by Joe Crowe
We all love rumors. We all keep track of who's coming and going, but we rarely get the payoff that we hope for: a surprise appearance at the very next live show.
The net has taken away the surprise factor, one of my favorite parts of wrestling. Doesn't mean I'm going to stop reading the rumors pages, but I try to cut back when the likelihood of surprise grows. I want to be surprised. Nowadays it's like the feds are fighting the Internet to keep everything secret. I'll take a secret or a surprise any day over knowing about it months in advance.
We want that payoff because wrestling fans sit around debating how somebody from one fed would do in a match vs. somebody in another. A federation debut is so much fun because of the excitement of all the new matches that become possible. No matter what happens after the debut, that debut is big fun if it's done right. It's the thrill of the surprise, the potential, the possibility of the dream match. It's just COOL when new guys come in, bottom line.
We remember how nifty it was when it happened before, and we want it to happen again, every week if possible...
Here then, wrestling's top ten debuts:
10. SID. The man that the entire foundation of wrestling rumor was built on. "Where is he, when's he coming back?" Because of his history with both WCW and the WWF, his showing up in either place is always seen as possible. Every single PPV in both feds for YEARS was supposed to have Sid. He'd be busier than any wrestler ever if he showed up at half the places he was supposed to.
Contributing to this, Sid truly has been a surprise every time. Unlike a certain Ultimate Warrior, Sid has given us payoff. His history as Surprise Boy keeps the rumor mill fired up.
When Ole Anderson announced a new Horseman, it was Sid Vicious! One day I'm watching WWF Superstars; making his WWF debut next week, Sid Justice! Years pass, then Col. Parker promises Van Hammer a surprise at Slamboree: SID!!! Leading up to Wrestlemania 11, Shawn Michaels brings out his new bodyguard, "the vicious...SID!!!" Summer after WM 13, Shawn and Ahmed Johnson need a partner for a 6-man tag. SID!!!
He just doesn't hang around long. However, his runs in the WWF proved that he can take care of business. Apparently everybody wants Sid to come back, right now.
9. BAM BAM BIGELOW. The Battle for Bam Bam! 1987: Nobody knew who this guy was, we just saw his headfull of flaming tattoos. All the bad guy managers were after him. Bam Bam, we were sure, was going to destroy whatever good guy stepped in his path. One by one, Jimmy Hart, Bobby the Brain, and Mr. Fuji were told it's not them. By process of elimination, it must be the Doctor of Style, Slick! He came out to welcome Bam Bam to the fold. Then we saw this monster for the first time. Slick will rule the WWF, we thought. Then Bam Bam's first words. "You--are not my manager!" HUGE pop! Bam Bam's manager was newcomer Oliver Humperdink, they vowed to beat all the bad guys, and the WWF had a new hero.
8. MR. PERFECT. If you read PWI or saw the AWA, you knew he was Curt Hennig, who in 1988 lost the AWA World title weeks before the promos started. Hot property, and the WWF snapped him up. For a couple of months, we saw videos. Mr. Perfect throwing darts, Mr. Perfect bowling, Mr. Perfect sinking a basketball from full court. He ended every video with "Because I am what I say I am, and I say I'm perfect!" His arrogance was great. We didn't know if he could wrestle, but we knew we hated his guts. We wanted him to back up everything he was saying and doing (or at least, everything the video editors made it seem like he did). He created a character and put himself all the way over without ever setting foot in a ring.
7. HULK HOGAN. This one is here for pure shock value. Never, ever. I say this without hyperbole, never in a million years would Hulk Hogan join the WWF's competition. But the rumors were true. What wrestling fan throughout Hulkamania in the 1980s imagined he would one day join what we once knew as the NWA? The war between the WWF and the NWA was just starting back then. Everybody was growing and going nationwide, and soon the WWF won that one. Then Hogan rode through the streets of MGM Studios with a tickertape parade. A press conference with Jimmy Hart and Mean Gene seemed like it was 1984, not 1994. Hulk Hogan evened the score with this move. WCW knew it, too.
6. LEGION OF DOOM. You don't mess with the Road Warriors. Feb. 1997, RAW was back where it all began at the Manhattan Center. ECW had been there, and the Headbangers were in the ring. Vince simply said "Coming up next, a very special surprise." The commercial is over, we're back. Then I heard, "OOOOOOOOOH WHAT A RUSH!!!" The LOD were back, I freaked out, the fans freaked out. It was a true surprise. Vince sounded so happy. I was a 14 year old again. This episode was a big turning point for the WWF. For this one entire episode, thank you, Vince.
