A bad gimmick can ruin a wrestlers career. There are numerous examples of wrestlers who could have gotten over but didn't, only because they were saddled with a terrible gimmick.
Shane Douglas may have gone on to do great things in WWE had he not been limited by the "Dean Douglas" gimmick. A bad gimmick was what led the former NXT hippie CJ Parker to quit the company. Now known as Juice Robinson in Japan, he knew that had he debuted on the main roster with such a gimmick, his shelf-life wouldn't be longer than a year.
The wrestlers on this list are the lucky ones who got saddled with a bad gimmick but managed to shake off the negative branding and go on to have Hall of Fame-worthy careers.
You never know how some superstars would have turned out if things had gone just a little bit different for them gimmick-wise. For instance, had Steve Austin got stuck with the "Chilly McFreeze" name that was once suggested to him for his "Stone Cold" character, WCW may have actually gone on to win the Monday Night Wars.
It just goes to show that if a performer is truly talented, fans will be able to overlook anything about their past to get behind them. That is what happened to all 15 wrestlers listed here.
Here are 15 gimmicks you forgot these WWE Hall of Famers once had:
15 Booker T- GI Bro
The first time Booker T adopted the G.I Bro character was in the early-'90s. He was wrestling for the Western Wrestling Alliance at the time of the Gulf War, so promoters booked him as an American military hero type. In reality, Booker had just been released from prison for holding up a string of Wendy's restaurants.
In late-stage WCW, Booker again adopted the gimmick. This was during Vince Russo's era as booker for the company, and there were a lot of bizarre things going on at the time.
In 2015, the G.I Bro character cropped up yet again, this time in comic book form. Booker unveiled the comic at a Houston area comic book convention.
The character wasn't quite as successful as "King Booker," and far less regal.
14 Lita - Miss Congeniality
Before she was Lita, before she was in Team Xtreme, and even before she was the manager of Essa Rios, Amy Dumas was known as "Miss Congeniality".
Lita performed under the gimmick while in Paul Heyman's Extreme Championship Wrestling. The idea was to present her as someone with poor personal hygiene.
Dumas was 24 when she debuted for ECW in 1999. She had trained in Mexico, having first been influenced by the lucha libre matches WCW was putting on at the time.
She was Danny Doring's storyline girlfriend, but also began training with Dory Funk. After Funk sent a tape of Dumas to WWE, the company signed her in 2000.
As a result of her lucha libre training, the company decided to pair her with Essa Rios, who was competing in the light heavyweight division at the time. In storyline, Rios would turn on Lita, leading to her teaming up with The Hardy Boyz.
13 "Team Canada" Jim Duggan
Another gimmick from late-stage WCW involved "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan. Somehow Vince Russo decided it would be a good idea for Duggan to abandon his pro-American patriotic gimmick, in favour of joining Lance Storm's Team Canada faction.
Duggan had been with WCW since 1994 at the time of the angle, which began in 2000. He turned on the Misfits in Action stable he had been loosely involved with, and cost General Rection (Bill DeMott) a match against Lance Storm for the "Canadian Title." See, Storm had put a Canadian flag on the US championship belt, and simply referred to it as the Canadian championship.
He would shave off his beard and wear a Team Canada jumpsuit, joining legitimate Canadian Lance Storm, and fellow Americans Elix Skipper, Mike Awesome, and Major Gunns on Team Canada. The faction eventually turned on Duggan, though by that point few were watching.
12 Andre the Giant - Giant Machine
Some might be surprised to learn that Andre the Giant ever adopted a gimmick other than the one he's most famous for. After all, how do you repackage a giant?
In 1986, Jack Tunney suspended Andre the Giant (in storyline) for failing to show up to a match against two of Bobby Heenan's wrestlers. Some suspect Heenan of orchestrating some chicanery that prevented Andre from making the match. Andre defied Tunney's orders, however, by dawning a mask and joining up with the "Machines" faction. While under a mask he was known as "Giant Machine," and his 2 partners were named Big Machine and Super Machine.
The gimmick was actually a take on a similar storyline which had taken place in Japan. In NJPW, Junji Hirata played the role of "Super Strong Machine".
While everyone in the arena and watching at home knew Giant Machine was Andre, Bobby Heenan couldn't prove it. Shortly after the angle fizzled away, Andre would turn heel and join up with Heenan to challenge Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III.
