For the past few days, TNA has teased the debut (or possibly return) of a new (or possibly returning) wrestler for their August 1 live Impact show. It does have people talking, but there's a good chance we'll probably be disappointed in the reveal. Or pleasantly surprised.
There's an old saying in life: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Chris Jericho, John Cena, Christian and Sting could probably attest to that. These twelve names, though: not so much. Some recover from their less than stellar debuts. Some become the stuff of legend and the butt of jokes for all eternity.
Here's my list of the worst wrestling debuts ever.
(12) Kizarny. A wrestler that speaks in carnie? A wrestler that speaks in carnie. For more than two months, his debut vignettes featured carnival shots, a crazy, bug-eyed guy speaking in a language that's at least two levels below pig Latin, and of course, the obligatory freak show. You know, all things carnival. Nick Cvjetkovich, the man that played Kizarny, described his character as the result of what would happen "if Jake ‘The Snake' Roberts and Doink had a love child." Even if impossible, if that were the case, it wouldn't have produced this awfulness. His debut match against MVP (in the midst of his losing streak) was beyond boring. Thankfully, for all of us, he left just as quickly he came into our lives. Just two months after making his TV debut, he was gone. But at least he got the girl in the end: he's now married to Stacy "The Kat" Carter.
(11) The KISS Demon. A classic case of buyers' remorse if there ever was one. It was one of Eric Bischoff's many attempts to break into the mainstream (and one of the many wasteful spending sprees). The KISS Demon debuted following a performance which came after the main event match on an episode of Nitro. The concert/debut was the lowest-rated segment in Nitro history at the time. Brian Adams, the man originally tabbed to play The KISS Demon, pulled out. Enter Dale Torborg (who was initially told he would be the Demon). Torborg gave it the old college try, but the character (and the idea of a KISS Army) was DOA. Terry Funk beat him in his debut. Vampiro (who was originally scheduled to face Torborg at a New Years Eve PPV in 1999, but the idea got retconned when Bischoff got fired) set his coffin on fire. Sting crushed him in under a minute. And, in a way to get around the contractually-obligated clause to have him appear in main events, The Wall beat him in the fourth match at SuperBrawl 2000 in a "special main event". But in a 2011 interview with WWE.com, Torborg wasn't bitter. Hell, he seems damn near content in his life: he married his valet Christie "Asya" Wolf in late 2000 and have a seven-year old daughter together, Sierra Raye. Oh, and Dale has two World Series rings.
(10) Glacier. You probably remember the tagline: Blood Runs Cold. You probably remember the Mortal Kombat-inspired outfit. You probably remember his cool entrance. And...not much else. Glacier debuted in September 1996 (following-get this-five months of vignettes; his debut was put on hold once the New World Order storyline caught fire) to much hype and fanfare...on WCW Pro. In 1996, the pecking order for WCW programming was as follows: Nitro, Saturday Night (Thunder did not debut until 1999),Worldwide, Pro. He debuted on the D-show. You know, the one that was on for an hour on Sunday that you probably didn't watch or remember. His entrance and outfit were among the most lavish in all of wrestling at the time: some $535,000. That's a hell of an investment for some snow, lasers, and Sin Cara-type lighting. He had four matches with the expensive entrance, then was gone for over two months. Despite going unbeaten for a year, he meandered in the low-to-midcard ranks for his entire run with the company. Interesting bit of trivia: he wrestled the last original match on WCW Worldwide in September 1998, a loss to Perry Saturn.
(9) Renegade. In that awful time that was the mid-1990s (1995, specifically), Ho Kogan (look at me) and on-again, off-again BFF "Macho Man" Randy Savage teased a debut of a man dubbed as "The Ultimate Surprise" and the man that would bring Hulkamania into the 21st century. In the main event of Uncensored, the Ultimate Surprise was revealed. Many were expecting (because of a silhouette with long hair and tassels in the teaser promos) the WCW debut of the Ultimate Warrior. Instead, we get...Renegade. No, not Lorenzo Lamas Renegade. Rick Wilson "Renegade". The crowd was not pleased. To Rick's credit, he did what most would do in his spot: jump on the opportunity to work with Hogan on the top angle in WCW at the time. Wilson studied Warrior's mannerisms, and he perfected them, right down to the awful wrestling ability. He even parlayed it into a WCW World Television championship in just three months. Once Warrior himself went to some wrestling magazines and said that he was not Renegade, Rick's career spiraled. He lost the title to future yoga instructor Diamond Dallas Page, got buried by Jimmy Hart and was relegated to jobber duty in 1997 and 1998. Unfortunately, there's no happy ending to this story: shortly after being released by WCW, Wilson fell into emotional and financial despair, and in February 1999 while arguing with his girlfriend, he shot himself with a .38 caliber pistol, taking his own life at just age 33.
