WWE Rankings: Top 11 Wrestler Debuts
Debuts in the WWE can get fans going like no other segment. The pops for a surprise appearance entering a new organization can be deafening.
Thankfully, with video services like YouTube, we can relive these moments over and over again.
It's harder to do get these pops than it was in the past because we were spoiled. Living through the Monday Night Wars and the sale of WCW brought about debuts of superstars at a crazy rate.
Debuts don't necessarily make or break a person. Even with a solid debut, the wrestler sometimes can't capitalize on the momentum.
I judged the debuts on many criteria; impact the debut had on the WWE, pop received, the impact the debut had on the wrestling industry, whether it was a payoff to an angle; and whether the wrestler was already established in the business.
However, all that was thrown out the window if I enjoyed the debut. After all, it is my list.
There were so many great debuts to choose from. I don't doubt that I've left out some of the communities' favorites. I couldn't even cut down the list to 10; I took the cheap way out and made it a list of 11.
So without further ado, I give you my top 11 WWE debuts.
Lesnar's debut could easily be described as shock and awe. The massive man hit the ring and decimated Maven, Al Snow and Spike Dudley. Brock hit a triple power-bomb on poor Spike. Then it was revealed the man pulling Brock's strings was none other than Paul Heyman. It was easy to see that Lesnar was going to be a future player.
Cena debuted during the whole "ruthless aggression" era that Vince tried to start. On Smackdown, Kurt Angle was in the ring and called out anyone from the back to face him. Out came Cena, who took Angle to the limit before ultimately losing. Still, the debut made Cena a fan favorite, and he just took off from there.
Mankind actually debuted in a match against Bob Holly on Raw. Later that same night, he would attack The Undertaker and establish himself as one of the few threats The Undertaker had faced up until that point. He would have been on my list if the Holly match didn't come first.
Booker T made his debut when he attacked "Stone Cold" Steve Austin at the 2001 King of the Ring during a triple-threat match for the WWF Championship between Austin, Jericho and Benoit.
Booker didn't change the outcome of the match, but it was the first time we had the WCW World Champion attack the WWF World Champion on WWF TV. Historic moment. (Yeah, I know Booker cheered on Shane McMahon from a press box at WrestleMania X-Seven. That doesn't count as a debut.)
The first official WCW wrestler to debut on RAW. He got an amazing ovation when he attacked Perry Saturn during a Saturn/Terri vs. Steve Blackman/Trish Stratus match.
At the time, I thought there was significance with the first attack being against one of The Radicalz. That wasn't so, but it was still a great debut and moment.
X-Pac's debut was very significant. At the time, the WWF was losing wrestlers left and right to WCW. Shawn Michaels looked like he was retired for good, but WWF had a lot of young stars gaining momentum.
X-Pac was finally a decent name pick-up for the WWF. The night after WrestleMania XIV, he cut a scathing promo on WCW and talked about Hall and Nash, and he helped keep D-X going with Triple H (The New Age Outlaws would officially join at the end of that night's Raw.)
11. Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer
The Rob Van Dam/Tommy Dreamer debut on Monday Night Raw is on my list, and I realize it wouldn't be on a lot of other lists. The twosome stood for everything ECW was.
Their debuts and subsequent re-emergence of ECW was clearly an effort to save the Invasion angle with WCW lacking star power. Overall. it was a smart move.
As many know, RVD became one of the breakout stars of the Invasion. When he joined, his popularity really took off. He would win several titles in his WWE run, even winning the WWE Title from John Cena.
Dreamer would be a solid competitor, but for the majority of his tenure he just floundered in the hardcore division. He did win the ECW Championship in WWE's version of ECW.
This moment was an ECW mark's dream come true. It was great, but is often lost in the Invasion mess.
It's a sentimental favorite of mine, so it sneaks in at No. 11.
10. Diamond Dallas Page
After weeks of The Undertaker's wife Sara being stalked, it was revealed that Diamond Dallas Page was the man behind the madness.
DDP was instantly the biggest name to jump ship during the Invasion. Just listen to that crowd's reaction when he is unveiled as the stalker.
This instantly catapulted DDP into a feud with one of the, at the time, WWF's top dogs. However, the feud didn't really take off. Fans didn't really react to the creepy, weird DDP.
