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.
5) Taz(z) - January 23, 2000
Ah Taz. One of my favorite in ring performers of all-time. He may be slightly too high on this list purely because of that fact, but eff it, this is my blog. When Taz debuted back in 2000 it was a pretty big deal in the pro wrestling world. As discussed in the previous post, WWF and WCW found themselves having bidding wars on big name superstars in the late 90's, and Taz was possibly the biggest non-WWF/WCW guy on the market. He had been with the underground promotion ECW since 1993 and had carved out a huge, loyal following. Known as the "human suplex machine" and inventor of my personal favorite submission move, the "tazmission", Taz was signed by the WWF in late 1999 and fans waited eagerly for him to show up on the flagship show, RAW.
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.)
4) Kane - October 5, 1997
For months leading up to the Badd Blood PPV, the legend of "Kane" was building on WWF television. The Undertaker (more on him in a moment) had refused to reunite with his long-time manager Paul Bearer (get it?), and therefore was being tormented by him every week. He threatened to reveal his "biggest secret", that being his long thought dead brother Kane. (Yay, Bible references in wrestling!)
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).
3) The Undertaker - November 22, 1990
Sorry about the low quality of the video, but apparently the WWF doesn't want people using the clip of one of the greatest wrestling debuts of all time. Seven years before Kane tore that cage door off, the Undertaker made his presence known. I was a little kid when he was introduced to the WWF in 1990. This was before the big WWF vs WCW battle, so debuts were usually not a huge deal yet, however this is one I would never forget.
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.
2) Chris Jericho - August 9, 1999
This was originally my number one, but after some prodding and well thought out arguments from many of the contributors, I bumped it to number two. The summer of 1999 was the height of my wrestling fandom. I was about to head off to college from my small town and every Monday my friends and I would rotate hosting Monday Night Raw at out houses. The Week that Jericho made his debut happened to my turn to host and I will never forget it.
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.
1) The NWO - May 27 & July 7, 1996
Two dates, two debuts. As many of you probably already know, The NWO, or New World Order, may be the greatest wrestling stable of all-time. For those of you who don't, a quick history lesson:
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.
Joe's take: I'd like to consider myself a really smart wrestling fan. I can see wrestling angles happen a mile away. I can tell when a wrestler is going to make the jump from being a good guy to being a bad guy. I've had that mindset since I was 11-years old. However, the wrestling world threw me a loop, when the NWO debuted in WCW. This turned the tide for wrestling in the 90's. When Scott Hall came down out of the stands and declared war on WCW, no one knew what to make of it. Is he from the WWF? Is he Tony Montana's brother? What the fu#k is going on! After that, Kevin Nash debuted and then Hulk Hogan did the heel turn (turning bad) heard round the world. He betrayed the Hulkamaniacs and told us to go to hell! YESSS!!! I can remember that moment like yesterday. No one saw it coming. The back of the hairs on my neck were standing straight up when that happened. I called like all 3 of my nerdy friends as if we were high school girls debating on who was hotter, Justin or some other douche bag in a boy band. At that point, being the bad guy wasn't cool, but the NWO made it cool, which sprung the careers of Austin, The Rock and countless others as being cool heels.
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!!!!!"
With only about two months left until the big debuts of Robyn Regehr, Christian Ehrhoff, and Ville Leino, Sabres news has been ridiculously slow. Until Mark-Andy signs and a few chumps are dumped to the AHL, there isn't a whole lot going on....unless you count the Bills, but who cares about those guys, right?
