The WWE comes to terms with Christopher “Chris Jericho” Irvine with his contract expiring
The WWE comes to terms with both Paul Heyman and Paul “The Big Show” Wright
John “Bradshaw” Layfield, as well as Mick Foley and Dean Malenko, cut ties with World Wrestling Entertainment
Late January 2007
Paul Heyman, shortly after being foolishly denied by TNA Wrestling, reportedly makes a few phone calls, the main ones of note being Foley and Layfield. Chris Jericho, meanwhile, is not called, but instead, calls Heyman. The groundwork for what appears to be a new wrestling organization appear to be set.
Mick Foley and Jericho reportedly rope in Dean Malenko, as well as extending international interest with AAA representative and the “Mexican Hulk Hogan”, Konnan.
Heyman and Layfield, meanwhile, secure sponsoring in Layfield’s own Layfield Energy. The duo is also busy securing what looks to be a television deal with the Fox branch channel FX
All this is overshadowed, however, by the TNA signing of Kurt Angle, a few mere months after his ‘retirement’ from the WWE. This reportedly does not sit well with a great deal of the TNA locker room.
Heyman calls for a press conference to occur on the following day.
Foley and Jericho, meanwhile, secure Tony Chimel on his leave of absence from the WWE to come be their full time ring announcer. They are also able to fully convince Dean Malenko to became an agent and potential trainer
This, again, is covered up by bigger TNA news of the unconditional release of Jason “Christian Cage” Reso, as well as even rockier negotiations between TNA and Nuufolau “Samoa Joe” Seanoa, both stemming from the signing of Kurt Angle.
In the press conference held by Paul Heyman, he announces the official founding of AOW – Art of War Wrestling. He also confirms a 1-hour time slot on FX at the beginning of their fall season in August. He also confirms involvement of Mick Foley, as well as Layfield’s financial backing, among others. With both Heyman and Foley’s backing, Heyman has to assure any interested that this is not some sort of ‘hardcore wrestling' promotion. Chris Jericho, present at the conference, confirms that he is the company’s first talent as part of a roster along with being a ‘founding father’. Jericho also confirms involvement from Dean Malenko as well as Lance Storm, whom is also confirmed to be the second competing talent. The launch of a website, aohdubya.com is established and is said to be the host of all future signings.
A few short hours later, aohdubya.com breaks the news that they have signed Christian Cage and Samoa Joe. With several months between the actual television launch of AOW Wrestling, AOW allows for confirmed and future signees to finish up their current contracts, as well as finish any independent circuit tours they may be attending.
AOW confirms the signings of Dave Finlay, Jack Evans, Elix Skipper, and the recently released from the WWE Chris Masters, Gregory Helms, and Jamie Noble. They also confirm the arrival of Aero Star, a top Mexican lucha libre prospect.
The WWE also acknowledges that Rey Mysterio’s contract has expired, with Mysterio not having resigned on the road to Wrestlemania
AOW quickly stops all suspicion of what Mysterio will do by signing him, where he will go under the name Rey Mysterio Jr. During this month, AOW is able to sign Matt Sydal, Paul Burchill, as well as drawing Mark “Muhammad Hassan” Copani out of retirement from professional wrestling. Dirtsheets also report they have planted seeds to take Phil “CM Punk” Brooks and Shelton Benjamin straight off the WWE’s roster.
Following the WWE’s annual PPV extravaganza Wrestlemania, their spring cleaning takes place. AOW acts quickly to snap up Carlito Colon, Charlie Haas, Paul London, Brian Kendrick, Psicosis, & Super Crazy, among the many more released. In the process, they are also able to snatch Shelton Benjamin away successfully.
In news that seems to tickle ROH fan’s pickle, Bryan Danielson confirms he is leaving the promotion that gave him fame and going mainstream with AOW. This is made publically as a “Mick Foley signing”, but the bigger signing is that of another former ROH legend in CM Punk, who walked out on the WWE. Punk mentioned AOW on live television on his final RAW appearance before cutting ties with the company and confirming having signed with AOW.
Later in the month, another former ROH mainstay is confirmed to have signed, as Brandon “Low Ki/Senshi” Silvestry is no longer affiliated with TNA
Following the WWE’s One Night Stand PPV, Rob Van Dam was written out of his feud with Randy Orton and announced his signing with AOW Wrestling a few weeks after, almost undoubtedly a “Heyman signing”. As this goes on, talks begin with Paul “Big Show” Wright over a possible return to wrestling following Show using his break from wrestling by losing weight and taking up boxing. No word yet on his alliance with the company.
Late June 2007
With the WWE cutting ties with Ohio Valley Wrestling and the formation of FCW, AOW is quick to announce that OVW will be used as their development talent home. Many former WWE development talents are signed to OVW or AOW official roster contracts. Brent Albright and Ken Doane are reportedly coming up to the main roster immediately, while Kofi Kingson, Afa Jr., Sonny Siaki, DH Smith, Tyson Kidd, Mike Kruel, Jack Swagger, Eric Escobar, Tyson Tarver, and Sheamus O’Shaunssey are signed to OVW deals.
AOW Wrestling later announces they’ve signed unknown talents Justin Gabriel and Tyler Black to development contracts, this being their first professional contract.
Just over a month before AOW debuts on national television on August 22, AOW suffers its first setback when they are unable to sign Mexican sensation Mistico. They are also turned down by Brock Lesnar, who wished to continue pursuing an MMA career.
Amongst this pair of disappointment, Lance Storm confirms he will only wrestle part-time, becoming the co-trainer of OVW with Malenko.
Heyman is also able to confirm that the first ‘season’ of AOW, the three months they’ve confirmed with FX, will take place in the Hammerstein Ballroom. They are to take place here until the funds are sufficient and FX sees fit to send Heyman and company on the road
In more company news, aohdubya.com confirms the four championships that will be used in AOW Wrestling: a world title, tag titles, a cruiserweight title, as well as a championship called the “Dynasty” Championship. This is most likely the name of the mid-card strap.
Late July 2007
The double-whammy of failed signings in early June is quickly negated by the official word from Paul Wright, who is now officially signed with the company. Joey Styles also confirms he is leaving the WWE to commentate for AOW Wrestling, where his teammate is confirmed to be none other than co-founder John “Bradshaw” Layfield. The first and potentially only female signing for AOW is confirmed when Torrie Wilson reportedly signs, her purpose being a backstage interviewer. Another is reportedly signed, when former MTV actor Mike “The Miz” Mizanin is confirmed as another interviewer, as well as a sporadic competition clause.
This is quickly upstaged, however, when Bobby Lashley, coming on the heels of his WWE Championship loss at the Great American Bash, lets his WWE contract expire and sign with AOW. Many fans recall the Lashley winning of the ECW title in December was the final straw for Heyman, but this is cited as a “Mick Foley signing”.
…but THIS is quickly upstaged by the confirmed release by the WWE of Shawn Michaels, who reportedly asked for his release from the company while on a leave of absence.
…and it was only a matter of days, literally, days before the debut of AOW’s first ever programming (now given the title Wednesday Night Oblivion) that the company confirmed the signing of the one and only Shawn Michaels. It is later revealed that it took Foley, Jericho, and some help from Dean Malenko to fully bring Michaels in, although Jericho is said to have been the most aggressive about gaining the Heart Break Kid. This was done without the consent, knowledge, or a green light of Paul Heyman.