It's fair to say that WWE's gimmicks have run the gamut over the years. They've made an entire career for some wrestlers, and ruined others in an instant. It's one of the aspects of wrestling in general that pinpoints and represents various eras of the business. A gimmick has the potential to make-or-break any given in-ring performer, and WWE have devised some of the best and worst of all-time.
Usually, the quality of the gimmick and quality of the wrestler go hand in hand. While it's rare that WWE will plant a stellar gimmick on a horrible in-ring talent, it has happened before, and some of the examples are notable. These wrestlers should consider themselves lucky that they were able to land a gimmick that was able to carry them for nearly their entire career. They really didn't deserve it, but they were able to ride it to stardom in WWE, and create a brand for themselves that sustained their careers well beyond the point that they should have been. Let's take a look at who this applies to. Indeed, it's some of the most recognizable names in wrestling history.
Ranked below are 15 amazing WWE gimmicks that were given to terrible wrestlers.
Entering WWE as one-third of The Brood, which was also one of the greatest stables of the era, leader Gangrel was clearly the weak link. While Edge and Christian went on to major, main event prominence, Gangrel was carried by them nearly all the time. Needless to say, the longevity wasn't there for him in WWE, but it did give him an identifiable character that he would make appearances under for the next decade or so after leaving.
So while Gangrel never did win a title in WWE, he was still a major part of the company during the Attitude Era. It allowed him to extend his career, and today he's still recognizable because of the vampire gimmick he portrayed in the late-'90s. The gimmick was cool, and it launched several successful careers, but Gangrel simply wasn't good in the ring.
14 Ultimate Warrior
The Warrior may never have been able to wrestle with the all-time greats, but his debut in the late-'80s era of WWE shook the wrestling world like nothing else since the emergence of Hulk Hogan a few years prior. For a short while, he was probably the biggest draw in the company, and that's no small feat for a promotion like WWE. Warrior dominated almost immediately, first winning the Intercontinental Title, and later the WWE Title.
Contract disputes and general tension with management were his downfalls, and led to a relatively short shelf life. There's no question that his presence was necessary at the time however. He couldn't wrestle a lick, but that didn't end up mattering, since the high-energy character was enough to fill the seats.
13 Big Boss Man
There was a time and a place for Ray Traylor in WWE, in multiple eras no less. He fit the roster, and was a valuable mid-carder who could be versatile with feuds and angles. The Boss Man character was his saving grace, because he was nothing more than a so-so wrestler, even at his best. Without question, nobody was going to ask him to go 30-minutes in an important match on the card.
But it didn't really matter because the gimmick made everything work, and it was actually one of the better things WWE devised in the late-'80s for the mid-card, which was in desperate need of some new faces. Still, it would be more than a stretch to consider Traylor one of the better wrestlers of his time, and he probably owed his career to the Boss Man character.
12 George "The Animal" Steele
One of the most entertaining characters in all of old-school wrestling, Steele's character opened the doors for ridiculous gimmicks to become successful in mainstream wrestling. Whether he could chain-wrestle is really immaterial to his greatness. The fact that he would eat the turnbuckle is pretty much reason enough to consider him a legend. Nobody was asking Steele to work technical mat classics anyway.
But his antics proved that WWE could push the envelope and succeed. Ultimately, that was Steele's greatest contribution to the business, and it was one that allowed for future gimmicks that were edgy or ridiculous to become a staple part of mainstream wrestling. So even if he wasn't a horrible wrestler, his character would have always been the most identifiable aspect of his career.
It's always tempting to think of Mordecai as a terrible gimmick, but that's only because Kevin Fertig (later Kevin Thorn) was such an awful in-ring talent who was trying to make a name for himself. Actually, the gimmick would have had legs in the mid-card division had the matches just been better. As it turned out, the gimmick didn't even last a full year, and Fertig was sent down the developmental territories for more training.
It didn't pay off though, and after the Mordecai gimmick was scrapped, Fertig went on to a career marred by mediocrity. He was everything that was underwhelming about the mid-card of WWE in the mid-00s, and it's an era that is best left forgotten. On somebody else, Mordecai would have been a solid gimmick for a couple of years at least.
10 Giant Gonzalez
When WWE has used "giant" type gimmicks in the past, and at the moment, they've generally worked when the wrestler in question could at least work a decent match. It's unrealistic to expect people of a gargantuan size to be able to do the same things in the ring that smaller, quicker and more compact wrestlers can, but it can work under the right circumstances.
Unfortunately, Gonzalez fell squarely on the "boring and can't wrestle" side of the spectrum, and as a result his giant-based character didn't have the longevity of an in-ring talent like, say, the Big Show. Instead, Gonzalez was in and out in less than a year in WWE, with no potential to improve. Even The Undertaker couldn't carry him to a good match at WrestleMania IX. Gonzalez was one of the biggest failures of the era.
9 Road Dogg
One of the best wrestlers on the mic during The Attitude Era, Road Dogg led The New Age Outlaws to tag team prominence, and was extremely entertaining in the process. His ad-libbed ring entrances talking on the mic were some of the most memorable moments of the Attitude Era, and he was one of the most important members of D-Generation X at their apex as well. There's a lot to like about Road Dogg's career, but the wrestling isn't something that holds.
Really, he was pretty mediocre in the ring. He was involved in some entertaining matches and whatnot, but after moving to TNA, without the advent of his WWE gimmick, we got to see how mediocre his wrestling was with nothing to cover it up. Ultimately, it was still a great WWE career for Road Dogg, but for angles, promo-cutting, and storylines, not the wrestling ability.
