Ahead of All Elite Wrestling’s 2022 All Out pay-per-view, AEW CEO Tony Khan was a guest on Busted Open Radio, claiming that the company’s roster would be the best and strongest it’s ever been following Sunday night. How, exactly, this is pulled off will be a talking point coming out of All Out – Khan rarely lets down his audience:
“By this weekend, by Sunday, I think it’s gonna be the “strongest and best” the AEW roster has ever been. I think people are gonna have to watch All Out to see what I mean by that.”
Tony Khan via Busted Open: "By this weekend, by Sunday, I think it's gonna be the "strongest and best" the AEW roster has ever been. I think people are gonna have to watch All Out to see what I mean by that."
What's he got cooking?!
— Drainmaker 🌧️ 💵 (@DrainBamager) August 31, 2022
Last year’s All Out saw the AEW debuts of three new company signings, as Adam Cole, Bryan Danielson, and Ruby Soho all make their shock first AEW appearances, while ‘The King’ Minoru Suzuki confronted Jon Moxley following his match in what turned out to be one of a number of AEW outings for Suzuki. It’ll be difficult to top this, needless to say – so how does Tony Khan pull it off successfully?
Despite reports of him being “likely back in WWE” imminently, Windham Rotunda will remain top of every ‘X possible debuts’ list until he makes his face shown in either All Elite Wrestling or the McMahon-fronted sports entertainment giant. ‘The Eater of Worlds’ has such an aura around him right now that makes this waiting time – around a year and a month now – one of the most intriguing aspects of wrestling right now.
How AEW would execute a character like Windham’s would be fascinating to watch. Supernatural personas are becoming increasingly more difficult to pull off as the depth of such personalities rises. AEW doesn’t exactly have the greatest track record with this – the original Dark Order and even The House of Black to an extent were failed AEW executions.
But does WWE do it any better? They reduced Bray Wyatt’s incredible Fiend persona to nothing more than a joke by the time of his release. Even with a new regime in charge, it may be better for his career to start over completely fresh in AEW. At least then he has the chance to be taken seriously, whether as a mythical character or under his happy-go-lucky Firefly Fun House guise.
Tony Khan has discussed his arrival in AEW before, stating that although there hadn’t been any talks (at that point, at least), “you never know” (H/T to Fightful):
“Certainly, that name would never be [used]. He’s a great wrestler and I have to be honest, we haven’t really talked at all. I’ve known him in personal life and have gotten to spend a little bit of time with him, but as far as that, we haven’t talked. I saw lots of rumours, but that isn’t something anyone has really talked about, but you never know.”
It’ll be a repetitive topic throughout this feature of discussing ex-WWE Superstars potentially signing for the competition. Mercedes Varnado, f.k.a Sasha Banks, fits the bill perfectly. Though possibly on her way back to WWE alongside Naomi, nothing concrete has been noted on ‘The Legit Boss’ and her future with the company. Given WWE’s apparent refocus on the Women’s Tag Team Championships, it’s now an honest possibility – but again, nothing is official until she reemerges.
That’s why a jump to AEW is also an option for Sunday night. Varnado has kept very quiet on her wrestling career since she and Naomi walked out of the 16th May Monday Night Raw. No one really knows what’s going on except for those directly linked to the situation but if she’s weighing up her options, AEW is surely a choice she’s considering.
Where, exactly, she would fit into an already-bolstered women’s division is difficult to dissect. A litany of must-see matches do await her, however, which would make Varnado’s arrival in the Tony Khan-helmed organisation all the more exciting to watch. Vs. Jade Cargill, Britt Baker, Ruby Soho, Toni Storm; the list is endless, particularly for a promotion partially built on such attractions.
It almost seems inevitable that CJ ‘Lana’ Perry is AEW-bound. ‘The Ravishing Russian’ hasn’t wrestled since she was let go from WWE in June 2021 and it appears unlikely that she will, unless it’s for either WWE or AEW. With real-life husband Miro already claiming that she’s a better performer than “95%” of the latter’s current women’s roster, AEW seems to be the likelier option for her career.
