MR. TITO: Has Adam Copeland (Edge) Joined AEW aka TNA 2.0 with Too Many Ex-WWE Stars?

First and foremost, I want to congratulate Adam Copeland (formerly Edge in the WWE) on the new All Elite Wrestling (AEW) deal. Obviously, he couldn’t get specifically what he wanted from the WWE for another contract extension and/or push. He’s had a good run since his Royal Rumble 2020 return and despite COVID-19 and a torn triceps muscle blunting that effective run. That said, I really enjoyed Edge vs. Bryan vs. Roman at Wrestlemania 37 and felt that match really put Roman Reigns on the map as “the guy” based on that dominant finish.

Adam Copeland (Edge) joining the AEW roster is the VERY BEST news they’ve had since the Wembley Stadium “All In” event where they’ve been dealing with endless CM Punk drama and now the recent exit of Jade Cargill. The company needed some goodwill to present to wrestling fans, and that is in the form of a multiple-time WWE World Champion and WWE Hall of Famer joining them.

Except he is 49 years old, about to turn 50 years old.

Now granted, the fountain of youth is extending to many wrestling veterans right now. You have Sting still wrestling at age 64 (!!!), Chris Jericho at 52 soon-to-be 53, and Christian Cage performing at 49 about to turn 50. Because of better advances in medicine, Yoga (thank you, DDP), and other quality of life enhancements, athletes can perform at peak levels longer. Nobody thought Tom Brady would last beyond the age of 40 and he kept playing at a high level.

BUT that’s not the argument… The argument is why are all ex-WWE wrestlers, whom they clearly no longer want, gravitating towards AEW?

Wasn’t AEW supposed to be the “youth movement” with all of their initial signings? Each time you add a former WWE veteran to your AEW roster, the average age keeps increasing significantly.

What Tony Khan needs to be careful of is becoming Dixie Carter 2.0 (she hung out with the boys, too). Ditto for AEW becoming TNA 2.0.

TNA, as the 2000s wore on, became another place with a “youth movement” that was soon squashed to become an asylum for talent that the WWE no longer wanted. Then, said ex-WWE talent would begin to defeat and soon dominate the younger TNA wrestlers.

The best example of TNA’s operations was the signing of Kurt Angle during the Fall of 2006. Remember how excited all of us were for that transaction? What many of you didn’t know was there was a reason why WWE just released him without any strings attached… WWE knew that he physically wasn’t the same guy, but they also released him so that he could get rehabilitation help for his substance use. In Kurt’s own words, “if I didn’t leave there, I would have died” referring to working with pain and handling the WWE’s tough road schedule. WWE knew exactly what they were doing by releasing him and had no fear of retribution if he joined TNA.

Kurt Angle joined TNA and what did the creative minds immediately do with him? Had him defeat Samoa Joe, one of their top rising stars. BOOM, they immediately catered to the ex-WWE superstar. Imagine the reaction of TNA and wrestling fans if Samoa Joe defeated the great Kurt Angle during their first match as a statement? Would have been shocking and would have greatly helped Samoa Joe’s stock. Instead, Joe lost and all of that Ring of Honor momentum that he built up and carried into TNA was POOF, gone into thin air.

Other ex-WWE wrestlers (or even ex-WCW and ex-ECW stars) began to take over the company, and soon, TNA was nothing but an asylum for wrestlers that the WWE didn’t want or to overpay. In the end, viewership may have temporarily increased on SpikeTV, but long-term, TNA lacked growth potential and thanks to Samoa Joe being jobbed to Angle, many younger Ring of Honor and Indy stars actually looked towards the WWE’s Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) developmental promotion to join instead. Seth Rollins almost joined TNA wrestling until Jim Cornette, who was at Ring of Honor at the time, talked Rollins out of it during 2010. Then, you had Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan join TNA and make a bigger mockery of that promotion as a safe-haven for ex-WWE/WCW talent that WWE didn’t want.

Ultimately, being the land of ex-WWE castaways is what KILLED World Championship Wrestling (WCW). It worked at first, as Hulk Hogan had a much needed character change and Scott Hall & Kevin Nash in their peaks. Then, WCW kept adding more and more veterans. Roddy Piper was fun at first, but after his big Starrcade 1996 match, he looked old real fast. Anybody that had any association with WWE was signed and piled into the NWO group, which became full of ex-WWE stars with nothing to do. WCW signs Bret Hart and he wasn’t effective at all in WCW. The Starrcade 1997 finish was the ultimate “slap in the face” because Hogan, the ex-WWE star, screwed Sting, the loyal WCW star, out of the rightful finish.

