With Keith Lee debuting last week on Monday Night Raw, it got me thinking about the best debuts the red brand has seen. I’m hoping that we are going to see more shake-ups between rosters now that we got through Payback, so let’s take a look at some of the best* (*my favorite) Raw debuts.
Barely grasping what wrestling was as a kid, I didn’t fully grasp the Monday Night Wars until a few years after they happened. That being said, I think Chris Jericho’s debut on Raw was one of the best WCW cross-overs from the career longevity standpoint. Of course he now works for that promotion we dare not speak of in the WWE, but his tenure in the WWE has enshrined him on many a wrestling Mt. Rushmore.
Jericho’s debut, and subsequent returns, was built beautifully. Leading up to August in 1999 with everyone preparing for the new millennium, a millennium clock began appearing on Monday Night Raw. With a little math, you could realize fairly quickly that the clock wasn’t counting down the millennium at all, but it ended up counting down to the August 9th episode of Raw. During a promo by The Rock, the clock appeared again and counted down to :00. Jericho’s now iconic music started, his name flashed up on the Titantron, and the crowd erupted. Jericho would go on to cut a promo against The Rock, but his first words were forever immortalized: “Raw. Is. Jericho.”
This debut (and the next) are what set the bar for me for NXT talent showing up on the main roster. Kevin Owens was red hot at the time in NXT, appeared on Raw, and instantly got heat with John Cena. Their feud was fantastic and Kevin Owens really delivered his heel persona. Whenever I mention that I wish that Kevin Owens still had the intensity from his debut, this is what I am referring to.
Sure, Owens would lose the NXT title soon after, but going after Cena and the US Title was a great transition from NXT to the main brand. If he turns heel, loses the stunner, and brings back this intensity? The sky is the limit for this Kevin Owens.
I considered going with the debuts of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch here as part of the Women’s Revolution, but I have to go with Paige. Looking back, I still don’t think AJ Lee was given enough credit during her WWE tenure, and she really developed into a badass. Paige had a similar trajectory before injury caused her career to end prematurely, a few times. She was a great NXT Women’s champion, had a theme song that scared the beejesus out of me when it came out of nowhere, and was also an instrumental part of the Women’s Revolution.
For her debut, she couldn’t have had a better one. Coming out to “congratulate” AJ Lee on her title defense at Wrestlemania, Lee was confident enough that she chose Paige as her next victim so they had an impromptu match. Paige hit the Paige Turner almost out of nowhere, got the 1-2-3, and the upset was complete. This was a great starting feud for Paige and really helped jumpstart her main roster presence.
I’ve admitted to being an over-positive wrestling fan and I have always loved John Cena. There have been a few moments in my wrestling viewing history where my jaw hit the floor and this was one of them. Chris Jericho’s Highlight Reel segment was to introduce the #1 overall draft pick that was heading to Monday Night Raw. Going through all of the potential picks in my head, I never guessed they would move a champion. Jericho asked the superstar to reveal themselves, nobody came out, he asked again, Cena’s music hit, and the crowd erupted. My face mirrored Jericho’s with the disbelief combined with excitement. Whether you love or hate Cena now, that debut was fantastic. It stinks that a lot of debuts have to be marketed now to get people to tune in, because this surprise was one of the greats.
This is how you handle a faction *cough cough Retribution*. During a match between John Cena and CM Punk, Wade Barrett sauntered down the ramp to no music or Titantron video. Silently appearing from the back, Cena notices, and essentially asks what he is doing there and if they have a problem. Then the camera cuts to the audience and we see 7 more NXT rookies come out of the crowd with the same yellow and black armband with only an N on it. They attack the Straight Edge Society, they destroy the ring, and they obliterate John Cena. They made instant heat, made a huge impact, and you had to tune in the following week to see what havoc they would wreak next. *chef's kiss*
What are some of your favorite Raw debuts? Who do you hope will turn up on Raw if we do see some sort of a roster shake-up? Let me know on Twitter!
If you liked this article, be sure to keep up with all news, articles, and opinion pieces on Wrestling News World by following us on social media like on Twitter @WNWNews and you can also follow me on Twitter @TeddyRicketson.