While Stokely Hathaway made his debut at Double or Nothing last night, he's someone who AEW has had its eyes on since before the company even launched.
AEW president and CEO Tony Khan said at Sunday's post-Double or Nothing media scrum that he's been interested in signing Hathaway since 2018. Hathaway (who went by the name Malcolm Bivens in NXT) signed with WWE in March 2019 but was released last month after turning down a main roster contract.
Hathaway debuted as TBS Champion Jade Cargill's new manager at Double or Nothing, helping her retain the title against Anna Jay. Khan said it was a unique situation due to Hathaway's 30-day non-compete clause expiring just in time for the pay-per-view.
I was in a very unique position. It was pretty unusual. Stokely’s  days expired yesterday. So I had never met him or spoken to him until today, because I do things the right way, with honor. It just so happened that his  days expired and I had this idea.
We were lucky. There is a lot of independent wrestling and stuff going on, I think he's been around. I guess he’s been around Vegas. I had never met him until today, I swear on my life. I never had a conversation with him. I’ve had him in mind since 2018, actually. I remember being way back in the day, actually with Cody [Rhodes]. I was saying, ‘I really like Stokely Hathaway.’ I’m a big fan of him.
It's funny because he came in today. And with Stokely Hathaway having had another name, recently, with another promotion, I never had this conversation with him. So today I told him, ‘I want you to be Stokely Hathaway. I’m the owner of Ring of Honor, you have a great history in Ring of Honor.’ Not only did I explain I wanted to pair him with the world’s greatest network champion, the world's top undefeated pro wrestler, two years in with such a sparkling record, and add to the presentation that's already come so far and so fast. Like Jade said, he’s a great talker. And I literally never met him and spoken to him, we've never talked to him or spoken, until today, which is pretty cool that it worked out.
It made for a great moment. I think it was a great surprise for the fans. The timing, we've been fortunate sometimes, that was great timing that he expired yesterday.
I think it’s an obvious solution, putting one of the great champions in wrestling, who's already got so much charisma, with a great talker and they can be like [Nick] Bockwinkel and [Bobby] Heenan, a great talker with another great talker and a great mind. So I think they could be the new Bockwinkel and Heenan.
Dave Meltzer reported after Hathaway's release that the belief in NXT was that Hathaway didn’t sign a new WWE contract because he wanted to go to AEW and would be there when his non-compete ended.
In addition to WWE, Hathaway also formerly worked for ROH, EVOLVE, and MLW.
Athena (the former Ember Moon) also debuted for AEW at Double or Nothing, aligning with Anna Jay and Kris Statlander against Cargill, Red Velvet, and Kiera Hogan.