Sometimes being a well known sports personality isn't as simple as just being good at a particular sport. It may sound ridiculous but most of the time if you want to be remembered as one of the all time greats in any sport you need to have a big personality to go along with your athletic talent. Take Muhammed Ali and Conor McGregor as just a couple of examples. An athlete from the past as well as one from the present whose auras play just as big a part in their legacy as their performances in the ring and in the octagon respectively. Professional wrestling is extremely similar in that regard. In fact the personality a pro wrestler portrays in front of the fans can sometimes trump how they perform in the ring.
Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin will probably be the first to tell you that they were far from the greatest in ring performers of all time. Yet here we are long after both their careers have since finished and they are still regarded as two of the best pro wrestlers of all time. Why? Their gimmicks. It wasn't about the moves they could do in the ring but rather the way they carried themselves and how they entertained fans in other ways. The gimmick a Superstar has can make or break their career. It's rarely for life either. Most wrestlers will cycle through a few over the course of their career. Some will improve their status while others will see them slip down the card and out of the limelight.
15 Worse: The Godfather
The Godfather was quite rightfully inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame recently. It may have come as a surprise to many people considering the PG-13, family friendly nature of the product in the present day. The Godfather is the gimmick that Charles Wright, the man behind the women, is most famous for and it was hardly suitable for a younger audience. During the Attitude Era though it was a tremendous success and fit right in to the product at the time. Then came a peculiar gimmick change. Wright joined the faction Right To Censor and morphed into The Goodfather. It may sound funny and been good for a one off, but Charles became a member of the group on a permanent basis and aside from the odd nostalgic appearance he hung up his cane for good.
14 Worse: D-Von Dudley
In 2016 WWE reintroduced its take on a draft. It's not a new concept to the company and has been utilized many times. However in 2002 it was brand new in the world of pro wrestling. Following the end of WCW and the Attitude Era Vince McMahon decided to split his roster in two and have Superstars become the exclusive property of either Raw or SmackDown, effectively creating his own competition. For some reason along with that came the breaking up of many established tag teams, including The Dudley Boyz. Without his brother Bubba Ray WWE had very different plans for D-Von. The former ECW star became an on-screen reverend and even had his own deacon (Deacon Batista, but that's a story for another time). Needless to say D-Von alone was never as popular as when he was with Bubba, reverend or otherwise.
13 Better: Triple H
Here's a little known fact about Triple H before we really get rolling on this one. Did you know that during the very beginnings of his career in WCW The Game was actually in a tag team with previous entry William Regal? They were known as The Bluebloods and the story line was that Regal recruited Triple H since he was a fellow aristocrat. Now if Regal had remained a Blueblood he wouldn't have made this list and nor would Triple H if he had filled the lumberjack role instead. No The Cerebral Assassin's career only went from strength to strength once WWE realized his full potential. Vince McMahon may have stuck with the aristocrat gimmick to begin with but before long his now son in law became The King of Kings, winning a staggering 14 World Championships (and counting) in the process.
12 Worse: Natalya
Natalya is very much the elder stateswoman of the female locker room in 2017. Whether she would take that as a compliment or not is up to her, but it should be taken as such. Nattie has seen women's wrestling in WWE transform, and for her it has very much been for the better. The current SmackDown Women's Champion is an incredible performer and for a long while during her stay in WWE her and her fellow females have been treated as little more than a side show. One particular low point for the third generation star was when she was labelled with a flatulence gimmick. Before that she had been pushed as a legitimate descendant of the Hart family, then all of a sudden she had to sell the idea that she had uncontrollable gas. Very strange, even by WWE's standards.
11 Worse: William Regal
William Regal may very well be one of the most underrated pro wrestlers of the last 30 years. The British Superstar has wrestled all over the world, starting his career way back in 1983 at the age of just 15. For most of the 1990s Regal made a name for himself in WCW, even winning the Television Championship. For the most part he played the same gimmick as he would do later on in WWE. In between those two instances however Regal had a shorter, less successful run with the company. For some strange reason instead of sticking with the snobbish, upper class British demeanour that had served him so well up until that point, WWE decided to make him a lumberjack. A British man portraying a profession typically associated with North America. Needless to say it didn't work out and that coupled with Regal's drug addiction meant at that point it wasn't his time to flourish in WWE.
10 Better: Batista
That story about Batista for another time? Well to quote John Cena, that time is now. We were first introduced to The Animal all the way back in 2002 when, as touched upon in the last entry, he acted as a deacon to Reverend D-Von. The man who would later become a multiple time World Champion effectively acted as a valet to the Dudley, although he did also tag with him. It was a far cry from what Batista would later become, and likely not what the trainers down in developmental had envisioned for him. Soon after things would thankfully change for the now wrestler turned movie star. Triple H and Ric Flair would take both him and Randy Orton under their wings to form the faction Evolution and the rest is history.
9 Worse: The Red Rooster
Terry Taylor currently works in WWE's Performance Center. There are very few Superstars on the roster right now who won't cite Taylor as one of the men who helped get them to where they are today. When you look at the length of Terry's career and the sheer amount of places he wrestled and companies he wrestled for it's unsurprising. There are likely very few former wrestlers at Full Sail right now with a wider spectrum of experience than Taylor. Despite Taylor already having a lot of that experience when he arrived in WWE for the first time in 1988, it didn't stop the company from giving him one of the weirdest gimmicks we've ever seen. Soon after joining WWE's ranks Taylor became The Red Rooster. He styled and dyed his hair into a red crest and would strut around like a chicken. One of the weirdest gimmicks in WWE history to this very day.
