Sorry for the delay. I have been busy occupying various administration buildings, smoking lot of Thai stick, breaking into the RTOC, and bowling. If you are just joining us, last week I started counting down the top 10 professional wrestling debuts of all-time. For number 10 through 5 you can click here, and then come back and join me for part deux. Again, I'd like to thank everyone who helped me with suggestions, especially Joe from Buffalo Wins who is back for round two with some more commentary. So without further ado, the top five pro wrestling debuts of all-time.
What was slightly different than this signing compared to others, was that the acquisition of Taz was made public by the WWF, which made it harder for a shocking surprise. However, WWF was smart and waited several months before marching Taz out for a major match at the big January PPV, The Royal Rumble.
For weeks leading up to the event, a large, orange glowing "13" continued to appear on the jumbotron during matches on RAW. Most people assumed this was a tease for Taz, but nobody knew for sure. So on Jan. 23, his opponent would be the undefeated Kurt Angle, whom had only debuted himself back in November. The WWF decided to give Kurt a "mystery" opponent for the PPV, which had fans immediately clamoring for a match-up against Taz. In fact, during Angle's pre-match promo you could hear faint "we want Taz" chants breaking out. Despite the writing on the wall, the debut was still amazing when you put together all the heat Angle was taking from fans, Taz's already large following, and his kick-ass entrance/music that led to a huge victory and Kurt Angle's first singles loss. There was about 15 of us watching in a college dorm room and we went nuts when Tazz walked out from backstage. (Sidenote: you may notice the extra Z on Tazz in the video and up above. The WWF wanted to avoid any liability by having one of their wrestlers share a name with a cartoon character, so they just popped an extra Z on it. It was stupid and I never liked it.)
The angle was ridiculous, but the Undertaker was one of the federation's most popular wrestlers, and introducing his scarred brother could immediately catapult a new star into the main event scene. As the Undertaker was seconds away from winning the WWF title from Shawn Michaels in the first "Hell in a Cell" match, the lights went out and reminiscent of 'Taker's own debut, Kane emerged from backstage with spooky music and a terrifying appearance. He then proceeded to tear the door off the cell and knock out the Undertaker with his own finishing move! Sorry, but thinking back, this gets me pretty excited. Vince McMahon screaming "THAT'S GOTTA BE....THAT'S GOTTA BE KANE!" is one of my favorite calls in wrestling history. I am a huge nerd.
The guy under the Kane mask was actually a wrestler that had been in the organization for a several years already, but his previous gimmick had been a complete failure. He wrestled as an evil dentist. That's not a joke. By throwing a mask and full body suit on him, the WWF was able to introduce a "new" wrestler and fans were none the wiser....until the internet became slightly more popular. All in all, the mystery surrounding Kane was cool enough to get fans interested and although we knew his debut was coming, we didn't know when, where, or what the hell he would look like. Costing the Undertaker his title at a PPV in violent fashion could have not worked out better. I should probably note that it is now 14 years later and both the Undertaker and Kane are still active wrestlers. (albeit some slight/major gimmick changes).
The video above starts right after The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase introduces his mystery partner for the Survivor Series PPV. The only build up for the surprise was a print ad in WWF magazine that showed Dibiase and his other partners standing next to a shadowy figure with a question mark on it, but it didn't matter. On January 22, fans would witness the debut of one of the greatest professional wrestlers to ever step inside the ring. At the time, I remember being scared to death of the Undertaker. He was by the far the biggest wrestler I had ever seen and the way he man-handled his opponents terrified me. Keep in mind this was before I found out wrestling was fake and this guy looked like he could rip me in half. Of course, 'Taker would go onto becoming the WWF champion the following year and he was maybe the only wrestler I legitimately thought would never lose.
The rumors of Chris Jericho coming to the WWF had been all over the internet, but there had yet to be a confirmation. As Joe will add in a moment, Jericho was always a middle of the road guy in WCW with TONS of upside. Pro wrestling fans were dying to see what Vince McMahon and the WWF could do with him. Hell, months earlier I was at the "Fully Loaded" PPV at HSBC Arena holding a sign that said "COMING SOON: JERICHO" and I wasn't even 100% sure he had actually signed a new contract. I just knew he hadn't been on WCW 's television shows lately and I was hoping that was a sign. When the lights went out in the middle of The Rock's killer promo, the pyro exploded, and then the name JERICHO showed up on the jumbotron, my friends and I lost it. Finally one of my favorite, underutilized wrestlers was making his debut....and he was doing it by interrupting the guy who could have been arguably the most popular wrestler in the world at the time. THAT is how you make a debut in professional wrestling. I would also suggest checking out this link to a video of his 2007 return to the WWF after leaving the industry for over two years. Almost as good as his original debut.
Joe's take: Chris Jericho on Raw: At the time, Jericho was a lot like CM Punk. He was kind of a Internet cult hero, because everyone knew he had talent, but his former employers at WCW, didn't see it. He was never more than a mid-card guy, but you knew with the way he worked the crowd and wrestled, Jericho had "It". Before he arrived in WWE, the TV crew showedvignettes of a countdown clock to "The Millennium Man's" arrival. Must have been like 5 weeks out that they started the countdown clock. Anyways, The Rock was giving one of his over-the-top hilarious promos (BTW, He's the best ever), when the countdown clock showed up and when it hit all zeros, Chris Jericho appeared. Right then and there, he was standing face to face with the best wrestler in the world, which was a far cry from him wrestling with Glacier or Perry Saturn. That's WWE for you. The crowd went nuts and Jericho hasn't looked back since.
Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were two of the best wrestlers the WWF had to offer in the mid 90's, but after WCW show-runner Eric Bischoff was granted the ability to give new wrestlers guaranteed contracts, many big name WWF guys wanted to make the jump. A mere six days after signing one of those new contracts, Scott Hall came down from the stands and had people believing that an actual WWF wrestler was "invading" WCW. That was the orginal debut of the NWO and it was brilliant. A few weeks later Kevin Nash debuted and then at the Bash at the Beach PPV in July, they introduced their third member, thus creating the first incarnation of the NWO. Therefore you have two real debuts for the NWO. The first time Scott Hall appeared and shocked the crowd, and at the PPV when they introduced their leader and debuted the whole NWO stable. To see that shocking moment, just look below and then check out Joe's take, which was the final straw in me choosing this as the #1 debut.
There have you have it. The debut of the NWO takes the cake. I will totally understand if you disagree with #1 because it could be argued that it is not a an actual debut, but a formation of a faction of wrestlers. That was my original thought, but after watching it a few times I realized that was wrestling history being made, and the debut of the NWO would totally changed professional wrestling forever. Thanks one more time to those who contributed and I would also like to mention a few of the debuts that just fell short of the list; Brock Lesnar, Dude Love, Bret Hart's return debut in the WWF, the 1-2-3 Kid, Stacy Kiebler (hahahaha), Marc Mero, and Goldberg in both WCW and WWF.
I think I might tackle entrance music next after the travesty that was Bill Simmons' shitty list. Not for awhile though. I think everyone has had enough pro wrestling from DGWU this summer. "IT'S TIME TO PLAY THE GAME!!!!!"