Hello! Today, we’re looking at the story behind the inflating AEW roster since its inception. Every talent signing and release is here, although there are some additions/exemptions worth nothing. Why are we doing this? To see how the AEW roster has developed, and if there are any patterns. I won’t talk about every signing & release, but will cover anything I feel you may need to know. Also, I used The SmackDown Hotel database to decide who would be included, and you should know the following:
Need To Know’s
– Some backstage-only producers & coaches were not considered, including Dean Malenko, Jerry Lynn, B.J. Whitmer, Sonjay Dutt, and others.
– AEW does not always sign talents to contracts, but prominently uses them enough for me to add them. Matt Cardona is a decent example. He was never officially signed, but was used enough that he took up TV time until moving on to Impact Wrestling.
– There are many independent wrestlers who work episodes of AEW Dark & Dark: Elevation who aren’t here, but others are because they are recognized as working on these shows over the long term.
– Roster changes are valid from the first day of every month, except for January 2019. Because of this, there are some who did not make the list because they worked between the cutoff for 1-3 weeks. Here’s some (but likely not all) of those: Nicole Savoy, Maki Itoh, Laredo Kid & Konosuke Takeshita
– Also, there’s an argument to be made about crossovers from other major promotions appearing on this list. New Japan & Impact Wrestling are the two we think about the most, and here are some who were brave enough to step through the ‘Forbidden Door’: Minoru Suzuki, The Good Brothers, Kenta, Jeff Cobb, Nick Gage, Hikuleo & Tomohiro ishii
– Not a big fan of including one-off appearances, like Bret Hart, Juventud Guerrera, Eric Bischoff and others. This is about talent who are signed or were used for a while without being tied to another company. Let me know if I missed anybody out. Details are only as accurate as the database and my memory.
– I have placed a number in brackets next to each month. This tells us how many talents are part of the AEW roster (top management counts). I will let you know the difference between month-to-month, along with any significant moments in AEW history.
January 2019 (11)
After the success of All In 2018, AEW was officially announced at midnight on January 1st, 2019. They confirmed the above names in the first few days, making this a unique batch of names. It’s hard not to include some of the February names, but the database suggests AEW confirmed these before them, so that’s what we’re going with here. Let’s not argue too hard about this. I just wanted a way to include January.
Added: Shahid Khan (Owner), Tony Khan (Owner/President/CEO), Cody Rhodes (EVP), Brandi Rhodes (CBO), Matt & Nick Jackson (EVPs), Hangman Adam Page, Christopher Daniels (Head of Talent Relations), Pac, Billy Gunn (Coach/Producer) & Frankie Kazarian
They all remain crucial in the day-to-day running of All Elite Wrestling. Hangman Adam Page is the only one to become AEW World Champion.
AEW proclaimed six more names a week later. From these names, we can say that Chris Jericho, Britt Baker & MJF have excelled as stars.
AEW needed Jericho’s star power to legitimatize the company as the true alternative product. As the first World Champion, Jericho’s pivotal role will go down in history. It’s hard to imagine this new company having the same buzz had he not been there. Also, AEW would not be the same without Britt Baker or MJF. The others are still finding their feet, with Joey Janela having the most trouble.
Added: Chris Jericho, Britt Baker, Joey Janela, MJF, Penelope Ford, Scorpio Sky
One month after AEW’s first press conference, they held a second on February 7th to sell tickets for the Double or Nothing PPV.
From here, AEW announced eight more names, including EVP and future World Champion Kenny Omega. This wasn’t a surprise to most people, but it was important to confirm. Sammy Guevara & The Lucha Brothers would never have imagined the success they are currently having. It was also confirmed that AEW had working relationships with Mexico’s AAA, and China’s OWE promotions.
Added: Kenny Omega, The Lucha Brothers (Fenix & Pentagon Jr.), Best Friends (Chuck Taylor & Trent), Bea Priestley, Jimmy Havoc & Sammy Guevara
We have to remember that AEW did not have a weekly TV show yet, and was only producing PPV specials. It spent the next two months preparing for Double or Nothing, although talks about a weekly TV show in May. Leading in to April, the company only signed one talent, as she moved over from Impact Wrestling (they “killed her off” in storyline) to increase the numbers in the women’s division.
Added: ‘The Bunny’ Allie
With Double or Nothing airing on May 25th, management settled on a few more contracts. The most important being the inclusion of Jim Ross & Darby Allin. Dustin Rhodes didn’t come as a surprise, but former WWE announcer Justin Roberts more so. I’m still wondering if they are ever going to use Peter Avalon or Leva Bates for anything outside of Dark.
With 32 signed, AEW had the means to produce a quality PPV. Many critics loved the show and said AEW is the new alternative wrestling fans have been waiting for. Bret Hart introduced the AEW World Championship. The company was about to boom, as it prepared for Dynamite on TNT.
Added: Jim Ross, Darby Allin, Dustin Rhodes, Justin Roberts, Peter Avalon & Leva Bates
Wow! This was one of the busiest months in the history of the AEW roster. It almost doubled in size! So many new names to cover as the company produced the shows Fyter Fest in June, and Fight For The Fallen in July. Getting Jon Moxley was a monumental moment. It told the world that former WWE Superstars could make the jump if they weren’t happy. Orange Cassidy, all three members of Jurassic Express, and Hikaru Shida, proved to be massive signings as well. Riho would become the first AEW Women’s Champion. Nyla Rose was the first openly transgender wrestler to sign with a major company. There’s so much going on here, so let’s move on before we get lost.
Note: I started arranging talent names in alphabetical order, and this was purely to save me some time.