Excluding WrestleMania 1, where everyone made their ‘mania debut, in WWE history six men have made their debut at the showcase of the imortals in the show’s main event bout. Today, we look back at all of those stars, their debut matches and their subsequent success – if applicable, a spoiler as to who one of the entrants is…
WrestleMania IV: ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase
As well as being a pivotal part in the WWE title being held up ahead of WrestleMania IV, after “buying” the belt from Andre the Giant after he defeated Hulk Hogan, DiBiase was also part of the match to crown the new champion that closed that year’s show..
After cutting his teeth in Mid-South Wrestling, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), as well as a brief cup of coffee in the WWF in 1979, DiBiase returned to Vince McMahon’s promotion in 1987.
“The Million Dollar Man”, a millionaire who wore a gold-studded, dollar-sign-covered suit and eventually a custom-made, diamond-encrusted, and self-awarded, “Million Dollar Championship Belt”. His character was based on the type of wrestler that Vince McMahon would want to be and saw DiBiase fly first class wherever he went.
His first big in-ring angle came in late 1987 on an episode of Superstars of Wrestling, where he announced his plan to purchase the WWF title from Hulk Hogan. Hogan refused and said that DiBiase would have to defeat him in the ring for the belt. Hogan got the upper hand in a series of matches forcing DiBiase to turn to André the Giant to win the belt for him.
On the February 5, 1988 edition of The Main Event under questionable circumstances, thanks to a referee switch, Andre won the title. He then announced he was surrendering it and handed it to DiBiase. Despite defending it on the house show circuit, the WWF later refused to acknowledge DiBiase as the champion and a tournament was announced to crown a new champion.
A tournament was announced to crown a new WWF World Heavyweight Champion. At WrestleMania IV, DiBiase defeated Hacksaw Jim Duggan in the first round and Don Muraco in the quarterfinal before receiving a bye in the semi-finals to advance to the finals of the tournament. But DiBiase was defeated by “Macho Man” Randy Savage in the finals.
He would latterly gain tag team success alongside Irwin R. Schyster, as part of Money Inc., but never quite reached the same in-ring heights as he did soon after his debut. That said, he is regarded as one of the best in-ring workers in the history of the business and was inducted into the 2010 Hall of Fame.
WrestleMania VII Sgt Slaughter
Robert Remus, better known as Sgt. Slaughter, wrestled from the late 70s until the early 90s – and periodically since – winning the WWF title as well as two stints with the NWA US title.
After WrestleMania VI, Slaughter sent a letter to Vince McMahon saying he was interested in returning. As the political situation in the Middle East was growing increasingly tense, the decision was made to have Slaughter support the Iraqi cause. He was aligned with General Adnan, a kayfabe Iraqi military general, and initially feuded with Nikolai Volkoff.
As 1990 came to an end, Slaughter began challenging for the WWF title held by The Ultimate Warrior. At the Royal Rumble in January 1991 he defeated the Warrior when “Macho King” Randy Savage, who had also been feuding with the Warrior at the time, struck the champion in the head with his royal sceptre.
On that same event, Hulk Hogan won the 30-man Rumble match and challenged Slaughter to a match at WrestleMania VII. At that event, Slaughter’s WrestleMania debut, he was defeated by Hogan in a poor main event match.
After WrestleMania Slaughter introduced his newest ally, Colonel Mustafa. The trio would feud with Hogan for months, including having a three-on-two handicap match at SummerSlam 1991, which saw the team of Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior defeat Slaughter, Adnan, and Mustafa.
After finishing the Hogan feud, Slaughter became a babyface again, appearing in vignettes next to American landmarks, saying “I want my country back.” Slaughter’s last regular WWF match was a loss to Nailz in October 1992.
In 1997 he was made commissioner of the WWE – an on-screen role – and would make sporadic in-ring appearances during that spell and, as recent, as 2014. In 2004, Slaugher was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
WrestleMania VIII Sid Justice
In July 1991 Sid Eudy made his televised World Wrestling Federation debut as a babyface under the name Sid Justice. On an episode of Superstars, he was announced as the special guest referee for the main event of that year’s SummerSlam: where The Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan were pitted against The Triangle of Terror (Sgt. Slaughter, Col. Mustafa, and Gen. Adnan).
At the conclusion of that same show, he also saved The Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth from an attack at the hands of The Undertaker and Jake “The Snake” Roberts at the newly wed couple’s reception. During subsequent feuds with both superstars, he injured his biceps against Roberts and would be out of action until the Royal Rumble.
At the Rumble, where the winner would win the WWE title, Sid was among the final four wrestlers, along with Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Ric Flair. He eliminated both Savage and then Hogan, leaving himself and Flair in the ring. After being eliminated Hogan grabbed Sid’s arm giving Flair the chance to grab Sid’s legs and throw him out to win the match and become the new WWF World Heavyweight Champion. After the match, Sid and Hogan got into an argument in the ring and had to be separated by approximately 10 WWF officials and security. This incident, despite the vast majority of those in the Knickerbocker Arena cheering him and booing Hogan, began Sid’s turn into a heel.
