Who Are the Most over WWE and AEW Stars Right Now?

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2022

Who Are the Most over WWE and AEW Stars Right Now?

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    CM Punk is showered in adulation from the AEW audience every time he appears on screen.
    CM Punk is showered in adulation from the AEW audience every time he appears on screen.Credit: All Elite Wrestling

    It's been an exciting time to be a wrestling fan since live crowds returned last summer after a long stretch of empty arena shows from both WWE and All Elite Wrestling.

    As compelling as some of the storylines are, the stars in each of those promotions are really what make their television programs must-see. Without them, there would be little incentive to tune in and get invested in any of the angles.

    Being "over" with an audience is typically defined by how well a wrestler excels at their role as a babyface or a heel. However, it's tough to measure without factoring in merchandise and ticket sales and how they affect business overall.

    More often than not, the crowd reactions they receive each week (in addition to how they're positioned as top talent) are enough to go off of in determining their level of popularity.

    The vast amount of athletes to choose from in WWE and AEW at the moment makes it virtually impossible for everyone to be included in one list. For example, a majority of AEW's stacked roster has wide audience appeal, but only an elite few have an exceptionally strong connection with the masses.

    When looking at the best of the bunch, these 11 wrestlers (in no particular order) are the ones who stand out as being the hottest commodities currently in either company.

Honorable Mentions

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    Blackpool Combat Club

    Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley are beyond beloved by the AEW audience individually, so them joining forces was going to make them the most popular tandem in the entire company. They've been building momentum as of late and are impossible not to cheer, especially with William Regal in their corner.

          

    AJ Styles

    AJ Styles has been a huge fan favorite from the moment he arrived in WWE in 2016, even during his various heel runs. The audience has again taken to him as a bayface this year and regardless of how he's been booked, he'll always be one of the most revered and admired members of the roster.

          

    Adam Cole

    The reaction Adam Cole received during his debut in AEW at All Out 2021 was explosive, and he hasn't slowed down since. Although he has yet to hold gold of any kind, it's merely a matter of time if his consistently strong reactions are any indication.

          

    Becky Lynch

    Becky Lynch returning to WWE as a heel last summer when everyone wanted to cheer her was puzzling, but she's come into her own as a villain quite well. Fans went from being torn on her character to embracing her new role and giving her the heat she does her best to elicit.

              

    Thunder Rosa

    The famed "Road Warrior pop" (considered to be one of the loudest reactions a wrestler can get) has become known to many as the "Thunder Rosa pop" in AEW over the last year for how popular she has become. She's lost a little momentum as AEW women's world champion due to not being featured too prominently, but she's still very much over with the fans.

CM Punk

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    CM Punk has had a new lease on life since returning to the ring with AEW in 2021.

    The reaction to his return alone was legendary, but the way he's been able to maintain that fanfare has been especially impressive. His connection with the crowd is like no other, hence why fans clamored for so long to see him back in the squared circle.

    We are now eight months removed from his comeback and it still hasn't completely sunk in for a portion of the audience that he's wrestling regularly again. Not only that, but he's also excelling at a high level and doing some of the best work of his whole career.

    The honeymoon phase will usually pass for most eventually, but it hasn't for Punk. He's faced minimal (if any) backlash because AEW hasn't given anything for fans to complain about; he's helped elevate others while also making himself look fantastic.

    AEW made it obvious on Wednesday's Dynamite that he has his sights set on Adam Page's AEW World Championship and rightfully so. A heel turn is inevitable, but the company should capitalize fully on the hot streak he currently finds himself on as a face before that happens.

Roman Reigns

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    With the unstoppable aura he's had since August 2020, Roman Reigns is in a league of his own.

    For the better part of the past decade, it was difficult to determine whether he was over or not. Granted, he always generating a reaction from fans, but it was never what the company wanted with him as its top babyface.

    The Big Dog was miscast for many years before finally flipping the switch and going rogue two years ago. He adapted to the new role immediately and proved to be a natural heel.

    Again, though, there was no telling whether the turn was working or not without having a crowd in attendance. That changed once WWE returned to the road last summer and fans gave him the reaction befitting of a villain in his position.

