‘Gone so soon’ is the phrase that came to mind when news broke yesterday of Bobby Fish’s departure from AEW. But in the end, the news was also a very telling sign that things in AEW aren’t going all that well, for the wrestlers themselves and even Tony Khan behind the scenes.
Labeled the place with greener pastures, AEW for so long looked like the place to be for disgruntled pro wrestlers from other promotions—specifically WWE.
WWE had been lagging as far as creative direction was concerned and even in terms of management for so long. Arguably the place was a disaster for at least the last three years. The storylines were terrible and many stars were being underutilized and then boom, out of nowhere that switched—perhaps a lot of that having to do with Vince McMahon’s forced retirement due to the allegations thrown his way…hush money paid to women he requested sexual favors from for many years.
The festivities also started when Cody Rhodes (the turning of the tide if you will, to borrow a line from CS Forester), who helped build AEW into what it is today, jumped ship and returned to WWE at WrestleMania just this year and had a banger of a match with Seth Rollins. It was at that time specifically that things started to shake the foundations of AEW.
Already at that time and before though many were worried about the size of the AEW roster…many hardcore WWE fans suspecting that any added wrestler to that roster would be lost in the so-called shuffle. These worries came to fruition after Cody left and for some time even before as well.
Some stars aren’t seen on AEW TV for months at a time, their reps in the ring and their exposure suffering big time. These problems were already there beneath the surface.
When I spoke to Stu Grayson of The Dark Order for Slam Wrestling a few weeks back, he said the same thing…and he decided that he’d much rather return to the indie scene where yes he’d make less money but at least he’d be working, which sadly he couldn’t say he was doing in AEW. That was courageous on his part and commendable.
Which brings us to Bobby Fish. Fish is 45 and has made a career of being a wrestler’s wrestler. Educated feet, as he himself boasts and a strong work ethic, Bobby Fish delivers on every level…that vaudevillian-esque good looks of his, his impressive physique and even his microphone skills put him at the top of the NXT roster, but when things started to go sour in WWE he took his leave, opting to join in with AEW.
He signed a smaller contract than most at the time did however—perhaps we can add clairvoyance to his list of talents, I don’t know—but he is already leaving, the contract not being renewed…a decision that seemed to be mutual…even on the part of AEW themselves, according to numerous reports.
It had been only in October 2021 that he signed on with AEW. As it turns out, also according to reports, his good friends, Adam Cole and Kyle O’Reilly signed multi-year deals…perhaps even at the 5-year mark, so it doesn’t look like they’ll be working together again, as that would take Fish to 50 years old, and perhaps at that point he may have moved on to other things…maybe even producing, but at the same time I wouldn’t discount him being able to still go; especially when looking at other wrestlers like Billy Gunn, who still wrestles at 58.
Time will tell on that front, but it is quite sad. As far as his relationship with WWE is concerned, it is a good one. He has strong ties with Triple H still and a future for him back in WWE seems very possible. He has spoken well of the company and specifically Triple H on his podcast, so a future back in that realm is possible.
But all in all this can teach us a lesson, and perhaps teach Tony Khan and AEW a lesson: That the roster needs to be managed better…and an allocation of the talent on specific separate brands is in order now…Dark should be reserved for up and comers…there should be Dynamite stars and belts contested on that show alone, and the same goes for Rampage, and not to sound like a broken record, but there has to be a distinct ROH brand that has an official episodic television time slot!! PLEASE.
Hopefully this way, stars will not be lost in the shuffle and will get the air time they deserve. Maybe then, they can get back in the race for pro wrestling promotion domination, but until these issues are resolved, I get the feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of talented individuals from the AEW roster jumping ship. Bring on the flotation devices.