Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows are now with IMPACT Wrestling, but there was a point in time where their next destination would've been AEW, something quite a few fans had hoped for. That didn't end up happening, though it came extremely close to coming to fruition, and in a new conversation with Talk'N Shop, Gallows and Anderson revealed why it didn't happen and that there was a little bad blood in the aftermath of the deal falling through. At the time Gallows and Anderson were extremely unhappy at WWE and had deals on the table from New Japan, IMPACT, and AEW thanks to a long dialogue with The Young bucks (via Fightful).
"We messaged the Young Bucks because we heard rumblings of stuff they were doing. We stayed close with them the entire time, but hadn't heard exactly what they were going to do," Anderson said. "We sat with the Bucks and talked to them about what they were going to start, left and went to the house show, how fucking excited were we? This is 10 months before Dynamite debut. They were telling us what we were gonna do, and it's not that we didn't believe them, it was like 'fuck, is this gonna happen?' As the year went on, we realized we really wanted to leave. A big part of us, we were nervous about it not going on television. Around July was when Triple H teamed with us in Japan and Hunter was calling us and texting us daily trying to get us to sign a deal. Their price kept going up and Hunter would tell us how badly they wanted us."
Gallows and Anderson would meet with The Young Bucks about a possible move to AEW on December 10th, 2018, though at the time WWE was also trying to keep them with a lucrative contract.
"We were dancing for a year," Gallows said. "We walked into Carrano's office a year before we were up and he was like, 'We gotta talk contracts.' We went, 'Oh f***.' We thought they were gonna forget we were signed because at the time it was during our rollercoaster ride. 'We are gonna ride this shit out and get away with it.' They were on our asses and knew we were friends with Kenny and the Bucks and weren't happy with how we were being used. This was jumping from WWE to something we weren't sure was going to happen or not. There's excitement there, but we're professional wrestlers and over our careers, we've heard of the next big thing coming, 'this guy has big money,' 'this is the next alternative' and nine times out of ten, it never comes to fruition. Not that we don't trust our friends, we had all the faith in the world in them, but you're dealing with big corporations and big business, 'is this really going to happen?' We're American television famous now, how much is New Japan going to pay, is it comparable to these paydays we've been getting? Now, you're stacking up this downside guarantee, which in the past was so low, is it gonna measure up? When Triple H is telling you, 'I want this to set you up for the rest of your life,' you're going, 'Fuck man, we're gonna make a few million dollars over a few years,' it's a hard thing to dance around. It comes down to being able to say no to somebody who is very charming."
Things got very close regarding a deal with AEW, and while a contract had not been signed AEW was already figuring out how to debut them, and it would've been on the debut episode of Dynamite. The fact that it didn't happen is one of Anderson's biggest regrets.
"As it got to June, I remember the text from Matt & Nick and they had planned out the entire first debut of Dynamite's main event," Anderson said. "Machine Gun music hits, I come out, Gallows comes from behind, we 'too sweet' the Young Bucks and Kenny, turn around, then we beat the f*** out of them. That's the end of the first night of [Dynamite]. It's one of the biggest regrets of my life that it didn't happen. It kills me. We didn't know if it was going to take off on TNT, but we knew with the guys involved, Young Bucks, Kenny, Chris Jericho, those are guys that are successful and are not going to fail. We knew AEW would be successful, we just succumbed to the amount of money and promises, kept or unkept, by WWE. We signed because of the thought that it was going to be our last contract and we were gonna ride it out and wave the WWE flag as high as we could."
As things neared their departure date The Young Bucks wanted to get Anderson and Gallows into a room with AEW owner Tony Khan, but that never happened because the duo signed with WWE.
"AEW wasn't throwing chump change at us. It was a really good contract that still kind of eats at me," Anderson said. "IMPACT in 2019 also offered a really great deal. Truthfully, more money than some of my friends are making now in WWE. The Bucks set us up with a contract and said 'lets get you in there with Tony [Khan] and just talk to him.' We flew to Japan, agreed with Hunter and shook his hand."
That decision did lead to some bad blood with those at AEW trying to make the deal happened, especially since Anderson and Gallows had been so adamant for a while that they were leaving and headed to All Elite.
"For a good six months, we told the Bucks and Kenny we were coming, no matter what because we were that ready to go," Anderson said. "This is where it bothers me a lot that we didn't bet on ourselves and allow ourselves to leave because we knew that we should have. That's why I'm so glad with FTR getting out on their own terms and being able to do what they did. There were some hard feelings because people trusted the Bucks and they told other parties that we were coming and we didn't come. It made them look like they couldn't close the deal."
"There was probably a little heat internally there," Gallows said. "We have friends there, a friend who is in a high power position, who was like, 'What the f***, guys?' I think he's still a little offended by it. My answer to him, if he ever hears this; none of this was ever personal. We appreciate the offer and everything was trying to do. It was clearly a business decision. We were looking at a five-year deal as opposed to a two-year deal with maybe a one-year option. When you start calculating that money and where you're going to be in five years, especially with 'you're going to be here for the full five years and there was plans for you after,' it's like, you're stacking millions and millions against, ultimately, the smaller figure. Should we have taken the smaller figure and bet on ourselves and been something really cool again like we were in New Japan? F*** YES! Is the egg on our face? It's running down our face right now. But a lot of people in that situation, when you look at your kids and wife, would say, 'How do I say no to them backing up a bank truck to the front of the house and dropping the load in front of the door.' It wasn't to be harmful or spiteful. It was a business decision to do what we thought was best for our family."
Hopefully, the bad blood is a thing of the past, as AEW is doing immensely well and Anderson and Gallows have a bright future in IMPACT, and who knows, maybe AEW is still in the cards down the line.