Predicting How Injured WWE, AEW Stars' Returns Will Be Booked

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2022

Predicting How Injured WWE, AEW Stars' Returns Will Be Booked

0 of 10

    Bayley's absence from WWE programming over the last nine months has certainly been felt.
    Bayley's absence from WWE programming over the last nine months has certainly been felt.Credit:

    As the summer season approaches for WWE and All Elite Wrestling, this is the time of year when every wrestler wants to be as healthy as possible to ensure they don't miss out on the opportunities available to them.

    The Road to WrestleMania has come and gone for WWE, but three stadium shows await, starting with Money in the Bank on July 2. AEW stars have Double or Nothing to look forward to on May 29 followed by its Forbidden Door joint-event with New Japan Pro-Wrestling on June 26.

    Missing out on any of these huge events would be a bummer for anyone injured at the moment. On the bright side, WWE's disabled list is shorter than it's been in a while, especially with multiple people returning in recent weeks.

    AEW has a few more competitors on the shelf at the moment, though none are expected to be out for the long haul.

    Of those waiting to come back from lengthy layoffs, some are closer to an in-ring return than others. When they do resurface, WWE and AEW should have a plan in place for each of them to ensure they don't get lost in the shuffle.


    *Alexa Bliss is not included here as there's no indication that her recent absence is the result of an injury, while the status of Top Flight's Darius Martin is currently unknown, according to his own Twitter.


1 of 10

    You would be hard-pressed to find a bigger MVP on the WWE roster during the ThunderDome era than Bayley, and that's what made the timing of her injury so awful.

    One week before WWE's return to the road and her SmackDown Women's Championship "I Quit" match with Bianca Belair at Money in the Bank 2021, revealed she had been injured during training and would be out for approximately nine months.

    May is nearly here and we are still to be graced with her return, meaning it must be imminent unless there has been some sort of a setback.

    As noted, the last we saw of Bayley on WWE TV, she was feuding with Belair over the SmackDown women's title. The EST of WWE has since been drafted to Raw and is the current women's champion there, so it would make sense to immediately rekindle that rivalry, this time on Monday nights.

    Alternatively, if Ronda Rousey wins the SmackDown title at WrestleMania Backlash, Bayley could be her first challenger.

    Either way, The Role Model should be back in the title mix right away, as both brands could use the additional depth and would benefit from her star power.

Leyla Hirsch

2 of 10

    Despite signing with AEW in March 2021, Leyla Hirsch didn't really get going until earlier this year when she turned heel and severed her friendships with Kris Statlander and Red Velvet.

    She scored the biggest win over her career over Statlander in an entertaining pre-show match at the Revolution pay-per-view.

    It appeared Hirsch was set to resume her rivalry with The Galaxy's Greatest Alien in the weeks that followed when Bryan Rose of F4WOnline reported she suffered a knee injury during the April 7 Dark: Elevation taping and the match had to be stopped.

    The 25-year-old hasn't been seen since, likely ruling her out as a participant in the women's Owen Hart Cup, which is set to commence in May. She had to be considered a strong candidate to win the whole thing had she not gotten hurt.

    Upon her return, she should continue to be booked as a dominant force in the women's division. Statlander is bound to win their eventual feud-ending match, but beyond that, she should be built up as a challenger for AEW women's world champion Thunder Rosa.

    AEW needs more fresh faces at the top of the division right now, and Hirsch can be one of those pillars once she's cleared to compete.

Jake Atlas

3 of 10

    During his two-year stint in NXT, independent wrestling standout Jake Atlas wasn't afforded many opportunities to showcase his skills, at least not at a level suitable of his talent.

    Following his release last summer, it didn't take long for him to be offered an opportunity to shine in AEW. He made a few appearances on Dark before facing Adam Cole in an excellent match on the first edition of Rampage in 2022.

    It was during that bout that he suffered a torn ACL, but thankfully, AEW had already announced his signing earlier that week. His eye-opening performance against Cole left fans wondering when he'd be back, though it may be another several months due to the nature of the injury.

