The Coolest AEW Debuts We've Seen So Far

Since its inception, All Elite Wrestling has been known for its massive surprise debuts during PPV events, tournaments, open challenges, battle royales, or sometimes just when it is least expected. Over the years, Tony Khan has often teased big signings, and has delivered more times than not.

At any given time, a former WWE main roster or NXT talent can arrive and change the entire landscape of the company. Even top ranked independent talent have shown up unexpectedly on AEW programming and have since taken their careers to the next level. Some of the biggest names in all of professional wrestling have made their way to All Elite Wrestling in spectacular fashion, debuting at some of the brand's biggest events to date. Although many of these debuts have been much more than just mid, this list highlights the coolest debuts we've seen in AEW thus far.

Jon Moxley

Arguably one of the all time biggest debuts for the company was Jon Moxley's arrival at Double or Nothing in 2019. In true Mox fashion, the future AEW World Champion made his way through the Las Vegas crowd while Chris Jericho was cutting a post match promo. Audible gasps grew into a frenzy of cheers as Moxley made his way to the ring without any sort of entrance music. He then entered the ring spinning around and tilting his head as he locked eyes with Jericho.

Mox not only dropped Chris Jericho after the match but attacked Kenny Omega as well. The two battled onto the large poker chip set piece where Mox threw Omega off with a fireman's carry slam. The image of Mox standing tall above the AEW faithful is one that certainly foreshadowed his upcoming success in the company.

Eddie Kingston

Eddie Kingston surprised AEW fans when he arrived to answer Cody Rhodes' open challenge for the TNT Championship on July 22nd, 2020. Being one of the greatest talkers in the business, Kingston instantly made an impression with a scathing promo on both Rhodes and Arn Anderson. Kingston was another competitor to enter the squared circle without any entrance music during his debut. Eddie let his words lead him to the ring as he referred to Arn as a "used-to-be legend." He then focused his attention to Cody, stating that Rhodes couldn't last a day in his shoes. Kingston went on to say that everyone Cody was facing during his open challenges were children but he was a grown man.

The two competitors went on to have a very memorable bout. Kingston proved that his talents were equally as good in the ring. He took the loss, but instantly made an impact within All Elite Wrestling. Eddie signed to the company shortly thereafter, which marked another important time in which a top independent talent was being recognized by the company.

CM Punk

One of the worst kept secrets in the history of professional wrestling turned out to be one of the coolest debuts in the history of AEW. After stepping away from the business for seven years, CM Punk made his long awaited return to pro wrestling on "AEW Rampage: The First Dance" in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Fans were hysterical. Some were even in tears. Without any sort of introduction, the show opened with Living Colour's "Cult of Personality" blasting throughout the arena. Punk fell to his knees to take in the moment on the entranceway. He then made his way down the ramp and took a stage dive into the crowd.

Punk cut an amazing promo in which he explained his decision to come back to professional wrestling after seven long years. The icing on the cake came in the form of exclusive CM Punk ice cream bars, which were given to every single fan in attendance.

Adam Cole

One of two major debuts that occurred at the end of AEW's All Out PPV in 2021 was that of former Undisputed Era leader and former NXT Champion, Adam Cole. As Kenny Omega seemingly signed off from the show, the lights suddenly went down. The lyrics "You know it's all about the Boom" unexpectedly blasted throughout the arena as the graphic of "Bay Bay" was displayed across the entranceway screens. Adam Cole slowly made his way to the stage with an epic new entrance theme, "All About Tha (BOOM!)" by Mikey Rukus. With new music and new logos, Adam Cole surprised the crowd, and the presentation was absolutely perfect.

The intentions of Cole were unclear until he ultimately went on to embrace his friends in the ring and officially rejoin The Elite. This marked an incredible moment in AEW's history. Little did the fans know that this was just the beginning.

Bryan Danielson

In a rare double debut, "The American Dragon" Bryan Danielson surprised the crowd with his AEW debut immediately after Cole's. Omega once again tried to sign off the show, when suddenly the familiar theme of a remixed "Flight of the Valkyries" could be heard. The fans instantly knew that this meant the return of Bryan Danielson, which absolutely blew the lid off the building. As Danielson made his way to the ring in a plain white T-shirt, fans immediately started to bring back the infamous "Yes!" chants.

