AEW is chockablock with various stables, from high-profile units like The Elite to lowly units like The Wingmen. This could be a daunting hurdle for new AEW fans, so I have not only summarized each group, but I have ranked them. For this list, I am considering any group of three or more a faction, and my opinion is completely subjective and mostly dumb.
As much as it pains me, this currently disqualifies the two teams that could easily take the number one and two spots: Suzuki-Gun and Pencil Army. Lance Archer and Minoru Suzuki joined forces in full Suzuki-Gun attire at AEW Grand Slam, but only as a tag team. (Bring Taichi!) Similarly, ChocoPro’s Pencil Army is represented by Emi Sakura and Lulu Pencil in AEW, but mostly as roving reporters.
— Emi Sakura (@EmiSakura_gtmv) September 25, 2021
Another honorable mention—if only for speculation’s sake—is NJPW’s Bullet Club, who have been represented in AEW by both KENTA and Hikuleo, and Jay White has faced off with The Elite in Impact, but nothing more substantial has come from that.
17. Gunn Club
Members: Billy Gunn, Austin Gunn, Colten Gunn
Positives: Billy lookin’ real jacked baby
Negatives: everything else
Billy Gunn and two Billy Gunn clones are the least interesting stable in AEW so they rank at the very bottom. Formerly of the Nightmare Family, the Gunn Club went out on their own in one of the least interesting heel turns in recent memory. But there is beauty in being the worst, and white dudes who think their dad is the coolest is a funny concept. Plus, after their heel turn on Paul Wight and feud Sting, I appreciate that they mainly target their Dad’s peers.
16. The Factory
aka “the worst”
Members: QT Marshall, Anthony Ogogo, Nick Comoroto, Aaron Solow
Positives: they also hate Cody
Negatives: so very boring
QT Mar-shall (pronounce it like the name of a Marvel Comics alien) was Cody Rhodes’ right-hand man at the Nightmare Factory training school, and a regular partner of Dustin’s before a mid-life crisis led to hair plugs, a paypig relationship with Allie and finally, a proper mutiny. Along with some disgruntled rookies that rightfully wanted stop wearing Cody’s dumb tattoo on their gear, Marshall lead his deserters right into the desert of losing every big match.
Olympic bronze medalist in boxing, Anthony Ogogo is the most high profile member of the group, but has been absent until very recently. He’s joinged by the massive “Mr. Freakbeast” Nick Comoroto and Aaron Solow, who haven’t done much outside of AEW Dark thus far.
15. The Wingmen
aka “horny J.O.B. Squad”
Members: “Pretty” Peter Avalon, Ryan Nemeth, J.D. Drake, Cezar Bononi
Positives: when they wheel Avalon out on a heart-shaped dolly
Negatives: still virgins
Pinkies out! This mismatched group of “guys on their way to the club” may absolutely suck in storyline, but their mere existence is actually nice to see. Watching four guys that don’t have a ton in common figure out something to do reminds me of early NXT. Bononi gets to show some personality, Drake gets to dress like Big Bubba, and Avalon and the brother Ziggler can do their schtick.
14. American Top Team
aka “shitty dad, two generic heels, and a bunch of unidentified mixed martial artists”
Members: Dan Lambert, Scorpio Sky, Ethan Page, Junior dos Santos, Andrei Arlovski, Jorge Masvidal, Paige VanZant, Amanda Nunes, Kayla Harrison, Austin Vanderford, Dalton Rosta, literally hundreds more
Positives: tons of legitimate athletes
Negatives: Dan Lambert
— TDE Wrestling (@tde_gif) September 25, 2021
A lifelong wrestling fan, Dan Lambert used his dirty cruise line money to purchase a respected gym and later form American Top Team, churning out numerous champions in UFC, PRIDE, K-1, etc, eventually becoming known for his showman antics on The Ultimate Fighter.
Joining ATT member Bobby Lashley during some cross-promotion with Bellator and Impact Wrestling, he relished the opportunity to become an on-screen character, later appearing in MLW and now AEW as the sweaty old who hates snowflake millennials, and hangs around with menswear aficionados Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page and a coven of legit fighters with minimal character development. It’s a fun attraction, but it’s more boring than triggering.
