Opening Bell: WWE prepares for Extreme Rules, Dynamite going to OT

Get set for the week in WWE and AEW with Opening Bell: quick previews of Raw, SmackDown, Dynamite and Rampage.

Welcome to the Opening Bell, where we round up what’s been announced for WWE (Raw and SmackDown) and AEW (Dynamite and Rampage) programming for the week we’ve just begun.

WWE Raw preview – Monday, Oct. 3, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN

With Extreme Rules beckoning at the end of the week, WWE is pulling out all the stops to drum up that final interest. To wit, there’s a ton advertised for Monday’s Raw in Minnesota — more than usual, for sure.

It’s almost a requirement to have a contract signing for the last Raw before a premium live event, and Bianca Belair and Bayley will have theirs in St. Paul. The champ has been doing a good job of preventing Bayley from living in her head, but will have to stay strong this week ahead of their Ladder Match.

Matt Riddle and Seth Rollins have a feud that’s even more “on sight” than Belair and Bayley, but they’ll also have their face-to-face confrontation on Raw. Because they can’t keep from throwing down when they’re together, WWE says if either man makes contact with each other on Raw, they’re out of their Extreme Rules Fight Pit match. So it’ll be words, not fists, supposedly. And how will the news that UFC Hall of Famer Daniel Cormier is refereeing that match get worked into the mix?

Also on tap for Raw this week:

AEW Dynamite preview – Wednesday, Oct. 5, Entertainment & Sports Arena, Washington D.C.

Perhaps the most exciting thing that’s been revealed about this week’s Dynamite is that it will go an extra 15 minutes. That implies something big, or at the very least a pretty stacked show.

We already know one of the matches will see MJF take on Wheeler Yuta. These two have been going at it since MJF’s return, and though hardly anyone can hang with the self-professed Devil on the mic, Yuta can certainly give him a full night’s work in the ring. Alas, one gets the feeling that The Firm will bail MJF out if he runs into too much trouble.

Another big bout will see Daniel Garcia tag with his idol, Bryan Danielson, to face Chris Jericho and Sammy Guevara. Garcia has been wavering for a while on his Jericho Appreciation Society membership, and after the American Dragon invited him to jump to the Blackpool Combat Club, this could be the chance for him to make a clean break. But you know “The Ocho” will have something to say about that before it’s all said and done in this battle of teams featuring two ROH champions.

Here’s what else has already been promoted for Dynamite:

  • Darby Allin takes on Jay Lethal, who’s promised to leave his entourage behind this time around
  • Luchasaurus will be in action
  • The Acclaimed will get everyone to help celebrate National Scissoring Day, because everybody loves The Acclaimed

WWE SmackDown preview – Friday, Oct. 7, DCU Center, Worcester, Mass.

‘Twas the night before Extreme Rules, and it also happens to be the episode that WWE is promoting as the season premiere of SmackDown. So it’s being headlined by a very big match indeed: the rematch between champion Gunther and challenger Sheamus for the Intercontinental Championship. These two tore the house down the first time around, so fans are pumped for round two.

Solo Sikoa will be in action on Friday as well, taking on Ricochet. Sikoa’s friendship with Sami Zayn has been one of the most pleasant surprises on recent WWE programming, so you can bet Sami will likely be on hand to support Solo for this one.

And because it’s never too early to start promoting the next big premium live event (and because the Tribal Chief isn’t working Extreme Rules), Roman Reigns and Logan Paul will go face to face. Crown Jewel is only a few weeks away, after all.

AEW Rampage preview – Friday, Oct. 7, Entertainment & Sports Arena, Washington D.C.

It’s two shows in three nights for AEW this week in the nation’s capital, with both of them live. Rampage has a special bonus feature this week too: Battle of the Belts IV will take place live immediately after it at 11:00 p.m. ET. That special is expected to have multiple title matches, with the one announced featuring Pac defending his All-Atlantic Championship against Trent Beretta.

As for Rampage proper, we know the Dark Order’s 10 will face off against Andrade El Idolo with some surprisingly big stakes. If 10 loses, he forfeits his mask, but if he wins, Andrade has to leave AEW. Expect Dynamite to add some more spice to this card as well.

Bryan Danielson, The Acclaimed favored to win titles at AEW Grand Slam

The betting odds for AEW Grand Slam suggest two popular championship results are expected in New York.

Everybody loves The Acclaimed … and that includes the people who set betting odds for AEW Grand Slam.