(8) Zeus. This gimmick, one of the imposing unstoppable monster heel, actually got started on the big screen. He was the one of the main villains in the Hulk Hogan-Vince McMahon vehicle No Holds Barred. The movie was both a critical and financial disaster in its initial release in 1989, but has since gained something of a cult following (and probably has turned in a profit by now with the DVD release last year). "The Human Wrecking Machine" debuted in the WWF that summer to "get revenge on Hulk Hogan ‘in real life'". Despite having his way with lower-card wrestlers, he couldn't beat the one man he went there to beat in the first place. At Summerslam, Survivor Series, and in the No Holds Barred: The Match/The Movie (all in tag matches, by the way), Zeus lost to Hulk. All three times. Lister appeared in the Doomsday Steel Cage match in 1996 at WCW Uncensored, and was basically the only guy Hulk Hogan would sell for. Lister would go on to appear in nearly a hundred films and TV shows, but his most famous role was as the neighborhood bully Deebo in the Friday movie series. His next stop however, may be a prison cell: last August, he pled guilty to conspiring to commit mortgage fraud.
(7) Seven. Dustin Runnels has been a bit of an enigma in his career. He's the "grandson of a plumber" (as in the son of "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes) and half-brother of Cody "Why don't you take a seat right over here?" Rhodes. He had solid, albeit unspectacular first runs in the WWF and WCW in the early 1990s. It was in 1995 Runnels stuck gold-literally-as Goldust, an effeminate with an obsession of movies. Following a four-year run in the WWF, Runnels returned to WCW in the fall of 1999 as Seven, a Powder/Dark City-inspired character. The vignettes made Seven seem as if he were a child abductor. Yeah. Turner Standards & Practices thought the same thing, and pulled the plug on the gimmick, and much hilarity ensues in his "debut", and ripped the gimmick apart.
(6) Ultimate Warrior. No, not the WWF debut in 1987, nor his returns in 1992 or 1996. I'm talking about his 1998 debut in WCW. Warrior, like many big names in WCW, got creative control written into their contract, so naturally Warrior wrote himself in the main event picture by creating the oWn (One Warrior Nation, a play on the nWo faction). Makes perfect sense, I suppose. That and the only time he and Hulk Hogan (or Ho Kogan, if you prefer) met in a one-on-one match, Warrior won. (Pretty much it was the only reason Warrior was brought in, so Hogan can get that one win back. That and ratings.) It writes itself, I suppose. Then Warrior debuted. Crazy ovation. Then he talked. And he talked. And talked. And talked. Warrior, a little advice: less is more. By the time the promo was over, the crowd was half past sleep. And to think: this was actually the high point of his brief WCW run (which lasted all of twelve weeks and three matches) that included magic smoke, weird acts of bondage, mirror craziness, and the late Davey Boy Smith landing wrong on a trap door that had him out for a long time (and fired via FedEx). All things considered, when Warrior debuted in WCW in 1998, they actually got the real thing that time. Not so much the first time. WWE put out a quite unflattering DVD of his career The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior in 2005, and Warrior (despite being offered to contribute to the complilation) sued WWE (the suit was dismissed in early 2009). He won the Nu-Wrestling Evolution championship in 2008 and promptly vacated the title. In recent years, Warrior and WWE have seemed to make nice with one another, as he appeared in WWE All-Stars and will appear in the upcoming WWE 2K14.