    It would have been interesting to see how AEW followed up his hot debut. There have been many people who have arrived in the company in similar fashion before eventually fizzling out, but Atlas is clearly someone Tony Khan has big plans for upon his return.

    Atlas would be a perfect fit in the TNT Championship picture. If AEW doesn't want to rush into that, challenging Cole to a rematch or picking a fight with someone such as Andrade El Idolo or Jay Lethal would be a logical use of his talents.

Rick Boogs

4 of 10

    For someone who never had a formal run on NXT TV, Rick Boogs has exceeded all expectations on WWE's main roster thus far.

    The 34-year-old has proved to be an amazing hype man for Shinsuke Nakamura, who reigned as intercontinental champion for a good chunk of their time together.

    Boogs was starting to wrestle more regularly and was seemingly on the brink of becoming SmackDown tag team champion before tearing his quadriceps against The Usos at WrestleMania 38.

    Joseph Currier of F4WOnline reported later that week that he had undergone successful surgery, though no timetable for his return was given.

    Nakamura has been doing a whole lot of nothing on his own since then, which would indicate WWE has no intentions of seriously pushing The King of Strong Style as a singles star again until Boogs is back to complete the package.

    The two of them were jelling into quite a team heading into The Show of Shows, so the SmackDown tag team ranks is where they should stay. The tag titles from both brands will be unified by that point, though, so it may be a bit more difficult for them to get another shot at the belts.

Kip Sabian

5 of 10

    As an AEW original, Kip Sabian is a strange case of someone who is obviously skilled in the ring but has never been able to escape the undercard.

    His on-screen pairing with Penelope Ford helped him score more television time in 2020, but the only serious push he's gotten came when he was teaming with Miro in early 2021. Their alliance benefited the Englishman far more than it did Miro, who was much better off once it ended.

    Miro attacking Sabian on the April 28, 2021 edition of Dynamite was done to write the latter out of storylines so he could undergo shoulder surgery. Although he technically hasn't been brought back to TV yet, he can be seen in the front row of many Dynamite, Rampage, Dark and Elevation shows wearing a suit with a box over his head that reads "Underrated, Over It."

    This has been going on for months and hasn't been acknowledged by the announcers once on television.

    Perhaps that's the point, but it's not an encouraging sign for his future. That's in addition to Sammy Guevara and Tay Conti essentially stealing their gimmick, so there really isn't an obvious route for AEW to take with him beyond returning to Dark duty unless he wants to explore his options elsewhere once his contract ends.


6 of 10

    Similar to Sabian, Riho is another AEW original whose television time in the last three years has been extremely inconsistent for a number of reasons.

    The 24-year-old became the inaugural AEW women's world champion in October 2019 but had to take time off shortly after losing the title due to the travel ban caused by the pandemic.

    She returned to AEW programming for a brief period in 2021, disappeared again, and resurfaced for a rivalry with Britt Baker and broke her collarbone during their championship clash.

    Riho later tweeted a photo of her arm in a sling and said she was resting. There's been no word on when she's expected back.

    The AEW women's division boasts plenty of talent at the moment, but having the Japanese star back in the mix wouldn't hurt. She shouldn't challenge for the championship right away, but an eventual match with Thunder Rosa could be a lot of fun.

    In the meantime, AEW could keep her busy in feuds with Serena Deeb, Leyla Hirsch (once she returns as well) and possibly even TBS champion Jade Cargill.

Rey Fenix

7 of 10

    A dislocated elbow doesn't sound like too bad of an injury on paper, but the way it looked when Rey Fenix landed after being put through a table on the January 5 edition of Dynamite was one of the scariest sights in recent wrestling history.

    Thankfully, it was only a dislocated elbow and not something much worse, but it has sidelined the 31-year-old for almost four months. Considering there was a chance he could have been back in time for Death Triangle's six-man tag team match against House of Black at Revolution, he shouldn't be out for much longer.

