On Monday, the self-described “conservative comedian” Steven Crowder tweeted out the guest list for his online talk show, Louder With Crowder, which streams on the Glenn Beck-owned BlazeTV. There is no reason any person should care about this beyond the fact that, among those guests, was the WWE star A.J. Styles. Wrestling Twitter instantly filled with grim speculation about how exactly this would turn out.
This was mostly because Styles is both a brilliant wrestler and kind of a weird guy. He’s not a flat-earther, for instance, but he does somehow believe the Flat Earth Society about a bunch of other things. He was also one of the various white wrestlers shown busting a gut at Kid Rock saying he wanted to “slam some Democrats” at last year’s Hall of Fame ceremony while the Indian-Canadian Singh Brothers looked like they wanted to die. He also had a habit of regularly using the word “faggot” throughout his entire pre-WWE career , was dismayed by his following in “THE GAY COMMUNITY?!?,” and once said on a hot mic that “since [The] Rock’s not black or white, people like that can say ‘nigger’ whenever they want.” In short there was plenty of reason to expect a disaster, and while it didn’t get that far, it did get far enough to be concerning.
Nothing that A.J. said in the interview was controversial or even especially distasteful, especially considering that the segment came directly out of a promo clip for Crowder’s t-shirts, including one that says “SOCIALISM IS FOR F*GS” with an image of a fig where the asterisk appears and an illustration of a limp-wristed Che Guevara. Crowder and his acolytes routinely claim that the shirt is actually “SOCIALISM IS FOR FIGS,” which is worth mentioning only so that you know the level at which this show operates.
Most of the interview was apolitical, and meeting political issues mostly confined to the last few minutes, after Crowder made a joke about wrestlers shaving their body hair and Styles brought up the suddenly controversial razor brand Gillette. “I don’t think—I could be wrong—but there’s most men…aren’t the ones they were going for,” Styles told Crowder. “I don’t know who they were going for, I don’t know who they were going after. I’m very confused by this commercial and what they were trying to tell me.” He later added that “I don’t know what they’re trying to tell me, what they’re trying to say; I didn’t even know about this ‘toxic’ stuff going on.” Earlier in the interview, Styles seemed to at least partially get that “being mean to women” was part of the equation, but he “just didn’t know who they were talking to and it kinda made me angry.”
Perhaps the most pointed comment came when Crowder said that he didn’t think “PC culture” was encroaching on WWE, a point with which Styles disagreed. “There are some things that we cannot and will not say on the microphone, and you don’t want them to come after you,” Styles said, not elaborating on which things those were or the identity of “them.” He added that the aforementioned environment has led to a sharp drop in his Twitter activity, “because you gotta watch out with everything you say, and I just don’t wanna deal with that, you know?” The non-political stuff wasn’t any more interesting than that.
In the end, both the strangest and most notable things about the interview are that it happened at all. As Fightful.com managing editor Sean Ross Sapp noted both on Monday night and in the past, WWE generally refuses to grant wrestler interviews to wrestling-centric websites beyond Triple H’s conference calls during the week of every NXT TakeOver event. Those are, roughly, quarterly and there is really nothing else, regardless of the size of the site and the larger reality of a captive audience that wants to know the stars’ personalities better. Which is another way of saying that WWE is normally very restrictive about this kind of thing.
Wrestlers do have some leeway in taking interviews on their own, doubly so for bigger stars like Styles, but the big question about his Crowder appearance is if the interview—which specifically promoted this coming Sunday’s Royal Rumble event—was booked through WWE or Styles himself. This matters in part because Joe Villa, the WWE flack who handles interview booking, is outspokenly far to the right on Twitter, including some spicy takes on that very same Gillette “toxic masculinity” commercial and repeated angry tweets directed at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Emails to WWE asking for comment on both the interview and who booked it have not been returned as of this writing.
This doesn’t really matter much, if we’re being honest. It’s a great wrestler going on a conservative online talk show of little import and then talking vaguely about a TV commercial that no normal person cares about. It might add something to Styles’ match this Sunday at the Royal Rumble against WWE Champion and noted tree-hugging hippie Daniel “I Hope My Daughter Kicks Every Man in the Groin” Bryan, though. You can even argue that it gives some extra heft to Bryan’s last big promo hyping the Rumble, which aired Tuesday night on SmackDown Live.
“It’s like you pulled this incredible magic trick, this, this illusion, while you’ve concealed from them the economic and environmental debt you’ve created, and they’ve become satisfied with trading Instagram likes, and Facebook messages, and social media stuff.” Bryan said of the WWE fans to Vince McMahon during Tuesday’s edition of SmackDown Live. “All while you’re in the back hoarding all the wealth, hoarding all the power, and they ignore it! Because they’re distracted! You’ve created an environment for somebody like A.J. Styles to become a hero.”
David Bixenspan is a freelance writer from Brooklyn, N.Y., who co-hosts the Between The Sheets podcast eery Monday at BetweenTheSheetsPod.com and everywhere else that podcasts are available. You can follow him on Twitter at @davidbix and view his portfolio at Clippings.me/davidbix.