“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” That’s been a mantra in wrestling for a long time as many times promoters have copied past acts for inspiration. Hulk Hogan has openly acknowledged taking a lot of his ideas for his persona from Superstar Billy Graham just as Ric Flair was modeled after Buddy Rogers. It counts for matches and angles as well, promotions copying one another constantly. Sometimes, it can surprisingly work; Demolition was an obvious rip-off of The Road Warriors but more than succeeded well. However, quite often, the rip-offs are not that good and come off downright horrible. Many times, promoters have tried to replicate Montreal but failed as you can’t copy a moment so real.
WCW and WWE would rip each other off a lot but TNA has also done a lot off of both companies. It’s character, angles, matches and more and almost never is it in a good way. So many times, it’s taking off something that was pushed by a truly gifted performer and you can’t replicate that. There’s also events products of their time and likewise can’t be copied years later. Here are 10 of the most pathetic attempts to rip off something from WWE and 10 from WCW to showcase how rarely you can win twice and that success is a tricky thing in wrestling.
20 Ripoff Of WWE: Oklahoma
This was not just a rip-off but totally insulting to boot. During their time in WWE, Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara clashed with Jim Ross a lot as JR was not a fan of their wilder work. When the duo went to WCW, they decided to take a major shot at Ross. Enter Ferrara as “Oklahoma,” dressed as Ross and mocking his voice in over the top commentary. Rather than be funny, however, it was horrible as he also mocked Ross’ cerebral palsy and even drinking. Making it worse was long-time Ross friend Steve “Dr. Death” Williams as his sidekick protecting him.
Russo kept it up, even Ferrara wrestling at times and mocking Ross totally. Ross was incensed by this, hating the whole thing and a reason he despises Russo to this day for a rip-off that was also a personal rip on too many levels.
19 Ripoff Of WCW: Gimmick Battle Royals
Before the Royal Rumble, WCW was doing their spin on the battle royal in unique ways. The Bunkhouse Stampede had guys in street clothes and even using weapons with the big finale being a unique steel cage battle royal. They also had World War 3 of 60 guys in 3 rings that was impressive. BattleBowl was a unique take of 20 guys (after winning tag matches) tossing from one ring to another then outside. Complex but still inventive.
Sadly, TNA tried to take that “uniqueness” and created one of the absolute worst matches ever seen. The Reverse battle Royal had guys on the outside and having to fight their way in with the idea of men somehow unable to complete one of the most basic bits of wrestling. When enough guys were in, they then fought to throw each other right back out. It was hailed as horrible and minus multiple stars in reviews to show how badly they could turn any gimmick into a mess.
18 Ripoff Of WWE: Trying To Find The Next Rock
The Rock is an icon in the business. Fans loved his promos, his charisma and Dwayne Johnson would use that for his later stardom in movies. He was a huge deal in his prime so it was only natural WCW would try to copy him. A big thing was Juventud Guerrera boasting as “The Rock of Mexico” using the same moves from People’s Elbow to the Rock Bottom. This seemed like a shot on Rock dismissing him in an interview and a bit entertaining but not worth the time.
Also, WCW clearly wanted Booker T to be The Rock with The Bookend an obvious take on the Rock bottom and his promos. Booker was great in the ring but hampered and it was called on when he confronted The Rock in 2001 who responded “Who in the blue hell are you?” The fact is there is only one Rock and anyone trying to copy him is in for a bad time.
17 Ripoff Of WCW: WWE's Light Heavyweight Division
Even WWE gives WCW major props for the Cruiserweight division. Eric Bischoff was smart getting together slews of high-flying guys from Mexico and Japan and putting them together to wow fans. Soon, the Cruiserweight title was a big deal for guys who couldn’t make it as heavyweights and fans loved watching their battles on Nitro.
WWE tried to replicate that in 1997 but it suffered as the really great light heavyweights were already in WCW. An episode of the “Monday Night War” series openly explored that, many in WWE admitting it was the company obsessed with bigger guys and just not wanting to give the smaller guys their due.
