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By Mike Johnson on 2024-03-18 13:00:00

With the AEW debut of the former Sasha Banks, Mercedes Mone last week, there’s been a lot of attention on her Dynamite debut, but an equally important story is how and why she landed with All Elite Wrestling. is told by multiple sources from both WWE and AEW that each side had pursued and were willing to commit to deals that amounted to eight figures in total over the course of the deals, which would be record breaking numbers for a female performer in professional wrestling - and now makes her likely the top paid female performer in the history of the business.

In the case of AEW, discussions went on for about 18 months prior to Mone signing.  WWE came into the picture later, but we are told that top flight execs were involved in those discussions and that WWE absolutely wanted Mone back “in the family”, so to speak. is told that in the end, the final factor in the decision-making as to where to go on Mone’s part was which destination would allow for stronger potential, not just for herself but for additional and future women in professional wrestling.

We are told by sources that a major part of the decision to go with AEW was that Mone believed that while going back to WWE could have been beneficial, it would have been a return to whereshe had already been.  Plus, once you lock in with WWE, that becomes your utmost priority and other projects would be automatically made secondary to WWE touring and performing.   There was also a feeling that while there’s tons of potential to do things with WWE, that doesn’t mean that potential has to be jumped on immediately when there’s so much additional she is pursuing outside the pro wrestling world.

With her role as Koska Reeves in The Mandalorian already beginning to open doors for her in the entertainment world and given the popularity of the merchandise related to that character, her WWE responsibilities would mitigate how far those potential doors might open for Mone in the future.    In AEW, however, Mone saw more opportunity in that she could arrive as a full fledged top tier player for the company, giving them a female star that they could build around by bringing her goodwill and popularity as a ratings draw there, given that her WWE TV appearances usually meant a spike for those quarter hours.    

One person close to the situation pointed out that Mone brought in a million viewers for her debut on Dynamite as proof in execution, but also stated that there will need to be a lot of work to be done as AEW tries to capitalize on that.   AEW also provided a chance for Mone to build a direct relationship with Warner Bros. Discovery as well as potential access to their film and television franchises.    

There was also a belief that AEW would be far more open to Mone working on acting, especially if she needed to take a period of time off for the forthcoming Star Wars: Mandalorian & Grogu feature film or any other projects that could require her full attention.  The fact that AEW could provide support for Mone in a way that WWE likely could not at this juncture was a factor in her signing, as we are told that Mone has built a team around her to assist her in maintaining her physical, mental and emotional health - and that AEW provided all signs they would work in conjunction with that team.

Beyond Mone’s acting pursuits, is also told that over the last several years, by being outside the WWE bubble, she has had the chance to develop fashion and music projects that she wants to keep bringing to the forefront.  Those interests grew exponentially while she was recovering from her leg injury over the last year.    

At the end of the day, the belief from those close to Mone is that the best way she could keep developing and working on her passions beyond performing in the ring was to be in a place that would allow her to still develop her projects, not just sign up to return to WWE, where all her energy would be targeted on WWE 90% of the time.  AEW provided more of a balance.

We are also told that Mone recognized that her decision on where to sign would also be about leaving her own potential legacy in professional wrestling as well as ownership of that legacy.  Mone’s new theme song is owned by Mone.  She now owns all her trademarks and copyrights for everything Mone-related, something that would never happen in WWE unless you are Dwayne Johnson.  The AEW move allowed for Mone to continue to build her own personal empire and to exploit everything she does with AEW through her other endeavors.  It was about building a platform for herself, not just going back to wrestling matches.

By signing with AEW, we are told that Mone’s hope is that she can assist the promotion in growing stronger and evolving overall - hence the signing of Jen Pepperman to work for AEW as their new Vice President of Content Development, who worked with her closely in WWE.    The hope is that Pepperman will help all of AEW and that the intent is not for her to work exclusively on Mone's content.  It was about bringing someone to AEW who could help them continue to shape and improve their process and product.

We are told by those close to the situation that Mone, who made the final call on where to land, wants to shake up the overall system for pro wrestling and create new opportunities for women to get a higher premium financially as well as more opportunities down the line as new generations of women pursue professional wrestling.   

Mone’s debut on Dynamite saw her cut an impassioned promo about taking “this global” and we are told that the global reference was not so much about expanding AEW itself, but by pushing women’s wrestling itself and expanding its reach.  We are told the hope is for Mone to carry women’s professional wrestling forward to a place where overall, it’s in a stronger position outside of WWE across the world through her exploits in AEW and beyond.  It was very much a “someone has to draw the line in the sand, so it’s going to be me” sort of moment.

There are some who have asked about Mone mentioning she still has unfinished business in WWE on a recent podcast appearance and that she believes she will return there one day. One source close to the situation noted that it wasn't meant as anything that would undercut AEW but to acknowledge that she started with WWE and that perhaps, she'll close things out there, nothing more. As one person noted, "Unfinished business could be as simple as one more match with Bayley."

The belief among some in AEW is that Mone could potentially fill the type of role that The Rock and John Cena have with WWE, someone who can take their outside success and cascade it back to the company.  There is a hope that she will bring the goodwill she built with the audience to AEW.  We are told she is approaching the run not as someone looking to take oxygen out of the locker room but as someone hoping to expand everything for everyone, especially the women's roster so that she can elevate the entire company and hopefully make their talents more mainstream, sort of similar to what Kevin Nash and Scott Hall did for WCW decades ago.  We will see if that can be the case.

Mone, who is believed to be locked into a multi-year deal with AEW, rescued Willow Nightingale at the end of Dynamite: Big Business in Boston and will be appearing on Wednesday’s AEW Dynamite from Toronto on TNT. She was promoted by TNT while sitting courtside at the Boston Celtics Vs Phoenix Suns and will be a big part of AEW programming going forward. Her first match has not yet been announced, but AEW Dynasty in St. Louis will take place on 4/21.

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