    Reigns has been a recurring highlight on WWE TV for his entire time on top, and there doesn't appear to be an end in sight now that he's the new Undisputed WWE Universal champion.

    Crowds never cease to rise to their feet whenever his music blares across the loudspeakers, which means it's going to be that much more meaningful of a moment when he's eventually dethroned.

Adam Page

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    The many debuts this year along with the lack of focus on the AEW World Championship have caused Adam Page to lose some of the luster he had in his pursuit of the prestigious prize, but he's still the top babyface in AEW for a reason.

    People rallied behind Hangman for all those years because he was such a relatable character. He had his setbacks and obstacles to overcome, but in the end, he was able to climb the mountain and capture the top title.

    He's been nothing short of a fighting champion with defenses against Bryan Danielson, Lance Archer and Adam Cole. With each win, he's endeared himself to the audience more and more, and he has solidified his spot in the main event mix.

    The real test in seeing how over Page is compared to everyone else on this list is about to begin as he enters into a rivalry with the beyond-beloved CM Punk heading into Double or Nothing. The crowd could easily turn on him in favor of Punk or be willing to cheer them both equally.

    Either way, Hangman's ascent up to the card and transformation into a top talent this past year has been a blast to watch unfold.

Seth Rollins

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    A case can be made for Seth Rollins having one of the best character arcs of anyone in the last decade.

    He's always known to turn and shift his character when the time was right. With that said, it is starting to look like a face run is in his future, with the cheers during his entrances and matches becoming more and more noticeable.

    The Visionary is clearly enjoying himself in his current role and isn't doing as much to turn the crowd against him. He's had a fantastic foil in Cody Rhodes recently, but he'll still receive favorable reactions because he's Seth "Freakin" Rollins.

    Long ago, he entered that echelon of Superstars who will never be seen as anything less than main event material and the reactions reflect that. His entrance music doesn't make it easy for him to be a heel with how catchy the chorus is and how he essentially encourages crowds to sing along.

    For as popular as Rollins is right now, expect him to be even hotter once he completes his pending face turn.

The Hardys

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    No matter the promotion, Matt and Jeff Hardy have been wildly over everywhere they've been. They've been teaming on television for nearly 25 years, and their connection with the crowds hasn't wavered in the slightest.

    The pop they got for returning at WrestleMania 33 was one of the loudest ever. The run that followed wasn't stellar for a variety of reasons, but getting great reactions was never an issue for them.

    That still rings true today as they enter the latest chapter of their career in AEW.

    The Hardys may not be capable of what they once were, but that hasn't stopped fans from going wild every time the classic Hardy Boyz entrance music has hit. They've had a fun run so far and are proving they're more than just a nostalgia act.

    If they can continue to build momentum and rack up wins, there's no reason to think they can't be in contention for the AEW World Tag Team Championship before long.

RK-Bro

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    All signs pointed to RK-Bro being a temporary team before Randy Orton turned on Riddle to kick-start a SummerSlam storyline. Thankfully, WWE resisted the urge to break them up prematurely and now they're the most over tandem in the company today.

    Riddle and Orton were a pairing that really should have never worked as well as it did. However, their chemistry instantly clicked, and it became apparent early on that they were on the verge of something special.

    WWE was wise not to rush into them winning the Raw Tag Team Championships. They reigned eventually for nearly five months, and while they weren't facing high-profile competition every week, they were bringing new eyes to the titles simply by holding them.

    RK-Bro are in the midst of their second title reign and are as popular as ever. There's a good chance they'll lose their upcoming unification match against The Usos and split up beyond that, but WWE should ride this wave with them for as long as the crowd is willing to cheer them.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find Orton in a better mode at any other point in his career than when he's walking down the ramp with Riddle by his side.

Samoa Joe

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    The outstanding ovation Samoa Joe received upon arriving in Ring of Honor at Supercard of Honor established that fans hadn't forgotten about his greatness.

    Remember, it had been almost eight months since he was last on a major wrestling program before then. It would have been easy to forget he was still an active competitor, but that reaction indicated otherwise.

    Joe surfaced at the end of the event to stand face-to-face with Jay Lethal and to send the crowd into a frenzy. As if that wasn't enough, he debuted on Dynamite days later for a quick showcase against Max Caster, and the fans were very much behind him in Boston as well.

