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Unexpected Character
aka: The Unexpected

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"I get a lot of new character requests from all over the world, and there are quite an array of Nintendo characters. But I can say, pretty much no one imagined this character would join the battle."
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Normally when time comes for a sequel or adaptation of a franchise, you can have a pretty good idea of who to expect in the returning cast. The Hero, The Lancer, the Ensemble Dark Horse, no one is surprised by their return. However, creators may want to shake things up and include less obvious characters. They could be a One-Scene Wonder, someone who had succumbed to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, or simply a Living Prop, or even someone from outside the franchise.

In video games, particularly Mascot Fighters, Kart Racers, and other Massive Multiplayer Crossovers, this can also include characters from games that were obscure or never left their home country, or games whose genre puts them outside that game's purview. Ironically common examples of the latter two include characters from a nonviolent game (or with a nonviolent role in the game) appearing as combatants, or a pilot/driver stepping out of their machine and showing they're just as competent on foot, if not moreso. Audience members have this type of reaction to most Guest Fighters, by nature of coming from separate works and franchises.

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Sometimes these character choices are praised, bringing in a previously unknown character to recent audiences, but other times the choice can be seen as a gimmick to increase sales. In video games, these characters are also sometimes accused of "stealing" a character slot, especially if a more important or popular character is missing from the game. Very often, it can increase interest if not sales in the unexpected addition, which is actually pretty sound business sense.

The trope most closely tied to the Unexpected Character reaction is the Genre Refugee, a character that is from a genre that is completely different from the genre of the show. Genre Refugees need not be pre-existing characters, however, and may not shock an audience depending on what the show builds to before the Refugee shows up. Still, if a show is strongly formulaic fantasy series, seeing The Count of Monte Cristo show up will always be a shock.

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See also Hero of Another Story.

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    Advertising 
  • A Cheetos commercial back in the late 90s features Chester Cheetah in a Cheetos factory about to dive in a huge vat of the snack food, before a director yells cut, revealing this is all just a set, and they bring in Chester's stunt double, who is just someone wearing a cheap Chester Cheetah costume. After the dive into the vat, the stunt double pulls off the mask, revealing himself to be none other than Daffy Duck!
  • In 2022, Disney Channel debuted an interstitial/music video about sidekick/comic relief characters in their animated TV shows. Among such characters from the channel’s then-current/recent animated Disney Channel shows were some legacy characters, such as Rufus and even Lexington, the last of whom notably being the only Disney Afternoon character featured in the music video (at least in his original incarnation).

    Animation 
  • The first season of Flower Fairy features a pair of crossover episodes that are both focused on a certain character becoming a fairy after entering the Flower Fairy world and being attracted to a piano-playing boy. Xia An'an mistakes that character for the fairy she has to capture. Who is that character? Vocaloid's own Hatsune Miku, of all people.

