CM Punk made quite the memorable debut in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in September 2016. Unfortunately for Punk, we’ll remember his debut in mixed martial arts because he was thoroughly dismantled by Mickey Gall at UFC 203 in Cleveland, Ohio. Gall took the former World Wrestling Entertainment Superstar down to the mat in the opening seconds of the contest and that was about as close as Punk would get to having any chance of surviving against the 24-year-old unproven fighter. Gall pounded the face and head of Punk again and again until eventually submitting the former professional wrestler who, simply put, was overmatched against an individual who had a long history of training and competing in the sports world. It is currently unknown if Punk will ever again fight in the UFC.
Because of Punk’s history in the wrestling business, fans and observers understandably compare his UFC debut to the debuts wrestlers made in companies such as the WWE, World Championship Wrestling, Extreme Championship Wrestling and other promotions. Believe it or not, Punk’s fighting debut actually went better than many of the more auspicious beginnings of wrestling careers that have occurred over the decades. Some wrestlers who had unimpressive debuts went on to find success in the business. Perhaps Punk could use those examples as inspiration if he plans on continuing to fight in the UFC or in any other organization in the future. Punk probably won’t ever win a title in MMA, but some company out there will give him opportunities to fight because he remains an attraction even after his loss to Gall.
15 Lord Tensai
The WWE repackaged Matt Bloom, who once wrestled in the promotion as Prince Albert, as Lord Tensai in the spring of 2012. Tensai was supposed to be a menacing foreign heel who dominated undersized babyface opponents. The problem with the gimmick is that it came along roughly 20 years after such a character would’ve gotten over with WWE viewers. A large group of fans watching knew immediately that Tensai was the former Albert and some even chanted “Albert! Albert!” during his debut contest.
This was a horrible and even somewhat racist gimmick, and the idea did not belong in any major wrestling promotion in the second decade of the 21st century. It was one of those horrifying segments that makes you feel embarrassed to enjoy this certain form of entertainment.
14 Fake Razor/Fake Diesel
The WWE was losing a wrestling war against WCW in September of 1996 and so the company chose to have announcer Jim Ross turn heel and promise to re-introduce Razor Ramon and Diesel as members of the WWE audience. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, who originally played those characters, were signed to WCW at the time and so Ross instead brought out fake versions of those characters in the storyline and it ultimately humiliated Vince McMahon.
The gimmick was indeed, embarrassing, but not in a way that got anybody over. Fans felt like they were robbed and lied to, which was actually the case, and the two fake characters did not last long before the WWE admitted defeat and canceled the story. This horrifying debut serves as a reminder to promoters that they should never knowingly deceive customers.
13 Bret Hart
It sometimes seems as if it would be impossible for a company to screw up a debut. That was the case in late 1997 when Bret “Hitman” Hart was to make his official debut in WCW at Starrcade 1997. Less than two months after the infamous “Montreal Screwjob” and Hart’s last night working in the WWE, "The Excellence of Execution” was booked to be part of WCW’s final show of the year as a referee since a non-compete clause kept him from wrestling.
The most memorable moment of Hart’s debut occurred in the main event match featuring Sting battling Hulk Hogan for the WCW Title. Hart attacked referee Nick Patrick after Patrick performed a “fast count” to award the match to Hogan. The problem, of course, was that Patrick’s count wasn’t actually fast. What was supposed to be a replay of the Montreal Screwjob was a disaster and it was about as bad a way to debut Hart on WCW television considering all the momentum he had after leaving the WWE.
12 The Yeti
We absolutely understand pockets of the WWE Universe may not be enamored with different portions of the product in the final months of 2016. Just remember, wrestling fans, things could be a lot worse. You could be watching a promotion that featured the ridiculous “Dungeon of Doom” faction that was all over WCW television in the fall of 1995.
At Halloween Havoc of that year, The Yeti debuted as a member of the Dungeon of Doom. Yeti, who was bandaged from head to toe because he was supposedly a mummy, made a slow walk to the ring and then performed a double bearhug with The Giant on Hulk Hogan. That debut is horrifying for reasons that cannot be put into words for a piece on this website. You really have to see it to understand why it’s worthy of a spot on this list.
