From the moment the words AEW were (officially) uttered for the first time back in January, the scramble for wrestling talent suddenly became more ferocious than it's been at any point since silence descended on the Monday Night Wars' battlefield twenty years ago.
WWE's unparalleled avarice had already been called into action back in 2016, when the revival of British wrestling and the increasing relevance of the US independent scene rocked their complacency. The company's trawlers were sent out across the indie oceans, with the criteria for selection widened from 'somebodies' to 'anybodies'. So long as low-balled development contracts with future guarantees would keep potential talent out of potential competition's hands, it was worth the outlay.
AEW's subsequent emergence is no coincidence; Cody's company - and the financial backing of Tony Khan - is the direct blowback to Stamford's monopolistic tendencies. One of the upstart's stated ambitions is to make the industry a fairer place for its workers, and key to that is the freedom of work - specifically, the freedom to earn big bucks outside a single employer.
As the Wednesday Night Wars pick up steam, WWE will be looking to broaden their hand further still, and spike interest with that tried-and-tested wrestling trope: the big return. The circumstances mean that most of the business' relevant talent is locked down at the close of 2019 - but not all. These familiar faces could yet make a comeback.