Coming Soon: A Sweet 16 of the Longest Debut Vignettes

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Since Rock N’ Wrestling combined in the early 1980’s, pro wrestling has used video vignettes to hype up debuting or returning performers, mostly in larger televised promotions like the WWE, WCW and Impact Wrestling. Sometimes, they’re intriguing concepts that draw you into a debut, sometimes they’re more confusing and off putting than if they’d just debuted naturally. Ever since the early April Superstar Shake Up in the WWE this year, we’ve been seeing vignettes teasing the Smackdown Live arrival of “The Ravishing Russian” Lana, in what appears to be a singles character removed from Rusev, and presumably as a singles wrestler in Smackdown’s Women’s Division. But after the fizzle of Emmalina still fresh in our minds, it’s not unreasonable to see why the WWE Universe is approaching this with jaded anticipation and why it feels like it’s already been five months of vignettes (it’s been just over a month).

But unlike like Lana’s five week series of pretty much the same vignette, there have been much much longer build-ups for characters in the WWE Universe history books. While there were some trailblazing ones that introduced the likes of Mr. Perfect in the late 80’s WWF, or Edge and Val Venis in the Attitude Era, these vignettes only ran for three or four weeks until they debuted – granted, there was also some similarly lengthed set ups for Mordecai, Waylon Mercy and Adam Rose that had less than legendary marks on the industry.

Here’s a look at fifteen of the longest running vignettes – from initial vignette to actual televised debut (often, these characters would debut weeks earlier on Live Events) – all of which are around the two months mark. Some of them introduced some legendary Superstars. Many were just legendary failures.

HONORABLE MENTION

THE WYATT FAMILY, 43 days
May 27, 2013 to July 8, 2013

The Wyatt Family was a slow morphing group in NXT, starting originally with Bray Wyatt and his right hand man, Eli Cottonwood. Cottonwood wouldn’t last long and he was soon replaced by Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, capturing the NXT Tag Team titles. On May 27, 2013, vignettes began to appear on WWE television to signal the imminent arrival of NXT’s twisted cult of Wyatt. It was just over a month a half but man, did it start something cool.

THE SWEET 16

BRODUS CLAY, 49 days
November 7, 2011 to January 9, 2012

In late 2011, the WWE started airing vignettes hyping the re-debut of a wrecking machine named Brodus Clay. He’d appeared briefly months prior as a lackey for Alberto Del Rio, but he was being redesigned as a singles wrestler. For nearly two months, they showcased this manbeast only to debut him as a completely different character altogether. In one of the oddest uses of vignette promos, somewhere along the way they changed his direction and hoped we wouldn’t notice.

RAZOR RAMON, 54 days*
June ??, 1992 to August 8, 1992

For the entire summer of 1992, the WWF showed vignettes announcing the arrival of a Cuban wrestler named Razor Ramon. Vignettes showing the tough talking, street hustler dripping with machismo hyped the debut of one of the biggest stars of the 1990’s, Razor Ramon, to the WWF Universe. He would find even further success under his real name, Scott Hall, in the nWo and WCW afterwards, but his Hall of Fame career got its first real mainstream success in June of 1992, following years in early WCW and the AWA.

CHRIS JERICHO: Y2J COUNTDOWN, 56 days*
June ??, 1999 to August 9, 1999

Beginning in June of 1999, as the world began to really get panicky about what may or may not happen when the computer calendars all switched to 2000, the WWF began to air a strange millennium clock that began to countdown for weeks on end. Finally on August 9, 1999, the clock struck zero – it wasn’t counting down to the actual millennium, it was to introduce one of the greatest Superstars of the Millennium, former WCW star Chris Jericho to the WWE Universe.

GOLDUST, 57 days
August 27, 1995 to October 22, 1995

In August of 1995, the WWF was reeling from its exodus of 80’s Superstars to WCW and were willing to try anything to attract the younger audience. From pushing younger stars like Shawn Michaels and Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart to creating such odd gimmicks as Mantaur and The Goon, the WWF was still trying to find it’s new “attitude” in the New Generation. One such unlikely character was the Bizarre One, the film fetish oddity of the man known as Goldust. For two months, a series of sinister film reviews and vignettes began to appear on Monday Night Raw, leading up to his WWF debut at the end of October. With his recent heel turn on Raw, seemingly returning to the film obsessed heel that he began with, Dustin Rhodes will mark the 27th anniversary of the Goldust character. An incredibly feat with a gimmick character (only The Undertaker had more successful longevity).

ALBERTO DEL RIO, 57 days
June 25, 2010 to August 20, 2010

In the summer of 2010, the WWE looked to expand on its Latino fan base and went after one of Mexico’s biggest stars, Dos Caras Jr, a masked Lucha Libre superstar from CMLL and AAA, who was part of Lucha royalty – his father was Dos Caras and his uncle was WWE Hall of Famer Mil Mascaras. First thing WWE did was remove his mask and change his name and for two months, a series of vignettes hyping the debut of the Mexican aristocrat Alberto Del Rio began to air on Smackdown.

CHRIS JERICHO: IT BEGINS, 58 days
November 5, 2012 to January 2, 2012

One of the coolest build ups with a weak pay off, Chris Jericho’s third “debut” with the WWE (following his Countdown Clock and SAVE_US) came three years after his last departure in 2009 with a series of doomsday prophecy Omen style vignettes that promised a day of reckoning on January 2, 2012. When the day came, Chris Jericho returned to a thunderous ovation – that quickly turned awkward and unsettlingly when Jericho said nothing at all and just walked down the ramp, around the ring, and then back up the ring and left, all in complete silence with a big smile on his face.