On February 23 on an episode of Wrestling Challenge, Sid appeared as a guest on Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake’s “The Barber Shop”. Knowing that Hulk Hogan, Beefcake’s long-time real life friend, was not in the arena, Sid threatened Beefcake and chased him off the set before destroying the Barber Shop with a chair. Later that night, it was announced that Hogan would instead battle Sid at WrestleMania VIII while Flair would face Randy Savage for the WWF World Heavyweight Title instead.
At WrestleMania VIII, Sid lost his match to Hogan by disqualification when Papa Shango interfered on Sid’s behalf, allowing the two to double-team Hogan until the returning Ultimate Warrior stormed the ring and saved Hogan.
Prior to that Mania match, Sid failed a drug test. The WWE allowed him to complete that match and a subsequent European tour but was told after that tour he would serve his suspension. Instead, Sid quit and pursued a career in softball.
WrestleMania IX: Yokozuna
Under the tutelage of Mr. Fuji, Yokozuna debuted on an epside of WWF Superstars in October 1992 portraying a sumo wrestler and made his pay-per-view debut at Survivor Series, squashing Virgil.
Due to his imposing physique, a rocket was strapped to his back and heading into the 1993 Royal Rumble he was billed as a favourite. In the 30-man battle royal, he would last eliminate Randy Savage to win the bout.
At WrestleMania IX, Yokozuna wrestled against Bret Hart for the WWF Championship. Hart had the match won with Yokozuna about to submit to the Sharpshooter, when Mr. Fuji threw salt into the champion’s face. Blinded, Hart was then pinned by Yokozuna, who won the WWF Championship. As he and Fuji celebrated, Hulk Hogan came to the ring to help Hart and was challenged by Mr Fuji to take on the champion for his newly won crown. After Fuji accidentally threw salt in Yokozuna’s eyes, Hogan came through with the win and captured his fifth WWF title.
At the time, Yokozuna held the record for the second shortest time, after Ric Flair, to win the WWF Championship after his debut. At King of the Ring 1993, Yokozuna, whose weight had already increased from 505 pounds to 550 challenged Hogan for the title. Hogan seemed to have the match won, but a photographer, planted at ringside among a legitimate Japanese wrestling press group, shot a blast of fire into Hogan’s face. This allowed Yokozuna to take Hogan out with a leg drop and reclaim the WWF Championship, after which Yokozuna proceeded to hit Hogan with the Banzai Drop in the corner
WrestleMania XI Lawrence Taylor
1995 wasn’t the strongest year for the WWF, that’s for sure and WrestleMania XI still ranks as one of the poorer Manias in the event’s history.
As a sign of the state of the WWF at that point, Vince went back to the formula that had worked so well a decade earlier: an influx of celebrities. But while the involvement of celebs at the inaugural WrestleMania was as an outside referee, timekeeper as well as music acts, at WrestleMania XI a celebrity was to feature in a match. The celebrity being NFL star Lawrence Taylor.
At the year’s Royal Rumble, after Bam Bam had lost, Taylor was caught laughing at him and a scuffle ensued leading to the pair fighting at WrestleMania in the main event.
The match itself, surprisingly good in no small part due to the abilities of Bam Bam. His reward for that? He was gone by the end of the year largely due to his fall-out with the Kliq. As for Taylor’s wrestling career? Well, he’s 1-0.
Did having Taylor involved work? Well, 15,000 paid to get into the event and it had a buyrate of 1.3. Additionally, his involvement garnered the company a fair bit of media exposure. Ultimately, however, it would have taken a miracle for much of what the WWF did in 1995 to work so no blame can really be apportioned onto Taylor.
WrestleMania XIX Brock Lesnar
In 2000, Brock Lesnar signed with the World Wrestling Federation and was sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling, its developmental territory. It was there that he met Paul Heyman.
Lesnar debuted on WWF television on the March 18, 2002, episode of Raw and that year won the King of the Ring tournament, besting Rob Van Dam in the final. He followed that up by defeating WWE Champion The Rock at WrestleMania to become, at 25, the youngest WWE champion and the second fastest wrestler to win the WWE Championship since his debut (126 days) behind only Ric Flair (113 days).
At January 2003’s Royal Rumble he defeated the Big Show to entry number 29 in the Rumble and would eliminate The Undertaker to win the match and a title shot against Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XIX. It was during this Mania bout that Lesnar would botch a shooting star press, leaving him stunned and forcing the two to improvise a finish. Still, Lesnar was able to win the match despite the concussion as a result of the failed top rope move.
Of all men featured within this piece, Lesnar is the only active wrestler and the only man still part of the WWE roster. This Sunday he will face Dean Ambrose in a street fight. Despite only working a part-time schedule, he is one of the biggest names on the WWE roster in no small part to the ascension described above.