AEW is currently featuring talent from Impact, New Japan, and the NWA on their shows. AEW contracted wrestlers have appeared in those promotions, as well.
The opening of all these doors, especially the Forbidden One with NJPW, has wrestling fans salivating about potential matches and storylines. But just a few months into the AEW/Impact alliance, we’ve already had one hiccup (that we know of). Navigating these partnerships is going to challenging as everyone involved looks to protect their brand.
In a recent interview with the New York Post, AEW Executive Vice-President Cody Rhodes spoke about all the exciting prospects this approach creates. But even as he threw out some exciting names, Rhodes said he’s “guarded” about inter-company booking:
“I’m all AEW, but I’m not blind to the potential of these crossovers. I do think when travel restrictions lift, perhaps there are crossover matches, the dream matches that are available for us. I know in my heart that there is somebody I’d love to wrestle from New Japan. I didn’t get the opportunity and time is running out on that opportunity.
“I’m a big fan of The Ace [Hiroshi Tanahashi]. I like to challenge myself and they have a great roster in terms of [Kazuchika] Okada, Jay White and of course [Kota] Ibushi, who I got to wrestle so many times, and many people. [Tomohiro] Ishii, my gosh. There’s some good potential there for crossover elements and good friendly relations, but I also want to never forget that we have a loaded locker room of men and women who are champing at the bit to get in this two-hour time slot and I always look at AEW first. Just respectably to any other company, I’m probably the most guarded up when it comes to crossovers.
“I think of All In itself. All In is a show that ROH (Ring of Honor) helped us with that Matt (Jackson), Nick (Jackson), myself did all the work for outside of that initial production element and the reason it was important that the three of us do it was we were able to let all these old rules go away. That’s a very dangerous and powerful precedent to set if you literally do put down all the bridges and you do put down all the doors. Again, this is all hypothetical, but there is no reason AEW couldn’t work with New Japan. We’re aware of the world outside. Bullet Club is a big part of our blood in AEW. So there’s no reason we couldn’t work with New Japan. There’s no reason Jacob Fatu couldn’t take a step over from MLW and stand across the ring from me.
“There’s no reason that there couldn’t be a potential WWE crossover one day. And I don’t mean that’s a thing that’s been discussed or happening, but none of those rules that exist for other places exist for us. Wrestling is really this universal industry. The territory reference that you made, that’s fairly accurate, but the part of it that’s most accurate was there was a genuine trust.
“[1970s NWA President] Eddie Graham and Vince [McMahon] Sr. they traded people all the time and made prolific pieces of business out of it and they did it in a way where they introduced these characters in New York and then next thing you know they introduce these characters in Florida and it kept things fresh because above all, Wednesday Night War or not the main thing we have to do for fans for the rest of this run – and I want this company to be around forever — is keep it fresh. It can’t ever get stale.
“Our doors are open if the business is right, if the moment is right, if the time right. Our bridges are down. I’ll be the one curmudgeon AEW guy to make sure it’s all good.”
Fans are already booking feuds between Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi. Now Rhodes is going to have them thinking about Hangman Page vs. Roman Reigns or something.
Can these types of stories be told in a way that will keep wrestlers and promoters on both sides happy? Probably, but it won’t be easy. Because what Cody thinks is good won’t always mesh with what New Japan’s bookers and executives think is good.
But that’s no fun. So feel free to get back to daydreaming about that “AEW invades WWE” angle.