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Why the WWE must sign AJ Styles before the Royal Rumble

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COMMENTARY | In an era where the WWE is the only major professional wrestling company in the United States, it's rare that a big-name free agent hits the market. Usually if the contract of any major star runs out they're a WWE talent in the first place and have no choice but to re-sign with the WWE. No other company can offer the money-making opportunities like the WWE can.

But for perhaps the first time in more than a decade, the WWE has a chance to add a fresh face to its roster with a name wrestling fans will instantly recognize. On Dec. 16, former TNA Champion AJ Styles confirmed that he is no longer under contract to the company.

"Today for the first time in 11 years, AJ Styles awakes to find himself without a professional wrestling contract," Styles wrote on his website.

While this is pro wrestling and the news could still be part of some larger storyline with TNA, let's say this is legit and Styles' availability means the WWE needs to capitalize on it. Unlike most new talent the WWE can add, Styles has instant name recognition -- a name that actually carries weight in the wrestling world. Not only is he a major name, but he is one of the best in-ring talents in pro wrestling. For the last decade Styles has wowed fans around the world with his athleticism, something sorely lacking in the current WWE product.

Aside from Daniel Bryan, the majority of the WWE top spots are filled with guys who have been at the top or near the top of the card for the last four years or longer. Styles would be a breath of fresh air in the WWE as he has never squared off with any of the WWE's top talent on a national stage.

For fans who know of Styles' past in TNA and in smaller independent promotions, the idea of him facing guys like Bryan and CM Punk would create instant interest. And for fans that aren't as familiar with Styles, a proper debut -- something similar to Chris Jericho's memorable debut -- would give him credibility.

Not only can Styles wrestle at an elite level, but he can cut promos, as he has a tremendous amount of charisma and has proven to be effective in any role he plays.

With the Royal Rumble just a few weeks away, now would be the perfect time for the WWE to sign Styles and bring him in through a series of promos and video packages. If his debut match were to happen via an appearance in the rumble match, it would help encourage fans to buy the pay-per-view. He wouldn't need to win the all-important rumble, but a good showing would go a long way in establishing the legitimacy of his character.

In the past the WWE has been very hesitant to bring in people who've made names for themselves outside of the company. But with no true competition on a national level, bringing Styles in and allowing him to thrive in the WWE will do no damage to the WWE's credibility.

At 36 years old, Styles still has plenty of good years ahead of him and just came off one of his best runs in TNA. Styles would be a once-in-a-generation signing for the WWE and a man who could help turn around a WWE product that is in dire need of some fresh faces.

Matt Durr is a reporter from Michigan who has watched professional wrestling since he was three years old. Not just a WWE fan, Matt enjoys Ring of Honor and Japanese wrestling. He has covered University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University athletics for Annarbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @mdurr84.

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