    His last televised match saw him and Penta El Zero M lose the AEW World Tag Team Championship to Jurassic Express, which was likely always meant to be the finish despite the injury. In his absence, his brother has been repackaged as Penta Oscuro and embarked on a much darker path, so a Lucha Brothers reunion isn't necessary right now.

    Rather, AEW should finally start showcasing Fenix on his own for the first time once he returns. He and Penta can still team up from time to time, but both masked marvels deserve a shot at singles stardom now they've had at least one run as tag team champs together.

    Fenix has already had a slew of standout singles matches on AEW TV in the past few years (most notably against Kenny Omega and Penta), but imagine the matches he can have with all of the new additions to the roster.


8 of 10

    Over the last six months, "Where is Miro?" has become a frequently asked question among AEW fans.

    The Redeemer was one of the best parts of AEW programming during his four-month run as TNT champion before dropping the title to Sammy Guevara in September. The belief originally was that he missed time due to a hamstring injury, but he was brought back briefly to put over Bryan Danielson at Full Gear.

    According to an update from Fightful Select in early April, the Bulgarian has been cleared to return for some time but has been busy pursuing outside projects. That would explain why the vignettes teasing his latest character change stopped around the turn of the year.

    The outlet also reported that the 36-year-old recently re-signed with the company, so he'll be sticking around for the long haul. That would hopefully indicate AEW plans to push him once he's able to make more regular appearances.

    Miro is a top-tier heel who can used anywhere on the card. Guevara is still in possession of the TNT title and revisiting that rivalry is an option, but assuming he stays a villian, he'd be a fun foil for a faction such as Blackpool Combat Club or newcomer Keith Lee.

    He's barely scratched the surface for what he can do in AEW, and he should pick up right where he left off upon his return.

Big E

9 of 10

    Coming off the best year of his career in 2021, Big E's momentum came to an abrupt halt at the onset of 2022 and it's been all downhill since then.

    His loss of the WWE Championship to Brock Lesnar at the Day 1 PPV was disappointing enough, but that was nothing compared to the serious neck injury he endured on the March 11 edition of SmackDown.

    A botched suplex from Ridge Holland on the outside of the ring caused the New Day powerhouse to land on his head and break his neck, fracturing two of his vertebrae.

    Big E offered a characteristically positive update on his situation later that night and said he was recovering well and appreciated the overwhelming amount of support. Although he hasn't needed surgery, it's still unknown whether he'll be able to wrestle again and, if so, when.

    Needless to say, a neck injury is nothing to rush back from. It's going to be at least year before the 36-year-old is remotely ready to return, but when he is, the rest of The New Day will be waiting.

    Big E has officially cemented himself as both a successful singles star and a tag team specialist. He can thrive in virtually any situation, but it would be best to have him go back after the title he never had a chance to reclaim: the WWE Championship.

    A full-fledged feud with Roman Reigns would be ideal. Regardless of whether he's still champ by then, that program has the potential to be something special.

Kenny Omega

10 of 10

    AEW's best wrestler of 2021 has been nowhere to be found for all of 2022.

    It was heavily rumored through Kenny Omega's lengthy reign as AEW world champion that he was working hurt, but amazingly, he finished out his storyline with "Hangman" Adam Page and lost to him as planned at Full Gear in November last year.

    Dave Meltzer noted on Wrestling Observer Radio at that time that The Belt Collector was dealing with shoulder, knee and abdominal injures in addition to a hernia.

    An update from Omega in February indicated he was nowhere near close to returning at that point, putting a possible match or appearance at Forbidden Door in doubt. It would be major shame if he had to miss that show given his history in Japan, but one can only hope he's keeping his recovery quiet and will be back on the sooner side.

    Of everyone out injured at the moment in both WWE and AEW, the 38-year-old's return should be the easiest to book: a babyface reunion with The Young Bucks and a feud with Adam Cole over who the true leader of The Elite is.

    The seeds were planted prior to Omega's absence when he teased tension with Cole, who has since recruited Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly into The Elite's ranks. A major faction war is looming and the Canadian's return will be what kicks it off in grand fashion.


    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.