    Comic Books 
  • 2000 AD prog 2183 ended with a teaser of Judge Anderson announcing "You'll never guess who's coming to prog 2184!" She was right; nobody expected Ichabod Azrael to appear in next week's Judge Dredd story. And he wasn't even the only unexpected character; was anybody expecting Shako the polar bear to show up later?
  • Fans of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) were taken off-guard learning that Breezie the Hedgehog, a character from Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, was going to make her debut in issue #268, which began an adaptation of Sonic the Fighters. The appearance of Dummied Out character Honey the Cat in the same storyline? Not so much.
  • Age of Ultron, a Red Skies Crossover, migrates Angela, a Neil Gaiman exclusive character, who was previously part of the Spawn supporting cast, into the Marvel Universe.
  • Avengers Undercover managed to shock Runaways fans with the sudden resurrection of Alex Wilder.
  • Dark Nights: Metal brings Dream of the Endless back into the main DC continuity.
  • It's safe to say that, before the leaks, no one expected Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen to appear in DC Rebirth.
    • A later Rebirth era event, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, has this to a lesser extent. While nowhere near as unexpected as Manhattan, the appearance of Legion villain Emerald Empress was rather unexpected, given that she is not one prone to being the problem of 20/21st century heroes in their home eras.
  • Doctor Who Magazine: It's safe to say that nobody expected the Delgado Master to turn up as the final villain in the Twelfth Doctor's "Seventies Earth vacation" arc, let alone get killed off at the end of it.
  • Doctor Who (Titan) comics:
  • Double Duck is mostly a spy series set in the Disney Ducks Comic Universe, and much more serious than the older PIA stories. So it was a genuine surprise when, in "Enemies as Usual", the mysterious benefactor that had started funding the Agency at the end of "Reboot" was revealed to be John Davison Rockerduck.
  • G.I. Joe:
    • G.I. Joe (2016) stars such heroes as Roadblock, Scarlett, Snake Eyes...and Skywarp. Yes, a villain from an entirely different franchise. It Makes Sense in Context; during Revolution, the team rescued him from a government holding facility, and he's working with them until they can restore his teleportation powers.
    • Late in the run of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel), the Joe team's Ninja Force encountered a group of Red Ninjas with a mysterious leader. A few issues later, the leader was revealed to be Firefly. This was supposed to be a surprise as the character was supposed to be dead at the time, but it was kind of ruined by the fact that Hasbro had just introduced a new action figure of the character.
  • Gotham Academy: Nobody would have expected one of the villains of the Annual to be a time-travelling Derek "Blight" Powers from the Batman Beyond potential future.
  • The New 52 revival of Justice League International has Godiva, a very minor DC superheroine mostly remembered for being in the Global Guardians, a really minor DC superteam.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Shattered Grid boasted featuring every Power Ranger series. Having Power Rangers Hyper Force was a big surprise when it was announced during a session. What surprised a lot of people was when Power Rangers: Beast Morphers ended up showing up, especially since the series hadn't been announced when it started!
  • My Little Pony/Transformers: Friendship in Disguise!:
    • Almost all of the Decepticons who appear as major antagonists in the first mini-series are G1 staples (Starscream, the Constructicons, Shockwave, Soundwave, the Insecticons, and of course, Megatron), so it's quite a surprise to see Misfire at all, let alone as the main antagonist of issue 3's second story. He even brought the Rainmakers with him!
    • The Insecticons are the main threat of "Strength in Numbers". That includes the toyline-exclusive Insecticons— Venom, Barrage, Chop Shop and Ransack.
    • On the Autobot side of things, while staples like Grimlock, Arcee or even the most recent Windblade are expected, no one would have guessed Gauge, a character original to the 2019 IDW continuity, as one the main characters to one of the stories. She even manages to take on Shockwave along Pinkie Pie.
    • The Magic of Cybertron has plenty more surprises in store. In the first story of issue 1 alone, we get fan-favorite Transformers: Prime Decepticon Breakdown, Airachnid from the same show, the Cyberverse iterations of both Shadow Striker and Slipstream, and minor characters ranging from Spinister, Skytread and Fracas to Mindwipe and Skullcruncher!
    • Not to be outdone, the MLP cast gets a case of this in "A Real Mother" through Aunt Holiday and Auntie Lofty, Scootaloo's aunts, who were One-Shot Characters in the cartoon but get A Day in the Limelight fighting Killmaster (who himself is a case of this, as this is his first appearance outside of the IDW 2005 continuity, where he was first introduced) with Arcee and Greenlight.
    • "One-Trick Pony" brings in Wildwheel, a Decepticon introduced in the Cyberverse continuity family (and exclusive to it until now). Then the story tops itself with two more surprise characters— Quickstrike and Skids. Skids is the less unexpected of the two— while he only showed up in two episodes of the G1 cartoon, he's still a G1 character so he's at least understandable. Quickstrike, however, is a Beast Wars character (and not even a particularly popular one).
    • "The Beauty of Cybertron" brings in a true fan-favorite bot in all his good-looking glitz and glamour... Knockout!
  • New Super-Man #8 ended with the mysterious prototype "Super-Man Zero" talking to a mysterious figure who boasted that, without him, there would be no super heroes. That man? Ching Lung, the Yellow Peril Chinese stereotyped supervillain that was on the cover of the very first issue of Detective Comics.
  • The Order began in 2014 as a story about various historical and literary characters resisting the infestation of Earth by Wyrms. Then, in a 2018 story, they got attacked by Armoured Gideon, a character last seen in his eponymous series 23 years beforehand.
  • Pathfinder: Worldscape is a Massive Multiplayer Crossover event featuring several properties licensed by Dynamite Entertainment, yet two Public Domain Characters with no relation to these properties play a big part in the story: Fantomah and Thun'Da, both of which are extremely obscure comic book characters from the 40s and 50s respectively that few people have even heard of, let alone expect to be featured in a event like this.
  • Red Robin: The Wild Huntsman, a former Global Guardians member who'd been in limbo and was last seen disappearing into the mists of time, shows up working with security at a museum in Germany. His presence even surprises Tim.
  • Reign of the Supermen: Superman, ironically, is this. The story was about four mysterious figures claiming to be Superman returned from the dead except, not really and yet, when the Cyborg Superman turned out to be the villain of the piece, the real Superman emerged from the Fortress without his powers and saved the day.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Unite managed to surprise fans by revealing not only Sticks the Badger of Sonic Boom and Mega Man X, but also a number of various SEGA and Capcom video game franchises. One of them being Street Fighter, which has been licensed to UDON for over a decade.
  • Trinity War: Nobody expected the Crime Syndicate from Earth-3 to show up as the series' ultimate villains.
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • At every issue of Ultimate FF. But the last one takes the cake: Miles Morhames? The Ultimate Spider-Ham?
    • In the later third of Ultimate Power, a mishap causes the original Squadron Supreme to show up.
    • Who would have expected the fight between Wolverine and Hulk to be interrupted by Ultimate She-Hulk?
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1987): During the "Witch and the Warrior" Circe's villain team contained several long retired villains and heroes, including Penny Dreadful (who'd been acting as a government agent and whose switch back to villainy was never explained), Moonbow (a former casual hero who'd quit to have a normal life), and Vicki Grant (former Dial H for Hero user, now with a Villain Dial).
    • Sensational Wonder Woman: Man's World Momager ends with the woman who's been following Wonder Woman revealed to be none other than Myndi Mayer, who hasn't been in any comic since her suicide back in the 1980s.

