An introduction is one of the most important things for a wrestler entering the WWE. The first impression is always huge in how the audience will view a performer. A terrible moment can ruin a career from night one on WWE television. An effective debut can conversely get a fan base going. Finn Balor recently debuted on Raw by winning a fatal-four-way match over Rusev, Kevin Owens and Cesaro along with an even bigger victory over Roman Reigns all in the same night. The two wins made him a hot commodity and allowed him to compete against Seth Rollins to crown the first WWE Universal Champion at SummerSlam.
You can’t ask for more than what Balor received, but there are cases of memorable introductions delivering a bigger impact. We’ll look at both sides of the wrestling world when it comes to debuts. The negative ones also stand out with horrible moments damaging the momentum of a performer entering the company with a world of hype. We’ll look at both chapters in the history books when it comes to stars getting introduced in a memorable manner. The positives and negatives will each be viewed with the top eight and worst seven debuts in WWE history.
15 Best: Big Show
The height of the Monday Night Wars usually featured established WWE stars jumping ship for bigger contracts in WCW such as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. WWE would look for the opposite with younger stars not living up to their potential in WCW. Big Show was the perfect example as the gigantic young asset felt lost in the shuffle within WCW’s power struggle with bigger names monopolizing the main event spots.
14 Worst: Edge
WWE always saw something special in Edge and introduced him to the audience with weeks of video packages and vignettes. Edge’s first appearance ended in the worst way possible. The talented young star went for a dive over the top rope and botched the move to injure his opponent. Jose Estrada suffered a broken neck due to Edge’s leg landing on him awkwardly on him.
13 Best: The Radicalz
The year 2000 basically ended the “war” between WWE and WCW. Vince McMahon ran away with a huge lead in the competition between the two companies and talent desperately wanted to leave WCW. Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn all made the jump together, ditching the fading company for a new start in the WWE. They debuted as a faction known as The Radicalz and instantly made an impact.
12 Worst: Emma
NXT has become an important part of the WWE world over the past few years. The recent surge of talent coming up for the draft has been given huge pushes. Finn Balor is already a Raw main eventer and American Alpha are the top tag team on SmackDown, without wrestling a single match yet. The move to the main roster wasn’t always as simple for the promising talents looking to get to the next level.
11 Best: Tazz
The best debuts on this list typically end up with the performers evolving into legendary stars. This was one of the rare occasions that somehow didn’t lead to greatness, but provided an outstanding memory. Tazz made his WWE debut in his home arena of Madison Square Garden at the Royal Rumble in 2000 after a successful stint in ECW. The hometown fans showered Tazz with love and made him come off like a huge star.
10 Worst: Sin Cara
WWE intended for Sin Cara to become the replacement for Rey Mysterio as the top star appealing to the Latino demographic. Sin Cara was one of the top stars in Mexico under the name of Mistico and WWE signed him with the hopes of pushing him to the moon. Weeks of video packages and showing a press conference of his signing made his debut highly anticipated as one of the rare talents to skip developmental.
9 Best: John Cena
Most of the better debuts consist of the new wrestler winning a match and getting an instant surge. John Cena proved a loss can be just as effective as a win if the story is done properly. Cena's debut saw him answer an open challenge made by main eventer Kurt Angle. Both men brought their A-game and delivered an outstanding match. Cena did well, appearing as an equal to Angle and giving fans enough reason to believe he would win before ultimately taking the loss.
8 Worst: Fake Razor Ramon and Fake Diesel
Sometimes a horrible debut can just be the product of a terrible character idea. WWE had broadcaster Jim Ross randomly turn heel and threaten to bring back Razor Ramon and Diesel to the company as an invasion. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash played those characters and left for WCW. The reveal ended up being WWE wanting to use the characters with different wrestlers, portraying them as a shot implying they could make anyone a star.
7 Best: Kevin Owens
The absolute best way to debut in the WWE is facing off with an established star and getting the upper hand. Kevin Owens shocked the world with his initial appearance on the main roster following years of success on the independent wrestling scene and an impressive stint in NXT. The debut would see him answer John Cena’s Open Challenge with a promo rather than a match. Owens beat up Cena and made a statement in his first night as a WWE Superstar.
6 Worst: Lord Tensai
It wasn’t Albert's fficial debut as a performer in the WWE, but his rebranding after years away that makes this list. WWE branded him, as Lord Tensai, whcih was completely different from his days in WWE as Albert and A-Train. Following his departure from the company, the big man improved dramatically in Japan and WWE tried to add that to his new character. They made no mentions of his past but fans still wanted to heckle by chanting “Albert” during Tensai matches.
5 Best: Kane
We already touched on this earlier but Glenn Jacobs had a tough start trying to find the right character in the WWE. Between stints as Isaac Yankem and the aforementioned Fake Diesel, hope appeared to be lost but one big moment would change everything. WWE wanted an evil brother of The Undertaker to emerge and play his rival for many years. Kane was born and Jacobs received the honor of trying yet another risky character.
4 Worst: The Gobbledy Gooker
The reason for the following selection being such a terrible debut is it delivered one of the worst overall moments in WWE history. With the culture still allowing corny characters, WWE went all in with the ridiculous idea of The Gobbledy Gooker. There was a gigantic egg on the stage for weeks teasing something big would be coming. Surprises are always fun in wrestling, but they have to deliver a great result.
3 Best: The Shield
WWE has struggled to make new stars over the past decade. Most of the promising talents in recent history have been met with inconsistent booking that spelled doom for their upward mobility. Three men escaped that with an incredible debut. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns were introduced to the WWE together, costing Ryback a title match against CM Punk and John Cena at Survivor Series 2012.
The trio dominated the night and would dominate the WWE landscape for years. The company protected them by investing time and energy in making all three men credible talents on the rise. You can argue Rollins, Ambrose and Reigns are the three most popular stars in WWE today and will lead the company into the future for many more years.
2 Worst: Diamond Dallas Page
The worst debut of a performer in the WWE came in the form of a credible star seeing his career get ruined on his first night in the company. Diamond Dallas Page was one of the most popular stars in WCW for years as someone the fans organically fell in love with. His work ethic and improvements made him a consistent main event performer during the Monday Night Wars.
1 Best: Chris Jericho
One moment will always stand out when thinking about the best WWE instances of a talented star debuting. Chris Jericho was being wasted away in WCW as the company refused to give him a legitimate push or move him up the card. WWE offered him a deal and he took it right away, feeling a better chance would be provided to succeed. The introduction alone proved Jericho made the right decision and WWE was the right place for him in the wrestling world.
Weeks of videos showing a countdown clock aired with no explanation. The date finally came and the countdown clock ended with Jericho making his debut on WWE television. Fans gave him one of the biggest pops in wrestling history and made him an important piece on the show going forward. Jericho engaged in a promo battle with The Rock and showed he could hang on the microphone with the best in the business. The magical moment of the countdown clock ending has never been topped and it makes Jericho’s debut the best to ever take place in the WWE.
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