You only get one chance to make a first impression the first time you step into a WWE ring. Here are ten instances where WWE superstars immediately made an impact the first time they saw competition in a WWE ring.
What was difficult about writing this article is that there really haven’t been many memorable WWE debuts inside of the ring. Sure you have your moments like Chris Jericho interrupting The Rock but can you tell me about his first WWE match? Rarely for a number of reasons do these matches alone make a star overnight, yet on several occasions that is exactly what they did.
Keep in mind this list strictly looks at television matches on the main roster. I know there are some guys on here that fought in FCW, fought on house shows, or even NXT, but I am talking about the big show. A PPV, RAW, SmackDown, or a major television show is what I looked at. Let me know if I missed anyone and enjoy a look back at the most memorable in-ring debuts in WWE history.
The Undertaker – The mystery surrounding The Undertaker’s debut only helped hype up the first appeance from the Dead Man. The Undertaker debuted at Survivor Series 1990 as part of Ted DiBiase’s team to battle Dusty Rhodes’ Dream Team. The Undertaker eliminated team captain Dusty Rhodes but would later be counted out when he went to defend Brother Love. Win or lose the point was made, The Undertaker was a force to be wreckoned with.
Kane – Like The Undertaker, his brother made a destructive debut inside of the ring at the Suvrivor Series 1997. After attacking numerous wrestlers on television over the course of several weeks, Kane made his in-ring debut against Mankind. Kane’s debut is often lost when looking back on this show in favor of the Montreal Screwjob. The entire match is bathed in red light which can be a bit obnoxious at times (you thought watching Sin Cara was rough). Kane handed Mankind a real beatdown and immediately put the rest of the WWE roster on notice. The big, red machine was the real deal!
Brock Lesnar – Most remember Brock’s debut as the night he tossed Spike Dudley around like a rag doll on RAW. That was his WWE debut but I am here to rave about his in-ring WWE debut. Lesnar wrestled Jeff Hardy at Backlash 2002 in his official first WWE match. How do you get this guy over as a killing machine? By having him score a knockout victory in his first WWE match against an established superstar. That is exactly what Lesnar did to end a dominating performance against the future WWE world champion.
The Shield – The catalyst for this blog was watching The Shield tear the house down at WWE TLC 2012. The Shield made their television debut winning a thrilling TLC match against Team Hell No and Ryback. There aren’t many WWE wrestlers to debut and make the impact off the bat that The Shield did at the December PPV. There was no denying that these three guys were money players and would be an important part of the WWE moving into 2013. They not only lived up to the hype but they exceeded it.
Nexus – This one is a bit of a stretch because all of these men were technically in the WWE competing on NXT, yet they had never appeared on RAW. What made this debut so great even though they lost is that the WWE had built their first match up for months. Most people think that Nexus debuted on SummerSlam but they actually wrestled a 7-on-7 match on RAW against Team RAW. The invaders went 7-for-7 scoring a clean sweep on the WWE crew. Unfortunately it went downhill from there but as far as debuts go inside of the ring, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Tazz – The portly TNA color commentator was at one time one of the meanest, nastiest, suplex machines. Tazz was a “surprise” mystery opponent for Kurt Angle at the Royal Rumble, Tazz made his debut in his home city of New York City which brought the crowd to its feet. Tazz defeated Angle ending a long winning streak and immediately solidifying himself as a player in the WWE. As far as first matches go, you can’t ask for much more than this.
Kevin Owens – Owens made one of the biggest impacts in recent memory during his debut on the main WWE roster. In a match-of-the-year candidate, Owens pinned John Cena in a NXT vs. U.S. champion non-title match at the Elimination Chamber show back in May. Owens not only pinned Cena, but he beat him clean via pinfall. Unfortunately as most of you know by now, nobody scores a clean pin on John Cena without losing two and that is what Owens did, going 0-2 in his next matches with Cena.
Santino Marella – Actually you can, you can ask for a championship. How about winning a championship? Even the Texas Tornado had to wait a few weeks to get his title shot, but not Santino. Vince McMahon picked Santino out of the audience to challenge the monster Umaga for the WWE intercontinental title in Milan, Italy. Thanks to interference from Bobby Lashley (and McMahon which backfired), Santino pulled off what is known as the “Milan Miracle” and pinned the Samoan to become an unlikely champion.
Terry Funk – At the time of Funk’s WWF debut I thought, “poor Mel Phillips.” Today knowing what I know now, I wish Funk stuck his branding iron far up Phillips’ you know what. This is one of the most memorable WWF angles and debuts from my childhood. Ring attendant Phillips put on Funk’s cowboy hat and Funk went ballistic. Funk brutalized Phillips before disposing of Aldo Marino, instantly making himself arguably the most feared heel in the WWF. Since these antics were a part of Funk’s first match, they made the list.
John Cena – June 27, 2002 is a day that changed the WWE forever. A young, scrappy John Cena answered Kurt Angle’s Hometown Hero challenge in West Newbury, MA. When asked what separated Cena from his fellow WWE peers he answered, “Ruthless Aggression.” Cena lost the match but made an immediate impression by countering the Angle Slam and the Angle Lock. Cena’s debut goes to show you that a WWE superstar can still lose his debut match yet get over in a big way.