    Literature 
  • Used towards the end of the Animorphs series. Arbron and Loren, two minor characters who hadn't been seen in years and had little reason to return again, both made surprise reappearances. Weirder still, while Arbron's fate was neatly tied up in the epilogue, Loren wasn't addressed at all, making her a weird case of this character type meeting What Happened to the Mouse?
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had the now rather infamous scene in which Father Christmas pops up out of nowhere to give the Pevensie siblings their Christmas presents. Despite being set in a fantasy world, his appearance in Narnia is still a little jarring, and it's worth saying that he's never again seen or mentioned in any of the other books.
  • The Dresden Files: The 17th book, Battle Ground, features appearances from nearly every significant major and minor character from throughout the series... and then about a third of the way through chooses to introduce Drakul, King of the Black Court, something that no one was expecting since up until this point he'd only been mentioned a few times but never seen.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Watson (though not named, it's obviously them) appear in a segment of a Final Destination novel in Victorian Britain.
  • Gaunt's Ghosts likes to reintroduce minor characters or ones that have otherwise been Put on a Bus to play major roles much later. Sanian reappears in Sabbat Martyr, Sturnn reappears in Traitor General, and Agun Soric reappears in Only In Death. It also works in reverse for the author's other books set earlier in the timeline. Heldane and Lilith have minor roles in Eisenhorn and Ravenor respectively, both before they've achieved the rank of Inquisitor.
  • Though it's hardly a surprise these days, the original readers of Walter Scott's Ivanhoe would not have been expecting an appearance from Robin Hood, who spends the first half of the book under an assumed name (back then, "Locksley" would not have been immediately recognizable as one of his aliases).
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin has a tendency to take minor or antagonistic characters and make them point-of-view characters in later books.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • Ahsoka: The book has seven sections with grey pages. In one of them, Obi-Wan Kenobi makes a surprise appearance meditating on Tatooine. Another shows Anakin Skywalker just before he first met Ahsoka.
    • Tales from a Galaxy Far, Far Away Volume 1: Aliens: The last story in the collection, "The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku", has the treasure turn out to be Kix, the medic from the 501st Legion in The Clone Wars, who was cryo-frozen after finding out about Order 66 and was being taken to be interrogated by Count Dooku when the ship carrying him was attacked and crash-landed on a remote world. No one in or out of universe was expecting that.
    • The reference book Droidography is narrated by R0-GR, the Battle Droid from LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, a series with mostly ambiguous canonical standing, and also features M-OC, one of the main antagonists of Season 2, effectively canonizing both characters.
  • The Stormlight Archive, book 2, Words of Radiance: While having humans travel from Shardworld to Shardworld is a known event, having Nightblood, the Talking Weapon from Warbreaker do so is quite another thing.
  • In the fifth book of Venus Prime, Sir Randolph Mays, the insufferable Pompous Political Pundit who seems so hellbent upon exposing the Free Spirit, turns out to be William Laird, the leader of the Free Spirit.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Lots of unexpected characters pop up in the Omen of the Stars finale The Last Hope, such as Redtail, Raggedstar and Mosskit. But almost nobody was expecting Brambleberry's cameo appearance at the beginning where she is one of the first cats to ever successfully give Jayfeather a lecture.
    • When Dawn of the Clans, a prequel series dealing with the founding and early days of the five Clans was announced, lots of theories were made about appearances from the Clan Founders (Thunder, River Ripple, Wind Runner, Tall Shadow, and Clear Sky), original medicine cats (Cloudspots, Dapplepelt, Mothflight, and Pebbleheart), and a few other characters mentioned in the field guides (Gorsefur, Owleyes, Lightningtail, etc.). However, almost nobody predicted Graywing the Wise (a character whose sole mention in the series beforehand was being credited with creating a few WindClan battle strategies in Battles of the Clans) showing up, let alone his role as the (initial) main character of the arc. To a lesser extent, few expected Half Moon and Lion's Roar to appear in the arc, but they ended up being supporting characters in The Sun Trail.
    • The ninth Super Edition. Usually Super Editions star major characters, and are always about leaders or medicine cats. The ninth Super Edition was revealed to be Hawkwing's Journey, focusing on a cat nobody had ever heard of. It turned out later that he had previously appeared in a novella, Ravenpaw's Farewell, as a SkyClan apprentice who shows up one time and speaks one word.
  • The Whoniverse book Time Lord Fairy Tales pulls this off twice by springing a surprise character on the reader well after a story is underway and the protagonists' plight has been established; moreover, they go on to play supporting roles in the action, albeit important ones. In "Helena and the Beast", it's the Twelfth Doctor; in "The Grief Collector", it's the Tenth. Also, while many familiar Whoniverse villains turn up in these Twice Told Tales, the presence of the Nimon, from one of the classic series' campiest serials in "Jack and the Wormhole" will likely surprise those who don't remember their televised appearance and recognize the new story's similar setup.