11 Terry Funk - Chainsaw Charlie
In the buildup to WrestleMania XIV in late-1997 and early-1998, Terry Funk returned to WWE. For reasons not altogether clear, he didn't come back as Terry Funk, however. Instead he put pantyhose on his head, carried a chainsaw around with him and went by the name "Chainsaw Charlie." It was a loose take on Leatherface, the lead character from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Funk, as Charlie, began teaming with Mick Foley, who was wrestling as Cactus Jack at the time.
Charlie and Cactus would win the tag team championships at WrestleMania XIV, defeating The New Age Outlaws in a dumpster match. They would drop the belts back to the Outlaws on the Raw after 'Mania, however, arguably the first Raw after 'Mania that felt like a special episode. The Outlaws would join the newly-revamped DX that night, as Triple H and X-Pac helped them beat Cactus and Charlie in a steel cage match.
10 Edge - Sexton Hardcastle
Edge couldn't quite figure out who he was during his pre-WWE career. He wrestled under the names Adam Impact and Damon Striker at one point. His most noteworthy pre-WWE gimmick, however, was that of Sexton Hardcastle.
When the WWE called in 1996 needing a last-minute replacement on a house show, Edge jumped at the opportunity. He didn't go there as Damon Striker or Adam Impact, however, he went as Sexton Hardcastle.
There is some debate as to whether or not the Hardcastle character was the catalyst for the Val Venis character. Originally, WWE considered Edge for the role that eventually went to Sean Morley. One month after the debut of the Val Venis character, Edge made his debut on WWE programming as well, in June of 1998.
9 Terry Gordy - The Executioner
A member of the Hall of Fame tag team/stable The Fabulous Freebirds, Terry Gordy's stint in WWE from 1996-97 underwhelmed to say the least. Once a talented performer, Gordy was a shell of himself by the time 1996 rolled around. While he was only 35 at the time, Gordy's best years were clearly behind him.
Largely to blame for Gordy's dissent is a 1993 incident that left him with brain damage. Gordy was flying back from working with All-Japan Pro Wrestling, when he took too many pain pills and fell into a coma. While he would be back wrestling in Japan later that year, he was never the same.
In 1996 WWE gave Gordy an axe and a mask and referred to him as "The Executioner." He wrestled one match against The Undertaker, losing at Armageddon. He was gone from the promotion shortly thereafter.
8 Curt Hennig - West Texas Rednecks
By 1999, most people in WCW had stopped caring. Eric Bischoff was gone, most of the big names were in hiding, and the storylines had descended into madness.
When the promotion wanted to repackage a group of established stars into a country and western band to feud with Master P and the No Limit Soldiers, nobody would have blamed them for phoning it in. However, Curt Hennig, Bobby Duncum Jr., Barry Windham and Kendall Windham hit a home run as The West Texas Rednecks.The team won the WCW tag team titles twice, and their popularity eclipsed the "good guys" they were wrestling against.
They released two songs: "Rap is Crap (I Hate Rap)" and "Good Ol' Boys." It is believed that some who were close with Hennig wanted "Rap is Crap" played at his Hall of Fame induction, but the Mr. Perfect theme was chosen instead.
7 "Superstar" Billy Graham - Karate Master
Former WWWF World Champion "Superstar" Billy Graham inexplicably debuted a new character when he returned to Vince McMahon Sr.'s promotion in 1982.
In the late-'70s, Graham wanted to be a good guy, but Vince Sr. was all-in on Bob Backlund playing the top babyface role in the company. Graham would later say he "retired" the popular "Superstar" character as a kind of revenge on the McMahons for not booking him the way he wanted.
Graham was slimmed down and bald when he re-debuted in the company in the early-'80s. He wore karate pants and a head band. Graham was still a bad guy, however, and he would leave the company after unsuccessfully challenging for Backlund's title. It was a far cry from what he had been in the late-'70s.
6 Iron Sheik - Colonel Mustafa
Apparently Vince McMahon Jr. felt that fans wouldn't recognize former WWF world champion Iron Sheik when he repackaged him as Colonel Mustafa, the stablemate of Sgt. Slaughter during the controversial Gulf war angle in 1991.
The Iron Sheik and Sgt. Slaughter had a bloody and epic rivalry, but now that Slaughter was the Iraqi sympathizer/USA turncoat, they were thick as thieves. They were joined by Adnan Al-Kaissie as General Adnan. Oddly enough, Adnan had been Sheik's manager in the AWA during his feud with Slaughter. Now both of them managed Slaughter as he entered WrestleMania VII as the WWF champion.
