WrestleMania is the Showcase of the Immortals, a place where stars are made and legacies are created. If you’re going to be anyone in WWE, you have to perform at WrestleMania. So, it’s actually funny when you find out that so many of WWE’s top stars actually had pretty mediocre outings their first time on the Grandest Stage Of Them All. It turns out, for every Brock Lesnar or John Cena winning titles at their first Mania appearance, you have a laundry list of Legends who toiled away in meaningless undercard matches that nobody remembers. Some of them even lost! You could actually fill a Hall of Fame (and in the case of most of this list, WWE already has) with the wrestlers whose WrestleMania debuts have been fairly forgettable. You might think we’re exaggerating, but take a look at some of the examples we found.
10. Rey Mysterio, WrestleMania XIX
When he debuted in 2002, Rey Mysterio was seen as one of WWE’s biggest signings since buying WCW, and a sign that WWE might actually have finally decided to try and replicate their former competitor’s success with a Cruiserweight division. Fast-forward to WrestleMania, and Rey Mysterio loses his WrestleMania debut in a match for the Cruiserweight title against Matt Hardy Version 1.0, who although entertaining in that persona, was nowhere near the appropriate weight limit to be considered a Cruiserweight (granted, WWE pretended he had lost a bunch of weight as part of a somewhat funny storyline, but there’s no way Hardy could be considered in the same group as “real” Cruiserweights, and he would have been just as entertaining fighting in his regular weight class). It’s actually kind of funny that Mysterio, who was such a big deal and was clearly expected to spearhead the Curiserweight division, and who had already won the WWE Tag Team Titles as part of the far-too-brief “Smackdown Six” era, would actually end up losing his first shot at the Cruiserweight title in WWE at WrestleMania, when many assumed he should have won.
9. Edge, WrestleMania XV
Unlike later WrestleManias, where he would be part of some of the most memorable ladder matches in history, the Rated R Superstar’s first WrestleMania appearance wasn’t actually a match, but it was so ridiculous that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make fun of it one more time. The match we’re talking about is one of the worst in WrestleMania history, with The Undertaker facing The Big Boss Man inside Hell in a Cell, at the height of the silliness surrounding the Ministry of Darkness. The match by itself was atrocious, but it’s the post-match shenanigans that are simultaneously what everyone likes to talk about, and what WWE will never, ever reference. After The Undertaker’s inevitable victory, his newly acquired minions in the The Brood (consisting of Gangrel, Edge, and Christian), actually rappelled from the rafters and dropped a noose through the roof of the Cell, allowing The Undertaker to literally hang the Big Boss Man by his neck. Of course, this is wrestling, so despite having the life choked out of him, the Boss Man’s condition was upgraded to “alive” for Raw the next night. Remember, a large portion of the Attitude Era was actually terrible, we just didn’t notice because of Austin.
8. Razor Ramon, WrestleMania IX
A year later, Ramon would be having one of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history, the first ever ladder match against Shawn Michaels, but at WrestleMania IX, he defeated Bob Backlund in a short squash match that absolutely nobody remembers even happening. Given that WrestleMania IX is regarded as one of the worst Pay Per Views in history, that’s actually probably a blessing. Some would point out that Backlund was a former WWE Champion, and that’s probably the reasoning behind the match even taking place, but Backlund was not even close to relevant at this point, and would remain that way until briefly making a shocking return to importance as the heel Mr. Bob Backlund character that got him another brief WWE Title reign as a transitional champion from Bret Hart to Diesel. It was almost certainly intended to be a feather in Ramon’s cap, but given that he’d already had a WWE Title shot at the Royal Rumble (the only one he’d actually end up getting in his career), this was a definite slide down the ladder for the Bad Guy.
7. Shawn Michaels, Wrestlemania V
For all he wants to lay claim to the title of “Mr. WrestleMania”, Shawn Michaels’ debut on the grandest stage of them all was fairly inauspicious, as The Rockers, his tag team with Marty Jannetty, played rag dolls for the team of Akeem and The Big Boss Man (known as the Twin Towers, a name that probably won’t ever get mentioned again), who were mostly notable at that point for being the opponents when the Megapowers exploded, leading to WrestleMania V’s main event. The Rockers were actually setting the world on fire at that point, in a big feud with The Brainbusters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard) that led to some excellent matches, including a series of Iron Man matches that were never recorded and might as well have been erased from history. In fact, there are stories that those matches were so good that the Rockers and Brainbusters got in some amount of trouble for “showing up” the established main eventers. Whatever the case, while their match against Akeem and Boss Man wasn’t a squash by any measure, the Rockers were still established as being lower in the pecking order.
6. Bret Hart, WrestleMania 2
Much like Michaels, Hart’s humble beginnings in a tag team that would later go on to great things, but initially was just another team (albeit one with big future plans), meant that his WrestleMania debut was never going to be a big deal. In fact, as debuts go, being the last man eliminated in a featured battle royal isn’t the worst position in the world. That said, Hart being last was basically just a way for the winner, Andre The Giant, to look impressive by eliminating both members of a tag team for the victory. Hart, and his partner Jim Neidhart, were just in the position of “right place, right time”, as the story of the match was built around Andre’s dominance of battle royals, and the involvement of NFL stars, notably William “Refrigerator” Perry, who would look impressive and teased a feud with Big John Studd after getting unfairly eliminated. By the next WrestleMania, however, The Hart Foundation would be WWE Tag Team Champions, facing their eternal foes, The British Bulldogs, in a far higher position on the card.