    Music 
  • Large-scale tours and festivals are bound to have this. Obviously everyone will know the headlining act, but when an unsigned band makes the line-up, people tend to scratch their heads (especially if they play the main-stage). For instance, Download Fest 2011, main stage with the likes of Def Leppard, System of a Down, Linkin Park and... The Pretty Reckless?
    • One of the strangest examples has to be British politician Jeremy Corbyn (sometimes considered Britain's answer to Bernie Sanders) showing up at a small festival in Merseyside headlined by The Libertines to give a short speech...and getting a huge cheer from the crowd!
  • In a media crossover-example, Rhythm Games probably get this sort of reaction when they announce the new setlist for their next title, such as with Rock Band 3 ("The Doors, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Elton John and... Phoenix?"note ).
  • One such example is Just Dance, in which Top 40 tunes by artists such as Katy Perry, One Direction and Nicki Minaj co-exist alongside the likes of the Tetris theme, the William Tell Overture, and the Hatsune Miku cover of Ievan Polkka.
  • Rapper B.o.B. often has this with his featured artists, which have included Hayley Williams of Paramore, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, and Taylor Swift.
  • Kanye West's albums usually have at least one.
    • The College Dropout had Jamie Foxx, poet J.Ivy and was introduced by Bernie Mac (playing Kanye's high school principal).
    • Late Registration had both Mac and Foxx, but also included Lupe Fiasco (his appearance on "Touch the Sky" was his mainstream breakthrough), Adam Levine of Maroon 5, and, perhaps most surprisingly, given Kanye's mentor and boss Jay-Z was feuding with him at the time, Nas on "We Major".
    • Graduation had Chris Martin of Coldplay.
    • 808s and Heartbreak had two of Kanye's previous collaborators who few expected to fit with the album's style, namely rappers Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne.
    • My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had Elton John, La Roux, Fergie (of The Black Eyed Peas), Chris Rock, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver (although the last two are only unexpected because at the time few had heard of them or knew what to expect).
    • Watch the Throne had fucking Otis Redding! And Curtis Mayfield (both posthumously). And (although she is definitely still alive) Elly Jackson of La Roux and Frank Ocean of OFWGKTA fame.
    • Cruel Summer had most of its' supporting cast like this - R. Kelly, Ma$e, Marsha Ambrosius, Chief Keef...
    • Yeezus had King Louie and Assassin.
    • Kanye is also an Unexpected Character on other people's works. Few expected his collaborations with Thirty Seconds to Mars, Katy Perry or Madonna.
  • Jay-Z and Linkin Park collaborated for the Collision Course mash-up. Few could've expected one of the biggest rappers in the world working with one of the biggest rock bands in the world.
  • Rapper A$AP Rocky's debut 'Long-Live-A$AP' featured Drake, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar and... Florence Welch (of Florence + the Machine).
  • Childish Gambino's "Real Estate" suddenly features an ending rap outro by... Tina Fey.
  • Cobra Starship's "Good Girls Go Bad" featured Gossip Girl star Leighton Meester.
  • Drake's "All Me" includes an introduction by... Aziz Ansari.
  • Nine Inch Nails turned some heads when the guest list for Hesitation Marks included Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac.
  • For some appearances in 1994 (including on Saturday Night Live) Tom Petty's drummer was Dave Grohl, previously of Nirvana. Since that time Grohl has collaborated with many musicians from Petty's generation but at the time it must have been an unexpected lineup.
  • Within Temptation's album Hydra featues, of all people, Xzibit as a guest artist.
  • Queens of the Stone Age had Julian Casablancas guest on Era Vulgaris and Elton FREAKING John of all people appear on another album.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 soundtrack, curated by Lorde, features mainly mordern female electronic/pop vocalists such as herself along with CHVRCHES, Charli XCX, Tove Lo, Ariana Grande, Bat For Lashes, Tinashe, HAIM, and... Grace Jones? Also rappers Q-Tip and Pusha-T appear in Stromae's "Meltdown" alongside Lorde and HAIM for an odd-yet-compelling collaboration. Also featured, perhaps most surprisingly of all given Lorde's feud with Diplo at the time, was Major Lazer featuring Ariana Grande with "All My Love".
  • Few could've expected Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar to ever collaborate on a song together, but indeed they did in former's song "Bad Blood".
  • GaMetal has remixed some pretty weird songs, for example, there's a medley of tunes from Bionic Commando and, even stranger, the Final Boss theme from McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure of all things. Fittingly, the latter one was done as an April Fools' Day special, but it is a real song.
  • The Lonely Island collaborates with a lot of artists, and some of them, like T-Pain or Jack Black, are pretty understandable. Then you get to ones like Michael Bolton, Linkin Park, Robyn, and, in The LEGO Movie, Tegan & Sara.
  • Phase 5 of the Gorillaz starts with Murdoc in jail and replaced by Ace, the leader of the Gangrene Gang. Yes, that Gangrene Gang.
  • When the group The Highwomen is announced, the line up include: Amanda Shires, a critical darling of the Alternive Country scene and one half of a Creator Couple with Jason Isbell; Natalie Hemby, a critical acclaim songwriter for many country songs but whose solo career didn't really took off; Brandi Carlile, a lesbian critical acclaim singer-songwriter of the Americana-Alternative Country scene... and Maren Morris, a pop-country superstar who have received a mixed reception among country traditionalists.
