AEW Stars in Danger of Losing Their Spot with Influx of New Talent
In the last month alone, All Elite Wrestling has recruited some major names to join its already stacked roster.
The signing spree started with CM Punk in late August, marking his return to wrestling after over seven years away. It continued at All Out mere weeks later with the arrivals of Adam Cole, Ruby Soho and Bryan Danielson.
Of course, that's in addition to everyone else AEW has locked down to deals over the last year, including Sting, Christian Cage, Paul Wight, Malakai Black, and Andrade El Idolo, among others.
AEW has been on such a hot streak that there's no telling when it will reach max capacity for its roster. There has been no suggestion from AEW President Tony Khan that the acquisitions are over yet, leaving fans to wonder what will happen to the "homegrown" AEW stars who haven't been getting as much television time lately.
There are plenty of people who were prominently featured on the card in AEW a year ago but have since fallen by the wayside for one reason or another. While right now simply may not be their time, it can also be argued that they've been overshadowed by AEW's recent influx of top-tier talent.
That isn't to say they can't bounce back, but the position some of these stars find themselves in isn't exactly encouraging. Thus, they are the most in danger of losing their push in favor of the many notable names AEW is enlisting at the moment.
Fans may forget that it was just one year ago that Orange Cassidy reached the peak of his push as a singles star when he beat Chris Jericho in a prominently featured Mimosa Mayhem match at AEW's All Out pay-per-view.
A year later, he was involved in a 10-man tag team match on the All Out pre-show.
The reaction he received that night in Chicago made it abundantly clear that people still care about and are invested in Cassidy. He gets great ovations any time he's in action but has found himself in a dead-end feud with Matt Hardy and the H.F.O. for weeks.
It's a stark contrast to what he was doing in the final few months of 2020: feuding with Jericho, chasing the AEW TNT Championship and competing for the Dynamite Diamond Ring.
Because of Trent's unfortunate injury, Cassidy has had to fill in for him in Best Friends for the majority of 2021. He and Chuck Taylor have had some entertaining matches, but there can be no doubt he's not the same sensation he was around the time the COVID-19 pandemic started.
That could easily change at some point, but a program with Hardy isn't going to do much to change his fortunes. It seems he's settled into a tag team role indefinitely now that AEW has brought in bigger names and begun pushing other AEW originals over him.
At one point, Lance Archer was considered one of AEW's hottest acquisitions. He started with the company right before the coronavirus pandemic hit but was brought in along with Matt Hardy and Brodie Lee, so he had a ton of eyes on him from the get-go.
AEW's early handling of him was ideal, with The Murderhawk Monster running through all of his opponents with ease and making it to the finals of a tournament to crown the inaugural AEW TNT champion. After falling short against Cody Rhodes at Double or Nothing 2020, it was all downhill from there for him.
He went on to win the occasional important match, such as the Casino Battle Royale at All Out, but he never came out on top whenever it mattered most. He vied for the AEW World Championship and the TNT title on a few more occasions but constantly came up short, essentially solidifying his spot as a midcarder in the process.
Archer wasn't poorly positioned on the card whatsoever; in fact, he received more television time than most for a good stretch. That said, his most recent run as the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship was brief, and his appearances on Dynamite have become sparse.
As popular as he is with the audience, one would think AEW would be able to find more for him to do. With so many other babyfaces debuting at the moment, it's possible he'll be even more directionless going forward than he already is.
PAC signing with AEW upon the inception of the promotion was seen as a huge deal by fans at the time. He hadn't wrestled in North America much at all since walking out on WWE in late 2017, and he was making waves over in Japan before announcing he signed with AEW.
His first year with the company was a great one, between beating Kenny Omega and Adam Page on multiple occasions to competing in the company's only-ever Iron Man match in February 2020. He also formed The Death Triangle shortly before the coronavirus pandemic stranded him overseas and prevented him from appearing on television.
That seemingly killed all of his momentum, and he hasn't fully recovered since—especially considering that AEW signed a ton of talent in his absence.
Death Triangle have been plagued by injuries, and PAC being absent every so often because of travel issues isn't helping. He contended for the AEW World Championship at Double or Nothing in a three-way match but ate the pinfall loss from Omega.
He's been embroiled in a rivalry with Andrade El Idolo, but he came up on the losing end of their match on Rampage earlier in September. That doesn't bode well for his immediate future with AEW and sends the message that he isn't seen as much of a priority compared to some of the newcomers.
After recent social media comments from his wife Melissa Santos (h/t Marc Middleton of WrestlingInc.com), it seems Brian Cage might not be too thrilled with his lot in AEW.
He was another who debuted with plenty of fanfare following his successful run with Impact Wrestling, becoming the number one contender to the AEW World Championship in his first match with the promotion at Double or Nothing 2020. He later lost to then-champ Jon Moxley on Dynamite but was protected in defeat.
His alliance with Team Taz ensured he was a regularly featured performer on Dynamite for the remainder of the year. He was also involved in big matches at Revolution 2021 and Double or Nothing 2021, respectively, looking great in defeat on both occasions.
Only recently has he dropped down the card a bit after being betrayed by Team Taz. He has the potential to be a breakout babyface, but because his feud with Ricky Starks has been so cold lately, he's barely been featured on television and has been overlooked in favor of CM Punk, Bryan Danielson and others.
By and large, AEW's booking of Brian Cage has been better than most, but if his recent lack of momentum is any indicator, his time at the top may be finished. It's difficult to envision him being pushed at a level any higher than where he is right now.
Of everyone on this list, Adam Page is arguably the least likely person to see his push derailed because of the influx of fresh faces in AEW, but it remains a worry among fans, nonetheless.
Prior to the arrivals of CM Punk, Bryan Danielson and the rest of them, Page was clearly being groomed for a shot at the AEW World Championship. It's been in the works for almost two years, and AEW was taking the necessary steps toward giving him his moment before he was abruptly taken off TV over the summer.
Per PWInsider (h/t F4WOnline's Josh Nason), Page's absence was believed to be because of paternity leave, though no timetable has been presented for his return. Since he's been gone, AEW has brought in likes of Punk, Danielson and Adam Cole, and all of them are being booked toward the top of the card as well.
It's safe to assume he'll be back within the next few months and pick up where he left off by rekindling his rivalry with Kenny Omega for the AEW World Championship. Whether the momentum he had before will carry over upon his return, however, remains to be seen.
It would be foolish for AEW to not have him be the one to dethrone Omega eventually, but given AEW's track record thus far, there's no reason to believe that won't be the case. Nevertheless, it would be easy for him to get overshadowed by Punk and Danielson given their immense level of popularity, so it's up to the fans to stay behind him and ensure that doesn't happen.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.