WWE competitor AEW has let Dark Order’s Stu Grayson’s contract expire – not the first quiet departure this spring.
He was one of the first surprises WWE competitor All Elite Wrestling pulled out of a hat on the big stage – now his career there has apparently quietly faded away.
AEW has removed Dark Order’s Stu Grayson’s profile from its roster page, with the league letting the 33-year-old’s contract expire, according to consistent media reports. “Both sides could not agree on the financial terms of a new deal,” reports Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, the scene’s most prominent journalist.
Continuing a streak of breakups, AEW most recently also failed to renew deals with “Bad Boy” Joey Janela, 6’5″ man Marko Stunt and Jack Evans – wrestlers who were signed in the inaugural year of 2019 but ultimately failed to move beyond supporting roles in the increasingly strong and prominent league.
In principle, the same is true of Grayson, yet his departure is generally perceived as a somewhat more painful cut. AEW loses in him a much underestimated talent who was involved in some memorable moments.
Stu Grayson debuted at AEW in Jon Moxley’s shadow
Prior to AEW, Grayson was known as Stupefied and formed the independent duo The Super Smash Brothers with the masked Evil Uno.
The two debuted at the inaugural 2019 Pay Per View Double or Nothing in the shadow of Jon Moxley (Dean Ambrose): Attacking Best Friends and Evans and Angelico, they introduced their new character as the Dark Order, initially presented as an evil and mysterious cult.
After a rather slow start, the grouping picked up steam when Brodie Lee (Luke Harper), who had been booted out of WWE, joined AEW and was chosen as the leader of the Dark Order. With the Exalted One at the helm, the Dark Order became a force to be reckoned with – before Lee’s tragic death in late 2020 gave the story a new twist.
Dark Order reinvented after Brodie Lee’s death
Reinforced with various young hopefuls and a few veterans like Colt Cabana, the Dark Order became crowd favourites in the wake of Lee’s much-praised memorial show.
Last year, she was given another supporting role, assisting the up-and-coming Hangman Page and ultimately helping him rise to World Champion in place of his rival Kenny Omega.
Grayson was never at the forefront of these feuds, but as a wrestler he was possibly the best of the bunch: in big matches – most notably the elimination match against Omega’s alliance The Elite, which was central to the Page-Omega feud – the Canadian high-flyer Grayson consistently turned in outstanding performances.
Commentary legend Jim Ross, who also has a trained eye as WWE’s former head of personnel, repeatedly praised Grayson as one of the best athletes in the league.
Probably not in demand at WWE
The whole big breakthrough still didn’t happen for Grayson and with his exit from AEW his career on a big mainstream stage might be over: The chances of a commitment to WWE – where the talent policy has recently been focussed on visually outstanding sports newcomers under 30 – are likely to be rather poor.
The current series of departures at AEW nevertheless underlines a difference in the league: AEW boss Tony Khan has repeatedly emphasised that he does not want to resort to the style of large waves of dismissals repeatedly used at WWE – and again just last week – and wants to respect contracts. The culture Khan propagates is more reminiscent of other sports such as professional football – in which Khan is also involved with Fulham FC in England.
Nevertheless, the recent departures have not gone quietly: Janela, for example, publicly criticised AEW’s style in an interview with podcaster Denise Salcedo: at a certain point, there was simply “radio silence” on the part of the management with him and Stunt, and the two could only have guessed where they stood for a long time.
Stunt had not been employed by AEW since September, but was allegedly only informed of his departure by AEW’s head of talent Christopher Daniels at the end of March.