6 Major WWE Stars Who Could Soon Leave For AEW

WWE's Randy Orton vs. Rusev

WWE could soon lose a number of top stars to its new No. 1 competitor AEW.

WWE.com

As the competition for talent among the world’s top pro wrestling companies continues to heat up, WWE and AEW could soon find itself locked in a battle for the best wrestlers walking planet Earth.

In fact, that battle has already begun. AEW has already pried away top names, including Dean Ambrose (a.k.a. Jon Moxley) and Chris Jericho, and midcard performers like Goldust (a.k.a. Dustin Rhodes) and Tye Dillinger (a.k.a. Shawn Spears) from WWE. That trend is likely continue for the foreseeable future as AEW was able to win a race with WWE to sign LAX, and there are signs that–as long as AEW continues to thrive on TNT–the tug-of-war for talent is only going to get tougher. Depending upon how well AEW fares moving forward, pro wrestling could be in the early stages of an era similar to the mid-to-late 1990s when WWE and WCW stars seemed to jump ship from one company to the other on a regular basis.

One report states that the number of WWE stars who have inquired about a jump to AEW would “blow your mind,” as AEW has emerged as a viable alternative where the world’s most elite pro wrestlers can make a quality living. With low backstage morale long having been a problem in WWE, it’s certainly not surprising that many stars are chomping at the bit to bolt the company and join its new No. 1 competition.

Here are six major WWE stars who could soon make their way to AEW.

The Revival

The contracts of both members of The Revival, Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson, expire in early 2020, and after the talented duo reportedly requested its release in January 2019, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they jump ship to AEW the first chance they get.

The Revival hasn’t tried to hide the fact that the duo would be more than interested in heading to AEW for a tag team dream feud with The Young Bucks, which explains why WWE has given Dash and Dawson a renewed push this year. After The Revival rejected a very lucrative contract offer, WWE tried to placate the pair by giving them a run with the Raw Tag Team Championship and then one with the SmackDown tag team titles, which they are currently holding. That certainly isn’t a coincidence. It’s WWE’s way of saying, “Hey, sign with us, and we’ll push you!” But once that contract is signed, that, of course, would become a different story.

Despite being arguably the best tag team in the world, The Revival has been no stranger to start-and-stop pushes, terrible booking (remember this angle?) or lengthy absences from WWE programming. Though WWE has put a renewed focus on The Revival with its ongoing tag team title reign and its brief alliance with Randy Orton, history suggests it won’t last and that The Revival could look to leave WWE the moment their contracts with the company end.

Especially given the downfall of WWE’s tag team division and the fact that AEW’s tag team division is already absolutely loaded with duos like the Lucha Brothers, LAX and The Young Bucks, a move to AEW could be quite tempting for The Revival.

Matt Hardy

While Jeff Hardy’s contract was extended due to injury and will likely prevent him from leaving WWE anytime soon, the same isn’t true of his brother Matt, who will be able to leave WWE in March 2020.

Since Jeff was injured earlier this year, Matt has basically disappeared from WWE TV, with the lone exception being a few rare appearances in the WWE 24/7 title chase, and he wasn’t even included in the draft pool for this week’s WWE Draft. That’s certainly a monumental waste of the immensely talented Matt, who has spent time working as a backstage producer for WWE but still has some gas left in the tank as an in-ring performer. Although the Hardy Boyz would likely be more valuable to AEW as another elite tag team in an already star-studded division, AEW would also likely offer Matt considerably more creative freedom than WWE does.

Matt has clearly become an afterthought in WWE, and it seems highly unlikely that the company will give him anything even remotely resembling a sustained singles push anytime in the near future. Then, when Jeff returns from injury in the near future, Matt won’t have much time remaining on his contract, which will put WWE in an interesting situation: Does it reunite the Hardy Boyz in an attempt to prevent Matt from wanting to leave? That seems like a safe bet, but WWE has also shown in the past that–despite Jeff’s recent legal troubles–it has no issues pushing Jeff as a major singles star, which means it’s no lock that the brothers reunite as a tag team whenever Jeff does come back.

And if they don’t, Matt may realize that he could be better off in AEW, which would make the most out of his talents.

Luke Harper

When Luke Harper requested his WWE release earlier this year, WWE responded by adding “injury time” to his contract so that he couldn’t leave WWE when his deal was originally set to expire.

