Shaping up to be the first credible threat to WWE since the 90's, we take a look at the stars that All Elite Wrestling can build a company around.
On October 2nd, a seismic event will shake the very foundations of pro-wrestling. Less than a year from their inception, All Elite Wrestling will hit the screens of both suspecting and unsuspecting television viewers on TNT Drama. Dubbed Wednesday Night Dynamite, all of the promotional material accompanying the announcement has painted it as an incendiary new product. Riding high after high profile shows such as “Double Or Nothing,” “Fyter Fest,” and “Fight For The Fallen” delivered a mixture of classic smashmouth pro-wrestling and self-referential comedy, they’ve put forth a solid case for being the first viable, 21st-century competition to Vince McMahon’s megacorporation.
Bankrolled by the Khan Family of the Jacksonville Jaguars Fulham FC, the company is a credible threat in the way that other fledgling organizations like IMPACT, Ring Of Honor and even New Japan Pro Wrestling could never truly be. However, money is only a fragment of the entire picture. After all, the defunct World Championship Wrestling had unobstructed access to the pockets of “Billionaire Ted” Turner, but overreliance on past-prime stars and woeful booking decisions (like making actor David Arquette their World Heavyweight Champion) led to their eventual undoing. In order to make AEW into more than a momentary flash-in-the-pan, the company and its staff need to foster a healthy roster of engaging and profitable stars. Now that the burgeoning organization has given us a taste of what to expect before, a crop of the talent has already staked their claims to being those much-needed transcendent stars.
It’s impossible to downplay the impact that the AEW’s acquisition of Chris Jericho has already made. Once a WWE stalwart, the 20-year veteran that once declared he’d “never work for anyone other than Vince” was dissuaded by the new company after feeling underutilized. “I want to make a difference, I don’t want to be just another number on a board somewhere and I think if I went back to WWE that’s kind of the role that was there for me, which is fine,” Jericho said. “My biggest thing is when I had the best angle in 2016, the best story with Kevin Owens and we ended up second on WrestleMania, that’s when I knew I got to get out of here.”
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Now, the remarkably sprightly 49-year-old remains at the top of his game, playing the role of the malevolent, entitled veteran as he heads into a match to crown the first AEW World Champion at this months All Out pay-per-view. Set to be held at Chicago’s Sears Center, the event could very well see this scheming and maniacal “PainMaker” walk away with the strap. From a name-value perspective, it would make plenty of sense to make Jericho the inaugural titleholder. However, there’s an equal chance they place their faith in his boisterous young opponent.
Hailing from Virginia, “Hangman” Adam Page exhibits every hallmark of a face of the company. Powerful, athletic and emitting intensity every time he steps through the ropes, the former ROH/NJPW athlete was never afforded the chance to take the proverbial ball and run with it. Pre-designated as a rising talent for years on end, Jericho’s insistence that Hangman is “as good of a new talent as I’ve seen in a long time” would suggest that they’re eager to embed him at the top of the card. But in order for it to work, the Hangman propaganda has to be disseminated with more tact and subtlety, lest a fan revolt be underway.
Then you have the rest of Hangman’s compatriots in “The Elite.” The forebearers for the entire concept of AEW, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega and tag-team extraordinaire The Young Bucks seem destined to become staples of the main event scene. Entrenched in one of its biggest storylines after he was bludgeoned with a chair by his ex-friend Shawn Spears—formerly known as Tye Dillinger in WWE—Cody will employ the same level of emotional storytelling that made his Double Or Nothing match against his brother Dustin such an enthralling watch. In the case of the Bucks, their upcoming ladder match against the Lucha Bros is sure to see both teams throw caution to the wind and reiterate why they’re two of the best tag teams in the world. Meanwhile,e Canadian superstar Omega is set to battle a man that has already sent shockwaves through the fabric of AEW.
Ever since he left WWE, Jon Moxley—the unsheathed incarnation of Dean Ambrose—has re-emerged anew. Gone is the cartoonish zaniness of the past, replaced by impenetrable cruelty that forces you to suspend your disbelief. Make no mistake, Jon Moxley’s insistence that he “wants to injure” his opponents does not feel gimmicky. Yet all good villains need a foil. Energized by the creative freedom that he always wanted in WWE, Darby Allin’s propensity for absorbing punishment in the name of our entertainment harbors shades of WWE Hall Of Famer Mick Foley. Known to show complete and utter disregard for his own body, the skater turned wrestler seems pre-destined to resonate with those who like their sports entertainment to dip into the more macabre side of things.
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Somehow capable of juggling her career as a dentist and pro-wrestler, Dr. Britt Baker feels like a shoo-in to be AEW’s first women’s champion. Bold, charismatic and formidable, the concussion that she received at Fight For The Fallen will do little to damper her star power. Not to mention, a feud between her and the devilish Brandi Rhodes is sure to garner plenty of fan interest.
Tailormade to be fan favorites, the reactions that Jungle Boy and Luchasaurus have been getting infer that they’re in line for a push to the moon. The son of late Riverdale star Luke Perry, Jungle Boy has “plucky underdog” written all over him, which will make his eventual clamber to the top all the more rewarding. On the other side, while his tag partner/caretaker Luchasaurus is absurdly agile for a man of 6”4 and impeccable comedic timing. On the subject of tag teams, the tandem of Isiah Kassidy and Marq Queen are one pairing that bodes well for the future. Handpicked by the Young Bucks, this flashy duo strike the perfect balance between turning up and dazzling fans with their incredible repertoire of moves.
However, you can’t have a whole roster comprised of affable good guys. While Chris Jericho and Shawn Spears are both doing stellar jobs of fulfilling the role of heel, no individual on the AEW roster is inciting the sheer hatred that MJF can. If you watched Double Or Nothing or Fyter Fest, there’s no doubt that you saw the snobbish Maxwell Jacob Friedman verbally eviscerate the crowd and his opponents for his own amusement. No stranger to having fans try to leap the guardrail to get to him, MJF is a throwback to a bygone era where fans didn’t cheer the bad guys for being cool but rather loathed them for being insufferable.
Considering this is but a scant few of the 60 wrestlers making up the AEW roster, it’s clear to see that they have an embarrassment of riches—both figuratively and literally—at their disposal. As they edge ever closer to their TV debut, all the company has to do is heed the fan’s reactions to their talents and they’re on the fast track to a long and healthy tenure on our screens.