5. TULLY AND ARN. The two baddest dudes in wrestling. Summer of 1988, they were scheduled to meet the Midnight Express with all the NWA tag belts on the line. About a week later, without warning I'm watching the WWF. Bobby the Brain introduces the Brain Busters! Tully and Arn! The Horsemen had jumped to the WWF! I freaked out. I could not contain myself. No warning, no flashy buildup. Federation jumping was not common then, and usually it was in the WWF's favor. These two guys were the top dogs in the NWA. Of course, the Horsemen ruled.
4. HALL AND NASH. If you were watching in Nitro in April 1996 when Razor Ramon strolled into the ring, you had no idea what was going to happen, but whatever it was you wanted to see it. He came out again a week later, and promised "the big guy." Sure enough, a big guy it was, the former Big Daddy Cool Diesel. Two major WWF superstars making the jump to WCW. After that, almost every single wrestler who used to be in the WWF was rumored to be coming in. Seeing WWF stars on a WCW show was very, pardon the expression, sweet. You all know the rest.
3. RODDY PIPER. After the beatings Randy Savage took from the nWo, he HAD to win at the 1996 Halloween Havoc. His corporate shill, Slim Jim, was sponsoring the whole event! When Macho Man sucked up a pinfall loss to go with all the others he got from Hogan in the 1980s, the wind went out of my sails. Then the bagpipes played... RODDY PIPER! don't know if this was spoiled on the net beforehand, but I'm glad I didn't know about it. Roddy had been in the WWF as recently as the summer. Now here he was, going on a machine gun hellfire and brimstone diatribe for goodness against the man who turned his back on us, the fans. Roddy Piper always had the biggest mouth in wrestling, and he was the spoiler for Hulkamania and rock'n wrestling during its boom in 1984. Now here he was on WCW PPV with Hogan and a live mike. Must see TV indeed.
2. RIC FLAIR. The year was 1991, and one day on NWA World Wide, a very polite statement was read at the top of the show about how contract negotiations had broken down with Ric Flair, and they wished him the best. Not long after that, Bobby the Brain Heenan, Gorilla Monsoon, and Jim the Anvil Neidhart are calling matches in the WWF. Bobby pulls out the NWA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BELT! He says this belt belongs to the REAL World's champion, who is currently under contract to another organization". Pretty soon, Ric Flair walked the aisle with that big orange WWF symbol hanging over him. Many firsts here: the first time wrestling fans said "never in a million years." The first dream match that was actually promoted that way. Ric Flair came in with his character and his status intact. The first time the existence of other wrestling organizations was acknowledged by the WWF. Finally, the first face to face meeting of the two men who made 1980s pro wrestling, as Ric Flair electrified the "big man" Hulk Hogan on the Funeral Parlor.
1. RICKY STEAMBOAT. 1988, the coolest thing I ever saw. The Dragon was my favorite. His match with Randy Savage at Wrestlemania 3 was my favorite match. Then he took a loss to Greg Valentine at Wrestlemania IV and I felt bad for him, I felt bad for Bonnie and little Ricky Jr. Meanwhile, Ric Flair and the Horsemen were running roughshod all over the good guys in the NWA. One day, Eddie Gilbert says he has a mystery partner for a tag match with Flair and Barry Windham. With great bravado, they accept the match. Out walks RICKY THE DRAGON!!! My HERO was there to meet the man I hated the most in all of wrestling. The look on Flair's face was absolutely priceless. This was the first time I actually believed that both the WWF and the NWA existed on the same planet. The Dragon breathed fire that night, and I became a wrestling fan, pardon the expression, for life.
Do you have a favorite? I'm sure there are big ones I've left off. They don't have to involve the WWF and the NWA/WCW only. Give me a holler at JoeBCrowe@aol.com.
Joe Crowe is a writer and standup comedian based in Birmingham, Alabama and a regular Solie's contributor.
