In the new age of wrestling- There is allot more build-up when a established star from another company comes to wrestle for the first time for the Stamford-based WWE. These days, you have video vignettes with the superstars cutting promos, and concreting their character, like Kizarny, Boogieman, or Carlito back in 2003.
Although as kid, I do remember Razor Ramon's vignettes of beating up little men on the beach, the most impactfull debuts of wrestlers were ones that SURPRISED the crowd. With the Internet in current times, its super hard to try to keep a debut secret.
But I always wanted to write about some of the best surprise In-Ring debuts. Before I get into it, I do want to "honorably mention" Eric Bishoff's debut on Monday night Raw. Although he did not wrestle, that was one debut that as a hardcore fan, I will never forget. Eric and Vince hugging—talk about a "Holy Sh!t" chant.
5) The Radicals—Raw, 1999
WCW backbone defecting to the competition. Beniot, Guerrero, Malenko and Saturn sitting from row at Monday Night Raw. At this time in the height of the Monday night Wars, I was still switching back and forth from USA to TNT (gotta love the "last" button on your remote control). Although I read some rumors, I was not keen on how exactly they were going to make the transition from WCW to WWF.
I rank this one, not because of sitting front row, but because of the matches they had with Degeneration X to earn contracts. Although the Beniot-Booker T best of seven match for the US titles were classic, or Malenko always being able to slow down the Luchadors with mat wrestling, these WCW cats were never pushed the proper way by WCW suits.
Beniot/HHH main event was great, and showed that Beniot had the wrestling caliber to hold a championship. The Tag team match with the New Age Outlaws and Guerrero/Saturn was getting good until Eddie broke his arm.
But the Creme ala Creme was the Malenko/X-Pac match: Forever will I remember the "calm and coolness" of Malenko's wrestling style (Showing that Bret Hart demeanor that He is not stressing or forcing the flow) against X-Pac, who I think was a better performer than most people give him credit for (You can never fully respect the Cronies in a wrestling stable) both shined in this match.
4) Tazz—Royal Rumble 2000
The Internet was blowing up this January day with the buzz of who was going to be Kurt Angle's unnamed oppenent. Kurt Angle was Undefeated at the time, and cut a pompous promo against the New York City Crowd (MSG resprent!). An ECW original and obviously being the hometown boy, Madison Square Garden gave a Hulk Hogan type pop for the Human Suplex Machine.
Representing the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, Tazz and Angles Match was short, but too the point and made an incredible impact. Kurt with the Mat wrestling style grounding Tazz, and Tazz retaliating with a rally of suplexes that would make any Judo fan proud.
The entrance of Tazz into the Garden that night was indeed great, not because of just the pop, but the unspoken credit Paul Heyman collected knowing his homegrown ECW star was what the WWF crowd was fiending for.
When you watch those DVD commentaries of guys always saying the best pops/heat are in Madison Square Garden—Imagine it being your hometown, and feeling that kind of love.
3) John Cena—Smackdown 2002
Ruthless Aggression was the phrase being thrown around. At this time, the Impact of the invasion angle was diminishing, the WWF stars like Stone Cold and the Rock were all vying for the title. Kurt Angle comes out, and challenged any of the young stars in the back to come out to the ring and prove they have what it takes for the mainstage.
No one at time knew who John Cena was (unless you were watching local Ohio syndication episodes of OVW). In black trunks and no theme music, This Jabroni comes out and was asked by Angle why he thought he had what it takes. Cena responds- "RUTHLESS AGGRESSION" and five fingers Kurt across the face. Talk about making waves.
The match in itself was really good (you'll never see a bad match from Kurt), but the amazing thing I thought was the way John Cena, who essentially was a rookie, threw down and stood toe to toe with an established main eventer. Typically a new guy like Cena, or any farm league wrestler would fill there diapers, nervously hoping they would not screw up, or get stiffed and never heard from again (ala most of the spirit squad).
Cena was move for move, reversal for reversal on top of his game. Although it was a losing effort, John Cena, in his first match, proved to me that it was not Brock Lesner, but John Cena who was the next big thing.
2) Chris Jericho—Raw 1999
WELCOME TO RAW IS JERICHO! This was not a wrestling debut, but a promo-debut that I had been waiting for, since the Goldberg/Jericho feud in WCW. In that WCW feud, Jericho proved he can hang with the heavyweights and have stellar matches. He always had the mic skills but in this feud he proved he had main event status.
Then to top it off- interrupting The ROCK...What?!?!?!...What an awesome way to smash into the WWF. They had a back and forth promo, but for Jericho to come out and call out the Great One- that's testicular fortitude shown by the creative team. Also shows the faith they had, knowing Jericho was going to do big things in the company and have him pull the Rock's punk card.
This is one of my own "most watched video" on YouTube, besides the Ultimate Warrior run-in at Wrestlemania 8.
1) The Undertaker—Survivor Series 1990
It was the Million dollar Man, who said the had a mystery member for his team at the thanksgiving PPV to face off against Dusty Rhodes Dream Team. I remember the picture promoting the match and it was three members, then a shadow for the mystery guy. I was like 7-8 years old, but I do remember all the rumors of who it was going to be, because it was assumed Dibiase would bring a main eventer for his team.
It was the unknown Undertaker, who Gorilla Monsoon siad "he looks like he's over seven feet tall!" Undertaker went on to single handling destroy the Dream Team and become the biggest and longest standing commodity for Vince McMahon.
The best was when he was choking the life out of Dusty Rhodes in the corner, and then rolled back his eyes for the first time- a WWE scene that is still replayed to this day. Almost 17 years of destruction, The debut at this PPV proved, both Wrestling wise and Money wise, that History beckoned the Undertaker.
These were so many good debuts, too many to list. But these are my personal favorites and will forever bring a smile, knowing I was fortunate enough too witness them. Thank you for the memories!