WWE did have a Cruiserweight division in the 2000s and has been rebuilding it with 205 Live. But their first attempt just paled next to WCW, the rare time that company had the better edge.
16 Ripoff Of WWE: TNA's Feast or Fired
Money in the Bank was a genius move by WWE. A ladder match for a briefcase allowing someone to get a title shot anytime they wanted. It took off with the sensational ladder battles leading to its own PPV. The “cash-ins” are always dramatic and lead to great bits and there’s even been one for the women. TNA’s attempt to replicate that is…mixed. There are four briefcases on poles which can only be opened by specific keys. Three have contracts for shots at the World, tag team or X Division titles and the fourth has a pink slip.
Thus the idea of guys battling it out with one having a one-in-four chance of getting fired. The “cash-ins” are very blatant with the cases and TNA messes it up by having them traded around. It really is one of the more obvious takes on a WWE thing and not nearly as fun to show how second-rate TNA can be.
15 Ripoff Of WCW: Crimson Going On An Undefeated Streak
Many a promotion has tried to replicate Goldberg. But TNA really thought they had it with Crimson. Debuting in 2010, he was an impressive guy and TNA pushed him hard with victory after victory. He worked with Kurt Angle, bouncing between heel and face and TNA making a huge deal out of him. The problem was that on his own, he was dull and sloppy and not good on the mic. He and Matt Morgan won the tag titles as TNA continued to push Crimson as this amazing monster but fans just didn’t take to him. He finally had his undefeated streak snapped at 470 days by James Storm and sunk badly afterward. He had a stint in OVW but faded and hasn’t done much since. Crimson stands as how you can’t just give anyone an undefeated streak and think they’re Goldberg; he was one of a kind.
14 Ripoff Of WWE: Dixie Carter Playing The Stephanie McMahon Role
When Dixie Carter took control of TNA, she stayed out of the limelight mostly. She had a few bits here and there such as addressing the roster before taking an on-camera role. At first, she was a face with stuff like tricked by Hogan and Bischoff into giving up control of the company and later fighting them. In 2014, Dixie went heel and pushed herself as a power-hungry owner trying to hurt others. This was obviously a take on The Authority and Dixie trying to be as detestable as Stephanie.
The problem was that Dixie’s acting made Linda McMahon look like Meryl Streep. She was flat and dull and clearly thinking herself a bigger deal with crowds. When Hogan left, she was literally clinging to his legs, hardly an impressive heel. It was completely stupid and showed as it just shows yet again how TNA can’t match WWE.
13 Ripoff Of WCW: The New Midnight Express
While they got their start in Mid-South, the Midnight Express took off under Jim Crockett and then WCW. Originally, Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey were good together. In 1987, Condrey left and was replaced by Stan Lane and the team was even better, holding the US and World tag titles. Of course, they had Jim Cornette as their mouthpiece and manager to help out with his trusty tennis racket.
In 1998, WWE put together Bob Holly and Bart Gunn under Cornette as a new version of The Express. This was under a partnership with the NWA and while both men were champions with other partners, they just didn’t gel together. Cornette hated the entire thing, feeling it was an insult to his prized team and has slammed it constantly. It shows you can’t put the Express on just anyone to rise up.
12 Ripoff Of WWE: Buzzkill
Brian Armstrong had been bouncing around WWE for a while with a slew of bad gimmicks. He finally clicked on Road Dogg and joined with Billy Gunn as a team. Shocking everyone by winning the tag titles, The New Age Outlaws were soon the hottest team around with their fantastic opening promo and good ring work.
WCW of course, waited to mock it by getting Brian’s brother Brad to show up as Buzzkill. He came out in an outfit like Road Dogg’s, complete with hair and a similar music theme. He got a push but the fans hated this obvious rip off and not helped by how most weren’t even aware the duo were brothers. As it happened, Brad injured his leg in a match and needed surgery, staying out until after WCW went under. Brad passed away in 2012, always in his brother’s shadow and not helped by trying to copy him.