8 Worse: Dolph Ziggler
From an almost 30 year old gimmick to one that is currently unfolding before our very eyes. There was a time not so long ago in WWE when the fans absolutely adored Dolph Ziggler. The Showoff could do no wrong and the WWE Universe wanted nothing more than to see him reach the top. Despite that all taking place fairly recently it feels like Ziggler has been out of the fans good books for years and years now. Recently Dolph disappeared from our televisions and many of us hoped that it was because the company were finally going to repackage him. They did – sort of – but have somehow managed to make him even less appealing. Now Ziggler copies other Superstars' entrances and whines about not getting chances. Who would have thought that WWE could make him even worse?
7 Better: The Rock
The Rock is currently one of the biggest movie stars in the world. It's a pretty incredible thing that a WWE Superstar has gone on to achieve the fame that Rock has and that he could potentially go on to be the president of the United States. What's even more shocking is when you rewind 20 years and relive the humble beginnings of The Rock's career. Originally known as Rocky Maivia – an homage to both his grandfather and his dad – it would be fair to say that the fans did not take to him straight away. In fact there were times when the WWE Universe would chant 'Die, Rocky, Die', not nice. That prompted WWE to turn Rock against the fans and that really gave The People's Champ the opportunity to show his talent and charisma.
6 Worse: Vladimir Kozlov
Vladimir Kozlov is a man often forgotten by fans of WWE. Vince McMahon and the company had big plans for the Ukrainian initially however. For almost a year Kozlov went unbeaten. In fact for a time it appeared as though the foreign star was on a collision course with The Undertaker and would take on The Deadman at WrestleMania XXV. Still undefeated Kozlov took on Shawn Michaels with the winner going on to face The Phenom, and that's where his unbeaten run came to an end. That started a slippery slope for Kozlov. Eventually the almost unbeatable Eastern European monster became little more than a joke. WWE would pair him with Santino Marella so the two could form a comedy duo and shortly after that his run in WWE was done.
5 Worse: Billy Gunn
Billy Gunn's initial WWE run lasted over ten years and naturally during that time the veteran underwent quite a few gimmick changes. Originally it was all good for Billy. He started life in WWE as one half of The Smoking Gunns then would go on to bigger and better things with D-Generation X. Billy's character tweaks started to get a little strange after that and let's be honest, it was always going to be down hill after DX. When he became Mr. @$$ that was odd, but fans didn't hate it. The the generic One Billy Gunn left fans more disinterested in Billy than they probably ever had been previously in his WWE career. After that he was placed into a tag team with Chuck where the two of them were sort of portrayed as being a gay couple. It wasn't a great gimmick thanks to the execution from WWE and a far cry from the success Gunn had enjoyed in the '90s.
4 Better: Kane
The Big Red Machine Kane has had one heck of a run in WWE. We were first introduced to The Devil's Favourite Demon in 1997 when the frankly terrifying masked man was revealed as the on screen younger brother of The Undertaker. 20 years later and Glenn Jacobs, the man behind the mask, has still not technically retired from in ring competition. Jacobs' stay in WWE started long before he became Kane though. Prior to that money gimmick Glenn had to make the most out of being evil dentist, Isaac Yankem. Yes that was actually something that somebody in WWE thought would be a good idea. Glenn likely thanks his lucky stars that the Kane idea came about when it did to save him from pulling kayfabe teeth.
3 Worse: Booker T
Booker T is another man that has been in the pro wrestling business for an awfully long time. Throughout the majority of the 1990s Booker plied his trade in WCW. He enjoyed a lot of success there as a part of Harlem Heat, a tag team he was a part of along with his real life brother Stevie Ray, and then excelled even more as a singles star. By the time WWE bought out WCW Booker T was a five time World Champion and actually had the belt at the time. For a while WWE thankfully let Booker be the same guy that he had been in WCW and it worked out pretty well. Then they had the five time champ win King of the Ring and become King Booker. It was a pretty aggravating gimmick and a strange turn considering how well received Booker had been before that for the majority of his career.
2 Worse: The Great Khali
This entry harks back to the Vladimir Kozlov one in some respects and bears a lot of similarities. The Great Khali and Kozlov were even introduced during that same era when Superstars that would ultimately end up failing were brought in and attempted to be shot straight to the top by WWE. Khali was a monster of a man standing at over seven feet tall and naturally that meant WWE wanted him to be a top guy. Not long into his career he even beat The Undertaker, pinning the legend with one foot planted firmly on his chest. Khali had a distinct lack of wrestling ability though. That meant he couldn't stay at the top for long. A gimmick change initiated by WWE saw him plummet down the card and again much like Kozlov he became a joke. The Indian behemoth donned some silk trousers and become The Punjabi Playboy.
1 Better: Stone Cold
Most fans will remember Steve Austin for one particular run in his career. That run is of course when The Texas Rattlesnake became Stone Cold and arguably initiated what was the hottest period in professional wrestling. Austin didn't just walk in to WWE as Stone Cold though. When Vince McMahon first brought Steve in the chairman had a very specific and very different vision for him. Austin was made The Ringmaster, a Superstar who impressed with his in ring wrestling ability and had The Million Dollar Man do all his talking for him. Thankfully Vince eventually gave Steve the opportunity to show him what he could do on the mic. The Bionic Redneck cut the famous Austin 3:16 promo and began down a road that would make him one of the most successful pro wrestlers of all time.