Predicting the Next WWE Stars to Leave for AEW
Every week, more and more conspiracies are concocted about which WWE Superstars will leave for All Elite Wrestling.
Much like during the Monday Night Wars, wrestlers jumping ship to the competition is the hottest topic among fans.
And following Jon Moxley's surprise appearance at Double or Nothing in May, AEW could have another shocking debut in store for Saturday's All Out pay-per view.
So which Superstars have buzz around their potential exits? Let's toss out some guesses on who may be the next to leave WWE and pop up in AEW.
Kalisto and Gran Metalik
Kalisto deleted the entry, but this is not a good sign they'll be staying in WWE.
Metalik previously put up a Twitter poll (h/t Daniel Yanofsky of Wrestling Inc) on December 21 asking fans if he should wrestle for CMLL or other promotions outside of WWE, which appears to show this is a longstanding issue.
Of course, this may simply be a negotiation tactic to get a better deal with the company. However, if their gripes are about more than just money, they could be gone by next summer.
Metalik has achieved nothing of note in WWE other than being a finalist in the Cruiserweight Classic tournament in September 2016.
Kalisto has had multiple title reigns, but he has been stagnant since spring 2018 with nothing to show for his efforts.
Forming Lucha House Party helped the two and Lince Dorado gain a tad more exposure, but being fed to Lars Sullivan or wrestling on 205 Live isn't likely what they imagined for their careers.
Next June, if they decide to leave WWE, AEW could be waiting to welcome them either as singles acts or a tag team and show more of an appreciation for their talents.
Speculation about The Revival leaving for AEW has gone on for months, with constant new wrinkles in the story.
Frequently, The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes and The Revival hint at a relationship on Twitter, including the hashtag #FTR, which Dash Wilder trademarked in January (h/t WrestlingInc's Marc Middleton).
A more recent example of this ongoing relationship was Scott Dawson's "Arn taught us well. See ya soon, Double A." tweet in reference to AEW's Arn Anderson.
There has been no confirmation of The Revival signing new contracts with WWE, even after two tag title reigns this year which may have only happened to sweeten the deal.
They seem set on leaving WWE when free in 2020 and perhaps heading straight to AEW, where tag teams are given a more prominent focus.
For reasons unknown, EC3 has been an absolute bust on the main roster.
Every other Superstar in that block of NXT call-ups early in 2019 has achieved some success. Ricochet and Nikki Cross have won titles, while Lacey Evans main-evented a pay-per-view.
Meanwhile, EC3's one and only moment was becoming 24/7 champion for a few seconds on June 24.
For the most part, he spends his time chasing that belt backstage or, if he's lucky, losing on Main Event—the dead-zone show nobody watches and WWE doesn't even bother listing on the shows page of its own site.
On June 11, EC3 posted a cryptic message on Instagram that could be taken as a sign he's hesitant but hopeful about a future beyond WWE.
Since he saw more success in Impact Wrestling than anywhere else, leaving WWE for a place like AEW that could appreciate his looks, mic skills and in-ring talent could be a much better fit.
Lio Rush has not made a WWE appearance since April 15, with no official indication of why he's been away.
He has remained active on social media, wherein he had at one point removed all references to WWE and still has information for booking inquiries.
Most of his posts are about change, everything happening for a reason and thanking fans for sticking by him over the past few months—none of which reads as an imminent return to WWE.
Rush could easily be used on 205 Live or put back on NXT, especially with the extra hour of television starting September 18, or he could be sitting out his contract, waiting to go elsewhere.
Assuming that's the case, he would fit in well with AEW's aesthetic of focusing more on athleticism and younger talent and not having to fit in the WWE mold.
In an interview with The Wrap, Apollo Crews said he felt he would have done more in WWE by this point in his career, but he understands "how the process works."
Was this a careful way to vent his frustrations without sounding too bitter, or more of a statement about having faith things will all work out?
It's hard to say, but his idea that King of the Ring would turn things around is already dead in the water, after he lost in the first round to Andrade.
Crews has a great look and is extremely athletic, but he struggles to connect with the WWE Universe on the mic. However, in AEW, where there is less focus on promos and wrestlers are allowed to be more of themselves, he could thrive.
If nothing happens soon to show him that WWE is as invested in his future as he is, he could leave for greener pastures and prove how he's been a valuable asset all along.
Now, he'll be paid to sit at home or work on projects outside of the wrestling industry.
Ziggler does have other interests, such as his stand-up comedy, but his passion to prove he's the best wrestler in the world is perfectly suited for a run in AEW.
There, he would be a bigger fish in a smaller pond and be able to work with new talent without WWE's shackles holding him back from the creative outlet he seems to be craving.
The Showoff has not been completely taken off the show yet, but his time may be winding down. Once his contract is up, it would not be shocking for him to try something different.
On April 16, Luke Harper tweeted that he had requested his release from WWE. That wasn't honored, as according to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Wrestling Inc's Joshua Gagnon and Marc Middleton), WWE is dragging out the process.
Due to time missed from injuries, the company added six months to his contract, which may be up later this year.
This is undoubtedly a strategy to keep him away from AEW as long as possible, though that in itself is strange. If Harper is a valuable get for the competition, why is there no attempt to use him for the benefit of WWE television?
That type of illogical thinking may be what Harper wishes to avoid for the remaining years of his career, and AEW would be foolish to pass on him once he's available.
Rusev and Lana
Outside of Rusev's brief appearance in the 51-Man Battle Royal at Super ShowDown 2019, The Bulgarian Brute and Lana have not been seen since around the time of WrestleMania.
The couple continue to respond on Twitter about reports on their WWE status but never state if they are staying or leaving.
Playing coy with these plans only adds more fuel to the speculation they could be leaving for AEW and may be keeping it tight-lipped until all the details are worked out, as re-signing with WWE would be much easier to put to bed.
Meanwhile, their former teammate, Shinsuke Nakamura, has moved on to a singles role again as intercontinental champion, which may be another sign there are no plans for a return.
Rusev has also recently shaved his facial hair, which is something WWE normally wants to approve ahead of time to avoid conflicts with merchandising and advertisements. But if he isn't going to stay with the company, that would not be a priority.
Whether they specifically end up in AEW or go elsewhere remains to be seen, but all signs seem to point to an exit from WWE in the near future.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.