been earning and he, feeling correctly that he had been a big part of the heart and soul of the company, would not agree to take a lesser deal. The situation put both sides in between a rock and a hard place, leading to the breakdown between sides.
In a lot of ways, Styles' exit has sent a bad signal to other TNA "originals" who have deals coming up as the message being sent is that the company, which has been cutting corners, will play hardball financially even at the cost of losing their own homegrown players. Styles was one of the company's legitimate main eventers who had been been with the company as it evolved and matured, becoming the centerpiece for the X-Division before evolving into a legitimate main eventer. While he wasn't the draw that Sting was during Sting's heyday in WCW, Styles was very similar to Sting in that he was closely branded as a TNA star and as someone who was loyal to the company - just as Sting was when World Championship Wrestling existed.
Styles officially finished up with the company last week at the Impact tapings in Orlando, Florida with appearances for episodes that will air in early 2014.
Styles is already moving forward with outside projects. He has an autobiography set to be released in the first quarter of 2014 and will be making an appearance next year as part of a talking tour in the UK. Initial dates for that tour had been announced but the tour will be pushed back as Diamond Dallas Page had already scheduled a similar tour for the same time period and the decision was made that it wasn't right to compete with something already scheduled.