Arts & Entertainment

Corrigan: Styles – family is essential

Pro wrestler AJ Styles reminds fans that above all, family is more important than a career.

johncorriganMy final spring break has passed without a tattoo from Cancun or an arrest warrant from Punta Cana.

Instead of living those MTV-inspired fantasies of youth, I worked four days at KYW NewsRadio and interned two days at the Daily News. I spent the rest of my vacation debating my mother about which relatives to invite to graduation and estimating how much wiggle room should be allocated for my gown.

Plenty, if the Waffle Taco has its way.

It’s crunch time for seniors – just a few weeks left to scramble for stray credits, summer internships and maybe, by the grace of President Theobald, a job. We can’t dayload all week because making connections, building our portfolios and sacrificing good times with family and friends will hopefully lead to that dream position in our respective careers.

But is it worth it?

I considered myself a proud workaholic until I spoke with AJ Styles, the hottest free agent in professional wrestling.

He earned that distinction by leaving Total Nonstop Action Wrestling due to failed contract negotiations. After 12 years of performing for the company in which he undoubtedly served as the cornerstone, Styles walked away from national primetime exposure on Spike TV to navigate the uncertainty of the independent scene.

Sure, he’s been welcomed back to Ring of Honor, an organization with Philly roots where he competed from 2002 to 2006, but it’s not like the “Phenomenal One” will be receiving the mainstream attention associated with appearing for World Wrestling Entertainment.

Probably because he already turned down WWE.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Styles declined a WWE developmental contract for $500 a week to work for the Heartland Wrestling Association, a farm system in Cincinnati, in 2002.

As a college student salivating over minimum wage just to get my name in the Daily News, I can’t understand why a young grappler would pass up the chance to work for the No. 1 pro wrestling company in the world.

“My wife was in college and I couldn’t go to Ohio and make her move back in with her mother,” Styles said. “That would have been terrible. She even told me to take the deal and run with the opportunity, but I couldn’t do that to her. It’s God first and family second.”

Certainly not a disciple of McMahonism, perhaps Styles’ decision was influenced by never being consumed by sports entertainment, even as a kid.

“I was a wrestling fan, but I wasn’t a fanatic like some of these guys,” Styles said. “I was poor, so I only watched if the antenna picked it up. I remember watching Georgia Championship Wrestling and the Road Warriors, but when I got older, I really jumped on New Japan, All Japan and any matches involving the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title.”

In a profession where simulated violence is the product, it must be challenging at times for Styles to place God first.

“I think it’s a challenge no matter where you are,” Styles said. “We’re always being attacked by some type of evil. I do try to be a follower of Christ and be a good example for others, but I’m not perfect.”

Praying for guidance in his decisions to reject WWE and depart TNA, Styles said he believes “2014 will be a wonderful year” with his new opportunities.

“There’s something unnerving about being a free agent and not being tied down,” Styles said. “You got to sell your own T-shirts at shows and put all that money in your pocket, when before in TNA, it didn’t seem like I made enough merchandise money. But the most important thing for me is making all of the fans’ dream matches finally come true.”

He is an amazing athlete and always friendly to his fans, but the most phenomenal thing about Styles is his love for his family.

Even though we seniors are focused on doing whatever it takes to make us successful, we need to be reminded that the world doesn’t revolve around our post-graduation plans.

Take time to inquire about your significant other’s classes or play “Super Smash Bros.” with your roommate, or even let mom invite Aunt Jeannie to graduation.

These are the people who shared your college experience, and in some way, shaped who you have become.

And more than likely, they’ll be there for you whether you land that cherished gig or end up bawling over the keyboard during your daily Craigslist search.

Now that I’m a recovering workaholic, you can find me at the Draught Horse hoping to bump into a fellow wrasslin’ fan.

Let’s savor the last few weeks of the “best four years of our lives.”

John Corrigan can be reached at john.corrigan@temple.edu.

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