Ranking What Was Really The Best Wrestling Debut Every Year 1990-2021

CM Punk! Kane! ...Santino Marella?! Blame John Laurinaitis, and beware the future of WWE!

Undertaker CM Punk

About the only thing the otherwise exceptional Tony Khan has largely failed to do consistently is effectively debut talent.

Some introductions were superb and indeed feature on this list, but as an ECW diehard with a remit to create conversation in the shadow of the monopoly, he is (or was) rather too fond of the shock debut!1

Excalibur charmingly but naively heralded the arrival of the Butcher and the Blade in 2019 as a big get from Beyond Wrestling, which the vast majority of the audience wasn't familiar with. "Japanese death match legend Luther!" similarly failed to get over because nobody recognised him. His introduction was consistent with AEW's approach, in that they treat the audience's intelligent with respect, but this was too much - the not ideal other extreme to WWE's incessant "GRASP THIS YOU THICK C*NTS!" level of exposition.

But the inspired and unique viral marketing campaign that heralded CM Punk's arrival might just hint that Khan has perfected his wrestling formula - just as a real needle-mover has signed a contract.

So no prizes for guessing what lands in the 2021 slot - but what about every other year in the life of a millennial wrestling fan?

A good debut, it should be noted, is no guarantee of a good run...

32. 1990 - The Undertaker

Undertaker CM Punk

Revealed as his team's mystery partner by Ted DiBiase at Survivor Series, the Undertaker - who was in his mid-20s at the time - radiated a sinister aura against a cartoonish backdrop.

He possessed a sense of presence well beyond his years. It's impossible to grasp in retrospect that he was green at the time. He'd only been in the business for three years, and has since revealed that he was barely trained.

He didn't need to do much in the ring. His character work almost forbade it. Still, his timing worked in beautiful synergy with Koko B. Ware's vastly underrated ability. A stoic 'Taker only had to sidestep as Koko crushed his larynx off a totally committed bump on the ropes.

Fun fact: both the Undertaker and his storyline brother struggled with the hard camera on their debuts...

In this post: 
CM Punk
First Posted On: 

Michael Sidgwick is an editor, writer and podcaster for WhatCulture Wrestling. With over seven years of experience in wrestling analysis, Michael was published in the influential institution that was Power Slam magazine, and specialises in providing insights into All Elite Wrestling - so much so that he wrote a book about the subject. You can order Becoming All Elite: The Rise Of AEW on Amazon. Possessing a deep knowledge also of WWE, WCW, ECW and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Michael’s work has been publicly praised by former AEW World Champions Kenny Omega and MJF, and surefire Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Cody Rhodes. When he isn’t putting your finger on why things are the way they are in the endlessly fascinating world of professional wrestling, Michael wraps his own around a hand grinder to explore the world of specialty coffee. Follow Michael on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MSidgwick for more!