Last year, I wrote an article detailing how AEW has presented these new wrestlers on a global scale to fans like me, who was not specifically an indie wrestling follower. “From The Outside: A Non-Indie Fan’s Look At AEW” was the name of the piece. While I had plenty of knowledge of the names that had previously been in WWE, NJPW, and ROH like The Elite and Chris Jericho, it was the others who I delivered my first impressions on. Now almost a year later, I want to do that again with a year of Dynamite under their belt and six PPVs as well. It’s been a good shift for some who have really come on in the past year while others have not made the leap.
So without further ado, here’s a complete roster evaluation with some new names, old names, and thoughts on potential breakouts within the next year.
Note: These are my opinions and do not reflect the thoughts of everyone Last Word On Pro Wrestling. I will be honest for all, critical for some, and excited for others. AEW’s first year has been a success, but it still has work to do.
Jon Moxley, AEW World Champion: Jon Moxley is one of the best world champions in wrestling right now. Neck and neck with his former Shield brother Roman Reigns, Moxley has figured out who he is and is thriving. There’s a reason AEW is the superior of the Wednesday Night Wars and a lot of that credit goes to Moxley.
Hikaru Shida, AEW Women’s Champion: The AEW Women’s Champion is the most underappreciated wrestler on the roster. As she commands a women’s division that AEW clearly does not want to give the time to, she continues to be a stand-up champion and deliver great match after great match when the title is on the line. Get her some help, AEW.
Mr. Brodie Lee, TNT Champion: If you simply looked at the night he captured the TNT Championship and nothing else, you would think everything with Brodie Lee was going right. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The parody Vince McMahon leader of The Dark Order needs to try to be himself more than his former boss. Until then, he’s just a joke.
FTR, AEW Tag Team Champions: FTR was going to be AEW Tag Team Champions. That was always a fact. And for those who say it was too soon, was it really? While the match that saw them win wasn’t a classic, it was the right time. They are in the correct spot with Tully Blanchard by their side.
Abadon: A raw talent who can be a player down the road. Her looks are terrifying and that’s what works. As one of the many relegated to DARK, she should have time to come into her own.
Allie: Allie has been mishandled from the start. She has served as Brandi Rhodes’ best friend, then The Bunny, and now part of The Nightmare Sisters. Who takes her seriously with all this change? Not me.
Anna Jay: Raw as raw can get, but there is something there. She has work to do but can be a key asset to AEW moving forward. Will be interesting to see what’s up in a year’s time.
Awesome Kong: Oh how we miss Awesome Kong. Her role on AEW was not good before she left, but her addition to the roster is important. Hopefully, she can come back, even if it’s one last run.
Big Swole: Swole is one of the key pillars of the AEW women’s division. Her rivalry with Britt Baker allowed her to open up and show her passion. Her vast improvement in the ring has her as a future AEW Women’s Champion.
Brandi Rhodes: AEW is better off keeping Brandi off TV as a wrestler. She has always been great in the manager role, but not many believe in her in the ring.
Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D.: Britt Baker has completely changed herself to be one of the best parts of AEW within a year’s time. Her heel turn made the dentist own who she is and take the reigns. A couple of misfortunes have led to injuries that sidelined her for the better part of 2020, but that’s how good Baker has been. It’s time to strap her up.
Kris Statlander: Kris Statlander’s injury was a major blow to AEW and the women’s division. She was incredible in her time and only showing the world more and more how good she is. Kris is going to be an AEW Women’s Champion when she returns.
Nyla Rose: “The Native Beast” has been saved by the one and only Vickie Guerrero. Her title run was weaker than you would ever expect. A true mishandling, much like the whole division.
Penelope Ford: Ford has shown great improvement over the past year and is someone I now see as a potential champion down the line.
Riho: COVID-19 has made traveling impossible, meaning Riho has remained in Japan and away from AEW. She was treated terribly as champion and got a lot of undeserved flack. When she returns, she deserves a real, respected run.
Shanna: Where is Shanna? One of AEW’s biggest mishandlings in this division is the use of Shanna. Get her on TV and let her shine as she did before.
Tay Conti: Some signings AEW makes are unnecessary. This was not one of those. Tay Conti is going to be a special wrestler for AEW. Just you watch. A potential breakout for the division.
Tag Teams / Factions
Best Friends: Best Friends, better known as Trent? and Chuckie T, have made an impact perhaps no one expected in the past year. They are prominent names on weekly television for AEW and have a tag team title reign in their future. Count on that. Trent? has potential as a single in my opinion as well.
