What do you think is the best debut match in WWE history?
You only get one chance to make a first impression. It’s important that wrestlers on the big stage have the best debut matches they can, or else the WWE fans may never see them any other way again.
While some wrestlers don’t impress on their first go around, there have been a select few that have wowed fans in their first chance in a new company. Whether making waves in their first ever match, or impressing new fans when jumping to a new company, a great debut match is the best way to endear yourself to fans who may not have heard of you.
In this article, we will look at the best debut matches in wrestling history, involving both WWE and AEW matches. Let us know which is your favourite debut match in WWE history and tell us which classic match we missed out on in the comments
Best Debut Matches in Wrestling History
Ronda Rousey – Wrestlemania 34
Fans lost their minds at the 2018 Royal Rumble when Ronda Rousey came out at the end of the main event. After Asuka became the first ever women’s Royal Rumble winner, Rousey’s music hit, and she interrupted Asuka and the other Women’s Champion, making it clear that her intention was to wrestle at Wrestlemania.
However, her debut match would not feature any of those women. It was actually a mixed tag team match, which have notoriously struggled to gain the higher match ratings from fans.
However this match was different. Rousey put in one of the great Wrestlemania performances in a match where she teamed with the legendary Kurt Angle. In one of the best debut matches in WWE history, Rousey and Angle defeated Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in a fantastic match at Wrestlemania 34.
Rousey showed in-ring ability beyond her years, drawing comparison from team mate Kurt Angle. It kicked off one of the best runs in WWE history, with Rousey holding the Women’s Championship for most of the year.
She lost the championship to Becky Lynch at the following Wrestlemania, seemingly retiring after one of the most dominant runs in WWE.
Bryan Danielson – AEW Grand Slam
Fans knew before his AEW debut match at Grand Slam that Bryan Danielson was one of the best wrestlers in the world. Everyone knew that whoever he stepped in the ring with, magic would be produced. However, no-one was quite ready for the absolute banger that would be Bryan Danielson vs Kenny Omega.
The match had a very simple premise. Bryan Danielson thinks he is the best wrestler in the world. Kenny Omega also thinks he’s the best wrestler in the world. The AEW Championship wasn’t even on the line, it was simply to decide which man was the best wrestler.
However, the only winner of this match was every single person who got to witness the best match in AEW history. The match went to a thirty minute draw, yet felt like it flew by in a minute. Both men left room for a rematch further down the like, and despite the match getting five stars from Dave Meltzer, had room to grow into an even better one had they been given more time.
With Kenny Omega out of action due to needing multiple surgeries, when the rematch will happen is unknown. But when it does I will be glued to the screen admiring the magic created by two of the greatest of all time.
Tazz – Royal Rumble 2000
A number of WWE stars came through Paul Heyman’s ECW before becoming making it on the big stage. ECW originals like The Dudley Boys, Rob Van Dam, Mick Foley and Steve Austin all made their names in ECW before signing for WWE and becoming main event stars.
Tazz did not become a big star in WWE, due to injuries and backstage issues. However, his debut was one of the best that had you thinking he would be the next big star in the company, and a future WWF Champion.
Tazz debuted for the WWF at the 2000 Royal Rumble. A mysterious logo, which would later turn out to be Tazz’s, started appearing on the WWE Titantron at various points in the shows on the lead up to the Royal Rumble.
He would eventually debut at the event itself, interrupting the then undefeated Kurt Angle as was cutting a promo on the Madison Square Garden crowd. When Tazz’s music hit and the man himself walked out, the fans hit the roof as the local ECW fans recognised their former ECW Champion.
Tazz’s debut match was one of the best in WWE history. It was a back and forth encounter with the Olympic Gold Medalist, with both men looking good. However, the debuting Tazz would win the bout by putting Kurt Angle to sleep with his Tazzmission finisher.
While Tazz never ascended to the great heights that this debut would have suggested, and injuries would force him to retire less than two years later, this is still one of the most memorable debuts in WWE history.
Shinsuke Nakamura – NXT Takeover: Dallas
Fans knew exactly how good the King of Strong Style was prior to his debut in NXT. Shinsuke Nakamura’s match against AJ Styles at Wrestle Kingdom 10 was lauded by fans and wrestlers across the world as one of the great matches of all time.
His stock was at an all-time high, and when rumours of him joining WWE began swirling, fans could not believe their luck. When he announced his intention to fight Sami Zayn on NXT Takeover: Dallas, fans just stared in shock and awe.
The match had no build aside from Nakamura challenging the former NXT Champion. Neither men even touched each other before the bell ring in Dallas and the match began. Fans were on their feet as soon as Nakamura’s music hit, and they saw the birth of a superstar in front of their very eyes.
The match was out of this world. At the time, it was the best NXT match in history and one of the best WWE matches of all time. Both men were huge stars in their own right and together just created electricity in the ring. The match went over 20 minutes and had fans hooked from minute one to the pin fall at the end.
As far my memory is concerned, it was the first NXT match where the fans chanted “Fight Forever”, and no match since has earned the chant since Shinsuke Nakamura’s incredible debut match in WWE.
AJ Styles – Royal Rumble 2016
While Shinsuke Nakamura wowed fans in NXT upon his debut, his Wrestle Kingdom 10 opponent AJ Styles moved straight to the main roster.
Both men shook the wrestling world in 2016 as their January 4th bout in the Tokyo Dome wowed fans who had never seen NJPW’s product before. It drew many eyes from the US and worldwide who became instant fans of the duo, at the least the ones who had missed out of Styles legendary run as the face of TNA wrestling.
With his contract up with New Japan after Wrestle Kingdom, there were vast rumours about where he would go next. A move back to TNA seemed likely, with WWE never showing much interest in the high flyer. Signing to NXT seemed like another option, as a number of top independent stars like Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn had done before.
At the 2016 Royal Rumble, Rusev and Roman Reigns started out at number one and two. Reigns soon threw Rusev out of the ring, and waited patiently for the number three entrant to make his appearance.
An unfamilair tune hit, but then the crowd erupted as three words appeared on the screen.
“I AM PHENOMENAL”
It was one of the best surprise entrants ever. Styles looked like a star the second he showed up, and fought incredibly for over 30 minutes until he was dumped out the rumble by Kevin Owens. However in that time he had introduced himself to the WWE audience in the best way possible, and set himself up immediately for a men event run as soon as possible.
What is your favourite debut wrestling match? Let us know in the comments or click below to read about the Young Bucks AEW Contract
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.