Despite the many hours of television they need to fill, WWE’s roster feels bloated and stale. There are so many bodies and so few open spots that inevitably there is a slew of performers who aren’t being used to their full potential. Enter AEW. With real competition comes opportunity, and there are certain performers in WWE who could do worse than seize that chance should it come their way. Now, of course, there are plenty of wrestlers on the WWE roster who could be on this list, but I have omitted those I feel could be quickly rehabbed within the company (Shinsuke Nakamura and Rusev for example). I am taking a blanket approach here and everyone on this list will have different expiry dates on their contracts, but hypothetically speaking these are some of the top talents who could potentially revive their careers by cashing in their chips with WWE and taking an All Elite gamble.
Poor old EC3. Returning to the WWE fold after a multi-year absence, he signed with NXT after his run in TNA/Impact wrestling to quite some fanfare and looked great in his first few outing on the black-and-yellow brand. However, he quickly faded into mid-card obscurity down in Florida, but I think we all held out hope that he’d fare better on the main roster. After all, he has a chiselled physique, he can cut an excellent promo and he has a character. It wasn’t to be though, and he has largely been an afterthought on the main roster.
AEW seems like it could use an EC3. He feels ready made to look like a star if utilised properly, and there are plenty of potential opportunities of guys to pair him with. Jon Moxley was vocally supportive of EC3 while discussing his WWE exit. Imagine EC3 paired up with MJF as a pair of obnoxious snobbish heels, it writes itself. Most importantly, EC3 would add something different to the company with who are going to need to expand their roster if they plan to do weekly TV and who will need credible challengers for whoever their first champion is on a week to week basis. They could do far worse than take a look at EC3.
When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was training for his in-ring comeback in 2012, it was Curtis Axel he turned to as a training partner. Axel has been praised by many of his peers as a future star, an underrated worker and much more. Yet barring a brief push when he re-debuted under his current moniker Axel has been underutilised massively.
Now consider what AEW has already done with Cody Rhodes. A third-generation superstar who was given few opportunities to grasp the imaginary brass ring in WWE. Revered by his peers, placed in a supporting role as a goon for another superstar on multiple occasions. Sound familiar? Axel has a huge amount of history with Larry “The Axe” Hennig and Curt “Mr Perfect” Hennig in the two generations of his family before him and he has been in the WWE system for a number of years. Arguably, he has hit his ceiling within the company and a feud with Cody Rhodes in AEW could be just the ticket for Axel to reinvent himself.
In his pre-WWE days, Apollo Crews was one of the hottest properties on the independent scene. Going by the name Uhaa Nation he was absolutely sensational. As a contemporary of PAC in Dragon Gate, he garnered rave reviews for his matches and seemed like a “can’t miss” future world champion. His repertoire of power moves mixed with
Yet here we are, and Crews is lucky if he gets a match on RAW or SmackDown Live most weeks. His smiley-good-guy-babyface act lacks depth because the company have never been willing to give him anything to work with. A heel turn could have worked wonders, and it seemed like when he was a part of Titus Worldwide that was on the cards, but nothing ever came of it.
Apollo is wasted in WWE and has all the tools to succeed at the very top of the industry, but I don’t think it’s going to happen for him in WWE. Imagine what a performer with his level of charisma and athleticism could do opposite a Kenny Omega, or a Hangman Page. Even up against the likes of Angelico or Jimmy Havoc. A fresh start in AEW would open up a world of new and exciting opponents for the man formerly known as Uhaa Nation.
This might be a surprise inclusion for some, but if you consider Asuka’s WWE run in more detail you can see why a move might be good for her career. Her run in NXT was something unparalleled and after winning the first women’s royal rumble and losing her unbeaten streak to Charlotte Flair, arguably the greatest female wrestler of the modern era (in the US at least) in a high profile WrestleMania match you might be forgiven for asking why she merits inclusion here. However, if you look at her treatment since, she is floundering in a makeshift tag team with Kairi Sane (apparently thrown together simply due to a shared ethnicity and a history that will be lost on the average) after a pretty so-so run as SmackDown Live Women’s champion. Her unbeatable aura is no longer there, and she seems destined to mid-card irrelevance.
Now in AEW, there is a small but talented pool of women who could use an experienced hand who has some experience with performing on a big stage. The likes of Britt Baker, Allie and Bea Priestly could learn so much from Asuka, while you also have an interesting story to tell with the Joshi talent such as Riho (and possibly even Aja Kong and her compatriots based on Double or Nothing). Personally, the notion of Asuka vs Awesome Kong is a sensational one and I would be incredibly intrigued to see them face off. In short, at 38 Asuka is too good to be wasting her time in meaningless tag matches on SmackDown Live, and jumping to AEW would make her a focal point of a burgeoning women’s division.
Perhaps the most obvious entry on this list is Luke Harper. How on earth Harper has not become a World Champion in WWE is beyond me. He has a great look, can work with just about anyone, has the size to be a giant but can also fly. Harper really is the complete package. He shone in Chikara for several years, as well as in various independents before becoming part of the Wyatt Family in NXT and on the main roster.
His singles run after the family dissolved yielded some memorable matches against Dean Ambrose, now Jon Moxley and I would love to see that combination again in AEW. He would consistently be paired up with Erick Rowan, and while they worked well together Harper always struck me as the workhorse of the duo. He even got himself into phenomenal shape, and briefly, he appeared to be destined for a title feud with Randy Orton and/or Bray Wyatt in 2017, but ultimately the title would pass to Jinder Mahal and Harper would be out in the cold, before being repackaged again alongside Rowan. The Bludgeon Brothers was not Harper’s finest work, but more due to the limitations of the gimmick itself, but it really was the last memorable thing he did with the company.
AEW is not exactly loaded with traditional big wrestlers. Harper could very much fill that niche. We already know Harper taking on Jon Moxley could be superb, but imagine having him go toe-to-toe with Kenny Omega, Hangman Page or even the likes of Joey Janela or Pentagon Jr. There is so much potential for Harper in AEW, while currently, he is sitting on the sidelines in WWE. A talented big man, with charisma by the bucket load he deserves better opportunities than his current employers seem capable of providing.
So there you have it, five wrestlers who could absolutely revive their fortunes by making a move to the competition. While I expect plenty of wrestlers to jump ship (and others to go the other way) as competition intensifies between the two organisations, there may be no better time for competitors who are being underutilised to take a gamble and seek greener pastures.
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