wrestling / Columns

Is Bryan Danielson & Adam Cole to AEW This Generation’s Hall & Nash to WCW?

September 6, 2021 | Posted by Blake Lovell
AEW All Out Adam Cole Bryan Danielson

An interesting comment caught my attention after AEW All Out.

It’s this one from 411 commenter Sid’s Got Scissors (bonus points for the username):

“Been watching regularly since ’96, and I can’t remember the last time I was this elated by one show. We saw something special with Punk’s debut, but tonight we saw this Generation’s “Hall and Nash jump to WCW” event. All Out 2021 will be remembered as a watershed moment in Wrestling History, I’m certain of it.”

With that one paragraph, Sid’s Got Scissors has got me thinking:

Is Sid, scissors and all, right?

Was Bryan Danielson and Adam Cole jumping ship to AEW this generation’s Scott Hall and Kevin Nash jumping to WCW?

CM Punk went as far as to say that, to him, Danielson and Cole’s AEW debuts are bigger than Hall and Nash’s WCW debuts.

My first thought after both Danielson and Cole debuted on the same show in the same segment – in my opinion, a genius move to have not one but two of the competition’s top stars as the lasting visual on your biggest pay-per-view in company history – was how unprecedented it was for this era.

For starters, Bryan Danielson, an active main eventer in WWE who main evented the most recent WrestleMania and has a WrestleMania main event win to his credit, chose to leave WWE for AEW. Voluntarily.

No release, no contract dispute, none of that. One of the best wrestlers in the world simply left WWE for the competition.

Adam Cole’s situation is similar. Cole, one of the faces of NXT brand in recent years, decided that AEW was a better spot for him than the WWE main roster, which from a business standpoint, has been the pinnacle of pro wrestling for many years.

Cole even went as far as calling the choice a “fairly easy” one.

This was not CM Punk leaving WWE and returning seven and a half years later to join the competitor. This was two current WWE wrestlers, who were considered among the top stars on their respective brands, actively deciding to jump ship to pursue a better path for their careers.

Sound familiar?

We saw it with Hall and Nash in 1996, but we haven’t seen it in this era of wrestling. That’s why it’s so significant. It’s both about how it changes the current wrestling landscape and how it impacts the future wrestling landscape.

Top stars are now choosing AEW as their destination rather than AEW being their destination by necessity. For two top talents, it wasn’t ‘AEW is my only option,’ but rather ‘AEW is my best option.’

There’s a big difference.

With that line drawn, will others with the same vision for their career follow the path of Danielson and Cole and look at AEW as their best option vs. their only option?

To borrow a word from former WWE Champion Daniel Bryan, the answer is yes.

The definition of “domino effect” is the cumulative effect that results when one event precipitates a series of like events. Hall and Nash’s domino effect on WCW, obviously, was the formation of the nWo, which then led to WCW eclipsing WWE in the ratings, and so forth.

For AEW, a lot of dominoes have fallen. Chris Jericho joined AEW, then Jon Moxley left WWE for AEW, and now, Danielson and Cole have done the same.

But again, the latter of that group feels different from anything else we’ve seen in this era, just like Hall and Nash jumping felt different than anything we’d seen in that era.

So, to answer the question: Can we declare Danielson and Cole’s jump to AEW the same as Hall and Nash jumping to WCW? It’s too early for a definitive answer since we don’t know what AEW’s business will look like a year, two years, or five years from now. And, as always, comparing eras in wrestling history can be a slippery slope since viewership, business models, etc. are different.

However, what AEW did with its closing segment on Sunday night at All Out was indeed a game-changer. No, it wasn’t AEW making a move that will put WWE out of business tomorrow. Financially, WWE has zero concerns with its business or revenue, and any argument to the contrary – at least in the short-term – will need impressive reasoning to hold up.

But with one segment, a seed was officially planted in the mind of every wrestling fan – one that now offers the slightest hint of something unprecedented happening when you watch AEW programming.

Hall’s memorable Nitro debut had a layer of realness that will likely never be replicated. Still, the ultimate takeaway from it was that if a top star was jumping ship from the rival promotion, there was a reason for it.

And planting that slight possibility in your mind that you could miss something special gave WCW the momentum it needed to surpass WWE in the ratings for 83 weeks.

AEW has created a similar effect, not just with Danielson and Cole, but with the entire “Forbidden Door” concept that’s led to Minoru Suzuki and many others walking straight through it with the purpose of giving fans an unforgettable experience.

If you love professional wrestling and want to feel part of something that is sparking a new world order of wrestling in 2021 and beyond, AEW is the place for you.

Two stars at the top of their game – former WWE Champion Bryan Danielson and former NXT Champion Adam Cole – heard the message loud and clear.

If others continue to hear that same message, then perhaps it’s only fitting to ask the question:

You want a war?

Maybe, just maybe, you’ve got one.

I discussed Bryan Danielson and Adam Cole’s AEW debuts in detail in a post-show podcast, and also added more thoughts on the Hall and Nash comparisons in a new podcast, both of which are available below. For more of my thoughts on pro wrestling, follow me on Twitter @wrestleblake.