It is understandable that fans would be swept up by the emotion and excitement of CM Punk's return to the squared circle after more than seven years away and Bryan Danielson's jump after a tumultuous run in WWE. However, Adam Cole, who debuted in All Elite Wrestling during the closing moments of Sunday's All Out pay-per-view, may well prove to be the most influential and significant signing of the three.
The former Ring of Honor and NXT champion arrived on the scene Sunday, blasting Jungle Boy with a superkick and joining his Elite brethren as the company strengthened the heel faction. It was an interesting twist considering the last time Cole shared the ring with the Bucks and Omega he was being unceremoniously booted from Bullet Club.
And therein, at least partially, lies the reason why Cole may prove to be the most important of AEW's recent signings.
Cole's history with the core of AEW is rich. He was prominently featured on Being The Elite, was on-screen friends with the Bucks and Omega and was a key figure in the modern revolution of pro wrestling early on. He was a majorly popular member of Bullet Club when the faction's T-shirts were selling at Hot Topic and it was arguably the hottest act in the business.
He rose to prominence with the executive vice presidents of AEW, working alongside them in both New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Ring of Honor, and he helped the latter promotion become as buzzworthy as it had been since Punk, Danielson and Joe were tearing the house down in the early 2000s.
Cole reuniting the band gives AEW a strong faction of heels for babyfaces to contend with. But on a grander stage, it also sets up a revenge storyline of sorts.
No matter the setting, Cole has always been portrayed as a cerebral competitor. He thrives on outsmarting and staying one step ahead of the competition. He may be a heel, as established by his reunion with his former Bullet Club teammates, but there will come a time when Tony Khan and the creative forces within AEW opt to position him against Omega and the Bucks.
When that happens, the promotion will have a ready-made story the likes of which Punk and Danielson cannot stake equal claims to.
That also pushes Cole past Punk and Danielson in the long term.
Punk and Danielson are attractions now. They are top stars who will move the needle and entice fans who may have been disenfranchised with the state of wrestling back to the shows and into the arenas. They are stars the company can hype shows around.
Cole's value is both now and later.
He's a major star in the wrestling industry, and his arrival in the company sent shock waves throughout the business. It was as recent as August that WWE was still negotiating with him on a contract, including a face-to-face meeting with Vince McMahon at SmackDown, according to Fightful Select.
All the way up to Sunday's pay-per-view, there were still rumors about his contractual status and whether WWE was still an option.
Cole bet on himself to go somewhere where he can grow as a performer and have the creative freedom to do new and exciting things without worrying whether his size would derail any attempt at a genuine main event run.
He arrives in AEW ready to star immediately and, more importantly, in the coming years.
The 32-year-old will be at the top of the industry beyond the end of Omega's run as a full-time wrestler. He will be stealing shows and having Match of the Year candidates well past The Young Bucks' tag team dominance. In signing with AEW, he has ensured himself the opportunity to be the guy in a way he was never going to be allowed to be in WWE despite all of his success in its NXT brand.
And in return, AEW receives one of the best wrestlers in the world—someone who learned under Triple H and Shawn Michaels for four years—and a building block for its future pro wrestling supremacy.