I kid. But this post is about neither the Bills or the Sabres. For today, I head back to write about professional wrestling and what I feel is one of the most important parts of the genre....the debut. You see, I grew up watching wrestling in the late 80's and then watched it's reinvention in the late 90's. During this time, with the battle of WWF vs. WCW vs ECW raging, you consistently saw wrestlers jumping back and forth, without warning to the separate federations. Yes, I know it is all scripted, but when you could watch the flagship shows each week (RAW, Nitro) and never know who was going to show up next, it added a sense of excitement and surprise that has been lacking for the past 10 years. The first time a wrestler would appear with their new federation could sometimes make or break their career. If you don't believe me, watch the video below:
That right there is a man named Fred Ottman, most famous for his role as "Tugboat" or "Typhoon in the WWF in the 80's and 90's. He made the jump to WCW in 1993 and that was supposed to be his big debut as "The Shockmaster". You just witnessed the end of his career. Not only was the glitter storm trooper helmet and fur vest an awful idea, but the falling out of the wall and losing his mask may be one of the most unintentionally funny moments in professional wrestling history. The point is, the debut is everything. It's what the fans first see and what they usually remember the most. So as we wait for the debuts of the Sabres' new big three, I decided to compile a list of the top 10 greatest debuts in professional wrestling history.
Between myself and an esteemed panel of about 12 other gentleman that included The Yachtsman, Apologist, Joe from Buffalo Wins
, past guest contributor NateDogg (not the guy from Ep 13 of the CrapTastiCast
), and one of the biggest wrestling fans I know, stevewxfan
(check out his cool weather blog here
), I was able to construct what I believe is a solid list. Joe was even gracious enough to include some great commentary on his top picks.
Below are picks 10 through 6. It was getting pretty long, so check back on Monday for selections 5 through 1. If you hate wrestling, so be it, but I had an effin spectacular time working on this so shut your hole and go back to capgeek. Too much?
10) Earthquake (John Tenta) - November 11th, 1989
I think most of the guys on the panel either forgot about this one, or possibly weren't even watching wrestling when it happened. I will always remember this debut because as an eight year old kid, I was so upset I think I may have cried. Ultimate Warrior was possibly my favorite wrestler, and to see him being man-handled by a bozo like Dino Bravo with this new gigantic man was shocking and appalling to me. Again, I was eight, so the "guy from the crowd" was beyond believable to me. This is an excellent debut. Earthquake, as he would come to be known as, went on to main event against Hulk Hogan and had a very long and successful career. The element of surprise is KEY in a good debut.
9) Eric Bischoff - July 15th, 2002
This was around the time I started to lose interest in wrestling. I was still watching, but my heart wasn't there and I was a junior in college so I had other priorities (booze, girls, booze, parties, booze). I do remember what a huge deal this was, but I'm going to defer to Joe on this one because.....well he can do a much better job than I can explaining how epic Bischoff's debut actually was for the wrestling world.
Joe's take: About a year after WCW was purchased by WWE, Vince McMahon did the unthinkable, he gave Eric Bishcoff (Formerly in charge of WCW) a job! No one, and I mean, no one saw this coming! Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon hated each other. It would be like Ted Nolan giving John Muckler a job. For almost a decade, the two of them exchanged insults, wrestlers and tons of cash to knock the other guy out. Vince won out. However, it the summer of 2002, WWE was growing stale and they needed to shake things up. So, Vince decided to bring Bischoff in to run Monday Night raw as the GM (Kayfabe). Easy E surprised everyone, including people in the locker room, when they had no idea Vince would hire his long-time nemesis. I remember when he came out, there was no tease or build up, Vince just announced that Eric was the man in charge of Raw. Never would have saw that coming four years earlier. I just remember that they hugged afterwords. Yup, Nolan and Muckler hugging, I tell you!
8) The Radicalz - January 31st, 2000
I originally wanted this to be a spot for Degeneration X (The DGWU of wrestling), but as I researched I found that DX never had a legitimate debut. They just gradually became a team over time and there was no big "boom here we are" moment.
I decided to go with the team of Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Chris Benoit. The story behind this debut was that all four of their contracts were expiring with WCW at the same exact time, and they supposedly made a pact to either stay or leave together. When WCW low-balled them on new contracts, they called Vince McMahon and jumped ship. This all happened in a matter of a couple days and it was huge in the wrestling world. All four men were career WCW guys who had never stepped foot in a WWF ring. On top of that, all four men were considered some of the best technical wrestlers in the business. DX were the bad guys at the time, so why not bring in these four to counter them? It was perfect timing. The WWF placed them in the front row like they just happened to be attending the show without contracts, giving that whole CM Punk type of "wait, is this for real or not?" feeling. As soon as they jumped the barrier, the crowd went nuts, and thus the Radicalz were born.
