Ever since Hit Row returned to WWE, one question has been at the front of more than a few fans' minds: when is Swerve Strickland going to leave AEW to reunite with Ashante “Thee” Adonis, Top Dolla, and B-Fab?
Now, for fans in the know, this scenario is a lot easier said than done, as Strickland signed a long-term contract with AEW and doesn't exactly have the best track record with the man currently calling the shots, Triple H (more on that here), but that hasn't stopped the questions from coming and the comments sections on social media from filling up.
‘Come back to Hit Row,' ‘Hit Row needs you, bro,' ‘AEW is the minor leagues' – these sorts of comments have followed Strickland around for the better part of a month, and yet, no matter how much success he has in Tony Khan's company, the calls have only grown stronger. Folks don't seem to care that Strickland is one half of the AEW World Tag Team Championship team of Swerve in our Glory with fellow former NXT standout Keith Lee, and they seem to care even less that the duo are currently booked to face off against everyone's favorite team, Max Caster and Anthony Bowens of The Acclaimed, at All Out on September 4th.
Fortunately, Strickland decided to address the situation head-on, as he hopped on the GRAPSODY podcast and addressed the situation before it ballooned too far out of control.
Swerve Strickland's success in AEW can co-exist with Hit Row's on SmackDown.
Though the interview with Strickland won't officially drop until Saturday, September 3rd, just before the start of Clash at the Castle, the fine folks over at Fightful decided to deliver a pair of excerpts from the interview that were just too good not to share.
“I'm happy for those guys and I'm happy they got their second chance, I really am. Some people were like, ‘Are you upset about this? They're back.' Good, they deserve to be on TV. Now, this is their chance to be them and do what they do or however they want to do. There were times when I would discuss things and they wanted to do it this way, and I was like, ‘Okay, let's try to mesh this together.' It was a lot of teamwork and effort and family-type vibes to put these promos together. I don't think I brought them up to the main roster, I think we did it together. A lot of people with these comments are trying to separate us and do the dividing thing. No, you're not going to divide me from my friends. You're not going to divide me from people that I was really grinding with at the PC [Performance Center] and every week on TV, trying to do something really special and being, literally, probably one of the most creative people in the entire PC because nobody was telling us what to do. We were literally coming up with it ourselves. We did that together to get to the main roster.”
Now, unlike what Triple H would have had you believe in 2019, when he called NXT the company's third brand, the goal of all four members of Hit Row was to make it onto either RAW or SmackDown, where the show goes on the road and the paychecks balloon up. Though the OG3 currently operating under the Hit Row name did originally begin as a trio and only teamed up with Strickland, then a well-traveled indie veteran known to the WWE Universe as Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, in order to take all of their games to the next level, the quartet did become friends and grew close during their run together.
Still, that doesn't mean they ultimately had the same goals or aspirations; Strickland has long been pushing to become one of the best, most well-rounded performers in the world, as evidenced by his The Wrestlers episode where he worked a deathmatch for CZW and likely would have felt unsatisfied if his career topped out as a member of a popular faction who never really got to shine in singles or even tag team action. With far less red tape to run through in AEW and an opportunity to work indie matches as he sees fit, Strickland actually seems to like the freedom TK provides him, even if it isn't for everybody.
“Now, I'm on a different wavelength with what I'm trying to do and what I'm trying to accomplish. I'm not saying I move at a higher, lower, faster speed than those guys, they're moving at a great speed, but I'm moving at a speed that is good for me. I'm doing something that is really special and they are doing something that is special over there too. I can't do what I'm about to do in that environment. Even if I wanted to, I don't think I would. There are a lot of things where, WWE is a publicly-traded company. There is a lot of red tape and chain of command you have to go through and get all these things approved before something comes back to you, months later, ‘Yeah, we can do it' or ‘Nah, that's a no,' when I have direct contact with Tony Khan over here, I have numbers, I have schematics, statistics, all these things that back up what I'm trying to do. He goes, ‘Yup, I love it, you're good, go.' Why wouldn't I want that? Why wouldn't I want to take advantage of that here? They have a great relationship with Triple H, they really do, and that was Triple H's choice to bring them back. I'm happy for them and they have a chance to really blow up and do some special things because of the relationship that we had all grown with Triple H at NXT. Now, on SmackDown, the possibilities are endless there. What I have right now with the close relationships and freedom that I have to do it, I'm happy where I'm at and I wouldn't change that for anybody or any opportunity in the world.”
Will the day eventually come when Strickland, Adonis, B-Fab, and Top Dolla share the ring together? Only time will tell, but it's clear both sides are currently killing it in their own lanes, and that isn't expected to change anytime soon.