While placing bets on pro wrestling matches isn’t something we necessarily endorse and isn’t allowed in many places, it’s fun to check the lines in places where it is, because it’s a good indicator of the expectations around a big event. So with the caveat that these are for discussion purposes only, here are some interesting AEW Grand Slam tidbits from BetOnline.

For starters, The Acclaimed are heavy favorites to win the AEW World Tag Team Championship from current titleholders Swerve Strickland and Keith Lee. It does feel like the timing is right, considering Max Caster and Anthony Bowens are as over as they’ve ever been and both are from the general NYC area (Caster from Long Island, Bowens from Nutley, NJ). But their -700 odds to win means it would be considered a pretty big upset if they didn’t.

A new AEW World Champion will also be crowned at Grand Slam in a showdown between two Blackpool Combat Club teammates. It’s easy to make an argument for either Jon Moxley or Bryan Danielson to come away with the victory, but the oddsmakers believe it will be the American Dragon winning his first AEW gold, as he sits at -400 to win.

Two other current champions are overwhelming favorites to retain their titles Wednesday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Both Claudio Castagnoli, who will defend his ROH World Championship against Chris Jericho, and Toni Storm, whose Interim AEW Women’s World Championship is up for grabs in a four-way bout that includes Serena Deeb, Athena and Britt Baker, are at -900 to keep their gold.

With Tony Khan promising a show unlike anything AEW has put on to date, the AEW Grand Slam betting odds hint at a couple of feel-good moments in New York. We’ll find out soon enough if those are indeed part of what’s in store.

Who should be the next AEW World Champion? We make a case for all 5 wrestlers left in the tournament

We run down the pros and cons of each remaining wrestler in the AEW Grand Slam Tournament of Champions to crown a new AEW World Champion.

You’ve probably heard by now that on this week’s AEW Dynamite, the AEW World Championship had to be vacated for … reasons. While a popular suggestion among fans on social media was to have a massive tournament to crown a new champ (as in 32 wrestlers, or basically every non-suspended male talent on the roster), AEW opted for something in that vein but not quite as ambitious.

The result was the Grand Slam Tournament of Champions, a six-man tourney featuring the bracket you can see above. As for the “Champions” part, everyone who made the cut was either a former world champion or TNT Champion. That means there are mostly obvious choices, along with some enduring fan favorites like Darby Allin.

Going with a smaller bracket means the matches could get underway immediately, which they did, with Bryan Danielson defeating Hangman Adam Page. As well, this means the tournament can wrap up by AEW Dynamite Grand Slam at Arthur Ashe Stadium, giving that special episode a worthy main event on Sept. 21.

The only downside is that it doesn’t give us much time for analysis, so let’s jump right into it by looking at the pros and cons of each remaining wrestler becoming the next AEW World Champion.

Chris Jericho

Pros: Jericho has proven once again that no one in the business is as good at reinventing himself, as he’s successfully turned back the clock as much as possible to his Lionheart days while still carrying the banner for sports entertainment vs. pro wrestling. Could anyone else pull that off? He’s been lauded behind the scenes for being a true locker room leader during the firestorm that’s swirled around the company this week, and if AEW wanted to give him one more run as world champion, maybe this is the time.

Cons: A number of reporters and observers have praised AEW for doing the best it could under trying circumstances to reset the scene, and Dynamite did have a sense that things were pushing forward. Giving Jericho the world title doesn’t really fit that vibe, as it’s more of a step back into the past. Also, assuming MJF is waiting for the tournament winner, it doesn’t make much sense to have two heels feuding, though they do of course have plenty of history upon which to draw.

Bryan Danielson

Pros: Well, he’s Bryan Danielson for starters, one of the best pro wrestlers on the planet and thus worth considering as a world champ at any time. He’s perpetually over, and it’s hard to imagine too many fans would quibble if he was given the belt. He also has the “good soldier” feel about him lately of doing whatever he’s asked to do, including a loss to Daniel Garcia (though there’s no shame in that since Garcia is a tremendous young talent). A Danielson-MJF program would also be highly entertaining as their personalities contrast in fun ways.

Cons: There aren’t many, but there is this: If Danielson wins when Blackpool Combat Club teammate Jon Moxley has held and/or been around the world championship so much, would that mean internal conflict in the group? The BCC is very popular and fans don’t seem like they’d be ready for that just yet.

