Rumors continue to mount that Cody Rhodes will return for WWE at WrestleMania 38 – and he won’t be the first megastar to enjoy a grand introduction on the biggest stage of them all.
Ronda Rousey made a brilliant WWE debut at WrestleMania 34 – stealing the show in her tag match with Kurt Angle against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
Speculation continues to circulate that Rhodes will be making his WWE debut again next month at Showcase of the Immortals.
The former All Elite Wrestling star knows full well that a successful wrestling run can be made or broken by a great first appearance at WrestleMania.
So here are five of the greatest Show of Shows first matches—matches that prepare top Superstars for incredible careers.
Also four of the absolute worst Mania debuts – matches that could have ruined careers before they even started.
The Undertaker’s younger brother made his Mania debut against the Deadman himself – the reward for the nearly year-long story Kane envisioned.
It wasn’t a great match (a sluggish Big Man collision) and Kane lost – he was pinned after three tombstones – but it was still a superstar-making moment that made a massive impression on the fans.
Kane jumped up after the pinfall and hit Taker with a tombstone of his own (real life baseball villain Pete Rose’s pre-match tombstoning also helped).
By June, he had won the WWE Championship and spent the next 18 months developing into one of the most interesting, complex, and nuanced characters of the Attitude era. Not bad for a masked giant with no vocal cords.
Kurt Angle- WrestleMania 2000
Angle also lost in his Mania debut. Not only that, as a double champion at the time, he lost both his intercontinental and European championships. But it was masterfully done.
Facing Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit in a hilarious two falls triple threat match, Kurt lost both belts without being pinned or tapped.
It fitted perfectly with Kurt’s steady rise. He was able to keep his near-perfect record and complain about the unfairness of it all.
Kurt had only made his debut five months earlier. At SummerSlam he fought for the world title and by the end of the year he was champion.
John Cena – WrestleMania XX
Cena reportedly scheduled a rap battle for Mania XIX and then canceled it — so he had to wait until the following year to get his WrestleMania moment.
He competed against Big Show for the US title, lifting the 500-pounder for an Attitude Adjustment (then called FU) not once, but twice.
Cena was over as a babyface, and the ovation he got for raising and defeating Show — at Madison Square Garden, no less — cemented his place as a future main eventer.
At Mania the following year, he won the WWE Championship for the first time.
Cesaro – WrestleMania XXX
Mania XXX was Daniel Bryan’s night, but also a milestone for the “Swiss Cyborg”.
He was part of a heel team with Jack Swagger, but fans got behind Cesaro (thanks in part to his stunning swing) and were ready to babyface him.
In the pre-show, he took on Swagger and won the first-ever Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal (back when fans thought it meant something).
Cesaro finally eliminated Big Show by lifting him over the top rope in a thunderous response.
Lifting Big Show is obviously a surefire way to come off at WrestleMania.
Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch – WrestleMania 32
OK, we’re cheating here – that’s three Superstars, not one – but all three women had a blinder in their eye-popping triple threat match at Mania 32.
It was also historically significant. This was the match where WWE dropped the “Divas” name and rebranded the title to the Women’s Championship.
But it’s also the moment that the Women’s Evolution on the main roster really got started.
Charlotte (who won the match) and Sasha fought Raw’s hottest feud for the remainder of 2016, and Becky became the inaugural SmackDown Women’s Champion.
AND FOUR OF THE WORST…
Yokozuna – WrestleMania IX
Poor Yoko had an absolute stinker in his WWE Championship match against Bret Hart in the notoriously bad Mania IX.
The sumo (actually Samoan) 500-pounder earned his shot at Bret’s title by winning the Royal Rumble – and indeed he defeated Bret at Mania with a cunning salt-in-the-eye leg-drop combo.
Bret has complained that Yoko “went home” (i.e. started the finishing sequence) too early, causing the main event match to be abandoned.
But that was not all.
Hulk Hogan then rushed to the aid of his “friend” Bret Hart and was challenged to an impromptu match by Yoko’s manager Mr. Fuji.
Hogan defeated the new champion in 22 seconds, meaning Yokozuna had only reigned as WWE Champion for two minutes.
Triple H- WrestleMania XII
Trips – then playing Blueblood gimmick Hunter Hearst Helmsley – had a decent mid-card push when he joined WWE in 1995.
But it came to an abrupt halt on his first mania when he faced the returning insane legend Ultimate Warrior.
Warrior stormed through trips in under two minutes and hilariously didn’t sell the pedigree.
Trips said years later that Warrior was unprofessional and changed the match at the last minute.
But they had hugged and reconciled by Warrior’s next return in 2014, when he entered the Hall of Fame.
Big Show – WrestleMania XV
Show had joined WWE the month prior and feuded with Mankind.
The winner would guest judge Stone Cold vs. Rock in the main event.
It was a quick, worthless match and Show lost.
An outraged Vince McMahon slapped Show, prompting Show to film Babyface.
It was a rushed turn that killed Show’s momentum after less than two months at the company.
It also set a trend for the 7-footer — endless babyface and heel turns that fans cared less about each time before his departure to AEW.
Brock Lesnar – WrestleMania XIX
It seems harsh to call Brock’s Mania debut a failure — after all, he won the WWE Main Event Championship — but one thing fans remember is his botched shooting star press.
The match – Brock vs. Kurt Angle – was also a disappointment, thanks to Kurt’s disabling neck injuries and the concussion Brock self-inflicted when it landed on his head.
There’s a lot of speculation as to who suggested Lesnar do the move (which he’d previously successfully pulled off), but it ended up being one WrestleMania moment from hell.
Brock would not have a classic match on the Grandest Stage until 12 years later at WrestleMania 31 – his first fight with Roman Reigns.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/4914777/wwe-wrestlemania-cody-rhodes-rousey-cena-lesnar/ WWE WrestleMania’s best and worst debuts, including Ronda Rousey as Cody Rhodes return rumors surface – The US Sun