The Butcher & The Blade: The Butcher has an amazing look and can go in the ring. The Blade isn’t too bad himself, but they have been terribly mishandled since signing with the company.
The Dark Order: Endlessly horrible. The booking of The Dark Order since they stepped into AEW has not connected, and the addition of “The Exalted One” should have changed everything. No longer should they have been a joke to many, but a serious threat to all. Instead, comedy is their main forte unless we look at the one and only time Brodie Lee and company were used correctly. The dismantling of Cody for the TNT Championship was brilliant. Only to be ruined a mere week later via lawnmowers and other crap. Fix them or better yet, axe’em.
The Hybrid 2: AEW DARK all-stars. Great talents in need of opportunity sooner than later.
Jurassic Express: One of the most entertaining and best tag teams in AEW. Some wondered if the popularity could last and when given the chance to shine, it’s clear they are one of the most popular acts in the company. Among my personal favorites to watch with two future singles champions in Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy.
The Lucha Bros: The single most criminally underutilized duo in AEW. What All Elite Wrestling has done with Penta El Zero M and Rey Fenix has been their biggest blunder after a year plus and they seem to not understand how good this duo is, together or apart. The brothers have proven singles success in places like Lucha Underground, MLW, and IMPACT Wrestling. If they are not holding gold in this company one way or another within the next year, they need to leave and be treated right somewhere else.
The Natural Nightmares: A fine addition to the tag team division. Nothing special but could be decent underdogs moving forward. Dustin Rhodes has some singles run left in him.
Private Party: It’s shocking how much Private Party has pretty much disappeared after their massive win over The Young Bucks on the second-ever Dynamite episode. All the potential in the world to be tag champs.
Santana & Ortiz: There was a time the former LAX was more than just lackeys for Chris Jericho and instead considered one of the best tag teams in the world. Moving on from The Inner Circle could set them free to find that magic so many were excited to see when they signed with AEW. At least, I hope so.
SCU: The inaugural tag team champions of AEW have taken a back seat to watch Scorpio Sky rise as a singles star. A great move for an old-time team with a budding star.
The Young Bucks: Embracing the heel side of themselves was not something I expected to see, at least until after they became tag team champions. Almost two years since AEW opened its doors, one since Dynamite began, and The Young Bucks remain without tag team gold after running the independents for years. The time is nearing for AEW’s best to win, and soon. They still got it, including AEW’s best match to date between them and Page/Omega.
“Hangman” Adam Page: There is no one better utilized than Hangman Page. After a rough start to his AEW career, he has been completely turned around as the everyday guy who at times struggles to know who he is. His tag team with Kenny Omega produced some of the best matches AEW has had to offer and will lead to even more as a rivalry with Omega seems to be the best move for both men. Page has been the best part of AEW Dynamite for some time now and what they do with him moving forward should be what everyone keeps an eye on. He is the face of AEW moving forward and a future world champion.
Brian Cage: You can explain Brian Cage’s AEW career so far as one word: odd. His pairing with Taz seemed to be the best move, allowing him to be a beast and maybe fill into a Brock Lesnar-like role. That has yet to happen as his AEW World Championship loss as been detrimental to him. He needs to do more than just carry the FTW Championship around to be important to the brand.
Chris Jericho: “Le Champion,” “Demo God.” Whatever you prefer, Jericho has done well. His feud with Orange Cassidy helped give the rub to the popular “Freshly Squeezed” one and makes Jericho an important part moving forward. Who’s next is the question in terms of who he can give the rub to.
Cody: The inaugural TNT Champion has been AEW’s Ace and has certainly been missed since his reign ended. There are few people who have been handled better than Cody in AEW’s first full year of Dynamite.
Darby Allin: That popularity has wared off a bit, but Darby Allin is still viewed as a future world champion. His feud with Ricky Starks has been… mediocre, slowing down his run immensely in my opinion.
Eddie Kingston: Give Eddie Kingston everything. There are few signings in wrestling over the past five years that make you happier than AEW’s signing of Kingston. The best promo in the business paired with a fantastic brawler style should make him one of AEW’s featured talents moving forward. A long-deserved run on top is what everyone should be hoping for. I know I am.
Jake Hager: AEW would be better off if they didn’t have Jake Hager on television. Fans would be happier if this was the case.
Joey Janela: Joey Janela is appreciated far more by his independent fans than AEW fans. That being said, I am an AEW fan, not one of his indie fans. His team with Sonny Kiss has been a treat, however.
