Former Singles Stars Anthony Bowens and Max Caster Team Up to Chase AEW Success

The Week in Wrestling: AEW’s Anthony Bowens and Max Caster on teaming up together, Hiroshi Tanahashi on a young star to watch in New Japan and more.
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Anthony Bowens and Max Caster are establishing themselves as the Acclaimed

Anthony Bowens and Max Caster have a tall mountain to climb in All Elite Wrestling.

The Young Bucks and FTR (formerly known as the Revival in WWE) are two of the most established tag teams in all of wrestling. They are the centerpieces of AEW’s tag team division, one that also features Santana and Ortiz, the Lucha Brothers, Jurassic Express, Private Party, Top Flight, SCU, TH2 and two duos representing the Dark Order: Evil Uno and Stu Grayson, and Alex Reynolds and John Silver.

Bowens and Caster, together known as the Acclaimed, are also trying to make their mark on the tag division. Both men were stars as singles performers on the indie circuit, and they are now seeking to create something new in AEW. Since AEW president Tony Khan paired them up, their new goal is establishing themselves in a wildly competitive tag division.

“I hadn’t been in a legit tag team in a good six years, so this was kind of scary at the beginning,” Bowens says. “But so far, so good. Every time we step into the ring together, our chemistry grows. We’re grateful for the opportunity, and this is our chance to create something great in AEW.”

The Acclaimed’s story is unique because viewers can trace the team’s entire journey. Beginning with their first match together on DARK, when they were still wearing different gear, to their outstanding bout against the Young Bucks on Dynamite last month, people can witness Bowens and Caster chase their dreams in real time.

“I love that people get to watch us grow,” Caster says. “That’s so different from the indies, where you’re constantly wrestling in front of a new crowd. Now we have a national television network and a massive wrestling company. From DARK to Dynamite to pay-per-view, we’re going to earn our opportunities and be in demand.”

Bowens and Caster have adjusted smoothly to working with one another. They share similar roots, as both are products of the Create a Pro Wrestling Academy in New York, and they have found even more common ground in their shared obsession over training. Learning the psychology of tag-team wrestling and building organic chemistry are not tasks easily accomplished on live television, but they are doing a masterful job of it.

“We’re being asked to stand out in the best tag-team division in all of wrestling, and I’m really excited for that challenge,” Caster says. “There are all these teams that have been together for so long or even grown up together. We don’t have that, and we’re not going to fake that we do. But that also gives us an advantage.

“Everyone else is looking at their work from the perspective of a tag-team wrestler. We’re bringing ideas from our singles careers. We built our own brands, and now we have an opportunity to build something together.”

The Acclaimed wrestled on DARK this week, defeating the team of Fuego Del Sol and Shawn Dean. Continued reps are going to be pivotal for their development as a team, but they also need opportunities to cut live promos on Dynamite. Bowens, after years of perfecting his voice as a babyface, is unleashing a different side of his personality in AEW.

“People are just starting to see what we can do,” Bowens says. “I can wrestle and talk, and so can Max. We’re going to show that this team is the complete package. The possibilities for us in this division are endless, and there are so many teams we can’t wait to work with.”

Caster takes immense pride in his ability to wrestle and rap, which is going to play a key part in his promos.

“I’m ready to kill guys in the ring and on the microphone,” Caster says. “That’s the only way we’re going to show we are elite.”

In addition to the new challenge of teaming together, Bowens and Caster are doing their best to gauge their work without the benefit of a different live crowd every week on tour for Dynamite. The reaction from a live venue might be entirely different from the feedback provided on social media, which is adding another layer of difficulty, but the cream always rises to the top in pro wrestling. Bowens and Caster each know the endless sacrifices they made just to reach AEW, and they are both determined to bring magic on screen every time the Acclaimed appears on television.

“It took a lot of work just to get to AEW, but that’s not enough,” Bowens says. “We want to be tag-team champions in the deepest, most talented tag division on the planet. So the work begins again.”

“We’re not just happy to be here,” Caster adds. “I trained my ass off to get here. That’s what put me over the top to get here. Now it’s time to reach a new level, and we’re doing that as the Acclaimed.”

Witnessing the growth of the Acclaimed adds another dynamic to AEW programming. After years of developing themselves as singles performers, Bowens and Caster are determined to show the wrestling world something new—namely, that two talents from the indies can combine to form a team that succeeds on the biggest stage possible.

“We’re taking it step by step, and the end goal is to become AEW tag team champions,” Bowens says. “The goal is to grow every single time we’re together. We’ve showed the world that the Acclaimed can go with the best in the world, and I’m excited to show that again and again in AEW.”

The (online) week in wrestling

  • Stephanie McMahon and Paul “Triple H” Levesque announced the dates and venues of the next three editions of WrestleMania. The event will take place over two nights this April in Tampa, next year in Dallas and then Los Angeles in 2023. The video of the announcement included cameos from Roman Reigns, Sasha Banks and John Cena. It was especially appropriate that Banks made the Dallas announcement considering her match at AT&T Stadium stole the show in 2016. Even though WrestleMania does not feel like itself without a packed crowd, WWE now has a massive responsibility in keeping attendees and employees safe at the two-day event. 
  • Dragon Lee looked like a star while defending his Ring of Honor television championship in a match against Rey Horus. Dragon Lee’s new, soon-to-be-announced ROH contract will also allow him to continue working NJPW dates in Japan, Sports Illustrated has learned.
  • Unless you were eager to see Randy Orton in a mask, or couldn’t wait to see Gillberg face off against actor David Krumholtz, Monday’s Raw had far too many forgettable moments, with these few exceptions:

- AJ Styles and Ricochet combined to create a brilliant rendition of the Styles Clash finisher. 

