AEW has very quickly established a tradition of big names debuting at its major shows. Sometimes these signings are teased beforehand; others are so shocking that they can hardly be believed.
One of the major reasons for AEW's rapid success can be attributed to the stellar roster Tony Khan has managed to build. The status of a legitimate contender to WWE's legacy was cemented right from the signing of Chris Jericho to the young brand.
On top of that, Tony Khan has ensured that his employees are treated well and given the creative license they desire. Right from the beginning, the company has worked to establish goodwill with fans and talent alike.
The number of high-profile veteran wrestlers has only continued to grow in recent times. Tony Khan's aggressive recruitment tendencies have always kept fans on their toes, as a lot of unexpected faces have joined the All Elite scene.
With that in mind, let's explore five of those unexpected debuts that we never expected to see in AEW.
#5. Samoa Joe stomps into ROH
The most recent of Tony Khan's big signings, Samoa Joe's shocking appearance at ROH: Supercard of Honor sent shockwaves across the pro wrestling community.
This was Joe's first appearance on a wrestling show since his WWE release. While many fans have speculated that he could eventually make the jump to AEW, no one anticipated the Samoan Submission Machine to show up so soon.
While Samoa Joe hasn't participated in any matches yet, he is being advertised for AEW Dynamite, and a feud with Jay Lethal seems to be set up. It will be interesting to see how Joe's run progresses in his new environment.
#4. Bryan Danielson revives The American Dragon
Bryan Danielson remains one of Tony Khan's biggest and most surprising acquisitions. Danielson's debut at All Out sent ripples across the wrestling community last year.
The legendary status The American Dragon built during his time in WWE certainly did not fade when he jumped ship to Tony Khan's company. On top of that, Danielson seems to have transformed into the best version of himself, wrestling Kenny Omega in a match of the year contender for his in-ring debut.
With the Blackpool Combat Club now making leaps in the All Elite scene, fans are hard-pressed to deny the legacy Bryan and Jon Moxley are building together. Which brings us to the next person on this list.
#3. Jon Moxley initiates a Paradigm Shift
Next to Bryan Danielson, Jon Moxley is one of the biggest stars to leave WWE for Tony Khan's company.
Moxley has consistently been a top dog on the AEW roster since the promotion's inception. But since his recent return from alcohol treatment, his physical transformation and impressive agility has put the former AEW Champion on a completely different level.
His gritty and violent style has always been embraced by fans, and his never-say-die attitude has led to some memorable main events against the likes of Darby Allin and Kenny Omega. His current team-up with Bryan Danielson promises to be one of the greatest tag teams in AEW's young history.
#2. William Regal lends his expertise to AEW
William Regal's departure from WWE was not really a surprise. With the dismantling and rebranding of NXT, many changes were made behind the scenes, and Vince McMahon seemed to have little use for the veteran.
However, Regal's debut in All Elite Wrestling raised the stakes in what was already a very high-profile feud between Bryan Danielson and Jon Moxley. Regal commands a certain level of respect and reverence among fans, and Tony Khan figured out how to use his potential perfectly.
The mentorship that William Regal provides to The Blackpool Combat Club is only rivaled by the intimidating presence he brings to the ringside. Fans have certainly responded to him joining Tony Khan's company very positively.
#1. CM Punk returns to wrestling
CM Punk's inclusion and active participation in AEW has been a legitimate game-changer for the promotion's ratings.
Ever since his electrifying debut, the Second City Saint has been on a roll, going up against the best homegrown stars on the All Elite roster. Punk has defeated formidable wrestlers like Darby Allin and Eddie Kingston, and has even managed to pull off a win over Wardlow.
It was hard to imagine that the 'Best in the world' would ever come out of retirement, let alone join WWE's rival company. However, Punk is now adored by fans and has one of the most prominent in-ring presences in the company.
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