Sammy Guevara

Pros: Insanely gifted and willing to take just about any bump, it still feels like Guevara has barely scratched the surface of what he could become. Letting him run with the championship would be a clear signal that AEW is turning the page on what’s just gone down and embracing something new and different.

Cons: Where do we start? Guevara is naturally divisive among AEW fans and has been a heat magnet since he and now-wife Tay Melo became an on-screen couple. Normally that would make for great heel champion possibilities … except the challenger waiting in the wings is the company’s biggest heel, and it’s hard to imagine AEW could turn Guevara face just by putting the title on him. On top of that, if Jericho is annoyed and/or jealous of Garcia’s success, just imagine how he’d have to be positioned if someone else in the Jericho Appreciation Society was AEW World Champion.

Darby Allin

Pros: Much of the same logic for Guevara applies to Allin as well, in that a world title run would be a stake in the ground for pushing someone new. Certainly, in terms of putting his body on the line to entertain fans, he has few peers. And just seeing Darby with the world title would infuriate MJF, so a feud between the two afterward could be a lot of fun.

Cons: Despite the crowd reactions he always gets, Allin definitely isn’t as universally beloved among the perpetually online part of AEW fandom; one gets the feeling he’d be argued about as a deserving world champ more than any of the other four, for what it’s worth.

Jon Moxley

Pros: Moxley’s promo on Dynamite this week was inspiring to all but the most cynical of viewers, as he proved again he’s really the heart and soul of AEW. He’s more than willing and capable of having great matches with pretty much anyone, and he’s already had some friction with MJF after exposing his brief nice guy shtick as a charade and more or less kicking him out of the ring in Buffalo.

Cons: Like Danielson, it would be hard to nitpick giving Moxley the title again, except in the sense that he just had it and lost it to Punk. If putting the belt back on him is the endgame, Tony Khan could have just given it to him as the last person to hold it, and it runs the risk of making the Grand Slam Tournament of Champions feel like a waste of time.

AEW All Out 2022 preview: Everything you need to know

Get set for Sunday with our AEW All Out 2022 preview, including predictions for what should and will probably happen in every match.

If bigger is better when it comes to pro wrestling pay-per-views, AEW All Out should be about as good as it gets.

AEW is throwing absolutely everything it has into the upcoming show at the Now Arena in Chicago (or more precisely, in the greater Chicago area), loading up the card in terms of both quantity and, hopefully, quality. Including the Zero Hour pre-show, a total of seven titles are on the line, as well as a future world championship shot in the Casino Ladder match.

Even when fate has thrown a late curveball or two, AEW has pivoted with regard to this show. Case in point: Thunder Rosa was slated to defend her AEW Women’s World Championship against Toni Storm, but got injured during the run-up to this weekend. No worries; now there’s a four-way battle for the interim championship that may be even more intriguing, featuring Storm, Hikaru Shida, Britt Baker and Jamie Hayter.

Topping the card is a world championship rematch between Jon Moxley and CM Punk. The two men met less than two weeks ago and surprised the wrestling world when Moxley squashed Punk, leading some to wonder if he had returned from injury too quickly. But this week’s Dynamite proved that it was simply wrestling being wrestling, with Punk needing a pep talk from a friend to prove he was still on top of his game enough to compete at the highest level.

Tony Khan admitted that it wasn’t the normal way he’d build up a world title match but thought it worked for these circumstances (and was good for Dynamite’s ratings, to boot). That could be said for All Out writ large to a certain extent, but there’s no question there is more pressure on this pay-per-view than normal with AEW’s larger competitor suddenly resurgent and holding its own big show on the same September weekend.

In the end, even if the consensus ends up being that All Out isn’t outstanding, it won’t be for a lack of trying on AEW’s part.

AEW All Out 2022

  • When: Sunday, Sept. 4
  • Where: Now Arena, Hoffman Estates, Ill.
  • Start time: 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT (Zero Hour pre-show starts one hour earlier)
  • How to watch: Via Bleacher Report or traditional PPV providers in the U.S.,  along with select movie theaters; through FITE TV internationally
  • Matches announced: 14 (including three on the Zero Hour pre-show)

Scroll down for previews and predictions for all main card matches; we’ll add one for the trios tournament final and any additional matches that get made after Rampage on Friday night.

AEW Rampage quick results: Orange Cassidy, Best Friends have hands full with Trustbusters

Get quick AEW Rampage results for the Aug. 12, 2022 episode from the Target Center in Minneapolis.

