Those of you who are new to the world of professional wrestling should count yourselves lucky. In fact not even that new, it has been a while since WWE has been head in your hands weird. You may think some of it's bad now but trust me, there was a time when it was so much worse. If you grew up or spent time watching WWE and WCW throughout the 1990s then you will know as well as I do that there were plenty of swings that were very much misses from the start of the decade right up until the very end. While WWE and Vince McMahon were convinced that assigning their Superstars vocations to portray was the future of wrestling, WCW had the slightly less terrible idea of fusing their product with as many aspects of non-wrestling popular culture as they could. Both of these view points will feature heavily in this coming list.
From garbage men to video game characters to farm animals to an evil dentist. I'm finding it hard to think of one awful corner of their chosen pathways that WWE and WCW didn't attempt to make a buck from. I mean, why wouldn't dressing up a talented wrestler in a giant turkey costume be a huge success? What's not to love? Despite being landed with some of these terrible gimmicks, some of these upcoming Superstars actually managed to bounce back and carve out successful wrestling careers. Others did not fare so well. Here are 15 of the worst gimmicks from the 1990s and where each and every one of them are now, 20 years removed from a much different time in the business.
15 The Gobbledygooker
Survivor Series 1990 is renowned and remembered for the debut of a wrestler who went on to become one of the biggest and most beloved Superstars in WWE history, The Undertaker. What you may not know however is that another character made his bow in WWE that night, The Gobbledygooker. A man dressed as a turkey who hatched from an egg. Shockingly the idea did not take and shortly after, Gobbledygooker disappeared from WWE only to reappear for gimmicky reasons years later. The man inside the turkey suit was Hector Guerrero, and yes he is a member of the Guerreros. More recently Hector has not had to don a ridiculous costume and up until 2015 was a color commentator for TNA. Since then he has started his own pro wrestling consultancy company.
During the late 1990s WCW made some very questionable decisions. One of those decisions was introducing the world to their new creation, Glacier. The Glacier gimmick was incredibly similar to a character named Sub Zero featured in the Mortal Kombat game series. Whether the company had copied the idea from the popular game series or not, fans saw right through it and did not take to Glacier. The man behind the gimmick was Raymond Lloyd. His run with WCW was the only one that really got him any exposure. Since he left the company for good he has made the most of those few years on television and continues to work the independent circuit, sometimes as Glacier and sometimes not. He also uses his celebrity status to help raise money for various charities, including the David Maus Foundation and Rock Pink, a breast cancer awareness charity.
13 Isaac Yankem, DDS
Around the mid 1990s WWE seemed to believe that the way forward for them and professional wrestling was for all of their Superstars to adopt a career as their gimmick. There'll be a couple of those inevitably popping up in this list and here's the first, Isaac Yankem, DDS. A dentist brought into the fold by Jerry Lawler in the summer of 1995 to help vanquish Jerry's long time nemesis Bret Hart. Unsurprisingly The Hitman overcame the hurdle of an evil dentist. As the more hardened wrestling fans among you will know, Yankem was portrayed by Glenn Jacobs who went on to be the much more successful Kane, a character technically still active in WWE to this day. The dentist gimmick lasted over a year though and it wasn't until 1997 that The Big Red Machine was born. As I mentioned, Jacobs does still wrestle but as I'm typing his main focus is his campaign trail to become Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee.
12 The Ringmaster
Kane isn't the only wrestler who competed in WWE during the mid '90s who had to put up with a potentially career ending gimmick before being lucky enough to find what fits. When Steve Austin first showed up on WWE's door step he was not handed the Stone Cold gimmick and therefore unable to instantly begin raising hell. First of all Austin was The Ringmaster. It was a persona far and away from the one that would make him a household name and involved him saying little to no words, Ted DiBiase did his talking for him, and his moniker came instead from his ability inside the ring. Steve has been very vocal about how much he disliked the idea on the platform that now occupies most of his time, his podcast. Upon his retirement in 2003 Austin has reflected and said that he had no idea what to do. He's found a new niche now though and his shows drop twice a week, every week, on Podcast One.
Not every early to mid '90s WWE gimmick was a trade or a vocation. In 1992 the company introduced us to a Superstar named Nailz whose gimmick was that of an ex convict. He wore orange overalls and arrived in WWE claiming that former prison guard Big Boss Man had abused him while he was in prison and that he had been wrongfully imprisoned anyway. A very strange idea for a persona that came to a messy end when Kevin Wacholz, the man behind the orange jump suit, had a physical altercation with Vince McMahon in the chairman's office. Wacholz went on to have a short spell in WCW, as well as being involved in a number of lawsuits with WWE for the way he departed the company. Nowadays though he's away from the wrestling business and runs a garage with his family.
10 The JOB Squad
The one and only faction that has made it onto this list, the infamous JOB Squad. In its very original manifestation it was a trio of wrestlers who played on the inside wrestling term 'jobber' or phrase 'doing the job.' To job in wrestling is to lose to another wrestler, normally quickly and often which is what earns someone the title of jobber. Well that's where the trio got their name from despite going on to all have more successful singles careers. The original three members were Al Snow, Bob Holly and Scorpio. Nowadays Snow has his own wrestling academy based out of the UK while also continuing his acting career. Bob Holly still wrestles on the independent circuit as his in ring persona Hardcore Holly. Scorpio also still wrestles and plus is involved in a lawsuit against WWE for injuries he claims he sustained while there that still affect him today.
