For decades, wrestling fans have talked about their favorite wrestlers “jumping ship” to rival promotions. So-and-so might have a contract that is set to expire soon, so people will begin to speculate that they’re ready to head elsewhere. In other instances, Wrestler A is being “misused” by the promotion they’re with, so fans of that person will want to see them in another company that will use them “better” and do it from day one. It has been happening non-stop for as long as I’ve been a fan of the sport, and has only gotten more prevalent since the birth of the internet.
In the current day and age, we’re damn sure swimming in this type of discussion. From the earliest days of AEW, there have been so many tweets, social media posts, columns, message board posts, smoke signals, and handwritten notes created about how much WWE was struggling with the creative side of wrestling and how they should let some of their more talented “hostages” go. AEW should sign this person, that person, those people, this guy, that woman, and on and on and on. WWE has released approximately 894 people over the last couple years, and of those 894, 893 of them were immediately linked (legitimately or not) to AEW. The only exception was Braun Strowman, because really, who gives a fuck about Braun Strowman?
The thing is… this was a very one-sided conversation. With as much as you heard and saw “So-and-so should go to AEW” at every turn, how often did you really see “So-and-so should go to WWE” as the counterpoint? The general consensus was either that WWE was the “major leagues” and didn’t need “minor league” talent like AEW featured, or that WWE was a “sinking ship” and that there wasn’t anyone on the AEW roster that would even dream of going there.
Then… the Cody Rhodes rumors started popping up. No matter how many times we saw the rumors, and no matter who was reporting them… there was no way that Cody was really going back to WWE, was there? He was incredibly unhappy as Stardust, and was one of the “founding fathers” of AEW. Why would he ever go back to WWE? It just didn’t seem like something that was actually going to happen.
Until it did.
Years and years from now, history will look back at the moment Cody Rhodes returned to WWE at WrestleMania 38. I don’t care what happens between WWE and AEW. AEW could grow and grow until they become the largest wrestling promotion on the planet, or WWE could one day squash their competition like a bug… again. It doesn’t matter… Cody’s WWE return is forever going to mark a major moment in wrestling history.
Now that Cody has opened the REAL Forbidden Door, will anyone else follow in his footsteps?
I’m sure most of you have been following the MJF news recently. There have been a lot of reports on MJF’s contract status with AEW. In kayfabe, he has been very vocal about his contract expiring in 2024 and how he knows there’s going to be a huge bidding war between AEW and WWE for his services. Not only is that probably true, no matter what, but it’s great heel work. To even mention a possible jump to WWE on AEW programming is guaranteed to get some major heel heat. The truth in the comments is what I want to talk about, though.
MJF has proven to be someone that is a must-have for AEW. His ability to get that precious heel heat is second-to-none in wrestling right now, and his in-ring work has been rapidly catching up to his character work. As I mentioned in my last column, he has even shown that he has the ability to work as a face should it be decided in the future that a face run would be beneficial to all involved. At only 26 years old, he still might not even be in his prime by the time his contract expires. That’s a scary thought.
As much as he might be one of the “pillars” of AEW, it could be said that he might be just as important to WWE. This is a company that has, more often than not, struggled to build and/or push young stars, often relying on older names and part-time talent from the past. For a 27-year-old (at the time of a hypothetical jump) WWE-ready talent to just fall into their laps? That would be an incredible signing for them. One that could benefit the company for decades, barring injuries and any sort of unforeseen circumstances.
“But isn’t MJF just the Great Value version of The Miz? WWE already has the real thing, so why would they want the knockoff?”
It sure seemed as though a lot of people felt that way when AEW first launched. Those people saw a lot of similarities between Miz and MJF, from their promos to their in-ring style to the way they look, and just about everything in between. Other than the nearly 16 year gap in their ages, they were viewed as being the same wrestler. Then, a funny thing happened…
MJF surpassed The Miz in almost every possible way. Maybe it’s because he’s in his 40’s now… maybe it’s because he has his eyes set on multiple film and television projects at any given time… maybe it’s because WWE’s creative team is as mislabeled as it gets… but either way, The Miz just isn’t the same performer he once was. His Talking Smack promo on Daniel Bryan was nearly SIX YEARS AGO. He has had some feuds that looked like they could be something decent, only for things to fizzle out. There was the brief period of time when he was a face, teaming with Shane McMahon and eventually winning the Smackdown Tag Team Titles at the 2019 Royal Rumble. The reign lasted a total of three weeks, and it led to a heel turn for Shane that nobody asked for. There was the reunion with John Morrison to start 2020, and that, too, led to a reign as the Smackdown Tag Team Champions. That was another relatively short reign, but the overall pairing was more known for the “comedy” that they were bringing to WWE programming. It all fell flat, and then, Morrison was gone from the company, leaving Miz alone again.
