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After more than 10 years with WWE, Rob Schamberger resigned his post as the company’s artist in residence. Now, he’s All Elite — kind of.

On April 22, Schamberger teased his partnership with ShopAEW and Pro Wrestling Tees, and the Monday following AEW Dynasty, unveiled his debut AEW painting — the company’s new World Champion Swerve Strickland.

While he’ll be creating art of AEW talent, he’s not actually signed to the company. Schamberger has had a long-standing relationship with PWT owner Ryan Barkan and reached out to him in late March to discuss a potential partnership.

Schamberger will release new AEW prints through PWT on Thursdays – some of which will be signed. The initial Strickland release was an 18” x 24” print, and Schamberger said in his ShopTalk newsletter on Sunday that after receiving feedback about the size and stock of prints, his printer in Kansas City, Missouri, will continue to make the prints. But fulfillment will be through ShopAEW.

Swerve Strickland as painted by Rob Schamberger.

Swerve Strickland as painted by Rob Schamberger.

Future endeavors

Schamberger announced his departure from WWE on April 15 on social media, acknowledging that the company gave him the opportunity to focus on art and brought new friendships into his life. In that time, his work appeared as part of WWE programming, Topps trading cards, Mattel creations and WWE 2K.

“I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some of the smartest and most capable people in their fields that I’ve ever met,” he wrote. “Real friendships, people that I truly love, have been the result of this experience.”

WWE’s Adam Pearce, Corey Graves and Natalya were among those who commented on the post.

Schamberger told that the division he had worked with in WWE was phased out to Fanatics and he was no longer able to get signed prints, making part of his reason to leave an economic one.

“They had a lot of changes over the past year,” Schamberger said. “The company I worked with for 10 years doesn’t exist anymore.”

WWE and Fanatics began their partnership in March 2022, stating in a news release that it would “create a new, enhanced experience for WWE fans globally across several businesses, including e-commerce and licensed merchandise, as well as physical, digital, and non-fungible token (NFT) trading cards.”

“From e-commerce and licensed merchandise to trading cards and more, we’re going to offer up an incredible set of capabilities to help WWE’s passionate fans worldwide celebrate their favorite superstars, marquee events and the WWE brand overall,” Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin said in the release.

Then in April, WWE and Fanatics announced that its partnership had expanded to include management of the “on-site event retail experience” for WWE. Days prior, Schamberger shared on social media that WWE and Fanatics “opted to move on with [WrestleMania Axxess] without my being a part of it.”

“That’s the way things go, but the memories of those events will stay with me forever,” he wrote. “That I got to do it with my wife and with so many friends, and made some real friendships through it, is what it was really all about for me.”

Arriving at AEW

Initially, Schamberger said he thought he was done with wrestling altogether as the WWE landscape shifted.

“I was looking at options completely outside of wrestling but [I had] established myself within this Venn diagram of art and wrestling,” Schamberger said. “I thought, ‘Before I completely walk away, let’s see if there’d be interest from them [AEW] and what it would look like.’”

Now that new chapter will allow him to depict talent he’s never painted before.

“That alone is exciting,” Schamberger said. “There’s a lot of new fresh faces in WWE all the time, but for upper card top stars, I’ve been there. Some of them I’ve painted 10 or more times. There are a lot of fresh faces in AEW, a lot of people I haven’t painted in a long time or thought I wouldn’t get a chance to again. Adam Copeland, Moxley, Mercedes. Even Toni Storm.”

His next expected release is AEW Continental Champion Kazuchika Okada, who signed with the company in March.

“I’ve always said people that already have an exciting look frees me up to do even more because I can push it a little further,” Schamberger said. “So someone like Okada, especially his entrance and his gear for that, it’s so already visually compelling that for me to push it even further, the audience would be on board with that. It’s not a big ask.”

But in revisiting older subjects, AEW allows for new approaches. Because they have a different audience than WWE and a different merchandising situation, Schamberger said he can “be a little more violent in what [he’s] depicting.”

“With Mox, WWE has, because of their audience, has a no-blood rule … [With AEW], that’s a whole other element that I can bring,” Schamberger said.
So far he has had “pretty good creative leeway,” but said he doesn’t know how much violence or blood he’ll ultimately depict — It would depend on if it would make a piece more compelling.

His deal is not exclusive and he’s not an AEW employee. However, he’s one of two artists working with AEW. The other being Mel Coleman.

“Their audience supports more than one artist, and Mel has a very distinctive style that I feel is different enough from mine that we’re ultimately not really competing … She was there before me, and I want to make sure I’m in a supportive role for her,” he said. (Follow her at @melcolemanart.)

Two of Schamberger’s biggest takeaways from his time with WWE are that it allowed him to make artwork full-time for more than a decade at a “very high level” and the friendship he gained. Plus, he was able to “pick Paul Heyman’s brain,” talk wrestling with Steve Austin and learn from the WWE merchandising team.

“I’m coming out of it a significantly better artist than I went into [the partnership],” Schamberger said. “I’m coming out with a lot of deeper friendships and deeper business knowledge because of it.”

To keep up with Schamberger’s work in AEW, subscribe to his newsletter.

TOP PHOTO: Rob Schamberger. Instagram photo