The Rise of Wardlow: Is He Better off with WWE or AEW?

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2022

All Elite Wrestling

It's been obvious since he arrived on the scene with All Elite Wrestling that Wardlow had the makings of one of the next big things for a wrestling company. 

But that says "wrestling company" and not specifically "AEW" because it has been painfully apparent over the course of his steady rise that WWE would love to have him on its roster as a main-event player. 

And right on cue, there are already rumblings about this. 

According to WrestleVotes, WWE will be "extremely interested in luring Wardlow away" if AEW ever makes the seeming mistake of letting his contract expire. 

Go figure. Vince McMahon built WWE up for decades on the backbone of gigantic, muscular, heavyweight guys who can main-event. It's part of the spectacle of WWE, whether we're talking about wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, John Cena or Triple H, among other examples. While the company has modernized some in this regard with the likes of Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, it's not without the spectacle of a Braun Strowman or Omos, either. 

So the question becomes simple: What's best for Wardlow's long-term outlook? 

And the answer is actually pretty simple. While WWE might have the history as the company that makes monster guys look amazing, it's just not the best destination in this instance. 

We could point out WWE's endless booking problems; the company's inability to build top babyfaces, with Big E being the latest example; the overreliance on part-timers; the wealth of stunning world-class talent on the roster, which leaves guys often in tag-team purgatory at best. There are plenty of examples. 

All of that could leave Wardlow feeling like just another guy. So could an underrated element: height. Wardlow works because he's a monster character who towers over others and overpowers them. That element goes away in WWE. 

Think about it. Wardlow is 6'2". If they want him to really ascend, he's shorter than Brock Lesnar and 20 pounds lighter. He's just a hair taller than Seth Rollins and would seem only on par with the 6'3" Roman Reigns. He'd look small next to 6'5" Drew McIntyre. Batista, a common comparison, is 6'4" and was more than 20 pounds heavier during his WWE days. 

That might seem like nitpicking or overemphasizing one thing. But it's critical here because the way Wardlow gets over is through his monster status. That's not to say WWE couldn't make it work, but statistically speaking, he's got better odds of superstar status through these means with AEW. 

In AEW, after all, Wardlow is like an adult throwing around everyone in the kiddie section of the pool. 

Fans would be hard-pressed to name many stars in AEW who are as tall as Wardlow. CM Punk is one. So is Cody Rhodes. Ditto for Jon Moxley. Even Adam "Hangman" Page is 6'0". And good luck finding anyone in his weight class who is destined for the main-event scene. 

That lets Wardlow really be that final-boss type AEW desperately needs. It also probably explains why they haven't gunned after someone like the 6'8" Strowman, as they recognize what they have with Wardlow and Strowman's presence would shine a light on just how small most of the roster really is. 

A good wrestling company needs that final boss for heroes to overcome. As played out as it might be, there's a reason WWE always trots out the giant that multiple Superstars have to team up to eliminate in a Royal Rumble. There's a reason a monster like Lesnar, for all of his talents, is the guy beloved names like Rollins and McIntyre have had to overcome. 

And there's nothing wrong with Wardlow being that guy in AEW. Maybe he doesn't hold the top belt for a long time. Maybe he's just the obstacle. But there's nothing wrong with carving out a long, long career as just that.

And there's especially nothing wrong with the way the story's being told right now—he's slowly starting to realize he's being manipulated by MJF, which will lead to the split, face turn and droves of fan support. It's a slow burn WWE wouldn't necessarily take the time to tell. And it's one that will only cement him as a top guy. 

Keep in mind Warlow is only 33. He's one of those success stories in AEW already, going from a developmental guy with an unknown future to a bonafide star who fans can watch rise right now. 

Like MJF, Wardlow could probably have some fun by blurring the lines between real and fake while suggesting he could leave for WWE. That's just smart storytelling. But AEW's where he needs to stay. The booking is already on track to help him achieve both detestable heel and beloved underdog status in a short span of time, and the other surroundings have helped put him on track to a "larger than life" superstar once previously only thought achievable in WWE.