WHEN YOU THINK OF SURVIVOR SERIES DEBUTS, THE OBVIOUS FIRST NAME TO COME TO MIND IS THE UNDERTAKER.
Debuting at the fourth event in 1990, The Undertaker went on to be arguably the most iconic superstar in the history of the WWE. But The Deadman steals too much of the spotlight when it comes to Survivor Series debuts. Undertaker isn’t the only person to make their debut at the November tradition. Several other important (and some unimportant) debuts have occurred at Survivor Series. So, with that in mind, in honor of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the very first Survivor Series let’s take a look at the Top 10 debuts other than Undertaker’s famed first appearance.
I never said these debut’s were necessarily good. That being said, The Gobbledygooker has become the measuring stick against with all other terrible gimmicks and ideas are measured. It’s basically become legendary, albeit for all the wrong reasons. As the story goes, Vince thought that having a mascot to liven the crowd up ala most sports teams would go over huge, especially with kids. What actually happened was a chorus of boos that had to have been the worst nightmare for Hector Guerrero (the man in the turkey suit).
It’s worth noting that many rumors still abound today about whether or not Gooker was the original choice to pop out of the egg. Many claim that Ric Flair, nearly at his wits end with the front office in WCW was about to jump ship, might have been the original choice to hatch from the egg. Others say Undertaker was set to hatch here instead of being revealed earlier in the show, presumably becoming the dreaded “Egg Man” instead of the Deadman.
Regardless of who came out of the egg it’s hard to imagine anyone getting over with it. Imagine the Nature Boy Ric Flair, a grown man, hopping out of a giant paper mache egg. The whole thing was doomed from the beginning. And that’s why it’s on this list. It’s a failed moment that has become a part of wrestling history and thus is number 10 on this list of debuts.
9. Big Poppa Pump Scott Steiner
Before we dive into this one, let’s point out the obvious. Scott Steiner did not, exactly, debut for WWE at Survivor Series 2002. In fact, Steiner’s first Survivor Series appearance was in 1993 and by that time he’d been a two time tag champ with his brother Rick. But that was regular ole Scott Steiner, one-half of the Steiner Brothers. This debut is about “Freakzilla,” “Big Bad Booty Daddy,” “Big Poppa Pump” himself, Scott Steiner. He was practically a whole different person.
Plethora of nicknames aside, Steiner’s second run with the WWE is remembered more for his failures than his success. Mainly because his list of successes are scarce. But his debut (or re-debut for those who are sticklers about such things) was an important one for WWE at the time. Steiner was one of the last real “big money” guys to come over to the WWE following the expiration of his AOL/Time Warner contract that he had when he was with WCW. His debut showed that WWE was still willing to bring these big names into the company. Goldberg would follow suit a few months later.
Plus, having a guy who dominated the dying days of WCW in the WWE just felt right. His run might have been terrible, but at the time, hearing the sirens go off in Madison Square Garden and watching The Genetic Freak make his way back into a WWE ring was something special and therefore worthy of a spot on this list.
8. The Casket Match
That’s right, this list isn’t just solely about wrestlers debuting. The first ever casket match (at the time correctly dubbed a coffin match, as a coffin and a casket are not the same thing) in WWE history was held at the 1992 event, when The Undertaker defeated Kamala by stuffing the Ugandan Giant into the hand made coffin.
This match would go on to be synonymous with The Undertaker (even though there’ve been matches without him in it) and become an iconic matchtype that was, more or less, exclusive to WWE. The (presumably) final casket match of Undertaker’s career took place at the 2008 Survivor Series which would be WWE’s last casket match for over 6 years, until the most recent one, on January 29, 2015 where Daniel Bryan defeated Corporate Kane.
The casket match had a lot of life (no pun intended) as Undertaker would break out the match type several times throughout his illustrious career. It’s debut is more than worthy of a spot on this list.
7. The Nation of Domination
If you do a quick Google search of The Nation of Domination you’ll find that the formation of the group is said to have occurred the night after the 1996 Survivor Series. That’s partially true, but for the sake of this list, we’ll call it completely false.
The 1996 Survivor Series saw Farooq shed the nerf football helmet and gladiator attire for a more serious look. He also was joined by PG 13 and Wolfie D for the first time, as they rapped over the brand new “We are the Nation” theme music. In tow with Farooq and his rapping pals was Clarence Mason and 3 unnamed associates (who were actors never named on camera, though D-Lo Brown would soon join them). While the next night on Raw saw Savio Vega turn heel and join the group, the Nation was essentially born at Survivor Series 1996, with everything put together aside from Vega and Crush joining up.