13. (Unincorporated Faces #1)
aka “The Dragon Express”
Bryan Danielson, Christian Cage, Jungle Boy, “Elite Hunter” Frankie Kazarian, Luchasaurus, Marko Stunt
Positives: Some of these people are the best
Negatives: No team name, no matching shirts
The Jurassic Express are a stable, and a fun one at that. They’ve never been explained but you’ve never needed to explain it. However, the act has been a bit watered down by the inclusion of other stars who needed backup in their fights against The Elite.
12. (Unincorporated Heels)
aka “My Two Dads”
Members: Jeff Parker, Matt Lee, Daniel Garcia
Positives: Jeff Parker, Matt Lee, Daniel Garcia
Negatives: they tend to lose a lot
The trio of 2point0 and Daniel Garcia could have ranked higher with better branding. I appreciate the red ensembles, though. A fragile alliance if there ever was one, the trio came into AEW and picked on the baddest dogs in the yard, UNINCORPORATED FACES #2 (see below), and were mostly trounced. Yet despite this, they continue to be a happy family. Rising star Garcia is great has a hell of an upside—and the underrated Parker and Lee are artful cannon fodder for top stars in between feuds.
11. Inner Circle
aka “Vest Friends”
Members: Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara, Jake Hager, Santana, Ortiz, Fuego Del Sol (by association), Konnan (by association), Mike Tyson (honorary)
Positives: the silly skits
Negatives: ok where do I begin?
Born on the inaugural AEW Dynamite, Jericho’s group seemed a little all over the place at first glance. Why is the Trump-loving Jake Hager with these Brooklyn Nuyoricans and this vlogging “Spanish God” under the leadership of a guy that looks like a Viper Room regular? But the Jericho touch worked it’s magic despite all odds, and the Inner Circle got over.
Despite a second chance at life with a victory over The Pinnacle, one where the Inner Circle would be forced to disband if they had lost, we haven’t seen much of the group. Sammy recently won the TNT Championship, and none of his Inner Circle were around to celebrate. However, they reunited for a feud with American Top Team. I see past your vests, fair weather friends. You are NO Aces & Eights.
10. The Pinnacle
aka “literally just The Four Horsemen”
Members: MJF, Shawn Spears, Dax Harwood, Cash Wheeler, Wardlow, Tully Blanchard
Positives: suits, planes, the occasional neckerchief
Negatives: edgelord promos, the phrase “hard-nosed Carolina boys”
Yes, the Pinnacle is pretty much the Four Horsemen. But there’s a reason why the WCW’s Horsemen were rebooted multiple times, why WWE’s Evolution was a success, why TNA’s Fourtune…existed. The formula works!
MJF is a great talker, Wardlow looks like a million bucks, FTR are the perfect tag team in the ring, and Shawn Spears is a good accountabili-buddy! Plus, Tully gives the group some gravitas, and let us not forget, this Flaming Saddles-esque visual:
They would be ranked higher but their group victories haven’t felt that great, and their losses were unnecessary. They feel like they’re drifting apart lately, only uniting on a recent AEW Dark. Otherwise, they would be ranked higher!
9. (Unincorporated Faces #2)
aka “Sting’s Squadron”
Members: Jon Moxley, Sting, Darby Allin, Eddie Kingston
Again, not an official stable, but when they all come out together it’s quite the spectacle. Just a bunch of IDGAF dudes in all different genres. Add CM Punk to the mix too, why not? It’s a telling feat to be not much of anything and still rank higher than actual teams only because most of them are GOATs.
8. The Nightmare Family
aka “Cody’s immediate family and people in track jackets”
Members: Cody Rhodes, Brandi Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, Arn Anderson, “Big Shotty” Lee Johnson, Brock Anderson, maybe like 100 more people?
Positives: Red Velvet—STERRIT UP!
Negatives: it’s less of a stable and more of an entourage
Like a lot of Cody Rhodes’ stuff, the Nightmare Family’s whole deal is seemingly well-intentioned but often comes out an ugly mess. The core members of the group include the other AEW EVP Cody Rhodes, his wife Brandi Rhodes, his brother Dustin Rhodes, and his forever-awesome coach, Arn Anderson, who occasionally gives “tough love” pep talks about taking a glock and blowing a hypothetical carjacker’s brains out.