Live from the Civic Center Arena in Mobile, Alabama
Booker T vs. Eddie Guerrero (w/Chavo Guerrero, Jr.) - TV Title match - Guerrero brings his nephew out to sit at ringside during this match. The kid is clearly not happy about the situation. Booker has been an incredibly popular Champion since he defeated two formidable opponents in one night to win back the belt so I don't expect a Title change here tonight despite the predictions I have been hearing all over the net. Guerrero seems to be trying to delay the start of the match at first, with good reasons because once they are underway Booker is a house afire. Guerrero is sent to the outside early on and is stalling once more. Back in the ring he drops to his knees and offers his hand. Booker obliges him and applies the sqeeze. Guerrero is dumped again and leaves the ring. Booker goes out and drags him back in. His first pin attempt is unsuccessful. Booker climbs to the top and gets upset there. Guerreo joins him at the top and executes a vertical super-plex. Both guys take a shot on that one and are slow to get up. Booker recovers first and downs his opponent for another pin attempt. He then goes for a scissor kick but Eddie scoots out of the way and strikes at the knee of his opponent. Now it is all Guerrero for the first time in the match. The fight goes outside where Guerrero keeps up the pressure, then goes back inside where he applies a knee extention hold trying to neutralize those talented legs. He lets go of the hold but continues to work n the knee. Booker finally escapes with a pancake slam and then applies the scissor kick to good effect followed by a sidewalk slam. He goes for the Harlem Side Kick but Eddie ducks it. They struggle for position as they climb to the top togther - Eddie is shoved off but lands on his feet. Booker throws a missle drop-kick and gets the pin. Eddie and Chavo have words afterward then Eddie punks his nephew.
Juventud Guerrera vs. Konnan - Juventud gets a quick start but is upended and downed right away. He dominates the first two exchanges but then it's all downhill. On the outside, Konnan sets up the ring steps but gets his own head smashed on them then Juvey uses them as a springboard to dive on his opponent. Back in the ring, Juvey gets a missle drop-kick but then his opponent tosses him onto the ring ropes. Konnan uses a very unusual looking version of the Indian Deathlock to pretty much take away Juvey's legs altogether. Moments later he is scraping his boot across the high flyer's face in the corner. He puts on a Rocking Horse surfboard type maneuver and then sets his weight down on the back of his opponent's neck. This is all Konnan for the next several minutes. Juvey goes to the outside to catch a breather then goes back in and right into a reverse torture rack. Guerrera finally gets loose and executes his first real offensive flurry of the match. He has a slight set-back then goes for the 450 but Konnan moves aside. Juvey manages to land on his feet but then succombs to a brainbuster suplex. Amazingly he kicks out and moments later gets a shoulder roll-over and the pin. Konnan attacks after the match and applies the brainbuster a second time.
JJ Dillon is with Mean Gene - the Giant has requested that the Jack Knife Powerbomb be made legal for tonight. His request has been granted with the blessing of the other side.
Chris Jericho vs. Dean Malenko - Cruiserweight Title match - Malenko asserts his authority early on and out wrestles his opponent. Jericho can't seem to shut up throughout the match and starts showing his frustration with his nemesis' superior mat technique soon after the beginning of the match. In fact he actually quits the ring at one point - heading up the aisle - Malenko has to break the count in order to keep the match going. Back in the ring, Jericho finally catches his opponent in mid-air and sidewalk slams him to gain the advantage. Now it's all Jericho but he is laxidaisical and repeatedly fails to get the pin - even after a Lionsault. A slap to the face causes a sudden flurry by Malenko that fails to get the pin then Jericho comes back with a Senton backsplash and regains the initiative. Now the match is see-sawing with Jericho still holding the upper hand for the most part. They struggle for position on the top turnbuckle and Malenko gets a splash but again misses the pin. Moments later Malenko blows a drop kick and puts himself in position for a Lion Tamer. He manages an escape then they are at the top again. Jericho is going for a Frankensteiner but Malenko shifts the balance point and executes a super-gutbuster. The pin almost happens but Jericho escapes. Moments later he backs into a Lion Tamer. Malenko struggles toward the ropes but Jericho drags him back to the center and gets him to tap out. Mean Gene walks right by Jericho in the aisle and goes up to talk to Malenko who is having a fit in the ring. Gene says, "You should have won this match..." and starts berating him for losing the last four times. He even goes as far as calling him a "loser". He asks, "Where do you go from here...? Malenko answers, "Home" and leaves the ring dejected.
Raven is ranting with Lee Marshall and Mark Maddon at the Internet station.
Scott Steiner vs. Lex Luger - here is a match between former best friends. Lots of emotion tied up in this one. Steiner attacks as Luger comes through the ropes. The match then goes out to the floor almost immediately where Luger continues to take a pounding. A try by Steiner to suplex Luger back into the ring is reversed and now its Luger dealing out the punishment out on the floor. Back in the ring, Luger continues to gain ground. He goes for the Rack but Steiner hits a low blow using his leg from behind. Steiner goes to the outside to get a chair and meets his brother who is then attacked by Scott Norton. Back in the ring with the chair, Scott is distracted by Rick and gets creamed and pinned by Luger.Scott clotheslines both Luger and the ref. Rick comes into the ring. Scott runs at him with the chair but gets catapulted to the floor. Norton helps him up and they leave.