Jungle Boy: Jungle Boy is a future world champion and the future of AEW as a singles star. His in-ring ability at such a young age is impressive and he connects to the fans alongside his Jurassic Express brothers very well. I can’t say enough how exciting it is that Jungle Boy, or maybe even Jungle Jack as he grows older, is going to be a major player in the long run.
Kenny Omega: It’s time folks. Kenny Omega is going to become what we all have hoped. His tag team with Hangman Page was an unexpected treat, but “The Cleaner” is coming home and that’s what is the best about Omega. I’ve been quite vocal about Omega in the past, but I do believe these next few months will see the Omega we have been waiting for.
Kip Sabian: “Superbad” is getting a new shot at life with the partnership of his “Best Man,” Miro. Sabian is good, but there’s some difficulty as to where his true spot is in AEW.
Lance Archer: “The Murderhawk Monster” is far and away the most complete big man they have right now. He came in like a monster and following a loss that hurt his momentum, he has found it again. If I were booking the future, Lance Archer would become the AEW World Champion at the Dynamite Anniversary show. It’s time.
Luchasaurus: Dinosaur, masked man, whatever you prefer. Luchasaurus has that “it” factor. So much so that he is going to be a champion on his own someday. For now, his tag team with Jungle Boy is one of AEW’s best things going.
Matt Hardy: Matt Hardy has not had an easy time since signing with AEW. His debut was in front of zero fans, he’s been injured multiple times, and hasn’t really found himself — broken or not. When he returns, let’s hope he makes it work. Otherwise, AEW is giving the old vet time a younger guy would do better with.
Miro: Who knows? People can get angry about, “why is everyone considered a former WWE guy for spending time there?” Well, why does AEW sign all of them? Miro could be good, but being the “Best Man” may not be it.
MJF: He’s had a huge match. The main event of All Out. He’s going to win the world championship eventually, but to me, it’s still not time. Give it another year or so and he will be believable. Just not now.
Orange Cassidy: “Freshly Squeezed” Orange Cassidy has shown the world that his lackadaisical persona doesn’t hold back his incredible ability inside the ring. Cassidy is no doubt one of their top babyfaces moving forward and a title run, whether it is TNT or World, is in the picture.
PAC: I believe PAC would (and should) be a champion by now if it wasn’t for COVID-19. Due to that, he hasn’t been able to be involved on AEW television and there is no real idea as to when he will be back. When he does return, hopefully, Death Triangle can as well, running the entire show at the same time.
Ricky Starks: “Absolute” Ricky Starks has an odd role since joining AEW as part of Team Taz. Personally, I’m still waiting to see where the hype is. He seems to have a lot of ability, but that’s dwindling so far in AEW.
Sammy Guevara: Sammy Guevara has a bright future. But what he’s done in his past should keep him grounded for the time being. Of course, that hasn’t been the case and he has injured Matt Hardy on an occasion. Reckless and needs to figure it out. Everything.
Scorpio Sky: Take the chains off and let Scorpio Sky shine. They have done that to an extent, but him being Cody’s friend rather than on his own has been a mess in recent weeks. Sky should be the one to dethrone Brodie Lee as TNT Champion.
Shawn Spears: It’s good to have friends in high places. That being said, Shawn Spears’ signing has felt unneeded. from the start. He hasn’t been around much on Dynamite and it’s a good thing Tully Blanchard works with FTR right now.
Sonny Kiss: Sonny Kiss’s team with Joey Janela was smart to make. Because unfortunately, Kiss wasn’t getting much screen time prior. He only gets better and better every time he’s in there and will be a fan-favorite, if not already.
Wardlow: People can say all they want about MJF being the future and whatnot, but the man that backs him up has just as much right to be the future. Wardlow is crazy good and a break up with MJF has already been teased. Whether it’s in the monster heel or face role, Wardlow is going to be drenched in gold throughout his career and I’m all in on that.
Will Hobbs: I’m glad this article ends with Will Hobbs. The recent signing of Hobbs was such a welcome sight considering this man’s story and how he got here. After singing the praises of Wardlow, I would like to do the same for Hobbs. He’s such an automatic babyface to get behind and happens to be a beast inside the ring. His showing in the Casino Battle Royale was excellent and I am beyond excited to see him fight his way to the top.
AEW is in a great spot with so much talent at their disposal. I am hopeful they relax on the signings and find a mix of fresh faces and known faces to really continue getting over their product. It’s been a good first year, their second year should be even better.
More From LWOPW
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