It's always memorable when we see a new wrestler, manager or personality come into WWE and attempt to make a name for themselves, whether it's an already-established name or someone you'd heard of before with either a slightly or completely different persona.

 

Sometimes, they will show up with little fanfare, and sometimes there are weeks of hype, vignettes and the like touting their arrival. And whether they are never from again or become World Champion, you're always likely to remember how, exactly they arrived.

But which stand out the most? In selecting the Top 50 Most Memorable WWE Debuts, Wrestling Merchandise and Memories considered the following criteria:

 

  • Was the debut hyped beforehand (e.g. vignettes, interviews?)

  • How prominent was the debut on a given show?

  • What kind of lasting impact did the debut have on the company?

  • Years later, is the unusual team still remembered?

 

A few notes: In some cases, the performers first debuted off-camera (e.g. in a dark match or house show) before what we consider to be official debut. And we've intermingled some of the NXT-WWE debuts here... so some stars on this list are debuting for NXT, whereas in other cases, they're coming to "the main roster" or Raw or SmackDown.

 

If you'd like to be a part of this conversation, Tweet us at @canadianbulldog using the hashtag #Top50, or leave a comment below.

50.

Savio Vega

In 1995, Savio Vega jumped out of the audience and attacked Jeff Jarrett and The Roadie, who had been illegally double-teaming Vega's "friend" Razor Ramon. While Ramon teamed with Vega a handful of times, he would also have classic matches with the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Goldust and others.

48.

Nailz

For weeks in 1992, a series of vignettes aired in which a distorted voice threatened to harm Big Boss Man for brutalizing him during Boss Man's time as a prison guard. One day on WWF Superstars, Boss Man was attacked following his match by the debuting Nailz, handcuffing him to the ring ropes and beating him.

46.

Sid Justice

In the summer of 1991, former WCW star Sid Vicious (now being called Sid Justice) was advertised for weeks as coming to the WWF, by having other wrestlers talk his character up and explain just how imposing he was. This built to Sid's first major appearance at SummerSlam, where he refereed the evening's main event.

44.

Three Minute Warning

In 2002, Shawn Stasiak and D-Lo Brown had been given "three minutes" to impress Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff in the ring. When they failed to do so, Bischoff explained that their three minutes were up and out to the ring came Rosey and Jamal, a/k/a Three Minute Warning, to destroy both men.

42.

Rob Van Dam & Tommy Dreamer

Early in the WCW invasion, WWF's Chris Jericho and Kane were facing WCW's Lance Storm and Mike Awesome. ECW icons Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer came from nowhere, supporting Storm and Awesome (who had been in ECW before WCW and WWE), briefly helping create an ECW group.

40.

Diesel

In 1993, former WCW star Vinnie Vegas showed up in the WWF at a house show where acted as a bodyguard for Shawn Michaels and helped The Heartbreak Kid regain his Intercontinental Title from Marty Jannetty. Weeks later, Michaels finally revealed his bodyguard and "insurance policy"'s name was Diesel.

38.

Giant Gonzales

Going into the 1993 Royal Rumble, manager Harvey Wippleman had sworn revenge on The Undertaker for destroying his client Kamala. In the middle of the Rumble match, Wippleman produced the 7"7 Giant Gonzales, who attacked Undertaker and physically prevented him from competing in the match.

36.

Miss Elizabeth

In July 1985, Randy Savage had been sought after by all of the WWF's heel managers, including Freddie Blassie and Bobby Heenan. When it came time for the Macho Man to reveal his new manager, he gathered the candidates in the ring and decided it would be the previously unknown Miss Elizabeth.

34.

Earthquake

In 1989, Dino Bravo finagled The Ultimate Warrior into an in-ring strength competition. Bravo picked a huge fan in the audience named "John" to lift while he sat on Bravo's back. When Warrior tried to do the same, "John" squashed him and revealed that he was Canadian Earthquake and in cahoots with Bravo.

32.