CJ has a lot she could offer AEW, which is why Tony Khan should refrain from hiring her on the basis of utilising her exclusively as Miro’s manager. She’s already explained what it would take for her return, explaining to Inside The Ropes’ own Liam Alexander-Stewart that she wants her wrestling comeback to be “meaningful” and “impactful”:
“Like, it’s worth all the struggle. It’s worth all the disappointment, it’s worth all the time on the road away from your family. That’s worth it, right? Like, I can’t even start to explain it. It’s like I feel like I missed my drug, like sometimes I’m feening and I get moody and get angry sometimes. Then I realized it’s because I miss doing what I love so much.
But it’s really important to me that when I return back to wrestling, I want it to be meaningful and I really want it to be impactful and I just don’t want to do something half-assed and I don’t want to do something that’s mediocre. I think in WWE I was just always a company girl. I was whatever Vince wanted, whatever the company wanted.
It was like at the end of the day, and this maybe was because I came from acting, you’re an actor, so it’s your job to figure out whatever story they give you, even if it doesn’t make sense to you, it’s your job, make it make sense. So because I came from that mentality, I never said no to anything. I was always like, okay, yeah, yeah, okay. That doesn’t make a lot of sense at all, but I’ll figure it out.”
With Miro slated to team with Darby Allin and Sting at All Out against The House of Black’s Malakai Black, Brody King, and Buddy Matthews, flanked by Julia Hart, there may never be a better opportunity to bring CJ Perry into the fold.
Similarly to Windham Rotunda and Mercedes Varnado, JONAH – the former Bronson Reed – is seemingly likely to return to WWE with Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque in charge of WWE creative and talent relations. Fightful Select confirmed the report that the Mat Men Wrestling Podcast’s Andrew Zarian first reported on that WWE is interested in bringing back the one-time NXT North American Champion but as it stands, he’s a free agent to the public eye.
‘The Top Dog’ impressed with his recent G1 Climax outings in the ‘Monster Block’, coming second in his block behind only Kazuchika Okada. This instantly put his name back on the map. He’s done some fine work since being cut from WWE last August, including a run in IMPACT Wrestling, but his G1 debut was necessary to remind everyone of what the hard-hitting behemoth could do.
When speaking to Inside The Ropes’ own Kenny McIntosh last December, JONAH went as far as to say that although talks between him and AEW had fizzled out, it wasn’t “off of the books”:
“Yeah, I mean I did speak with AEW briefly, we couldn’t come to any sort of deal or anything like that. New Japan is my priority and then IMPACT Wrestling, because they reached out to me as well and have taken care of me. But I won’t say that it is off of the books. It’s something that is not in my focus right now, but somewhere down the line you could see JONAH in AEW for sure.”
It’s almost weird to speak about the career of Bandido right now. The one-time ROH World Champion was uber-popular as recently as that championship reign in 2021, but this support has somewhat died down over the last year. He’s no longer associated with Ring Of Honor after being unable to make Final Battle’s title defence vs. Jonathan Gresham owing to a positive COVID test, and was only brought into a Tony Khan-helmed ROH for said match.
He’s officially a free agent now, having made a recent jaunt to IMPACT Wrestling in August. Moving forward, though, the former PWG World Champion is almost too good to allow him to remain unsigned to a major organisation. AEW would undoubtedly be the right place for him.
WWE have been linked to having interest in the past to have him on their books, but where are the benefits? The company’s history with top masked wrestlers isn’t exactly great – the original Sin Cara, f.k.a the legendary Mistico from CMLL, was treated like a nobody upon his arrival in WWE, despite being the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Best Box Office Draw for the 2000s. Bandido needs to venture elsewhere for continued success.
Fans can watch AEW All Out via Bleacher Report (United States only) and Fite TV on 4 September.