Updated: Sep 30, 2021
There have been a few AEW Power Rankings on Pro Wrestling Musings, but welcome to the REAL Power Rankings. Because we all know that the real power in AEW lay in the factions!
(If you note that it is NOT August 29, I assure you, it's a time zone thing!)
These rankings are done within storyline, in terms of the faction's proven ability to deliver and protect gold for the star player(s) whom the faction revolves around, give satisfactory alternate rewards to the peripheral members, maintain a power balance with clear roles for each member, and dominate or at least hold their own in conflict with other groups.
#1 - The Elite
There's no denying that the Elite are by far the most successful and dominant faction in All Elite Wrestling. They revolve around and exist for the the benefit of their star player, Kenny Omega. And Omega holds—and the Elite has been able to protect—the AEW (Men's, Singles) World Championship and the Mega Campeonato AAA. On top of which, their tag team holds the AEW World Tag Championship, (The Good Brothers have also held gold off and on, but that's irrelevant, since the Good Brothers are only convenient warm bodies to the Elite.) While it's true that the Impact World Championship recently slipped through their fingers, that is still an amazing track record.
The Elite have an unusual structure, in that they are essentially a power trio plus a mentor and... mooks. Lots of mooks. But the mooks have the motivation of the prestige of simply being associated with the Elite. There seems to be no danger of stooge revolt, unlike, for example, in the HFO. There's a lot of redundancy of roles, but not where it counts: with the central four of the team.
They are such a dominant force that they create their own opposition through sheer predator pressure. But their biggest threats are from within—either from Omega's paranoia or Callis's ingrained habit of treachery.
Kenny Omega - Captain, Star
Matt Jackson - Lieutenant, Tag guy
Nick Jackson - Tag guy
Don Callis - Mentor, mastermind, buffoon
Doc Gallows - Heater, mook
Karl Anderson - Mook
Brandon Cutler - Stooge, mascot, mook
MT Nakazawa - Stooge, mascot, mook
#2 - Allied Forces
"It was MY thing first, man"
When there is a great, powerful evil those who might otherwise be rivals band together in opposition and mutual protection, and we call the not-evil side "the Allies." This mishmash of enemies of the Elite has the disadvantages inherent in that, specifically the confusion of Jungle Boy's role. The obvious star in his own Jurassic world, who is he while in Cage's orbit? Tag guy? Little buddy? Loyal lieutenant? Groomed heir? The tensions in that seem unlikely to survive the stress of being on top. But you can't take away that they were the first group to give the Elite a real L by taking the Impact World Championship from them, and they are poised to take their crown jewel from them too at All Out.
Christian Cage - Captain, Star
Jungle Boy - Lieutenant? Protégé? Star?
Frankie Kazarian - Loose Cannon
Luchasaurus - Heater
Marko Stunt - Mascot
#3 - Death Triangle
A Brotherhood of Violence
Successful factions require members who know who the star is and know their roles and are content with them. Triángulo de la Muerte are the exception that proves the rule. Each possible pairing of the three men has proven themselves to be a top flight tag team. And while each is very different, each man individually is in their own unique way an absolute star. But they never seem to get in each other's way.
The only knock on them is that they haven't succeeded in collecting any gold. But this is also true of every faction not named the Elite. And the Lucha Brothers have an opportunity at tag gold with a steel cage eliminating the Elite's typical games at All Out.
PAC - Brother
Penta EZM - Brother
Rey Fenix - Brother
Alex Abrahantes - Buffoon
#4 - The Pinnacle
We're supposed to be impressed
"When you're in the Pinnacle you're always on top!" Fine speech, but eventually it's no longer enough to just say you're on top. Maxwell Jacob Friedman has gathered a perfect team on paper and has been occupied with ensuring that they won't need to watch out for the Inner Circle over their shoulders. But after All Out there won't be any more excuses for not being focused on gathering the gold that is the only purpose warranting such a group to exist.
Maxwell Jacob Friedman - Captain, Star, mastermind
Shawn Spears - Loose Cannon
Wardlow - Heater
Tully Blanchard - Mentor
Cash Wheeler - Tag guy
Dax Harwood - Tag guy
#5 - Best Friends
GOT to give the people what they want
The Best Friends may sometimes seem hapless or ragtag, but although they do not yet have any titles to their name, they have come out on top in major heated feuds, over Santana & Ortiz, over Chris Jericho, and even over Miro and his former allies. They've been unfortunately dogged by injuries, but have brought in a rookie, seemingly in response to their manpower issue. They know exactly who the star of the team is, and their inherent easy-going good nature permits no resentment.
