The Best AEW Storylines Ever

In its short history, AEW has delivered some truly fantastic wrestling storylines.

Chris Jericho in AEW
Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Since its formation in 2019, All Elite Wrestling has put an emphasis on in-ring action, creating a much-needed alternative to WWE. Some would even say that there is too much emphasis on the wrestling itself and not enough flashy storytelling. But while the promotion is far from perfect, there are still many great arcs and rivalries that have come from Tony Khan smashing his action figures together.

Here is a look at the best storylines in AEW’s short history, from alcoholic cowboys to angry dinosaur men..

10. Jon Moxley Dismantles the Inner Circle

As inaugural AEW World Champion, Chris Jericho was able to survive challengers for months thanks in part to his faction, the Inner Circle. When it came time for Jon Moxley to step up and make a go for the belt, he had no allies to back him up. There was no faction warfare. It was just one man against a rival and his goons. Jericho tried to get Moxley to join the Inner Circle, and Moxley even showed interest, but all that led to was Moxley screwing over Jericho and stealing his sweet, sweet Ford GT. Jericho got his revenge by having the Inner Circle beat Moxley down and then stabbing him in the eye with a spike.

Now wearing a badass eyepatch, Moxley continued to fight through the Inner Circle. This included him getting some payback by using his car keys to jab Santana’s eye. Moxley worked his way to Jericho and defeated him at Revolution 2020, starting off a fantastic title reign that was unfortunately marred by the COVID pandemic. Still, even if he was a star going into AEW, this feud with the Inner Circle is what solidified Moxley as the top guy.

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9. The War at the Bottom of the Card

Not everyone can be at the top of the ladder. In wrestling, someone needs to take the losses, and sometimes that begs the question: who is the worst of the worst? During the early days of AEW, two of the biggest losers were loudmouth Librarian Peter Avalon and the Young Bucks’ nerdy cohort Brandon Cutler. Avalon would regularly make fun of Cutler’s lack of wins, only to get loudly offended when Cutler would bring up how Avalon had never won a match in AEW either.

The two decided to become a tag team, only to lose some more, regardless of whether they tried being honorable or being cheaters to get the win. Like many tag teams, the two eventually split up and started feuding with each other. Surely, we would get a winner out of a match between the two. But then the first match ended in a double count out. The rematch ended in double disqualification. Finally, the two had a no count out/no DQ match, and thanks to the support of the Young Bucks and a weaponized pile of D&D dice, Cutler was able to stand tall as the guy who was not the worst wrestler in AEW.

8. MJF and Bryan Danielson Go the Distance

MJF had a go-to gimmick for his feuds where if someone really wanted a match with him, they had to jump through hoops, usually in the form of winning several matches against mercenaries. When MJF was AEW World Champion, Bryan Danielson thought that the gauntlet was pointless because he could always just win matches and earn his title shot that way. Still, he made a counteroffer: if he could get through all of the challenges, Danielson would pick the stipulation for their title match. Danielson succeeded and at Revolution 2023, they faced off in a 60-minute Iron Man Match. The perfect threat against someone always so reluctant to compete.

MJF became increasingly erratic, insisting that he was too much of an asshole to find someone and start a family, but Danielson was going out of his way to ignore his own family due to his wrestling obsession. At Revolution, the two tied at the end of the hour, leading to sudden death. MJF put Danielson in his Salt of the Earth submission and Danielson tapped.

Danielson later explained how he felt numbness in his arms and was afraid of what this meant for his future, especially as a father. MJF was right: he was being selfish. This became the crux of the storyline for him, deciding that he had about a year left of a full-time wrestling career before hanging it up so he could be there for his children.

7. Better Than You, Bay-Bay

While he spent years being the worst human being, MJF sometimes let it slip that he truly hated himself and acted despicable as a defense mechanism. This came to a head when he and rival Adam Cole ended up getting roped into a lottery-based tag tournament and were forced to be partners. Even though the two intended to stab each other in the back, they found unlikely success and even started to genuinely enjoy each other’s company. When they failed to capture the AEW tag titles, a dejected Cole intentionally left himself open so MJF could clobber him with the belt out of revenge. MJF refused, instead embracing his brochacho.

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MJF started to tap into the crowd’s love for him and his friendship with Cole. He even offered a world title shot at All In 2023. It became a guessing game if either wrestler was going to go for the betrayal, but MJF retained in a feel-good moment. This story unfortunately took a massive nosedive later due to Cole’s sudden leg injury and the addition of the masked “Devil” mystery, but there were some good laughs that made this a must-watch in its early days.

6. Eddie Kingston: King of the Bums

Eddie Kingston, the Ben Grimm of AEW, has always been his own worst enemy. Despite his toughness and intensity, his rage and lack of focus have always gotten in his way. He was able to finally get it together to win the NJPW Strong Openweight Championship and later defeat his longtime rival Claudio Castagnoli to become Ring of Honor World Champion. Flying high on his success, he offered to put his titles on the line for the new 12-man round robin tournament, the Continental Classic. Then he lost his initial matches. One such match had him lose to Bryan Danielson, who mocked Eddie by stealing a sign from a fan saying, “EDDIE IS A BUM” and draping it over the beaten opponent.

Eddie kept it together and proceeded to win his way into the semi-finals, where he defeated Bryan in a rematch. He later defeated longtime friend Jon Moxley in the finals, winning the tournament and becoming Continental Champion. Danielson did not take his loss well and spent weeks showing passive-aggressive disrespect to Eddie. Finally, they had another match where the loser would have to show respect to the winner. Eddie once again defeated Danielson and the two squashed their beef. In a post-match backstage interview, Danielson suggested that this might have been his plan all along to make Eddie reach his potential.