- Mustafa Ali got the chance to cut a promo, one that was very convincing, directed at the New Day’s Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods. There is plenty of history between Kingston and Ali that dates back to Elimination Chamber in 2019, when an injured Ali was replaced by Kingston, who went on to have the most successful stretch of his career, culminating in an outstanding WWE championship match against Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania 35. Retribution can still succeed, but for this to work, Ali needs extended time every week on the microphone.

  • Alexa Bliss and Asuka main-evented Raw. The match was heavy on all of the Fiend’s theatrics, but Bliss has been amazing at capturing a new role. Friday’s SmackDown had a much different finish than Raw, as Adam Pearce outsmarted Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman by replacing himself in his Royal Rumble match against Reigns with Kevin Owens. 
  • There was a lot to like on SmackDown, especially the build of Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura, and I’m excited to watch and see what Bayley can do with her new talk show, a format that has long been a staple of WWE programming. I am also looking forward to watching Sasha Banks have a match against Reginald, a former Cirque du Soleil acrobat who is going to amaze people in the ring. 
  • In terms of long-term storytelling, the finish to last week’s Darby Allin–Brian Cage main event was outstanding. 
  • While he has spent the majority of his time in AEW as the Librarian, “Pretty” Peter Avalon has breakout potential for the promotion in 2021. He is in a great spot tonight on Dynamite working against Cody Rhodes, who demands excellence in his matches, from himself and opponents. Avalon can go in the ring and play his character in a unique manner, especially with his facial expressions, and he is now getting the chance to show his range as a performer. 
  • The Dark Order is still one of my favorite segments to watch in all of wrestling, but it is impossible not to think of the recently departed Jon Huber, who was delivering the best work of his career as Mr. Brodie Lee before his sudden death in December. Hangman Page continues to add something unique and uplifting to all his Dark Order segments, and I hope the Dark Order–Hangman story extends well beyond this evening.
  • Impact Wrestling delivered a fantastic pay-per-view on Saturday at Hard to Kill, but my only issue was the newly debuted Matt Cardona—formerly Zack Ryder in WWE—winning by disqualification. I understand the desire to protect Ace Austin, so why not have Cardona defeat Madman Fulton? People paying $40 for a pay-per-view should receive clean finishes. Otherwise, the show exceeded expectations, and Cardona is a significant addition for Impact. 
  • Impact maintained its momentum on Tuesday night, as the crossover with AEW continued. Matt Hardy returned to the Impact Zone, which was once an impossible thought, and he was in the corner of Private Party’s Isiah Kassidy and Marq Quen in their win against Chris Sabin and James Storm, making them the new top contenders for the Impact Tag Titles. 

Taya Valkyrie’s run with Impact has come to an end. Her work as Knockouts champion was extremely important for the company, and she now leaves after an outstanding against Deonna Purrazzo at Hard to Kill. Looking ahead, Valkyrie’s options are unlimited: She is still AAA’s Reina de Reinas champion, she would make sense for NXT or either brand on WWE’s main roster and she is also a perfect fit for AEW. 

  • Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp put together an outstanding feature on the Royal Rumble match, looking at the event from a multitude of angles and sharing a number of compelling anecdotes from those who have taken part. 
  • WWE already has the deepest roster in the industry, and these are three more talented additions. 

Hiroshi Tanahashi on New Japan Pro Wrestling’s next top star

Hiroshi Tanahashi remains one of the biggest stars in all of pro wrestling.

His work has helped ushered New Japan Pro Wrestling into a new golden era, and the eight-time IWGP heavyweight champion continues to add a dynamic element to the company with his presence, strong voice and in-ring work. Despite being 44, Tanahashi has even more to give to the industry, and it would be a compelling story to see him achieve a 10th reign with the most prestigious belt in New Japan.

In a recent interview with SI, Tanahashi was asked who he believes is the next breakout star currently on the New Japan roster.

“He’s still young, but you need to keep an eye on Yuya Uemura,” Tanahashi says, speaking through a translator. “He can be a great one.”

Uemura brings a certain charm to his matches through his look, charisma and fire. Multiple contacts from New Japan noted Uemura’s eagerness to put in extra work training in the gym, as well as a desire to spend as much time as possible perfecting the craft in the ring. Only 26, Uemura already has solid fundamentals and the ability to capture emotion in matches, and he will have opportunities to prove he can be a major player for New Japan.

“He has a huge future in front of him,” Tanahashi says. “I think there’s every chance of him being a classic champion figure.”

Tweet of the Week

The world of wrestling is full of talented, creative people who continually find a way to make the industry a more enjoyable place, which is exactly what Colin Hunter does at Kayfabe News.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.