Rey Mysterio

After weeks of vignettes hyping his arrival, Rey Mysterio arrived in WWE via a match on SmackDown in which he made short work of fellow luchador Chavo Guerrero. Later in that same show, Mysterio proved his star power by saving Edge and John Cena from an attack while diving off the top of a steel cage.

30.

Adam Cole

At the conclusion of NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III, NXT Champion Drew McIntyre was confronted by Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish. With McIntyre distracted, a debuting Adam Cole attacked The Scottish Psychopath, forming a version of his former Ring of Honor alliance in NXT.

28.

Carlito Caribbean Cool

After weeks of vignettes, newcomer Carlito Caribbean Cool arrived on SmackDown in 2004 and demanded an immediate match against U.S. Champion John Cena. Shockingly, Carlito won the match that very evening (and did the same thing with the Intercontinental Title when he debuted on Raw.)

26.

Ric Flair

For several weeks, manager Bobby Heenan told audiences that longtime NWA star Ric Flair was coming to the WWF and demanded to be called "The Real World Champion". When Flair was set to make his debut on WWF television in 1991, he attacked announcer Rowdy Roddy Piper to validate his reputation.

24.

Rick and Scott Steiner

Rick and Scott Steiner were arguably the best tag team in the world in 1993 but hadn't yet been introduced to WWF audiences. The Steiner Brothers were set to debut at that year's Royal Rumble, where they defeated The Beverly Brothers (unlike Rick and Scott, not real brothers), and showed fans what they could do.

22.

Booker T

On the final episode of Monday Nitro, Booker T won the WCW World Championship, but it was unclear whether he was going to join the WWF. He answered that question with authority at the 2001 King of the Ring, attacking WWF World Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin during a triple threat match.

20.

Doink The Clown

In 1993, Doink The Clown began appearing on WWF shows in the audience, playing tricks on fans. Eventually, Crush demanded the clown stop and grabbed his arm. The following week, the clown's arm was in a cast. It turned out to be a ruse, as he beat Crush with the fake cast, laughing maniacally.

18.

Fandango

Although he had appeared in NXT under the name Johnny Curtis, Fandango's WWE debut was at WrestleMania XXIX following weeks of vignettes. The ballroom dancer made a tremendous first impression, pinning Chris Jericho at the event and having the crowd sing his theme song on mass.

16.

Santino Marella

During a 2007 edition of Monday Night Raw in Milan, Italy, Vince McMahon picked a fan out of the audience to face Intercontinental Champion Umaga. McMahon eventually chose Santino Marella, a "local fan," to compete. Bobby Lashley helped Marella pin Umaga and win the I-C Title, shocking the crowd.

14.

Tazz

Here's another case of Internet speculation being all over the impending appearance of former ECW star Taz. At the 2000 Royal Rumble, Kurt Angle put his undefeated streak on the line against an unnamed opponent. That opponent turned out to be Tazz (now with an extra 'z') who quickly defeated Angle.

12.

Brock Lesnar

The evening after WrestleMania XVIII, Al Snow, Maven and Spike Dudley were competing for the Hardcore Title, when Brock Lesnar suddenly made his debut, destroying all three men at the same time. Lesnar's manager Paul Heyman was at ringside, ordering Lesnar to brutalize the wrestlers.

10.

Sting

At the Survivor Series in 2014, a crew led by John Cena took on a team led by The Authority with the WWE's power structure hanging in the balance. The Authority seemed to have the victory at hand, when WCW icon Sting showed up and distracted the heels, his first-ever live appearance on WWE programming.

8.

Rocky Maivia

For several weeks in 1996, the WWF aired vignettes to hype the arrival of Rocky Maivia, explaining he was wrestling's first third-generation wrestler, with ties to Peter Maivia and Rocky Johnson. He made his debut at the Survivor Series in Madison Square Garden and emerged as Sole Survivor.

6.

AJ Styles

Leading to the Royal Rumble in 2016, there were heavy rumors that former NJPW and TNA Champion AJ Styles was set to make his debut (alongside the aforementioned Anderson, Gallows and Nakamura). Styles entered the Rumble match at # 3 to a massive crowd reaction.

4.