Some will say that Dustin Rhodes was a good wrestler, but there's no way he would have stayed relevant for this long without the Goldust gimmick. It was a character that was ahead of its time unquestionably, and it gave Rhodes a quick turnaround to success from his WCW days, when he debuted it in 1995.
And really, the gimmick has stayed with him up to the present. There have been offshoots and various versions of the Goldust character, but the general concept has remained on WWE programming for nearly the past 22 years, with only brief absences. Maybe Rhodes wasn't a terrible wrestler, he could certainly hold his own at times, but there's no question that this gimmick gave his career a much longer shelf life than it otherwise would have.
7 One Man Gang
Another super-heavyweight gimmick that would have been awesome on a better wrestler, instead the One Man Gang couldn't do jack in the ring. Watching one of his matches was simply a boring endeavor, and he never improved over the course of his WWE tenure. The One Man Gang gimmick would have worked with a better wrestler in his weight range, but when that didn't get over management decided to change it to the truly horrible Akeem "The African Dream" character, which is one of the low points of late-'80s WWE.
For whatever reason, he stuck around way longer than he should have. Athletic ability in the wrestling ring wasn't of paramount importance like it is today, so he likely skated by just being huge and nothing else. Whatever the case, One Man Gang couldn't wrestle, and he couldn't get by on his size and character forever. It's not surprising that he faltered in just about every other promotions he was ever in.
This is going to sound blasphemous, but Kane really isn't and wasn't that good of a wrestler. Of course, it was a brilliant gimmick, and something that has stayed attached to WWE storylines for years on end now, but it's really all in the character. Kane's been carried to great matches, but he (Glenn Jacobs) relies far too much on finishers and signature moves to be considered one of the best wrestlers of his era. Everyone loves the character, and rightfully so, but without a good angle or storyline it wouldn't carry any weight.
The entire reason the Kane character was developed to begin with was to involve it with a specific storyline with The Undertaker. When it got over so well, it just decided then that it would be kept for the long-term. Considering Jacobs previous had played Dr. Isaac Yankem, it's fair to say that he deserved a top-notch gimmick that would get him over on its own.
5 Sean O'Haire
In the early-'00s, O'Haire was considered one of the rising stars in the business. Upon entering WCW, he seemed like one of the only bright spots in the entire company at the time, just before it went under. Needless to say, when he joined WWE everyone wondered what would become of his new character.
After spending some time in the tag division teaming with Chuck Palumbo, he was given the Devil's Advocate gimmick, which was unique and fit the time period very well. The only issue was that O'Haire couldn't wrestle, and the matches just weren't up to snuff. The gimmick worked, but he was prevented from being the star that many thought he could be, essentially because his in-ring work never developed. By 2006, he was out of wrestling all together.
4 "Superstar" Billy Graham
He was a great WWE champion, and one that set the tone for WWE characters for years to come, but not a very good wrestler. Graham was one of the most popular talents of his day, but even compared to other wrestlers of that era, he really couldn't get it done in the ring. He's remembered more for the flamboyant character that he often portrayed than he was for any of his individual matches. Even for the time, which relied more on psychology than any kind of extreme athletic ability.
It was a great gimmick though, and one that identified WWE as "sports entertainment" rather than just drab traditional wrestling characters. They didn't suffer due to Graham's lack of in-ring ability, but it deserves to be mentioned. He was sub-par, but he wouldn't be the last below-average wrestler to win gold in the WWE ranks.
3 The Godfather
The arrival of The Godfather put a stamp on The Attitude Era as one that would never be replicated. Charles Wright was a WWE staple talent that had performed under a variety of gimmicks. Most of them, Papa Shango among them, were utter failures, but he struck gold when he was placed under The Godfather moniker. Everyone was riding the "Ho Train" during the late-'90s, and it was one of the most entertaining characters WWE had ever come up with.
But Wright was so-so at best in the ring, and at worst he was one of the worst in any mainstream promotion. That didn't change when he finally got a gimmick that didn't reek of the wrestle-crap that had surrounded his previous ones, and the best part about The Godfather was the pre- and post-match shenanigans.
2 Scott Steiner
When WWE got a hold of Steiner in 2002, they retained most of the hallmarks of his "Big Poppa Pump" gimmick he was using in WCW. There's no question about it; the gimmick fit the time, and it was really good for an upper-tier wrestler in a mainstream company. The problem was that Steiner had bulked up to the point where it was hindering his natural wrestling ability, that he had displayed in the years prior to adapting the character.
When Steiner was a mainstay in tag team wrestling with his brother Rick, he was really effective in the ring. When his body changed (probably steroid use), so did his quickness and exciting in-ring style. Steiner never worked in '00s-era WWE, and the erosion of wrestling skill was a big reason why.
1 Hulk Hogan
I mean, this is the ultimate example, right? Hogan has been maligned for many reasons over his career, and his wrestling ability may not even be the primary one, given his ego and string-pulling backstage. That doesn't mean that his wrestling wasn't egregiously bad at times, because it undeniably was. Hogan was in the right place at the right time, and the business was ready to go national, which gave him a level of acclaim never seen before.
Hogan's character and the WWE fanbase were a perfect match. His formulaic matches could be entertaining, but it was mainly based on spectacle and not what was actually going on in the ring. No matter what sentimentality is attached to Hogan's character, it's difficult to defend the in-ring work with a straight face. Especially when you consider that other stars of that era, such as Ric Flair and Terry Funk, produced matches of noticeably better quality on a consistent basis.
He was a timeless character and persona, but Hogan was dead weight in the ring.