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Star Making Role / Professional Wrestling

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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.
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    • Also from WrestleMania III: Ricky Steamboat and the late Randy Savage's WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight Title match was a landmark for both competitors, 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 generally agreed to be 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.
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  • 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 and subsequent Heel–Face Turn that solidified his standing.
  • Diamond Dallas Page started off as a generic 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).
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  • 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 with and retiring of Mick Foley in 2000. If you're looking for a specific match, it was the street fight at the Royal Rumble, still to this day considered by many to be the best match Triple H has ever been in.
  • 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 Pearce, 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 ZERO1), helped bring life back into the NWA, etc. American 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.
  • Dru Onyx and Fergal Devitt established themselves as stars after their championship match for the British Commonwealth belt at the 57th NWA anniversary show in October of 2005, which earned both an invitation to the Inoki Dojo. New Japan ended up not signing Onyx but Devitt would establish two successful tag teams in the junior heavyweight division with Minoru Tanaka and Ryusuke Taguchi, as well as found Bullet Club.
  • Edge had already built up quite the midcard following thanks to the above mentioned three-way feud between him and Christian, the Hardy Boys, and the Dudley Boys in the early 2000s, but most people didn't take him seriously as a main event talent, even after winning his first WWE title at New Year's Revolution 2006. He didn't get his big break as a singles competitor until he and Mick Foley put on a brutal hardcore match at WrestleMania 22.
  • CM Punk had been an indy darling for years (mostly known for his "Straight Edge" gimmick being unique in the pro wrestling landscape) 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.
  • Ring of Honor had been uncharacteristically pushing Michael Elgin as increasingly Noble Top Enforcer for the House Of Truth, generally squashing most of their "opposition"(hopeless locals not even expecting to see him due to Truth Martini paying off their opponents to let Elgin take their place) but then in early 2012 came a joint venture with Dragon Gate USA and Ring Warriors where Elgin and Davey Richards unexpectedly tore the house down and stole the show, catapulting Elgin into the main event. He'd have another at the 2015 G1 Climax against Kazuchika Okada, which established him as a star in New Japan and lead to him being picked up by Liga Elite and CMLL the next year.
  • Sometimes, losing a match could be the best thing to ever happen to your career, as Daniel Bryan found out at WrestleMania 28 after an 18-second loss against Sheamus. While he was an independent legend beforehand and his NXT angle was very well-received, after that squashing, he quickly became one of the most popular wrestlers on the roster.
  • AJ Lee's big star-making moment was, well, her being Daniel Bryan's valet during his World Heavyweight Championship run.
  • Paul Heyman had been a wrestling reporter creative personality and an announcer for years, but he credits the Dangerous Alliance with putting him on the map.
  • Lucha Underground has had a few:
    • Mil Muertes was already a made man from his debut, but when he feuded with Fenix over the affections of Catrina, culminating in the literally murderous Grave Consequences match, it raised his stock considerably (or at least raised anticipation for his return) and made Fenix one of the top stars in the promotion. And when his return led to a death match where he destroyed Fenix, he solidified himself as one of the most terrifying men in all of wrestling.
    • Pentagon Jr. started out as just one of multiple masked wrestlers and fell into being a flunky for Chavo Guerrero Jr., but after Chavo turned on him at Aztec Warfare he found a "Master" and started breaking the arms of jobbers, causing people to really sit up and start to take notice. His subsequent feud culminating in a brutal hardcore match against wrestling legend Vampiro at Ultima Lucha made him for life, particularly with The Reveal that Vampiro was his master all along. Now he's LU champion.
    • Drago's five match series with Aerostar for the first of Dario Cueto's "unique opportunities" put both men on the map, for Aerostar's incredible high-flying ability and Drago's peerless psychology.
    • Matanza's shocking debut as the 21st man in Aztec Warfare 2 was instantly hailed as the greatest Wrestling Monster debut since Kane. With the ring still full of competitors, they all tried to gang up on the monstrous newcomer and bury him at once, but instead he single-handedly destroyed everyone, starting by eliminating then-champion Fenix with one move, and finishing by annihilating the legendary and also-debuting Rey Mysterio Jr. to win the Lucha Underground Championship in his first match, which still didn't feel rushed because it was obvious he was that devastating.
    • Marty "the Moth" Martinez had faced a slow climb from Joke Character to a heel that people could take seriously during his Season 2 feud with his sister Mariposa against the pair of Sexy Star and The Mack, but it was when he moved on to feud with Killshot that he really proved his mettle. The Weapons of Mass Destruction match early in Season 3 guaranteed that nobody would think of the Moth as a joke ever again, and it made a star out of Killshot too.
    • Speaking of Killshot, he came out of his feud with Marty looking great, but his subsequent feud with debuting embittered former friend Dante Fox elevated him to the next level. But that's nothing compared to how it made Fox look. The culmination of the feud at Ultima Lucha Tres stole not only the show but almost the entire season, and made Fox in particular look like the next big thing. Indeed, both men joined with The Mack to capture the Trios belts only two weeks later.


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