While AEW taken criticism for signing too many former WWE wrestlers in the past, there is no doubt that they have built one of the best rosters of all time, featuring ten different former WWE World Champions in their company in just five years.
While a number of former WWE stars have wrestled for AEW in the past (such as Sting, Malakai Black and Andrade, they have managed to sign ten former WWE World Champions to AEW since the company was founded in 2019.
In this list, we’ll look at the ten former WWE World Champions (including WWE and World Heavyweight Champions) to have signed full-time for AEW. This does not include one-off, or temporary appearances, like Bret Hart and Rob Van Dam, nor champions from other companies like WCW (so DDP and Sting are not included either).
10. Adam Copeland (Edge)
Adam Copeland made his debut for AEW at WrestleDream 2023, the pay per view made in the memory of Antonio Inoki.
When wrestling as Edge, Copeland wrestled in the WWE until his retirement in 2011, then again from 2020 to 2023. He won multiple WWE and World Heavyweight Championships in the WWE, and became the top heel in the company when he main evented WrestleMania 24 in a fantastic bout against The Undertaker.
However, a neck injury forced Edge to retire in 2011, and he soon vacated his World Heavyweight Championship after WrestleMania 27. He stayed retired until 2020, when his neck was sufficiently healed and allowed him to make a comeback at the 2020 Royal Rumble event.
After three extra years in the WWE (which saw Edge wrestle in the main event of WrestleMania 37), Copeland beat Sheamus in his last match in the WWE, with rumors that he was AEW bound to join his long-time friend Christian Cage.
The former WWE Champion debuted as Adam Copeland at WrestleDream 2023, saving Sting and Darby Allin from an attack from Christian Cage, Nick Wayne and Luchasaurs after the main event of the show. The 49-year-old Canadian is now set for a full-time run in AEW, and will bring some huge experience to the roster as a former WWE Champion.
9. Christian Cage
When Tony Khan announced a “former World Champion” and “WWE Hall of Famer-level” wrestler announced to sign for AEW at AEW Revolution 2021, some fans were disappointed when Christian Cage was the man to walk out on stage.
However, he has completely proved everybody wrong. While his World Heavyweight Championship reigns in 2011 were disappointingly short, Christian Cage has quickly become one of the greatest heels of all time in AEW in his quest to hold on to the TNT Championship (even though he didn’t hold it for most of the time).
Wrestling in a sleeveless turtleneck and constantly insulting various wrestlers’ dead fathers, he has done what nobody thought was possible – got people to boo a legend who was returning from a life-threatening injury, ten years after he was forced to retire.
Christian Cage is one of AEW’s biggest success stories. Even at the age of 49, the Canadian has main evented two AEW PPV’s (All Out 2021 and WrestleDream 2023), and won the TNT Championship – although nobody would be upset if he was the man to beat MJF for the AEW Championship.
8. Mark Henry
Mark Henry joined AEW in 2021, signing after ending his wrestling career with the WWE. His last ever match was with the WWE at The Greatest Royal Rumble, and Mark Henry was signed by AEW to work in a non-wrestling role.
As well as working as a coach, helping improve stars like Powerhouse Hobbs and their standing in the company, he became popular as a backstage interviewer on AEW Rampage. Mark Henry even developed his own catchphrase, with crowds chanting along to him saying “It’s time for the main event!”.
Mark Henry has confirmed that he will not wrestle for AEW, so he ends his career with just one World Heavyweight Championship reign in the WWE.
7. Paul Wight (Big Show)
AEW announced the signing of Paul Wight in February 2021, bringing in the five-time World Champion to be a commentator of their AEW Dark show. While he was not retired from wrestling, the former Big Show wanted to try his hand on the commentary desk, while still wrestling in occasional matches for the company.
Wrestling under his real name of Paul Wight, the former WCW, WWE, ECW and World Heavyweight Champion only managed a few matches in AEW – with only one pay per view bout with QT Marshall in 2021 – but has proved invaluable behind the scenes, helping giants like Lance Archer and Luchasaurus improve their game in and out of the ring.
Sadly, Paul Wights career has been cut short due to injuries. However, he has been used sparingly in backstage segments, most recently appearing on AEW Dynamite as his character “Captain Insano” from the Adam Sandler movie “Waterboy”.
6. Jeff Hardy
While his career has been shrouded in controversy (relating to his drug and alcohol addiction issues), Jeff Hardy has still managed to win three world championships in the WWE (and countless others in TNA/Impact Wrestling). He is also a legendary tag team wrestler, winning countless tag team titles alongside his brother Matt Hardy in a variety of promotions.
