In May 2022, Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) were officially All Elite, signing with AEW to compete in AEW and ROH. Davis was sidelined at the time with a meniscus injury.
Aussie Open had established themselves as one of the top tag teams in NJPW, winning the IWGP and NJPW Strong Tag Team Championships during their run. Despite their success in NJPW, they weren't signed to the company.
Speaking to Chris Jericho on Talk Is Jericho, Aussie Open detailed their talks with NJPW and why they signed with AEW.
Fletcher: After Davis' injury and after COVID, through that time, we were independent professional wrestlers, we didn't have contracts and we weren't making money. It was hard.
Davis: From the inception of COVID to maybe the beginning of 2022, a good couple years, just broke. You can't wrestle, you can't make a living, you have a normal job, which is okay, but it's depressing as hell. Where do you go from here? What do you do next? You don't know what's happening with the world or anything. Just born from that, we were both like, 'the next thing we do, we want to have a bit of security.' We need to know we're going to get paid X amount of money a month and it's going to come in, we can afford our bills, and there is no stress. We don't have to stress about a t-shirt design and pushing that out. That's been one of the biggest things that has fueled us since we came back. From the first tour we did with New Japan, we had that discussion with the President [NJPW President Takami Ohbari], we sat down and said, 'we want to be here. We love New Japan Pro-Wrestling, we love the style of pro wrestling here, we want to be a member of the team.' That was the beginning of November, and it was a while before we heard back. The response we heard from them was, 'we'll give you a deal in July.' This was December of last year. 'We'll give you a deal in eight months.'
Fletcher: It's that whole thing, when Davis was injured and it was COVID, 'ah, not now, but please wait.' That's the same thing when we asked about contracts. We were trying to be respectful of that in a sense, but when you think about it, when you don't have a steady income, it's hard to rent a house and stuff like that. It got to a point where we didn't want to sit around and wait anymore, so let's just see what is out there. I genually think we're one of the best tag teams in the world, so let's see if there is interest.
Jericho: Do you think New Japan couldn't give you a deal because business dropped off?
Fletcher: I do think that was part of it. Even the company that owns New Japan, Bushiroad, they really struggled through the pandemic and lost money for the past two or three years. I don't begrudge them for that, that is a thing that everyone experienced in the world. Just, in our situation, we didn't want to sit and wait any longer.
Davis: We hit a point and hit a threshold where, we put the time in, we waited and committed to New Japan, we had offers from WWE to do NXT and NXT UK, that we refused, because we wanted to commit to doing New Japan, and it was a difficult struggle. In May, Dontaku tour, we were the IWGP Tag Team Champions, we were the New Japan Strong Tag Team Champions, and it's the last day of the tour we're wrestling TMDK and the night before, House of Torture stole our titles and we run to the ring to get them back. I duck a clothesline, kick them in the crotch, I roll out and my knee just felt off. 'My knee is done.' We did this tag match, six-man tag, eight to ten minutes, and it doesn't feel good. I had issues with it post-ACL tear, post return to wrestling, I had it checked, I know my meniscus is torn and is causing me issues. I'm fairly confident that's what it is. I talk to the trainer at New Japan, 'my knee isn't okay. I can't straighten, I can't bend it, it's locking, I'm in pain, I'm pretty sure it's my meniscus.' He looked at it, worked it over, 'it's your IT band. It's your hip. You have a tight hip. Maybe tomorrow it's okay.' He gave me a compression bandage and some heat patches. 'It's okay tomorrow.' Tomorrow included a 17 hour travel day to America, on a flight I couldn't upgrade. It was a very frustrating 48 hour period, and upon coming to America, there was a Ring of Honor taping we were supposed to be involved in. We got there and I was like, 'I don't think I can wrestle, I need to get my knee looked at.' The trainers looked at it, 'it's you're meniscus.' 'That's what I thought it was.' It's a thing I expected to happen, it was a frustrating point in time because we were tag champions. I was in Orlando, I passed Tony [Tony Khan] in the hallway, 'come and talk to me.' He sorted it. He got my knee fixed. He didn't have to.
Fletcher: We weren't contracted at this point, this was literally, he saw Davis, he heard what was going on, and he came up to him in the hallway, 'Come here, I'll sort it for you right now.'
Davis: He got it fixed in two weeks. He got me surgery within two weeks. The last time I broke my knee was right before COVID, it proceeded some of the worst periods of our life. The difference in the duty of care. It made sense. Who do you feel more wanted by as a human being? Who do you feel is looking out for you better, your well-being, your physical and mental health? It doesn't make a difficult decision off the back of that, 'this is where I want to place my career.' I still want to work for New Japan, we still hope to do stuff for them.
Fletcher: With a decision that big, there is a lot of thought process. The relationship with New Japan, that we could still (work for them). We just decided this is where we wanted to be and it was the best decision for us.
Jericho: How did you get the offer for the AEW contract?
Fletcher: When New Japan were like, 'you have to wait until July,' we went to them and had conversations about 'how would you feel about a joint contract?' We worked with Tony before, we like it here, and we want to keep working for both places.
Davis: We moved on from the UK, we were splitting our time between America and New Japan, so it made sense to get regular work here.
Fletcher: That was kind of how it started. Talk to Japan, talk to AEW, go back and forth. It ended up being, New Japan just waited to wait. Tony came back and was like, 'Okay, here is a deal,' put it in front of us and we went, 'We can't say no to it.' As much as we love New Japan and we're trying to hold out, there is this awesome offer put in front of us to work. That gets put in front of you and after waiting for that security, it was impossible to turn down.
Davis: There are provisions within our deal that we can still do stuff (with New Japan)
Fletcher: It's the best situation for both of us.
Jericho: Did you have talks with WWE?
Fletcher: The first time we spoke to them was 2019. It was when we were just gearing up for World Tag League. It was for a NXT UK deal. We were like, 'We want to do this New Japan thing, maybe we can revisit it after that.' That's how it was left. The injury happens, COVID happens, the next time we spoke to them was this year when we talked to New Japan, they were saying 'wait' and we put feelers out everywhere and we had a little bit of a conversation. It didn't get too deep, but there was interest there. The best situation was for us here. The talks didn't get super deep.
Aussie Open won the ROH Tag Team Titles at ROH Death Before Dishonor.
They held the titles until AEW All In when they lost to Adam Cole & MJF on the Zero Hour pre-show.
If you use any of the quotes above, please credit the original source with a h/t and link back to Fightful for the transcription.