The 7 Most Shocking Company Jumps in Wrestling History
After 22 years with WWE, Paul Wight recently shocked fans by signing with All Elite Wrestling and becoming a member of its commentary team for a new show.
Previously known as Big Show, the 49-year-old last appeared on WWE television at the Legends Night episode of Raw on January 4. He made the switch after failing to reach a new deal with management, according to Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com.
Wight is the latest WWE talent to move to AEW, but he likely won't be the last. The longer the newer promotion exists, the more people we will see jump from company to company.
As surprising as Wight's decision is, it is nowhere near the most surprising acquisition we have seen in pro wrestling. Many big names have become more famous by jumping ship, especially during the Monday Night Wars.
Let's take a look back at seven Superstars who made headlines by switching companies.
Chris Jericho to WWE
In 1999, WCW was starting to show cracks in its armor. The New World Order had carried the company to unprecedented success, but a lot of non-NWO stars were left to fend for midcard titles and nothing more.
Chris Jericho saw the writing on the wall and made the decision to jump ship to WWE. Teasers began to air during Raw with a countdown timer that appeared to end several months before the end of the millennium.
When the clock counted down to zero on August 9, 1999, Y2J made his first appearance on WWE Raw during a promo from The Rock. The two titans of the microphone traded jabs, but the fact that it was his debut ensured Jericho's performance became the most memorable moment of the night.
This was 22 years ago. Backstage information about what happens in pro wrestling was much more scarce then, so a lot of fans were stunned when Jericho showed up out of nowhere.
This remains one of the most impactful debuts in WWE history and led to Jericho having nearly two decades of success with the company. These days, he is the leader of The Inner Circle in All Elite Wrestling and a regular at the commentary table.
Lex Luger to WCW
WCW spent years playing second fiddle to WWE before it launched Monday Nitro as a way to compete with Raw. The debut episode took place on September 4, 1995, inside The Mall of America in Minneapolis.
Lex Luger had appeared at SummerSlam for WWE eight days earlier, so nobody expected to see him show up during Nitro's inaugural main event. It was the first shocking moment that indicated WCW was taking the competition with WWE seriously.
It sometimes feels like people forget how big a star Luger was then. WWE had done the whole Lex Express angle that saw him bodyslam Yokozuna, and he was the co-winner of the 1994 Royal Rumble with Bret Hart. He was a main event star who looked like the statue of a Greek god.
When he jumped to WCW, it was the first of many times we would see Superstars leave WWE for what appeared to be a better environment. When WWE purchased WCW in 2001, Luger chose not to return to the company.
Rick Rude to WCW
Luger showing up on Nitro a little more than a week after his final WWE appearance was a big moment, but Rick Rude topped that by appearing on Nitro and Raw on the same evening on Nov. 17, 1997.
Because Raw was filmed in advance and Nitro was broadcast live, he was able to film a segment for D-Generation X on one show and support the New World Order on another. It was amazing to watch live.
Nobody knew what to think. Did Rude betray Vince McMahon? Were WWE and WCW secretly the same company the whole time? Was Rude violating a contract? There were so many questions.
This is the kind of thing that was only possible when WWE pre-taped Raw. With the advent of internet spoilers and incidents like this, McMahon had no choice but to start airing the red brand live on Mondays.
Rude was already a legend in pro wrestling, but this moment made him an icon.
Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to WCW
Razor Ramon and Diesel were two of WWE's most recognizable stars in the mid-1990s. They were used in tons of marketing material, and one or both of them usually had a title around their waist.
When Scott Hall showed up on WCW Nitro on May 27, 1996, the wrestling world was stunned. Many fans legitimately thought he was invading the competition's show.
Kevin Nash arrived two weeks later to form The Outsiders. The group was clearly anti-WCW and feuded with company men like Sting and Randy Savage.
These two separate debuts helped shift more fans over to WCW and allowed the company to win the ratings war for nearly two years. It was also the start of the New World Order and led to Hulk Hogan's first run as a heel.
If Nash and Hall had not jumped ship, WCW may have looked very different: The NWO might not have existed, and the company could have gone in several other directions.
One has to wonder if WCW might still be around today had it not experienced such a roller-coaster ride and kept a steady pace instead.
Kurt Angle to TNA
In 2006, WWE was trying to launch a new version of ECW. Management tried to move a few top stars to the young brand to give it a boost—one of whom was Kurt Angle.
After a few months, WWE granted his request for a release, which surprised fans and people within the company. He was one of the biggest names in the industry, but he was unhappy and often working hurt.
On September 24, 2006, less than two months after his final WWE match, Angle was announced as having signed with TNA by company president Dixie Carter at the end of the No Surrender pay-per-view.
Less than one month later, The Olympic Gold Medalist arrived in the Impact Zone for the first time and got into a fight with Samoa Joe, who was one of TNA's early breakout stars.
Angle jumping ship to the much-smaller TNA was as surprising as it gets. He likely took lower payment in order to work fewer dates, but the move also made him a huge star again after WWE had cooled on his booking a bit.
For over 10 years, Angle was one of the people who held TNA together. He brought legitimacy and fresh eyes to the product and helped lead one of the most exciting periods in the company's history.
Sting to TNA
When WWE bought WCW in 2001, it acquired a lot of the contracts for its Superstars. However, Sting's contract was with Time Warner, so he was not part of the deal.
Instead of going to WWE to have the dream match with The Undertaker everybody wanted, The Icon chose to move to the upstart Total Nonstop Action Wrestling in 2003 after a stint with World Wrestling All-Stars.
He debuted at the one-year anniversary show on June 18 when he teamed with another former WCW champion, Jeff Jarrett, against AJ Styles and X-Pac.
Like Angle, Sting was one of the few mainstream stars who chose TNA over WWE. He might not have been traveling the world as much, but he helped guide an entire generation of young talents. That might be worth more to him than whatever money WWE was going to pay.
AJ Styles to WWE
When WWE began using NXT as a developmental territory for Raw and SmackDown, it effectively killed the chance for any of those Superstars to have a shocking debut. If we see them find success in the black-and-gold brand, we expect to see them on the main roster at some point.
The only major exceptions have involved WWE hiring established names. Bobby Lashley and Sting didn't have to go through NXT because they were already veterans, but Superstars such as Drew McIntyre and Samoa Joe put in time with the brand.
The biggest WWE debut of the last decade is undoubtedly AJ Styles at the 2016 Royal Rumble. Some news sites had the scoop, but his arrival in the 30-man match was a genuine surprise for many.
The Phenomenal One had made his name in promotions such as New Japan Pro-Wrestling, TNA and Ring of Honor, and the crowd at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida went wild when he appeared as the No. 3 entrant in the WWE event.
In an era when every single thing is reported in detail, pro wrestling companies have to get creative to shock us. Let's hope AEW and WWE find new ways to keep things under wraps so we can continue to drop our jaws at moments like the ones listed here.