The AEW roster is beginning to match – perhaps even surpass – that of its longer-established, big-name rival WWE. 2021 has seen the addition of massive names such as Bryan Danielson, CM Punk and Adam Cole, with the fed looking in rude health ahead of its first ever sim videogame. But with more than a hundred wrestlers to choose from, who's guaranteed to make the cut? Below we take a look at those 99% certain to feature in the Yuke's-developed brawler, in your essential AEW roster guide.
Coming soon: Malakai Black, Tay Conti, Sammy Guevara, Lucha Brothers and many more…
After four years in WWE third brand NXT, Cole's contract status was the talk of wrestling forums throughout the 2021 summer. He ended such rumours by showing up after Kenny Omega's defeat of Christian Cage at All Out, to reunite with former Bullet Club stablemates Omega and The Young Bucks. But a bigger surprise was still to come…
The man known as Hangman Page during spells in ROH and NJPW holds the honour of winning the first ever match at the first ever AEW event: a 21-man Casino Battle Royale which opened the Double Or Nothing pay-per-view in May 2019. In January 2020 he captured the AEW tag titles alongside Kenny Omega in a tandem known as The Elite.
Andrade El Idolo
Beloved in Mexico for his masked excellence as La Sombra, Andrade removed the headgear upon debuting for WWE in 2016. Fans loved his act with Zelina Vega, and he captured both the NXT and US Championships, but it never felt as if his 'push' matched his obvious ability. Released in March 2021, he signed with AEW and will get ample opportunity to shine – and at just 31, time is very much on his side.
Big Swole spent her pre-AEW years tearing up the independent circuit, capturing the Shine Tag Team Championship with Aja Perera, and overcoming Zoe Lucas to become Phoenix Of Rise Champion. She's married to WWE 2K20 roster member Cedric Alexander.
The former member of DX and New Age Outlaws initially returned to the ring to complete in Battle Royals, later teaming with son Austin as The Gunn Club. AEW needs ‘legends’ representation to maximise sales and roster depth, so expect both Gunn and fellow coach Jerry Lynn as playable characters.
As of mid-November 2019, AEW’s chief brand officer had only wrestled once in the company, defeating Allie at July’s Fight For The Fallen event. That changed in 2020 when she began to team regularly with her former foe, as The Nightmare Sisters. The company's most powerful female is guaranteed a big part in all three AEW videogames.
Britt Baker DMD
The best wrestling gimmicks are a hybrid of fiction and reality, where you can’t really tell that the person behind it is acting - and this is very much the case with Baker. Her onscreen character is a dentist, because she is indeed a practising dentist in real life. And a fine wrestler too, who claimed her first AEW Women's World Championship by toppling Hikaru Shida at Money Or Nothing 2021.
In the saddest wrestling story of 2020, Jonathan Huber – known in AEW as Brodie Lee and WWE as Luke Harper – passed away on December 16 at the tragically young age of 41. The tributes which followed came from far and wide, and the red-strapped TNT championship belt was retired and awarded to Huber's son Brodie in his memory. There's a very strong chance he's further honoured with an appearance in the company's first videogame.
Remember us mentioning an even bigger surprise than Adam Cole, following the All Out contest between Kenny Omega and Christian Cage? The former Daniel Bryan was that surprise, showing up in AEW under his real name after eleven years as one of WWE's most popular wrestlers. Massive.
A bona fide legend who features high on our list of WWE 2K20 missing wrestlers, after signing for AEW and becoming the first AEW World Champion at All Out in August 2019. Among his other achievements are four World Championships in WWE, two in WCW, nine Intercontinental Championships, and seven studio albums as the frontman of Fozzy.
After Edge's long-time tag partner made a shock WWE return at 2021's Royal Rumble, most expected Christian to sign a fresh deal with wrestling's biggest name. Instead, he was soon announced as another huge AEW coup, making his debut against Frankie Kazarian (more on him below) and going on to feud with Kenny Omega over the company's World Championship.
Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky
This trio, AKA SoCal Uncensored, dominated team-based proceedings in 2019, with Sky steering Kazarian and Daniels - a tandem known as The Addiction in their ROH days - to AEW tag title glory. A glorious run ended when they dropped the belts to Adam Page and Kenny Omega in January 2020, but their experience and class still makes them certainties for the videogame roster.
We're only one year into a new decade, but it'll be hard for any wrestling event in the next eight to top CM Punk's shock AEW debut in front of a raucous Chicago crowd. The five-time WWE world champ quit the company in acrimonious circumstances in 2014, and had been retired since – making his return in order to face Darby Allin at AEW All Out a true game-changer. On console, and in choreographed reality.
Dusty Rhodes’ youngest son is one of the big names highlighted in our 15 wrestlers you’ll never see again in a WWE game feature. That’s because he and indie favourites the Young Bucks are the trio that set up AEW - and, along with Kenny Omega, now act as its executive vice presidents. Meaning his days working for Vince McMahon are long over.
One of the hottest prospects in all of global wrestling, Allin cut his teeth in streaming service World Wrestling Network before signing with AEW in April 2019. In the years since he's established himself as unerringly consistent yet brilliantly unpredictable, earning a 186-day stint as TNT Champion. Allin was hand-picked as CM Punk's opponent for the veteran's first match in seven years.
Cody’s big brother was still with WWE when AEW sprang to life, portraying his long-standing character of Goldust. Upon expiry of his contract he departed in April 2019, and immediately leapt into a blood feud with his sibling, which was settled in a brutal and brilliant brawl at Double Or Nothing. Even at 52, Goldy can still go.
A veteran of the squared circle at just 33, Shida's signing with AEW spelt the end (for now) of a sparkling eleven-year career in her home country of Japan. Can't wait until the AEW game to play as her on PS4? Then jump to our best AEW CAWs for WWE 2K20 feature and unleash Shida in universe mode ASAP.
While Hikaru Shida and Britt Baker DMD held the AEW Women's World Championship for most of 2021, the star of the division was arguably Cargill – by mid-November she'd racked up a 16-match undefeated streak. The former fitness model was trained by ex-WWE star Mark Henry, and cites groundbreaking female grappler Chyna and X-Men character Storm as inspirations.
Another veteran of WWE videogames, having appeared as Jack Swagger in Yuke’s’ series from WWE Smackdown vs Raw through to WWE 2K17. Hager switched to mixed martial arts upon departure from WWE, where he holds a record of two wins, no losses and one no-contest. He immediately aligned with Chris Jericho in his first AEW appearance.
Is it madness to suggest AEW's legendary commentator as a playable character in its videogame? Perhaps, but as with Billy Gunn, it needs as many marketable mainstream names as possible. There is a precedent, too: Ross was playable as DLC back in WWE 12.
The former Dean Ambrose was AEW’s most shocking signing. He seemed well set in WWE as a former member of The Shield, and his wife, Renee Paquette, still worked there as recently as August 2020. Even so, after differences with the creative team he quit WWE when his contract expired in April 2019. Moxley dethroned Chris Jericho to become AEW world champion at Revolution in February 2020.
Arguably the best wrestler of the last ten years not to have been wooed by WWE. Omega has racked up classic matches and feuds in numerous organisations based in both America and Japan, and contested memorable contests with Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley during AEW’s formative months. Thus far he's been the focal point and spokesperson of all official AEW videogame coverage.
After sneaking in one WWE appearance during the spring of 2019 (a losing effort to the Iiconics), Statlander signed with AEW at the year's close - and immediately became number one contender to the women's title by defeating Britt Baker. Ultimately her title bout with Riho ended in defeat, but a run with the gold in 2022 feels like a strong possibility.
After breaking through in TNA at the turn of the millennium, Lance Hoyt became Vance Archer for a short spell in WWE. When that flopped, the 6' 8" big man reinvented himself in Japan – combining those two names to the one he still works under today. Paired with legend Jake 'The Snake' Roberts, he's established himself as one of AEW's key villains – and in July 2021 knocked out Jon Moxley in a Texas Death Match to capture the IWGP United States Championship.
