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.
The Scizz: I am really not sure why I'm following up the Barrister's epic Tim Connolly post with this nonsense, but what the hell, I'm not a real journalist.
I understand their is assumably a strong contingent of our readers who either don't give a shit about professional wrestling, or more likely, totally despise it. 10 to 11 months out of the year you can qualify me into the former group. I usually tune in around March or April when their yearly spectacle known as Wrestlemania is about to take place. The $50 PPV is viewed by me at a non-home location because....well let's face it, the DGWU crew are moronic fascists and the idea of watching grown men beating each other up while we drink tall boys
is too good to pass up.
However, over the past several weeks the WWE-Universe
(as I have discovered it is now called) has grabbed my attention considerably with a Chicago-born former Indy wrestler named CM Punk. CM is a former ROH/ECW/WWE/World Heavyweight champion, tag-team champion, and Intercontinental champion. He is considered by many fans as the best actual-wrestler in the business, as well as the best "talker". As a hero he is loved, and as a villain he is loathed. When his heavy-metal screeching music hits, the crowd erupts in boos or cheers. He has dominated the industry wherever he has been, and brings a sense of old school attitude that reminds people of the past, me included. Oddest of all, he is an honest-to-God straight-edger (meaning no alcohol, cigarettes, prescription drugs, or anything of the sort). From what I have gathered, the guy is a gem in the wrestling world. So why is he leaving the WWE altogether after July 17th?
Before I dive further into the story and why it intrigues me, a bit of background on my pro-wrestling prowess. (Note: I will also not use the term WWE anymore after this, it is the WWF. Fuck Pandas.)
It is no secret that the DGWU crew has a nostalgic view towards wrestling. In the past several months, whether it has been here or twitter, we have referenced wrestling greats such as the late Macho Man Randy Savage, The Undertaker, Degeneration-X and of course, Duke "The Dumpster" Droese (I can neither confirm nor deny that last one). We love the old days. I specifically became a fan as a little "pipper-squeak" and very quickly decided myself to to be a "Hulkamaniac". Try to forget about Hogan dating a young chick that looks creepishly like his own daughter, and believe me when I say that growing up in that wrestling era was fucking phenomenal.
Alright. Maybe don't forget about it. Ew.
As a child, wrestling may have been my first emotional foray into nerdom. That being when something fictional actually causes intense emotional responses. Granted I was only eight years old, but one of my earliest memories of my eyes welling up with tears at a piece of fiction was in October 1989 on Saturday Night's Main Event, when "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig stole Hogan's WWF Championship belt and proceeded to smash it into pieces with a hammer.
I was PISSED. Naturally at this point, I had no idea wrestling was fake and my emotional eruptions continued as the Ultimate Warrior defeated Hogan at Wrestlemania VI (my allegiance had switched to Warrior at that point) and "Earthquake" John Tenta later embarrassing Warrior and "crushing" Hogan's ribs. It was boring in Franklinville, NY. Leave me alone.
Soon after those times, I entered my bratty/awkward junior high school days. Mostly awkward. During this time wrestling was dead. Only sports, girls, and any music with cursing was cool to me and I could not be bothered with much else. This trend continued until 1998 when after viewing Sportscenter for the sixth time in a row, I became intrigued with a story about "Iron" Mike Tyson appearing on a wrestling show called Monday Night Raw
. What I saw was childish, vulgar, and violent. Welcome back to the pro-wrestling world, Scizz.
You see, a young wrestler I used to adore named Shawn Michaels had branched out on his own, forming a group of degenerate wrestlers who mocked others with a now famous crotch-chop while uttering the words, "suck it". They terrorized the WWF organization with childish pranks, sneak attacks, and vulgar promos and then decided to bring in the king of degenerates Mike Tyson to be their enforcer. How could you not love this crap? In the same era, you had "Stone Cold" Steve Austin who mocked religion with his "Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass" catch-phrase, a porn star themed wrestler name Val Venis who once feuded with a group a small Asian wrestlers who threatened to "choppy-choppy" his manhood, and of course a former Olympic athlete who was nicknamed "Sexual Chocolate" that impregnated an 80 year-old former women's wrestler. Wow. I cannot believe I just typed that last sentence. Yet,I started watching wrestling again and was immediately hooked. I even remember May 31st, 1999 as a Monday night where my parents were away and I had several friends over during the playoffs for the ECF clinching game against the Leafs, however we spent just as much time flipping over to Raw
. I know, I'm a little ashamed myself, but that was during the famed "Higher Power" story-line with the Undertaker
and it was coming to a head. Forgive me.
These story-lines kept us fascinated. Every single week was unpredictable. Would The Rock help Mick Foley out of a jam or turn against him? Would Chris Jericho jump ship from rival WCW and start causing ruckus in the WWF? What would owner and CEO Vince McMahon do this week that would shock the world? The best part was that you NEVER knew what was going to happen. Every week there was a new shocking twist and I had not discovered wrestling websites yet, so I had no idea you could find out about "spoilers" beforehand. Sure I enjoyed talented wrestlers like Jericho and Kurt Angle, but the story-lines are what really had you coming back for more.