The group also includes a rotation of rookie wrestlers from the Nightmare Factory training school. Core members of the second tier include Lee Johnson, Brock Anderson (Arn’s clone) and Red Velvet—STERRIT UP!—the only junior member with any discernible personality. Fuego Del Sol, KiLynn King, Preston Vance and Baron Black have also been associated with the group, but maybe only got the track jackets. This is impossible to follow if you don’t watch all of the AEW YouTube shows.
There was also a minute where Brandi had her own kinda spooky offshoot called The Nightmare Collective with Awesome Kong, Luther and Mel. I consider this part of the larger group because they all posed for a holiday photo once:
HAPPY NEW YEAR – 2019 I had the privilege of being flanked by the best folks behind the scenes and on camera. Looking forward to attacking 2020 with ferocity and surrounding myself with those who want to #DoTheWork pic.twitter.com/K2J73fDmyz
— AEW COMMUNITY OUTREACH (@CodyRhodes) January 2, 2020
The Nightmare Family also has a legends wing, including Glacier, Tommy Dreamer and Diamond Dallas Page, and a celebrity wing including Stephen Amell, Rosario Dawson, T-Pain and Snoop Dogg. Since they’re a group centered around Cody Rhodes, they’re naturally a little bland and sometimes too much, but Cody deserves some credit of using the affiliation as a showcase for rookies and worthy veterans.
7. Varsity Blonds
aka “non-threatening teenagers from the ‘80s maybe”
Members: Brian Pillman Jr., Griff Garrison, Julia Hart
Positives: they seem nice
Negatives: they often just ignore that Griff is part of the team
Nothin’ wrong with a good white-meat babyface team! ????
6. Hardy Family Office
aka “a lot all at once”
Members: Matt Hardy, The Butcher, The Blade, The Bunny, Angelico, Jack Evans, Isaiah Kassidy, Marq Quen, Jora Johl, Penelope Ford(?)
Positives: look at that fucking picture what the hell is this that’s not even all of them
Negatives: Matt Hardy is the centerpiece
Matt Hardy’s success has always been his embrace of camp, especially as the years pass by the 29-year veteran. When he’s just a little
BROKEN!, he can be incredible. “Big Money” Matt Hardy is a watered-down version of that. I guess the idea is that he’s rich, and I dunno, exploitative? Look at his shirt: “The Truth is the Truth”—what does that even mean? And it’s been plainly explained on television that Hardy’s contracts are very bad but nobody seems to care that they’re making less money.
However, look at the weird crew he’s assembled above. Just look at that visual. Martin Douglas even reviewed their whole vibe recently. None of it makes sense. It reminds me of old photos of random Survivor Series teams. It’s even missing The Bunny and Penelope who would add even more WTF to it. Then look at when they make their combined entrance. Angelico is doing his sexy dance, Private Party is doing theirs. The Bunny is being weird, skipping around. Low-key chaos. I absolutely love it.
— Jora Johl (@jorajohl) September 7, 2021
Also, props to Jora Johl, who is weirdly sweet towards his boss.
5. Death Triangle
aka “crazy luchadores, miserable Brit—and why is that nerd with them?”
Members: Penta El Zero M, Rey Fenix, PAC, Alex Abrahantes
Positives: Three legit badasses
Negatives: Alex seems very nice but why is he there and what’s up with the gloves?
Also why do you need a translator for Penta? He really only says two words. They still rank high anyways, they’re badasses.
4. The Elite
Members: Kenny Omega, Nick Jackson, Matt Jackson, Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, Adam Cole, Don Callis, Brandon Cutler, Michael Nakazawa
How the mighty have fallen. A few weeks ago, these guys were the top of the mountain, with tons of gold and company sway, intentionally looking like total fucking shit. They still insisted on calling themselves the elite members of a company they founded, whose name literally implies a lack of such hierarchy. Great bit.
— Brandon Cutler (@BranCutler) August 1, 2021
A group with roots dating back to NJPW’s Bullet Club and years of vlog storylines, The Elite’s current iteration really came together with the help of interloper Don Callis. As Kenny and the Bucks turned heel and began to make some of the most upsetting sartorial choices imaginable, Callis also brought Omega to Impact Wrestling, where he reunited Omega with dangly-loving Gallows & Anderson. Adam Cole’s arrival in AEW only added to the smarminess of the group, but was the first seed in it’s dissolution. The Good Brothers have vanished, and Kenny is benched for the foreseeable future.
