For wrestling fans, memorable debuts are what separates wrestlers from legends. For most of the people who have entered the WWE Hall of Fame, each of them can be attached to either an unforgettable WWE debut, return, or match. For former ECW Champion Taz, his WWE career started at the 2000 Royal Rumble match.
During this time, Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle was leaving a noticeable impression to WWE fans, bragging about his “3 I’s” — Intensity, Integrity, and Intelligence. At the Royal Rumble, Angle cut a promo to try to get in the head of his mystery opponent. Suddenly, the beats commenced, the music hit, and Taz (as Tazz) entered the Madison Square Garden donning his trademarked towel over his head. A little over three minutes later in the opening match, Tazz defeated Angle via his Kata ha jime “Tazmission” submission hold.
In a recent interview on the Talk is Jericho podcast with Chris Jericho, Taz shared that this moment was both the best and worst moment of his career. It was the best moment due to the reaction that he received despite not having a universal recognition outside of the cult following of ECW. He also realized how much he underestimated this following, as he had a discussion with Bruce Prichard behind the curtains, and Prichard confirmed that he was widely recognized when the music hit and titantron showed his face.
However, Taz also shared that this was the worst moment of his career, for a few reasons. One of these reasons is because, during his thunderous reaction, he realized that Vince McMahon would most likely strip him down in order to rid him of his popularity built from another company. Another reason stemmed from a suplex he executed on Angle during the match.
“What happened was, when I grabbed Kurt [Angle], he popped up and I put him back down… I would always say to guys, ‘let me control you, I’ll protect you.’ Kurt was just, we didn’t know each other that well in the ring… and I knew the timing was way off. And I knew, if I went through with that throw, he was gonna get hurt. I knew it. I put him back down, and then did the throw.”
Taz added, “that little hiccup freaked out the boss,” and his people that were close to him. He also stated that when he first met Vince, it was at a hotel because he wanted to keep it private so no one knew. The only other person there was Vince Russo. The deal was done in only about 10 minutes, but he and Vince talked for over an hour and formed a good relationship.
However, Taz still had reservations about whether he could still exemplify the character that helped make ECW so successful during their seven-year stint. Ultimately, Taz realized that Vince had a different direction with his character, which did not pan out as expected.