MJF gets more heat than Miz does. He has had much better matches recently. Simply put, he “matters” more right now.
If MJF signs with WWE, it will happen when Miz is creeping up on turning 44 years old. As I said, MJF would only be 27 at the time. Sure sounds like an upgrade for WWE to me.
You can react to this statement in any way you see fit, but I see it as the 100% honest truth… MJF belongs in WWE. He is a MUCH better fit for what WWE looks to do than for what AEW looks to do. That’s not saying WWE is better than AEW, or vice versa.
When you look up and down the AEW roster right now, you can’t say that about a lot of people. MJF, for sure, as evidenced by everything I’ve just said. However, there’s another one that has really stood out to me, and it’s yet another person that I just wrote about in another column.
I’ve said it on multiple occasions in the past, but Jade Cargill has the potential to become a transcendent star. She has a look and a natural charisma that is unlike almost anything ever seen in women’s wrestling. Her debut match was less than 15 months ago, so she’s obviously not as polished in the ring as women like Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, or even like Thunder Rosa and Serena Deeb, but she continues improving. Working more than just squash matches will do that. She’s so much better now than she was a few months ago, so imagine where she could be if she continues getting better.
Jade’s overall presentation just SCREAMS out “WWE” to me. They’ve been the home of the larger-than-life wrestlers and characters for longer than most of us have been alive, and that doesn’t appear to be changing at any point soon. Vince McMahon is always on the lookout for his next Andre The Giant, and that search has now broadened to try and find the female equivalent. Jade Cargill would be tremendous in that role, and you can damn sure believe that the likes of Vince, Bruce Prichard, and so forth are already drooling over the idea of Jade and Raquel Gonzalez having a stare down in the Royal Rumble or something.
This is such an interesting time in the world of wrestling. Not that long ago, AEW wrestlers seemed like they would all be “lifers” with the company. All 1,375 of them. All it took was one person to think outside the box… a box that we, the wrestling fans, created… and now, there’s an entirely new set of conversations (and assumptions) taking place. Does this mean AEW is struggling, with wrestlers thinking of bailing while they still can? Of course not. There was some unfounded concern when Discovery acquired WarnerMedia and what that would mean for AEW’s future, but by all accounts, the newly named Warner Bros. Discovery is very happy with what AEW has been able to do with their year-over-year ratings and are looking to give AEW a very prominent “push” at the upfront meetings (that may have already finished taking place by the time you read these words). They’re not struggling. They won’t be shutting down. I just think it’s important to note that people are seeing openings to leave AEW, no matter what their reasoning might be.
It’s way too early in the process for anyone to confidently say that MJF WILL be in WWE or that he WILL stay in AEW. Would it be fun to see him in WWE? I’d love to see it. More than anything else, for the fresh matches and opportunities for promo battles, and not “HAHAHA AEW SUX” or “HAHAHA WWE RULZ” or any of those weird narratives. I’m not going to be upset if he stays right where he is. Chances are, he’s going to have more top-of-the-card chances in AEW, so if the money’s right, it would be foolish to run out the door.
What say you, ReaderLand? First and foremost, do you think MJF ends up in WWE one day? Whether it’s when his contract is up in 2024 or at some other point in the future. The next thing I want to know is if you WANT to see him in WWE, whether you think he ends up there or not. Those same questions go for Jade Cargill. Finally, I’d also like to hear about others that you think could/should “jump ship” one day. That goes for any company pairing. If you think someone from AEW should go to WWE, tell me. WWE to Impact? Tell me. WWE to New Japan? Tell me. As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Dax Harwood vs Adam Cole: When it comes to in-ring quality, there might not be anyone in the wrestling business on a bigger hot streak right now than Dax Harwood. He’s on fire week in and week out, whether its in singles competition or tag team action. Even in a loss here, that hot streak continued. He had a lot of people really believing he would win here and move on in the Owen Hart Foundation Tournament. As much as I’m enjoying this run he’s on, I’m actually glad he is out of the tournament. Let’s get away from the move-for-move Bret and Owen tribute matches now and go back to being FTR again.