The American Dragon went on to help even the odds in the ring as he joined Christian, Luchasaurus, and Jungle Boy in a brawl against Omega, The Young Bucks, The Good Brothers, and Adam Cole. This made for one of the most memorable moments in AEW's three year history and lead to several monumental feuds.

Thunder Rosa

NWA Women's World Champion Thunder Rosa made her AEW debut against Serena Deeb on the September 2nd, 2020 edition of "AEW Dynamite." Although not yet officially signed to the company, the unofficial debut was just the beginning of Thunder Rosa's dominance of the AEW Women's Division in the coming years. The debut also marked one of the first times another promotion's premiere women's champion had appeared on AEW television. The bout between Deeb and Rosa was a phenomenal display of technical and veteran prowess. Rosa picked up the victory and proudly held her NWA Women's World Championship high above her head.

This debut ultimately changed the entire landscape of the AEW women's division moving forward. The future AEW World Women's Champion has since elevated the women's division in AEW, and women's wrestling across the country as a whole.

Danhausen

A major fan favorite moment in AEW was the unique debut of the very nice, very evil Danhausen. During a match between Adam Cole and Orange Cassidy on "Dynamite," Danhausen made a surprise cameo from under the ring. At one point in the match Cole struggled to grab a chair from under the ring, only to find that Danhausen was holding on to it. Cole dragged both Danhausen and the chair out from under the ring, causing the live crowd to go absolutely bonkers for the surprise cameo.

As Cole looked perplexed by the whole situation, Danhausen cursed Adam Cole, which served as a distraction. Orange Cassidy capitalized on the brief distraction but was left in confusion as Danhausen slowly walked back up the ramp. The spot completely stole the show and was done in such a subtle, fun way. Sometimes less is more, and this was the perfect debut for Danhausen.

Sting

At the "Winter is Coming" event, fans had no idea that the icon Sting was also going to be making his surprise debut. He showed up during a segment involving Team Taz and the team of Cody Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, Darby, and Arn Anderson. As Ricky Starks, Powerhouse Hobbs, and Brian Cage were beating down the aforementioned group, the lights suddenly dropped. It began to snow as the sounds of organs and an electric guitar were heard throughout the arena. Tony Schiavone let out his signature "It's STING!" call as the icon himself made his way to the ring.

As the fans were elated to see one of the all time greats make his way down the ramp, the question remained of what his intentions were in that moment. Team Taz cleared the ring and Sting stared into the eyes of Arn, Dustin, and Cody one by one. Ultimately, Sting brought his focus to Darby Allin which made fans question what his next move would be.

Malakai Black

In one of the most surprising debuts of all time, Malakai Black appeared out of the darkness to attack both Arn Anderson and Cody Rhodes at "AEW Dynamite: Road Rager." This debut was particularly great because, throughout the night, the lights went out periodically due to the tropical storms in the area. Or so we were meant to believe. During a segment where Tony Schiavone was interviewing Arn Anderson in the ring, the lights once again turned off. The commentary team referred to the ongoing storms, but when the lights came back on Malakai Black was standing in the middle of the ring, to the surprise of everyone. Malakai hit both Arn and Cody with his signature roundhouse kick, leaving the fans with their jaws on the floor.

Another great aspect of Black's debut was that nobody saw it coming this soon. It was shortly revealed afterwards that Black only had a 30 day non compete, not a 90 day as originally speculated.

Toni Storm

Toni Storm made her debut on the March 30th, 2022 edition of "AEW Dynamite" in a qualifying match for the Women's Owen Hart Foundation Tournament Cup against the Bunny. Tony Khan had been teasing a surprise talent debut, and much to the joy of the fans in attendance, it was indeed Toni Storm. Storm, who was criminally underutilized in WWE, made a stellar entrance with a revamped look and new theme a la Heart's "Barracuda." Fans were behind Storm immediately, as she won in impressive fashion.

Storm ultimately lost to Britt Baker in the semi-final round of the tournament. While Britt moved on to win the tournament, Storm went on to team with Thunder Rosa and fought in several marquee matches before finally becoming the Interim AEW World Women's Champion. Fans are patiently anticipating the return of Thunder Rosa and wondering how the new dynamic between she and Storm may play out moving forward.   

Keith Lee

The live Atlantic City crowd would certainly bask in the glory of the debuting Keith Lee during the February 2nd, 2022 edition of "AEW Dynamite." Tony Khan had been teasing a huge signing for the company and the fans were not disappointed. Limitless Keith Lee made his way to the ring with a stellar new entrance track and a massive pop from the live audience. Lee faced off against Private Party's Isiah Kassidy in a Face of the Revolution Qualifying match. The match was a very impressive showing for the debuting Lee, who walked away with the victory.

