Kenny Omega and 4 Stars Who Will Make or Break AEW in Year 1
As All Elite Wrestling embarks on a journey to bring the wrestling industry a true alternative to WWE, one look at its roster gives fans a taste of the performers that will either make or break the company's first year.
From industry icons to internationally recognizable stars, young upstarts and competitors with all the promise and potential in the world, the wrestlers who will impact the promotion for better or worse are an eclectic mix.
Who are they, and why will they prove so pivotal to the success of AEW over the next 12 months?
Take a look for yourself.
The biggest acquisition for All Elite Wrestling, Kenny Omega has the ability to single-handedly make or break the company in its first year.
Omega has earned his reputation as "The Best Bout Machine" because of his stellar work in high-profile matches in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. His performances against Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito are the stuff of legend.
None of those men, nor his former Golden Lover tag team partner Kota Ibushi, will be making the move to AEW, creating one big question that will be answered in relatively short order: Can Omega deliver up to expectations without the best of NJPW standing across the ring from him?
The answer should be a resounding "yes."
One of his greatest attributes is his creativity, something AEW Executive Vice President Cody Rhodes discussed with Bleacher Report in February. "He likes kung fu, and he likes anime, and he likes all of these cinematic, artistic representations of violence and physicality. And he looks to those, and he pulls from those. That's needed. That's special. He's not just stealing from the past. He's just creating right there on the spot."
That creativity and his ability to adapt will make him every bit the asset the company believes it is getting in The Cleaner and, as a result, will help make the company's highest-profile matches must-see.
Chris Jericho is an international icon and one of the biggest stars of his generation.
A sure-fire WWE Hall of Famer, the first undisputed champion in that company's history and one of its centerpieces for nearly 20 years, Jericho has done everything there is to do in the industry.
Now, he takes his enormous star power and continued desire to entertain to AEW, where he figures to be the lead heel in the promotion. We have already seen him confront Omega, and his ego has been running wild on the weekly Road to Double or Nothing YouTube show.
Every sign points to the decorated Superstar being the lead villain in this new morality play, but the question is not whether or not he can succeed in that role. We know he can. Jericho has been a heel before, a damn good one who has captivated audiences. No, the question is whether Y2J's in-ring performances can meet the quality of his character work.
Jericho essentially reinvented himself as a worker in New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
His matches with Omega, Evil and Naito were brawls that incorporated ringside battle with in-ring competition, something that allowed the 48-year-old wrestler to accentuate his creativity and camouflage any weaknesses that exist at this point in his career.
His brand is enough to entice fans into watching AEW just to see what he is up to. It will be his ability to adapt and continue delivering between the ropes, or lack thereof, that will help make or break Year 1 in AEW.
In many ways, Cody made AEW a reality.
Yes, the company is the vision of both he and The Young Bucks, but it was his arrival to the independent scene and the friendship he forged with Matt and Nick Jackson that made a pipe-dream of a true alternative to WWE a reality.
The face of the promotion, thanks to the Road to Double or Nothing YouTube show, Cody is a personality who will have a ton to do with whatever success or failure AEW experiences over its first 12 months.
Rhodes is a confident young businessman and performer. He believes in the vision he has for AEW and the work he and the Bucks are putting in to make it a reality, something he exuded in a February interview with B/R.
Always a talented in-ring competitor, his work between the ropes will speak for itself. It is as a creator and businessman that Cody will ultimately affect AEW in Year 1. If he can draw on the same creative instinct that made his father—"The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes—one of the most celebrated minds in wrestling history, the company has a bright first year in store for its fans.
Dr. Britt Baker
"We signed Britt Baker. I think she has the potential to be the ace of the division," Rhodes told B/R.
Baker is a talented young star with the potential to become the face of women's wrestling in AEW. Considering how hot women's wrestling is right now, it would behoove the company to capitalize and provide the best women's product it can. With Baker, it has a smart, well-spoken and capable in-ring performer around whom an entire division can be built.
Brandi Rhodes, Chief Brand Officer of the company, chose Baker as the first signee of the women's roster for a reason. The only woman to return for the show after battling Chelsea Green, Tessa Blanchard and Madison Rayne in a Fatal 4-Way at All In, she earned the attention of the office and will now have the chance to be the centerpiece of the company's efforts to further revolutionize women's wrestling as we know it.
That puts pressure on Baker's shoulders to live up to the lofty expectations management has put on her.
If she delivers, the women's division of AEW will thrive, thanks to her efforts and a roster that also features the likes of former Impact Wrestling women's champion Allie, Nyla Rose and Kylie Rae.
If she does not, the division will be forced to refocus its energy on another competitor.
"Hangman" Adam Page
"Hangman" Adam Page has every tool necessary to become the eventual face of AEW and its world champion.
A young competitor with an adaptable in-ring style that makes him an asset to anyone who would have signed him. Luckily, AEW did.
Page has shown an ability to work Japanese Strong Style as part of NJPW, delivered a hellacious performance in a street fight against "Bad Boy" Joey Janela at All In last September and proved capable of working a more traditional bout against the likes of Jay Lethal in Ring of Honor.
Throw in the charisma he demonstrated as part of the Being The Elite cast and you have a performer just waiting for the opportunity to reign atop a promotion.
The key to success will be Page's continued growth and development as a performer. If he continues to make strides and build on an already impressive foundation, AEW will have a bright future under the West Virginian.