Following Harper’s surprising return on a recent episode of SmackDown, many were under the impression that Harper had signed a new deal with WWE. But that actually isn’t the case as Harper is still working under a contract that is set to expire next year, which likely explains why he suddenly has a high-profile role on TV. It’s classic WWE to feign a renewed interest in pushing a star when that star is potentially on his way out of the company, and that certainly appears to be the case here with Harper, who has spent much of the past two years being misused and overlook.

There have been reports that Vince McMahon is not at all a fan of Harper, but he obviously thinks enough of Harper to choose not to let him go, likely due to fear that he’ll end up elsewhere. Harper is one of the most talented big men in the business, and he could thrive anywhere whether in or out of WWE, including places like AEW, Ring of Honor and NJPW.

AEW would probably jump at the opportunity to sign Harper, which it will have next year–barring the minor miracle of Harper re-signing with WWE. It seems that Harper’s WWE exit is virtually inevitable as he’s been linked to a possible move to AEW and recently expressed even more unhappiness with WWE after the company tried to fine him.

Rey Mysterio

Rey Mysterio has an interesting contract with WWE that includes an “opt out clause” after 18 months and would give the talented luchador the option to leave WWE at some point just before WrestleMania 36 next year.

Even though Mysterio has apparently been discussing a new deal with WWE, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he chose to leave WWE and head to AEW. Why? Well, two reasons: One, he has a clear connection with AEW, and two, he hasn’t been booked well by WWE over the past year. Consider that Mysterio wrestled in the main event of the ALL IN wrestling event, the precursor show to what ultimately became AEW, and it’s not difficult to envision him returning to work with The Young Bucks, Cody, etc. once again. WWE clearly doesn’t think that highly of Mysterio anymore as the high-flying star has been a poorly used midcarder since returning to the company in the fall of 2018–only now getting a renewed push during his ongoing storyline with Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez, which is likely just a way to keep him happy for the time being.

In AEW, Mysterio would almost assuredly be booked as a top star, and he would give AEW a globally recognized name to build its product around. Although AEW shouldn’t rely too heavily on former WWE names, it would be a smart move for the upstart promotion to have a star like Mysterio, who’s had a ton of national TV exposure, can still wrestle and is one of the most popular babyfaces in pro wrestling history.

Rusev

After being off TV for nearly half a year, Rusev returned for a “who’s the father?” Maury Povich-style storyline with Mike Kanellis followed immediately by an ongoing extramarital affair angle with Bobby Lashley. One word describes fan reaction to those booking decisions: Really?

Rusev is one of the most talented and charismatic performers in all of WWE, but he’s long been linked to a possible WWE exit after reportedly requesting his release amid reports that he’s been unhappy in WWE for nearly two years now. Rusev’s contract is said to be expiring “relatively soon,” and though he’d be a great candidate to receive a lucrative contract offer similar to the ones WWE has given to stars like Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, that may not be enough to entice him to stay.

While WWE has, at times, seem committed to pushing Rusev, that typically hasn’t lasted long, even when Rusev was WWE’s No. 1 merchandise seller and was generating the loudest crowd reactions in the company in late 2017 and early 2018. It’s easy to understand why Rusev would be frustrated with his positioning on the card and why he could be plotting his potential WWE exit as he has long been labeled as one of WWE’s most underutilized and miscast superstars.

If and when Rusev does become available, it would be shocking if he wasn’t instantly pursued by AEW, which could use “The Bulgarian Brute” the way a tremendous talent like him should be.

Randy Orton

Randy Orton’s WWE contract expires next summer, and back in February 2019, it was reported that “The Viper” would be open to the idea of joining AEW.

Although it would be difficult to envision Orton–who has been a staple of WWE since 2002–leaving WWE, the fact that he would even consider a move to AEW has to have WWE at least a little concerned. Orton, though he has his fair share of detractors, is still one of WWE’s best all-around talents and is a star who could make a marked difference if he ever ends up in AEW. That might explain why Orton has recently gotten a renewed push in the world title scene: WWE wants to feature him in a high-profile role so he doesn’t think about leaving.

Admittedly, Orton has it great in WWE, where he works a favorable schedule but is still one of WWE’s highest paid stars. But he’s also dropped more than a few hints at a potential exit, including indicating that he’d like to bolt WWE to feud with NJPW star Will Ospreay next year, and he’d be one of the biggest possible names who could jump ship to AEW. Consider that Jericho got “the best” deal of his storied career to sign with AEW while Ambrose turned down a massive contract offer to re-sign with WWE, and you could only imagine the type of financial offer Orton could get from AEW.

And for a guy who’s accomplished everything he could possibly do in WWE, wouldn’t he at least think about it?

