It’s the dream of every pro wrestler to have a memorable WWE debut.
But it’s also their dream to have a debut that’s memorable for the right reasons. Wrestling fans, as noted by Daniel Bryan, are a fickle lot. They have short attention spans, but they also have long memories.
You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Making a bad one can be impossible to recover from and can send a wrestler’s career on a downward spiral.
Here are five WWE debuts that we wish we could erase from our memories. We also cheated and snuck in a couple WCW debuts, because it’s our list. So there.
5. Fake Diesel and Fake Razor Ramon
In 1996, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, who wrestled for Vince’s Ham-Handed Carnival Show as Razor Ramon and Diesel, respectively, split for the greener pastures of World Championship Wrestling.
To say that their departures rocked WWE is an understatement. Both guys were main event players and good buddies of newly-crowned champion Shawn Michaels.
And even worse, Hall and Nash’s arrival in WCW heralded the beginning of the New World Order and the start of an 83-week winning streak for WCW that nearly killed WWE. With WCW gaining momentum for the first time in their history, WWE needed to act quickly.
On the September 6, 1996, edition of Monday Night Raw, Jim Ross announced that Diesel and Razor Ramon would return to WWE. This was 1996, so there wasn’t much of an internet around to freak out about the announcement.
Wrestling newsletters were on fire with speculation, and WCW wondered if they were about to lose the performers who turned the tide for them.
Two weeks later, as the wrestling world collectively held its breath, Jim Ross introduced the Raw audience to Razor Ramon and Diesel! But something was … off with this WWE debut.
See, it was definitely not Hall and Nash, who had no intention of leaving WCW to reprise their old gimmicks. The new Diesel was played by Glenn Jacobs (who wrestled months early as Isaac Yankem, evil dentist). Razor was played by Rick Bogner (who would go on to do not a whole hell of a lot). It was Vince McMahon’s hope that the gimmicks alone would be enough to satisfy his fans, but he was … well, he was wrong.
He was very wrong.
The audience crapped all over the new Razor and Diesel, but in true stubborn WWE fashion, the company stuck with the gimmicks. In fact, “Razor” and “Diesel” each competed in the 1997 Royal Rumble that January.
It was yet another painful learning experience for McMahon in the mid 90s. And it was a painful experience in general for wrestling fans.
After Randy Savage captured the WWE Championship at WrestleMania IV, Hulk Hogan took a stab at Hollywood.
With Vince McMahon as executive producer, the two collaborated on the film, No Holds Barred. It starred Hogan as Rip, the top wrestling superstar in the world taking on and defeating his nemesis, Zeus (played by actor Tiny Lister).
Even in the mid-80s, Vince had an obsession with getting mainstream attention for his product. So in an effort to boost attention for his film and to give Hogan a new opponent for WWE programming, he actually booked Zeus into his wrestling stories.
Yes. Vince McMahon brought in a fictional wrestler to play a fictional wrestler. And, presumably by some evil sorcery, he actually convinced Lister to train as a wrestler and play the role on television.
Zeus made his WWE debut on the May 27, 1989, episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event. His gripe against Hogan was (try to keep up) that Hogan refused to lose to him in the movie. So Zeus made it his mission to defeat Hogan “for real.”
If that sentence didn’t melt your brain, here’s a summary: WWE managed to botch metaphysics.
The audience was understandably confused. And since they were confused, they didn’t care. But as we’ve explained, WWE doesn’t care if the audience cares. Zeus wrestled in the main event of SummerSlam 1989 where he and Savage teamed against Hogan and Brutus Beefcake.
Luckily, his stint with WWE didn’t derail Lister as an actor. He went on to appear in several roles and even played a pivotal role in The Dark Knight in 2008.
Good for him. We still had to watch this stuff, though.
3. The Shockmaster
Our first of two WCW cheats. C’mon, we couldn’t not mention this one.
In the lead-up to a WarGames match in 1993, Sting, Dusty Rhodes, and the British Bulldog were set to face Sid Vicious, Vader, and Harlem Heat. But, Team Sting still needed a fourth partner.
Their announcement would come at Clash of the Champions XXIV in the show’s “Flair for the Gold,” which was an interview segment. Think “A Moment of Bliss” but with a creepy old man. Nevermind, sorry, please stop thinking about that.