    Similar to The Hardys, Joe is past his prime physically, but the vibe he exudes makes him stand out as a star. He walks the walk in the ring and talks the talk on the mic, all while putting his opponents on notice with a simple facial expression.

    Joe wasted no time in finding success when he won the ROH World Television Championship last week on Dynamite. AEW knows what it has in him and is fortunate to have someone with such a wealth of knowledge, experience and goodwill from the fans on its roster.

Sasha Banks

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    Despite not being prominently featured as a singles star in SmackDown's women's division in many months, Sasha Banks remains the most over female in all of WWE.

    The Boss established a powerful connection with the audience early on, and that's how she's been able to maintain her fans through all of the bizarre booking decisions and everything else. It wasn't until 2020 that she finally held a championship for more than a month, and by then she was already incredibly popular.

    Regardless of whether she's a face or a heel, she excels at interacting with the audience. Her energy is infectious and her above-average skills in the ring only make it that much easier to cheer for her.

    She's a star in every sense of the word but isn't treated like one, at least not on television. Her tag team with Naomi has been a resounding success so far, but she would be way more useful in the SmackDown Women's Championship picture at the moment.

    WWE should always be reminded of Banks' value and how her loyal fanbase is part of what makes her so special.

MJF

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    In addition to death and taxes, a third guarantee in life is that whenever the first note of his MJF's entrance music hits in any arena (aside from his hometown of Long Island), a deafening chorus of boos is sure to follow.

    Needless to say, he's the quintessential heel. Wardlow wouldn't work as well as a babyface on the rise if he didn't have such an exceptional antagonist to play off of, and that CM Punk program wouldn't have been what it was without MJF measuring up the way he did.

    What's so spectacular about MJF is that he's universally detested virtually everywhere he goes. No one else has that effect on an audience and it's a testament to how well he can get under their skin and stay there.

    The overwhelmingly negative reception is what he feeds off of to do his best work in the ring and on the mic, which is why he's been over with the AEW audience since the start. There could come a day when he turns babyface because he's plays his role so remarkably well, but that shouldn't be any time soon.

    In the meantime, MJF should continue being positioned as the lead heel in AEW and ultimately be rewarded for his efforts in the form of a run with the top title.

Cody Rhodes

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    It was logical to assume Cody Rhodes would receive a warm welcome upon returning to WWE at WrestleMania 38, but the thunderous reaction he ended up getting overwhelmingly exceeded everyone's expectations.

    This was the same Superstar who most fans had written off as a comedy act toward the end of his previous tenure with the company six years earlier. As Stardust, he was never going to get beyond a certain level, which led to him departing on his own terms and shattering a glass ceiling.

    From Impact to Ring of Honor to New Japan Pro-Wrestling to AEW, Rhodes was a top talent everywhere he went. He proved himself as a world championship-caliber competitor and forged a remarkable relationship with the fans both as a heel and as a babyface.

    Those that followed his unprecedented journey were shocked to see him back in WWE as The American Nightmare (elaborate entrance and all) at 'Mania. Those who weren't as aware of his history must have been in awe as well.

    The pop inside AT&T Stadium that Saturday night was just that loud.

    It's possible the audience will slowly turn on Rhodes much like in AEW, but for now, he's one of the best babyfaces in WWE and the fans have taken to him as a hero.

Hook

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    Hook becoming one of the most over wrestlers in any promotion would have been impossible to predict a year ago, but the reactions he's been receiving recently speak for themselves.

    His early appearances alongside Team Taz in 2020 quickly turned him into a social media meme among fans. Once he eventually stepped into the ring for the first time, the online love for Hook translated into him being organically over with the audience.

    To AEW's credit, it has maintained his mystique by not having him speak at all. Rather, he'll wrestle every so often and dominate his opponent with a flurry of impressive offensive maneuvers.

    There really is no rhyme or reason to why Hook is such a fan favorite other than the fact that he comes off as cool and has an unbothered attitude. What's important is that the company has been wise to capitalize off his popularity and book him to look credible.

    Hook as AEW world champion may be too far-fetched of a possibility, but it wouldn't be a stretch to say he could well be a permanent pillar of the promotion in time.

              

    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.

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