I include it at number 7 on this list because I found the original Nation of Domination storyline to be a very cutting edge angle and one that helped propel the storytelling in WWE into a more reality based atmosphere. It was the precursor to the storylines that pushed the envelope throughout 1997 and birthed the Attitude Era in 1998.
In short, this debut is a much bigger deal than even WWE seems to realize. There’s no video attached to this entry because WWE doesn’t even have a clip of Farooq from the 1996 Survivor Series on its YouTube. The Nation is still being held down by the Fed…
6. The Elimination Chamber
As of this writing there have been 20 Elimination Chamber matches, but the very first time the structure was used (or even seen for that matter) was at the 2002 edition of Survivor Series. Of note with its debut is the fact that this match was the only “survival” elimination type match on the entire card. The 2002 event is only the second one in history not to feature a traditional Survivor Series elimination tag match with the other being 1998’s edition which featured the single elimination (except for Big Boss Man) tournament for the vacant WWF Title.
This structure has become a huge part of WWE since its debut. The match is almost always held for a title, with the only exceptions being the four times the match was held to determine the main event title contender at WrestleMania. Once the match was made a staple of February, it became an important storytelling device on the Road to WrestleMania for many years (including the most recent in 2017). Either titles change hands in order to set up the proper Mania main event, or number one contender spots are straightened out heading into the show of shows.
Regardless of the prize, the match itself is usually a provider of memorable moments and fun overall matches. The most recent appearance of the structure saw a complete makeover of the structure, which made it a little safer for the competitors (by getting rid of that horrific steel grating floor) and in my opinion looked a lot more sleek and downright neat (I’m trying to bring back words from the 1950s… but I digress). So, with the use WWE has gotten out of this structure it seemed a very nice fit snug in the middle of this list.
“But wait!” you exclaim, “Kane debuted at the October PPV Bad Blood!” And to you I say, that’s true (and it’s Badd Blood, with two Ds, by the way), but Kane’s first ever official match on WWE television took place at Survivor Series 1997, when he defeated Mankind under the red lights. So while his first appearance was in October, his debut match was at the same PPV as his undead brother.
Kane has become what I would consider to be an iconic character for WWE. He’s officially been on WWE programming for over 20 years now, a testament to the hard work and dedication from the man behind the mask. On paper this character, the long lost brother of another character, should have came and went in short order. Instead, Kane eventually became independent of Undertaker and became his own character. He did something almost impossible, he stepped out of the shadow cast by The Deadman.
Kane was a huge character for the WWE during this time (and is still a valuable asset to their programming today) and his debut match at Survivor Series is definitely worthy on this list at the number 5 spot. It would be at the top, if it wasn’t for how strong the top 4 are…
4. Kurt Angle
It’s true, your Olympic hero made his in-ring debut (and “official” first appearance) for the WWE at the 1999 Survivor Series beating Meat… umm… I mean… defeating Meat. Anyway… Angle’s debut at the ‘99 event was preceded by weeks of vignettes touting a “real athlete” was on his way to the WWF.
I must admit, as a kid I didn’t realize these vignettes were meant to be condescending, pompous, arrogant, etc. in nature. If it had been pre-1996, this is probably how Vince would have debuted his next big babyface. So I was surprised when he debuted to a chorus of boos. Having gone back and rewatched those vignettes, it’s hard to believe I ever thought the coming Olympic champion was anything other than a heel.
Angle would go on to establish himself as not only one of, if not the, best technical wrestlers in the history of WWE, but as an amazingly entertaining character, capable of being both serious and silly, ruthless and ridiculous, and incredulous and inspiring (I’ve mastered the art of alliteration, yeah?). Kurt would go on to be involved in some of the most important storylines in WWE over the next 7 years. He would win basically every title available to him in WWE, becoming the fifth Grand Slam champion in the company’s history with 6 World title reigns to his credit.
After leaving the WWE in 2006, Kurt would go on to TNA where he would also win 6 World championships and be inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2013 before parting ways in 2016 and eventually returning to WWE where he is the current Raw General Manager and now back in the ring as an active competitor. Kurt’s longevity, passion, success, and triumph throughout his career has made him a legendary performer in the business and an obvious choice for this list.