CHRIS JERICHO: SAVE_US, 59 days
September 24, 2007 to November 19, 2007

In September of 2007, a bizarre almost “Anonymous”-like series of coding began to mysteriously hack into the WWE TitanTron and give coding that began to reveal codes. SAVE_US was a two month campaign that ultimately unravelled to reveal the return of Chris Jericho to the WWE Universe after being away from wrestling for two years. Jericho sure loves his dramatic entrances.

MANKIND, 75 days*
January ??, 1996 to April 1, 1996

In early 1996, the WWF began to air vignettes for what appeared to be a faceless demented lunatic with a squeaky, unhinged voice claiming to have finally “found a home”. Showing only shadows of a face – and a mangled ear – only the diehards knew it was hardcore icon Cactus Jack about to emerge onto the WWF landscape, as the masked terror Mankind.

KIZARNY, 85 days
October 10, 2008 to January 2, 2009

Another three month reign of vignettes on Smackdown hyped the arrival of a strange character known as Kizarny. He spoke in “carny talk” and hinted at a dark and twisted trickster waiting to unleash his madness in the WWE. He debuted in January and quickly beat MVP in his debut, but the creative wheels fell of and he was released in early March. His vignettes lasted longer than he did. He’s since become a fixture on the indie circuit as Sinn Bodhi, running Freakshow Wrestling in Las Vegas.

THE BOOGEYMAN, 87 days
July 11, 2005 to October 13, 2005

In July of 2005, the WWE began to air creepy horror style vignettes promoting the arrival of a demonic monster calling himself The Boogeyman. Initially starting on Raw, it switched to Smackdown weeks later, before ultimately debuting in October of 2005. He then began to hide around backstage and scare other Superstars, getting under the skin. It wouldn’t be until December of 2005, nearly four months after the first vignette, that he would make his in-ring debut, facing Simon Dean on Smackdown in a squash match.

FANDANGO, 89 days
November 5, 2012 to February 28, 2013

In November of 2012, NXT wrestler Johnny Curtis was repackaged as a dancer named Fandango with mysterious musical vignettes beginning to hype his debut. His face would appear in later promos, but we wouldn’t see him debut on the WWE stage until February 28 of 2013, when he would arrive on Raw at the end of February. While his career fizzled after his debut match at WrestleMania 29 where he pinned Chris Jericho, he’s seeing a resurgence with the rising popularity of his tag team Breezango with Tyler Breeze and their “Fashion Files” series.

OUTBACK JACK, 94 days
November 6, 1986 to February 7, 1987

With Crocodile Dundee a hot commodity at the box office in the late 80’s, the WWF looked to capitalize on the Australian craze with the addition of their own rugged Aussie figure and it came in Outback Jack. For months, WWF hyped up this Aussie tough guy, but after three months of vignettes, his career lasted only marginally longer. He beat a few jobbers before scoring singles wins over Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, but by the summer of 1987 he was a jobber himself and by 1988 was out of the company.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCB2KOkM-Ds

EMMALINA, 134 days
October 3, 2016 to February 13, 2017

After a failed call-up to the main roster from NXT where her red hot dancing gimmick was super over but failed to translate on the bigger stage, Emma re-invented herself as “evil Emma”, pairing with Dana Brooke, in a second go-around NXT. Her second call-up, alongside Brooke, was heavily anticipated, but Emma was hurt early on and out of action for months. On October of last year, her return from injury was announced with the notice she was being recreated and repackaged as Emmalina. In what became a running joke, Emmalina’s vignettes went on for over four months, until she finally appeared on Raw‘s stage in mid-February of this year, only to announce she was just kidding and she would back next week as simply Emma. And sadly, she got hurt again. Hopefully she’s back soon and better than ever.

GLACIER, 148 days
April ??, 1996 to September 9, 1996

Okay, so this is from WCW. But we did say in the WWE Universe, and since WWE know owns the kayfabe history of WCW, Glacier is now a part of WWE Universe lore – kinda like how DC bought out Fawcett Comics to acquire Captain Marvel (Shazam). But I digress. In April of 1996, WCW began to air vignettes hyping the debut of a new character clearly based on Mortal Kombat, named Glacier. Glacier had been pencilled to debut at Bash of the Beach that year, but at the last minute, a little angle called the nWo with Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash erupted and his debut was put on hiatus. He eventually made his debut in September – after five months of waiting – and failed to make the splash WCW had hoped for. Although his return to wrestling at Joey Janela’s Spring Break event over WrestleMania weekend was GREAT.

BRAKUS, 273 days
June ??, 1997 to Mar 17, 1998

But the longest debuting series of vignettes for a WWE Superstar just happens to coincide for one of the biggest bombs of a WWE Superstar – the bodybuilder brute known simply as Brakus. Brakus was poised to become a big star – at least that was the WWF’s hope early into the Attitude Era. But he was still incredibly green, so while his vignettes were airing on WWE television, he was sent to work in ECW and work on his ring skills. He finally made his WWE debut on Shotgun Saturday Night on St. Patrick’s Day in 1998…and lost to Goldust. He didn’t last much longer.

What other promo vignettes did you enjoy, lengthy or otherwise? Let us know in the comments below!

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Main Photo: WWE

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