When All Elite Wrestling officially launched in early 2019, anticipation was high. Fans of “Being the Elite” had watched a handful of stars share their wacky, zany, emotional, global pro wrestling journeys in an unprecedented way for years.
At this time, The Young Bucks were considered one of, if not the, best tag team on the planet. Alongside all-time-great rival Kazuchika Okada, Kenny Omega was heralded as one of the two best in ring performers in the world. Cody Rhodes was quickly establishing himself as one of the sharpest minds and tongues in the business. “Hangman” Adam Page continued to show an incredible upside that has played out on camera over the past year.
Combining “The Elite” with veteran talent like Christopher Daniel, Frankie Kazarian, Scorpio Sky, Pac and Dustin Rhodes, alongside rising talents like MJF, Darby Allen, Nyla Rose, Britt Baker, Hikaru Shida, Sammy Guevara and Orange Cassidy, the AEW roster was setting a strong foundation for years to come.
What the promotion lacked, to some observers, however, was size and depth.
In early 2020, a handful of big names made their AEW debuts. Some enter the fray with an amazing upside. Others are likely to round out an increasingly impressive and growing roster.
Now, we are going to take a look at four big names who have debuted since January and rank their impact, upside, and overall potential contributions to the brand.
Ranking AEW’s Newest Signings in 2020 (Thus Far)
#4: Colt Cabana
So first, we should probably clarify something: Colt Cabana is fantastic. He is one of the most versatile and respected performers of the past fifteen years, having reinvented (in many ways) the landscape for independent wrestling. His “Art of Wrestling” podcast is a spiritual predecessor of “Being the Elite” and the dozens of podcasts that have come since. Whether you like to Eric Bischoff, Jim Ross, Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Bully Ray, Bruce Pritchard, Booker T, or even Jim Cornette, Cabana was the first to really establish the medium as a viable option in the wrestling world.
Cabana is also an immensely talented in the ring, on the microphone, and as a wrestling mind. He can have quality matches with practically anyone on the roster.
That said, outside of teased showdown with Kip Sabian and (on BTE) Kenny Omega — both of which should be a lot of fun — it’s hard to imagine Cabana finding himself immersed for any significant period of time on the top of the card.
As a fixture in either the tag team or TNT Championship, Cabana could bring his name value, veteran instincts, and talents to the mid-card. He could also find himself eventually transitioning to the commentary team if he chooses to make AEW a permanent home.
#3: Matt Hardy
This is going to be an unpopular opinion, but thus far, the introduction of “Broken” Matt Hardy to AEW television has felt less like an industry-defining addition and more like a rehash of the less-than-glamorous aspects of mid-2010s TNA/Impact.
As AEW Champion, Chris Jericho often felt like the most fresh and exciting part of the show. At 49, Le Champion continues to reinvent himself and prove that his name belongs within the pantheon of all-time greats. That said, his interactions with Hardy have felt… flat.
Many have expressed online that Jericho’s attempts to recruit Vanguard 1 to the Inner Circle have been brilliant. And time will tell if his eventual showdown at the Hardy Compound will match the success of previous “Final Deletion” matches (or even WWE’s more recent cinematic ventures).
But after the feud with the Inner Circle concludes, what is left for Hardy?
It’s strange to pose such a question for a talent who has yet to have a debut match, but for the 45-year-old Hardy, is a sustained run at the top of card at all likely given the fact that talents such as current champion Jon Moxley, Hangman Page, Kenny Omega, MJF, and even Cody are likely to carry the banner for the company in the coming years?
Much like Cabana, Hardy will provide veteran depth, creativity, and experience to a young and largely-unproven roster. Used as an attraction in focused, story-driven feuds, Hardy could prove to be a tremendous asset to AEW. A feud with MJF, for instance, could be an incredible way to use both performers for a few months. A tangle with the Dark Order could also be fun.
#2: Brodie Lee
Within a few weeks of being announced as The Dark Order’s “Exalted One,” Brodie Lee has established his versatility in a way that never showed across nearly a decade in WWE.
The former Luke Harper — typically portrayed as a silent, backwards, hillbilly cult-follower during his time as a member of The Wyatt Family — has completely been reinvented. With tongue-in-cheek homages to the idiosyncrasies of Vince McMahon paired with an almost hipstery Patrick Bateman-esque appeal, the 40-year-old Lee has completely separated himself from any residual stigma stemming from his previous run. Just as Jon Moxley became, in essence, and entirely new persona, the same trajectory looks apparent for Lee.
To start, it looks like a showdown with 50-year-old Christopher Daniels is in Lee’s near future. Daniels, as an experienced and respected veterans, can easily suffer a loss to the rising newcomer with no damage to his career or legacy. Scuffles with the other members of SCU (and good pal Colt Cabana) might also ensue. It is the future, however, that looks brightest for Brodie Lee.
Tangles with The Elite stars like Kenny Omega, Hangman Page, and Cody are mouthwatering prospects. Even an eventual clash with former WWE rival Moxley could make for a compelling main-event level feud.
If AEW affords Brodie Lee the freedom to explore his creative side, they may be looking at a potential future world championship contender within the next year.
#1: Lance Archer
For a long time, Lance Archer was consider to be a solid and reliable mid-card singles and tag team act in New Japan Pro Wrestling. As part of Killer Elite Squad with Davey Boy Smith Jr., the duo was a staple of the tag team division. A member of the Suzuki-gun stable for almost nine years, Archer’s rise as a singles star ultimately came in 2019, however, when he captured the IWGP United States Championship.
A third-tier title in New Japan, the United States Championship was forfeited by Jon Moxley and claimed by Archer after defeating Juice Robinson at Tokyo’s “King of Pro Wrestling” event in October.
When Archer faced off against Moxley in a Texas Death Match at Wrestle Kingdom 14, it was arguably the 6-foot-8 Texan’s breakthrough performance. He looked every bit a psychopath pulled from a neo-Mad Max film.
Now, with legendary promo guy and psychological mastermind Jake “The Snake” Roberts as his hype man, Archer has carried that aura over to AEW.
Perhaps the largest talent on the roster, Archer’s dominance was on display during his debut match with the diminutive Marko Stunt, who took an absolute beating from “The Murderhawk.”
An upcoming showdown with Cody immediately places Archer in a high profile feud with arguably the most popular star on the brand. As Cody’s pay per view matches are often overbooked with blood, outside interference, and various elements of “special treatment,” Archer’s rise to prominence as a high-level talent for the first time in North America couldn’t come against a better opponent.
Beyond the Cody feud, however, is a potential rematch with Moxley. Assuming Moxley maintains his title for an extended run, it’s not at all impossible that Archer may be the next man to hold the AEW World Championship.
Where do you think Colt Cabana, Matt Hardy, Brodie Lee and Lance Archer will ultimately fit into the AEW pecking order? Let us know in the comments below.