11 Ripoff Of WCW: Gillberg
True, it was meant to be a joke but still has to rank on the pathetic side. When Goldberg took off in WCW, WWE was still riding high and didn’t really care too much about him. But of course, they had to take a shot in a special way. They got life-long jobber Dwayne Gill and had him win the Light Heavyweight title in a surprise. He then remade himself into a clone of Goldberg, complete with the police escort. Of course, they had bits like how he only had sparklers around him and fire extinguishers as he went to the ring. He held the title over a year before losing it but his “matches” were just rather jokes to see. The whole thing was for humor and meant to be pathetic but still notable for such an obvious rip-off of Goldberg.
10 Ripoff Of WWE: Sangriento
Sin Cara came into WWE as a big deal with fans loving his work but hampered by some injury. Still, he was popular as a high-flying masked guy and showing his stuff to be a notable addition. TNA, of course, decided to get into that by tracking down the Amazing Red and giving him a mask to be Sangriento. He was billed as a “Mexican sensation” despite having no history in that country and pushed hard in attempts to steal the limelight from WWE. It didn’t work in any way as Red was lost amid the mess the X Division was at the time, not allowed to show off as well as they forced him to do moves like Sin Cara. Just a few months after that debut, Red was gone from TNA to end a bad attempt at a rough act.
9 WCW: AJ Styles as The Nature Boy
Some guys can pull off a Ric Flair impression. AJ Styles is not one of them. The amazingly talented athlete is great at a lot of things like high-flying and terrific matches. He’s charismatic but TNA has done rough stuff like a period making him out to be a total idiot. In 2010, Flair was in a feud with Hulk Hogan and as part of that, chose Styles as his protégé. Soon, AJ was given Flair’s robes and coming out to a copy of his music to try and showcase his work. Sadly, Styles just couldn’t pull off the Flair charisma. He also tried to mimic Flair in the ring but that hampered his own great work and came off worse. There was also how the feud was all about Flair and Hogan more than AJ, making his time in Flair’s shadow worse. It didn’t last long but showed there was only one true Nature Boy.
8 Ripoff Of WWE: Abyss vs. Judas Mesias Is Basically The Undertaker And Kane
Abyss had already been a good worker in TNA with his build, mask and monster attitude. But he got better when James Mitchell became his manager, doing great promos to sell the monster for fans. Eventually, Abyss rebelled against him with Mitchell trying to sway him by claiming to be his father. Mitchell then brought in Judas Mesias who he said was his other son, ready to have them fight it out. This, of course, was a blatant rip-off of the Paul Bearer/Undertaker/Kane storyline of WWE almost word for word. It was remarkable how TNA did it and clearly Russo just trying to copy a past storyline and expecting it to work. It didn’t with Mitchell soon gone and Abyss left on his own.
7 Ripoff Of WCW: New World Order Knock-Offs
Folks question why TNA hasn’t succeeded as they could have. There’s bad management, their impatience in trying to reach WWE's level and failure to pay their workers accordingly. But a key reason is TNA’s absolute obsession with trying to replicate the New World Order. Fortune, Immortal, Aces & Eights, The Beat Down Club, the list goes on of how TNA has constantly done a bunch of guys bragging “we’re taking over.”
Immortal may be among the worst with many of the same guys, baffling turns and Bischoff and Hogan in charge. The NWO was notable in 1996 but the concept no longer is today. Even WWE couldn’t make it work a few times and yet TNA is still trying to do it over and over. Each attempt is blatant and terrible and did nothing for business to show how replicating the one great thing WCW managed to do just helped drive TNA further down.
6 Ripoff Of WWE: Eric Young as Daniel Bryan
Eric Young is a great worker and under different circumstances, him winning the TNA World title would have been great. If it had been built up to pay tribute to his long career with the company and getting the belt, it would have been warm and heartfelt. But it wasn’t. In the spring of 2014, Young was stuck as a guy in comedy bits, having spent years shown as a total idiot and wrestling women in his underwear. Out of nowhere, he won a Gauntlet match and then the title. Why? Because TNA was trying to replicate the success of Daniel Bryan and decided the best way was to pick a guy with a big beard and have him be champion. They openly admitted it with Dixie talking about “The beard is trademarked” as if WWE were the ones ripping TNA off. As soon as Bryan was injured, Young’s reign ended and trying to elevate him suddenly just to copy Bryan is among TNA’s worst moves.
