I’ve gone on record already with the idea that it’d be cool if AEW largely doesn’t rely on defections from any of the established wrestling organizations already operating. That said, it’s totally fun to “fantasy book” how talents could be used in a totally non-WWE environment. I read the same dirt sheets you all do, so I have no special inside knowledge. Hell, it’s highly possible no one mentioned in this article ever go to AEW. So, with that in mind enjoy this deep dive into 15 WWE Superstars / Teams / Factions I’d love to see in AEW.
15 WWE Superstars I’d Like to See in AEW
Tenille Dashwood (fka Emma)
Tenille Dashwood is the only one on this list already gone from WWE at the time of this writing (I realize I’m cheating here). She managed to get the “Dancing Emma” character over at NXT, left for a forgettable main roster run, and managed to get “Evil Emma” over at NXT when she came back to Full Sail. Tenille also survived some major injuries and the abomination that was the “Emmalina” gimmick. The woman has been through a lot. While she’s thriving at ROH right now, I’d love to see her join the ranks of AEW and get to showcase the cagey ring vet she’s become on a seemingly much larger stage.
Dana is one of the many “called up from NXT too soon” main roster casualties at WWE right now. I know the intent was to carry on the duo she had going with Emma, but when Emma went down with an injury Dana’s fate was sealed. For whatever reason, WWE is unwilling to send someone back to NXT. Full stop. So, due to being a victim of circumstance, Dana has bounced around the main roster. At best she’s the secondary character in a storyline. At worst she’s completely forgotten. It seems crazy to me as she’s clearly got athletic ability and a desire to be in the wrestling business. Like just swallow whatever pride and send back to NXT to get repackaged. Or, I don’t know. Let her go somewhere else where she has a fighting chance.
It seems extremely unlikely, but hear me out! Asuka’s NXT run was legendary and since getting called up… nothing… really. Sure, she won the first women’s Royal Rumble, but that was booked in such a way that Asuka was nearly forgotten by the debuting Ronda Rousey to end the show. Asuka is currently the SmackDown Women’s Champion and her WrestleMania match this year is an afterthought and almost seems destined for the Kickoff Show. I’d love to see Asuka ride out her WWE contract and give us at least a brief run as Kana at AEW. Just book her like she was booked at NXT and then establish her as a women’s division gatekeeper and you’re set.
Nikki Cross getting called up and then seemingly abandoned (like her SAnitY stable-mates) on the main roster was one of final nails in the coffin for me and WWE product. Nikki owns the “crazed and unstable” character she’s built at NXT and I just do not see her getting used effectively on Raw or SmackDown. At best, she’s the women’s division Dean Ambrose and will be attacking people with hot dog condiments. At worst, she will get to lose on TV weekly and put over whatever idiotic thing VKM finds hilarious that week. Nikki was one of the few who went toe to toe with Asuka at NXT and has proven there time and again she can go. But, you know… her character is “crazy” so she already has a glass ceiling on the main roster I’m afraid. Since her going back to NXT will never happen because no one gets to go back – release her (and SAnitY for that matter) and let them all thrive somewhere they’ll actually be appreciated.
Okay, this one will probably never happen. Even still, I’d love to see Bayley build on the character that she worked with at NXT before the main roster sucked the life out of it. Bayley seemed ear-marked as a Cena-level babyface for the main roster women’s division and has been lost in the shuffle as the Charlottes, Alexas, and Rondas get the majority of the accolades. While any of the Four Horsewomen ever leaving WWE seems next to impossible, I think Bayley would be the one I’d like to see operate outside of the McMahon-o-sphere and see what she could do in a different creative scenario.
Tag Division / Factions
Gallows & Anderson
I hope that Gallows & Anderson have enjoyed their time in WWE because it’s largely been forgettable from a fan’s perspective. This is criminal because they’ve been such a dominant force outside the WWE, it seemed obvious they’d come in and be booked in such a fashion. But not so much. Instead they had a short title run and were otherwise used as a comedy act and occasional back up to AJ Styles. Sadly, WWE never pulled the trigger on Gallows and Anderson being AJ or Balor’s heaters and that seemed like the best way to use them. Anderson has claimed recently that they’re not going anywhere, but the rumor mill has heavily suggested they may not re-up with WWE this year. As AEW seems to want to focus on the tag division, I could definitely see these vintage Bullet Club members join the “elite”. They have the pedigree and a bunch of their friends are working at AEW now.