Vince often states that when Bret Hart jumped to WCW they didn't know what to do with Bret. Well, the same can be said for when DDP made the jump.
DDP was misused and ended up being stuck with a smiling salesman gimmick, one that it's said he came up with, toward the end of his tenure.
All in all, Page didn't make a huge impact in the WWE. But being revealed as Sara's stalker and being probably the biggest WCW name to jump ship during the Invasion is good enough to be ranked No. 10 on my list.
Goldberg was one of the few wrestlers WWE fans continued to clamor for after the purchase of WCW.
Many viewed Goldberg coming to WWE as an inevitability. The night after WrestleMania XIX, he debuted, spearing The Rock at the end of the show.
Goldberg's WWE run wasn't as successful as his WCW run. He would win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship from Triple H. The title run would last around three months before he dropped the title back to Triple H.
While he didn't reach the success and popularity he did in WCW, Goldberg's WWE tenure was semi-entertaining and did lead to a showdown with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XX with the crowd knowing both wrestlers were leaving the WWE.
Goldberg's WWE run was something many people were waiting for from the time he burst on the scene in WCW. His memorable confrontation with The Rock makes it No. 9 on my list.
8. Ric Flair
The Invasion angle, which many viewed as a disappointment, had ended the night before at Survivor Series and the WWF needed a new direction.
Flair arrived on the scene right before Vince McMahon was going to hand the WWF Championship to Kurt Angle for helping the WWF defeat WCW at Survivor Series. Flair announced that he was the one to whom who Shane and Stephanie had sold their shares, thus making him part-owner of the WWF.
All this would lead to the brand split and a very interesting run in the WWF for Flair.
The return of Flair to the WWF and to wrestling in general was a turning point in the business and changed the direction it was taking.
Flair got to return in Charlotte and ended the evening drinking a beer with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
Flair's debut would have been higher had he not wrestled for the WWF/E back in the early 90s. Still, the re-debut was enjoyable and is No. 8 on my list.
7. The Undertaker
The Undertaker's debut wasn't even the most-hyped debut at the 1990 Survivor Series.
The infamous Gobbledy Gooker hatched out of an egg at the Survivor Series, an event that was hyped for months and fell very flat with the WWF crowd.
The Undertaker started his path of destruction and eliminated Koko B. Ware and Dusty Rhodes in a traditional Survivor Series match before getting counted out going after Rhodes.
The Undertaker would win the WWF Championship at the next year's Survivor Series, defeating Hulk Hogan with the help of Ric Flair.
While the debut didn't have the best reaction at the time, it's hard to doubt the impact that The Undertaker has had on the WWF/E and the entire business since his debut.
One of the true legends of the WWE, he is still at it, albeit infrequently.
His attire, his size, his demeanor indicated The Undertaker would be a force in the WWF. For this and the impact he has made, The Undertaker's debut is No. 7 on my list.
The debut of The Undertaker's little brother Kane had been talked about for a while leading to Badd Blood: In Your House.
At the event, as The Undertaker was about to finish off Shawn Michaels and become the No. 1 contender for the WWF Championship, eerie music hit and the Big Red Monster was born.
With HBK's win, he got a shot at Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1997, which happened to include the infamous Montreal Screwjob.
Under the mask was Glenn Jacobs, who had previously been seen in the WWF as Isaac Yankem D.D.S. and the fake Diesel.
Kane was built up as an unbeatable giant after his debut and was another person that was seen as an actual threat to The Undertaker.
Kane's debut was as close to a horror movie as you can get in the WWF. He came out to creepy music, shot flames from the turnbuckles and put The Undertaker down for what seemed like for good.
Kane is another one still at it today for the WWE, and he recently donned a mask again.
Kane's debut was shocking, led to a great character, helped spawn a ton of Kane/Undertaker storylines and even, technically, set events in motion that led to the Montreal Screwjob. All in all, not bad for a debut.
5. The nWo
In 2002, Vince McMahon went off his rocker a little bit. This was in part brought about due to Ric Flair owning a 50 percent stake in the WWF. So McMahon decided to "kill his creation with a lethal dose of poison."
