Should AEW fans be concerned with the signing of former WWE talent?

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 31: CM Punk attends the WWE Monday Night Raw Supershow Halloween event at the Philips Arena on October 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 31: CM Punk attends the WWE Monday Night Raw Supershow Halloween event at the Philips Arena on October 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images) /

Since the fall of WCW, it has been proven time and time again that WWE needs real competition to thrive. And the company might finally have that in AEW.

That being said, AEW is still in its second year with a rookie in Tony Khan at the head of the whole thing. He’s arguably doing an incredibly good job for someone so new to the industry by any reasonable wrestling fan’s standards.

Still, it’s starting to feel like he’s repeating one of the big mistakes WCW made and that’s bringing in a lot of former WWE talent. But the bigger issue than hiring them is how they’re using them, and that will define whether Vince ends up buying AEW out, too.

AEW crowns its first champion

At the first All Out pay-per-view in 2019, Chris Jericho faced Adam Page to become their inaugural World Champion. Ultimately, Chris Jericho was the right choice at the time. At that point, AEW was still extremely new and they needed a standard-bearer that the world knew.

As much as Page was the sentimental favorite going into the match, there’s no questioning who the bigger star was. The simple reality of the situation was that Chris Jericho has been consistently at the top of the business for decades. Making him champ legitimized AEW.

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Even so, there were people who argued that this was a mistake on AEW’s part. Jericho was identified as a WWE wrestler for a significant portion of his career. Frankly, they were easily the most productive and prominent years of that long career.

At the same time, a lot of fans also know him from WCW, NJPW, and more. Jericho might have been a WWE guy for a long time but he wasn’t solely a WWE guy. He was and is a worldwide star, one that helped elevate this brand new company.

AEW gives titles to more WWE talent

Handing that first AEW World Championship to Chris Jericho was easily the smartest move Tony Khan made in the early days of his company. But some of the title reigns that came after it was a bit more perplexing.

Formerly known as Dean Ambrose in WWE, Jon Moxley was AEW’s next world champion. In addition to that, three out of the four people to hold the TNT Championship have been former WWE talents. Even the AEW tag titles were held by FTR who arguably did their best work in NXT.

The only AEW title to have never been held by a former WWE performer at this point is the AEW Women’s World Championship. Hikaru Shida actually tried out for WWE years ago and Dr. Britt Baker DMD was squashed by Nia Jax on Raw once. But none of them were ever under contract.

At this point, a significant percentage of AEW’s titles have been held by wrestlers who were well known for performing in WWE, which is where the concern lies. Pushing former WWE talent over their own was a huge mistake that WCW made, which definitely contributed to its downfall.

The WWE invasion of AEW

Over the last few weeks, AEW has made several big moves. That has included signing the recently released Aleister Black as well as reputedly bringing in both Bryan Danielson (formerly known as Daniel Bryan) and CM Punk. These massive signings are unlikely to be the last.

While all three wrestlers will inevitably be huge draws, fans are already starting to wonder what this means for homegrown talents. They hope that Black, Danielson, and Punk won’t be pushed into the main event ahead of the likes of Jungle Boy, Eddie Kingston, and even Adam Page.

This was where WCW started to fail. They pushed any WWE talent they picked up over guys like Paul Wight, Eddy Guerrero, and Chris Jericho. These same wrestlers were some of the first to leave WCW behind for WWE to become stars there and help win the Monday Night Wars.

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AEW booking former WWE talent is not a problem in the least. But prioritizing their pushes over homegrown talent could easily be a huge issue, particularly if doing so frustrates some of their own wrestlers enough that they walk out the door and into WWE’s open arms.