Orange Cassidy - Star
Kris Statlander - Captain? Heater? I dunno
Trent? - DL 4 life
Chuck Taylor - Weak Link, (but he's not heavy, he's my brother)
Wheeler Yuta - Protégé
#6 - Mutual Respect Society
Cool bros being dudes
This group seems formed by chance, with no real goals or intentions, and destined perhaps to fall apart again—only ranking due to the fantastic convergence of star power.
But maybe not. The four were pushed together by free agents trying to make their names at their expense. Moxley recently railed against outsiders who think they can just show up and eat at the table that they set. The iconic feud that led to Sting taking on the Crow look and stalking rafters was against a couple of Outsiders. Darby Allin has a match at All Out against the biggest free agent signing ever.
Could Team "Why Not?" become Team "Fuck Off Punk & Danielson, We Were Here First"? Maybe not, but only time will tell for certain. Gareth Ford-Elliot made a great case for why Moxley may be moving in a darker direction. But for a group of beloved fan favorites... Do any of the other three look like they might balk at a darker direction themselves?
Darby Allin - Star
Jon Moxley - Captain
Eddie Kingston - Lancer
Sting - Dad (by which I mean: a mentor AND an active competitor)
#7 - Team Taz
The HOOOOOOOOK brings you Baaaaack
Team Taz had always been my prime example of a team where nobody knew who the star was and they were getting in each other's way. That is, until they demonstrated an equally perfect example of addition via subtraction by betraying and jettisoning Brian Cage.
On the flip side, they're still playing around with fools gold, and feuding with just one guy, which is hardly the route to proving factional dominance.
Ricky Starks - Star
Will Hobbs - Heater
Taz - Mentor
HOOK - Stooge, (sorry)
#8 - The Inner Circle
For over a year, the Inner Circle were unquestionably the top faction in AEW. But the fatal flaw that led to their downfall was always visible. The faction was always and only about the benefits to Chris Jericho. Everyone else sacrificed for the opportunity to absorb his mentorship—especially Santana & Ortiz. Jericho never truly acknowledged them as his tag experts, treating the tag division as a free-for-all that any random combination of the Circle could dip into at will, rather than supporting his tag guys in their aspirations in the division.
Now that Jericho seems to be in the twilight of his career, the roles of the Inner Circle are in flux. If Jericho loses his career match at All Out, will he transition into the Mentor role? If he wins, will he attempt to remain the focus and star? Or move into a "Dad" role? Will Santana be the new leader? Will Guevara be the new star? Or can an "Inner Circle" maintain at all without Jericho at the center?
Chris Jericho - Star, Captain
Sammy Guevara - Protégé, Lieutenant?
Santana - Tag guy, Lieutenant?
Ortiz - Tag guy
Jake Hager - Heater
#9 - The Nightmare Family
FFS, I don't even know where to START
The Nightmare Family is not intended to be a traditional pro-wrestling faction, but something more like an MMA camp, or a racing team. There's a star, there's a coach, and everybody else is basically just "a guy."
This makes sense, since the traditional goal for a faction—to help the star win and keep top gold—is impossible for Cody Rhodes. And the tag specialists of the group seem too afraid of breaking their winning streak to tackle the genuinely competitive matches they would need to contend in their division. The fact that this sprawling group is even in these rankings should tell you what an utter shambles the Dark Order and the Factory are in.
On the other hand, the Nightmare Family is good for one thing, and that's drama. I don't mean that as sarcasm, nor as breaking kayfabe. For a top wrestling star who can't contend in his division, a grudge feud is his livelihood. The Nightmare Family has always been a breeding ground for betrayal by design, and I have no doubt that the Factory was only the first.
Cody Rhodes - Star, Captain
Brandi Rhodes - In the corner
Arn Anderson - Mentor
Lee Johnson - Protégé
Red Velvet - Spitfire
Dustin Rhodes - Dad
Billy Gunn - Overprotective Dad
Colten Gunn - Nepotism
Austin Gunn - Nepotism, (utter clown)
Brock Anderson - Even more fucking nepotism, (over his head)
#10 - The Wingmen
I can't get over what a good sport JD Drake is!
At first glance, the Wingmen look like a random mishmash of hapless jobbers. But look more closely—a pretty-boy star, a tough-guy lancer, an imposing heater, and an insufferable (distracting) buffoon. That's the formula of a perfect classic faction. That's the Horsemen! Okay, maybe the midcard Horsemen.
But the Wingmen have a distinct, unacknowledged upside. To me, the biggest sign of their potential is the unwavering willingness on both sides to meet in the middle regarding their style contrasts with JD Drake. It demonstrates that they see his value, and he sees theirs.
Ryan Nemeth - Star
JD Drake - Lancer
Cezar Bononi - Heater
Pretty Peter Avalon - Buffoon, Captain?
Not Ranked: The Dark Order, The Hardy Family Office, and the Factory.
They should take some time and contemplate their deficiencies.