3. Chris Jericho goes part-time and the Inner Circle disbands.
The Inner Circle was the first heel faction to run amok in AEW. It was a brilliantly put-together faction that included the charismatic leader in Chris Jericho, the big man enforcer, Jake Hager, the violent tag team, Proud and Powerful, and the brash up and comer, Sammy Guevara.
Together they terrorized the babyfaces of AEW for the first year-plus of the promotion’s existence, before turning babyface themselves after MJF formed the faction known as the Pinnacle.
The Inner Circle has both been cheered loudly and booed mercilessly in their time in AEW. And the group has been a part of many great moments such as the first Blood and Guts match and both Stadium Stampede matches.
But there is not much left for the faction to accomplish in AEW and they have reached the point where the story of them as individuals is more interesting than them as a faction.
Chris Jericho made his professional wrestling debut as “Cowboy” Chris Jericho in 1990. That was 31 years ago.
And as Jericho has continued to be a mainstay in big matches over the past year in AEW, it has become painfully obvious that he is a step slower than most of his younger peers.
In addition, with the influx of talent, especially young talent that AEW has put together, the promotion as a whole would be better served if Jericho stepped out of the spotlight and took on a role that is more Sting-like moving forward.
Jericho’s best role with the company moving forward is doing some commentary, being a mentor to an up-and-coming star, and scaling back his in-ring work to a part-time basis. This will allow him to perform at a higher level when he does compete, as well as make his matches more must-see for the fans.
Chris Jericho was undoubtedly the most important piece of the puzzle that was used to get All Elite Wrestling off and running and turning it into what it is today. And no one can ever take that away from him. But in 2022, he will realize that it is time for him to lessen his in-ring role and hand the reigns to the next generation.
2. The influx of former WWE talent continues
Quite possibly the biggest shock of 2021 is that AEW was able to sign Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson. It isn’t a shock in itself, but when you consider that WWE and their unlimited amount of cash wanted to keep both of these talents under contract but they both chose to come to AEW, it puts it into perspective that to some, it isn’t all about the money.
And even though there is so much unsigned talent out there on the wrestling free agent landscape right now, AEW needs to be very careful who they sign, and when they sign them.
So who might be next to become All Elite?
As discussed earlier, it is just a matter of time before Kyle O’Reilly pops up on AEW and aligns with his old buddy, Adam Cole.
But there are two more men and women that are must-get talent and will help AEW ascend to the next level.
On the women’s side of things, Ember Moon and Mia Yim would be fantastic additions to the roster. They would instantly deepen the talent pool of a roster that has made such huge strides over 2021 and allow the women’s division to continue to offer fresh matchups on a weekly basis.
On the men’s side, there has been plenty of speculation about Windham Rotunda’s (fka Bray Wyatt) possible debut in AEW.
If Rotunda happens to want to come back to wrestling, his creative genius would be right at home in All Elite Wrestling.
And finally, there is a game-changing talent that there has been suspiciously little buzz about. And that man is Keith Lee.
During Lee’s stint in NXT, there was possibly no one hotter than the limitless one. A man with his size and strength is a find in itself. Add to that the fact that he moves like a man half his size and you have something special.
Adding someone with Rotunda’s creativity and Lee’s in-ring ability would be huge gets for AEW.