Star Making Role: Professional Wrestling

While many pro wrestlers find a successful gimmick (if they're lucky) and use it for the duration of their career (if they're not Mick Foley) there is such a phenomenon as a star-making match. A sub-trope, but probably not enough of one for its own page.
  • Hulk Hogan: He was already a big-time wrestling star for the Midwest-based American Wrestling Association, thanks to his prolific role in the movie Rocky III. But the match that catapulted him into superstardom was his legendary match January 23, 1984, at New York's Madison Square Garden, where he defeated hated Iranian wrestler The Iron Sheik to win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. The match broadcast live on the USA Network, allowing the nation to witness the birth of Hulkamania and see an American capture a huge victory over someone from one of the United States' most hated enemies, Iran.
    • If that wasn't big, then his WrestleMania III bout with André the Giant would be the one that catapulted him, and pro wrestling in general, to international stardom.
    • Also from WrestleMania III: Ricky Steamboat and the late Randy Savage's WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight Title match was a landmark for showcasing that smaller wrestlers with tight work could steal the show and carry a crowd. It's frequently cited as one of the greatest matches of all time, and some aficionados say it's better than Hogan/Andre.
  • For Sting, it's his match against Ric Flair at the very first Clash of the Champions in 1988 that lasted 45 minutes and ended in a time limit draw.
  • Though a regional and territorial star for years, Ric Flair's breakout match on the national stage was the legendary "I Quit" match against Terry Funk at NWA Clash of the Champions IX in November 1989. Because fans hadn't evolved to the "smark" stage yet and weren't entirely in on the choreographed nature of the sport, Funk didn't come out of this match looking as good as Flair did with the fans. However, it got him over with other wrestlers and many cite this as one of their favorite matches.
  • The Undertaker had three: His debut at Survivor Series 1990, him defeating Hulk Hogan for the WWE title a year later or beating Jimmy Snuka at WrestleMania VII to start a historic streak.
  • Shawn Michaels' Wrestlemania X effort in a Ladder Match against Razor Ramon (Scott Hall), who sadly could never quite capitalize on his own momentum largely due to personal problems, or this might have been a double-sided SMR.
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin first got over with his King of the Ring win in 1996, but it was his submission match at WrestleMania 13 with Bret Hart that solidified his standing.
  • Diamond Dallas Page started off as a generic upper midcard heel that few, if any people cared about. Then he made a Heel-Face Turn in January 1997 by standing up to the nWo and feuding with Randy Savage, which was voted "Feud of the Year" by PWI and cemented Page as the company's 3rd biggest babyface (behind Sting and Goldberg).
  • For The Rock, it's either his Reality Subtext fueled Take That, Audience! promo right after his initial Face-Heel Turn of 97 or his "I Quit" match against Mankind in Royal Rumble 1999.
  • Goldberg's career STARTED this way. After having worked some non-televised matches, he made his surprise TV debut on the September 22, 1997 episode of WCW Monday Nitro against Hugh Morrus, where he became the first wrestler to kick out of Morrus' Finishing Move No Laughing Matter en route to winning the match. EVERYBODY was talking about Goldberg after that.
  • For Kane, it's either his debut when he interfered in the match between Taker and HBK, his Inferno match with Taker, or winning the WWE title from Stone Cold at King of the Ring 1998.
  • Mick Foley's Hell In A Cell match with The Undertaker at King of the Ring 1998, possibly for all the wrong reasons.
  • Speaking of double-sided Star Making Matches and ladders, The Hardy Boyz and Edge and Christian broke out over a series of Ladder Matches against one another, started by an outstanding effort at No Mercy 1999. The whole Hardyz/E&C feud is a Crowning Series of Awesome for all four men.
  • Triple H escaped his past as Shawn Michaels' sidekick after his feud and retiring of Mick Foley in 2000.
  • In October of 2001, All Pro Wrestling held its second "King of Indies" tournament, which ended up not only being a star making role for the winner, American Dragon, but for the US independent circuit as a whole, which for most of its history following the death of the territorial system, had been increasingly ignored. Granted, "star making" meant "look at all that talent I can take" rather than business booming for said independent promotions but the resulting success of most who were simply associated with the event such as Samoa Joe, Low Ki, Bison Smith, AJ Styles, Spanky, Donovan Morgan, Doug Williams, Adam Pierce, Scoot Andrews, Frankie Kazarian and Super Dragon is still something to behold. The founding fathers of Ring of Honor, of TNA's X Division, title runs in the Japanese majors of the time (New Japan Pro Wrestling, All Japan, Pro Wrestling NOAH, Pro Wrestling Zero 1), helped bring life back into the NWA, ect. Dragon himself would become the most over wrestler of the US since "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to the point WWE couldn't successfully bury him. Christopher Daniels, who already kind of was a star thanks to ECW and WCW, raised his profile in the previous KOI.
  • Jeff Hardy became more of a legitimate Single Eventer after his praised ladder match with The Undertaker in 2002. Later in 2008, his feud with Triple H cemented his new found Main Event Status.
  • Brock Lesnar pretty much became a legend after defeating The Rock at SummerSlam 2002 to be the then youngest WWE Champion in history.
  • John Cena had two: His TV debut on Smackdown against Kurt Angle and his Parking Lot Brawl against Eddie Guerrero.
  • The purpose of CMLL's "Torneo Gran Alternativa" has always been to create a new star by pairing them alongside an established one and they really hit gold in 2004, or rather, silver and gold, when El Hijo del Santo won the event with Místico, who would become not only the company's top draw, not only Mexico's biggest box office draw, but the most consistent draw of the decade.
  • Dark Angel relocated to Monterrey for the purpose of becoming a better wrestler and initially struggled with Mexico's style of lucha libre but in 2004 it paid off in a 45 minute mask vs mask match against Pricesa Sugehit that left her barefaced and bloody but started her on the road to stardom when CMLL decided was going to revive it's women's division and wanted them both to be a part of it. The match undoubtedly helped Sugehit too but she had been on AAA cards for years while Stock's bookings there had taken a nosedive after one, making her benefit a lot more obvious.
  • Edge's big break as a singles competitor came upon winning Money In The Bank and later cashing in on a bloodied John Cena.
  • CM Punk had been an indy darling for years but stagnated in WWE. Towards the end of a six year contract, facing an uncertain future, Punk grabbed a microphone and dropped a legendary worked shoot promo three weeks before Money in the Bank 2011. He went on to win the WWE Championship Title from John Cena at the event and solidified himself as a major star. (He probably would have left the company for real had he not cut that promo.) Nearly a year later, after several high-profile matches with some of WWE's top stars, a lengthy WWE title reign, a stellar program with the legendary Chris Jericho, and a WrestleMania main event match one could argue he became one of the the biggest stars in the business.