As WCW’s roster kept getting older and older, younger talents started looking to join the rebounding WWE. Paul Wight and Chris Jericho both jumped and made big impacts for 1999. Then, Saturn/Benoit/Guerrero/Malenko all escaped their WCW contracts and joined WWE during early 2000. WCW began to seriously bleed money from their expensive ex-WWE wrestler contracts, along with lower attendance, viewership, and merchandise sales. They started losing money through late 1999 and were expected to lose up to $75 million heading into 2000 if they didn’t aggressively start cost cutting. By March 2001, WCW was sold to the WWE for less than $5 million after AOL/Time Warner were going to cancel WCW’s timeslots.

I could even go back to the early 1990s… Remember how STACKED the WWE’s roster was during 1991 and 1992? Most of the big names made the jump to the WWE roster and the 1992 Royal Rumble is a sight to behold. Yet, WWE lost money that year despite appearing to have many “great names” in place. Why were they beginning to slip? Sure, the changing landscape of the wrestling fan, but relying too much on the same old stars from the late 1980s weren’t impressing wrestling fans much. Plus, everyone knew that WWE would always go back to Hulk Hogan to be champion. Just look what happened during 1993 at the end of the AWFUL Wrestlemania 9.

Why is WWE growing right now? Because not only is Roman Reigns paying off, but any wrestler who is paired with the Bloodline or challenges the Bloodline are getting over. On top of that, they are pushing different wrestlers at the top while having good luck with a few developmental call-ups (Solo, Austin Theory, etc.). NXT is improving with new stars coming up… Then, on the Women’s side, their roster is loaded with amazing female athletes with many more to rise up from NXT too. They didn’t keep Edge because he didn’t fit their vibe, as they can use his millions in salary to invest in 4-5 younger performers who will blossom for years to come.

With Adam Copeland (artist formerly known as Edge), he needs to DO MORE than just wrestle. His deal has to offer AEW value added. Sure, he can have a great match or two with MJF and maybe team up with Christian again to fight the Young Bucks or FTR… But what after that? What else could his soon-to-be 50 year old self contribute to AEW?

AEW is in dire need of product knowledge and experience backstage to advise Tony Khan. Could AEW maybe start leaning on the talents of Copeland and Christian for their advice rather than the Executive EVPs or others with backstage power (Jericho, Moxley, etc.)? With Adam Copeland, he was a tag wrestler, midcard singles wrestler, and main eventer. Furthermore, he has been a witness to WWE’s inner-workings for 25 years to understand how producing a show should go and how creative works well with talents. Furthermore, Adam was a developmental system talent of the WWE and could advise on how to better prepare AEW wrestlers.

Tony is in dire need of additional experienced brain power right now, and Adam Copeland can help. But will Tony accept it or just continue being Dixie Carter 2.0 by trying to collect stars and trying to book what he thinks are “dream matches”?

How I think this could really work out is if Adam Copeland sees the distancing himself from the “Edge” or “Rated R Superstar” as an opportunity. For the past 26 years, he was Edge this and Edge that. Never did the WWE allow him to be “Adam Copeland”, other than a few acknowledgements of his real name on a few documentaries or products. Other past wrestlers have failed when trying to use variations of their older names, such as Billy Gunn and Road Dogg when they joined TNA. They weren’t as creative with their names as Bubba and D’Von were with Team 3D or Bubba becoming Bully Ray.

Edge needs to think back to 1996 when Scott Hall and Kevin Nash arrived in WCW. They ditched the “Razor” and “Diesel” gimmicks in order for their real life names. Furthermore, they ditched the comical parts of their WWE gimmicks and went more reality based with their WCW personas. In the end, they became insanely famous because they both appeared to be grown up versions of their WWE gimmicks. Other former WWE wrestlers struggled to get away form their WWE names, but Hall and Nash did and most know them by their real names rather than their WWE gimmick names. Remember their 2002 return to WWE? It wasn’t Razor or Diesel, but Hall and Nash. WWE tried to capitalize on the Razor and Diesel names in 1996 with the imposters, but nobody wanted the cheap imitations. They wanted to cool guys who changed the business for WCW.

Adam Copeland… A much more real version of what we saw in Edge during WWE.

In contrast, someone like Christian was never able to reinvent himself because he was Christian in WWE and “Christian Cage” in TNA or now AEW. He never got to be “Jay Reso” and reinvent himself. No, he’s the Christian that you have always loved but in either TNA or AEW with a few modifications.

I hope it works out well for Adam Copeland… I’m not wishing any failure on him, whatsoever, but I worry that Tony Khan is the second incarnation of Dixie Carter and that AEW is becoming TNA 2.0 where the ex-WWE stars matter more than your homegrown or repackaged stars.

But seriously, AEW, think about the long-term with Adam and how you could use that experienced mind of his to help your company. The Young Bucks and Kenny Omega just aren’t the path forward.

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