Let me take this opportunity to say that yes, I realize that pro-wrestling is fake. I get it. They don't really punch or kick each other and all the feuds and story-lines are pre-written, but isn't that true with most television? It is entertainment. That is all. If tens of million of people tune(d) into garbage like Two & a Half Men,
and the atrocious writing of Glee
is winning awards, then I cannot and will not accept the argument that wrestling is for idiots because it is fake and childish. Although I am an idiot so maybe that point doesn't hold up. Then again, I think it is hard to "fake" what happens in this video.
Moving on. I stopped watching wrestling altogether a year or so after college and moving to New York. The time and interest wasn't there anymore. I had to worry about commuting, paying rent for an apartment I could not afford, and playing NCAA football on PS2 as much as possible. Recently, I can afford my apartment and I stopped playing video games (although my commute still sucks balls), but an interest in watching wrestling as never resumed. I blame this on my opinion that it became way too predictable. There were no longer any surprise appearances due to WWF buying out WCW and ECW and the twist and turns were stale and unoriginal. It could be that I was just getting older and outgrowing it, but I still believe the writing of the late 90's was top-notch and could enchant even the most nonchalant fan. In a true DGWU manner, I would say that wrestling had become "meh". It was over for me.
In the last two years I have only tuned into wrestling on purpose on three occasions. 1)
Last year when I heard that the famed Bret "The Hitman" Hart was returning to WWF. 2)
Later in the year when somebody sent me a clip online of a group of wrestlers called "The Nexus" tearing apart the RAW
set (this looked like an awesome "realism" story-line that looked cool but bored me when I tuned in). 3)
To catch up on new wrestlers this year when I heard the DGWU crew might be watching Wrestlemania 27. That's about it.
Yet a little over a week ago I came across this wrestling post
on Bill Simmons' Grantland website and my interest in wrestling took off more than it had in years. Even more than return of my beloved "Hitman" to the WWF. The author, The Masked Man of Deadspin fame, wrote the following about the CM Punk/WWE backstory after his win on the last PPV event, Capitol Punishment
"bit of backstory: For months, rumors have been circulating that Punk's contract was coming up, and due to a dissatisfaction with his place in the company — he was shuffled back and forth between headline feuds and curtain-jerking spots — and possibly his disillusionment with the wrestling industry at large, Punk was threatening to walk. Those rumors, of course, led to more curtain jerking and losses in big matches; if he was on the way out, the thinking goes, the WWE wouldn't let him leave on a high note.
Vince McMahaon and the WWF have been known for "burying" wrestlers after they have decided to leave the company or if Vince in general doesn't like them. For example, Jeff Jarrett was forced to lose his title to a woman
(not being sexist, but in the wrestling world this was shocking), former world champion and behemoth Vader was forced to lose to guys 1/3 his size
, and his now son-in-law HHH was once forced fight in "pig-slop" match because he broke character at a live-event. That is just a taste of stories you can find on the interweb about Vince screwing his employees. This is why the news that CM Punk is not renewing with the WWE is so interesting. In the past few weeks he has been on a, pre-written of course, win streak and now given a major title shot at the next PPV against kid-favorite John Cena (yes, the guy from The Marine....maybe the worst and most ridiculously entertaining action movie of the last 10 years). He has announced on-air that he plans on winning the title and leaving the WWF forever. But why would the infamous McMahon "push" a guy who is leaving the company? Is it all just part of story-line and Punk is actually coming back? Maybe this is Vince's final nail in the coffin and wants to get the fans' hopes up. All of this has piqued my interest, but I became totally captivated when I saw the following:
That right there is called a "shoot" promo. It means that although it may be part of the show, it is based in truth. I might not watch wrestling much anymore, but that emotional performance is one of the BEST promos I have ever seen. I won't analyze line by line all the accusations Mr. Punk was making, that would take far too long and a few had me confused myself. The major point that I want you to take from this is that he was making comments that NOBODY has ever been allowed to say live on-air. Rumors are still running that the mic getting cut at the end was NOT part of the story-line and he pushed the planned promo a little too far for Vince's liking. As of all insider reports I have seen, CM Punk is still leaving the company after his final match for the WWF title on July 17th. Is there something that wrestling common-folk don't know? Probably. But this still makes for great television. This is what WWF was all about in the late 90's. Stories and action that grabbed your attention and wouldn't let go until you saw the plot unfold. I know the Yachtsman is not a fan of Bill Simmons, but the breakdown of the Punk saga over at Grantland
totally encapsulates my thoughts on the fascinating aspects of this story. The wresting experience I knew as a kid is happening again and although it may not last long, this Chicago made punk has made a fan of me.
Yes, it is aaaaaaaaall scripted and only Vince knows the real deal, but count me in as fair-weather wrestling fan who wants to know how it all ends. I mean I have to do something until Hockey and Football starts.