Sunday, April 14

5 Big Risks AEW Took That Paid Off (& 5 That Backfired)


  • AEW taking the risk of bringing Sting out of retirement paid off as he has been used with respect and hasn’t overshadowed others.
  • Signing Jeff Hardy backfired as he was arrested and charged with a DUI, causing AEW to change their plans for the tag team division.
  • AEW’s decision to start the promotion from scratch was a massive gamble, but it has paid off in the long-term and benefited wrestlers and fans.

AEW may have been around for four years now, but in the grand scheme of things they are still a fairly new promotion. In that time they have achieved some incredible things and proven to be the biggest professional wrestling startup in decades. To try and boost their image and to climb up the ladder, some big risks have been made over the years.

RELATED: 10 Worst Wrestlers To Main Event An AEW Show, Ranked

Whether it be business decisions, booking directions, or even instances with individual wrestlers, AEW have taken some risks in the last few years, some of which paid off big time and ended up as a success, whereas others backfired and would come back to bite them.


When Sting arrived in AEW, there was a sense of perhaps the company falling into the same traps as TNA did, wheeling out old-timers and putting too much spotlight on them. There was also a big risk considering Sting had been forced into retirement through injury, so allowing him to wrestle was questionable at first.

The handling of Sting has been exceptionable. He has been used when necessary, been booked with respect, but he has never really overstepped the mark and stolen the spotlight from others. His in-ring work has been far better than anyone could have ever expected too.

9 Backfired: Signing Jeff Hardy


Jeff Hardy left WWE at the back end of 2021 under some controversial circumstances, and the lines are still blurred about what really happened. It was denied by Hardy, though many of the events made it seem as though he had fallen into some familiar traps. AEW decided to take the risk and sign him anyway, despite his problematic past.

Just a few months later, Hardy was arrested and charged with a DUI, being suspended and sent off to rehab. Hardy made Tony Khan look like a fool for taking the chance on signing him. AEW needed to change plans for their tag team division following this.

Chris Jericho AEW Press Conference

The biggest risk AEW ever took was starting in the first place. Creating a whole new promotion from the ground up, especially when backed by someone with zero booking experience, was a massive gamble.

The likes of The Elite, Chris Jericho, and Jon Moxley were there from early doors, but there was no telling how things would play out once shows started and the handling of business. Whilst AEW have had ups and downs, it feels like they are here for the long-term, and this risk of starting has no doubt paid off and benefited so many wrestlers and fans.

7 Backfired: Stalling Young Bucks Vs. FTR

Young Bucks Vs FTR at Full Gear 2020.

Back in 2020, the Young Bucks and FTR finally clashed in a hugely anticipated match which stole the show, and it came right at the height of AEW’s tag team division buzz. Fans wanted more, but AEW held off on a rematch for nearly two years, with then going 1-1 in their series on an episode of Dynamite.

RELATED: 8 AEW Wrestlers Who Improved The Prestige Of AEW Championships

It was over another year before the rubber match, but continuously stalling this feud led to a lack of heat, inconsistent build, forced storylines, and in truth an underwhelming final clash at All In. Perhaps Khan didn’t want to hotshot a trilogy, but this was a risk that didn’t pay off.

5 Best Booking Decisions From AEW All Out 2023 (& 5 Worst)

AEW decided to book two PPVs within a week of one another due to the All In taking place on a Bank Holiday weekend in the UK, and All Out taking place on Labor Day weekend in the US. However, expecting fans to fill out two venues and buy two PPVs was a big ask.

As it turns out, fans did exactly what AEW wanted. Even with lackluster builds, both PPVs delivered in a big way and are each up there with the best AEW has to offer in their entire history.

5 Backfired: Cody Rhodes Not Able To Challenge For The World Title


It was a bold move to have Cody Rhodes lose a match with the stipulation that he could never challenge for a World Title again in AEW. It was a selfless move from Rhodes to want to be taken out of consideration given his EVP role in the company, but in hindsight it was a terrible decision to take.

Rhodes would become directionless multiple times, and despite his potential as a main eventer, it left AEW with one less option for that top spot. Rhodes’ success in WWE and indefinite future as a world champion shows just exactly what could have been had AEW not taken this risk.

Bryan Danielson AEW Debut

All Out 2021 was perhaps the greatest night in AEW history. The show was closed out by both Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson making their AEW debuts, and on paper this could have been a risk not worth taking.

Each debut had a risk of over-shadowing the other, and many fans would’ve likely suggested Tony Khan to wait. However, pulling the trigger on both in one night made for an unprecedented and truly special moment that will likely never be repeated. It helped AEW to perhaps the hottest run in the company’s history too.

3 Backfired: Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match

AEW Barbed Wire Botch

The finish to the Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match is one of the worst show-closers in AEW history. Banking on an explosion to take place live on PPV was a risk, and it backfired.

The explosion was a dud, and the match between Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega will always be remembered for this farcical moment, which is a shame.

AEW All In 2023

The decision to host a show in Wembley Stadium was a huge risk and bold move. AEW had never held a show in the UK, so it was hard to tell how many fans would be willing to attend a show on this scale.

RELATED: Predicting The Next 10 Wrestlers To Move From AEW To WWE

Ultimately, whether the figures were 72,000 or 81,000, it was a sure-fire success, and getting that many people inside a stadium for their first show of this size was a huge feat. Going in, 40,000 fans would have been deemed a success, and to have almost double that was astonishing. It was a risk that paid off for sure.

1 Backfired: CM Punk Getting His Own Show


The whole signing and AEW run of CM Punk both paid off and backfired, so judging it is difficult. However, CM Punk getting his very own show in Collision was a decision which no doubt backfired. Punk was given too much backstage control which caused a lot of tension, and his eventual firing left Collision with no identity.

It was a decision in which variables like more backstage fights were not taken into account, and it has led to a steep decline for Collision as a show.

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