  • Pretty much nobody expected Jason Mraz to appear on a song by Alan Parsons, but it happened in the song "Miracle" off of the album The Secret.
  • Sabaton: Yarnhub's story video for "Christmas Truce" has a couple shots of a German soldier with a toothbrush mustache, clearly meant to be Adolf Hitler, trying to tattle on the truce to the generals before being hit in the head with a stray soccer ball, then grumpily observing the proceedings from the sidelines.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WWE's annual Royal Rumble pretty much always features Unexpected Characters in various forms. You're pretty much guaranteed to see one or two returning Legends making a one-off appearance (e.g. Honky Tonk Man in 2000, Diesel\Kevin Nash in 2011 and 2014, Diamond Dallas Page in 2015, Jeff Jarrett in 2019), there are bound to be one or two main roster wrestlers making an unannounced return (e.g. John Cena in 2008, Edge in 2010), and every now and then there are entrants who are unexpected because they generally don't compete against the main male roster (e.g. Beth Phoenix in 2010, El Torito in 2014, Nia Jax in 2019). Retired or semi-retired wrestlers serving as ringside commentators for the Rumble are sometimes unexpectedly entered into the match, usually resulting in their returning to the announce booth once they're eliminated (e.g. Jerry Lawler in 1996 and 2012, Michael Cole in 2012, JBL in 2014). One of the most unexpected (and bemoaned) characters in Rumble history was Drew Carey in the 2001 match. However, arguably the two most shocking (or at the very least, surreal) entries, despite the countless rumors, reports, and, in the case of the former, even a statement from the Impact Wrestling website all but outright telling us it would happen, were the debut of AJ Styles at the 2016 Royal Rumble in Orlando and the return of Edge after a seemingly Career-Ending Injury at the 2020 Royal Rumble in Houston.
  • February 22, 2016, as Stephanie McMahon prepares to accept an award given to her by her father, none other than her brother comes out to thunderous applause. Easily one of the best pops of the year.
  • Lex Luger made his WCW return in 1995 this way, appearing on the debut episode of WCW Monday Nitro unannounced. The shock from the audience was genuine: very few people realized that his WWF contract had lapsed the night prior after competing in a house show.
  • Intense Wrestling Inc was the only promotion operating in Macaela Mercedes's hometown of Cincinnati Ohio. It announced ahead of time that IWI would be booking talent from Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. So when she made her debut near the end of 2002 and was matched against La Tigresa, a wrestler she knew nothing about besides being from Puerto Rico, she was caught off guard. Even if they had mentioned wrestlers from Puerto Rico, Tigresa wouldn't have been on most people's radar stateside, given women's wrestling had virtually vanished from the island following her arrest four years prior for a smuggling case that was expected to keep her behind bars for decades.
  • CHIKARA JoshiMania Night III, December 4, 2011, was supposed to have started with The Throwbacks (Dasher Hatfield and Sugar Dunkerton) vs. Los Ice Creams (Ice Cream Jr. and El Hijo del Ice Cream), but Sugar was not there for some unannounced reason. As was standard practice in CHIKARA, names were drawn from a hat for a replacement partner for Dasher. Kwang (Savio Vega's masked ninja gimmick from 1994-1995 WWE. References to Kwang and Max Moon [Paul Diamond] are Running Gags in CHIKARA.) was drawn, but he was not there. Then they drew Kelly Kelly, who was also not there. (And the crowd booed when Kelly Kelly's name was drawn.) Then they drew Saturyne's name, who was there, making her surprise CHIKARA debut in only her second match ever, though someone in the crowd asked, "Perry Saturn?"
  • 9/19/2016, WWE on ESPN live in Bristol Connecticut...with Adam Cole? Ring of Honor World Champion Adam Cole?
  • Similar to Luger, Jon Moxley showed up at All Elite Wrestling's Double or Nothing event unannounced, just a month after his contract with WWE (where he wrestled as Dean Ambrose) expired. Given that his exit likely came with a no-compete clause, many thought Moxley would sit out and wait before making the jump to AEW. Some even thought Moxley would actually go back to WWE after a hiatus. Even fewer expected him to debut the way he did, running interference in the Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega match; most people assumed if he appeared it would be either as the surprise entrant in the Casino Battle Royal or as the replacement for PAC in the Adam Page match. Instead Page was the surprise entrant in the Casino Battle Royal, with many theories saying that Moxley was supposed to be in that position before PAC's drop-out left Page without an opponent.
  • On the May 17, 2004 Raw, Jonathan Coachman was belittling Eugene, telling Eugene that he had no friends and that he should leave. Eugene started walking to the back. Right before he got to the curtain, "IF YOU SMELLLL......!" The Rock walked out to everyone's surprise, with Eugene marking out. The Rock led Eugene back to the ring, acknowledged ring announcer Lilian Garcia, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler and others, and ran down Coach, offering up a new insult, "popcorn fart."
  • On "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's Broken Skull Sessions podcast for the WWE Network, just about nobody expected that he would be able to land Chris Jericho as a guest. This marked the first time that a wrestler actively signed to All Elite Wrestling has appeared on a WWE productnote . Even WWE were fully aware of how crazy it felt; it was first teased on April Fools' Day, before being announced on April 2, 2021 as if to say "yes, it's real".

