When SCU split up and Frankie Kazarian went out on his own, things started to get interesting.
The TNA legend had been a tag-team wrestler in All Elite Wrestling since it’s inception, and was finally being given the chance to make a name for himself in the company as a singles star.
Billed as “The Elite Hunter”, his early gimmick seemed promising. He was having good matches with a variety of stars, being a midc ard general who just could not make it into the main event. He had all the talent, charism and the gimmick to do so, but something just went wrong.
What happened to “The Elite Hunter” Frankie Kazarian? In this article, we’ll look at why he split from his SCU teammates, how The Elite gimmick came to be and what went wrong in his singles run caused him to leave the company in early 2023?
SCU Were An Immensely Popular Team
AEW was a much different entity in 2019 than in 2023. While today it features some of the biggest stars in wrestling, like Bryan Danielson, CM Punk and Sting, in 2019 the roster was much less star-studded.
During it’s inception, AEW was the promotion for fans of independent wrestling. Tony Khan signed up all the top stars on the independent scene who had never been given a chance in big promotions, like WWE.
Stars like Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega were the exception, and were joined by indie favourites like Chuck Taylor, Joey Janela and the like.
SCU were comprised of three legends of wrestling who never quite made it in the big time. Kazarian and Daniels had spells in the WWE but ultimately became legends in TNA, whilst Scorpio Sky primarily made his name in Ring of Honor.
At the beginning of AEW’s reign, they were the second most popular team in the division after The Young Bucks. They made good use of this popularity, becoming the first ever AEW Tag Team Champions, with Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky doing the bulk of the wrestling for the trio.
They eventually lost the belts to Kenny Omega & Adam Page on the Jericho Cruise, and had a chance to regain them in their last match as a team.
After Sky had amicably left the group, Daniels and Kazarian made a pact with one another. They decided that, in order to motivate themselves, the next time they lost a match they would cease to team together.
This has been a trope used in wrestling for decades, with it most famously being utilised by Ric Flair on the run-up to his “final” match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24.
They made their way all the way up to the #1 contender’s for the AEW Tag Team Championships. The pair faced off against The Young Bucks on AEW Dynamite in a title match, with them either walking out with the belts or walking out alone.
After a bloody and brutal affair, SCU lost to the Young Bucks after an incredible bout to end their run as a team in an incredibly emotional affair.
Frankie Kazarian Is The Elite Hunter
After the break-up of SCU, Frankie Kazarian established himself as “The Elite Hunter”. Blaming The Young Bucks and the larger “Elite” faction for the disbandment of his team with Christopher Daniels, he made his new identity one that opposes them completely.
The gimmick was a cool new take on the character. He came across like a hitman (not Bret Hart), systematically tracking down each member of the group and taking them out one by one.
He didn’t wrestle as much, and instead appeared from the shadows to attack The Elite whenever he could. Whether in backstage interviews or when they were in the ring, Frankie Kazarian hunted down the Elite whenever he could. The gimmick seemed to have legs.
However, what should have been a fun gimmick ultimately fell flat. While he would run in and attack the group regularly, when actually wrestling members of the faction, he usually came up short. And by that I mean he only won one match against any member of The Elite.
Yes, only one. He didn’t wrestle that many anyway, which made the gimmick even more confusing. He didn’t even wrestle the full set, which you’d have thought would have been his goal, to take them down one by one.
The only match the Elite Hunter won against any member of The Elite was in a tag team match. He teamed with old TNA rival Christian Cage to battle against the duo of Kenny Omega and… Brandon Cutler.
Yep, their only win was against the literal jobber of The Elite. Cutler barely even wrestled during this time, instead held the camera to film being the Elite and sprayed his stable-mates with his nameless sports spray.
The moment that everyone knew the gimmick was dead was when he lost in a singles match to Doc Gallows. Gallows was, and I’m being fair here, by far the worst member of The Elite.
A decent tag team wrestler who nobody would ever want to see in singles competition. It was also literally Gallows only singles match in the history of AEW and he beat Kazarian, making a mockery of the whole gimmick.
The Elite Hunter was a great idea at first. However, as time went on it clearly didn’t work. This was clear, given the fact that Kazarian couldn’t buy a win against The Elite unless the worst wrestler in the company was in the ring and he was made to look like a fool in every encounter.
Once you realise that the gimmick was copied from Yoshi Tatsu in NJPW, then the whole thing not working becomes clear. Tatsu was briefly known as the Bullet Club Hunter, even leading the Hunter Club stable after having his neck broken by AJ Styles.
At least he would pretend to be Triple H (for reasons unknown) during this time, while Kazarian just looked like a bit of a loser.
Kazarian was mainly relegated to AEW Dark for the rest of his stay in AEW. He left the company in early 2023 to return to Impact wrestling, hoping to make a name for himself as a singles wrestler in the place where he was once a legend.
Hopefully he does better in that company than his did during his doomed run as The Elite Jobber in AEW.
Frankie Kazarian Reveals Why Elite Hunter Gimmick Didn’t Work
In a recent interview with Kurt Angle, Frankie Kazarian spoke about how AEW’s vision for his Elite Hunter character, and wrestling in general, was the reason why he left the company.
Kazarinan also stated that he regretted re-signing with AEW in 2021, and thought that he really should have left then, rather than wasting two more years with the company.
Speaking on The Kurt Angle Show, Franke Kazarian said;
“When I left last year, I still had two years left on my contract when I left,” Kazarian said. “I made the decision to leave. I still had two years left. I probably could have been there much longer. I re-signed at the end of 2021 and hindsight being what it is, I probably shouldn’t have, but again, AEW, I was there since before day one. “
“I was there when this was a germ of an idea. I was there discussing this company when they didn’t even have initials attached to them in these rooms with Cody and The Bucks and Page and Sky and C.D. So again, I was committed. I was like I want to try to, you know, ride this thing out.”
“It just became apparent to me that what I like and what I appreciate about pro wrestling and the way I like it presented was not happening at AEW, and that’s not an indictment of them. It’s just what they perceive as good television wrestling and what I do are different things, and just the business model, everything.”
“Again, it was one of those things I feel, and still do to this day, that I feel that I have so much more to offer than what I was being utilized for in AEW. So I bet on myself and I made the decision to walk away, and I am very thankful I did. It’s by far the best decision I could have made where I am right now.”
After returning to Impact wrestling, Frankie Kazarian dropped his Elite Hunter gimmick. He soon found success, winning the X-Division title, before vacating the belt for a title shot at the Impact World Champion.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.