Booking the Unthinkable: Imagining a Shane McMahon AEW Run After WWE Exit

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2022


Throughout its storied history, the wrestling business has always had several "what if"?" scenarios that everyone could agree would never come to fruition. 

A McMahon appearing in All Elite Wrestling was one of those for reasons that don't really need to be explained. 

But as if to illustrate how wild the last few years of pro wrestling have been, that impossibility now has a slightly better chance of happening in the wake of Shane McMahon's departure from WWE. 

Slight, because there's still a long, long way to go before something as wild as Shane McMahon popping up on an episode of AEW Dynamite actually happens. 

But in the short term, it's no great shock WWE let somebody go after the horrendous men's Royal Rumble match. It is, however, a great shock that someone is Shane. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported Wednesday that he was "out" of WWE, and Meltzer then reported Shane's role in booking the men's Rumble was a big reason for the departure. It was an especially fast development because it was clear WWE had big matches in mind for him at the upcoming Elimination Chamber, as well as WrestleMania itself. 

Still, something had to give in the wake of WWE derailing its entire men's Rumble match to get Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns back on track, after deciding that Lesnar should win the company's other world title simply because Reigns had to miss the pair's match at Day 1. 

Along the way to a Lesnar Rumble win, Kofi Kingston botched an escape spot, potential top guys Big E and AJ Styles got treated like jobbers, and Shane was stunningly one of the last three competitors in the match, with well-established stars forced to sell punches from the 52-year-old part-timer.

But an important note: That's all worth bringing up because it wouldn't be as interesting to see Shane in AEW if he had left WWE on happy, uneventful terms. 

That the son of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon leaves WWE in a fireball of controversy makes things different. 

On one hand, AEW doesn't want to bring in anyone and everyone for cheap pops. They've been great about this, seemingly avoiding guys like Braun Strowman while gobbling up obvious names like Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson. 

But, grabbing Shane would be unprecedented, even if it's for just a single program and pay-per-view event. 

Imagine the headlines AEW would generate if it grabbed the son of Vince McMahon. The ability to lure in casual eyeballs with that sort of splash could be something that closes the gap between the companies even more. 

And it's not hard to imagine how AEW could make it engrossing, even for hardcore fans who groan at the idea. We're talking line-blurring encounters between guys like Shane and a former employee like Cody Rhodes. We're talking getting him on the mic with MJF. 

And of course, we're talking at least a brief encounter with CM Punk. There's a whole mountain of worms for them to dig through given Punk's split from WWE. 

Character-wise, Shane could be his usual gassed-up, arrogant heel self, trashing AEW and the fans while also firing shots at his father's company. The ultimate payoff would, of course, be his promising to steal the promotion's top title, only to eventually get put down by "Hangman" Adam Page or another home-grown AEW star. 

AEW couldn't afford to lean into this gimmick for too long, but there are some interesting storylines and encounters worth exploring there, even briefly. And while there's a real risk it would start to have diminishing returns quickly, the short-term impact that plays into the AEW vs. WWE war (mostly waged among fans) would be worth it. AEW has shown time and again it knows when to pull back off something if it starts to wear out its welcome. 

On a bigger scale, it's the sort of thing that might make pro wrestling better as a whole. Competition is never a bad thing, as AEW's existence and quick rise has showcased. This sort of (almost unauthorized) crossover would only help in this regard. 

Granted, Shane would have to be willing to play ball. So would an AEW locker room with plenty of performers who might not love the idea for a whole host of reasons. 

But looking at it from this zoomed-out focus? AEW grabbing Shane, even for a quick run, maybe half-a-year tops, would be a big opportunity to create an unforgettable moment, leading to unforgettable storylines and a potential big growth point for AEW as it continues to carve out its growing space in the pro wrestling world.