Like Mysterio and McAfee, there have been numerous debuts over the years that fans have expected to be subpar that turned out to be very entertaining. In some cases, these newcomers went on to have long and successful careers in wrestling.
WWE Top 10 Wrestling Debuts Rare pictures and video online GIF
While his actual wrestling debut against Mankind was nothing to write home about, Shane McMahon parlayed this appearance as a silver spoon kid with something to prove into a legacy as a performer. He has built this around going above and beyond what someone would normally do in his role.
It makes sense that his initial run in the WWF showed him being heavily featured in a main storyline as a member of The Corporation. The surprising part of Shane McMahon’s tenure is the death-defying lengths he’s gone to in his career. From falling off the stage multiple times to jumping off Hell In A Cell, to being thrown through glass, Shane McMahon has proven that he is far from just the boss’ son.
When actor Stephen Amell was a guest star on RAW in 2015, he could’ve fallen prey to the all-too-common disinterested celebrity appearance on WWE programming. Most often, celebs appear on WWE TV to promote a project and cash a check. But in Amell’s case, being a pro wrestling fan, he wanted to make his time there count and a dream to come true.
The star of Arrow got into a comic book-inspired feud with himself and Neville pitted against Stardust and King Barrett. This built to a tag team match at SummerSlam, which Amell and Neville won. Instead of staying aside and letting Neville do the dirty work, Amell legitimately participated, even diving from the top rope to the outside of the ring. His performance was so good that it led to an appearance in Ring of Honor and even a singles match at All In, the precursor pay-per-view to AEW.
When Zach Gowen appeared on an episode of Smackdown in 2003 only to have his prosthetic leg pulled off by Roddy Piper and Sean O’Haire, it could’ve been a cheap stunt in order to get heat on the duo. However, much to fans’ surprise, Gowen had some serious wrestling chops despite being differently-abled.
Gowen made his WWE debut on Smackdown in a 2-on-1 match with Stephanie McMahon against The Big Show. He played the underdog role to perfection, refusing to back down from Show, protecting Stephanie, and even delivering a dropkick to Vince McMahon. In the end, with the help of Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar, Gowen hit a top-rope moonsault on Big Show for the pin to a massive ovation from the fans in attendance.
7Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi
To say that WWE and MTV’s Jersey Shore have different fan bases is the understatement of the century. So when Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi was booked in a 6-person tag team match at WrestleMania XXVII, fans were preparing for the worst. In a shocking twist, Snooki pulled off a couple of legitimately acrobatic moves.
While her partners Trish Stratus and John Morrison did the majority of the work against Dolph Ziggler and LayCool, Snooki turned out to be a heck of a hot tag. Polizzi, who rose to prominence by drunkenly falling (a lot), hit a back handspring elbow on Michelle McCool, followed by a cartwheel splash, and a pinfall victory. Her gymnastics background served her well, and Snooki has a WrestleMania moment as a result.
On the subject of MTV reality stars, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin was expected by most to be a flash in the pan in WWE. Already a veteran of reality TV on The Real World and Real World/Road Rules Challenge, Mizanin joined Tough Enough for season 3 as a means to break into WWE. Although he finished in 2nd, he earned a developmental contract and eventually made his way onto Smackdown in 2006.
After serving as the “host” of Smackdown for months, he had his official debut match against Tatanka. In the match, The Miz proved he’s more than a bombastic personality by showing real in-ring skill. He picked up the win with a backslide/foot on the ropes combo, bolstering his smarmy heel persona, and kicking off a fantastic career against all odds.
Lawrence Taylor is widely known as one of the most dominant linebackers in NFL history. His tenacity and hard-hitting abilities led the New York Giants to 2 Super Bowls in the 1980s and made Taylor a perfect fit for the WWF.
At WrestleMania XI, Taylor took on fellow big man Bam Bam Bigelow in the main event. Taylor’s size, strength, and the stiffness of his strikes made him a believable foe for Bigelow. At a time when WWF as an entity was in need of a major boost, LT gave them some much-needed mainstream appeal, and could very well be one of the reasons WWE is still around to this day.
In the same vein of celebrities who helped pro wrestling at a pivotal point, Mr. T greatly helped WWF in both WrestleMania I and WrestleMania II. Coming off the success of his TV show The A-Team and having experience in tough-man competitions in his own right, Mr. T’s larger than life personality fit right in the WWF mold.
The spectacle of Mr. T teaming with Hulk Hogan to take on “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff helped make the inaugural WrestleMania a rousing success. This set the tone for WWF’s flagship event and allowed the company to stick around almost 40 years later.
3Diamond Dallas Page
Diamond Dallas Page has defied expectations throughout his career. Most pro wrestlers start training as early as their teen years in order to make a living in the squared circle. DDP on the other hand didn’t make his WCW debut until the tender age of 35. His age and transitioning from manager to wrestler meant that expectations were not too high.
However, as he has done throughout his life, Page persevered. At Starrcade 1991, Page teamed with Mike Graham in a tag match against Jushin Thunder Liger and Bill Kazmaier. Though he lost in his WCW debut, Page showed he took wrestling seriously. Now, one Hall of Fame career and yoga empire later, Diamond Dallas Page proved no matter where you start, anything is possible.
Many athletes over the years have attempted to make the leap from traditional sports to professional wrestling with varying degrees of success. For this reason, critics weren’t sure how Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle would fare in professional wrestling as opposed to amateur wrestling.
At Survivor Series 1999, Angle made his WWF debut against Shawn Stasiak. Showing a combination of agility, strength, and catch wrestling ability, Angle was a natural in the ring and proved his skills could translate to a different world of wrestling. Over the next 20 years, Kurt Angle would continue to use his intensity, integrity, and intelligence to become the wrestling legend he is today.
In another instance of a huge wrestling fan doing the business justice, former UFC champion Ronda Rousey realized one of her lifetime dreams at WrestleMania 34. Before making her presence known as an official member of the WWE roster at Royal Rumble in 2018, her match at the “grandest stage of them all” showed her passion for wrestling.
Teaming up with Kurt Angle to take on Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, Rousey, like Kurt, proved legitimate fighting experience could translate to a pro wrestling career. Rousey got fantastic-looking offense in on both Triple H and Stephanie in the match to the delight of fans everywhere and earned the win for her team. Rousey helped make history at WrestleMania 35, but it all started the prior year with an impressive debut.