9 The Mountie
A return to a wrestler with a job, The Mountie. Things got a little complicated with this one. Mounties are of course part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In the early '90s when it arose that Jacques Rougeau, the man behind The Mountie, had attempted to become a real life Mountie WWE just couldn't resist. There were legal problems with this one though and it was actually ruled that Rougeau could not use his gimmick while wrestling in Canada. He couldn't dress like a Mountie or be announced as such. Jacques actually tried to become a part of the Canadian police force following his pro wrestling career but unfortunately couldn't since he hadn't graduated high school. Instead he now tours high schools as a public speaker as well as running his own wrestling school.
We've covered Kane, we've covered Stone Cold, now it's the turn of Kevin Nash to have his somewhat embarrassing failed gimmick unearthed. Before he was Diesel and WWE Champion Nash actually wrestled as simply, Oz. It was actually before Nash had even set foot in WWE, so Vince McMahon can't take the blame for this one. What many people don't realize is that when Kevin famously jumped ship to WCW in 1996 it was actually a return to the company. As you can imagine his first stint was pretty unsuccessful as some of it was spent as a character inspired by The Wizard of Oz. Nash no longer wrestles per se, but occasionally does work with WWE like programming for the WWE Network and also dabbles in acting, his most notable role being in the Magic Mike movies.
7 Disco Inferno
While the 1990s revolved around career based gimmicks for WWE, in WCW it's been pretty plain to see from this list alone that popular culture fuelled many of their characters. Clearly that notion worked for a while as WCW famously lorded it over Vince McMahon for a short time there. We've covered Glacier and Oz but now we move on to a man who had a little more success with his pop culture gimmick, Glenn Gilbertti as Disco Inferno. The Superstar was influenced by John Travolta's character in the movie Saturday Night Fever. Today Gilbertti makes appearances on various podcasts as well as co hosting his own, Keepin' It 100 which is a part of The Jericho Network.
6 The Shockmaster
One of the most infamous debuts and gimmicks in pro wrestling history is that of The Shockmaster. Even without that moment, which we'll get to, it was a pretty poor idea. It was simply Fred Ottman, who had portrayed Tugboat and Typhoon in WWE, in a sparkly Storm Trooper helmet. It was another WCW concoction and his first appearance for the company was on an edition of Ric Flair's talk show Flair For The Gold. He was meant to make a dramatic entrance on live television by bursting through the wall but instead tripped, fell through it and his helmet fell off, revealing who he really was right from the off. The clip is still used to this day by WWE. Ottman is no longer a wrestler however, he currently coaches Little League and works as a safety manager for a building cleaning service.
5 Brooklyn Brawler
The Brooklyn Brawler may be the longest running gimmick in pro wrestling history that never took off. Despite it never really gaining any real traction or popularity in WWE it ran sporadically for well over ten years, getting its first airing in 1989. Steve Lombardi was the man behind the Brawler, a street smart fighter who wore jeans and a New York Yankees t-shirt that had seen better days. He wrestled under that moniker in WWE throughout the entirety of the 90s, almost always as enhancement talent. In 2002 his in ring career more or less came to an end, although he remained with WWE and would wrestle from time to time. He actually worked behind the scenes with WWE right up until May of 2016, bringing his time with the company to an end at an impressive 33 years.
4 Red Rooster
In not too awkward a segue, on to The Red Rooster. If you've not heard of this gimmick before, it's as weird as it sounds. Brooklyn Brawler was managed by Bobby Heenan for a time during his career, a role he had to battle The Red Rooster for back in 1989. Terry Taylor, who was awarded the not-so coveted Rooster role, began his tenure in WWE during the late '80s and finished up, for the first time, in the summer of 1990. The Red Rooster character involved him wearing a red coat and tights as well as styling his hair to look like a rooster's crest, even having it dyed red. Taylor would even strut to the ring on the way to his matches. A bit of a waste of a talent really as Terry has a great wrestling mind, something he continues to demonstrate to this day with his work as a trainer at WWE's Performance Center.
3 The Goon
I did warn you that there would be plenty of career based gimmicks on this list, and here's another. The Goon. A big part of ice hockey is the fights between players. Well what could be better than a wrestler who had supposedly been banned from every hockey league he had ever tried to participate in trying his hand at pro wrestling? Turns out quite a lot. Barney Irwin had begun his wrestling career almost 20 years before portraying The Goon in WWE and despite all his hard work, wrestling as an ice hockey player did not turn out to be his big break. Shocker, I know. Nowadays Iriwn is a bus driver, although he did wrestle on the independent circuit for a while after leaving WWE.
Shockingly The Gobbledygooker isn't the only time WWE attempted to make a success out of dressing a wrestler up in a massive animal costume. Clearly they're gluttons for punishment. In 1995 Vince McMahon gave it another crack with Mantaur, a giant cow-like wrestler who was inspired by the mythical beast, the Minotaur. Whoever among you who may have been wondering why WWE had a lull in the mid '90s by the way, this entry alone should explain that. Mantaur would charge and trample his opponents as well as mooing at them. Mike Halac was the man inside the Mantaur suit and even though he stopped wrestling in 2001, he recently made a return to the independent circuit. He is also involved in the same ongoing law suit as Scorpio against WWE.
1 Duke 'The Dumpster" Droese
The final entry on this list is another vocation based gimmick and possibly the worst one featured. Despite how terrible it was it lasted an impressive two years in WWE. Michael Droese spent his time in WWE portraying a garbage man named Duke 'The Dumpster' Droese and would carry a trash can over his shoulder to the ring. Duke actually feuded with Triple H early in 1996, becoming one of the first wrestlers Hunter had an extended rivalry with before his career took off. Droese left the company later that year after citing that he couldn't cope with the crazy travel and loaded schedule. Following his wrestling career Michael became a special education teacher in Tennessee. It's not all been so admirable for the former Superstar though as he was charged with three counts of delivering a controlled substance in 2013.