Chris Benoit vs. Diamond Dallas Page vs. Raven - Triple-threat US Title match - this a typical - no holds barred match ala Raven's rules. The do a triple collar and elbow tie up to start - something I've never seen before. The action takes a while getting started. The second triple lockup falls out to the floor. DDP gets run into the steps and Raven/Benoit go at it back in the ring. DDP comes back in and prevents a pin by Raven - he's saving his own title. Benoit and Raven fall out to the floor and DDP splashes both of them. DDP seems to be staying on his feet and stomping on the other two a lot. Benoit keeps concentrating on Raven forcing DDP to repeatedly save the Flock leader. Now Benoit and DDP are fighting on the outside so that Benoit gets to splash the two of them. The referee is out there and counting people on the floor (pinfalls count anywhere). Whenever someone tries to get a pin, the third person is there to prevent it. Benoit and DDP struggle on the ramp as Raven goes and gets a trash can. DDP and Benoit then team up to dump the trash can over Raven's body then beat on the can with crutches grabbed from someone at ringside. The fight goes up the ramp where Raven and Benoit cooperate to smash DDP repeatedly into the lighted Uncensored sign. Now there is enem a kitchen sink involved!! Benoit and Raven continue to battle while DDP is still laying in the ruins of the sign at the top of the ramp. They get a table involved plus a velvet rope (like a theater barrier). Back in the ring, Raven slips in a low blow forearm shot then goes out and gets another chair. Benoit beats him to the punch and drop-toe-holds Raven face first onto it. He then wedges the chair in the corner. We see DDP dragging himself back toward the ring. Benoit flings Raven into the wedged chair. The fight goes out to the floor briefly then back in the ring. DDP is still crawling toward the ring. Benoit gets a sleeper in the center of the ring but DDP arrives in time to put a similar move on Benoit. Raven executes a jawbreaker and all three are down. Raven gets up and Benoit is close behind. Benoit starts his German suplex series but on the second one DDP grabs him from behind and suplex both of his opponents!! Now Raven and Benoit seem to be cooperating again. Lodi hands a sign to Raven that reads "Use my Sign" He brains DDP with it - it turns out to be a disguised metal Stop sign. Raven has a table in the ring and Benoit watches as he sets it up. The next thing we know Raven and Benoit are strugggling to see who will get super-plexed onto the table. DDP runs up and knocks Benoit away - he at first tries to get into position for a super-plex, then changes it to a Diamond Cutter onto the table. He gets the pin on Raven to retain the US Title. Afterward, in a show of respect, Benoit helps DDP to his feet.
The Giant vs Kevin Nash - The Giant is still wearing a neck brace and has his weight up to 487 lbs. for this match. The match begins with a collar-and-elbow tie up. Nash is forced back into the corner. In a moment he is downed then has an elbow dropped on him. He gets up slowly and is clotheslined onto the floor. Outside the Giant continues his assault but gets reversed and posted. Nash goes back into the ring rather than continue his attack. Back inside, Nash starts working on the neck of the Giant. Then he applies a sleeper. The Giant elbows his way out but he is still being beaten down. Nash removes the neck brace. Nash backs up to throw his leg over the Giants head on the ropes but meets a big boot coming in for a seconf go. Now the Giant has his second wind and is creaming his opponent. He gets a big body slam on Nash. He is about to put on the Powerbomb when Brian Adams comes in and uses a baseball bat on the big guy. The bell sounds signalling the DQ as other nWo guys swarm in. The Giant fights off Vincent and Konnan then breaks the bat over his knee. Nash comes in with a second bat and breaks it over the Giant's shoulder. The Giant still manages to clear the ring and stands tall as they retreat.
Mean gene gets in the best line of the night as he declares, "I'm not a gossip..." while hawking the Hotline. Moments later Tony refers to him as "...Mr. Integrity..." his tongue firmly in cheek, I'm sure.