    Theme Parks 
  • Although most of the attractions at the Disney Theme Parks are either original properties (such as Pirates of the Caribbean or The Haunted Mansion) or based on a Disney property. However, there are some exceptions:
    • The first Star Tours opened at Disneyland in 1987, being the first ride to be based on a distinctly non-Disney property. Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, undoing this trope (at which point Star Tours had become a staple at Disneyland and Walt Disney World anyway), but for 25 years it remained as a non-Disney ride.
    • The first The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios (then Disney-MGM Studios) in 1994 to help bring more visitors the park. It opened in Disney's California Adventure to help with the same problem in 2004, and later in Disneyland Paris. Unlike Lucasfilm, the franchise was never bought from CBS, which means that they have to license it every year (which is why Tokyo's Tower Of Terror is not based on The Twilight Zone (1959) - the series was never as popular in Japan as in the US and Europe), and also that it remains one of the only non-Disney attractions (the other being Journey to the Center of the Earth in Tokyo Disney Sea).
      • The California version of the ride has since become Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!, which in and of itself is a bizarre choice. The film was a breakout hit in 2014, but it was by no means the most popular Marvel property, and an odd choice to base Disney's first ever Disney-Marvel attraction on (before the film, it would have been pushing it to call them a C- or D-list team). Many fans theorized that this was due to a dispute with Universal Studios, who retained the theme-park rights for Marvel characters (except the Guardians - it only specified the Avengers, Spider-Man, and the X-Men) within a radius around Universal Florida that included Walt Disney World, and that the renovation would eventually make it way to the other coast. However, other versions are unlikely to make the switch, as there are currently plans to build a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction in EPCOT.
    • After Star Tours opened, the opening of Indiana Jones Adventure in Disneyland in 1995 was a tad less surprising. It also marked a stark style change for Adventureland, from the bright cheeriness that marked Walt's True-Nature films to the grittiness and realism of the Indiana Jones films: the design of the boats on Jungle Cruise changed to match the themeing of the Temple of the Forbidden Eye next door, and four years later, the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse became the Tarzan Treehouse. Like Star Wars, Indiana Jones was included in the Lucasfilm purchase, and it was welcomed into the Disney family in 2012, by which time, the attraction had been replicated several times over the world, as well as other Indy-themed rides.
    • While the IP is indeed a Disney/Pixar one, Cars Land at first seemed like an odd choice to be one of the focal points of Disney California Adventure's 2012 overhaul, given that the most recent Cars film, Cars 2, had been critically panned, and that the original Cars film is generally seen as one of Pixar's weaker movies.note  Nonetheless, Cars Land was a massive success, and the E-ticket ride, Radiator Springs Racers, regularly has one of the longest lines in either Disneyland or DCA (at time of writing, 4 PM on a Thursday in March, 6 years after the ride opened, it currently has a 120 minute long line).
    • Pandora - The World of Avatar getting in over Beastly Kingdom as the replacement to Camp-Minnie-Mickey was a bit odd, and Disney would buy 21st Century Fox 5 years later.
    • The early days of Disney’s Hollywood Studios featured characters like Dick Tracy, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the Power Rangersnote . There were also attractions based around Who Wants to be a Millionaire and American Idolnote .
    • Stores found in Epcot’s World Showcase stock merchandise relating to works originating from the country they correspond to; leading to a wide variety of anime and game merchandise (including some that isn’t all too kid friendly...) in the Japan pavilion, for example, as well as Doctor Who items in the England pavilion.
    • Clarice, a one-off character from the 1952 Chip 'n Dale cartoon Two Chips and a Miss, is a rare meetable character, partially due to her popularity in Japan.