The lake is still quaking, apparently, for the second night of AEW programming from the Target Center in Minneapolis. Tonight’s show will see a mixed tag team title match (yep, for real), the in-ring debut of Beardhausen, and Orange Cassidy against the leader of the Trustbusters.

If all of that made perfect sense to you, congrats, you’re a pretty loyal AEW fan. If it sounded like 50% gibberish, then may we suggest you dive in deeper to tonight’s results below until it all becomes clear?

We’re between Star Wars movies for an hour on TNT, so let’s get to it.

AEW Rampage results in 30 seconds:

  • “I will never willfully stop wrestling.” Bryan Danielson says he’s always going to fight, but Daniel Garcia vows to end his career next week before Danielson tells him to stop it with the sports entertainer crap
  • Tay Melo and Sammy Guevara def. Skye Blue and Dante Martin by pinfall to retain the AAA World Mixed Tag Team Championship
  • Penta says … Pac will be back next week, and Death Triangle will reunite to compete for the Trios Championship
  • Parker Boudreaux def. Sonny Kiss by pinfall
  • Andrade El Idolo says he, Dragon Lee and Rush will win the trios titles, and he expects Private Party to win the tag team titles as well
  • Gunn Club def. Beardhausen (Erick Redbeard and Danhausen) by pinfall
  • Swerve Strickland and Keith Lee are just fine with putting their titles on the line against Private Party
  • Hook confirms there’s an open challenge for his FTW Championship, and it’s accepted by Zack Clayton
  • Orange Cassidy def. Ari Daivari by pinfall, with Kiss appearing to help Best Friends fight off the Trustbusters afterward before turning on them

AEW Dynamite Fight for the Fallen results: Danielson’s return hits a snag, Hook takes his shot

Get complete AEW Dynamite Fight for the Fallen results from Worcester, Mass. on July 27, 2022.

Light the fuse, because it’s time for AEW Dynamite from Worcester, Mass. It’s another themed episode as well, as Fight for the Fallen looks to win fans over with what appears to be a loaded card.

For starters, Jon Moxley will put his AEW Interim World Championship on the line against Rush, who has looked very good in his limited time in the promotion. And in the main event, Bryan Danielson returns from injury, facing Daniel Garcia.

In-between, there’s a matchup between young aerial artists when Sammy Guevara takes on Dante Martin, and an FTW Championship Match that will see Ricky Starks defending against Danhausen.

Not too shabby, we’d say. Let’s get it!

AEW Dynamite Fight for the Fallen results in 60 seconds:

  • Jon Moxley def. Rush by submission to retain the AEW Interim World Championship, but …
  • … the Jericho Appreciation Society comes out and Chris Jericho makes a challenge to Mox, who accepts but only if he gets the Lionheart
  • Dante Martin thinks Sammy Guevara has gotten soft, but will have someone in his corner in case Tay Conti
  • Ricky Starks def. Danhausen by pinfall in a quick title defense of the FTW Championship, and calls for another challenger … and gets Hook
  • Hook def. Ricky Starks by submission to become the new FTW Champion
  • An emotional Starks says he deserves more than 40 seconds to talk for taking the FTW Championship to prominence, but he then gets ambushed by (now former?) tag team partner Powerhouse Hobbs
  • The Acclaimed are going to make the Gunn Club watch their music video to learn more about the match they’ll have on Friday
  • Sammy Guevara def. Dante Martin by pinfall, and Anna Jay helps Tay Conti take out Skye Blue until Ruby Soho, Eddie Kingston and Ortiz run to the rescue
  • Daniel Garcia wonders if Bryan Danielson has been getting sharper and better like he has
  • Sonjay Dutt gets talked into a trios match against Best Friends on Rampage, much to his chagrin
  • Jungle Boy speaks for the first time in weeks, exchanging personal insults with Christian Cage
  • The Young Bucks seem like they have something they want to say to Hangman Adam Page, but the Dark Order arrives to celebrate Page’s birthday, and the Bucks awkwardly depart
  • Swerve Strickland def. Tony Nese and Smart Mark Sterling by pinfall, but he and Keith Lee may have a problem with Nese and Josh Woods, who has laid out Lee backstage
  • The House of Black cuts a promo on Miro and Darby Allin, with Brody King challenging Allin to a Coffin Match
  • Thunder Rosa def. Miyu Yamashita by pinfall to retain the AEW Women’s World Championship
  • Daniel Garcia def. Bryan Danielson by submission as Danielson passes out in a Sharpshooter

Scroll down for more detailed AEW Dynamite Fight for the Fallen results, including every match and major in-ring segment.

