If he instead returns to his previous WWE status – ‘upper mid-card’ would be the inside term, as a wrestler who’s always relevant and may challenge for some titles but rarely main event or contend for the world championship – it could end up working against the company in coming years.
Given the billions in WWE’s coffers, and their decades-long headstart, there’s no threat of AEW becoming the biggest promotion in wrestling any time in the near future. But in the eyes of hardcore critics, the two companies are on contrasting paths and it remains to be seen whether WWE will make changes.
To do so with Rhodes would turn a brewing war into one that can become red-hot, and potentially push wrestling back into the wider public consciousness for the first time in decades.
WWE has a mixed track record with big names from other companies. When they bought WCW and began what could’ve been the greatest storyline in wrestling history, as their ex-rivals invaded, an insistence upon WWE wrestlers looking stronger than WCW ones limited its potential. In the end ‘The Invasion’ pitted The Rock on one side and Stone Cold Steve Austin and Kurt Angle on the other; not exactly a WWE-WCW dream match.
Last decade, when Sting finally made his long-awaited debut in WWE after decades as essentially WCW’s mascot, he lost to Triple H at WrestleMania in a match which ended up recreating the Monday Night Wars including DX vs the NWO.
More recently AJ Styles was quickly brought into the main event picture after years in TNA/Impact, but WWE never perceived that company as a rival.metasports
It means Rhodes, who was keen to follow in the footsteps of his legendary father Dusty – who booked for WCW and WWE’s NXT developmental – was no longer fully playing his music to his tune. And, according to reports, it’s this changing dichotomy – along with disagreements over the size of his new contract – that led to Rhodes’ stunning exit from AEW.
Logically the only company that will be able to pay Rhodes what he wants is WWE, and McMahon’s company would love to reverse the trend of big-name stars heading from ‘up north’ to AEW.
It doesn’t hurt that Rhodes would be joining WWE just in time for WrestleMania.