“All I have to say is our partner is going to shock the world!” –Sting debuting The Shockmaster
Shocking. Surprising. Unexpected. Bewildering. Unforeseen. Curveball. Eye-opener. And before you ask, yes, I do own a thesaurus.
There are very few times in wrestling in which a surprise is done right. It could be an unexpected debut of one wrestler or the return of another. But, if we don’t know what is going on and we get that shocking moment, that is when we love wrestling. It’s weird. Even though we want to know what is going to happen (or why else would we look at numerous wrestling websites trying to find the inside scoop), we want even more to be surprised.
The “1/2/12 = End of the World = It Begins” promos are a prime example. Even though we flocked to the websites and read about whom it could be, every week, we watched those promos like little giggling kids watching cartoons to see if Wile E. Coyote would actually catch the Road Runner. This is a prime example of wrestling being done right. So it got me thinking: what other times has wrestling been done right? What other times have I (and hopefully you) been surprised to see something in wrestling?
Therefore, I decided to think back as hard as I could, relive (with the help of YouTube which I have spent so much time on the past couple of days reliving these moments), and describe the surprising impact that these moments had on wrestling. Now, as you can imagine, the list of these moments in wrestling can go on and on. Therefore, in order to condense the list and include the truly best moments, I have set up a few ground rules:
1. This list includes debuts only. Not surprising returns. If that was the case, there would be multiple wrestlers on this list more than once *cough* Undertaker *cough*. Which leads to…
2. A wrestler/stable can only be mentioned once on this list. It’s only fair.
3. Mysterious promos are NOT needed. But they are certainly welcomed.
4. If I didn’t say, "OH MY GOD!" when it happened, there is no way it is making this list.
So, without further ado, time for you to get used to the phrase, “Oh, I remember that!” Because you may be saying that a lot with this list.
1. Chris Jericho (Millennium)
We are going to start with perhaps my favorite on this list. Since I also watched WCW during the 90s (and who didn’t, by the way), I had already become a big fan of Chris Jericho. His in-ring work and skills on the microphone made him one of my favorite wrestlers to watch. His time competing for the Cruiserweight Championship was the best. Seriously. he was the "Man of 1,004 Holds." Anyways, the “Countdown to the Millennium” clock was the perfect mysterious vignette for him since it was in 1999 and people were counting down to the actual millennium (which was actually in 2001 and not 2000 since there was no year 0). In any event, since I was not involved in the internet wrestling community in 1999, I had no idea who it was. Finally, when it was revealed and “JERICHO” appeared in big letters on the Titantron, I marked out as hard as the crowd did. It is still considered one of the biggest pops ever in wrestling. I even remember yelling at my brother who was a wrestling fan as well at the time, “It’s JERICHO!” Raw was certainly Jericho from that moment on. With his wrestling abilities, microphone skills and constant surprises like this, there is no objection here as to why he was voted into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame last year.
2. The Radicalz
Eddie Guerrero. Chris Benoit (AKA BLANK). Dean Malenko. Perry Saturn. In WCW, these four wrestlers combined held every major title in that company (Cruiserweight, Tag Team, Television, United States and World Heavyweight). 18 different title reigns. Needless to say, in the late 1990s, if you were to put together a WCW All-Star stable of the best the company had to offer, each of these wrestlers would have had a strong case to be part of that stable. So, imagine my surprise and joy (as well as many others) when ALL 4 WRESTLERS showed up in WWE and started tearing it up. Even though the stable didn’t do much storyline-wise except for being a heel stable with Triple H, just that one night when they made their impact and showed the WWE how good it could be still resonates in my mind. Separately, all four wrestlers in the WWE went on to hold all of the championship titles with a combined 27 title reigns. The Radicalz should have went on a lot longer in the storyline. However, too much of a good thing can be bad when it comes to great WCW wrestlers coming into WWE. Because, shortly after the Radicalz were no more, the Invasion occurred. Oh boy.
3. Eric Bischoff
The Monday Night Wars. For wrestling fans, this was the heyday of wrestling. Two top wrestling companies competing against each other on the SAME NIGHT and at the SAME TIME for our viewership. In a way, the wars made both WCW and WWE better until Vince McMahon bought out WCW in 2001. So much hate between WWE and WCW was thrown around during that time. So, imagine our surprise when Vince McMahon announced that the first General Manager of Raw was the former Executive Producer and President of WCW, Eric Bischoff. That is the literal definition of keeping your friends close and enemies closer. It makes sense now. Bischoff was one man that was high up in the wrestling food chain and having him be a part of WWE would certainly better the company. During his time as General Manager, he came up with gimmicks like “Raw Roulette” and even the Elimination Chamber. He even was the sole purpose behind the debut of 3 Minute Warning. They hold a special place in my heart. In any event, Bischoff as the General Manager was a complete flabbergaster to everyone. To reach that level again, McMahon would probably have to make Dixie Carter General Manager. Oh God. The horror. The horror.