Zack Sabre Jr. on Claudio Castagnoli Forbidden Door surprise: ‘That was not technical wrestling’

Zack Sabre Jr. complained that facing Claudio Castagnoli in his AEW debut at Forbidden Door wasn’t what he signed up for.

Zack Sabre Jr. wanted a match with Bryan Danielson at Forbidden Door to prove who was the best technical wrestler in the world. What he got instead, thanks to Danielson missing the event due to injury, was the AEW debut of Claudio Castagnoli, known to wrestling fans everywhere as Cesaro during his time with WWE.

Castagnoli came out on top in the all-European matchup, pinning Sabre after 18-plus minutes of action. The change in opponents didn’t sit well with Sabre, who stayed on-brand by complaining about it in a video posted to social media by AEW.

“That was not technical wrestling,” Sabre said. “I did not sign up for that. I was coming for you, Bryan, because we were going to find out who the best technical wrestler in the world is. You didn’t bloody show up, did you? And surprises, I bloody hate surprises.

“And sodding Claudio, did he not get the memo? That was supposed to be a technical wrestling match. Where was the technique? You Swiss bastard.”

Sabre ended his rant by saying that if any American wrestlers wanted to take him up on his original challenge, they can head to either Japan or the U.K. to face him, because he has no intentions of returning to the U.S.

That idea has at least a chance of becoming a reality. Earlier this week, NJPW president Takami Ohbari planted the seeds for a Forbidden Door 2 in Japan, saying he’d like to see it and that the company’s “50th anniversary year is a good opportunity to make it happen” … which just so happens to be this year.

Danielson vs. ZSJ in the Tokyo Dome for technical supremacy bragging rights? We’re on board for that and would guess Sabre would be too, as long as there are no surprises this time.

AEW just pulled off Forbidden Door without 4 of the biggest stars in company history

The continual growth of the AEW roster allowed it to put on an excellent Forbidden Door card with NJPW but without four of its biggest names.

If you asked Tony Khan a year ago (pandemic restrictions notwithstanding), if he wanted to try a dual-branded pay-per-view with New Japan Pro-Wrestling without Kenny Omega and Cody Rhodes, he almost certainly would have said no. The same would have been true six months ago pondering a Forbidden Door without CM Punk and Bryan Danielson.

This past Sunday in Chicago, AEW and NJPW pulled off one of the more entertaining and ambitious pro wrestling cards in recent memory without any of them.

While Rhodes departed of his own accord to return to WWE several months ago (and ironically got injured since then), the other three wrestlers all missed Forbidden Door due to injury. Punk and Danielson were penciled in for specific matches: Punk against Hiroshi Tanahoshi for the AEW World Championship, and Danielson in a battle for technical supremacy against Zack Sabre Jr. Omega has been out longer term, but considering his history with NJPW, he almost certainly would have been in one of the night’s matches, like the four-way match for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.

It’s a testament to the amount of talent that AEW has acquired and developed that other members of the roster were able to step up and fill the void almost seamlessly, a fact not lost on Khan during the post-event media scrum.

“You could headline any pay-per-view ever with the list of people who were out on this pay-per-view,” Khan said. “The roster is so deep compared to where it started, and we’re able to sustain it.”

Indeed, having Jon Moxley sub in for Punk worked for a variety of reasons, not least of which because Mox had been seeking a match with Tanahashi for some time, and Khan admitted to delaying it. That paid off handsomely in Sunday night’s main event, with much of the crowd cheering for Tanahashi but also showing Moxley love when he emerged with the victory.

Moxley also missed time in recent months due to checking himself into alcohol rehab, but he and Jericho — as well as Orange Cassidy, who shined at Forbidden Door in a singles match against Will Ospreay — returned to the fold just when AEW needed them most.

Khan’s continued knack for talent acquisitions helped as well, with Claudio Castagnoli making his AEW debut as Danielson’s hand-picked replacement to face Sabre. Amid the ongoing debate over whether AEW has too large a roster in some parts of wrestling fandom, it could have been seen as a luxury signing. But if Forbidden Door proved anything, it’s that you never know when any newcomer or foundational talent will be needed to play a big part on short notice.

