Out of every superstar to jump ship from WWE to AEW, FTR might be the most notable.
The former NXT Tag Team Champions requested their release multiple times, were widely outspoken about their unhappiness, and even openly teased an eventual match with AEW co-EVPs, the Young Bucks. While the former Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder were granted their WWE release earlier this year, the duo noted that they were almost tempted to stay. Speaking to talkSPORT, Dax Harwood revealed a certain Cerebral Assassin courted them with yellow brand contracts.
“There were talks with us and Triple H to go back to NXT and they tried very hard to keep us,” Harwood said. “It was all professional and all respectful and we were very gracious to the offers we got and to what Triple H was going to provide for us, but ultimately, we knew that our time in WWE was over at that time.”
“Once we got pulled from all of our dates on the main roster, it was down to NXT as the option and we talked to Hunter at length,” Wheeler said. “There were offers on the table that were very tempting because we loved NXT and we loved our time there, but at the end of the day like Dax said, we knew that our time there was done.”
The former Revival enjoyed tremendous success during their tenure with NXT, putting on instant classics with teams like DIY and American Alpha. While a return to Full Sail could have meant the opportunity to mix it up with new teams, Harwood says he knew they were ready to leave when the lucrative contract offers weren’t appealing.
“We knew it was time for us to move on because money is great,” Harwood said. “And I am so fortunate and lucky to take care of my beautiful wife and perfect little six year old daughter because of professional wrestling, but that’s what it’s because of – professional wrestling.
“And we owe professional wrestling something and not just because of monetary reasons, but because of what it has done for us in the past as kids, growing up into adults and now being able to provide for ourselves and our families.”
While there were theoretical opportunities for Harwood and Wheeler in NXT, the duo couldn’t rely on unreliable promises from World Wrestling Entertainment.
“If we stayed with the uncertainly that would have been for The Revival, we would have done a disservice to ourselves and professional wrestling. We never want to do that,” Harwood said. “We want to give. Want to give back to wrestling and the way for us to do that was to come to AEW and work with the best tag teams on the planet, head that division and ultimately give pro wrestling this match with the Young Bucks at Full Gear.”
“We didn’t want to go back to the past – we’d done that,” Wheeler said. “We wanted to come here [AEW]. We wanted to travel the world. We wanted to be doing something that makes a difference and impacts wrestling for the better and there we were just going to be cogs in the machine.”
Around this time last year, AEW EVP Cody Rhodes cut a promo in which he referred to AEW as “Ellis Island for a professional wrestler.” In their first few months with the promotion, Harwood and Wheeler have already had the chance to mix it up with great teams like SoCal Uncensored and Jurassic Express, as well as unseating the longest-reigning AEW Tag Team Champions in Kenny Omega and ‘Hangman’ Adam Page. Wheeler praised the opportunities AEW creates, saying they are doing something that hasn’t been done for decades.
“Here, we have a team of people in this company that are doing things that nobody thought was possible since WCW went out of business,” Wheeler said. “There’s been nothing close to this. And you have this team in place here, with everybody working together and they want to better professional wrestling for the people here now and for generations of wrestlers to come.
“That’s what we wanted to do. If we’re going to do anything with our remaining years in wrestling, it wasn’t going to be something we’ve already done. We had to go somewhere new and challenge ourselves.”