Long before Dolph Ziggler was released from WWE, fans heavily expected to see the IRL brother of Ryan Nemeth jump ship to AEW.
From running special comedy nights featuring AEW talents to appearing in the Young Bucks' Being the Elite Youtube show, something that few, if any, WWE Superstars have done in the past, it felt like, eventually, the 43-year-old would make his way over to All Elite Wrestling in the hopes of spending the final years of his in-ring prime actually wrestling on television, instead of largely being stuck in catering or on Main Event.
Discussing what Ziggler should do next on his Strickly Business podcast, Eric Bischoff agreed with this sentiment, noting that after being a big-time earner for the vast majority of his WWE career, it's time for the pride of Hollywood to have some fun with the remainder of his career, which, in this Zig's case, is as a member of AEW.
“I would imagine that Dolph has enough Money in the Bank, because he's made a lot of money consistently for twenty years. He may not have been in the top ten highest earners or even top fifteen highest earners, but he's been doing it for twenty years, that's a lot of money. He's probably in a position where he could just retire, or pursue something else that he had passion for, whether it's stand-up comedy or acting. I think he's going to do what he has the most fun doing, because he's got the option to pursue fun rather than finance. That's a wonderful position to be in,” Eric Bischoff said via Fightful.
“Out of the entire list, out of everyone we've discussed, if there's one that I see making that move [Going to AEW] more than anybody else, it's Dolph because his brother is there, and that would be fun, and that's probably gonna motivate Dolph more than anything else at this point. He's gonna pursue what makes him happy.”
With a clear need for veteran professionals in the locker room following a wild end to the summer, Tony Khan would seemingly be incredibly excited to add a few former WWE World Champions to his roster, especially if they already have pals on the roster who they can work with or against immediately; a box that Ziggler – and Edge – definitively check.
Tony Khan comments on buying NJPW and the “end of an AEW era.”
Speaking of Tony Khan, a rumor has been running rampant that, after buying Ring of Honor last year, the AEW CEO could add New Japan Pro Wrestling to his portfolio, with an announcement coming as soon as WrestleKingdom on October 1st.
Asked if he has any comment on the rumor in the media call for WrestleDream, Khan shut it down, noting that he's both a big fan of and a good collaborator with the company founded by Antonio Inoki.
“I'm a little surprised at how that speculation picked up and the, specifically, the transactional nature of it. We have such a great partnership right now, and we're doing such great things with New Japan Pro Wrestling. I was a little surprised to see that. Overall, I've really enjoyed working with New Japan since nearly two years. We've had two great Forbidden Door events and we've sent a number of top AEW stars to Japan to wrestle on Wrestle Kingdom and top shows. We've worked together in the US,” Tony Khan said via Fightful.
“There are people in AEW who have helped develop New Japan and people from New Japan who have helped develop AEW or Ring of Honor. I want to continue that partnership for a very long and right now we have something very good going. I'm a little surprised by the speculation, I don't know where it came from. It's probably a good time to have a lot of speculation on the eve of WrestleDream, and I'm glad we got a lot of people talking, certainly that one video, with all the great clips of Mr. Inoki and top stars of today, I thought it got people talking and it was a positive thing.”
Alright, so if TK didn't purchase New Japan Pro Wrestling, what was he referring to when he described WrestleDream as the “End of an Era” for AEW? Well, the do-it-all CEO didn't say definitively, only encouraging fans to tune in after a very successful 2023.
“I definitely have no intention of clarifying those comments. I want people to order the pay-per-view. I think the internet kind of ran away with the speculation based on, I don't know what. I'd love for somebody to go back and look for the first person to say that was and track back where the speculation came from. Certainly, I don't know if that particular aspect of it is very credible. There are dots you can connect in wrestling, and there are things I'm very excited about that we've been doing, and I've made bold proclamations before, and I felt I've been proven right by them,” Tony Khan said.
“We've come a really long way, we've taken big swings at doing new things this year, in particular, 2023 has been our most adventurous year, and I want to keep doing adventurous things and make fan talk about AEW and hopefully making new fans of AEW. I think we've debunked some speculation, and I'd be happy to debunk the speculation that is what I was implying because I don't know where that particular rumor got started. I think this year, we've also built our reputation in a really strong way. Without completely spilling the beans of everything we're working on, I really do think it is going to be the start of a new era of what we're doing in AEW, and I'm very excited about that.”
Could the day come when AEW buys NJPW? Sure, if the promotions falls on hard times a la Ring of Honor, Khan will likely pull the trigger for the content library alone. But until then, it's clear they want to work as partners instead of the one unified entity.