4. Diamond Dallas Page (Stalker of Undertaker’s wife)
Again, it goes without saying that the whole Invasion storyline was subpar. I mean, who honestly thought that the WWE would be run out of business? If you did, honestly, I have no words for you. Anyway, there was one shining spotlight about the whole storyline and that was the emergence of Diamond Dallas Page as the stalker of the Undertaker’s wife at that time, Sara. Over a near one month period, mysterious vignettes would appear that appeared to be someone voyeuristically watching Sara. The male voiceover on the vignettes were garbled and disguised. They were brilliant to a point that if it wasn’t a wrestling storyline, you would actually think that someone was stalking her. That is what made them so good. Undertaker even made the storyline great, too, by freaking out and practically beating up everyone backstage. Hell, you would do the same thing if someone was stalking your wife or girlfriend (or mom if you have neither). Even DDP’s reason for doing this was good, too. He wanted to mess with the biggest dog out there and the only way to get at the Undertaker would be to mess with his wife. The whole thing ended with Page yelling at Undertaker to "make him famous." Great vignettes and promo by a great wrestler. That’s the definition of a surprising debut.
5. Big Show
How cool is it to see a wrestler come up through the ring? I’ve seen it multiple times and I still get surprised when I see a wrestler do it. Thank God it hasn’t been played out yet. When I think way back, the first wrestler that I remember seeing do this was the Big Show when he debuted in WWE in 1999. As I mentioned before, since I watched WCW, I knew who the Big Show was. Or, should I say, I knew who Paul Wight was. Or should I say, I knew who The Giant was. I knew how powerful and destructive he was. So, when I saw him break through the ring to help Vince McMahon try to beat Stone Cold Steve Austin in the steel cage match, it truly took me by surprise. Even though he helped Austin win the match by throwing him into the cage with such force, it broke and Austin was able to touch the floor and win. Either way, the shocking debut of the big man was just enough to shock everyone. Hey, it’s a lot better than how he debuted in WCW. He came in and feuded with Hogan because Wight claimed that he was the son of Andre the Giant and that Hogan killed his father. He then joined the Dungeon of Doom, which probably pisses Rich off. He doesn’t like the Dungeon of Doom. But that’s another story entirely.
6. New World Order
They are four words that will live on in wrestling history. "HE'S THE THIRD MAN!" When Scott Hall and Kevin Nash made their way to WCW in 1996, the pendulum definitely started to swing toward WCW’s way. However, they decided that they wanted to make an even bigger impact. And how do you do that? By taking the BIGGEST BABYFACE IN WRESTLING EVER AND TURNING HIM HEEL! The formation and debut of the New World Order made the pendulum swing WCW’s way with the force of a wrecking ball and stay there. How would you feel if the wrestler that you loved and idolized for so many years suddenly turned heel and started aligning himself with the biggest heels in the business? To give you an example of today, that would be like John Cena turning heel and aligning himself with Dolph Ziggler and Wade Barrett (what a stable that would be). There are some people today that are still pissed about Hogan turning heel and forming the New World Order. People threw so much trash in the ring, they could have filled two dumpsters. It was the one scenario that people knew could happen, but didn’t want to believe it. And then it did. And they were pissed. REAL PISSED. I've always believed that the best ideas are ones that are so simple, others could have thought of it, but didn’t want to or didn’t think that way. That is why the debut and idea of the New World Order was the best. It was so simple.
His debut in 2002 the night after WrestleMania 18 was one of the most destructive ever. I will never forget those powerbombs he gave to Spike Dudley. Little guy can sure take a bump.
After 5 months of hype and speculation, his debut at Badd Blood in 1997 was still unexpected. He truly appeared as the only one that could topple the Undertaker. And his feud with the Undertaker is probably one of the best ever.
Kurt Angle (TNA)
In August 2006, Angle left WWE due to health reasons. Literally a month later, he signed with TNA. Did you see how the TNA audience reacted? It was even announced as the “Moment of the Year” in TNA. A signing! Well, that’s TNA for you.
Fake Razor Ramon and Fake Diesel
Their debut in 1996 and performance in the Royal Rumble in 1997 was not the shocking part. The shocking part was that since Razor Ramon and Diesel were advertised for the Royal Rumble, allegedly, WCW got scared and signed Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to hard copy contracts that earned them $400,000 more per year. Again, allegedly, but we wouldn’t put it past WCW.
Quite simply, there are no words. Instead of, “Oh my god,” everyone said, “Oh God.”