Chris Jericho's WWE Arrival and the Most Iconic Debuts in Wrestling HistoryAugust 9, 2020
Chris Jericho's WWE Arrival and the Most Iconic Debuts in Wrestling History
A pro wrestler's debut with a major promotion is an important moment in their career. The first impression they have on the crowd can dictate how they are booked for the next year or longer.
Unfortunately, many Superstars have debuted without much fanfare over the years. WWE will sometimes run a few video packages before bringing in someone from NXT to Raw or SmackDown, but even that method doesn't always create anticipation.
Some of the biggest Superstars in the history of the business had lackluster introductions. Can you remember the first person The Rock faced when he first showed up as Rocky Maivia? Do you remember whom "Stone Cold" Steve Austin wrestled on his first night? Probably not.
Even though a big introduction is not necessary for a wrestler to be successful, it gets them off to a good start, especially if the crowd buys into it.
Sunday marks the 21st anniversary of the legendary WWE debut of Chris Jericho, so we thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the most impactful debuts in wrestling history.
This is not a ranked list, so do not worry about where your favorites fall in the order. Since it would be difficult to make this list using every promotion in the world, we will focus on WWE, WCW, All Elite Wrestling and TNA/Impact Wrestling since those are the companies most fans are familiar with these days.
Chris Jericho (WWE)
The man who inspired this article had one of the most unique and memorable debuts in WWE history. It all started with a series of mysterious videos containing a countdown.
Once people realized the timer would reach zero well before the new year, everyone knew somebody important was about to make their presence felt.
Y2J received a hero's welcome when he interrupted The Rock on Raw during his first appearance with WWE on August 9, 1999. He was never booked as more than a midcard star in WCW but he had built up a large following by consistently being one of the most entertaining on the mic and talented on the mat.
Coming into WWE in a segment with The Great One meant WWE had a lot of faith in Jericho's abilities. If CEO Vince McMahon didn't see something special in him, he would have debuted against some jobber in a squash match.
Everybody who saw this moment remembers it well because WWE did such a good job building up to the reveal. Internet spoilers weren't as widespread back then, which made keeping this secret much easier than it would be today.
Scott Hall and Kevin Nash (WCW)
There are several moments that can be credited with pushing WCW ahead of WWE in the ratings in the early days of Nitro, but the two men who kickstarted changes across the entire company were Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.
Until they showed up, The Dungeon of Doom was WCW's most dangerous stable, and it was booked as little more than a collection of unconventional wrestlers. The Outsiders' debuts led to the New World Order's formation and the reinvigoration of Hulk Hogan's career.
Technically, both Superstars worked for WCW prior to joining WWE as Razor Ramon and Diesel, but a lot of fans don't remember them because they were never pushed hard during their original runs.
May 27, 1996, was the day The Bad Guy arrived on Nitro in what many fans thought was the first step in an invasion by WWE. Two weeks later, Nash joined him.
When a lot of fans don't know whether an angle is real or fake, that means it worked perfectly. Even in the '90s, there was still some ambiguity around wrestling. The veil has been lifted since then, so we may never get another debut as intriguing and surprising as this again.
In 1989, "Mean Mark" Callous was a giant of a man who could barely get himself booked on WCW programming. In November 1990, he debuted as The Undertaker and instantly became one of WWE's top stars.
His intimidating demeanor, strange persona and methodical offense made him stand out among his fellow wrestlers. Having Paul Bearer by his side gave him a voice he desperately needed at the time.
His debut at Survivor Series 1990 was epic. He was brought in as Ted DiBiase's secret weapon and proceeded to tear through Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Dusty Rhodes and Koko B. Ware.
He didn't sell anyone's offense to add to his unbeatable image. The Deadman has become one of the most iconic names in the business, but he might not have had such a strong run if he didn't have such a powerful debut.
AJ Styles (WWE)
For many years, AJ Styles was widely considered the best wrestler to have never worked for WWE, but that all changed during the 2016 Royal Rumble.
As soon as the crowd realized whose music was playing, everyone lost their minds. The pop Styles received was huge and proved that despite never working for the largest promotion in the world before that night, he had achieved a level of fame few can dream of.
The look on Roman Reigns' face when The Phenomenal One stepped on to the stage was priceless. He might not have won that night, but Styles already had the WWE Universe eating out of the palm of his hand.
Kurt Angle (TNA Impact)
When Kurt Angle was released by WWE in 2006, a lot of people expected him to make the jump to TNA, but that didn't make his debut any less special.
Samoa Joe was in the ring with Mike Tenay and the NWA World Championship when the Olympic gold medalist arrived in the Impact Zone for the first time.
Their standoff was intense from the moment they stepped into the ring. A defiant Joe looked him dead in the eye before Angle delivered a headbutt that busted open The Samoan Submission Machine.
One of the coolest things about Angle's debut is he was willing to use that moment to make somebody else look good. As he posed with the title, a bloody Joe rose up behind him and struck with a jumping kick to the head.
Angle easily could have demanded to be the guy who comes out on top during his debut and the fact that he didn't shows how much he understands this business. Elevating Joe in that segment made their feud that much better.