Curt Hennig (w/Ric Rude) vs Bret Hart - Hart wears a jersey from his hockey team who won their division finals yesterday. Here are two superb mat wrestlers, equal in experience and dedication. Harts accomplishments dwarf his opponent's but Hennig is no slouch. Hart grabs a headlock and hangs onto it for quite a while. Hennig escapes but runs into a beal and rolls out to the floor for consultation with his second. Moments later he is back in the ring and runs right into a Sharpshooter. Rude jumps in and breaks up the move without being seen by the referee. Now Hennig has the advantage. He is attacking the left knee to try and neutralize Bret's finisher. He drags his opponent to the corner and smashes his leg against the ringpost. Rude lends a futher hand as Henning distracts the ref. Hennig then beals Hart out by the hair. Back in the corner he beats on his opponent some more then drags him to the center and applies a figure-four. He is close enough to the ropes to allow Rude to lend some leverage to the hold. Hart refuses to give up and escapes but is limping. He gets a short offensive flurry but Hennig attacks the knee again. A standing toe-hold ankle-lock looks very painful for the Hitman. Hennig is starting to get cocky now - he climbs to the top and gets caught there. Hart is making a comeback now. He gets a series of pin attempts but no cigar. Hennig reverses a corner whip and retakes the advantage. He gets the Fisherman's Suplex but Hart kicks out. A series of see-saw exchanges ends when Hart applies the Sharpshooter - Rude tries to save him but Hennig taps out. After the match Rude and Hennig punk the Hitman with a chair then prevent the officials from lending assistance.
Scott Hall (w/Dusty Rhodes) vs. Sting - WCW World Heavyweight Title match - I'm surprised we haven't seen Rhodes invading the broadcast postition lately considering his recent history with the company. Sting comes down with his baseball bat in hand. Sting masks blossom throughout the arena. Hall snatches the title belt from Mark Curtis then Sting walks over and wrenches it back - the match is underway. Sting wins the first exchange then Hall wants a test of strength but then shortcuts it and chokeslams his opponent. He then turns his attention away as he mocks the Giant fror some reason. Sting pops up and creams his opponent, who tumbles to the outside and takes some consultation with the Dream. Rhodes is effectively distracting the attention of the Champ so Hall can blindside him. Now it is all Scott Hall but he can't put the Champ away. They double whip and hit head-to-head. Hall lands on his back and Sting ends up falling on his opponent and inadvertantly administering a low blow. Both guys are down and Hall grabs the ref's pantleg thus distracting him so that Rhodes can come in and drop an elbow on Sting. Hall is too out of it to take the advantage. Sting comes back and goes for the Scorpion but Rhodes is up on the apron. Stings breaks off to deck Rhodes and gets blindsided by Hall with a weapon. Still he can't pin the Champ. He goes for an Outsider's Edge but Sting reverses the move to a Death Drop and gets the pin. Rhodes and Sting face off over Halls inert body and Sting does the Wolf Pack Crotch Chop to Dusty's face.
Hollywood Hogan vs. Randy Savage (w/Ms Liz) - cage match - Michael Buffer is on hand for the introductions. The two most recognizable wrestlers currently active square off in a cage. It doesn't get any bigger than this. Hogan attacks his opponent before Savage gets fully into the cage. Hogan gets a foot to the face and goes for a pin early. Too soon of course. He whips his opponent piller to post. Savage will have to wait for him to make a mistake. Hogan tries to use the cage but Savage blocks the blow. Hogan fails to get all of an elbow block and gives Savage his opening. Now its all Savage. Hogan thumbs the eye of his opponent then uses his belt to whip and choke him. Then he goes for a the big legdrop and misses. Now Savage has the belt and uses it repeatedly. He finally is the first to use the cage wall as a weapon as he rams Hogan's forehead home. Savage rushes in and gets backdropped over the rope and lands between the cage and the ropes. Hogan gets in another blow with his belt then executes a belly-to-back suplex. He hoists Savage on his shoulder and spears him into the cage wall. Savage is reeling now. Hogan smashes him into the steel repeatedly. Savage has blood all over his chest and forehead now. At the door the two combatants fight their way out of the cage. They brawl on the floor then Hogan shoves Savage back inside. Hogan follows his opponent in and walks into a trap. Savage smashes him into the cage wall then climbs quickly to the top of the cage and flies with a double axe-handle that finds it's mark. He's going back up for the big elbow when the Disciple runs in and grabs the keys and enters the cage. The referee is got out of the way and Hogan and Leslie are ready to attack. But Sting descends from the rafters to even the odds. Hogan and Leslie cower in the far corner opposite the cage door. Stings faces them down but then Savage blindsides him and piledrives him! He then spits at Hogan and leaves the cage. Hogan is thoroughly confused - and so am I, frankly.
By the way, the controversey over Ed Leslie's designation was resolved (for me at least) this morning when I watched WCW Pro. They showed a clip from Nitro a couple of weeks ago when Ed Leslie made his second appearance since returning to WCW. I had not caught before that Hogan actually addressed him as "Disciple" that night. So Disciple is the man...Apocolypse is the move (Stunner).
At least that's the way I see it...
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