While the dust settles on the big announcement of the launching of All Elite Wrestling, the world of internet wrestling media has lit up with reports of active WWE superstars that have requested their releases and the push back from WWE to keep them.
Since I’m just a guy at a computer with no sources or fact checking power, I’ll leave the rumours to someone else and instead offer you my picks for an AEW fantasy expansion draft!
The premise is that just like in “real” sports when a new team is added to the league, existing teams have to leave open a certain number of players that can be scooped up to fill the new teams roster. Because teams get to protect their top tier talent, I am working with the same idea here, so no Finn Balors, Ronda Rouseys or John Cenas are in play. I should also note that for the purpose of this piece I am mainly drawing from the WWE talent pool, since it is the product I am most familiar with, but I did grab one Impact guy for fun.
Ready? Great! Here is my top 5 picks for the AEW expansion draft!
1. For my first pick, I’m going straight to the WWE women’s division and drafting… Bayley! Has any other NXT alumni been as misused on the main roster as the Doctor of Hugganomics? Bayley was a break out, white meat baby face with an appeal that crossed gender lines and age brackets. She can also work her ass off. However, in a landscape that includes Charlotte Flair, the ascendant Becky Lynch, and Ronda freaking Rousey, Bayley has gotten lost in the shuffle.
With only a few confirmed names for the AEW women’s roster announced, how huge a get would a talent like Bayley be? She could arrive with no side ponytail, no inflatables and a massive chip on her shoulder, ready to claim the throne as the top woman in AEW.
Or she could do the hugging thing, cause who couldn’t use a hug these days?
2. Bray Wyatt is a guy that could really use a change of scenery, which is why he’s my second pick. While it’s likely he wouldn’t get to keep the name or parts of the “Eater of Worlds” gimmick if he made the jump, he does have a solid family legacy in the business that puts him on a similar footing to Cody Rhodes, which could make for some interesting stories. Wyatt also has a unique look that would set him apart from the announced AEW roster, who are mainly smaller and considerably less tattooed.
He would also make a great opponent for Chris Jericho as the two have worked together in the past and both are dynamite on the stick.
3. Since The Young Bucks and their success as independent performers are so crucial to the existence of AEW, it only makes sense to draft them quality opponents. So, with my third pick I am selecting 5 time tag team champions, Jimmy and Jey – The Usos!
I know, I know, The Revival is the team most folks are talking about going over, but this is my list and I’m picking The Usos, and it’s not just because if I have to watch them wrestle the New Day again, I’m going to go insane. I pick the Usos because the visual of them standing across from The Bucks would be an amazing contrast in styles and presentation. Now, once they got going in the ring… talk about a superkick party! A contest between these teams would be fast-paced, have lots of flying, and would feature a great brothers vs brothers narrative. Also, superkicks. All of them.
I am convinced that these teams would tear the house down if given the chance… especially if we got The Revival in and made it a triple threat.
4. Brian Cage is the biggest body guy out there not currently working for Vince McMahon. The former Lucha Underground and current Impact superstar is as big as they come and moves like a guy half his weight so he is my 4th and only non-WWE pick in this draft.
Once again, this pick comes down to visuals for me. AEW is a fairly small roster at this point in terms of the size of the guys working there. Adding a man of Brian Cage’s dimensions would beef that group up and force workers like Cody and PAC to adapt their styles to match up with the larger and stronger competitor.
5. Jim Ross has described the relationship between wrestlers in the ring and the play by play team as being the same as the music and lyrics of a song: the performers play the music, the commentators write the words. With the talent already assembled, it’s clear that AEW is going to have some great music, but a question not yet answered is: who is going to write the lyrics?
Well, with my fifth and final draft pick, I am selecting the man that I think is best for that job: Mauro Ranallo. As the current voice of NXT, Ranallo brings a passion and delivery to the announce booth that is second to none. And, with shade thrown all over Michael Cole, he knows the names of the moves.
For those unfamiliar with his work, I suggest watching the video of Mauro jumping out of his seat with excitement during the North American Championship ladder match that has made the rounds. It’s clear from that, and the rest of his body of work, that Mauro “believes” in what he is seeing. He brings drama, excitement, and a clear understanding of the product that no other announcer in the WWE system seems to offer. I know that he is a bit screamy for some listeners, but for me, his genuine excitement for what he is seeing in front of him is on par with good ol’ JR himself in terms of elevating the product in the ring with his verbal contributions.
I know I said five picks, but I would also like to add former US champion Kalisto to my draft because no wrestling promotion worth its salt can run without a luchador. I think he’s one of the best out there, even with the stupid “house party” gimmick dragging him down.
As I have written in a previous column, the most fun thing about the launch of AEW is the speculation around what is coming next. Who will be the first champion? Who will Chris Jericho dress up as when he sneak attacks someone after a match? What channel will they be on? And, of course: who else from WWE will be taking the plunge and joining up with the new kid on the block?
There’s lots of things I love about pro-wrasslin’, but fantasy booking and speculation about future matches and angles are right there at the top of the list.
Well, that and superkicks. All the superkicks.
From canvas to keyboard, see you next time around the loop.