(5) Fake Razor Ramon and Fake Diesel. For newer wrestling fans thinking the talent gap in the WWE is about as wide as the Grand Canyon, I got news for you. Once upon a time, it was about the size of about four of them. In the mid-1990s, the WWF was suffering from a severe talent exodus. Nearly all of the big names from the 1980s left for the guaranteed money in WCW. Once Hulk Hogan became a success, his friends followed, and so did other talent, with perhaps the proverbial nail in the talent coffin coming when in the spring of 1996, both Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, aka Razor Ramon and Diesel respectively, went down south. Nash was a former WWF champion, while Hall was a mainstay in the upper mid-card. But the duo couldn't take their characters with them as WWF held the right to them. Enter Rick Bognar and Glen Jacobs. After Jim Ross teased that Razor Ramon and Diesel were coming home, the duo eventually debut on an episode of RAW...to boos and indifference. And by boos, I mean "get the hell out of the building or we'll cut you" boos. The gimmicks, along with heel Jim Ross, went over like a lead balloon over Niagara Falls. Eventually, JR went good again, Rick Bognar went to Japan once his contract ran out, and Jacobs-well, he had a somewhat decent career. Something about him being a demon or something. Trivia for you: fake Razor and fake Diesel were the first and last men eliminated from the 1997 Royal Rumble match.
(4) Phantasio. Imagine if you will, you're Harry Del Rios, a 21-year old wrestler getting your first big break in the business. Your gimmick: a wrestling magician. All things considered, it wasn't any better or worse than the other gimmicks in the WWF at the time, as a lot of wrestlers had "second-job" gimmicks. Wow, the economy must have been all sorts of terrible in the mid-90s. Anyway, in his only WWF television appearance, he performed "the magic wedgie" on jobber Tony Devito and won with a schoolboy pin. The Divas division in today's WWE thinks you should step your finisher up. Anyways, Del Rios wrestled just one more match for the F, a house show win over Rad Radford, and was never seen again on a national scale...until TNA's debut show when he wrestled as Del Rios in 2002. Again, he was one and done. He revived the character last summer in Pro Wrestling Syndicate in a win over Simon Dean.
(3) The Yeti. This video says it all. Ron Reis, aka The Yet-Tay, would resurface in the late 1990s as Reese.
(2) The Gobbledy Gooker. When you have an entire chapter dedicated to the debut in a book, someone done did bad. For much of 1990, a giant egg was carted around on WWF programming and house shows, with its hatching to take place at Survivor Series. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the contents of the egg was one of the selling points of this PPV. It hatched, and out came... a man dressed in a turkey suit. That man, by the way: Hector Guerrero. The crowd was dead for the reveal as he and Mean Gene Okerlund danced for a good five or ten minutes while Gorilla Monsoon and Rowdy Roddy Piper did their best (God bless them) to sell how awesome it was. It wasn't. In fact, it was so unawesome that Wrestlecrap since its founding in 2000 has named their annual worst moment/storyline in wrestling the Gobbledy Gooker Award.
(1) The Shockmaster. As if there could be anyone else at the top of the board. At Clash of the Champions XXIV in August 1993, Shockmaster, played by Fred Ottman (best known as Tugboat or more recently at the time Typhoon), had perhaps the most infamous fail in wrestling history. As he was set to be revealed as the replacement for the injured Road Warrior Hawk in a four-on-four War Games match, the camera panned to two torches near a sheet wall. Cue explosion, and crash, and you have the pratfall to end all pratfalls. This debut is a fail on multiple levels: Ole Anderson (the man behind the Black Scorpion idea) voiced the Shockmaster. He wore a Stormtrooper helmet bedazzled in purple glitter (how Lucasfilm didn't sue I don't know). A piece of lumber placed by David Crockett (that wasn't there in rehersal) caused his fall. I forgot to mention his helmet came off after the fall. After the fall, Booker T, Ric Flair, and Davey Boy Smith all visibly corpsed on air (as did the announcers). Sid Vicious tried his best not to corpse. Even though Shockmaster scored the deciding submission in the Fall Brawl match, the gimmick and his career never recovered. He floundered as "Super Shockmaster" before being released by WCW in early 1994, then returned to the WWF as jobber fodder for Yokozuna later in the year. He would spend the remaining of his wrestling days on the independent circuit before having one last cameo as Typhoon in the Wrestlemania X-Seven Gimmick Battle Royal. Though Ottman wasn't laughing at his Shockmaster fail, he gets a good chuckle out of it now. At last check in 2007, he was a safety manager for an industrial cleaning service in Lakeland, Florida, and was coaching his little league baseball team.
Any bad wrestling debuts I forgot that should be on the list?