Since its inception in 2019, All Elite Wrestling has promised fans a product focused on in-ring action, and have thus far delivered in terms of showing off a variety of styles. In addition to technical bouts, athletic “spotfest” matches,” and hard-hitting slobberknockers, AEW has also showcased a whole lot of hardcore and deathmatch style wrestling.
As such, those matches have been wrestled in AEW by some of the most well-known purveyors of violence as well as by stars who surprised fans by showing off just how hardcore they could get. Let’s take a look at 10 of the most hardcore wrestlers to perform in an AEW ring.
10 Joey Janela
Before signing to AEW, Joey Janela was known for his time on the indie deathmatch scene, with memorable moments in Combat Zone Wrestling and Game Changer Wrestling — including his famous rooftop spot with John Zandig in the former. While his AEW run only lasted for a few years, Janela got memo during his time with the company, making wrestling in Lights Out matches against Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega, and taking part in the very fun three-way Cracker Barrel Clash at All Out 2019 with Jimmy Havoc and Darby Allin.
9 Eddie Kingston
Eddie Kingston is one of those wrestlers who contains stylistic multitudes, being well-versed in the King’s Road style of All Japan Pro Wrestling but also no stranger to hardcore brawls in CZW. After all, earlier in his AEW career, his debut against Cody Rhodes was a No DQ match that involved thumbtacks, and it took a barbed wire-assisted Bulldog Choke to put him away in his I Quit match against Jon Moxley at Full Gear 2020. Other more recent hardcore outings in AEW include his Barbed Wire Death Match against Chris Jericho.
8 Penta El Zero Miedo
While some fans tend to pigeonhole all masked luchadores as high flyers, there’s no shortage of wrestlers to refute that, including AEW’s own Penta El Zero Miedo. Lucha Underground fans already knew Penta was capable of some awesomely violent matches, which has carried over to his time in AEW.
As one half of the Lucha Brothers, Penta serves as the more grounded counterpoint to his aerial brother Rey Fenix. Even the pair’s incredible “spotfest” type matches with The Young Bucks saw Penta get real hardcore, including putting Matt Jackson through a table via a Canadian Destroyer off of a ladder.
7 Kenny Omega
Given that his reputation is being the workrate-friendly “Best Bout Machine” thanks to his classics in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, former AEW World Champion Kenny Omega may seem like a surprising choice for a list of hardcore wrestlers. Despite all that, Omega has proven willing to get hardcore since AEW began. In the early months of Dynamite, Omega was locked into a feud with Jon Moxley, who felt that Kenny wasn’t violent enough to handle him. Since then, Omega’s fought Moxley in a Lights Out Match, an Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match, and took part in two Blood & Guts matches.
6 Thunder Rosa
Given that she’s billed as being “From the Graveyards of Tijuana, Mexico,” it should come as no surprise that fan favorite Thunder Rosa can delve into the macabre. Of course, Rosa’s claim to fame is taking part in what is arguably one of the most gruesome women’s matches in television history when she took on Britt Baker in a Lights Out Match in mid-March 2021. It was a hardcore classic, and a year later they had a rematch in a Steel Cage that saw Thunder Rosa finally beat her rival to become the new AEW Women’s World Champion.
5 Dustin Rhodes
In addition to being a nine-time Hardcore Champion in WWE, “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes has proven his hardcore bona fides in AEW. In his first match for the company, his emotional brother vs. brother bout against Cody Rhodes proved to be an absolute bloodbath, as Dustin shed copious amounts of blood over the course of the match. Since then, Dustin has (appropriately) taken part in a number of old school style hardcore matches including a Bunkhouse Match against The Butcher and The Blade and a Bullrope match against Nick Comoroto.
4 Dr. Britt Baker, DMD
Thunder Rosa’s aforementioned rival Britt Baker also deserves mention when it comes to AEW’s most hardcore fighters. While fans might have expected a lady with a half-skull for a face to get violent, Britt Baker’s role in that classic match was also a big surprise. As popular as she is now, let’s never forget that in AEW’s infancy, Baker was an unsuccessful babyface who not only failed to catch on with crowds. The Lights Out match happened in her heel era, and helped cement Baker as one of the top stars of the women’s division.
3 Nick Gage
In 2021, MJF subjected rival Chris Jericho to a series of “Labors” in which Jericho would take on a variety of opponents in order to earn a match with MJF. One such opponent ended up being Nick Gage, a beloved fan favorite in the indie deathmatch community thanks to his work in Game Changer Wrestling.
As fans may remember, Nick Gage’s match with Chris Jericho ended up becoming infamous for reasons unrelated to Gage’s reputation. As Nick Gage attacked Jericho with a pizza cutter, the broadcast transitioned to a picture-in-picture break, which started off with a commercial for Domino’s Pizza in a hilariously unintended coincidence.
2 Darby Allin
Another AEW star with a skull on his face, Darby Allin is a gothic/punk high flyer who’s well known for using his body in matches with what appears to be a blatant disregard for his well-being. As such, Allin’s taken part in countless hardcore matches, with his earliest being the aforementioned Cracker Barrel Clash. Other hardcore highlights in his AEW career thus far include his cinematic Street Fight alongside Sting against Team Taz as well as his coffin matches with Ethan Page, Andrade El Idolo, and Brody King.
1 Jon Moxley
Easily AEW’s most popular hardcore wrestler, Jon Moxley cut his teeth in promotions like CZW before WWE fans knew him as Dean Ambrose. Since departing WWE for AEW, Mox has returned to his roots, taking part in no shortage of brutal matches. In addition to the previous outings mentioned above like the Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match, Mox has taken part in chaotic bouts like the Texas Death Match, Anarchy in the Arena, and several Lights Out matches. As a wrestler, Jon Moxley is just as willing to draw blood from others as he is to bleed himself.