When news broke that about a dozen WWE Superstars, ranging from OG future Hall of Famers like Dolph Ziggler and Shelton Benjamin, to often overlooked “niche” acts like Mustafa Ali and the Maximum Male Models, were released from WWE in the fallout of the company's merger with UFC under the TKO banner, it turned heads around the professional wrestling world.
Sure, most of the acts that were handed their walking papers weren't exactly main event players, though Ali did have a match booked for NXT No Mercy later this month, but still, after another huge quarter and watching Paul “Triple H” Levesque boast about record-breaking numbers after seemingly every Premium Live Event this year, the decision harkened back to the dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic when no one, not even the late, great Bray Wyatt, was safe from being fired.
And yet, when one door closes, another opens, and as Matt Hardy pointed out on his Extreme Life podcast, performers like Matt Cardona have used their release as a springboard to have even bigger success in the future.
“He is the perfect living, breathing example of it, a guy who, when he was laid off, the stuff he’s done now where he’s the Indy God and he won all the titles. He’s just killing it on every level. He is willing to bust his a**, he’s willing to work, put in the sacrifice, and do it yourself. You really have to be someone that’s almost like a D.I.Y. to really be able to go out and do that, but it is out there, if you want it, especially if you got great name value, someone like a Dolph Ziggler or someone like a Shelton Benjamin or someone like a Mustafa Ali. There’s a lot of guys who have a lot of great TV time, and people will pay to see them. You go out, and you bust your a**, and you can do whatever. I think also it opens up some possibilities at AEW for some of these guys to maybe show up and do something there in 90 days,” Matt Hardy said via Fightful.
“I could see the three names I just mentioned, Shelton Benjamin, I could see Dolph Ziggler. I could see Mustafa Ali. I could see all those guys doing something there. I have to go back and look at the list.”
Would it be cool to see Hardy's wishlist make it to AEW, with Ali working incredible TNT Championship matches, Benjamin in the Blackpool Combat Club, and Ziggler becoming a fixture of Collision, both teaming with his brother Ryan Nemeth – likely as Nic Nemeth – and vying for championship gold as a singles star? Fans will have to tune in to AEW television in roughly 90 days to find out.
Matt Hardy compares Dolph Ziggler's mindset to his own.
Continuing his conversation regarding the recently-released WWE Superstars, Matt Hardy committed a few more minutes to complement Dolph Ziggler, as, in the future WWE Hall of Famer's opinion, he has a mindset not too dissimilar to his own that should allow him to thrive in whatever role he takes on next.
“He’s also very much of the same mentality that I am,” Matt Hardy noted. “He’s very easygoing, he just wants to be there, he wants to do a good job, he wants to go out and wrestle, bust his a**, and he’s not problematic. He’s not a politicker. He just goes to work and does his job. To our defense, that’s not a bad thing, but it also can be something that holds you back in some capacity, too, if you’re not constantly politicking and trying to get your s**t in and trying to make sure you fit your finger on the pulse of the promoter and what all he’s doing and where you’re going. Sometimes you have to be super interactive to stay on top of your s**t, to make sure something happens like that.”
You know, after everything that went down with CM Punk and Jack Perry at and immediately after All In at Wembley Stadium in London, if there's one thing AEW could desperately, desperately use, it's a 43-year-old former two-time World Heavyweight Champion who comes to work, does his thing, and does it in a professional matter. If AEW really is entering into a new era at WrestleDream in Seattle on October 1st, having a guy like Ziggler as a featured player near the top of the card could prove to be just what the doctor ordered for prolonged stability moving forward.