Now to Vince, this meant bringing in the same group that "killed" WCW, the new World order (nWo).
The nWo was brought to the WWF at No Way Out and consisted of the original three members; Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan.
It was the first time Hogan had appeared in the WWF in almost a decade.
The debut at No Way Out was almost surreal, seeing Hogan, Nash and Hall in the WWF as the nWo
While the angle didn't pan out as well as most in the WWF had hoped, it did lead to a very memorable match at WrestleMania X8 between The Rock and Hulk Hogan.
The ovation Hogan received at WrestleMania also partially led to the downfall of the n.W.o. Hogan was quickly turned face, Hall didn't last very long due to personal problems, and Nash battled the injury bug.
The angle may not have gone on too long or yielded the best results, but at least for a while, wow, was it exciting. Hogan even got one last title run out of it.
The fans were also given something they wanted. The debut probably would be a lot higher on the list if they could have brought these guys in during the Invasion.
4. The Big Show
While in WCW, the Big Show, then known as The Giant, got lost in the shuffle a little bit after he lost the WCW Championship to Hulk Hogan and the nWo.
He stopped being the main-eventer he seemed destined to be and floundered between tag-team title reigns.
He was one of two guys that I remember WWF fans being a buzz for, hoping that when his contract expired he would head north.
Well, that's exactly what the Big Show did. He debuted during a cage match between Vince McMahon and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, with Austin's WrestleMania title shot on the line, at the only St. Valentine's Day Massacre in WWF history.
Big Show came through the ring and started demolishing Austin, but threw Austin through the side of the cage and cost McMahon the match.
While I feel the Big Show didn't make the immediate impact that many expected, it was a great debut. I may have had the attack happen after the match instead of having a wrestler you just signed to a 10-year contract "mess up."
I still gave this debut No. 4, because I enjoyed it, Show is still around and it showed that WWF could compete with WCW for top stars.
In ECW, Tazz was pushed as one of the baddest men on the planet. The Human Suplex Machine was a top guy, so it's no surprise that the WWF and WCW came calling in 1999 and tried to poach the ECW star.
Tazz chose the WWF and eventually was pushed in an underdog's role. The WWF just didn't get Tazz, maybe it was because he was only 5'9", I don't know, but it's clear they didn't know how to use him.
However, at 2000 Royal Rumble when Tazz debuted, that didn't matter. He came out to a great ovation and defeated the previously unbeaten Kurt Angle.
The run Tazz had in the WWF may have been a crock, but for one night in January at the famous Madison Square Garden, Tazz was king.
Listening to the ovation Tazz gets, there wasn't any way I could have him lower than No. 3. One of the most tremendous pops I've heard in my life. It's just a shame his career didn't continue on the high note he began with at the 2000 Royal Rumble.
2. The Radicalz
Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko were some of the best in-ring performers WCW had to offer.
In early 2000, WCW had offered many of their unhappy mid-card employees a chance to leave if they were so unhappy.
Chris Benoit won the vacant WCW World Heavyweight Championship in a match against Sid Vicious at the 2000 Souled Out. The next night, Benoit, Guerrero, Saturn and Malenko were no longer WCW employees and Benoit was stripped of the title.
Two weeks later, the foursome appeared in the WWF front row and got involved in an Al Snow/Steve Blackman vs. The New Age Outlaws tag-team title match, decimating the Outlaws with their plethora of moves.
In my mind, the moment signified the beginning of the end for WCW.
It was a huge debut for the group that would be called The Radicalz, it showed WWF couldn't be touched and was another moment that just seemed surreal.
1. "Y2J" Chris Jericho
I'm sure everyone expected this to be the end result, but it's good enough to watch again.
Chris Jericho was a guy in WCW that you could see wasn't being used properly. Everything he did was entertaining, but he found himself placed lower on the card.
After the buildup of a millennium countdown, Jericho debuted during a promo by The Rock, solidifying him as more than a mid-carder.
I don't know how this debut will ever be topped. It had it all; a great crowd reaction, great build in the weeks leading to the debut, a great back and forth between two guys great on the mic, and in one night Jericho was pushed up the card.
I could talk all day about it, but it's best just to let you watch the greatest debut in WWE history.