In July 1995, the WWE elected to debut a personality known as Phantasio on an edition of the Wrestling Challenge show that used to air on TV. Phantasio, as you may have guessed due to the charcter’s name, was a babyface magician who literally performed magic tricks during matches and who won a match via a roll-up.
You might be thinking to yourself that this debut sounds like a terrible way to introduce a competitor to audiences. You wouldn’t be wrong, as television viewers never again saw Phantasio. He, to make the joke complete, vanished from the memories of WWE audiences as quickly as he debuted, as Phantasio worked a couple of house shows before he and the WWE parted ways. The Phantasio gimmick now exists only in highlight segments that air on the WWE Network and the WWE website.
10 Eric Bischoff
Eric Bischoff was once the most powerful man in all of WCW when WCW was beating the WWE in television ratings, pay-per-view buys and other aspects of business. By March 2001, however, WCW was out of business for far too many reasons than can be pointed out in one piece. Following the failed “Invasion” storyline, the WWE decided to bring Bischoff in to serve as the in-story General Manager of the Raw brand. Everything about Bischoff’s debut was horrifying as it pertains to business. Bischoff technically debuted behind the scenes when he briefly interacted with Booker T before emerging from the curtain. Then, in a moment of madness, Bischoff and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon embraced multiple times on stage. You could also hear the WWE flushing millions of dollars down the toilet by wasting what could have been a great feud.
It’s an all-time awful debut by anybody who ever worked as a pro wrestler.
9 Diamond Dallas Page
Those of you who did not grow up watching WCW in the 1990s probably don’t realize how over a babyface Diamond Dallas Page was during the second half of the 1990s. DDP became the “people’s champion” long before The Rock ever earned that nickname and Page was one of the few characters WCW didn’t screw up before going out of business.
The WWE was not nearly as kind to Page, however, turning him into a crazed person who stalkedTthe Undertaker’s wife all so that he could get over by feuding with the famous “Deadman.” This storyline wasn’t just creepy but was a waste of Page’s talents. It went nowhere in the end, as Page was repeatedly buried by the WWE until he became relegated to midcard status. The treatment of Page was one of many reasons why the “Invasion” storyline of 2001 was a complete failure.
8 The Gobbledy Gooker
Some ideas are doomed even before they play out in front of an in-arena audience and television viewers. The WWE may have been a wacky promotion filled with real-life cartoon characters around the time of the 1990 Survivor Series, but that didn’t mean fans were willing to embrace something as crazy as The Gobbledy Gooker.
The Gobbledy Gooker, played by Hector Guerrero, was a character who played somebody in a turkey costume and who was “hatched” out of an oversized egg during his debut. While fans were willing to believe in characters such as The Undertaker back in the early 1990s, The Gobbledy Gooker was almost immediately rejected. The WWE dropped the gimmick, likely because fans disliked it, and it is now remembered as one of the worst ideas ever produced by members of the WWE creative team.
7 Kerwin White
If we are using “horrifying” in its exact definition, the debut of Kerwin White may belong at the very top of such lists. The storyline with the Kerwin White character is that Chavo Guerrero had abandoned his heritage and family history to instead become a middle-class white conservative American. This debut not only aired on WWE television. Guerrero kept this gimmick for more than one week, as nobody thought anything of it until his famous uncle Eddie tragically passed away in November 2005.
The WWE then dropped the White character almost as if it had never happened in the first place and Chavo went back to wrestling under the Guerrero name. Imagine something like this making it past a WWE creative team and onto an edition of Raw or SmackDown in the fall of 2016. Sponsors likely wouldn’t tolerate it for long.
6 The Rock
It is a wrestling debut that is so horrifying, even the man himself has joked about it over the years. Well before he became known as The Rock, the “most electrifying man in sports entertainment” and a movie star legitimately recognized all around the world, Dwayne Johnson debuted in the WWE as Rocky Maivia. Maivia portrayed a smiling babyface who wore a ridiculous outfit and sported an even more absurd haircut, and he failed to get over during his first WWE match at the 1996 edition of the Survivor Series. It look less than a year for the WWE to figure out that Maivia was not going to get over as a babyface and thus The Rock was born.
