What happens next, now that Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson (formerly known as WWE‘s Daniel Bryan) are now official members of the AEW roster? To say AEW’s 2021 All Out pay-per-view came with an aura of feverish anticipation would be a Paul Wight-sized understatement. Enhancing a card packed with tantalizing match-ups such as Kenny Omega vs. Christian Cage, the Young Bucks vs. the Lucha Brothers, MJF vs. Chris Jericho, and Britt Baker vs. Kris Statlander, All Out 2021 also marked the second coming of CM Punk in a wrestling ring, returning after a 7-year absence to face Darby Allin.
Among the thrill of Punk’s return, numerous other big names have found themselves linked with AEW, and 3 of those debuted at All Out. Ruby Soho – WWE’s Ruby Riot(t) – played her joker at the Casino Battle Royale and earned a future title shot against Britt Baker, but fans would have to wait until the very end to see what else Tony Khan had up his ever-growing sleeve of wrestlers. Fresh from his highly-publicized WWE exit, Adam Cole emerged to a huge reception in the aftermath of Omega’s AEW World Championship victory. Mere minutes later, chants of “YES!” rang throughout the arena, as Bryan Danielson strutted onto the ramp barely hiding his glee. With a trio of exciting new talents joining in a single, action-packed night, what comes next for AEW’s latest signings?
Winning the Casino Battle Royale, Ruby Soho is immediately on a one-way route toward Britt Baker, whose conclusive win over Statlander ends their recent feud. Though Soho is unlikely to brush the DMD from her current position, a valiant, hard-fought loss against the champ could establish Ruby as a key cog in AEW’s gradually improving women’s division. Less clear, however, are the futures of Adam Cole and Bryan Danielson.
Responding to Kenny Omega’s line, “the only people that would ever have a chance to beat me are… already dead,” Adam Cole hit the stage – the intro referencing how his character was “killed” in Being The Elite when he left for WWE. Cole immediately aligned with The Elite and announced himself as a heel, setting up a troublemaker role among Don Callis’ group of badly-dressed baddies. In the long-term, however, it’s worth remembering how Cole was kicked out of Bullet Club by Omega and the Bucks in 2017. Given AEW’s habit of slow-burn storytelling, Cole joining The Elite could be part of a larger plan to betray the faction and avenge his death. That Adam Cole’s debut came as a response to Kenny Omega’s boastful challenge might hint toward the newcomer’s true intentions.
If Adam Cole joining AEW as a heel just felt right, so too did Bryan Danielson making the save for top babyface trio, Jurassic Express. A brief stare-down with Omega might tease Danielson becoming AEW’s next World Championship contender, but gunning straight for a title shot doesn’t fit with the hard-working perennial underdog fans know and love. In the short-term, Danielson’s association with Jurassic Express could pit him against Matt Hardy and the HFO. Danielson would undoubtedly be tempted by matches against Private Party and TH2, and a string of victories against Hardy’s henchmen would pave the way to earning a shot at Kenny Omega. With CM Punk recently confirming Bryan Danielson sits atop his dream match bucket list, AEW probably won’t wait long before pulling that trigger either. Reports suggest the leader of the YES Movement sought freedom to perform elsewhere in his WWE and AEW negotiations, so also expect Bryan Danielson to make full use of Tony Khan’s “forbidden door.”
In a broader sense, AEW’s current trajectory after signing Punk, Cole, and Danielson is enough to send shivers down spines. While the company can’t rely on surprise debuts forever, these are top-tier signings almost guaranteed to “move the needle” and push AEW to greater prominence in both the wrestling world and the wider, more casual mainstream. Initial excitement is still sky high; the real test will be where AEW‘s new acquisitions have taken the company in 6-12 months time.