As the Royal Rumble of shopping took place for black Friday customers, some interesting news hit online about the contract status of a few key players among the sports entertainment landscape. There was so much shuffling of the deck in recent months that at some point you have to wonder, where will these piece fall into place? Furthermore, is there a spot for these talents going forward?
Despite the statement from Sinclair Broadcasting about a return to operations in April and a venue booked for Wrestlemania weekend next year, I find it very difficult to believe that the organization will actually relaunch. I detailed most of my reasoning for that in an article when the news made social media headlines, but in short, Sinclair is in the television business, not the pro wrestling business. The acquisition of ROH in 2011 was simply for the original programming for its syndicated networks because it fetches a better ad rate. Sinclair is worth a few billion dollars so they could’ve afforded to be a player in the sports entertainment field, and if they would’ve signed The Elite to big money contracts in 2018 then there wouldn’t be an AEW today. Basically, Sinclair decided to invest money into the wrestling project too late and signed some solid wrestlers to contracts, but the golden geese already flew the coop.
The problem is, very similar to the industry in the post-Attitude era, there are too many wrestlers on the market and not enough spots to make a full-time living. It’s disappointing, but there will be talented performers that won’t have a place to work on a full time basis. As a comparison, consider how many talented ECW and WCW guys faded from the spotlight because there just weren’t enough spots in the industry.
That being said, who gets signed where and how their tenure goes will be a story throughout 2022.
The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reported that The Young Bucks inked new five-year contracts with All Elite Wrestling, and this was a rather easy decision. With the way that Matt and Nick Jackson were so closely associated with the inception of the organization, it only makes sense for them to work for AEW until they retire from the sport. How many contracts they sign throughout their AEW careers will depend on how they evolve their style and if they can avoid any major injuries. Don’t get me wrong, The Young Bucks display incredible athleticism, but they will have to pick their spots going forward because of the toll the high spots can have on the body. While anything can happen in the crazy world of pro wrestling, I would be very surprised if The Young Bucks signed elsewhere during the rest of their career.
As we saw at Full Gear, former ROH champion, Jay Lethal signed a deal with AEW, and as much as Tony Khan throws around contracts as often as Meltzer throws around star ratings, this was a quality signing. In many ways, probably because he wasn’t ever fully utilized in TNA when he had the most television exposure of his career at the time, Jay Lethal wasn’t given the credit he deserves for how talented he is in the ring. At 36, Lethal still has a few prime years in his career, but after nearly twenty years as a wrestler, Lethal will have to add a new chapter to his career if he’s going to be successful in All Elite. Black Machismo was very entertaining, but anything he did over a decade ago is “been there, done that” and unfortunately, the vast majority of his ROH work has been under the radar the past few years since the entire company has more or less been under the radar. The bottom line is, if Jay Lethal is going to be successful in AEW, he will need to bring something new to the table. Thankfully, the stellar match he had against Sammy Guevara made it more than clear that Lethal has place the company. Even if the spot is as a utility wrestler, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, Lethal is a quality addition to the roster.
The Briscoes were rumored to be backstage at a recent Dynamite taping, and they might be the best free agents on the market right now. Not only can they go bell-to-bell, but there’s a legitimacy and a believably to them that very few have in the sport. It must be mentioned that the only reason the Briscoes appeared to stay under the ROH banner for so long was because their options for either of the main stream promotions of WWE or TNA at the time were limited. Jay tweeted some awful and hateful things in 2013 that he apologized for and later donated money to charity as a sign of remorse, but the damage was done in terms of public perception, especially with the WWE being a publicly traded company. The point being, The Briscoes have been one of the best acts in wrestling for several years, but were limited to a smaller stage. Assuming they make their AEW debut, it’s a major acquisition for the organization. They can bring great matches to the shows and unique characters for the promotion. For a group that wants to established itself as an alternative to WWE, you won’t see anything like The Briscoes in corporate wrestling.
Speaking of the WWE, Johnny Gargano reportedly signed a one-week extension with the organization to continue negotiations to potentially re-sign with the company. I have to be honest, if there’s a decent money offer on the table from WWE then he should take it. This goes along with the shuffle of free agents in recent months and while AEW is a trendy option right now, and Gargano is a very solid wrestler, does he really bring anything to the table that All Elite doesn’t already have on the roster? At least within the WWE landscape, his style will stand out, particularly after the total rebranding on NXT. I don’t want this to sound too negative because as mentioned, Gargano is a talented wrestler, but he’s more of less in the category of a good hand in the business. He can have solid matches, but there’s nothing from a character perspective that gives him any major level of star power.
It will be particularly interesting to see what happens with The Briscoes and Gargano, but even more interesting will be to see how Tony Khan handles eventual roster cuts. As I’ve written before, WWE gets flak on social media anytime there are releases, some of that it justified, while more often than not, there are jaded fans that want to score social media points with criticism toward WWE. No Way Jose all the sudden had a lot of fans after he was fired. I know some will cite the Youtube shows are a way to get talent exposure, but let’s be honest, anything on Youtube is mostly cannon fodder, and in my view, the value for those broadcasts is allowing younger talent to get experience, not necessarily a platform for exposure. Dynamite and to a somewhat lesser extent Rampage are the stages where stars can be made for AEW. With the addition of more talent, Tony Khan will eventually have to at least consider making some cuts to the roster because otherwise, there are several wrestlers that could get lost in the shuffle for the company.
What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.
Until next week
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