    Tabletop Games 

    Toys 
  • Occasionally the long-running Transformers toy franchise will have a release that up and surprises everyone:
    • One very surprising release was a character named Heatwave in the "Hero Mashers Line." Heatwave shares a name with a Transformers: Rescue Bots character who was on shelves at the time, so the Hero Masher instead being directly based on an obscure, Collector's Club-only character was completely unexpected. In this case, it was highly likely that said Heatwave got confused with the more recognizable one.
    • Less a "character" and more an "unexpected homage" but Rollbar's robot mode in the Transformers: Age of Extinction is very clearly based on X-Brawn from Transformers: Robots in Disguise, a character who has had no representation of any sort for over a decade (unless one counts other versions of Brawn).
    • The War For Cybertron Trilogy has made several surprising inclusions despite being another retread of Generation 1:
      • A good portion of surprising inclusions in the toyline are merely unexpected headswaps of existing molds (which trades in their accuracy to their original designs). Said unexpected headswaps include Crosshairs, Rotorstorm, Jackpot, and Maximal Skywarp.
      • No one expected Bug Bite, a Canon Immigrant from Challenge of the GoBots, to make an appearance in Earthrise, though the character is modeled after his e-Hobby design by being a Palette Swap of Bumblebee and Cliffjumper. He would not be the only one, as the Kingdom Golden Disk Collection adds in fellow Go-Bot Road Ranger, who is also modeled after his e-Hobby design by being a Palette Swap of Huffer.
      • Another instance of an "unexpected homage" are the Micromasters Windstorm and Stingracer, which homage the Hurricane and Stinger from fellow Hasbro IP M.A.S.K..
      • No one expected Kingdom, the third part of the trilogy, to feature the Maximals and Predacons, especially since characters from the Beast Era have rarely interacted with the Autobots and Decepticons despite both occurring in the same continuity family. This would mark the first proper crossover between the two eras, as the subline does commemorate the show's 25th anniversary.
      • The Pulse Con 2020 Poster for Kingdom had a couple of surprising inclusions. The first is Polar Claw, a Toyline-exclusive Maximal despite the focus on show-only Beast Wars characters. The second is Ultra Magnus, who had been killed off on Cybertron during the fourth episode of Siege yet appears in his Earth Modenote . The third is the Ark itself being a Transformer, when it has never displayed this capability before in the G1 continuity.
      • When the toy of the Ark was properly revealed, it surprisingly came with Mainframe, a character from the much maligned Action Masters subline from the end of Generation 1. Not only that, Mainframe also ignores the toyline's attempts to adhere to show accuracy as best as possible by being completely yellow rather than blue and red, though this is because he turns into Teletran-1 as an odd instance of Composite Character. The Ark's robot mode itself is another "unexpected homage", as it is modeled after Autonomous Maximus/The Last Autobot, an obscure character from the tail end of the original The Transformers (Marvel).
      • Speaking of the Marvel G1 Comic, while Rodimus Prime was sort of expected in Kingdom (seeing as the subline also commemorates the 35th anniversary of the original G1 movie, and if he did not he would have instead appeared in the concurrently running Studio Series 84 line instead), his toy does have a surprising inclusion: The Sword of Primus from Regeneration One.
      • While Terrorsaur was present in the original Beast Wars TV show, it was thought that he would be skipped over alongside his fellow Season 1 Predacons Tarantulas and Inferno (though the latter's omission was justified by him being a massive shelfwarmer during the original Beast Wars toyline). He made a surprising appearance in the final part of the Golden Disk Collection, albeit as a retool of Airazor (which causes him to be a bit less show accurate due to their designs having different proportions).
      • The final wave of Kingdom added in Slammer, one of Metroplex's components. What makes his inclusion all the more surprising was that he was a Weaponizer, when that gimmick was previously thought to be only confined to Siege and in Kingdom was replaced by the similar Fossilizer gimmick. There is also Shadow Panther, who while being a Palette Swap of Cheetor (albeit with the "Mutant Head" was still a surprising inclusion (especially since they made a version of Beast Wars Ravage, which itself is also an example since it is modeled after a Season 2 Transmetal character despite the focus being on Season 1).
  • Series 3 of The Grossery Gang brought back Blow Fly and Trash-A-Pillar, the mascots of The Trash Pack, Grossery Gang's predecessor franchise. This came as a surprise to many, as the two of them were introduced as figures for the first series of Trash Pack, making very sporadic toy appearances despite being the mascots.
  • A colouring book and mini doll release for the American Girls Collection in 2020 included Kirsten, a character who had been archived 11 years prior, so the target 8-12 age range wasn't likely to know she even existed unless they were active in the fandom or had seen her books in the library. Fans started to speculate as to whether she was coming back — and whether she'd get an all-new collection like Samantha or be screwed over like the last two returning archived historicals, who were limited to one new outfit (and in one case, a set of underwear) on rerelease and became shelfwarmers.
  • Around the end of August to the beginning of September in 2021, Great Eastern Entertainment announced some new plushies for the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise...including Whisper the Wolf, Mephiles the Dark, and Emerl. While all three are popular characters, the former comes from the comic series by IDW Publishing (When SEGA usually ignores the comics in terms of merchandising), while the latter two only had a major role in one game each.

