With both Jokers in the Owen Hart Tournament set to be revealed on Dynamite this Wednesday (May 18), and very little in the way of hints/teases as to who they may wind up being, what else is there to do but engage in (mostly) baseless speculation!
There's a pretty wide net of who could slot in to both tournaments, so let's take a look at a few of the most intriguing possibilities.
The artist formerly known as Ember Moon is one of the most popular choices to face Britt Baker in the first round, and for good reason. Athena is a world class wrestler looking to make a splash back in the wrestling scene after a disappointing main roster run with WWE. She'd also likely get a big hometown pop, as the Dynamite taping is taking place in her home state of Texas.
Mrs. Wrestling is certainly a possibility for the Owen Hart Tournament, given her close ties to The Young Bucks and recent rumors that there are people high up in AEW pushing for Tony Khan to sign her. The notable drawback here is that she's less than three months removed from giving birth to her first son, Quill, and she may not have gone back into training to get back into ring shape yet. However, given that both Jokers are debuting in the same night, there's a certain allure to hoping that Candace pops up to show Dr. Baker The Way... and possibly has a nice celebration with the men's Joker to close out the show, but more on that later.
The self-proclaimed Cutest Girl in the World has been a hit with fans and, seemingly, backstage during her brief appearances with AEW so far. She brings an excellent brand of in (and out of) ring comedy that transcends language barriers wherever she wrestles, and has history with her would-be opponent: two of her last three matches in AEW, she's tagged with Baker. Given that she'll be coming to the United States by the end of May for a date with Mia Yim, we could see the TJPW International Princess Champion come stateside a couple weeks early for this week's Dynamite.
Someone from Stardom
With AEW's relationship with NJPW getting an official crossover PPV in June, there's been plenty of speculation around the possibility of a future Stardom x AEW all-women's crossover show, since Stardom and NJPW are owned by the same parent company. Having a big name from Stardom popping up would be a good way to really get the hype train rolling if that's something in the cards. The recently returned KAIRI (fka Sane) would be a huge get, given her popularity and familiarity with working in the States following her time with NXT and WWE. Baker taking a round one loss feels unlikely, so Stardom may not want to sacrifice one of their champions or big names for a one-off, but they have no shortage of immensely talented wrestlers who could put on a hell of a show this Wednesday if called upon.
A returning AEW star
These two are being bundled up into one here, since it would be largely the same story. It's been quite some time since we've seen Miro or Brian Cage on our screens, and seeing either come back in this tournament would be a sight for sore eyes. Both could put on a very fun exhibition with Samoa Joe, and a win over such an established name would immediately put them back on track right away.
You knew this was coming if you read the Candace LeRae paragraph. Johnny Wrestling has not been seen in the ring since his NXT contract expired, and no matter how much fun he's having at home with his newborn, you just gotta know that he's feeling the itch to get back in the saddle. This might be the best way to do it, as he could do a one-off and go back home to the family, or if he's ready to make a full-time return, this would be a great way to debut him in AEW. And again, with both Jokers appearing on the same night...it would be pretty special to see The Garganos standing tall after round one.
El Toro Blanco is healed up and ready to rock, and he's got a list of names he wants to throw down with. Notably, all three of those names (Bryan Danielson, CM Punk, and Kenny Omega) just so happen to be AEW talent. Between that, Joe being ROH TV Champion and Rush having long-standing ties with ROH, and Rush's old Los Ingoberbables co-founder signed to AEW and currently lacking direction, a big debut for Rush seems imminent.
The Swiss Superman failed to reach a new deal with WWE, rather than being released, so he's not bound to a non-compete clause. AEW fans have been clamoring for Cesaro to be brought into the fold given his prodigious in-ring skill. Recent rumors suggest that he could be asking for too much money and pricing himself out of indie bookings and/or an AEW run, but that could just be smoke and mirrors to hide the big surprise of his debut here in the Owen Hart Tournament.
Honorable Mention: someone from NJPW
NJPW is running a big show in Washington D.C. just four days before the Joker match on Dynamite. With a bunch of NJPW's best and brightest in America in such close proximity to the match, it's hard not to consider just about any of their big names to make an appearance as the Joker. Sure, someone like Kazuchika Okada may be a long shot, but it would be easy to see someone like Jay White, Will Ospreay, or Tetsuya Naito to stop by AEW for a match with Samoa Joe, and possibly get the ball rolling on a feud for the upcoming Forbidden Door crossover event.
So who's it going to be?
It's damn near impossible to say, at the current moment. Tony Khan has been keeping his cards close to the chest on this one, with no hints on our televised AEW programming and nothing leaked to the dirt sheets so far.
For the women, Maki Itoh makes the most sense to me. She's a known commodity in the company, she has history with Baker, and she can take a loss; if you're going to debut Athena or Candace Lerae in that spot, you probably don't want them immediately losing, but you also probably don't want your most marketable women's star making a first round exit in this tournament.
For the men, Rush seems like the obvious choice. The Joker is matched up against an ROH champion, where most American fans were introduced to Rush. He didn't tweet out those three AEW names by accident. And the Andrade Family Office has more than run its course. Bringing in Rush gets AEW a top quality wrestler, and finally gives Andrade something substantial to do.
Agree? Disagree? Any obvious candidates that I missed? Sound off in the comments!