- Scorpio Sky vs Frankie Kazarian: The match itself was really good. Nobody should be surprised about that. What everyone seems to be talking about, though, is some confusing booking decisions. You have Sammy Guevara and Tay Conti, who went from really over faces to being some of the more hated people on the AEW roster. They’ve been feuding with Dan Lambert and his Goon Squad, getting Lambert’s side some quasi-face crowd reactions in the process. It looked like we were on the verge of getting an actual face turn from Scorpio Sky, which made perfect sense with the feud and the direction it was going. Then… it was revealed to be nothing more than a swerve from ol’ Scorp, and he’s firmly planted as a heel once again… even while Sammy and Tay are still hated. Now AEW fans are confused about who to cheer for and how to react, in general, when it comes to this mess.
- The Creed Brothers vs The Viking Raiders: Obviously it isn’t the case, but it sure seems like every tag team match we see these days features teams that are smaller and have flashier in-ring styles. That means getting a match like this, with four dudes that are just trying to throw each other all over the building. Fun stuff. The Creeds continue to look like future Raw or Smackdown Tag Team Champions, but we know how things go when it comes to people who go from NXT to the main roster, so we’ll see.
- Riddle vs Sami Zayn: Can you picture Riddle as the WWE or Universal Champion in the future? I sure can. He has succeeded in picking up the “WWE style” quicker, and better, than most people expected. His character and promos are certainly catered to a certain portion of the WWE Universe, but there’s no denying how over he is. He has proven he can “go” in the ring with opponents of various sizes and styles. These are all developments that I don’t think many people saw coming.
- Toni Storm vs Jamie Hayter: A really nice, physical encounter. It didn’t do much to squash the complaints that people are having about the women’s division in AEW… only two women can be pushed at any given point, the matches aren’t given enough time, and whatever else they’re saying… but that isn’t the fault of these women.
- Ricky Starks vs Jungle Boy: Am I the only one that feels Jungle Boy has lost a ton of momentum in the last couple months? Not that long ago, people were making arguments that he was a dark horse candidate to win the AEW World Title at some point in 2022. He then kicked off the year by winning the Tag Team Titles with Luchasaurus. The wheels seem to have fallen off since then, though. The fact that it looked like they only won the titles due to Rey Fenix getting injured was the first “strike” there. Then, the new Tag Team Champions looked like they were being positioned as the third, fourth, or even fifth biggest team in the company. He still has a really bright future, but he seems to be another victim of the massive roster in AEW. I really liked this match, even if the outcome was never really in question. I think it’s time for something different from both men, though. Starks should be given something bigger and better to work with, while Jurassic Express might need to drop the titles and look for something else.
- AJ Styles & Finn Balor vs Los Lotharios: Angel and Humberto haven’t won a match together since they beat Tex Slazenger and Shanghai Pierce on an episode of WCW Saturday Night in December 1993, but that hasn’t stopped them from putting on good matches whenever WWE calls their number. This match was no different. Now, I will move on, because the sooner I get away from the random idea of having Liv Morgan joining “The Club” recently, the better.
- Asuka vs Becky Lynch: Needless to say, there was a ton of confusion as to why this match was taking place, and why we weren’t getting the original match that was announced for Raw. That confusion has only grown, even after we found out what happened. Asuka and Becky really tried hard to make something out of nothing, though. Not my favorite match between the two, but good nonetheless. Asuka goes on to Hell In A Cell, where she has earned a shot at Bianca Belair’s Raw Women’s Title. I’m sure the match will be good. Unfortunately, nobody is going to be talking about it unless it’s a Match Of The Year classic, because all attention is now on Sasha Banks and Naomi for what they did.
- Ruby Soho vs Riho: Like Jungle Boy, I think Ruby Soho is another victim of AEW’s massive roster. There just isn’t enough time for everybody to get some type of shine, let alone enough time for everybody to get a push. Perhaps this run in the Owen Hart Cup will help her bounce back. She deserves it.
- Jeff Hardy vs Darby Allin: I need to be honest… I just haven’t been able to find myself fully enjoying Jeff Hardy’s AEW run. There was a lot of excitement about it, but I feel it has largely been a disappointment, with a lot of subpar in-ring performances and him nearly killing every single opponent he’s faced because he hasn’t connected “properly” on a Swanton yet. Jeff went three months between his WWE departure and his AEW debut, but it’s like his body aged three years in that span. This was supposed to be a big-time “dream match” with Jeff Hardy facing the “new Jeff Hardy” for the first time, and while the match was good, I can’t help but feel it could’ve been better. I know I’m not alone in my thoughts about Jeff’s time in AEW, as I’ve seen a ton of people share similar opinions.