Wrestling fans loved seeing Hardy's 'Broken' gimmick finally make its WWE debut in a 2017 feud with Bray Wyatt, but upon return from injury in 2019 the character was never mentioned again. Bah. Thankfully Hardy's jump to AEW in March 2020 saw it reintroduced for just a little while. Delete, delete, delete…
Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson (The Young Bucks)
If Omega is this decade’s MVP of independent one-on-one wrestling, the Young Bucks can claim the same honour from a tag perspective. Chikara, Ring Of Honor, Dragon Gate and NJPW have all hosted staggeringly great matches from the pair, and in 2019 they captured their first Mexican title, the AAA World Tag Team Championship, from the Lucha Brothers.
Happy Rusev Day! Forever undervalued during his WWE days, the former 'Bulgarian Brute' resurfaced in AEW on September 9, 2020, as the best man for Kip Sabian's onscreen wedding to Penelope Ford. He's since steamrollered his way up the card, most notably retaining the TNT Championship against Eddie Kingston at All Out 2021.
Those initials stand for Maxwell Jacob Friedman – and while they might not carry the same gravitas as HHH or JBL at this point, MJF is at least more upwardly mobile than recently released WWE outcast EC3. Aged just 25 and already with feuds against Cody Rhodes and Chris Jericho on his CV, an AEW Championship win by the close of 2022 feels like an attainable goal.
Ever see Canadian TV series The Switch? Then you’ll recognise Rose as lead character Sü, an IT manager forced to rebuild her life after coming out as transgender. She’s the first trans person to sign with a major American wrestling company, and contested AEW’s first women’s championship bout in October 2019 - coming up just short against Riho.
Known as Neville in his 205 Live days, this Geordie lad’s departure from WWE was infamously frosty. In October 2017, Pac walked out ahead of an episode of Raw in which he was due to lose to Enzo Amore – and despite rumours of positive discussions backstage, he’d never be seen in WWE again, eventually departing in August 2018.
A WWE favourite for two decades as the Big Show, Wight's seven-foot frame has appeared in numerous Smackdown and 2K titles – but his switch to AEW means he'll have no place in WWE 2K22. The behemoth started life in AEW as a commentator, finally getting physical in August 2021 to protect fellow mic man Tony Schiavone after a sneak attack from QT Marshall's The Factory stable.
In June 2020, then-TNT champion Cody Rhodes offered an open challenge for his title on an episode of AEW Dynamite – and it was answered by former NWA World Television Champion Starks. His effort fell short of downing Rhodes, but in storyline the performance was sufficient to trigger an immediate contract offer from AEW big boss Tony Khan.
Aged just 24, Riho is – incredibly – a 15-year veteran of the squared circle. No, you’ve not read that incorrectly: she began working for the Ice Ribbon promotion in her homeland of Japan at the age of nine. After seven years with Gotah Move Pro Wrestling she jumped to the US and joined AEW, becoming its first women’s champion in October 2019.
Known as Ruby Riott in her WWE days, Soho's unique look and in-ring tenacity made her an instant upgrade to the AEW roster upon singing in the summer of 2021. That impact saw her win her debut match, a 21-woman Battle Royale at All Out, to secure a future match for the AEW Women's World Championship.
Spears may not have the name value of Goldust, Jericho or Moxley, but he’s another to have taken exit following the release of WWE 2K19 – where he was known as Tye Dillinger – to sign for its new rival. Shockingly, he turned his back on the fans and established himself as a heel by attacking Cody Rhodes with a chairshot to the head.
As of November 2021 the former WCW and WWE legend had only amassed four matches in AEW, but all were victories. His main role has been as mentor to Darby Allin, instantly providing the talented youngster with main event credibility. Sting's past ensures he'll be a major selling point of the AEW game.
As discussed in the Billy Gunn and Jim Ross entries, AEW must lean on famous names from the past to maximise widespread interest in its games - and that means including former WWE, WCW and ECW faves. Taz ticks two of those boxes, and after signing a multi-year deal on the AEW broadcast team should now be considered in strong contention for a playable roster spot.
Formats and release dates for the AEW videogame are still to be released. If you prefer your wrestling McMahon-flavoured, then be sure to head over to our profile of the WWE 2K20 roster.