    Web Animation 
  • DEATH BATTLE! occasionally brings in little known and unexpected characters to fight for their lives. Sometimes a series protagonist isn't its first representative on this show.
    • Akuma, not Ryu, was the first Street Fighter character to appear.
    • Before Mario first appeared on the show, Goomba, Koopa, and Yoshi did.
    • Vegeta first appeared before Goku.
    • Shadow first appeared an episode before Sonic did.
    • Dr. Wily appeared before any main character of the Mega Man franchise.
    • Two of the more notable examples being Bucky O'Hare, coming from a fairly obscure comic and cartoon series from the 70's/90's and took on Fox McCloud, and Yang Xiao Long, who is from a web animation series running from 2013 which is growing in popularity but still fairly small and she took on Tifa Lockhart. Yang defeated her more popular opponent. Bucky wasn't so fortunate.
    • Who would have thought that any characters from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic would ever step into Death Battle? Yet, there have been three so far: Rainbow Dash, Pinkie Pie, and Princess Twilight Sparkle who respectively fought Starscream, Deadpool, and Raven. And Twilight was the sole loser from the group.
    • Nine Mortal Kombat characters have appeared on the show. Seven of them are among the most iconic characters in the franchise: Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Sonya Blade, Raiden, Shao Khan, Johnny Cage, and Shang Tsung. The other two, however? The eighth was Sindel, who is not quite as recognizable as the aforementioned characters but still well-known overall. The ninth was the relatively obscure Sektor.
    • While Carnage isn't the most popular Spider-Man villain, he still has a decent fanbase. His opponent, on the other hand, was Lucy from Elfen Lied, an obscure manga/anime that is rather niche to begin with.
    • Though Ultron was requested to appear in the series, most fans expected him to be pitted against Brainiac rather than Sigma. It's also Hilarious in Hindsight after the two joined forces as a Big Bad Duumvirate and merged in Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite - in fact, Ultron-Sigma's existence itself was cited as a reason why Ultron vs. Sigma grew in popularity over time.
    • Mob and Tatsumaki pit two lesser-known characters against each other. While One Punch Man was bound to get on the show at one point, it caught many off guard that the first character featured wasn’t Saitama or even Genos (although Genos was the second from the series and Saitama appeared later as well). However, few people expected Mob Psycho 100 to ever be featured on the show at all. On the OPM side, Tatsumaki is the only winner so far.
    • After Naruto finally ended, it was inevitable that the franchise be featured on the show. The title character will be the first to appear, right? Wrong, it was Gaara (Naruto himself was the second, though). Six other unexpected Naruto representatives include Jiraiya, Sasuke Uchiha, Might Guy, Kakashi Hatake, Rock Lee, and Madara Uchiha.
    • The first Avatar: The Last Airbender representative was Toph rather than Aang (who appeared second). Zuko and Korra also appeared later.
    • You'd think the eponymous Sailor Moon would be its first character to appear here, but no! It's Sailor Galaxia, the series' True Final Boss.
    • Yoda and King Mickey were these due to the unlikely odds of having either in the show. For the former, Ben Singer mentioned that he disliked Yoda's fighting style in the prequels and couldn't deal with focusing on it to make an episode. For the latter, it's because Disney is notorious for suing people over the use of Mickey Mouse. As such, having both characters fight each other in the debut battle of Season 8 surprised everyone who thought it could never happen.
    • Po showing up to take on Iron Fist caught many fans off guard as, while as the match up was popular, an animated film character had never been used on the show prior to that point and many assumed that if one did appear, then it would be a Disney character first.
    • Downplayed, since she was the most popular opponent for who she was fighting, but many fans were caught off guard at seeing Zatanna show up on the show, since she is not as popular or well known a hero as many of the other DC heroes who had been brought on the show.
    • Spongebob Squarepants was quite the surprise to be put on the show, especially since he's a kid-friendly cartoon character. Just as surprising was his opponent, Aquaman — not a composite version, but specifically his Super Friends incarnation.
  • Speaking of Yang, the spin-off RWBY Chibi offered one that also serves as a case of Trolling Creator. With the reveal of an episode called "Evil Interview", fans got hopeful about what villain would debut there. Turned out to be Cardin Winchester, a really minor and unpopular antagonist who hadn't appeared in two volumes of the main show - and as proven by the episode, is thoroughly outclassed in the evil department by the actual villains of RWBY. Even his voice actor stated he was surprised with the character's return.
  • Ever After High is a children's series where the Spin-Offspring of various Fairy Tale characters go to high school together. The series however has a very loose interpretation of the term "fairy tale", leading to unusual characters popping up. Who expected characters from King Lear, a Shakespearean tragedy, to appear?note 
  • Confinement:
    • The first SCP Connor has to deal with? Fernand the Cannibal. Quite a few SCP fans were pleased with this, as many would have expected them to start with the more well-known skips.
    • Just about every SCP featured prominently in the series so far is one of the more obscure ones, be they the main focus or just in the background. Episode 2 even features the extremely obscure SCP-2427-3, who doesn't even have an image depicting it.
    • Not so much a character but a location: in Episode 6 Connor goes up against SCP-3008: A Perfectly Normal, Regular Old IKEA.

    Web Videos 

    Other 
  • For the Summer Game Fest livestream on June 22, 2020, they had ALF as a special guest.
  • The 2021 Tsuburaya Exhibition brought a very interesting surprise; Ultraman Agul in his Supreme Version form, which was a design first seen in a design book 23 years prior and hadn't been re-utilized since until now.


 
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The Mastermind

The enigmatic leader of the four villains who had orchestrated the traps that the Clue Finders found themselves in reveals who they really are...

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