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As the competition for talent among the world’s top pro wrestling companies continues to heat up, WWE and AEW could soon find itself locked in a battle for the best wrestlers walking planet Earth.

In fact, that battle has already begun. AEW has already pried away top names, including Dean Ambrose (a.k.a. Jon Moxley) and Chris Jericho, and midcard performers like Goldust (a.k.a. Dustin Rhodes) and Tye Dillinger (a.k.a. Shawn Spears) from WWE. That trend is likely continue for the foreseeable future as AEW was able to win a race with WWE to sign LAX, and there are signs that–as long as AEW continues to thrive on TNT–the tug-of-war for talent is only going to get tougher. Depending upon how well AEW fares moving forward, pro wrestling could be in the early stages of an era similar to the mid-to-late 1990s when WWE and WCW stars seemed to jump ship from one company to the other on a regular basis.

One report states that the number of WWE stars who have inquired about a jump to AEW would “blow your mind,” as AEW has emerged as a viable alternative where the world’s most elite pro wrestlers can make a quality living. With low backstage morale long having been a problem in WWE, it’s certainly not surprising that many stars are chomping at the bit to bolt the company and join its new No. 1 competition.

Here are six major WWE stars who could soon make their way to AEW.

The Revival

The contracts of both members of The Revival, Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson, expire in early 2020, and after the talented duo reportedly requested its release in January 2019, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they jump ship to AEW the first chance they get.

The Revival hasn’t tried to hide the fact that the duo would be more than interested in heading to AEW for a tag team dream feud with The Young Bucks, which explains why WWE has given Dash and Dawson a renewed push this year. After The Revival rejected a very lucrative contract offer, WWE tried to placate the pair by giving them a run with the Raw Tag Team Championship and then one with the SmackDown tag team titles, which they are currently holding. That certainly isn’t a coincidence. It’s WWE’s way of saying, “Hey, sign with us, and we’ll push you!” But once that contract is signed, that, of course, would become a different story.

Despite being arguably the best tag team in the world, The Revival has been no stranger to start-and-stop pushes, terrible booking (remember this angle?) or lengthy absences from WWE programming. Though WWE has put a renewed focus on The Revival with its ongoing tag team title reign and its brief alliance with Randy Orton, history suggests it won’t last and that The Revival could look to leave WWE the moment their contracts with the company end.

Especially given the downfall of WWE’s tag team division and the fact that AEW’s tag team division is already absolutely loaded with duos like the Lucha Brothers, LAX and The Young Bucks, a move to AEW could be quite tempting for The Revival.

Matt Hardy

While Jeff Hardy’s contract was extended due to injury and will likely prevent him from leaving WWE anytime soon, the same isn’t true of his brother Matt, who will be able to leave WWE in March 2020.

Since Jeff was injured earlier this year, Matt has basically disappeared from WWE TV, with the lone exception being a few rare appearances in the WWE 24/7 title chase, and he wasn’t even included in the draft pool for this week’s WWE Draft. That’s certainly a monumental waste of the immensely talented Matt, who has spent time working as a backstage producer for WWE but still has some gas left in the tank as an in-ring performer. Although the Hardy Boyz would likely be more valuable to AEW as another elite tag team in an already star-studded division, AEW would also likely offer Matt considerably more creative freedom than WWE does.

Matt has clearly become an afterthought in WWE, and it seems highly unlikely that the company will give him anything even remotely resembling a sustained singles push anytime in the near future. Then, when Jeff returns from injury in the near future, Matt won’t have much time remaining on his contract, which will put WWE in an interesting situation: Does it reunite the Hardy Boyz in an attempt to prevent Matt from wanting to leave? That seems like a safe bet, but WWE has also shown in the past that–despite Jeff’s recent legal troubles–it has no issues pushing Jeff as a major singles star, which means it’s no lock that the brothers reunite as a tag team whenever Jeff does come back.

And if they don’t, Matt may realize that he could be better off in AEW, which would make the most out of his talents.

Luke Harper

When Luke Harper requested his WWE release earlier this year, WWE responded by adding “injury time” to his contract so that he couldn’t leave WWE when his deal was originally set to expire.

Following Harper’s surprising return on a recent episode of SmackDown, many were under the impression that Harper had signed a new deal with WWE. But that actually isn’t the case as Harper is still working under a contract that is set to expire next year, which likely explains why he suddenly has a high-profile role on TV. It’s classic WWE to feign a renewed interest in pushing a star when that star is potentially on his way out of the company, and that certainly appears to be the case here with Harper, who has spent much of the past two years being misused and overlook.

