Kyle O'Reilly Explains Why He Left WWE for AEW
Kyle O'Reilly kicked off 2021 as the only man in WWE history to hold the NXT Tag Team Championships three times and was once again challenging Finn Balor for the NXT Championship following their hard-hitting classic at NXT TakeOver 31. By the end of the year, he was on AEW Dynamite standing side-by-side by Adam Cole and Bobby Fish as the reunited Undisputed Era in All Elite Wrestling. His contract with WWE expired in early December and within weeks he jumped to the rival promotion. So why make the change?
In a new interview on Talk Is Jericho, O'Reilly went through the steps of his decision. He explained, "Seeing Bobby and Adam come [to AEW], how could you not want to be back with these guys and part of a group like AEW where every week it's like a TakeOver crowd, just on TV. We talk about the natural progression and next steps of one's career and it felt like, for me, it was the next logical step for me. NXT 2.0 rebrand happened and it felt like, before the rebrand, Kyle O'Reilly was a top guy in NXT and after the rebrand, plans shifted. That's fine, it's business. I'm totally willing to do what I can do get anyone else get over and for the last few months there, I tried my damndest to do so with everyone I worked with. I just wanted to be excited about going to work again and I felt like I left a ton on the table with New Japan and then here, I know there is a good relationship with New Japan. It seemed like a new frontier. There are so many talented guys, so many exciting matchups, so many exciting tag matches because the tag division is stacked and I love tag team wrestling and my tag team partner, the company released and now he's [in AEW]. My deal was done, it was coming up in December, and I ended up doing a week extension just to finish up and do good business by them and finish with WarGames and TV to put Von Wagner over and do business right. I'm happy to do so. The opportunity came to come here, sorting a deal out with Tony (Khan) a day or two before my debut and here we are."
In an interview with ComicBook right before the start of the new year, Tony Khan talked about what it meant to him to get Cole, Fish and O'Reilly all under contract. When AEW first launched Dynamite in October 2019, the trio were three of the top WWE stars leading the charge against the young promotion via NXT.
"I really do value that," Khan said. "It reminds me in sports, say in football, you play against an opponent, and they have great players. And if you could sign those players that used to compete with you, and give you trouble when you were game-planning. If these were the people you game-planned against and knew that these would be the toughest matchups, then to bring those people onto your team, those are some of the best acquisitions you can make. And to be able to add Adam Cole and Bobby Fish, and now to have Kyle O'Reilly make his debut on AEW Dynamite this week, I think it's very special. It's that much more special to do it in Daily's Place, the home of AEW, where we've competed against those guys (WWE) so much. And to have that act, Adam Cole, Kyle O'Reilly, and Bobby Fish come in against one of our top homegrown acts, Orange Cassidy, and The Best Friends, it's a big, big deal here. It's very symbolic, it's very fitting. I'm very happy JR (Jim Ross, returning from his battle with skin cancer) is going to return to the broadcast booth, and he'll be there to call that match. It should be great."