7) The Big Show (Paul Wight/The Giant) - February 14th, 1999
Paul Wight was know as "The Giant" in WCW and is famous for being billed at 7 foot, 485 lbs. He makes Howard Ballard look like....well.....me. Paul was also known as the perfect big man wrestler and could put on solid matches with men twice his size, while somewhat keeping up with their pace. This is why once his WCW contract ran up, a bidding war ensued and on February 9th, Paul Wight signed a ten-year contract with the WWF (Christian Ehrhoff?). Five days later he made his debut as a villain attempting to help the evil Vince McMahon win a steel cage match against the anti-hero Stone Cold Steve Austin.
The two really cool aspects of his debut were the fact that he appeared just five days after signing a new contract, totally surprising viewers that the monster had come to WWF, and also the fact that he climbs out THROUGH THE RING and then tosses Austin THROUGH THE CAGE. High school senior me thought that was pretty cool. Then again I also liked Limp Bizkit and DMX. Don't judge me.
5) Hulk Hogan back to the WWF - February 17th / March 17th / April 4th, 2002
Alright so this one is complicated. Let me explian before I turn it back over to Joe. When Hogan returned to the WWF in 2002, it was supposed to be as his bad guy persona "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan. He re-entered the WWE with his fellow NWO members Scott Hall and Kevin Nash and they were meant to reek havoc on the wrestling organization. This didn't work out as planned, in fact, it worked out better. Here is Joe to explain a little more.
Joe's Take: When WWE bought out WCW, it not only was the end of WCW and the Monday Night wars, but also the end of the height of the 90's wrestling boom. They always say, competition brings out the best in people and without WCW, I think the WWE got complacent. However, if there was one thing we got out of WCW going down in flames, was how Hulk Hogan came back to the WWE. No one ever would have thought he'd come back to Vince McMahon's company. I mean, he left him for greener pastures and was obsessed with putting the WWE out of business. This was like Lou Saban or Bill Polian coming back to work for Ralph Wilson. Anyways, his return was incredible, as Hogan went back to his roots of being a good guy. If you ever want to watch a cool wrestling youtube video, check out Rock vs Hogan Wrestlemania 18. The fans in Toronto went ape shit for Hogan! The problem was, they weren't suppose to do that! Hogan was the bad guy and Rock was the face. The best part about the match was when Hogan "Hulked up" (It's when Hogan looks to be out of gas, but miraculously, he gets his second wind and does the finger point). That was the first time Hogan did that since 1995. Epic stuff.
Note from the Scizz: The video embedded below is the entire match from Wrestlemania 18. One thing that Joe didn't mention was how well the Rock completely changes his attitude from good guy to bad guy as soon as he can tell the crowd wants Hogan to win. Classic stuff. Skip to the 13:25 min. mark to see the crowd really turn on The Rock, and then the 17 min. mark to see the finish and Hogan help out the Rock once the NWO attacks.
The three dates above represent the different moments of Hogan re-debuting; The NWO, his "turn" back to good at Wrestlemania 18, and finally the moment he completely returned to the Hogan of old. The first video is obviously his return with the NWO, the second is at WM18, and below you can see the first time he walked out onto a WWF stage in the classic red and yellow trunks for the first time in almost 10 years. Jump to the 4:30 min. mark to skip HHH rambling and see the Hulkster's entrance. Still gives me chills.
This list was not easy. After eveybody's feedback I had almost 40 different debuts in wrestling to sift through. My original top 10 looks NOTHING like the final list, which is why I'm glad I got outside input. Sometimes certain monents stick out to others more than they do you. For example, I always thought Scott Steiner's final return to the WWF at Survivor Series in NYC was pretty cool, but not a single other person listed it. However, the top five were listed on 75% of everybody's lists, but the order still surprised me.. Thanks to everyone for their help, and especially Joe for his awesome commentary!
Skip back on over on Monday morning for Part two. Cheers.