There was much speculation as to who Sting’s mystery partner would be. Could it be a returning Ricky Steamboat? Would it be Flair himself? Would CM Punk return? Wait …
After all the speculation, Sting enthusiastically introduced … THE SHOCKMASTER!
For one thing, the Shockmaster had never appeared nor been hinted at prior to his introduction. Strike one.
For another, the Shockmaster made his debut wearing a weird velvety robe, acid-washed jeans, and a stormtrooper helmet (yes, those stormtroopers) covered in glitter. Strike two.
A strike three shouldn’t be necessary, but after he … well … just watch.
The wrestlers gathered for the segment couldn’t hold in their laughter (TBS had to edit out a particularly profane comment from the British Bulldog), and the Shockmaster, played by Rhodes’s cousin, Fred Ottman, should have been dead on arrival.
Not to be outdone by WWE’s stubbornness, WCW carried on with the match, in which Shockmaster actually picked up the win for his team.
Then they tried the whole gimmick AGAIN months later, with Ottman playing the Super Shockmaster, who claimed that the original Shockmaster was his clumsy uncle, Fred.
Seriously, I can’t figure out why WCW went out of business.
Oh yeah. That’s why. Because they were exceedingly stupid.
So remember how the Ultimate Warrior in WWE was a rambling crazy man? Yeah, well … it only got worse as time went by.
It was the fall of 1998, and WCW was desperate to gain some ground — any ground — in the Monday Night Wars. McMahon was pulling away quickly and were poised to make a splash with the WWE debut of Big Show and Chris Jericho within the next year. And in a Hail Mary, WCW brought in the Warrior to build to a match between him and Hogan.
Translation: They threw a ton of money at the Warrior so that Orange McManchu could avenge his WrestleMania VI loss.
Obviously, WCW couldn’t refer to him as the Ultimate Warrior since WWE owned the name. So he went by his legal name, Warrior. Because of course that was his legal name.
Hogan came out for a promo on the September 14, 1998, edition of Monday Nitro and started rambling about how he had done it all in the business and had defeated all comers: Monsters, giants, and warriors alike.
This brought out the Warrior, and upon seeing him, the live crowd went nuts. But the excitement wore off quickly, as the Warrior launched into an incoherent mess of a promo, even by his standards. He made it clear that for all his achievements, Hogan had never beaten a Warrior.
And then he just kept talking. And talking and talking and talking. For 20 minutes. When it finally ended, the Warrior disappeared in a cloud of smoke, as a Warrior-themed Bat-signal flashed in the rafters.
Seriously, this is a thing that happened. On television.
The Warrior’s run was short-lived, and he and Hogan eventually had their rematch at Halloween Havoc 1998, which is a pretty strong contender for worst match of all time.
Even WWE doesn’t like to talk about it that much, which is strange, considering how much they love to laugh at WCW’s missteps. The above photo was one of only two from Warrior’s WCW run that we could find.
1. Diamond Dallas Page
The Monday Night War was over, and WWE was in the midst of its Invasion story in the summer of 2001.
Now that WCW was just another piece of intellectual property, WWE capitalized and realized the long-held dream of wrestling fans. We were actually going to see WCW vs. WWE.
Unfortunately, the angle floundered. Most of the big WCW stars weren’t willing to sign with WWE since they were getting paid by AOL-Time Warner (WCW’s previous owners) to sit at home and do nothing.
But when WWE signed former two-time WCW Champion Diamond Dallas Page, it seemed like the invasion might get interesting!
Boy, it sure seemed that way.
See, rather than position Page as the leader of the invasion or as a possible threat to Vince McMahon’s army of superstars, DDP made his WWE debut … as the guy who was stalking the Undertaker’s wife.
For weeks, WWE aired vignettes of someone watching the Undertaker’s wife in rather intimate settings with a voiceover obscured by a voice synthesizer.
Finally, the stalker made his way to the ring wearing a ski mask and penny loafers. Wait, what? He pulled off the mask to reveal Diamond Dallas Page, and the wrestling universe made a collective groan that was heard from space.
Page never recovered from the angle. The Undertaker beat the living crap out of him and the rest of Page’s WWE’s tenure was a complete joke.
And that’s our dive into the WWE debut dumpster. Follow us on social media to let us know what you think.
All images courtesy of WWE.