Forecasting WWE vs. AEW Battle For Talent in the Coming Months Post-Jay White Signing

Forecasting WWE vs. AEW Battle For Talent in the Coming Months Post-Jay White Signing

Photo credit: All Elite Wrestling

On the latest episode of AEW Dynamite, Jay White made his first appearance since his departure from New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

After months of speculation, Switchblade has a new home ripe with familiar faces, old foes and fresh matchups.

All Elite Wrestling is a great landing spot for the former IWGP world heavyweight champion, who has a long history with The Elite and Kenny Omega. In addition, the company’s core fanbase knows of him and his time with NJPW.

This will allow him to continue his rivalry with The Best Bout Machine or revisit lingering storylines.

Interestingly, the move also suggests he still has a claim to the leadership of Bullet Club. At the very least, he will remain a factor in the next direction for the popular Gaijin stable in 2023.

A New Advantage or a Potential Pitfall

Tony Khan’s latest acquisition came as a bit of a surprise because there were many reports that WWE was interested in him. In fact, the company appeared to be his top suitor when he became a free agent earlier this year.

In January, WWE sources who spoke to Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful Select “seemed confident that they would land him.” He also reported there were tentative plans in place for The Catalyst if he signed.

However, those negotiations abruptly ended, and Mike Johnson of PWInsider revealed there was “absolutely no discussion” about White during WrestleMania 39 weekend (h/t Colin Tessier of Yahoo).

This was the first sign that the 30-year-old wouldn’t be the last member of Bullet Club to sign with WWE after all. It also seemingly confirms that the company has halted any significant signings ahead of its monumental merger with UFC, which raises other questions.

That certainly makes sense because mergers and acquisitions rarely create new jobs or openings. Instead, these transactions usually lead to layoffs. So, it’s not hard to believe another wave of releases could be right around the corner.

This could be either catastrophic or beneficial for its distinguished competition. WWE and AEW have been in an arms race for the past three years with a wealth of talent up for grabs. The industry leader has jettisoned dozens of wrestlers who later joined its rival promotion with varying results.

For every success story such as Swerve Strickland or Toni Storm, there are failures to launch like Andrade El Idolo. The latest shift in power will potentially make a new crop of talent available or leave negotiations for someone like White unopposed.

On the surface, that seems like a huge opportunity for AEW, but it could also be a catch-22. After all, the growing alternative already has a crowded roster.

Frankly, Khan can’t scoop up every hot free agent or hope to avoid making cuts of his own forever. Ring of Honor offers him another destination for established stars, but he is still approaching an inevitable threshold.

AEW has also, arguably, had better results developing young independent wrestlers like MJF. The former WWE stars have come with their share of challenges and missteps from a booking perspective.

An Unexpected Change of Plans

Meanwhile, WWE can just stay the course and rely on the pool of talent from NXT or recruits from the NIL program. With Vince McMahon back in the mix, we may not see as many of Triple H’s guys return or signees like Dragon Lee.

WWE moved away from signing indie wrestlers in 2021, but the new regime seemed to be preparing to make some big moves this year.

White wasn’t the only signing that didn’t come to fruition. For instance, the company was also reportedly pursuing Tama Tonga and Omega.

It’s unclear if the global juggernaut will continue to scout for top indie stars after the dust settles. It’s too early to predict how much the merger will affect those hiring practices in the long run, but it’s safe to assume there won’t be many prominent signings anytime soon.

It’s an understatement to say the WWE-UFC deal will change the landscape of pro wrestling again. It will be interesting to see how much it changes free agency, but AEW should be cautious about signing too many new faces.

White could turn out to be a major star in the United States and a key player in the partnership with NJPW. Regardless, it couldn’t hurt to be selective about upcoming acquisitions and learn from some of the moves that didn’t pan out over the past two years.

The recent upheaval surrounding its competition shouldn’t lead to a drastic change of direction for Khan and AEW.

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