On Wednesday, AEW fans were drowning in exciting news.
Early in the day, Fightful.com reported that CM Punk is in talks to return to the ring with AEW. This has also been confirmed by Ringside News who go further and call it essentially a “done deal”. After eight years away from the business, Punk has supposedly been in talks with Tony Khan himself. The leader of the Cult of Personality could break the Internet with an AEW debut.
The good times would not stop there, however. AEW Dynamite started at 7 PM, and within 20 minutes, another star made their way to Khan’s wrestling company. MJF announced that Jericho’s next trial of Jericho would be a “No Rules Match” against Nick Gage, who stormed the entrance ramp to a thunderous crowd reaction. Nick Gage has been the biggest name in the indies for about six months. His AEW debut has been expected for a few months now, but it is good to see him make his entrance.
Andrade El Idolo took the ring a bit later to reveal the “surprise” he has been teasing for weeks. This surprise turned out to be Chavo Guerrero Jr, who is taking over as Andrade’s manager. The Texas crowd went nuts for Eddie Guerrero’s nephew and chanted his name all the way to the ring.
Oh, and in case you thought AEW was done for the night, there’s more. About an hour into Dynamite, Bodyslam.net reported that Bryan Danielson has “100 Percent signed” with AEW. The former Daniel Bryan let his WWE contract expire earlier this year and speculation about his wrestling future has dominated online wrestling communities. Thanks to the creative control AEW allows its superstars, plus their willingness to let stars take outside bookings, Daniel Bryan could not resist becoming All Elite.
The Roster Was Already Stacked
Any of these signings would be huge. However, it was not like AEW’s roster lacked talent and draw.
The base AEW was beyond talented from the start. The Young Bucks are the best tag team in wrestling history. Cody Rhodes changed wrestling forever when he left WWE. Kenny Omega was the IWGP Heavyweight Champion when AEW was being formed. Chris Jericho is a wrestling G.O.A.T. Christopher Daniels was an independent wrestling staple. “Hangman” Adam Page was starting to build a ton of momentum with fans. Britt Baker was being lifted as the next big thing. PAC refused to sign with any company after his WWE debut, but suddenly just settled in with AEW. Rey Fenix and Penta El Zero were the biggest stars in Mexico and were maybe even bigger in America.
Then came Jon Moxley, and The Best Friends, and Jungle Boy, and Orange Cassidy, and Hikaru Shida, and Nyla Rose, and Brodie Lee, and the Dark Order. and Darby Allin The roster had already become one of the best in wrestling history within a year of its founding.
That roster has just continued to get better every single month. FTR came to finally have that dream match with the Bucks. Miro is having the best run of his career. Matt Hardy got to finish his character arc the way he wanted. Oh, you want nostalgia? How about Sting, Christian Cage, and Taz, all of whom have never been better on the stick.
Then the signings picked up recently. Andrade El Idolo finally made his post-WWE decision and came to be the “Face of AEW”. Malakai Black shocked the world when he kicked Arn Anderson’s and Cody Rhodes’ lights out. Thunder Rosa officially ended her contract with the NWA and became an AEW superstar.
Look out for that homegrown talent
There exist this nonsense argument that people use against AEW fans that essentially is “AEW has to use former WWE talent to be successful”. It is a stupid argument from the start, but it gets worse every week.
Darby Allin spent some time in the indies getting some experience but has really come into his own in AEW. Orange Cassidy had no following before signing with AEW but is arguably one of the most over names in wrestling now. Jungle Boy is entirely an AEW creation, and there is not a truer babyface in wrestling. Sammy Guevara is being built up as a potential future world champion.
Then there is Britt Baker D.M.D.
Baker could not sign with WWE because it would not allow her to finish medical school and become a dentist. She admitted that before signing with AEW, she had no clue how to wrestle on live TV. Her start in AEW was rough to put it gently. For Pete’s sake, at All In, she came out to her boyfriend Adam Cole’s entrance music, not her own.
Look at her now. The hottest name in AEW, if not wrestling entirely. Her music hits and crowds pay attention. Her finger goes up and the crowd is already chanting her catchphrase. She consistently draws the highest ratings of the show. She trends every time she appears on Dynamite, and rightfully so.
The biggest stars in the company are the ones that refused the WWE money and took a bet on themselves and AEW.
How it comes together
Now that AEW is back on the road, it is becoming clear how important this deep roster is. Since beginning touring again, AEW has not put on a bad show. The crowds are hot, the matches are intense, and the roster continues to do what it does best.
When your roster is forced to wrestle every week, multiple times a week, they will get worn out and overexposed. But, because AEW’s roster is so large and they only have two hours of cable to fill, the wrestlers get to take breaks and rest and continue to perform at a high level. It especially helps the champions, who are made to feel more important due to the scarcity of their matches.
Thanks to every roster spot being filled with an extremely talented wrestler, it means that there are never breaks in the quality. When Penta is resting, Pac steps up. When Cassidy is resting, Sammy Guevara steps up. Baker needs time off, here comes Kris Statlander. Behind those people who fill the spots, are even more wrestlers ready to take up the torch and fill a need?
This is why AEW is selling out a stadium in New York. It is also why Tony Khan and crew are looking into more stadium shows.
If there were ever a time that WWE really needs to be watching their back and their competition, it would be now. Especially as AEW’s numbers continue to climb.