The Exalted One: 5 Potential Dark Order Leaders


Source: AEW

Since The Dark Order’s debut in AEW, there have been mixed feelings on the group’s effectiveness to say the least. Their positioning as a threat to the main event players has never quite felt right, yet they continue to be featured heavily on AEW Dynamite. The dynamic of the presentation of The Dark Order has continued to evolve thanks to added members and clever marketing, yet one question remains: just who is The Exalted One?

As AEW leave a trail of breadcrumbs leading to the exalted ones door, we look at some of the potential candidates to lead The Dark Order into a glorious new tomorrow. But before we delve into our own suspicions, lets address the one name on everyone’s minds: Matt Hardy.

There’s a good chance that Broken Matt will be heading to AEW once his WWE contract expires on the 1st of March. Hardy being revealed as the mastermind behind The Dark Order also makes a lot of sense. However, this is wrestling, and the most sensible solution is rarely the chosen one. So, even though it probably will be Matt Hardy, what if it isn’t? Who else is there?

AEW has done an admirable job of keeping the guessing game going longer than most people expected it to, dropping little hints here and there to keep us on our toes. Using all the information presented, along with a massive amount of guesswork and wishful thinking, here are our top five picks for The Dark Order’s Exalted One.


1. Christopher Daniels

This is the least subtle of the candidates, as The Dark Order have consistently called out Daniels on AEW Dynamite. He’s been absent from beatdowns, been allowed safe passage on other occasions and even had a Dark Order mask in his bag during an episode of Being The Elite. Evil Uno and the rest of the Order clearly want us to believe that Christopher Daniels has at least been recruited by the group and there’s plenty of storyline reasons why he would.

Daniels has questioned his in-ring ability since being attacked and left unable to compete in the AEW tag title tournament. He’s a man uncertain of his place in the industry, the company and his own SCU faction. He’s been made fun of by the likes of Pentagon Jr for his declining abilities and had to watch from the side-lines as his colleagues Scorpio Sky and Frankie Kazarian captured the AEW tag titles.

It makes storyline sense that Daniels would want to align himself with a group like The Dark Order. In a similar way to Chris Jericho surrounding himself with young, hungry talent in The Inner Circle, Daniels could seemingly prolong his run at the top by recreating The Dark Order with himself at its core.

The issue is that Daniels has felt like a red herring from the start. It’s too on the nose, s much so that his reveal would feel like somewhat of a let-down despite its narrative obviousness. I think Daniels would make for an awesome leader, his Fallen Angel character finally getting the big stage it deserves, but it feels unlikely that this will be the big reveal.


2. Raven

Source: WWE

During a Dark Order crowd brawl on last Wednesday’s episode of AEW Dynamite, Raven was spotted on camera, sitting behind the group. A strange coincidence (Raven is an Atlanta resident so could have feasibly been attending the show) or another subtle clue as to the leader of the faction? His appearance wasn’t mentioned by the commentators or highlighted by the cameras. It was a blink and you’ll miss it type of thing, which most people seemingly did live.

Raven has a rich history of faction warfare, from ECW’s Nest to WCW’s Flock to TNA’s Gathering, Raven always liked to keep the numbers game to his advantage. A common theme throughout all of his collectives has been the idea of disenfranchised youth which would seem to fit perfectly with the Dark Order’s ethos.

AEW has already shown that they are keen to put some of the legends from wrestling’s past into prominent on-screen mentor roles, with Arn Anderson, DDP and Tully Blanchard all featuring. Raven and his legendary promo skills would be a welcome addition to the show.


3. Luke Harper/ Brodie Lee

Luke Harper

After months of contract drama, the former Luke Harper finally got his WWE release back in December. With his no compete clause set to expire in March, the rebranded Brodie Lee is expected to make his AEW debut soon. What better way to make a statement than as the head of a major faction?

As someone who spent the majority of his WWE run as a member of the Wyatt Family, Lee’s reveal as the Exalted One would certainly be a turnaround in fortunes. The former cult follower turned cult leader has a nice storyline ring to it and would give the group some much needed mainstream appeal.

It would be amazing to see Brodie finally given the chance to let loose and become the monster he has always threatened to be. With the rest of The Dark Order flanking him, he’d have the chance to showcase the skills that made him such a hot prospect way back in the early days of NXT.

On the other hand, AEW may want to keep Brodie away from factions for a while, to try and avoid any comparisons to his WWE run. The danger of being seen to be trying to piggyback WWE could do more harm than good for the fledgling company at the moment.


4. Dustin Rhodes

Dustin Rhodes
Source: AEW

It’s been great to see the resurgence of Dustin Rhodes in AEW. His bloody match and eventual reunion with his brother Cody was one of the feel good stories of 2019. With that being said, wrestling is at its best when there is family tension rather than family harmony. Think Bret vs Owen, Jeff vs Matt.

Dustin Rhodes has enough motivation to be credibly positioned as the leader of The Dark Order. He has a love of off-kilter gimmicks and enough real life animosity with Cody to make it happen (or, certainly, enough history to draw upon for the angle).

It might not be the most obvious reveal but, when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Firstly, it gives Cody something to do in the aftermath of his feud with MJF. Cody cannot challenge for the AEW title but he’s arguably the biggest fan favourite in the company. He needs distractions. What better way to keep him busy than with fighting his way through The Dark Order to get to his brother?

It also keeps Dustin visible and in a prominent position on the card. It explains how The Dark Order are so knowledgeable on the inner workings of The Elite and it gives Dustin some room to be more than Cody’s older brother.


5. Austin Aries

Austin Aries
Image Source:#

Okay, very much a wildcard pick, but seeing Austin Aries turn up backstage at the most recent AEW Dynamite means that it’s at least a possibility.

Aries has been out of wrestling for a while but could easily slide back into such a high profile role. He would actually be a good stylistic choice for the more corporate presentation that The Dark Order has been going for as opposed to some of the more Cult-like leaders being suggested.

I could definitely see Austin Aries as the slimy weasel flanked by Evil Uno and Stu Grayson, barking out the orders while maintaining that charismatic, friendly persona on the surface. It would certainly be a very different approach but one I could see working.

So, there we go. Five men who could easily step into the role of the Exalted One. Even though it’s probably, definitely Matt Hardy, isn’t it?

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