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These wrestlers felt that they had to say "no"

5 Wrestlers who turned down AEW Contracts

The wrestling world is paying attention to AEW. Every move they make is being analyzed, scrutinized and evaluated by various critics. Tony Khan and his crew have been able to attract wrestlers from various promotions to sign with their company and are creating waves while doing so.


The roster is impressive for whom they have in the ranks. While Cody Rhodes had said that as of right now, only 40% of the roster has been revealed. This makes sense as they will need to add more wrestlers down the line as they head into their television debut on TNT.

Also Read: 10 Secret ingredients that AEW has when they debut on TNT

At the moment, the AEW roster has the right mix of experience, and youngsters. While there are some weaknesses, there are a lot of positives to take from it. For the known mainstream names, AEW has Jon Moxley, Cody Rhodes, Awesome Kong and Chris Jericho while their experienced wrestlers include PAC, The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, SCU, Shawn Spears and The Lucha Bros.

The rest of the talent, who are the future of AEW, are wrestlers like Jungle Boy, Luchasaurus, Britt Baker, MJF, Bea Priestley, Nyla Rose, Joey Janela, Penelope Ford, Private Party, Best Friends, The Dark Order, and Hangman Page. While this is impressive, AEW didn't get everyone they wanted.

Here are 5 wrestlers who turned down AEW.

#5 Kota Ibushi

The Golden Lover stayed behind in NJPW

Kenny Omega's old tag team partner from NJPW and one half of the Golden Lovers, Kota Ibushi is one of the best talents in NJPW. The team was one of the more popular acts in NJPW and Omega remains friends with the Japanese star. After Wrestle Kingdom, AEW did make an offer and Ibushi turned them down.

In an interview with Weekly Pro Wrestling, he revealed why he turned the company down.

"I turned them down just after Wrestle Kingdom. If I went, it would be the end of my career. There wouldn’t be anywhere else to go after that. No step up, nothing left to do. That would be the last step to make, and after that things would just go down. Great money, but I want to keep developing… This is the last decision I will make in my career. I’ll end my wrestling career in NJPW."

Kenny Omega said, during Starrcast 3, that he would like Ibushi in the company. Would it happen down the line? If AEW continues to grow, there is always a possibility in the near future.

#4 Joey Ryan

Magnum opus

Joey Ryan was another wrestler who didn't sign with AEW. Most fans who watch Being The Elite knew that he was a regular on the show. He was also part of the promotion for All In, where he was infamously murdered by Hangman Page and was "resurrected" at the show. If The Undertaker was watching, he probably wouldn't be amused.

Most fans thought he would surely sign with AEW but it seems he had other plans. Joey Ryan has been one of the stalwarts of intergender wrestling and has had matches with several female stars from various promotions such as Shayna Baszler, Scarlett Bordeaux and Brandi Rhodes.

Joey Ryan revealed why he didn't sign with AEW.

"They are obviously a new company and they're still figuring it out as they go, but as it came to decisions with them we realized that they are going to be successful without me, I am going to be succesful without them. Maybe our paths will cross at some point but there is no urgency to it and neither one needs the other right now. It would be nice to work with my friends but it is not a necessity right now until they figure out and learn their own product with how they present it"

Joey Ryan's explanation makes sense in a way. While AEW would be taking a chance by signing him, the same applies to Joey Ryan. He has made a name for himself by doing things on his own terms. From the sound of it, guest appearances are not off the table, when AEW debuts on TNT.

#3 Eli Drake

Drake me up!

One of the better talents to come out of Impact Wrestling, Eli Drake is currently signed to NWA Wrestling. When he was with the company, he feuded with the likes of Matt Sydal, Alberto El Patron, Abyss and Austin Aries. He was also the Impact World Champion for 146 days.

While Eli Drake had great success with Impact Wrestling, he didn't leave on good terms. He famously refused to wrestle Tessa Blanchard due to his dislike of intergender wrestling. While this was not the main reason why he was terminated, it allegedly was the final nail in the coffin as they were unhappy with him for a while.

During an interview with Wrestling Perspective Podcast, he revealed why he didn't sign with AEW, essentially saying that they couldn't come to an agreement.

"We had a deal worked out. And then we didn't. And then we did again. And then we didn't. We just couldn't come to terms with everything. Then, I spoke with Joey Mercury at Ring of Honor and that happened just before talking to [Dave] Lagana and Billy [Corgan] at NWA. At that point, I was just weighing my options and seeing what was what."

From Eli Drake's words, it's quite obvious that AEW was interested in bringing him in, but it didn't work out. It's unclear as to what the specific reason was. By signing an exclusive contract with NWA, wrestling fans probably won't be seeing Eli Drake in AEW anytime soon.

#2 CM Punk

If only

This was the one that fans speculated for months. Everyone believed that the Voice of the Voiceless would make his triumphant return to professional wrestling at All Out. But it didn't happen. Weeks before All Out and that CM Punk would be at Starrcast 3 for a sit-down interview, he did reveal that AEW made an offer to him. But it was via text message.

"The last thing I got -- I got a text from Cody [Rhodes]. And again, I almost don't even know how to reply to them sometimes, because if I reply, they do interviews and are like, "Oh yeah, I just talked to Punk." I'm kind of damned if I do, damned if I don't. I always think if somebody wants to do business with me, they can come talk to me. Texting offers isn't really a way to do good business, at least."

It doesn't look CM Punk will return to wrestling any time soon. He's enjoying being a color commentator for Cage Fury Fighting Championship, acting in Horror films and writing comic books on the side.Will CM Punk ever return to wrestling? It probably isn't going to happen. But in professional wrestling, nothing's for sure.

#1 Nick Aldis

Perhaps one day

If there is one wrestler who is creating waves outside of WWE, AEW and Impact Wrestling, it's Nick Aldis. The current NWA World Heavyweight Champion has brought back prestige to the belt that was worn by the likes of Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, Harley Race and Terry Funk. Harking back to a traditional model, Nick Aldis has defended the championship everywhere, most notably against Cody Rhodes at last year's All In.

In an interview with Daily DDT, Nick Aldis said that AEW wanted to sign him but he declined the offer.

"I'll tell you the truth: I was made an offer by AEW. I counter-offered with, 'I'd like to be able to do both.' I'd like to work with them because obviously, I have great admiration for Cody and the Bucks for what they've been able to do. But I wasn't prepared to walk away from the two years of work I've done with the NWA. And that was that. I left it open with, 'If you can find a way to keep doing this and do your show, I'll do your show."

Nick Aldis's reasons for sticking with NWA are quite valid. He had brought respectablity back to the title and he just wanted to stick to building the brand. On the other hand, his comments leave an opening where he could bring the title to AEW on TNT. In professional wrestling, anything is possible.

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Edited by
Kingshuk Kusari
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