I mean, it’s a given, right? They’re unhappy at WWE, have gotten a token run with the Raw tag titles that hasn’t gone anywhere because Vince hates tag teams, and they even asked for their release and were denied. Dash Wilder even once said, “One day we’ll wrestle The Young Bucks & everyone will rejoice. Remember this tweet.” I see The Revival as the most likely out of anyone on this to show up at AEW when WWE finally lets them leave.
The New Day
Imagine the New Day outside of the creative reigns held by Vince McMahon. The potential for greatness is limitless. Tag feuds with the Young Bucks… SCU… Best Friends… my God… The Lucha Bros. (!). Xavier Woods vs. Kenny Omega in more than just a video game competition. New Day showing up on ‘Being the Elite’ would be worth the price of admission alone. It’ll probably never happen, but it’d be amazing if it did.
I won’t shut up about it on this site, but The Ascension are one of the most over tag teams in NXT history. We all know the story since then. Called up to the main roster, immediately ridiculed, and nothing. With a focus on tag teams in AEW, I could see Ascension showing up and getting back to the business they were doing years ago in NXT. We’ll just never mention their run as Stardust’s lackeys… okay? Okay.
The Usos are another team that have casually teased that they might be leaving WWE. Jimmy and Jey are an incredible tag team and with the way creative will go at AEW, I could see them thriving with an even more “real” version of the act they’ve been using at WWE the past few years. I doubt McMahon will ever let them leave, especially when one considers their familial associations. But, even still, they’d be a HUGE get for the AEW tag division if they were so inclined to leave the WWE.
Remember Luke Harper? I sure do. I also remember when he organically got over and should have had a WrestleMania match for the championship. But, alas, the powers that be shot that down and we ended up with the Bludgeon Brothers. Rowan went down with injury and Harper quietly started working NXT house shows. Rowan heals up, Harper heals up, and Rowan is now Daniel Bryan’s heater… and as of this writing Harper is just sitting around doing nothing. Let’s be honest, Vince seems unlikely to ever pull the trigger on a serious singles run for Harper. Let Brodie Lee go to AEW where he could instantly establish himself as one of the top guys in the men’s division. He’s got the size, the skills, and finally not being forced into a confusing Wyatt Family gimmick he could hold his own on the mic too.
One of the most talented guys to come through NXT. After an aborted singles run upon main roster call up (notice a pattern yet?) he and Fandango got themselves over with the Fashion Police gimmick. ‘Dango went down with injury and they’ve done almost nothing with Breeze since and the rumor mill says Fandango will be split off when he returns from injury. Obviously he can’t be known at “Tyler Breeze” in AEW and “Mike Dalton” doesn’t have much of a ring to it. But, a similar styled character with a new name would be great. Breeze has shown during his NXT run and in the “Fashion Files” that he’d fit right in with a segment on “Being the Elite” too.
See “Dana Brooke” above. Apollo Crews (or Apollo? I can’t keep track of who Vince turns into a “single name wrestler” anymore) was called up way too soon. He barely had a chance to do anything at NXT and there is he is… on the main roster… with no character whatsoever. With WWE not really using him for anything, Apollo seems like another guy who could totally benefit from reinventing himself in some new surroundings.
Cesaro is another one I doubt would leave WWE. I mean, it’s always possible as he has seemed disgruntled in the past. But really, I’d just love to see Cesaro work a match with a bunch of the people already signed to AEW. I’d love to, selfishly, see the Bar break up, Cesaro to get used horribly again, and bail when his contract expires.
Sure, another one that WWE will probably never let get away. But, still… Finn seemed destined for huge things after a great NXT run. An unfortunate injury that forced him to relinquish the newly minted Universal Championship didn’t help things. Since returning from that injury, Balor has been in limbo. It’s almost as if VKM views Balor as snakebit and refuses to promote him higher than his current position – hot-potatoing the IC strap with Bobby Lashley. Balor is another example of a guy who could thrive if left to his own devices instead of being booked by the whims of a single man. And, of course, you have the built-in ties to the Bullet Club if you wanted to go the “easy” route to debut him at AEW.
Well, there you have it. I’m sure I missed a few that would work well transitioning from WWE to AEW. Now, let’s see if any defections happen over the coming months and years.