Jeff Hardy’s first World Championship in WWE came at Armageddon 2008. In a triple threat match also involving Triple H, he pinned Edge to win the first WWE Championship in his career, a cathartic moment that showed the fans that anybody can make it if they have the support of the WWE Universe.
The following year, Jeff Hardy won the World Heavyweight Championship twice, trading the belt with CM Punk before being cast away from the WWE in a steel cage match that sent him packing from the WWE. While he will likely not come close to winning the AEW Championship, Jeff Hardy is a key addition to the roster and can definitely help young wrestlers in finding their character in AEW.
5. Jon Moxley
Jon Moxley was one of the biggest signings AEW ever made. The former WWE Champion came in just weeks after leaving the WWE, showing up at the end of the first AEW PPV (Double or Nothing 2019) to attack both Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho following their match.
His sole WWE Championship victory came in 2016. As Dean Ambrose, he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on Seth Rollins, just two-minutes after he defeated Roman Reigns to win the WWE title. This led to a triple threat (which Ambrose won), before he dropped the title to AJ Styles in a fantastic match.
However, out of the former WWE Champions in AEW, Jon Moxley as been the most successful so far. Moxley has won the AEW Championship three times – beating Chris Jericho, CM Punk and Bryan Danielson to hold the belt – as he helped carry the company through some of their dark times.
When the pandemic hit, he was the head of the roster and lead by example as their champion, during an unprecedented time in wrestling. Moxley was also given the belt when CM Punk was injured (twice), and showed just how reliable he is in the ring when he needs to be.
4. Bryan Danielson
One of the biggest shock debuts in AEW history was when Bryan Danielson walked out in the main event of AEW All Out 2021, confronting AEW Champion Kenny Omega.
This debut came just months after Bryan Danielson wrestled Edge (AEW’s Adam Copeland) and Roman Reigns in the main event of WrestleMania 37, and fans were on their feet to see one of the best wrestlers of all time in AEW for the first time.
Danielson made his name as a fantastic wrestler in WWE. He is four-time WWE Champion, with his most famous win coming in the main event of WrestleMania XXX – ending one of the most frustrating storylines in wrestling history. He later was forced to retire due to concussions, but came back for another title reign (this time as a heel) in one of the best runs in his history.
Bryan Danielson is probably the best WWE Champion to not win the AEW Championship, so hopefully he can pick up a title reign before he retires in 2024.
3. CM Punk
Although he has now been fired by AEW for a backstage fight with Jack Perry and Tony Khan, CM Punk was one of the most decorated former WWE World Champions to sign for All Elite Wrestling when he debuted in the company in 2021.
Punk was a five-time World Champion in the WWE (six if you count the ECW Championship), starting with his World Heavyweight Championship reign in 2008, when he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on Edge on Smackdown.
The Chicago native also had a 434-day reign with the WWE Championship, from 2011 to 2013. It featured some incredible matches against stars like John Cena, Ryback and The Rock, and earned the WWE the first five-star match the company earned in decades (with his match against John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011).
After he signed for AEW in 2021, CM Punk became one of just three men to win the WWE Championship and AEW Championship – joining Chris Jericho and Jon Moxley in holding that prestigious honor.
2. Jake Hager
One of the forgotten WWE World Champions in AEW is Jake Hager, who has been a part of the company since the first ever episode of AEW Dynamite.
While he has starred as Chris Jericho’s muscle in the Inner Circle and the Jericho Appreciation Society, but he was better known for his singles run in the WWE as Jack Swagger, as well as his tag team with Antonio Cesaro called “The Real Americans”.
Hager won the Money in the Bank Ladder match at WrestleMania 26, going on to cash in his contract on World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho. He defeated the legend to win his first and only World Title in the WWE, a run that would last 79-days before dropping the belt to Rey Mysterio later that summer.
His chance of winning another was lost in 2013, when Swagger was busted by the police for having weed in his car. WWE never trusted him to win a world title again, and he has been perfectly placed as an enforcer in AEW, away from the World Championship.
1. Chris Jericho
The first AEW Champion has also won World Titles for last two decades in the WWE. Starting from his debut in 1999 (after signing from WCW), Jericho has been a consistent figure in the main event scene in the WWE, all the way up to his last match in 2018.
He is six-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion in the company, which included beating Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock in one night. This is one achievement he has never shut up about in the two-decades that followed, even with his success in the ring arguably surpassing both those men.
Chris Jericho was the first ever AEW Champion. He beat Adam Page at AEW All Out 2019 to become the first champion in company history, and went on to have a fantastic reign with title defenses against Darby Allin, Scorpio Sky and Cody Rhodes, en route to his AEW Revolution loss to Jon Moxley.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.