3. The Rock
With a resume like Kurt Angle has, it’s hard to imagine that there are 3 entries on this list ahead of him, but Survivor Series didn’t mess around when it came to iconic debuts. At the 1996 event, a young, smiley kid with a chia pet haircut made his way to the ring at Madison Square Garden for his first ever appearance for the World Wrestling Federation. Who could have ever dreamed that Rocky Maivia would go on to become the highest paid and most sought after star in Hollywood and entertainment?
The Rock’s career is the stuff of legends both in and out of the ring. You don’t need me to recap his accomplishments, so it’s obvious that his debut would be on this list. Rock had a large part in revolutionizing the business during the Attitude Era. I don’t throw the word “revolution” around very often, but that’s exactly what Rock did throughout his career and into today.
But he’s number 3… which is saying something, isn’t it? Part of the reason why he’s 3 is because The Rock didn’t debut at this show, Rocky Maivia did. It took time, effort, and a lot of hard work to make The Rock become a reality. The Rock had some rough patches early on before becoming the iconic superstar we know today. But there was another debut that saw a superstar walk into a WWE ring for the first time, already an icon…
Sting’s WWE debut trumps Rock for one very big reason, it was decades in the making. As I mentioned earlier, Scott Steiner was one of the last big money WCW guys to come over, followed by Goldberg. But there was one big money guy that didn’t make the leap, The Icon, Sting.
One of the biggest stars of the ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s, heck for-freaking-ever, Sting had never stepped foot in a WWE ring. That’s incredible when you think about it. What other wrestler during this time period became a global superstar without ever working for Vince McMahon? Sting did it and became the face of the latter years of the NWA and the franchise player in WCW. Even after WCW’s demise, Sting still never came to WWE, opting to go to TNA instead during the back end of his career.
It looked like the window was closed for the Stinger coming to WWE, especially after endless rumors year after year that he’d face The Undertaker at WrestleMania (A match I never wanted to see, but maybe I’m weird) went by but he never showed up.
So when he finally showed up at the 2014 Survivor Series, it was more than just a big moment, it was the culmination of a decades long career and a moment many thought would never happen. It was one of the biggest single moments in the history of pro wrestling and one that I felt deserved to be at the top of this list. And it would be number one, if not for the debut that occurred in 2012…
1. The Shield
Sierra, Hotel, India, Echo, Lima, Delta, THE SHIELD! These three men debuted at the 2012 Survivor Series and have proceeded to dominate WWE television ever since. It’s easy to predict that all three men will continue to be a huge part of WWE for many years to come and when the story is finally written, this may be the most iconic Survivor Series debut ever even when paired next to The Undertaker’s debut.
But that’s for the future to decide. As for the here and now, I ranked this debut over Sting, Rock, and everyone and everything else on this list because the fact that WWE managed to have three guys who would quickly become main event players all debut at the same place at the same time is historic. I cannot think of a group debut that produced stars out of everyone.
I know many might argue that The Shield should be lower on the list, but I disagree (obviously). These three guys make up a large part of the backbone of WWE right now and as I said, they’ll continue to be that backbone as WWE heads into the future. I think we’ll continue to look back at this debut and marvel at the fact that all three men debuted at the same time. Three stars, one debut, it’s a no brainer for the top spot on this list.
Okay, that does it for our Top 10, but what list would be complete without some honorable(ish) mentions?
Survivor Series also saw the debuts of Steve Blackman, Jazz, The Ambulance Match, Furnace & Lafone, and Flash Funk. None of these debuts really packed any sort of impact, although Blackman is greatly underappreciated for his work in the midcards. I must also point out that Jazz’s debut at Survivor Series 2001 is one of the most painfully bland reactions I’ve ever seen/heard. Paul Heyman on commentary tries to sell it like she’s the biggest acquisition in wrestling history while the fans collectively ask themselves “who’s this?” and proceed to sit on their hands. The rest came and went. In fact, the Ambulance Match wasn’t seen again until Kane embraced the hate nearly 9 years later.
And that does it for our Top 10 Survivor Series debuts (other than The Undertaker). Disagree with my list? Think I’m the smartest random person on the internet? Think I should have counted down the Top 10 Survivor Series screwjobs instead? Well, tell me about on the twitter machine @THExWilliam or yell at the rest of us TWM folks @TWMNewsUK.
And until next time, stay positive pals!