“The people who came in helped fill that void,” Khan said, referring to Punk and Danielson. “Now they need the time, now they’re beat up, and now these guys can step back in, the originals, the first few champions. And new faces come in for the company, including, now, Claudio. I just think it’s really cool, to talk about it again, full circle, being back here in Chicago. … So it all came together even though it wasn’t the original plan for tonight.”

It certainly wasn’t, and probably never would have been at any time in AEW’s history. But darned if it didn’t turn out just fine anyway.

Zack Sabre Jr. asks if Bryan Danielson can take time off his ‘busy golfing schedule with the Blackpool Country Club’

During his post-match comments at Dominion, Zack Sabre Jr. laid out a challenge for Bryan Danielson at Forbidden Door.

It’s hard to imagine there are too many top wrestler lists anywhere that don’t have Zack Sabre Jr. and Bryan Danielson on them. At Forbidden Door, fans might get the chance to see which one deserves a higher spot on those lists.

Sabre was in a foul mood this past weekend after Dominion 6.12 in Osaka-jo Hall, where he teamed with his Suzuki-gun mates El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru in an unsuccessful bid to take the NEVER Openweight 6-man Tag Team Championship from House of Torture.

During his post-match comments, Sabre had plenty to say about that encounter and his general disdain for House of Torture. But he then turned his attention toward Forbidden Door, saying it was time to dispense with subtlety and lay out a challenge for the man he’d like to face.

“American Dragon,” Sabre said. “Old dragon bollocks. Can you take some time out your busy golfing schedule with the Blackpool Country Club to find out who the best technical wrestler in the world is? But I’ll tell you now, darling, it’s f–king me.”

You can watch his entire interview below, with Sabre addressing Danielson starting at the 1:27 mark.

Sabre and Danielson have met just once before, in German promotion wXw in 2009. ZSJ won that match by pinfall, so you’d expect that Danielson would be more than willing to run it back to try and even the score.

Even with less than two weeks to go until NJPW and AEW collide at Forbidden Door in Chicago on June 26, the card is still very much a work in progress. Right this moment, the only confirmed matches are Jon Moxley vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi for the Interim AEW World Championship, along with a four-way battle to crown the inaugural AEW All-Atlantic Championship — though currently only Pac is confirmed for that bout, and the two NJPW wrestlers who will compete or a spot have yet to be revealed.

A ZSJ-Danielson match would be a pro wrestling purist’s dream and add to the overall appeal of the event. Don’t be surprised if the American Dragon responds to Sabre’s challenge sometime this week on AEW programming.

CM Punk and Cody Rhodes are injured. Which AEW and WWE stars can step up to fill the void?

With CM Punk and Cody Rhodes injured, we run down the WWE and AEW performers best positioned to step up while they are out.

Fans of traditional sports know how one unexpected injury can torpedo a promising year. It’s no different in pro wrestling, where both AEW and WWE have had the injury bug strike top performers at the worst possible time.

CM Punk had literally just won the AEW World Championship when he hurt his foot during Dynamite last week. That led to an appearance on Rampage on June 3, when he revealed he would be out of the picture for a while while he has surgery.

Cody Rhodes hadn’t won a title yet since returning to WWE at WrestleMania, but he was repaying the company’s faith in him as a top star and looked like he was on the path to contending for championships sooner rather than later. Then he tore his pec, which led to a legendary Hell in a Cell performance before he, too, announced that surgery was in his immediate future.

The situations aren’t exactly the same, but they’re eerily parallel in some respects and the injuries struck just days apart. In AEW’s case, we already know how it plans to pivot — the promotion is holding a mini tournament to crown an interim champion — but the absence of both Punk and Rhodes will be acutely felt.

The silver lining in both cases is that there are opportunities for other talent to step up and claim more of the spotlight while they are away. Who’s in the best possible position to take a step forward over the next few months? Let’s take a look at a few possibilities.

Who could fill in as Raw’s top babyface with Cody Rhodes out?


The King of Bros has been rumored to be the next championship contender for Roman Reigns, but his alliance with Shinsuke Nakamura and ongoing issues with The Usos put at least a little doubt on that plan. The most recent episode of Raw made it appear Riddle has his sights set on Reigns again, and the timing couldn’t be better.