- Solo Sikoa & Cameron Grimes vs Carmelo Hayes & Trick Williams: As always when Cameron Grimes is mentioned, I am legally and contractually obligated to mention the fact that he nearly broke my leg at an independent wrestling show a few years ago. As far as this match goes, I enjoyed it. Even though Trick Williams has been at the side of Carmelo Hayes every week, this was the first time we’ve seen them team up in a match since November. It’s wild that they haven’t even had some random match on NXT television in that span. On the other side, I’m still blown away at how quickly Solo Sikoa has risen to the top of the proverbial NXT totem pole when it comes to his crowd reactions. He is becoming so popular that it is hurting the crowd reactions for Grimes, who was in the same spot Sikoa is in not that long ago.
- Juice Robinson: He was saddled with a bad gimmick in NXT that he couldn’t quite get to truly connect with crowds. When he was granted his release in 2015, I know a lot of people assumed that would be the last we’d hear from the guy. Instead, he went to Japan and has been moving up the ranks for New Japan. His in-ring work now is night and day different to what we saw while he was in NXT and FCW. In a Four-Way Match that included Hiroshi Tanahashi, Will Ospreay and Jon Moxley, Juice would win the IWGP United States Title for the third time. That ties him with Tanahashi for the most reigns in that title’s brief history. With a brand new heel turn and a spot in Bullet Club, Juice has a ton of momentum that he has worked his ass off for.
- Ronda Rousey vs Raquel Gonzalez: The match itself was good for what it was. It wasn’t long, but it didn’t need to be. The inclusion here is because Raquel Gonzalez was made to look like a future star in six or seven minutes, even in a losing effort. She beat the hell out of Ronda Rousey and looked like someone that could actually defeat the “Rowdy” one. Smackdown’s viewership is much larger than NXT’s has been, so this was an eye-opener for a lot of people that probably didn’t get to see much, if any, of Raquel’s work before her call-up. As always when it comes to these things, it is now all about the follow up. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Raquel is positioned as a major player on Smackdown from here on. I don’t think it would surprise anyone if Raquel was losing matches to Xia Li soon, either, though.
- Hookhausen: After teases here and there, we’re finally getting Hookhausen! As I’ve said before, I think it’s the best possible usage for both Hook and Danhausen at this stage. Even if the pairing is short lived, and you have to assume it will be, there’s a lot of potential for entertainment in that span.
- Santos Escobar vs Tony D’Angelo: D’Angelo seems like someone who has lost a lot of momentum recently. He was over pretty much right away upon debuting in NXT, looking like someone who was going to be a top name in the 2.0 era, similar to Bron Breakker, Carmelo Hayes, and Solo Sikoa. He was still really new to the pro wrestling world, so everyone was salivating over his potential if he kept getting better in the ring. Somewhere along the way, his character started to become too stereotypical and over-the-top. This whole “Italian Mafia” vs “Mexican Cartel” thing going on right now isn’t doing anything to help him. He’s still putting on good matches, especially for someone so early in his career, but he needs something else to really sink his teeth into.
This Week’s Playlist: “N95” by Kendrick Lamar… “Father Time” by Kendrick Lamar & Sampha… “We Cry Together” by Kendrick Lamar & Taylour Paige… “Purple Hearts” by Kendrick Lamar, Ghostface Killah & Summer Walker… “Count Me Out” by Kendrick Lamar… “Silent Hill” by Kendrick Lamar & Kodak Black… “Savior” by Kendrick Lamar, Baby Keem & Sam Dew… “Auntie Diaries” by Kendrick Lamar… “Mr. Morale” by Kendrick Lamar & Tanna Leone… “Mother I Sober” by Kendrick Lamar & Beth Gibbons… “The Foundations of Decay” by My Chemical Romance… “Wild Child” by The Black Keys… “It Ain’t Over” by The Black Keys… “How Long” by The Black Keys… “Happiness” by The Black Keys… “Baby I’m Coming Home” by The Black Keys… “No Gold Teeth” by Danger Mouse & Black Thought… “PSYCHO” by Self Deception… “Doin’ This” by Luke Combs… “Leave You Alone” by Kane Brown