5. Swerve Strickland Drives Hangman Insane

Hangman Adam Page spent much of his post-champion days in the background. When he was ready to go off on his own once again and climb back up the rankings, the sinister Swerve Strickland appeared and claimed that he was going to steal Hangman’s spot. The two had a match at WrestleDream 2023 in front of Swerve’s vocal hometown, and Hangman lost thanks to interference. Swerve decided to increase the drama by filming himself invading Hangman’s home and cutting a promo over Hangman’s baby’s crib. This drove Hangman into a rage, leading to an excessively violent Texas Death Match at Full Gear 2023. Once again, Swerve’s goons interfered, and Hangman lost during what was supposed to be his big revenge moment.

Swerve was becoming increasingly popular and successful, and it did not sit well with Hangman. They ended up crossing paths once again in a number one contender match for Samoa Joe’s AEW World Championship. After it went to a time limit draw, Hangman was happy, as he figured this ended Swerve’s title dreams. Instead, they were both named number one contender. Hangman became increasingly unstable in the lead-up to Revolution 2024. In the three-way match, Hangman ended up tapping to Joe’s Coquina Clutch, but it’s suggested that he did so because it meant he was screwing Swerve out of the victory and that was more important than anything else.

4. Orange Cassidy Is So, So Tired

When “Freshly Squeezed” Orange Cassidy’s signing was announced, some AEW fans considered it a misfire. He was just a lazy comedy wrestler! Cassidy could go in the ring, but he wrapped up that skill in a gimmick that painted him as a modern-day drunken master. The denim-wearing trickster became AEW International Champion and went on a tear, nonchalantly challenging anyone and everyone who wanted a shot at his belt. The belt that he carried in a Jansport backpack. Despite his wins, he wasn’t unscathed, constantly looking more tired and hurt in every appearance.

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Then Cassidy’s faction of Best Friends went to war with the Blackpool Combat Club and that sealed his fate, as it put him in the crosshairs of Jon Moxley. Cassidy was far from 100%, and even if he had been, his chances against the ace of the company were not very good. Defiant to the end, Cassidy lost the main event of All Out 2023 in front of an appreciative crowd. Moxley’s title reign was cut short due to injury and the belt eventually returned to Cassidy’s hands. This led to a rematch where Cassidy was able to prove himself as more than a joke, pinning Moxley and retaining the title.

3. Adam Copeland Gives Christian Cage Some TLC

Christian Cage found his niche as the AEW heel everyone loves to hate due to his smug obsession with making fun of wrestlers for having dead dads. As TNT Champion, he defeated Darby Allin with the help of his goons Killswitch and Nick Wayne. Suddenly, Christian’s longtime friend Adam “Edge” Copeland arrived, feigned a team-up, only to end up rescuing Darby. Copeland later made an impassioned plea for Christian to chill out and join him for one last run as a tag team. Christian hugged him, told him, “Go fuck yourself,” and walked away.

Copeland spent months chasing Christian’s championship. He even won it in a hardcore match before Christian finagled it back through a convoluted plot that gave him a sudden rematch. Copeland fell back down the ladder and decided to work his way up by taking on entertaining open challenges. Christian and his gang put Copeland on the shelf with a Conchairto for a bit, but he came back and challenged Christian to an I Quit Match. Christian finally got his just deserts when Copeland handcuffed him to the ropes and beat him in the crotch with a wooden plank covered in nails. The things you do for your friends.

2. MJF Learns to Never Meet Your Heroes

From the moment CM Punk joined AEW, MJF seemed like the money feud for him and it did not disappoint. The two masters of the microphone spent weeks getting under each other’s skin, culminating in a match in Chicago where MJF won due to cheating. Punk started messing with MJF some more to set up the rematch, which MJF eventually agreed to. With sadistic glee, Punk announced that they would face off in a Dog Collar Match at Revolution 2022.

Haunted by the stipulation, MJF started to get emotional about this rivalry, explaining how he was bullied in high school and tying it into his CM Punk fandom, and how CM Punk walking out of WWE in 2014 was a betrayal that drove MJF into becoming a monster. Punk was taken aback by this, but whether it was true or not, MJF used the advantage to kick Punk in the junk and beat him to a bloody pulp. That just set Punk off even more, culminating in a violent and satisfying match at Revolution where MJF got what was coming to him.

1. Hangman Adam Page vs. The Elite

For the first three years of AEW, Hangman Adam Page was treated as the protagonist. Losing to Chris Jericho in a match to crown the first inaugural champion screwed Hangman up mentally and it took him far too long to recover. As a member of the Elite, he became plagued with self-doubt, feelings of betrayal, imposter syndrome, and alcoholism. Even though he was able to turn things around with a killer tag title run with Kenny Omega, his mounting problems caused him to self-destruct, forcing the Young Bucks to sever ties and for Omega to become a self-centered prick.

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Soon after, Omega became AEW World Champion (and collected other top titles from other companies) and corrupted the Bucks into following his path. At his lowest point, Hangman found unlikely kinship in the Dark Order, a former evil cult of wrestlers who gradually turned into a clubhouse of loveable losers. Gradually realizing his self-worth, Hangman rose to challenge Omega at Full Gear 2021, where he won after two Buckshot Lariats. Afterwards, the Dark Order members offered him a beer, but he threw it aside and embraced his oddball buddies.