Claudio Castagnoli was a surprise AEW debutant at Forbidden Door (26 June), making an impact as Zack Sabre Jr.'s mystery opponent three nights before winning the company's second Blood & Guts match for his new stable, the Blackpool Combat Club.
From the moment Bryan Danielson handed the mystery opponent scenario to Sabre Jr., Claudio was a red-hot favourite for the spot amongst wrestling fans. But the situation made waves nonetheless - even in the WWE locker room.
Dave Meltzer reports in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that many WWE wrestlers were shocked at Castagnoli showing up, considering the sizeable offer the market leaders had extended to the former Cesaro prior to him turning it down in February.
The surprise was a bigger deal to the wrestlers than the fans, the report states, with the general consensus being that AEW must have at least matched (or even topped) WWE's mega offer.
Talent theorised that at 41 years old, Castagnoli, who was never realistically going to be pushed long-term in WWE, was also driven by a desire to prove himself a top wrestler before any noticeable physical decline sets in.