How Have Former WWE Superstars Fared In AEW?

2 of 2

Andrade- Signed in June of 2021

It’s been a stop-and-start case with Andrade El Idolo. He’s had 2 incredible matches with PAC on network television and has split contest victories with Cody Rhodes. Currently, he’s joined forces with Matt Hardy to spearhead the Hardy Family Office.

You could almost give him an incomplete grade in AEW. The former La Sombre has shown flashes of the brilliance he showcased in Mexico, New Japan, and NXT. He has gotten lost in the shuffle recently as the roster has become overcrowded with incredible talent across the board and little TV time for everyone outside of the champions and larger attractions.

His WWE main roster days were sideways outside of his awesome series of matches with Rey Mysterio. We look back with joy at his brief NXT title reign, where defeated Drew McIntyre to win the championship and put on a 5-star clinic with Johnny Gargano at Takeover: Philadelphia.

The best is yet to come in AEW for Andrade El Idolo, which leaves me with this grade.

Edge: NXT

Malakai Black- Signed in July of 2021

Malakai Black has been booked very strongly since debut with AEW. Thrust immediately into a program with Cody Rhodes, Black added an extension to his character from the WWE. Having damaged his eye towards the end of his main roster days, Black’s right side of his face has evolved into something you would see in a Sci-Fi series.

Black has had the upper hand in every feud of his thus far. Dominating Cody Rhodes and forming the House Of Black with his PWG tag team championship partner Brody King. Malakai has done a fantastic job thus far in AEW. He’s embroiled in a feud with PAC and the rest of Death Triangle. All of the work he’s done has put his WWE main roster work to shame.

His NXT days were legendary. This current character is an extension of what he started on the black and gold brand as Aleister Black. He had a great run as NXT champion and in-ring wars with Andrade, Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano, and Tommaso Ciampa. Much like Andrade, this is a very tough choice to call as well. It will likely change down the road.

Edge: NXT

Adam Cole- Signed in September of 2021

This is the most controversial signing from an online wrestling fan perspective. In my mind, this was an easy choice for Adam Cole to make. Signing with AEW ensured that he would have full creative freedom. Ultimately, he’s happier at the end of the day with his girlfriend, Britt Baker and his best friends, The Young Bucks already with the promotion.

With NXT 2.0 overhauling the process of how developmental talent will be portrayed if and when it moves to the main roster, Adam Cole would have been caught in WWE purgatory. He’s likely too small and potentially deemed “not worthy” of a main event slot in Vince McMahon’s eyes. In spite of the incredible all-around talent he possesses.

You can see the wheels spinning in the mind of Cole’s character in AEW. The1st few months of his run have been filled with 6-man tags and huge crowd responses everywhere he goes. It’s looking like he’s headed towards a main event program with AEW World champion Hangman Page very soon.

In the end, Adam Cole will likely have a better run in AEW and probably a World title within the next couple of years. For now, it’s hard to deny that his legendary run in NXT has been better than 5 months’ worth of AEW TV. A grand slam champion in the original NXT, Adam Cole will go down as one of the most decorated performers in the black and gold brand’s history.

Edge: NXT

Bryan Danielson- Signed in September of 2021

So many superlatives can describe Bryan Danielson’s initial run with AEW. I’ll use 2, otherworldly and remarkable. Danielson has channeled his Ring Of Honor days in the mid-2000’s and brought back the pro wrestler persona who will kick your head in within a matter of moments.

The reincarnation of Danielson has been incredible to watch. Instant classic bouts with Kenny Omega, Minoru Suzuki, and two with Hangman Page have already topped any match he had as Daniel Bryan from a wrestling standpoint in the WWE.

What WWE fans saw out of Daniel Bryan for a decade was 75% of what Bryan Danielson was capable of. Funny thing is, his 75% trumps the entire roster’s best performances on a near-nightly basis. The guy in the ring is capable of matches that wrestling fans and wrestlers themselves dream of.

Having main evented Wrestlemania twice and won the WWE Championship 4 times, you’d think this answer would be a slam dunk in favor of the company from Stamford, Connecticut. I’d say you’d be wrong.

While Bryan Danielson has had so many history-making performances in every promotion he’s stepped foot in, you can argue his last 5 months have been the absolute best matches of his legendary career. I’m not going to sluff his WWE career off to the side for the point of this exercise. A decade’s worth of equity should be lauded, even if it was 75% of who Bryan Danielson is.

Edge: push between WWE and AEW

Tay Conti- Signed in July of 2020

Tay Conti is arguably the most improved performer on the AEW roster from the time she arrived at the company. Conti was lost in the NXT shuffle and rightfully so. Only 26 years old, Conti was competing for time with the likes of Io Shirai, Bianca BelAir and Rhea Ripley to name a few of the incredibly talented women on the roster.

You cannot fault the WWE for how they handled Tay Conti. At the time, there was an embarrassment of riches on their roster, in which she was lost in the shuffle. The move to AEW was perfectly timed and she has prospered in her time since then.

Already having received two title matches, Conti is in for a few more and has the skills to become a World champion with the promotion someday. The future is incredibly bright for this young and talented Brazilian.

Edge: AEW

Ruby Soho- Signed in September of 2021

Speaking of talent who desperately needed a change, Ruby Soho fits that bill. Another fan favorite of the internet wrestling community, Soho was at the back of the line within the WWE pecking order. It had nothing to do with her in-ring ability.

Ruby Soho led ‘The Riott Squad’, a group of underutilized talents who never received a rightful push in the WWE. Her work in Chikara, SHIMMER, and STARDOM speaks for itself, Ruby can go in the ring. She was lost in the shuffle behind the likes of the Four Horsewomen, Asuka, and Ronda Rousey when she arrived on the WWE scene.

Never really given the opportunity, Ruby was released in June of last year. It gave her a new lease on her pro wrestling career. Armed with a new name influenced by the song title, “Ruby Soho” by Rancid, Soho looks like a completely different performer than her WWE days.

With charismatic, solid mic work, and in-ring ability, Ruby has connected with the AEW fan base. Already having received 2 title opportunities, she’ll be near the top of the AEW women’s division for a long duration. The ‘Runaway’ has run towards a situation that suits her natural abilities in pro wrestling.

Edge: AEW