5. Eddie Guerrero, WrestleMania 2000
Eddie Guerrero’s WWE debut, mere weeks before WrestleMania, was pretty much a disaster from his first match, when he dislocated his shoulder performing his signature Frog Splash, and the entire Radicalz faction aside from Chris Benoit was mostly pushed aside after their initial splash sent shockwaves through wrestling. That’s not to say they weren’t still a big deal, and while their opponents in this match, Chyna and Too Cool, might seem like punchlines to a joke right now, they were literally some of the hottest acts in the company in 2000. That said, this match was mostly meaningless and a way to get all six participants on the card, and was more about getting Chyna a big WrestleMania win (which she did, pinning Guerrero) than anything else. It did establish one important thing, however, as during a pre-match promo Eddie started insisting that Chyna was actually in love with him. One night later on Raw, Chyna would turn on Chris Jericho, handing Eddie the European title and creating the “Latino Heat” character that Eddie would refine into one that would become a future WWE Champion.
4. The Undertaker, WrestleMania VII
When The Undertaker’s matches at WrestleMania are mentioned, everyone talks about the glory of The Streak. The incredible matches with Shawn Michaels and Triple H. The shockingly great bouts with Diesel, Ric Flair, and Randy Orton. And in addition to the matches, people remember the increasingly elaborate entrances for the Dead Man, as much a part of his WrestleMania legacy as his insurmountable record. But at his first WrestleMania, The Streak didn’t exist, and wouldn’t for many years, and The Undertaker was just a rookie (admittedly, a rookie who was becoming an increasingly hot prospect, but a rookie nonetheless) making his WrestleMania debut in a meaningless squash match against Jimmy Snuka. There was no pageantry, no spectacle, just a quick and decisive victory. It’s an important part of history, the answer to a wrestling trivia question that fewer people will remember as years go by, and when the full history of The Undertaker’s legacy is written, the match which started The Streak will be nothing more than a statistic, the first one in the Win column.
3. Steve Austin, WrestleMania XII
Everyone remembers Austin’s match with Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13, which left Austin both a bloody mess and the undisputed biggest star in the company, but far fewer will recall his WrestleMania debut a year earlier, still under the bland “Ringmaster” gimmick, stuck in a seemingly never-ending feud with Savio Vega, Caribbean non-Legend. Honestly, the Vega-Austin series of matches weren’t terrible, with a Caribbean Strap Match they’d have later in the year actually being really good, but neither man had anything resembling a character that the crowds cared even a little bit about. Austin was also still shackled to Ted DiBiase’s Corporation (although he was pretty much the only member at this point), which mostly meant that the charismatic Austin wasn’t getting a chance to actually talk. Fortunately, shortly after WrestleMania, Austin would ditch DiBiase and the Ringmaster name, becoming “Stone Cold” Steve Austin just in time for a King of the Ring victory that would change the wrestling world forever.
2. The Rock, WrestleMania 13
You would think entering your first WrestleMania as Intercontinental Champion and successfully defending your title with the help of your Hall of Fame father might be considered a memorable moment, and it was, but for all the wrong reasons. Part of that would be Rocky Maivia’s opponent for that evening, The Sultan, who was actually the man eventually known as Rikishi doing a terrible masked foreigner gimmick that vanished as quickly as it appeared, and who was a terrible opponent for someone as relatively inexperienced as Maivia was at the time. The other part, which The Rock himself has openly discussed as basically being the low point of his career, was that we were neck-deep into the backlash against the third generation blue chipper and his terribly bland gimmick, with “Die, Rocky, Die” chants ringing through arenas around the country, including this match. What was intended to be a shining moment for one of WWE’s biggest prospects ended up being a night that he would just rather forget. The good news is, after this match, Maivia would start on the path that would lead to him becoming The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment.
1. Triple H, WrestleMania XII
Ah yes, the WrestleMania debut Triple H can never live down, no matter how many titles he wins, or how many wrestling companies he ends up running, or…okay, actually, he’s pretty much risen above this match, which was actually part of his punishment for the infamous MSG Incident that led to him losing a whole lot of matches for most of 1996. In case you didn’t know about this match (and given that WrestleMania XII was dominated by a 60-minute Iron Man match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, a lot of people don’t even remember that there were other matches on the card), this was the Ultimate Warrior’s heavily hyped return to WWE, which would last all of a few months before he started no-showing events and disappeared again. Due to WWE radically changing their public views on Warrior over the years, there are two sides to the story of this match. In one version, Warrior didn’t want to listen to any of Triple H’s ideas and insisted on the match being a short squash where Warrior completely no-sold a Pedigree (the first and absolute last time that would ever happen). In more recent times, with Warrior now a Hall of Famer and cherished Legend, it was a learning experience for Triple H and one of the biggest honors of his career. Either way, Triple H’s WrestleMania debut involved him getting treated like a jobber at the biggest show of the year.