It’s a huge week for pro wrestling on US television, with the season premieres of WWE Raw on Monday and the launch of SmackDown on Friday on FOX, not to mention IMPACT Wrestling moving to Tuesdays on AXS TV and the second season premiere of Beyond Wrestling Uncharted Territory on Thursdays on IndependentWrestling.tv. Add in Monday’s news about NWA returning to weekly programming on Tuesdays with NWA Power, and the landscape is now expansive. But arguably the biggest buzz of this week is the debut of All Elite Wrestling (AEW) on national cable, with AEW Dynamite on TNT – the former home of WCW Monday Nitro – this Wednesday, October 2 at 8pm.
With this new TV show exposing a new promotion and, to many more casual fans, a whole new sea of stars, we’re launching a three part primer on the stars of AEW to help guide you into the AEW revolution. Part one will take a look at AEW’s men’s division.
Adam “Hangman” Page
A former Ring of Honor star who mentored under BJ Whitmer, Adam Page joined Bullet Club in 2016. He was soon taken under the wing of The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, and Cody Rhodes, and became a part of The Elite version of NJPW’s hottest faction. He left ROH and NJPW last year to join his friends in AEW and has been positioned as one of the top stars of the company, winning the chance to face Chris Jericho at All Out for the AEW World Championship. He may have fallen short, but he’s still at the top of the AEW card.
An independent wrestler from the West Coast, Brandon Cutler was trained by the Young Bucks. A solid wrestler who also works behind the scenes.
A legend from WWE and WCW, Chris Jericho is a former 6x World Champion with the WWE as well as a 9x WWE Intercontinental Champion. After departing WWE, he won the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) before heading to AEW early this year. At All Out, he defeated Hangman Page to become the first AEW World Heavyweight Champion in the company’s history.
A legend in Japan, CIMA began his training in Mexico under former WCW Superstar Ultimo Dragon in the mid-to-late 90s before becoming a longtime star with Japanese promotion Dragon Gate. He left Dragon Gate last year to join the Chinese promotion, Oriental Wrestling Entertainment (OWE), which has formed an alliance with AEW. A solid singles star, his OWE stablemates in Strong Hearts (El Lindeman & T-Hawk) occasionally make appearances in AEW as well.
Former WWE Superstar Cody Rhodes shocked the world when he left the WWE in 2016. The former 2x Intercontinental Champion became a force on the independent circuit before joining both Ring of Honor and NJPW, where he allied with Bullet Club. Alongside the Young Bucks, he produced All In, the largest independent show ever at 10,000 people, which launched the catalyst for AEW.
Only 22 years old, Darby Allin has been wrestling on the independents since 2015. A daredevil with reckless abandon, the wily Darby fought Cody Rhodes to a time limit draw at AEW Fyter Fest. One of the indies’ top young stars, he competed in back to back Battle of Los Angeles (2018, 2019), the prestigious indie tournament held by Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG), and was a top star with EVOLVE Wrestling.
The older brother of Cody and a veteran of WWE, WCW, and IMPACT Wrestling, Dustin Rhodes is still in peak condition at 50 years old – he and Cody had an emotional wrestling classic at AEW Double or Nothing. The artist formerly known as Goldust is a former 3x WWE Intercontinental Champion and as “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes was a 2x WCW United States Champion.
One of the longest reigning World Champions from the UK in recent history, Jimmy Havoc is as much a psychological terror as he is a physical one. He has a penchant for violence and has no problems sacrificing himself for the greater bad. In England, he held the PROGRESS World Championship for 609 days and the IPW:UK World Championship another 770 days. Now he’s come to America and AEW to unleash his madness on a new continent.
“The Bad Boy” of the US indies, Joey Janela rose from backyard wrestler to one of the most complete packages on the independent scene. He’s got a great mind for the game and ran the most successful indie show every WrestleMania week in Joey Janela’s Spring Break. Whether it’s hardcore, Iron Man, or a straight-up slugfest, Janela can check off a lot of boxes.
Jon Moxley is best remembered of late as being former WWE World Champion Dean Ambrose for nearly the past decade. Prior to joining the WWE Universe in 2011, he was a hardcore lunatic named Jon Moxley, and following his departure from the WWE earlier this year, that man has returned. Not only is he one of the faces of AEW now, he spent the summer in Japan with NJPW.
The former leader of Bullet Club – who replaced AJ Styles before him – Kenny Omega rose to the status of “best bout machine” during his final few years with NJPW. Following a monstrous career in Japan that saw him hold the IWGP Heavyweight Championship following a huge feud with rival Kazuchika Okada, Omega joined his fellow Bullet Club brethren from The Elite in starting up AEW.
Another of the young guns in AEW, Kip Sabian joined the company from the United Kingdom independents. The 27-year old was trained by the infamous Knight Family (the family of WWE Superstar Paige as seen in Fighting With My Family) and has become a breakout star in the past few years of the UK indies, including a 2018 run as IPW:UK World Champion. He was also part of the recent reboot of World of Sports Wrestling in the UK.
A perpetual loudmouth, Maxwell Jacob Freidman – better known simply as MJF – developed as one of the best pure heels in the independent scene of the past few years. Only 22-years old, MJF was an indie star who rose to national prominence as part of Major League Wrestling (MLW) in 2018. Now an integral part of AEW, looking for MJF to scheme his way to the top.
Another Japanese import, Michael Nakazawa is a unique wrestler who has spent nearly 15 years as part of the avant-garde Japanese promotion DDT Pro, where he first met Kenny Omega. Now he’s heading to the US as part of AEW on TNT.
Orange Cassidy has been a cult hero in the US indies for over a decade but it’s only been in the past few years that he’s become a huge star. “The Clown Prince of Lethargy” has a distinct style of “less is more” that comes off lackadaisical in the ring, but behind those weak kicks and chops lies a very talented athletic specimen.
A UK indie star who thrived in Japan with Dragon Gate, PAC spent the past six years in the WWE where he competed as Neville, capturing the NXT Championship and being a 2x WWE Cruiserweight Champion. He left WWE in 2017, returning to Dragon Gate where he won their World Championship. He’s returning to North America and gunning for the top spot in AEW on TNT.
Another West Coast indie star, Peter Avalon joined AEW as “The Librarian”, working alongside the second Librarian, Leva Bates. A veteran of the West Coast indie scene for over a decade, he was a regular with nationally syndicated Championship Wrestling From Hollywood for years, until making the jump to AEW on TNT.
AEW has many veterans, but they’ve also stocked up with some top young indie talent as well. Sammy Guevera is a 26-year old from Texas who has stolen shows around the world in a 7-year career, including on national TV with MLW, and south of the border with AAA in Mexico.
For years, Shawn Spears competed in the WWE Universe as Tye Dillinger, becoming a cult hero in NXT. Upon moving to SmackDown, he hit a roadblock and his star began to wane (although his booking was largely responsible). He left WWE earlier this year and now heads to AEW on TNT with former Four Horseman Tully Blanchard in his corner.
Sonny Kiss is a 5-year pro from New Jersey, another young star adding youth and flamboyance to the AEW roster. Last year, he gained national exposure as XO Lishus in Lucha Underground, exposing his athleticism to a larger audience. He was one of the first names announced for AEW’s roster earlier this year and is ready to break out on AEW on TNT.
Check out all our AEW primers!
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can catch AEW Dynamite every Wednesday night at 8:00 pm Eastern, 6:00 pm Pacific starting October 2nd, live on TNT.