WWE chose not to acknowledge Sheik's real identity, despite the fact his appearance hadn't changed, other than the fact he was wearing an Iraqi military uniform. Still, WWE wanted someone familiar with playing the "foreign menace," and nobody filled that role like Sheik did.
5 Rikishi - The Sultan
After he was a member of the Headshrinkers, but before he joined up with the members of 2 Cool, Solofa Fatu, a.k.a. Rikishi, was the Sultan. Managed by the Iron Sheik and Bob Backlund (an interesting combination), the Sultan never spoke. WWE chose to explain Sultan's lack of vocalization by stating his tongue had been cut out.
WWE chose to be somewhat vague in their description of Sultan's background, stating only that he was from "the Middle East" as opposed to a specific country from the area.
The gimmick was actually an improvement for Fatu, who had spent his last few months in his "Make a Difference" Fatu phase. This was when vignettes aired about his past, and his desire to give back to the community.
The character toiled near the bottom of the card until Fatu left the company briefly in 1998. He'd return a short time later, and experience his biggest success as Rikishi.
4 Michael Hayes - Dok Hendrix
Michael Hayes epitomized the "cool heel" even before the nWo took the gimmick to new levels. While a member of the Fabulous Freebirds, Hayes was the rock star turned pro wrestler, who drank Jack Daniels and partied until it hurt. When the WWE signed him in 1995, however, the gimmick they gave him was described to him as someone "stuck in the 1980s".
Dok Hendrix would host minor shows for the company, and worked as an interviewer. He was always over-the-top, and dressed like he was on his way to a Duran Duran concert.
It wouldn't be until the Attitude Era was in full swing that Michael "PS" Hayes would return. In 1999, Hayes ditched Dok Hendrix after a painful four-year run. He started managing the Hardy Boyz, who eventually ditched him for Gangrel.
3 Kevin Nash - Oz
If WCW had a "Hall of Shame", one of the first inductees would be Kevin Nash as "Oz".
With all due disrespect for WCW in 2000-01, the worst period in company history was the early-'90s. In particular, the period in which Jim Herd was at the helm were uniquely brutal. This was the period that brought us Oz. See, Turner Broadcasting had just purchased the rights to the "Wizard of Oz" movie, so it was hoped that creating a character based on the movie would inspire a crossover between the two fanbases. It didn't work, not even a little.
Herd felt that all wrestlers should have over-the-top gimmicks, similar to what WWF had done in the 1980s. He even wanted Ric Flair to be repackaged as a Gladiator.
When the Oz gimmick flopped, Nash was repackaged as Vinnie Vegas, which didn't do much good for him either.
2 Jim Ross - Heel Announcer
In late 1998-Jim Ross suffered his second bout of Bell's Palsy and took a sabbatical from WWE. He would return in March and took part in a rather poorly-received angle — his second career heel turn, following the time he introduced WWE fans to the fake Diesel and Razor Ramon.
Ross, in storyline, claimed that McMahon had fired him because of his paralyzed face. He enlisted the help of Steve "Dr. Death" Williams to serve as his bodyguard. On an episode of Raw, Ross confronted the man who had replaced him, Michael Cole, and kicked him in the groin.
The only problem with the angle was that fans loved Jim Ross, and were not fond of Michael Cole. Yes, even then, fans didn't like Cole. With the WWE Universe refusing to boo Ross, WWE put him back in the announce booth, starting with the main event of that year's WrestleMania. Oddly enough, when Ross returned to the company in 2017, his first match back was also the main event of WrestleMania.
1 Pete Rose - San Diego Chicken
For three straight WrestleManias (1998-2000), Pete Rose got tombstoned by Kane. After getting embarrassed by Kane at WrestleMania XIV, Rose dressed up as the San Diego chicken for WrestleMania XV, and attempted to surprise-attack Kane. It didn't work and he got tombstoned again. The following year he would ditch the chicken suit, but the result was the same.
Pete Rose will one day go into baseball's Hall of Fame, it just might not be while he is still alive. His punishment from MLB was banishment "for life," not banishment "forever." Once he's dead there will be nothing preventing his name from going on the Hall of Fame ballot.
In 2004, WWE decided to honour Rose by inducting him into the celebrity wing of their Hall of Fame. This was no pity party, however, as Rose really had done a great job with the roles given to him by the company over the years.