There have been a few wrestlers that decided to stick it out with WWE. Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn were widely believed to be AEW bound. In the end, WWE offered huge deals. AEW was unwilling to compete at this stage in the game.
On the latest Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer discussed the process behind several wrestlers’ decisions to stay with WWE or jump ship to AEW. Every case has its considerations. One constant is that AEW has not been willing to go toe-to-toe with WWE in an all-out bidding war.
“After Danielson, I don’t even know who there you could really get, because, I just don’t see like… The few top guys that they have there, I mean, Owens was the perfect case. Owens got such a big contract that AEW didn’t want to match it. They basically told him, ‘In three years, call us again.’ In three years, they’re hoping that they’ve got the $100 million, $200 million TV contract, then they can offer you a $3 million a year type of a thing and compete for those guys. Right now, when WWE throws it for a guy like Owens, you know, in most cases if they have a family they’re going to stay.
Danielson is a very unique person. It’s not so motivated by money. More motivated by, you know, fun, I think is his motivating thing, and also the ability to work New Japan. So, his situation is completely different. Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly, those are guys who weren’t making big WWE money, so their situation’s different. Roman Reigns is never going to move. Brock Lesnar’s never going to move. They may make some cuts of people that are really good that can help AEW like Keith Lee may end up being. CM Punk was a unique situation and he helped them a lot. All those new guys all at once all helped. In six months, if they stay even and WWE continues to drop, they’re going to win every week.”
AEW isn’t quite to the point where Tony Khan is comfortable throwing huge deals to entice wrestlers from WWE. The ones who have jumped ship either weren’t making huge money or had personal reasons to come. Tony Khan is hoping increased TV revenue in the future will mean AEW can land some of these high-priced talents.
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Transcription by Ringside News