Riddle is arguably as popular as he’s ever been in WWE right now, and has shown he has the knack for balancing an edgier side to his persona with his unmatched comic stylings. Pursuing Reigns means he’ll likely appear on both shows over the next month, but he has the potential to stay Raw’s top face even after Money in the Bank.

Bobby Lashley

Speaking of performers who are as over as they’ve ever been, we’re living in the time of Peak Good Guy Bobby Lashley if recent crowd reactions are any indication. Putting him up against the larger Omos helped him as he wasn’t able to win just by being bigger and stronger, but still looked impressive in overcoming the odds.

The only hiccup here is that Lashley just started a program with Theory, so his ascension to top dog on Raw could be more of a medium-term play if Rhodes ends up out until almost the end of 2022.


Yes, Edge has just spent the last little bit recruiting other wrestlers to be part of The Judgment Day, definitely not a face faction. But then Finn Balor joined and the group turned on him, so he’s going to be a good guy by default.

The 48-year-old WWE Hall of Famer is playing with house money at this point in his illustrious career, but if the company wanted to give him one final babyface run, this is now the ideal chance to do it.

AJ Styles

Not to quite the same degree as Edge, but Styles is headed toward the end of his time as a main event caliber attraction too. It’ll be interesting to see if he joins forces with Edge in an “enemy of my enemy” sense, but why couldn’t WWE push him to the very top of the card right after they deal with The Judgment Day?

Styles has faced Reigns in championship matches before, but not for years, so a program between the two of them could still feel fresh. With Money in the Bank on the horizon, it’s easy to imagine him winning the briefcase and then turning his attention to the Tribal Chief.

John Cena or Brock Lesnar

These are names mentioned somewhat in jest, but if WWE feels this is a “break glass in case of emergency” situation, it’s already announced that John Cena is returning to Raw in a few weeks. And Brock Lesnar is presumably just a phone call away.

Who will emerge as AEW Interim World Champion while CM Punk is on the shelf?

Jon Moxley

He’s got a leg up already in narrative terms since he is guaranteed a spot in the main event on Dynamite to determine who will go on to fight for the interim title at Forbidden Door. And since he’s held the real title before, people know what they’re getting from a Jon Moxley reign.

That’s the downside though, too. The AEW World Championship hasn’t been around all that long, as Mox already held it for some time. Pushing him more right now might feel like something fans have already seen, and not as effective as elevating someone new. The Punk-Moxley unification bout at the end of the rainbow would be sweet, however.


Now that Wardlow has freed himself from the machinations of MJF and become a legitimate star, why not just strap a rocket to him? It’s almost certainly not what the promotion was planning, but injuries have a way of changing plans, and this could be a change that pans out.

His path to the interim championship would also afford AEW a chance to put him over even more, as it would mean winning a battle royale, then defeating Moxley and someone at Forbidden Door, likely Hiroshi Tanahashi. That’s earning it, for sure. Plus it would be easy to turn Punk heel to play off him for their showdown when the current champ returns.

Eddie Kingston

Anyone who has followed Eddie Kingston during his career in the indies is probably already in favor of this idea, and people who only discovered him through AEW TV have to be impressed with him by now. In terms of building a story and selling it with promo work, Kingston could have one hell of a feud with Punk when he returns.

Does AEW view him as a top guy? It would be interesting to know, but if Eddie gets a chance to run with the ball right now, that would go a long way to answering that question in the affirmative.

Bryan Danielson

Just a quick note that while Bryan Danielson had a shot at the AEW World Championship while Hangman Adam Page held it, he wasn’t successful in winning it. The American Dragon has an unlimited amount of goodwill with the fans and would be easy to accept as the interim champ.

He and Punk wouldn’t be a brand new program, of course, but it’s been a decade since they faced each other with gold on the line. Both men shift effortlessly between face and heel roles, so it would be a showdown that can go any direction the creative team envisions once Punk is healthy again.

Hiroshi Tanahashi (or Kazuchika Okada, or anyone from NJPW)

Even in the Forbidden Door era, it seems unlikely that AEW would let someone from another promotion hold its main championship for any length of time. An interim title, though? That’s another story altogether.

Tanahashi was getting ready to face Punk later this month before the injury, and has already invited Punk to face him at Wrestle Kingdom next January. That could be to unify the regular and interim championships if so desired. Or Tanahashi could defend the interim strap in NJPW for the rest of 2022, opening up the possibility of dropping it to Kazuchika Okada or another top NJPW talent. The sky is really the limit should AEW choose to go in this direction.