When Tony Khan launched AEW, many wrestling fans might have hoped the new promotion would give young wrestlers a platform to showcase their talent.
As days passed, these dreams vanished. The newly-established promotion opted to sign older wrestlers and ex-WWE superstars who had spent many years in the business.
WWE Hall of Famer Booker T had recently criticized the AEW signing of older stars on his Hall of Fame podcast.
"A guy like Sting - Sting is an anomaly. He's different than anybody you're ever going to deal with in the wrestling business and keep their equity as long as they have just because Sting changed with the times. He figured it out. But, as far as having the older guys in the ring performing, and the younger generation watching them - I've said this, and I've said a thousand times, a lot of people like to write in the chat, 'Booker T is a cool dude, he looks good.' My thing is this, I love all those guys that look up to me in that way, but it's hard for a 15, 16, 21-year-old kid to aspire to be 56. To see a 56-year-old with the title, that's unattainable for a young kid. That kid goes, 'I got to wait till I'm 56 years old to get this kind of ring, I've got to wait that long to be a part of this game? I'm not willing to wait that long. I'm not willing to pay those kind of dues."
The WWE Hall of Famer demanded that AEW give young wrestlers a push.
"I believe in 'respect your elders', but my new slogan is 'respect your young people' because they're the future, they are the ones that are going to do the big shows at 30-35 and hopefully they have that knowledge to be in that position. You invest in the young talent, you bring the young guys up, you give the young guys a rub, the ones that figure it out, they get it, the ones that don't, we push them to the side and we keep on rolling."
AEW has several experienced superstars on its roster who are well over 40 years old. Names such as Matt Hardy (46) and Christian Cage (47) do not qualify to enter the "oldest five on the AEW roster" list.
Here are the five oldest AEW in-ring competitors, according to the Internet Wrestling Database.
#5. AEW Star Paul Wight (49)
Paul Wight (49), better known as The Big Show for WWE fans, officially joined AEW last month. On the same day of the announcement, he received a call from WWE Chairman Vince McMahon in which he congratulated him on his new step.
Wight spoke about Mcmahon's call in the media scrum following AEW Revolution.
"Vince actually called me the day it was announced that I signed with AEW, wished me a lot of luck, agreed that I'm a big asset to AEW and thanked me for all the years I worked in WWE. There's no animosity, there's no anger, there's no dirt, so to speak. This just came down to, you know, contract negotiations and opportunities. Let's face it, over 20 years in WWE, I have done everything there is to do, in WWE. I needed a fresh start, and for me, Vince understands that and understands me as a talent, and this was an opportunity for me to do that."
Wight was signed to play two roles in AEW, a commentator and an in-ring competitor. He revealed on Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette that it came upon his request.
"When we were talking on the phone, Tony was like 'what do you want to do?' and I said I want to do color commentary and I also want to wrestle. I've known Tony for a while and I think he was a little surprised."
Wight debuted on the March 3 episode of Dynamite to announce that AEW had signed a "Hall of Fame" worthy star. The star turned out to be Christian, who debuted at Revolution.
At the age of (49), Wight is still waiting to make his in-ring debut in AEW.
#5. AEW Star Chris Jericho (50)
The Demo God became the first-ever AEW World Champion on August 31, 2019, when he defeated Adam Page (27 at the time) for the inaugural title.
In October 2019, Jericho, alongside Sammy Guevara, Jake Hager, Santana, and Ortiz, created The Inner Circle, which MJF joined nearly a year later. Jericho and Guevara challenged SoCal Uncensored for the AEW World Tag Team Championships but came up short.
At Revolution 2020, The Demo God lost his AEW World Title to Jon Moxley to end a feud that lasted several weeks.
In the following weeks, Jericho and his Inner Circle group feuded with The Elite. The feud ended when The Inner Circle lost to The Elite at Double or Nothing last May.
Chris Jericho feuded with MJF before teaming up with him over the past few months. The two stars challenged AEW Tag Team Champions Matt and Nick Jackson for the title but lost at AEW Revolution 2021.
At the age of (50), Chris Jericho remains one of the top stars in AEW today.
#4. AEW Star Dustin Rhodes (51)
Dustin Rhodes (51), better known from WWE as Goldust, first appeared on AEW nearly five months after its launch to face his half-brother Cody Rhodes at Double or Nothing. Dustin lost the match which he competed in as The Natural.
The then 50-year-old star later teamed up with his half-brother to take on The Young Bucks at Fight for the Fallen 2019 but again came up short. In August 2019, AEW announced the signing of the former WWE Superstar on a multi-year contract.
Dustin Rhodes became a regular competitor on AEW's weekly show Dynamite. In June 2020, Dustin Rhodes teamed up with QT Marshall to challenge Adam Page and Kenny Omega for the AEW Tag Team Championships but failed to capture the gold.
Determined to win a title, Dustin Rhodes challenged Brodie Lee last September for the AEW TNT Championship but again suffered defeat.
At the age of 51, Dustin Rhodes is a regular competitor on AEW TV. He participated in the Casino Tag Team Royale at the AEW Revolution this month, which PAC & Rey Fenix won.
#3. AEW Star Billy Gunn (57)
Billy Gunn (57) made his televised debut for AEW in November 2019 when he participated in the Dynamite Dozen Battle Royal on AEW Dynamite. The WWE Hall of Famer was (56) on his AEW debut.
Gunn revealed, on AEW Unrestricted, that it was Cody Rhodes who recruited him to the company.
"Me and Cody always had a great relationship and they reached out and said, 'Hey, would you like to be a part of this?' and I went, 'Where do I sign?'"
Billy Gunn became a regular competitor on the show in the following weeks, forming The Gunn Club tag team with his son Austin Gunn (26). Billy Gunn participated in many singles and tag team matches throughout the past two years despite being initially hired as a coach in January 2019.
Billy competed only once at an AEW pay-per-view when he participated in the Casino Battle Royal at All Out 2020.
Later in 2020, Billy and Austin Gunn were joined by Colten Gunn (29), Billy's second son and Austin's brother.
At the age of 57, Billy Gunn is still a regular competitor on AEW Dark. Despite being in his late 50s and having his two grown-up sons compete alongside him, he is still not the oldest guy on the AEW Roster.
#2. AEW Star Sting (61)
The WCW Icon made his debut in AEW following a match that featured Cody Rhodes & Darby Allin against Powerhouse Hobbs & Ricky Starks at Winter Is Coming.
On December 3, AEW announced that Sting had officially become an All Elite.
The 61-year-old former WCW and WWE superstar competed for the first time since coming out of retirement in a tag team match where he teamed up with Darby Allin to take on Brian Cage and Ricky Starks in a street fight at Revolution 2021. It was Sting's first match in nearly six years. The Stinger and his partner came out victorious.
Sting now has a multi-year contract with AEW as he walks steadily towards his 62nd birthday on March 20. Despite his age, his tag team partner Darby Allin ensures that the WWE Hall of Famer is in good physical condition.
Darby spoke about a recent incident with Sting that showed him that The Icon is 'good to go' during an interview with TalkSport last January.
"We were walking around Jacksonville the other day. There was this six-foot fence. I jumped the fence and I told Sting 'I'm going to take some photos' because we were looking at some weird stuff in Jacksonville. I was like 'I'm going to take some photos for you of this weird building' and he's on the other side of the fence that's locked up. And he's like 'what, you don't think I'm going to jump this fence?' He climbs up and he jumped the fence. So I'd say he's good to go!"