After spending months outside of the ring and dealing with health issues, Lee looked absolutely limitless within the squared circle. This marked another huge signing for the company, as the former NXT Champion would go on to become one half of the AEW World Tag Team Champions with Swerve Strickland.

Serpentico

Even though he did not debut on a major PPV or episode of "Dynamite," Serpentico made quite an impression in his debut on "AEW Dark" with colorful streamers in tow. Serpentico's arrival to the company marked the beginning of a time where AEW was consistently using notable independent talent and starting to sign them to long term contracts. It was announced months later that Serpentico had indeed signed with All Elite Wrestling.

Although losing his bout to Darby Allin, and many bouts thereafter, Serpentico made one of the most notable debuts in the history of "AEW Dark." Even Taz and Excalibur were impressed by his flashy entrance and in ring ability. Serpentico, who is a veteran in the business, has competed against most of AEW's top talent and currently teams with Luthor in Chaos Project. He is also known for his ongoing friendly Twitter feud with Nyla Rose

Ruby Soho

Another surprise debut at AEW's All Out 2021 was that of Ruby Soho as the Joker in the Casino Battle Royale. The former WWE Riott Squad member took on the new moniker based on the subject of Rancid's track, "Ruby Soho." The band's Lars Fredrickson was all about the persona, having been a longtime fan of professional wrestling. The surprise debut of Soho got a very positive reaction from the crowd. She would go on to win the Casino Battle Royal for an opportunity to face then AEW World Women's Champion, Dr. Britt Baker D.M.D.

Unfortunately, though she's often a heavy favorite in many of these championship and tournament opportunities she has had so far, Soho has yet to win the big one in AEW. Soho was recently sidelined with a broken nose and underwent surgery. Perhaps we will see a surprise return from her in the near future.  

Claudio Castagnoli

Fans at AEW's Forbidden Door pay per view were treated to a major surprise when Claudio Castagnoli was revealed to Bryan Danielson's hand picked replacement against Zack Sabre Jr. There was a ton of speculation on who Danielson's partner would be, as many thought it could be the man formerly known as Cesaro. Many fans claimed it would be Chris Hero or even Johnny Gargano. When the time came for the match, fans were treated to a clinic put on by Castagnoli and Sabre Jr. Castagnoli won the match in impressive fashion. Though he wore their gear during his entrance, he later formally joined the Blackpool Combat Club alongside Danielson, Mox, Regal, and Wheeler Yuta.

Castagnoli, who was arguably one of the most underutilized talents in WWE, has since been a top guy in All Elite Wrestling. Most recently he had a short title reign as the Ring of Honor World Champion before losing the championship to Chris Jericho.  

Matt Hardy

Matt Hardy surprised AEW fans watching at home while the world was seemingly shutting down. Hardy showed up on the March 18th, 2020 episode of "AEW Dynamite," with no fans in attendance after a major swerve. Many believed Hardy to have been the mysterious Exalted One of the Dark Order after several misleading clues on social media. Instead, Hardy appeared with his drone Vanguard 1 to even the odds with his friends The Elite against Jericho's Inner Circle. Hardy arrived in one of his more broken personas, which fans would come to learn had evolved over time. This was the second of two debuts in another history making night within All Elite Wrestling.

Hardy's debut lead to a series of epic matches between The Inner Circle and The Elite with Matt Hardy, culminating in an absolutely epic Stadium Stampede Match.

Brodie Lee

Although many clues pointed to Matt Hardy being revealed as the Dark Order's Exalted One, it was actually the former Luke Harper of WWE, Brodie Lee. Evil Uno often spoke of the exalted one while the Dark Order was feuding with SCU. On March 18th, 2020, Christopher Daniels addressed Evil Uno in the ring as an abrupt video package featuring the Exalted One played, revealing Brodie Lee to be the true leader of the Dark Order. Lee made a memorable debut wearing his signature white coat and absolutely dominating anyone who opposed him.

Lee went on to become a dominant TNT Champion and mentor many up and coming talents behind the scenes, until he ultimately passed away at the end of 2020. His wife Amanda Huber now works with All Elite Wrestling and his son — who is now known as Negative One in the Dark Order — can often be seen on AEW programming.

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