All Elite Wrestling's formula, in part, involves pairing high-profile names and veterans with young future stars in order to pave the way for the company long term. AEW president Tony Khan has a lot in store for 2022, including a renewed focus on at least one young athlete.
Dante Martin, 20, broke out as fan-favorite singles wrestler for AEW this year. He was featured prominently in a storyline with Team Taz and Lio Rush, and fought MJF for the Dynamite Diamond Ring. As one-half of the grounded Top Flight tag team, Dante is not the only Martin on AEW's payroll.
"I think for a variety of reasons, there's a number of people I'm excited to feature in the coming year," Khan said. "For example, it was completely out of everyone's control, but Darius Martin has been out injured and I think he's tremendous. I would love to get him back soon and teaming with his brother, Dante. Dante has become a big star and I think they were tremendous as a tag team.
"When the injury happened, Darius was 21 and Dante was 19. Now Dante is 20 and has been featured so much on Dynamite and Rampage and has now been a main eventer on Dynamite. When Darius comes back, I think he's somebody that could come in and be great for us. So I'm really excited about him in particular. That's an important name to keep an eye on."
Check out the full interview with Tony Khan below.
Following "Hangman" Adam Page's coronation as AEW World Champion at Full Gear, Khan revealed that he had the company's first four champions -- Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, Kenny Omega and Page -- mapped out from the start. Moving forward, the approach to booking the world title scene will be more fluid.
"I think a lot has changed in recent months and some huge stars have come into AEW. The No. 1 contender now is Bryan Danielson," Khan said. "I think that's the biggest rivalry in AEW and maybe all of wrestling right now. Bryan Danielson vs. 'Hangman' Page. Bryan Danielson, I can tell you officially as the rankings committee, Bryan Danielson is still the No. 1 contender, and I'm very excited for the resolution of this situation...
"So any plans that we might've had in advance really have to go out the window when you have such a great No. 1 contender stepping into the situation. And so many other huge wrestlers have joined AEW just in recent months. Huge names like CM Punk, Adam Cole, Malakai Black, Andrade El Idolo and many others. There is a great title picture and a lot of other great wrestlers in AEW who I think could be great champions like PAC, MJF, Jungle Boy, the TNT champion Sammy Guevara, Darby Allin and so many other great wrestlers potentially who could step up."
Many promotions have elevated women to roles overseeing the development of their women's divisions. Gail Kim in Impact, Mickie James in NWA and Maria Kanellis-Bennett in ROH. Khan highlighted Serena Deeb as a talent involved behind the scenes of both AEW's women's and men's divisions.
"Serena Deeb is a great coach and has a great mind for wrestling and is very involved backstage as far as in the women's division. She's got a great presence and has a great mind," Khan said. "So she's somebody who has coached matches, but not just in the women's division. Serena also coaches matches in the men's division. She's got a great head for it."
AEW saw significant growth in 2021: The launch of AEW Rampage, more than a dozen episodes cracking 1 million viewers and major signings like Punk and Danielson. Khan is excited for what's on the horizon.
"To continue expanding," Khan said of his New Year's resolution. "We've got the Battle of the Belts, and the Owen Hart Cup, and so much more to come in 2022. We've developed the roster so much in the past year, more than I honestly had ever dreamed we could going into the year. So I look forward to what's ahead in 2022. What a year it was. Our four pay-per-views this year happened to be the four biggest pay-per-views we've ever done. Our top four box office shows of all time. The last two are the top two. We've ended up in an amazing place and it's very exciting going into 2022."