Could AEW's 'Hall of Fame'-Caliber Signing Be a Game-Changer for Wrestling?

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2021

All Elite Wrestling

On his own, Paul Wight probably wasn't going to move the needle much for All Elite Wrestling heading into Sunday's Revolution pay-per-view event. 

But Wight showed up Wednesday night on Dynamite and wasn't technically alone: He arrived alongside a promise that AEW was about to sign a "Hall of Fame-worthy" Superstar and that "it's not who you think." 

That's certainly one way to help the man formerly known as Big Show make a massive splash in 2021. 

The mind could get overwhelmed trying to figure out who in the world he might be talking about, though the main goal will certainly be accomplished—fans will go overboard catching the show to see who the big reveal might be. 

And the possibilities are what make this so great. Being "worthy" of the Hall of Fame (and which hall are we talking about?) is a fun way to keep the fan-theorizing at an all-time high. Is it Hall of Famer and wrestling-worthy Hall of Famer like Shaq? What about any number of potential football players and former boxing or MMA stars? 

Most interesting, of course, is strictly looking at wrestlers themselves. Throwing out a Hall of Fame tag is a big deal. The mind immediately wanders to whether this is another great swiping of talent from WWE. Could it be an older legend like Kurt Angle or Christian? What if it's something as absolutely wild as a Brock Lesnar or John Cena

All Elite Wrestling @AEW

.@PaulWight has a BIG surprise set for #AEWRevolution this Sunday! RT with your predictions on who you think it could be. Watch #AEWDynamite NOW on @TNTDrama REMINDER: The Countdown to #AEWRevolution begins immediately following Dynamite. https://t.co/94eDL1bxfy

And if we're not talking stolen Superstars from WWE, what if it's the long-awaited return of one CM Punk? 

See why it's so exciting? Tony Khan himself further elaborated on Wight's comments on an episode of AEW Unrestricted: (h/t Bill Pritchard of Wrestle Zone):

"He told the world, and it's true, that there's going to be a big star signed with AEW. He's coming here and it's absolutely true what Paul said, this Sunday, a major star in the world of wrestling. A huge star is going to come and sign a multi-year contract with AEW on Sunday at the pay-per-view. So, I can confirm what Paul said is true—and I'm not talking about the person in the ladder match. I'm talking about—we have a fun sixth person in the ladder match but the person that I'm saying is going to come and sign a multi-year contract with AEW, the person that Paul referenced, that's not the sixth person in the ladder match."

So, maybe not somebody from outside of the wrestling world, though even that has a loose definition these days with guys like Shaq and Pat McAfee taking to the squared circle. 

One thing to consider: AEW wouldn't hype this in such a manner if it wasn't an actual huge name. This can't be some undervalued WWE guy who merely thinks he's worth the Hall of Fame. That would be a huge misstep as an underwhelming payoff in the escalating wrestling war between AEW and WWE and would mean fans wouldn't take what AEW hypes at face value anymore. 

That loops back to the same old question, though: Who? One could easily fantasy book it into being Lesnar. He's been missing in action from WWE for the majority of the pandemic era and even as fans get back in stands, he's been gone.

Now, WWE has a dominant good guy capable of being top dog (Drew McIntyre) and a dominant, Lesnar-type heel in Roman Reigns, who even comes equipped with Paul Heyman. 

If the money is right, maybe it's Lesnar. The same applies to Cena. As absolutely ridiculous as it sounds, Cena has been pretty clearly focused on his non-wrestling career. Maybe he wants to put in a very small number of dates per year and the cash was right. 

The same applies to someone like Batista. He's an international movie star right now, and he can deny it on Twitter all he wants, if the company offered the limited dates he wants, the right cash and some dream matches, it would be a welcome surprise. 

Maybe most unlikely at this point is CM Punk, purely because Wight said it was someone they wouldn't seem to expect. Fans have long expected a Punk return and the 2021 Royal Rumble would've surely featured chants of his name again had a full crowd been in the stands. 

Still, a slight fib on Wight's part will be long forgotten and forgiven if that static hits and Punk walks down a wrestling ramp again to be a competitor while contributing in the war against WWE, the place he left via a very public, messy breakup. 

Just on the little bit outlined above, it's easy to see why the idea of AEW landing a major Superstar is such an intoxicating thing. The company has gone from little upstart with high goals to playing in the big leagues and even putting a hurting on WWE (check those NXT ratings) seemingly overnight. 

So far, AEW has done a magnificent job with the maturity of their big adds. Jon Moxley is an international treasure, Sting has been handled excellently, and Wight is just getting started in a smooth role. Confidence in the company brilliantly handling another massive name is warranted. 

And refreshingly, unlike WWE's insistence on announcing big returns beforehand for a ratings pop, AEW isn't spoiling the surprise. There will be one—but we don't know what. That's fun for the buildup and better if the payoff is worth it.

As long as this isn't AEW face-planting by hyping something up too much only for it to be a letdown, it's nothing but a good thing for the industry as a whole. Dream matches are dream matches. Seeing active legends partake in the sport, regardless of company, is a good thing. And competition will only make both companies better.