There is nothing more exciting than a good debut in wrestling. With a solid starting point for a new Superstar, fans can let their imaginations run wild about what WWE will do with this new face leading to some fun speculation. Not all debuts are fantastic though. For every Vader (who just missed out on this list), there are a dozen forgettable names who failed to make an impact. So with that in mind, we've put together a list of the five best and five worst WWE debuts of all time.
10 Good: AJ Styles
Before signing with the WWE, AJ Styles was the best wrestler on the planet, and the runner up wasn't even really close. Even today, you can still make the argument he's up there, and the man is 41 years old. Yet in WWE, it all started with the Royal Rumble in 2016. Somehow, WWE kept the Phenomenal One's signing under wraps, and when it came time for the third entrant to walk down the ramp, fans were confused when they heard an unfamiliar song.
They soon knew exactly what was going on as the word Phenomenal spread out across the titantron, and Styles walked toward the ring with his eyes fixated on Roman Reigns. Sure, WWE botched the heck out of this on broadcast, focusing on The Big Dog's confused face instead of the words across from him, but this is a debut fans won't ever forget.
9 Bad: Brian Kendrick
It's hard to believe a future cruiserweight champion, and one-half of one of the best tag-teams the WWE employed in the late 2000s made his debut wearing a Fez and server coat and rode a bicycle down the ramp to give a singing telegram (that sounds like it was actually sung by Chris Jericho) to the Undertaker at Paul Heyman's command. Also, it wasn't established, but we later learned his name is Spanky.
8 Good: John Cena
From the second John Cena wrestled on a main WWE show (velocity doesn't count here), fans knew the company had huge plans for him. Let's take a ride in the way-back machine and we'll set the stage. It's June 2002. Arguably the biggest name on SmackDown, Kurt Angle, has issued an open challenge. An unknown comes down the ramp, yells "Ruthless Aggression" and slaps the Olympian, signifying the start of the match. While Angle wins, Cena puts up a fight and even gets praise from The Undertaker afterward.
That's a star fans should keep their eye on. And they did. Cena's debut really kicked off the Ruthless Aggression era, and his first showing proved he can hang with the biggest names in the company. Now, over a decade later, it's hard to argue that this wasn't one of the best first showings a star ever had on WWE TV.
7 Bad: Lord Tensai
WWE did Matt Bloom dirty. During his first run in the company, he was given the name Prince Albert, and we all knew what that meant. Then, when he left, he became an absolute legend in Japan.So, when it came time to reintroduce him to the world, he was given an over-the-top Japanese gimmick — even though he isn't Japanese — and his identity was kept a secret until he took off a mask only to reveal he's Prince Albert with a bunch of illegible characters written across his face.
6 Good: Radicalz
In many ways, WWE tried to ape WCW's approach to the NWO with the Radicalz, and while they weren't nearly as successful, their first night on WWE television was something to remember.
During the Monday Night Wars, it was pretty typical to see stars jump between companies, but it was rare to see a World Champion like Benoit show up through the crowd with two of the best technical wrestlers of all time in Eddy Guerrero and Dean Malenko. Perry Saturn was there too, and that's not a knock on him, rather a testament to the sheer star power this stable had upon its debut. Hopping over the guardrail, the four stars interfered in a tag-team match and put the company on notice.
In reality, WWE would never really be the same again after this moment as this was where two of their biggest stars of the decade made their name.
5 Bad: Zeus
So, Zeus was the villain of the 1989 movie No Holds Barred starring Hulk Hogan who was angry about losing to The Real American in a movie. A movie he chose to act in after he was given a script.Anyway, he debuted by appearing before a cage match and scaring the bejeezus out of Hogan. The 1980s were weird.
4 Good: Sting
Sting always felt like the one who got away when it came to WWE. In fact, even after signing a contract for the company to sell toys in his likeness and use him as a selling point for their latest video game, many fans didn't think they'd ever see the WCW legend step foot in a WWE ring.
Yet, at Survivor Series 2014, the legend appeared out of nowhere to help Dolph Ziggler topple the authority. This is a debut that fans will never forget, and one the WWE expertly crafted. We doubt there will ever be a bigger name make an appearance this surprising.
3 Bad: ECW Zombie
Imagine being a long-time ECW fan in 2006. Finally, your favorite wrestling company is coming back, and while it's under the WWE banner, they did a fantastic job with the One Night Stand pay-per-view the year prior, so it won't be all bad. Sure, it's weird the new show is going on the Sci-Fi network, but maybe hardcore wrestling is a little too niche.
You tune in, eagerly awaiting to be hit with a rush of nostalgia, imagining seeing guys like Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer again in the way they were meant to be presented. Then a goddamn Zombie opens the show.
This one of the dumbest things WWE has ever done, and if it were not for the number one bad debut on this list, it would easily be the worst. Thankfully, we never saw the ECW Zombie again, but we did get a vampire. So, whatever, we guess.
2 Good: Chris Jericho
For weeks throughout 1999, fans witnessed a countdown clock signifying the start of something. Sure, the new millennium was on its way, but this is wrestling, so some kind of gimmick had to be tied to a current event. The countdown ended right in the middle of a promo by The Rock, so fans knew immediately, whoever walked out of that curtain was going to be a big deal. It was none other than Y2J, Chris Jericho. One of the most popular and underused talents defecting from WCW. Immediately, the Iatola of Rock and Rolla cut a scathing promo about the WWE, saying he'd save the company, and while it may have taken a little longer than we'd like for him to really get his footing in WWE, he lived up to that promise.
1 Bad: Gobbledy Gooker
Sometimes, we look back at things the WWE (or F) did and wonder how they became the biggest wrestling promotion in the world. The Gobbledy Gooker is definitely one of those things. Throughout Survivor Series 1990 (which conveniently took place on Thanksgiving day in the USA) there was a random egg on the stage. Somehow, the company drummed up wonder about what could possibly be inside, yet when it came time for the big unveiling, it was nothing short of disappointing. Maybe embarrassing, but we're not sure which is worse here.
The egg cracked open and a giant turkey monster thing (played by the legendary Hector Guerrero JR) started dancing with Mean Gene for some reason. It was awful.