AEW is off and running successful PPV events under its belt and a weekly television deal with TNT. For the first time since WCW’s heyday, it looks as though WWE may face a legitimate competitor in terms of appealing to a truly national audience of wrestling fans.
There are those wrestlers who have clearly benefited from their alliance with AEW. Cody Rhodes, whose combined role as a backstage executive and on-screen work as a featured wrestler, each makes him infinitely more prominent than he was relegated to the lower card Stardust role in WWE.
Not everyone in AEW is necessarily better off than he or she would be in WWE, and not everyone in WWE is best served there. This article takes a look at ten current wrestling stars who would be better off working for the opposing company.
10 Better Off In WWE: The Young Bucks
The Young Bucks are on the shortlist of the best tag teams of their generation. Their fast pace and aerial artistry draw comparisons to a team like The Rockers, while their ability to perform in high profile matches make that special kind of team that is totally at home main-eventing shows.
It’s debatable whether the Bucks would get an opportunity to do what they do best in WWE, and Nick and Matt Jackson surely wouldn’t have as much political stroke as they do in AEW. However, for a team as good as they are, never working with WWE risks of their legacy getting lost to the sands of time if AEW doesn’t stand the test of time.
9 Better Off In AEW: Finn Balor
Finn Balor is a special talent who thrived in New Japan and in NXT before hitting the WWE main roster. In WWE, he got an immediate push to the Universal Championship, but after that big introduction got derailed by an injury, he has never regained his footing as the top guy that his talents and organic connection with fans would suggest he should be.
Balor would fit AEW nicely, where he could take advantage of greater creative liberty and almost certainly work at the very top of the card.
8 Better Off In WWE: Pentagon
Few stars of independent wrestling have generated the kind of buzz Pentagon has had in recent years. Lucha Underground in many ways served as his introduction to a larger American audience, and successful runs with Impact and Major League Wrestling each confirmed his status as a player at the upper echelons of the business.
Between Pentagon’s magnetism that has allowed him to transcend cultural barriers, and WWE’s drive to find its next generation of Latino stars, Pentagon would fit in well. WWE could offer a more sure spot to build him as a legitimate worldwide star.
7 Better Off In AEW: Cesaro
There are few more frustrating cases of WWE denying an obvious main event talent than that of Cesaro. He’s an excellent in-ring performer, has the strength and physique to match WWE’s paradigms, and is even a reasonable talker. Nonetheless, WWE has largely shoehorned him into a supporting role, mostly used to make other stars look good.
AEW would offer a platform for Cesaro to not only ascend to the heights he deserves but also to more consistently have time and capable dance partners with whom to put on classic matches.
6 Better Off In WWE: Kenny Omega
Kenny Omega is on the very short list of best in-ring workers of his generation to have never had a WWE run. He was in WWE’s developmental system for a time, which amounted to little, and he went on to stardom with New Japan in particular, before signing on with AEW.
There’s an argument to be made that Omega is right to have stood up for the kind of wrestling he himself practices and to have gone into business with his friends over what was purportedly a big-money offer from WWE. However, Omega gambled with the prospect of him ever becoming a truly household name, let alone his high potential to win world title gold in WWE or be the kind of talent who might close a WrestleMania. Time will tell how Omega and AEW ultimately do, but in losing his first two high profile matches, it doesn’t necessarily look like he is better off with the start-up promotion.
5 Better Off In AEW: The Revival
The Revival are a classic tag team that works old school psychology in a vein similar to tandems like Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard. In NXT, they demonstrated their ability to create magic opposite a variety of teams that included American Alpha, #DIY, and The Authors of Pain, besides facilitating far and away the best match that Enzo Amore and Big Cass were ever involved in.
Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder have garnered tag title runs and most recently a grouping with Randy Orton. Nonetheless, one can only imagine the instant classics they could put together in a tag division with The Young Bucks, The Lucha Bros., and other top-notch, full-time teams.
4 Better Off In WWE: Luchasaurus
After a brief run in the early days of NXT, Luchasaurus has taken independent wrestling and smaller promotions by storm with his Luchasaurus gimmick. Reportedly standing at 6’5”, he isn’t necessarily the giant he appears beside smaller luchadors. Nonetheless, he’s a big guy who has developed a unique gimmick and gotten over nicely everywhere he goes.
Under a campy, somewhat comedic gimmick, Luchasaurus has a ceiling in AEW. He’ll always find a place on the card, but he’s unlikely to scale out of the middle of the card. If he’s going to occupy that kind of space, he had might as well be doing so in WWE under a brighter spotlight, or where he might be able to evolve into a more serious player with a higher ceiling over his career.
3 Better Off In AEW: Zack Ryder
Zack Ryder caught fire in the early 2010s via his original YouTube show and shrewd use of social media before WWE got in on pushing hashtags or pushing meaningful content over the Internet. When WWE did catch up in these regards, it seemed too late—Ryder got a token push as United States Champion based on his grassroots efforts to get over, but the company did little to follow up from there.
With a much longer leash, Ryder could fit brilliantly with the Being the Elite crew, either participating in their web-based show or going all out in creating his own new talent. AEW has firmly established itself as a brand run by wrestlers for hardcore wrestling fans, and Ryder would fit that mold beautifully.
2 Better Off In WWE: Allie
Allie rose to prominence in Impact Wrestling as a pretty face and a deceptively talented in-ring performer who grew over the course of her run with the company. She was a score for AEW with its own budding women’s division and is likely to move into the title picture before too long.
For as much as Allie can do well in AEW, her combination of talent and looks could have carried her far in WWE, particularly with its still new focus on women’s wrestling. Allie would add a fresh star to an NXT division that could use her, en route to a higher-profile main roster run.
1 Better Off In AEW: The Viking Raiders
The Viking Raiders were a celebrated act as War Machine, first in ROH, then in NXT. Their main roster run hasn’t exactly caught fire, as WWE doesn’t seem to know what to do with the athletic big men with a distinctive look. It’s a shame to see them relegated to squash matches on weekly TV, and not featured well when they have gotten runs in higher stakes bouts.
Though one could argue AEW’s tag team ranks are already crowded, The Viking Raiders would add a different dimension as both bigger bodies than that division features for now, and guys with a proven track record of working top-notch matches, and could readily hang with the best AEW has to offer.