VS. #27 – Mark Allen vs. Steven Gepp

A question is posed. Two Pulse Wrestling writers go head-to-head. But only one will move on to next week to the face off with another member of our staff. This is VS., and this week’s question is… This week marks the 10th anniversary of Chris Jericho’s WWF debut. What was the best WWF/WWE debut since and why?

Mark Allen

Steven Gepp

Mark Allen: By the time Chris Jericho debuted the infamous Monday Night War was on the downswing. WCW was hemorrhaging money left and right and ECW was about to enter into their bad partnership with TNN. The Dudley Boyz were big but not a huge splash. Tazz was awesome for all of a month before The Radicalz came in and stole his thunder. And speaking of those four guys look where they all have ended up nine years later.

And by the time 2004 rolled around and it was just WWE harvesting their own stars and pillaging TNA there hasn’t been any debut from that point on worthy enough to stand up and change the company’s paradigm upon debut. I mean the new Holy Trinity of Cena, Orton and DAVE certainly didn’t set the world on fire upon their respective debuts.

So knee jerk reaction I want to say the best debut would be Lance Storm’s. I’m a mark for him and it was his superkick on the May 28, 2001, RAW that officially kicked off the InVasion, a storyline that filled so many fans with hope and excitement. But unfortunately the biggest potential money-making angle in wrestling history was turned to crap only weeks later. So no, not him.

Eric Bischoff’s debut was another pure mark-out moment for me but ultimately it was squandered the minute he hugged Mr. McMahon, ruining another sure-fire, can’t miss, money-making storyline. Same with Goldberg, the minute he stepped into a verbal debate with The Rock.

So who does that leave? Only one of the most successful and profitable professional athletes performing today – UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar. Lesnar debuted on WWE TV the night after WrestleMania X8, destroyed much of the company’s undercard and made himself an immediate presence. He was argued over as a potential pick in the initial brand expansion. He went undefeated for months, cake-walked through the King of the Ring, made Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan his b!tches on free TV and was an immediate equal to the Undertaker. Plus he won the WWE Championship in under five months of his television debut and took out The Rock in the process. If he would have debuted in 1987, he and Hulk Hogan would still be making money together today.

Then he left the company on his own terms two years later, and literally gave the finger to the WWE audience in his last appearance. It showed WWE needed Lesnar more than Lesnar needed them. Today he is still one of the most talked about WWE guys in history and will forever will be intertwined into WWE culture. He came. He kicked ass. He left. His debut had an immediate impact on the company, and he was a relevant figure within WWE for his entire duration.

Mark, you teased me when you brought up Storm, as much as that debut surprised me while filling my wrestling fan soul with the same misguided hope you speak of. But you came back strong with the Lesnar answer. His feud with Brian Kendrick aside, his has to be one of the most impactful debuts AND runs to the top WWE has seen in years, and I can’t see it being replicated for a number of reasons, one of course being how WWE might seem foolish for doing the same to another wrestler who then decides he’s had enough and moves on. I like that WWE has focused on long-time pro wrestling fans (Cena) and sons of former wrestlers (Orton, DiBiase, Rhodes) recently, since at the very least, you know they “get” the business and hopefully respect it. If I’m WWE, I don’t know how I justify strapping the company to the back of a total newcomer without at least considering that he might tire of the biz and more elsewhere after making his first millions.

Steven Gepp (from TailgateCrashers.com): Debuts are tricky things. In the old days we’d often get a nice series of vignettes so then we’d have some idea what we could expect come the actual in-ring performance. Some, of course, were awesome and ideal – Mr. Perfect’s vignettes were easily matched by his in-ring presence and ability. But others were, shall we say, not. Outback Jack made all of us here in Australia cringe, but not as much as watching him “wrestle” (a term I am somewhat loathe to apply here). Superstar Billy Graham and Ken Patera had some interesting pieces to camera, which their broken down, over-the-hill bodies just could not live up to, and so they survived purely on past glories. In fact, more often then not, the debut did not live up to the hype. WCW was worse. Who can forget the Seven character (was that its name?) and the horse peeking through windows? What the hell was that about?

But we’re looking at the 10 years since Jericho’s Titantron video crashed across the arena and had everybody going, “What the…?” The debut has become a little more low-key since then. Batista started as a deacon to a religious D-Von. John Cena was just sort of suddenly there. Tough one.

The best ‘debut’ (and the term is used rather loosely here) in that time, in my opinion, has been when Kurt Angle first appeared in TNA. The interview, the hooded robe, the empty arena, the intensity, it was superb. And then, of course, he had the ability to back it up in the ring. But this is about WWF/E.

I was considering Randy Orton, with his debut in Mr. McMahon’s office, putting him over as third generation, and then being fed to Hardcore Holly, but the Z-level acting really irritated me. I was also considering Diamond Dallas Page’s debut in the WWE, because it actually set him up as a legitimate threat by stalking the Undertaker’s wife, but the matches and total squash he received afterwards really brought it down.

And so the one that stands out has to be Brock Lesnar. From the word go, he was the “Next Big Thing” and he was pushed to the moon. Making an immediate mark in OVW where he entered as NCAA champion, making a house show debut in Winnipeg and getting media coverage, he was seemingly ear-marked for greatness. And aligning him with Paul Heyman was the final piece to ensure he was taken as a seriously legitimate threat to everyone. And, of course, he lived up to it, becoming the youngest heavyweight champ and even getting a clean win over Hulk Hogan. What sort of better debut / rookie year could there be?

Son of a bitch, both of you answered with the same wrestler. I’m gonna give this win to Mark for one reason: he mentioned the inVasion, which both of you did, using two much better examples than DDP! Sorry, but losing to Undertaker is one thing, but losing to his WIFE? I can’t believe you didn’t bring that up. Plus, you’re from Oz but didn’t even in passing talk about the awesome vignettes for Nathan Jones?

That said, both were strong answers, and if either of you had mentioned 3 Minute Warning you would have had me. This is a close one, but…

Winner of VS. #27: Mark Allen

Do you agree with Steven or Mark or do you have an entirely different opinion? Let us know in the comments section, below!

Until next time…

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