There have been reports that Vince McMahon is not at all a fan of Harper, but he obviously thinks enough of Harper to choose not to let him go, likely due to fear that he’ll end up elsewhere. Harper is one of the most talented big men in the business, and he could thrive anywhere whether in or out of WWE, including places like AEW, Ring of Honor and NJPW.

AEW would probably jump at the opportunity to sign Harper, which it will have next year–barring the minor miracle of Harper re-signing with WWE. It seems that Harper’s WWE exit is virtually inevitable as he’s been linked to a possible move to AEW and recently expressed even more unhappiness with WWE after the company tried to fine him.

Rey Mysterio

Rey Mysterio has an interesting contract with WWE that includes an “opt out clause” after 18 months and would give the talented luchador the option to leave WWE at some point just before WrestleMania 36 next year.

Even though Mysterio has apparently been discussing a new deal with WWE, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if he chose to leave WWE and head to AEW. Why? Well, two reasons: One, he has a clear connection with AEW, and two, he hasn’t been booked well by WWE over the past year. Consider that Mysterio wrestled in the main event of the ALL IN wrestling event, the precursor show to what ultimately became AEW, and it’s not difficult to envision him returning to work with The Young Bucks, Cody, etc. once again. WWE clearly doesn’t think that highly of Mysterio anymore as the high-flying star has been a poorly used midcarder since returning to the company in the fall of 2018–only now getting a renewed push during his ongoing storyline with Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez, which is likely just a way to keep him happy for the time being.

In AEW, Mysterio would almost assuredly be booked as a top star, and he would give AEW a globally recognized name to build its product around. Although AEW shouldn’t rely too heavily on former WWE names, it would be a smart move for the upstart promotion to have a star like Mysterio, who’s had a ton of national TV exposure, can still wrestle and is one of the most popular babyfaces in pro wrestling history.

Rusev

After being off TV for nearly half a year, Rusev returned for a “who’s the father?” Maury Povich-style storyline with Mike Kanellis followed immediately by an ongoing extramarital affair angle with Bobby Lashley. One word describes fan reaction to those booking decisions: Really?

Rusev is one of the most talented and charismatic performers in all of WWE, but he’s long been linked to a possible WWE exit after reportedly requesting his release amid reports that he’s been unhappy in WWE for nearly two years now. Rusev’s contract is said to be expiring “relatively soon,” and though he’d be a great candidate to receive a lucrative contract offer similar to the ones WWE has given to stars like Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, that may not be enough to entice him to stay.

While WWE has, at times, seem committed to pushing Rusev, that typically hasn’t lasted long, even when Rusev was WWE’s No. 1 merchandise seller and was generating the loudest crowd reactions in the company in late 2017 and early 2018. It’s easy to understand why Rusev would be frustrated with his positioning on the card and why he could be plotting his potential WWE exit as he has long been labeled as one of WWE’s most underutilized and miscast superstars.

If and when Rusev does become available, it would be shocking if he wasn’t instantly pursued by AEW, which could use “The Bulgarian Brute” the way a tremendous talent like him should be.

Randy Orton

Randy Orton’s WWE contract expires next summer, and back in February 2019, it was reported that “The Viper” would be open to the idea of joining AEW.

Although it would be difficult to envision Orton–who has been a staple of WWE since 2002–leaving WWE, the fact that he would even consider a move to AEW has to have WWE at least a little concerned. Orton, though he has his fair share of detractors, is still one of WWE’s best all-around talents and is a star who could make a marked difference if he ever ends up in AEW. That might explain why Orton has recently gotten a renewed push in the world title scene: WWE wants to feature him in a high-profile role so he doesn’t think about leaving.

Admittedly, Orton has it great in WWE, where he works a favorable schedule but is still one of WWE’s highest paid stars. But he’s also dropped more than a few hints at a potential exit, including indicating that he’d like to bolt WWE to feud with NJPW star Will Ospreay next year, and he’d be one of the biggest possible names who could jump ship to AEW. Consider that Jericho got “the best” deal of his storied career to sign with AEW while Ambrose turned down a massive contract offer to re-sign with WWE, and you could only imagine the type of financial offer Orton could get from AEW.

And for a guy who’s accomplished everything he could possibly do in WWE, wouldn’t he at least think about it?

I'm a contributor for the SportsMoney team at Forbes, where I'll examine the interesting effect that sports have on business...and vice versa. I graduated from Louisiana...