The Undertaker

Much like the aforementioned Rocky Maivia, Sting and The Shield, The Undertaker also made his debut at the Survivor Series (in 1990) as the mystery partner for Ted DiBiase's team. The Dead Man was impressive in his first outing.

2.

Kane

For months, The Undertaker's former manager Paul Bearer threatened to go public with how The Dead Man allowed his younger brother Kane to be burned to death. At Bad Blood in 1997, Undertaker was taking on WWF Champion Shawn Michaels when Kane -- alive after all these years -- emerged, ripping the door of the Hell In A Cell structure and attacking his estranged brother.

49

Anderson & Gallows

On an episode of Raw in 2016, The Usos had just won a number one contenders match when they were suddenly attacked by Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, who had previously teamed together in New Japan Pro Wrestling as part of The Bullet Club, but hadn't appeared as a team in WWE programming.

47.

Kevin Owens

Kevin Owens debuted in December 2014 at NXT REvolution, making short work of CJ Parker. However, Owens' night wasn't finished; following the main event where Sami Zayn captured the NXT Championship, he was embraced by his long-time friend Owens.... before being ambushed and brutally powerbombed on the ring apron.

45

Charlotte, Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch

In July 2015 on Raw, Stephanie McMahon announced NXT stars Charlotte and Becky Lynch had joined the roster as part of a trios group with Paige. Minutes later, Sasha Banks arrived, aligning with Naomi and Nia Jax and bringing three of the Four Horsewomen to the main roster.

43.

Zach Gowen

In 2003 on SmackDown, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Sean O' Haire were running down Hulk Hogan (posing as Mr. America at the time). Piper noticed a fan in the audience supporting Mr. America and decided to attack him, pulling off his leg. It turned out be a prosthetic leg and fans were introduced to Zach Gowen.

41.

Samoa Joe

At the conclusion of NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable in 2015, Kevin Owens defeated former ally Sami Zayn to capture the NXT Championship. Before he had time to celebrate, Samoa Joe made his surprise WWE debut after spending more than a decade in TNA, engaging in a tense staredown with Owens as the show went off the air.

39.

Mark Henry

In 1996, shortly after he competed in the Summer Olympics, Mark Henry was seen on WWF programming as someone who had aspirations to wrestle. At SummerSlam of that year, Henry prevented Jerry The King Lawler from attacking Jake Roberts, leading to a match with Lawler the following month.

37.

The Great Khali

Going into April 2006, manager Daivari had sworn revenge on The Undertaker for destroying his client Mark Henry. Following The Dead Man's match against Henry on SmackDown, Daivari produced the 7"1 Great Khali, who attacked Undertaker and left him lying. Khali also cleanly pinned Undertaker a month later.

35

Shinsuke Nakamura

In 2016, WWE held a press conference in Tokyo to announce they had signed New Japan Pro Wrestling standout Shinsuke Nakamura. A couple of months later, Nakamura made his debut at NXT TakeOver: Dallas to great fanfare, defeating former NXT Champions Sami Zayn in a match of the year candidate.

33.

Lex Luger

For weeks leading up to the 1993 Royal Rumble, manager Bobby The Brain Heenan promised to reveal his newest client "Narcissus" at the Rumble event. When he showed up at the Rumble, his name was changed to The Narcisisst Lex Luger and he was shown posing in front of mirrors adorning the stage.

31.

Mankind

After weeks of mysterious, creepy vignettes, the wrestler formerly known as Cactus Jack debuted on Monday Night Raw in 1996 under the name Mankind, defeating Bob Holly. Later that same evening, Mankind attacked The Undertaker and left him laying, putting him in a main event angle right away.

29.

Paige

The night after WrestleMania XXX, WWE Divas Champion AJ Lee claimed there was no competition left for her. This gave NXT Champion Paige the opportunity to come to the ring and face off with AJ. Lee then challenged Paige to a match, which she lost and dropped the title.

27.

Kurt Angle

In 1999, several weeks of vignettes airing proclaiming Kurt Angle to be the only "real" athlete in the WWF, a nod to his Olympic background and the predetermined nature of pro wrestling. Angle debuted at that year's Survivor Series and defeated Shawn Stasiak amid a chorus of boos.