But they still rank high, not only for their long history but a clear-cut tier system. The group has two cronies: Michael Nakazawa and Brandon Cutler. Nakazawa is Omega’s weird friend who often talks into a headset mic to no one. Cutler’s gimmick is “camera guy” and “cold spray applicator.” It’s reminiscent of the nWo B-Team with Vincent and Horace.
3. Team Taz
aka “smirking jocks”
Members: Ricky Starks, Powerhouse Hobbs, Hook, Taz, Dante Martin
Positives: aesthetics, outfits, Hook’s hair, Taz doesn’t give a shit
Negatives: not enough Hook
This team is money. Now that they’ve dumped the dead weight of Brian Cage and blessed Dante Martin with a personality, they’ve gone from a group of dumb jocks to a group of cool jocks. They’re supposed to be heels but nobody in the group is unlikeable. Ricky Starks has a very special charisma, Hobbs is cool, Dante is incredible and Taz is a great ass. And they’ve just had Hook out there for a year doing nothing but eating chips, and when he finally steps in the ring, it’s gonna feel like a big deal.
2. Best Friends (A Subsidiary of CHAOS)
aka “the best friends”
Members: Orange Cassidy, Kris Statlander, Chuck Taylor, Trent?, Wheeler Yuta, Trent’s mom Sue
Satellite Members: Rocky Romero, Yoshi-Hashi, Toru Yano, Yoh, Mickey Nicholls, Hirooki Goto, Robbie Eagles, Tomohiro Ishii and Kazuchika Okada
Positives: “Where Is My Mind” by The Pixies
Negatives: lackadaisical group with lackadaisical booking
You watch the Best Friends, and you wanna hang out with them. Orange, Chuck and the injured Trent are fun to watch. Kris is an alien I guess, but not like how Abadon is a zombie. Wheeler is cool and I like that they act like they’re doing him a favor letting them hang out with him. I wish AEW would tell more stories with them—ones that don’t involve video games and butlers, and more that involve Trent’s mom.
But there’s a huge upside now, since they’ve been added as members of Chaos. We got a random tag match with Ishii! We could get Toru Yano someday! Hell, we could get Okada! (Though with Orange Cassidy, it’ll probably be balloons Okada.)
1. The Dark Order
aka “the rare good cult”
Members: Brodie Lee Jr. (-1), Evil Uno (1), Stu Grayson(2), Alex Reynolds (3), John Silver (4), Alan Angels (5), Colt Cabana (8), Preston Vance (10), Anna Jay (99), Tay Conti (by association), Hangman Adam Page (by association)
The Dark Order, from it’s beginning, has been a little all over the place. Originally just Uno and Grayson and their “creepers” that threw sloppy Shane-punches, they promoted a way of life that was never quite expounded upon, seeking out followers and amassing a team of numbered losers. But these members that they assembled all began to shine with the arrival of the “Anointed One” himself, Brodie Lee.
Brodie himself was undervalued and portrayed a cultist in his time in WWE, but with his arrival in AEW, as well as his more comedic side on Being The Elite, Brodie’s talents showed through. He took to shaping up a motley team of losers (and also Anna Jay), evolving this half-baked storyline into something like a sitcom.
Despite the terrible tragedy of Brodie’s death, the love of the AEW roster brought some magic the night of the Brodie tribute, one of the most genuinely touching moments wrestling has produced. When his actual, Negative One, became a full-fledged member of the Dark Order, it didn’t feel exploitative. When Uno stepped up as an unlikely challenger for the TNT title and dedicated his match to his friend, there was electricity in the air. When they made their big entrance, keeping a spare spotlight lit for Brodie, it didn’t feel forced.
Even when they were not being focused on, the group felt like a tight, unbreakable unit. And when dissension was teased in the group, the “wait and see” mentality that WWE has crushed, actually paid off in a genuinely touching way. It’s an extraordinarily delicate line to walk, but they do it well.
And when they welcomed in Hangman Page, a loner cowboy, into the group—it made sense, even if the visual was a little strange. Their “cowboy” promo before the Space Jam match was excellent. And then, they added to a compelling journey to Hangman’s AEW Championship win. And now they all get to shine for a brief moment before Bryan Danielson kicks the teeth out of their mouth. It’s a great team, and the best stable in AEW.