5 Ripoff Of WCW: War Games
War Games was one of the best creations of Dusty Rhodes ever. Two rings surrounded by a cage with a low ceiling with guys entering one by one. The match has guys slamming each other around before finally all the men are in at which point, you brutalize each other until someone quits. WCW was smart to have it once a year at Fall Brawl and highlight it for major feuds and events. But attempts to copy it have been lacking.
TNA tried with “Lethal Lockdown” but didn’t work as well with weapons and no roof. They tried with a regular War Games but then had the faces win the coin toss, negating basic booking psychology. After years of requests and fan push, WWE finally had it for NXT…and declared the cage would have no roof. To lose one of the most notable parts shows WWE lacked the sense to bring it to life. A shame as this is a classic gimmick match but never done right outside of WCW.
4 Ripoff Of WWE: Asya
This has to be WCW logic at its finest. When Chyna broke out, she was a huge deal with her Amazon-like build and ability to slam guys around with ease. She was impressive with her physique and some were let down when she got surgery to make herself look like any other Diva. So WCW figured all they needed was a big muscle lady to get ahead. Enter Christi Wolfe who did have a pretty great build herself. WCW decided to name her Asya on the idea Asia is larger than China. Yeah, no wonder she didn’t take off. She did stuff with The Revolution and The Filthy Animals but was dropped almost as soon as the real Chyna was to stand as one of the lamer attempts of WCW to replicate a big WCW thing.
3 Ripoff Of WCW: Trying To Recapture The Outsiders Magic
As noted, TNA has a real problem trying to replicate the New World Order over and over. But trying it with the exact same guys? That was just asking for trouble. In 2010, Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff bragged about how they were going to revolutionize TNA just like they did with WCW in 1996. The solution was…to do what they did in 1996. That meant bringing in Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Sean Waltman to act like their old selves. Sadly, all three were long past their prime with Hall just looking downright pathetic and a shell of himself. TNA pushed them hard, including winning the tag titles and feuding with Beer Money and others. But it wasn’t long before Hall’s demons came calling to force him out and soon the other two following. Thus, TNA learned once more that replicating the past is a bad thing.
2 Ripoff Of WWE: The Renegade Is The Ultimate Surprise
You can’t get much more “rip-off” than this. As the build to Uncensored 1995 started, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage boasted about having “the Ultimate Surprise” for their battles with Vader and Ric Flair. A figure was shown to clearly look like the Ultimate Warrior with tassels, long hair and more. The show kicked off, the moment built up and out came…a guy in makeup, wild outfit and hair but quite clearly not the Warrior. WCW pushed him hard but he was even worse in the ring than the Warrior was. He won the TV title but still not accepted and it was clear he wasn’t working. The poor guy suffered, dropping the belt and shoved down and would meet a tragic end. He had his problems but WCW didn’t help turning him into such a lame copy.
1 Ripoff Of WCW: Ryback as Goldberg
When Goldberg first appeared, some thought he was a takeoff on Steve Austin with his bald head and goatee. But then they established him as more of a monster guy, crushing opponents in short battles. Soon, he was taking off, fans loving as he destroyed all in his path and WCW wisely knew they had something and beefed it up with his undefeated streak. With his great look and charisma, Goldberg was the last shining star of WCW and easily one of the biggest of his time.
When WWE repackaged the former Skip Sheffield as Ryback, it was clear from day one he was a Goldberg clone. He had the bald head, the build, the “feed me more” line and built up as a monster. Problem being, he just lacked the same aura as Goldberg and the obvious rip-off meant he was never taken seriously by fans. WWE pushed him hard but it just didn’t work to show you can only catch lightning in a bottle once.