25.

The Big Show

In 1999, the first PPV match between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon was set to take place inside of a steel cage. McMahon was down and out when former WCW Champion The Giant (to later be called The Big Show) broke through a hole in the ring and attacked Austin, accidentally tossing him through the cage wall and to victory.

23.

Goldust

In late-1995, the bizarre Goldust appeared in a series of strange and controversial vignettes. His debut was at an In Your House PPV against tag team specialist Marty Jannetty, in which Goldust "premiered" in a blond wig and wearing head to toe gold. Goldust pinned the former Rocker to win his debut.

21.

The Wyatt Family

Although Bray Wyatt had briefly appeared in the WWE as Husky Harris, he was reinvented a few years later along with NXT competitors Luke Harper and Erick Rowan. Now known as The Wyatt Family, the trio debuted on Raw in July 2013 with Harper and Rowan attacking Kane while Wyatt looked on approvingly.

19.

Ronda Rousey

Former UFC star Ronda Rousey made a one-off appearance at WrestleMania XXXI, with rumors that she'd join the squared circle some day. That day turned out to be the 2018 Royal Rumble, where she showed up at the conclusion of the first Womens Royal Rumble, signaling she'd officially joined WWE. 

17.

Eric Bischoff

No one expected ex-WCW President Eric Bischoff to be a recurring character on Monday Night Raw. In 2002, Vince McMahon announced a new General Manager for Raw.... who turned out to be his former enemy Bischoff. Unfortunately, WWE spoiled it by showing Bischoff on air minutes before the announcement.

15.

Goldberg

While rumors on the Internet ran rampant that Bill Goldberg would debut in WWE shortly after WrestleMania XIX, no one was exactly when or how it would happen. On the Raw after WrestleMania, The Rock (a heel at the time) was bragging about how no one could beat him.... when Goldberg showed up.

13.

The Radicalz

At the beginning of 2000, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko had quit WCW. During a tag team match on Monday Night Raw, the four of them sat at ringside - the first acknolwedgement that they'd signed with the WWF - and messed with The New Age Outlaws, signaling their arrival.

11.

John Cena

A few months after Brock Lesnar's debut in 2002, Kurt Angle made an open challenge to the wrestlers in the locker room on SmackDown. Developmental talent John Cena debuted on the main roster and said he had the "ruthless agression" to mess with Angle before delivering an ear-splitting slap.

9.

Diamond Dallas Page

In 2001, a mysterious stalker began filming creepy videos of The Undertaker's then-wife Sara, threatening to do more than just stalk her. Eventually, the stalker revealed himself to be WCW expat Diamond Dallas Page, and he was just playing mind games with The Deadman in order to make himself "famous."

7.

The Nexus

In June 2010, Wade Barrett had emerged as the winner of the very first NXT competition, so it wasn't a huge shock to see him on Monday Night Raw the following night. However, Barrett was joined by the seven other NXT rookies who destroyed John Cena, referees, announcers and anything else in sight.

5.

The Shield

The iconic trio known as The Shield made their first appearance at the Survivor Series in 2012. NXT standouts Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns attacked Ryback in his WWE Championship match against CM Punk, causing The Big Guy to lose the bout.

3.

1-2-3 Kid

For several weeks in 1993, a newcomer who wrestled as The Lightning Kid and The Cannonball Kid consistently lost to established wrestlers. Then one week on Raw, The 1-2-3 Kid took on Razor Ramon and shocked the world by pinning him.

1.

Chris Jericho

In 1999, a clock advertising the Countdown to the Millenium appeared on WWF programming for weeks. While many fans speculated it would be the WWF debut of WCW star Chris Jericho, no one knew for certain. Then one night on Raw, the clock counted down to zero (right in the middle of a promo by The Rock, no less) and revealed the debut of Y2J, also known as Chris Jericho.

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Wrestling Merchandise and Memories podca
Wrestling Historian Mike Rickard