Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on Stone Cold, Cody Rhodes and More

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2022

Backstage WWE and AEW Rumors: Latest on Stone Cold, Cody Rhodes and More

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    The wrestling world was rocked this week by two major news stories that will have an effect on the industry for the foreseeable future: a potential return to the ring for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Cody Rhodes' departure from All Elite Wrestling.

    The rumor mill has been dominated with updates involving the two stars, some of which you will find in this collection of reports.

    The rest will give you an idea of which free agent you may see pop up on AEW Dynamite or Rampage next and what the current status of signing new faces to the company looks like. 

Update on Stone Cold's Potential Return to the Ring

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    WWE may have pitched a match with Kevin Owens that would serve as a sendoff in front of a huge Texas audience at WrestleMania 38, but "Stone Cold" Steve Austin has made no commitment to return for an actual match at this year's event, according to Mike Johnson of

    With that said, the 57-year-old was always intended to be involved in the show in some form or fashion.

    It makes sense, too.

    The event will take place at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on April 2-3, and Stone Cold was a central figure of early on-sale advertising. Why not do as the company did in 2016, bringing him out to deliver a Stunner or three and soak in the adulation of fans while drinking a few beers?

    It's a formula that has worked before, sends the crowd home happy and lets Austin take center stage as a star of his magnitude has earned the right to on occasion.

    Best of all, that scenario does not call for him to ruin a legacy that was secured in 2003 when he walked the ramp one last time as an active competitor and delivered another classic against The Rock. 

    Austin is too precious to WWE and his legacy is among the greatest of all time, and the fact that he has resisted the urge to step back into the squared circle for a big payday has helped set him apart from his peers. 

What Factor Weighed Heavily in Cody Rhodes Leaving AEW, Joining WWE?

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    Cody Rhodes is out of AEW, the company he helped found with The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega and Tony Khan.

    And Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated revealed his departure had at least a little to do with frustration over booking and, more specifically, who was doing it.

    "While Rhodes was never intended to overstay his welcome in the world title picture, one key factor that led to this exit was losing all responsibilities involving booking," he wrote. "That is a role where Khan, who is the head of creative, has taken full rein."

    Barrasso added: "For Rhodes, AEW represented another chance to pay homage to his father as a booker while also further cementing his own legacy. Losing that opportunity in AEW hurt Rhodes more than any loss he suffered in the ring."

    Bassarro also reported that Cody's wife, Brandi, is not expected to join him in WWE. At least not at this time.

    The American Nightmare could begin filming vignettes for his return as soon as this weekend at the WWE Performance Center, the report noted. If that is the case, a role at WrestleMania 38 is not off the table. And nor should it be.

    Rhodes is a major figure in the industry, thanks largely to the reputation he built for himself once he departed WWE. Bolstering the 'Mania bill with his inclusion is hardly a bad option for a company turning to retired stars to help elevate the name value of the card.

Buddy Matthews Heading to AEW...

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    Buddy Matthews, formerly Buddy Murphy, could be on his way to AEW, according to Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select.

    The 33-year-old has been a free agent since September and has appeared in New Japan Pro-Wrestling since, but he has yet to land permanently with any major company. That could change shortly if the rumors Sapp has heard prove accurate.

    A criminally underrated and underused talent during his time with WWE, Matthews is a brilliant wrestler whose style meshes well with many. He can work babyface or heel and has proved himself on wrestling's grandest stage, most notably as part of the Kickoff Show to WrestleMania 35, where he and Tony Nese delivered a superb Cruiserweight Championship match.

    Ironically enough, the Australian would have the opportunity to run it back with Nese and a plethora of wrestlers who compliment his style in AEW.

    It's the perfect landing spot for Matthews and a place where he could showcase the abilities that were taken for granted in WWE.

...although the Company Has Intentionally Slowed New Signings

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    Despite interest in bringing in Matthews and the recent arrival of Keith Lee, AEW is said to be taking a more conservative approach to signing free agents until it receives its next television deal, per Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio.

    It is probably the right call, not only because of finances but also for the sake of a roster that is becoming ever more bloated every time a new name is brought on board.

    There is such a thing as having too much talent at one's disposal and AEW is quickly getting there, with a roster that boasts some of the best in the world but not nearly enough outlets for them all to contribute in a meaningful way. 

    Give the arrivals of Lee and Brody King time to breathe. Let Matthews come on board and make an impact without immediately being upstaged by yet another signing. It will benefit the product in the long term and not lead to the sort of frustration that makes free agents regret signing on, only to see their roles diminished soon after.