Wardlow has the potential to be a star in AEW, and the promotion is prepared to strike when the time is right.
The AEW roster certainly has a good mix of stars and up and comers, and Wardlow is a top-tier example of the latter.
Wardlow graced AEW fans with his first appearance way back on November 13th of 2019. Similar to future Inner Circle brother Jake Hager, there was a noticeable gap between his debut and first match, instead, he played the role of MJF’s bodyguard while decked out in a suit and tie. As time progressed, it was hard not to be at least a little intimidated by him and curious about when he’ll finally have his first match.
Of course, that first match was against Cody Rhodes in a steel cage, which was one of the most memorable TV matches in 2020 and a heck of a way to make a first impression.
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Since then, he’s dominated in bouts on AEW Dark, a great Lumberjack match with fellow big man, or should I say big dinosaur, Luchasaurus, and most recently, a win against Hager as part of New Year’s Smash Night One. Once he finally made his debut, Wardlow has more than proven his in-ring ability.
It’s that in-ring ability that will contribute to Wardlow being a big star in AEW, and it’s clear that AEW knows this with how he has been protected and his placement in storylines.
Wardlow has intimidating size and strength, but he’s also a great worker who is not afraid to make some impressive moves despite his size. Check out this great tijeras from his match with Luchasaurus if you need proof of that. There’s a certain excitement factor when he performs that is frankly fun to watch, and it’s clear that he’s a talented wrestler who happens to be big rather than a big man who happens to wrestle.
AEW knows Wardlow’s potential, keeping him protected and setting up rich storylines.
While having 11 impressive victories with the company, what might be even more telling with how AEW views Wardlow’s potential is how his three losses have occurred, as he is one of the more protected wrestlers in the promotion. That first match was won by Cody, but it was won by him with an incredible moonsault spot off the top of a steel cage, and it’s hard to argue that Wardlow didn’t look good in the match too. His other singles loss, against Hangman Adam Page, was also an impressive showing, and Page could only win after not one, but two Buckshot Lariats. Wardlow could have easily had his momentum deflated in either of these losses, but his talent and the booking made sure that didn’t happen.
This type of booking isn’t always necessary for up and coming wrestlers – see Sammy Guevara and Jungle Boy – but AEW wouldn’t be so deliberate in protecting Wardlow if they didn’t rightfully see the potential in him and have big plans in store. In fact, there’s already plenty of storyline gold set in place for Mr. Mayhem.
Wardlow is still MJF’s bodyguard, but their working relationship has been getting tenser, and the writing is pretty much on the wall that a breakup will happen eventually. In fact, Wardlow’s other loss involved a tag team match with MJF due to a miscommunication between the two, which did a lot to deepen this tension.
While I personally wasn’t super on board with the whole ‘MJF and Wardlow join the Inner Circle’ storyline at first, it doesn’t seem to be hindering Wardlow’s momentum very much, as evidenced by the Hager match. It was the right choice to put Wardlow over in that match, and there’s nothing wrong with playing the long game with MJF and Wardlow’s relationship.
However, it’s clear that the probable breakup will be the catalyst for Wardlow’s real arrival as a singles competitor, regardless of whether he stays a monster heel or even undergoes a face turn.
In a way, Wardlow’s current arrangement is kind of perfect. MJF truly has a knack for making everything he’s involved with good – something even the New York Times agrees with – so anything Wardlow is involved with by extension will never be uninteresting. He’ll stay relevant with MJF, continue to impress with matches when needed, and when the time is right, he’ll be able to really show his stuff alone.
If you need more convincing to get excited about what Wardlow could do, check out this Road to Dynamite episode featuring him. It really shows how much depth he has as a competitor and as a person, and all of that will certainly shine through when Mr. Mayhem goes beyond being a bodyguard.