The rest, as the cliche says, is history. Rock went on to become the top heel and top babyface in the WWE at different periods, and he remains one of the biggest stars ever produced by the WWE.
5 Steve Austin
It’s almost hard to believe the same company that produced the “Stone Cold” Steve Austin character who became the biggest draw in the history of the WWE is the same promotion that thought it best to debut Austin as “The Ringmaster.” The idea, at the time, was that the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase had searched for a new “Million Dollar Champion” and DiBiase eventually settled on Austin. Fans inside of the arena barely reacted when DiBiase introduced Austin and many in the audience looked downright bored as Austin cut a decent promo.
Thankfully, whatever was originally planned for Austin was scrapped, and he and the company eventually landed a gimmick that made him a Superstar and that helped the WWE defeat WCW in the “Monday Night Wars.”
4 Daniel Bryan
It was clear, from the very beginning of the initial version of NXT, the man known to followers of independent wrestling as Bryan Danielson was going to be up against it performing as Daniel Bryan in the WWE.
NXT started with The Miz burying Bryan before the former Ring of Honor champion emerged from the curtain to cut an uninspiring promo inside of the ring. The WWE somewhat protected Bryan later on that same show, as the company had him wrestle a competitive match against Chris Jericho. Jericho was the World Heavyweight Champion at the time and thus Bryan losing to Y2J wasn’t a horrible setback for the talented performer.
Bryan went on to headline the main event of a WrestleMania card before his career was cut short because of injuries, allowing us to forget how little the company believed in him when he first started on the original NXT brand.
3 Doink the Clown
The pro wrestling industry was different back in the early 1990s in a lot of ways than it is today. For example, it was not rare or odd that a character such as Doink the Clown would appear on a WWE or even a WCW show. ECW, particularly the ECW audience, was not nearly as accepting of such gimmicks when Doink made his official debut in the promotion. Doink faced 911 and 911 welcomed Doink to the land of hardcore wrestling by repeatedly choke-slamming the clown again and again. ECW boss Paul Heyman entered the ring after the encounter to cut a promo on the fallen Doink and demonstrated that his kind of act was not welcome in ECW.
In fairness, this was the start of a program that resulted in Doink being “Borne again.” That was a good storyline, but it doesn’t erase a rather horrifying debut from our memories.
2 John Cena
Some out there may beg to differ regarding this selection. Take some time and actually reflect on the official WWE debut of John Cena and your opinion on the matter may change. Yes, Cena was made to look strong while wrestling against Kurt Angle, arguably the top overall performer in the WWE at the time of Cena’s first ever match. That’s about the only positive thing one could say about this debut.
Cena’s gear consisted of what looked like bicycle shorts one might wear during a Saturday morning ride. He cut a generic promo that made him appear to be just some guy acquired by the WWE. Cena also looked green as grass in the ring even though Angle did all he could to put the young Superstar over. Cena stands as proof a wrestler doesn’t always need a dynamic debut to become an all-time great in the business.
1 The Shockmaster
It’s difficult to imagine there ever being a more horrifying debut by a pro wrestler than that belonging to The Shockmaster. Fred Ottman, who wrestled as Typhoon and Tugboat while in the WWE, was given what resembled a Stormtrooper mask covered in glitter when he was to make his “shocking” debut in WCW in August 1993.
Ottman, unfortunately, legitimately couldn’t see out of the mask and so his planned debut of breaking through a walk as The Shockmaster character didn’t go as scheduled. Shockmaster, instead, fell flat on his face in front of fellow wrestlers and an in-house audience. While WCW attempted to salvage the gimmick following this disastrous debut, there was no saving this storyline or The Shockmaster character.
It is widely perceived as the worst debut of any wrestler in either WCW or WWE, and it is one that is still discussed on WWE Network specials and on features showcased on the WWE website.