Back in 2012, NXT was not nearly as popular as it is today. It was still in its early days as WWE's developmental territory and did not have a spot on television.
This meant WWE was still able to call up Superstars and have it be a genuine surprise for the crowd, which is why The Shield's debut worked so well. Had the WWE Universe been familiar with Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose that night, their arrival would not have been as cool.
They were unknowns at the time, but they came in and made the main event of Survivor Series 2012 all about them by attacking Ryback during his WWE title match with John Cena and CM Punk.
The Shield took WWE by storm and put everybody on notice. They used dirty tactics to get ahead and defeated some of the biggest stars in the company within months of their debut.
WWE has tried, but it has yet to create another stable as popular and successful as The Shield. The Undisputed Era has potential, but it needs to get out of NXT if it is ever going to thrive.
AJ Lee was one of the only people to force WWE to see women as valuable performers at a time when the division could barely get on television. She elevated the roster before the Women's Revolution, and that paved the way for Paige to make a big splash during her debut.
The NXT women's champion showed up on Raw the night after WrestleMania XXX in 2014. She told AJ how much she admired her but the Divas champion did not like being interrupted. She foolishly agreed to put the title on the line to prove a point to the newcomer.
The Glampire showed her why that was a mistake, defeating the champion to become the youngest woman to ever hold a title on WWE's main roster.
This moment made her an instant star and opened the door for others to follow from NXT in the coming years to create the best women's division WWE has ever had.
The moment between Paige and AJ was immortalized in the movie Fighting With My Family, but nothing comes close to capturing how important Paige's debut was for the entire division.
Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch
While Paige may have set the stage for others to follow, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch kicked the door down and turned the entire division on its head.
On July 13, 2015, Stephanie McMahon confronted The Bella Twins and Alicia Fox in the ring. She said a revolution was necessary and that if Paige were going to change the business, she would need backup.
The Queen, The Man and The Boss were each brought out and put in different groups to create three distinct trios. There was Team Bella, Team BAD and Team PCB.
If you go back and watch this moment, look at how genuinely excited every fan is in the arena. Chants of "this is awesome" were echoing throughout the building before a single Superstar threw a punch. They were chanting because they knew this was the start of something game-changing.
For the past five years, all three women who debuted that night have proved to WWE that they were worth the gamble by putting on several Match of the Year candidates and being some of the most popular stars on the roster.
Now, WWE has one of the most talented rosters of women in the world, and it only continues to get stronger. None of that would have happened if the debuts of Charlotte, Lynch and Banks did not receive that kind of positive attention.
The Shockmaster and Gobbledy Gooker
Some debuts are memorable because they create instant stars or provide unforgettable moments. The debuts of The Shockmaster and The Gobbledy Gooker definitely fall into the latter category.
Make no mistake about it: These were both disastrous segments. But that is part of what has made them so legendary over the years. Let's start with WWE's flop.
It was Survivor Series 1990. WWE had been hyping the hatching of a giant egg for weeks. No joke. When Hector Guerrero emerged in a turkey suit, nobody knew what to think. This was clearly one of the few ideas McMahon had that should have been nixed by somebody close to him.
Over the years, WWE has humorously referenced this segment and even had others dress up in the costume for anniversary shows and special occasions. It was ridiculous in every sense of the word, but nothing could top what WCW had in store a few years later.
Sting and The British Bulldog were preparing to reveal their mystery partner on A Flair For the Gold, an interview segment hosted by Ric Flair at Clash of Champions 24.
As Sting introduced The Shockmaster to the world, Fred Ottman came tumbling through a wall wearing a huge vest and a glittery stormtrooper helmet. It was one of those moments that can only happen on live television.
The Superstars on the stage had trouble containing their laughter as he tried to gather himself. To his credit, Sid Vicious continued to act serious, but you could see Booker T and Stevie Ray struggling to hide their chuckles.
Both of these debuts are still talked about to this day, which means—on some level—they worked. People might mock and laugh, but anything that is still being discussed 30 years later had an impact that cannot be denied.
Both characters have been immortalized as paintings by WWE's artist, Rob Schamberger, which speaks to how memorable those moments were.
One man gets two entries on this list, and his name is Jon Moxley. His debut as Dean Ambrose with The Shield was awesome, but his arrival in All Elite Wrestling proved the fledgling company was looking to start strong.
At Double or Nothing on May 25, 2019, Jericho was in the ring after defeating Kenny Omega in the main event of the company's inaugural pay-per-view. He demanded the crowd thank him but didn't realize who was making his way to the ring behind him.
Mox came through the crowd just like he did during his Shield days and confronted the man who was responsible for the death of Mitch the Plant in WWE.
The former rivals stared at each other before Moxley took down Le Champion with a Paradigm Shift. He tried to do the same to Omega and the two ended up brawling to close the show.
Even with Jericho already involved with AEW from an early stage, Moxley's debut felt like the moment the company became the No. 2 promotion in the country.
Who do you think had the most memorable wrestling debut, and what made it so special? Follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor.