#ScottishWrestlingMonth has begun in some style. Last week, WWE held their weekly episodic TV shows RAW and Smackdown Live in front of sell out crowds at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow. Whilst the overall show and match quality wasn’t the best you would see, the atmosphere within the arena was excellent for both evenings (RAW was one of the best live experiences I have witnessed), which helped to create some memorable moments, from the classic Smackdown womens title match on the Tuesday to the so-called phenomenal crowd reaction for Bayley on the Monday. However, without a doubt the top moment was Scotland’s own Noam Dar making his RAW debut to an electric ovation, creating a memorable moment for both him and the audience. Whilst it is still early to judge the impact of his debut in the long run, it made us think it would be an appropriate time to countdown the most memorable debuts in WWE history. Please note this list is only main roster WWE debuts early, so TNA, ECW, ROH and NXT debuts do not count on this countdown, so please, don’t have any rage just because Nakamura isn’t on this list. We love him too, but he doesn’t fit the criteria.
10. The Undertaker (1990)
The legacy of this debut has easily outclassed the impact. On November 22 1990, Ted DiBiase was set to lead out a team of four at the annual edition of Survivor Series, but he was a man short. Up step The Undertaker. Led to the ring by his then manager Brother Love, and standing at near seven foot, his terrifying and undead appearance brought fear to all those in attendance. Although he would steamroll his opponents that evening, many didn’t see great traction in a gimmick of a man who’d came straight from a funeral parlour. 26 years later, and we have seen multiple title reigns, the respect of the entire industry, a hall of fame career, and the greatest streak in the history of all sport. Greatest gimmick of all time. Legend.
9. Brock Lesnar (2002)
Kurt Angle a-side, respected amateur wrestlers have struggled to adapt to the rigors of the pro world (Jack Swagger for example). Brock Lesnar blew all stereotypes out the water. On the night following Wrestlemania 18, a fairly routine triple threat hardcore match was going on on RAW. That was until a man who looked to be the most monstrous speciman appeared from the crowd. That man was Lesnar. He would go on to destroy all three men with ease in a matter of minutes, showing freakish levels of strength, which included a triple powerbomb to an unfortunate Spike Dudley. What follwed afterwards was the greatest rookie year the sport has seen, as four months later, Brock was defeating The Rock to become WWE Champion. UFC and further WWE glory would follow in the years after, and Lesnar is still running strong as the most destructive man in the sport.
8. AJ Styles (2016)
They once said he was too small to succeed in WWE. Boy were they wrong. AJ Styles had long been one of the darlings of the IWC, after 10+ years as the company man of TNA, followed by two superb years running Japan with The Bullet Club. Many thought that at 38 years of age, his chance with WWE had passed, after a failed trial in the early naughties, and various rumors that Vince McMahon just wasn’t keen on him. The rumor mill would start going wild though in early 2016, with his Japan contract expiring and the Royal Rumble approaching, could the Phenomenal One be making his bow as a surprise entrant? We got our answer when the claxon sounded for entrant number three, with Styles entered to a thunderous ovation to come face-to-face with Roman Reigns. Any doubts over AJ were soon displaced, with a near half hour show in the Rumble, a main event feud with Reigns three months into his run and a clean Summerslam victory over John Cena. His dream year was capped off in style (see what I done there 😉 ) with a WWE championship victory, which he still holds three months on. The sky is still the limit for AJ.
7. Goldberg (2003)
Looking back fifth teen years on, The Invasion angle could have been so much better. It lacked the star power of the big players of the WCW prime, due to them still being tied into contracts with Time Warner. So when they were eventually made their way to the top sure, the fans were sure to pop like crazy for them. Whilst Ric Flair and The NWO made stylish debuts, no WCW star hit the scene quite like Goldberg. It was the RAW following Wrestlemania 19, and The Rock was in the ring to end the night, celebrating finally defeating Stone Cold Steve Austin at the grandest stage of them all, and was announcing to the world that he was Hollywood bound after all their was beat. Cue the familar music, and we saw Bill Goldberg make his way through the backstage era, and towards the ring through his familiar pyro, hitting the ring to spear The Rock out his boots, setting up a dream debut match which set Goldberg on his way in WWE. Of all the debuts on this list, this is a prime example of a impactful debut which lacks a lasting legacy, as Goldberg arguably flopped in his WWE run, leaving just under a year later.
6. Sting (2014)
The debut we never thought we would see. The greatest wrestler to have never worked for the McMahons. Mr WCW. As we stated previously, many WCW stars became free agents in the early 2000s after the company sale to WWE. Whilst the majority of them signed for WWE, Sting would refuse, showing doubts as to how the company would use his character, after nearly 15 years as the franchise player of WCW, he would spend his later career expanding his career into its twilight at TNA. As 2014 drew on, he seemed highly unlikely we would ever see the great man in a WWE ring. However, we got some hope when he appeared at a WWE Comic-con panel that summer. Then, at Survivor Series that year, it happened. As HHH stood in the ring, about to drag a lifeless Seth Rollins on top of an equally lifeless Dolph Ziggler, the lights went out, then crows sounded out over the speakers, and he emerged from the darkness, so rid the WWE of the authority (for a month, what a waste). Four months later at Wrestlemania, we would finally get to see Sting wrestle for the company. Sadly, he would have only one more match before injury would force him to retire, preventing us from seeing that dream match with Undertaker. But still, what an entrance he made, even if it was a decade late.
5. The Radicalz (2000)
One of the signatures of WCWs run at the top of sport entertainment was their ability to tempt some of WWEs top stars to jump ship. Hogan, Nash, Hall, Savage some of those convinced by Eric Bischoff to join his army. The issue, however, was that these were older, power hungry stars, and their constant runs at the top caused friction for the more up and coming stars of the company. As the company neared its demise in early 2000, four of their top young stars, Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko who show up in the front row of RAW. This was a rare occasion for WCW wrestlers to make the jump to the otherside, and it made a huge impact, with the group aligning with WWE champion HHH. Each of the four would achieve some level of success in their runs, with Guerrero and Benoit both winning world titles. However, it was the blow that this left on the Monday Night Wars that makes this debut so special.
4. The Nexus (2010)
This was a night that should have led to a changing of the guard within the company. In 2010, WWE made the decision to disband the ECW brand. To replace, they introduced a competition pitting eight rookie competitors against each other, in order to earn a place on the WWE roster, which was won by Wade Barrett, defeating the likes of Daniel Bryan and Ryback (then Skip Sheffield to name a few). Many expected the veteran Bryan tp eventually join Barrett on the roster, and for the other six to drift into obscurity. However, on June 7 2010, they shocked the world by storming the main event of that evening of John Cena vs CM Punk, destroying everything in their path, wrestlers, announcers, ring included. The group would become known and The Nexus, and would run rampant on the WWE for months to come, becoming the biggest thing the industry had seen in years. Their momentum was permanently damaged though, at Summerslam that year, when a John Cena led team beat Nexus, with Cena standing tall instead of putting the group over. Half of the group are no longer employed with the company, and only two are still actively competing (Heath Slater and Darren Young), although Bryan would enjoy two world title wins. Whilst the group should have achieved more, it was the impact made by a group of unknowns that makes this such a good debut.
3. The Shield (2012)
Sierra. Hotel. India. Echo. Lima .Delta. SHIELD. Now this is how you make a top stable. In late 2012, CM Punk was in midst of his record setting title reign. However, many believed that either John Cena and the young Ryback had his number. At that years Survivor Series, it looked as though Ryback would take the title from Punk, that was until three young men dressed in black would charge the ring, attack Ryback and put him through the announce table. These three were Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. They were a group of equals, looking to get justice on the WWE. They were the Shield, and they would go on to dominate WWE for a year and a half, before they went their separate ways. Four years on, and all three men have been world champions, with all three famously all holding the title at Money in The Bank this year. This was a special night, as WWE had often been criticised for failing to effectively introduce new talent. This night, they did just that. A masterful debut.
2. Kane (1997)
Thats gotta be KANE!! Thats gotta be KANE!! The now famous line delivered by Vince McMahon to mark the introduction of The Undertaker’s younger brother. In late 1997, Taker was in the middle of a feud with Shawn Michaels, which was set to conclude with the first ever Hell in a Cell match at Badd Blood: In Your House. However, along side that, Taker had long been in a war of words with his ex manager Paul Bearer. In the weeks leading up to the event, Bearer stated that Undertaker had a brother, and he was still alive, after Taker believed he had died in the fire that had killed their parents (wrestling story telling ehh?), and that he was coming. At Badd Blood, Taker was moments away from winning the match, when the lights went out, the fire hit, and Bearer was leading out this seven foot masked monster dressed in red, who would break through the cell and tombstone his brother. Twenty years later, and Kane is still around. It can be argued that he achieved far less than he deserved. He was brilliant in his early run, with his initial feud with Taker fantastic storytelling, all stemming from this famous debut.
- Chris Jericho (1999)
Without a doubt, the greatest debut EVERRRRRRRRR. In the summer of 1999, WWE had started showing countdowns to a specific date. That would be August 9th. Chris Jericho had done a fine job getting himself over in WCW. However, like the Radicalz earlier, he was under appreciated, and he was on his way. When the countdown expired, The Rock was in the ring, and the countdown relieved Jericho to the WWE audience, to an electric ovation. Words can’t really do this debut justice. Watch the video and enjoy the Jericho. Like Kane before him, he is still going strong, arguably producing his best work in years. The List of Jericho is just genius.
And that’s our list (get it 🙂 ). Let’s us know if you agree or disagree with any of our choices.
All credits to WWE for all videos.
The founding father and ‘higher power’ of the ESSR army, Steven oversees the operation of the Suplex Retweet podcast series and is the show’s primary host. With a broad knowledge of the industry, Steven leads discussions on a wide range of subjects from stables to WCW.
For some reason, he thinks John Cena’s real name is Allen Jones and is madly in love with Becky Lynch.