There are some wrestling ideas that make you question the sanity of all involved, and there are just as many that sound brilliant on paper that should succeed immediately, but never do. The thing about a gimmick is, no matter how terrible or incredible it might be on paper, it's only as good or bad as the performer bringing it to life.
In most cases, when a wrestler lives, eats, and breathes the character they portray in the ring, fans believe it and feel it, and gimmicks that should never have seen the light of day get over. Sometimes, those gimmicks even become legendary.
Here are 15 of the worst gimmicks that did the improbable (and sometimes impossible) and got over with fans in amazing ways. Some of these characters you'll love, some you'll hate, but they all made their mark and there's no denying them that fact.
16 The Hurricane
Shane Helms was a fan of superheroes, going as far as having the Green Lantern logo tattooed on his arm, and, since he managed to live out a childhood dream of becoming a wrestler (which he practically began as a child at 16), he probably figured becoming a superhero was also in his future.
Helms reinvented himself after the organization he made a name in, WCW, was absorbed by the WWE. Well, he also had the WWE to thank for stripping him of his "Shugar" Shane persona and turning him into the most generic wrestler possible.
Fortunately for Shane, all comic book fans know it's the dark times that make heroes, showing them what they're made of, so Shane shed the generic persona and became the hero the WWE deserved, The Hurricane.
The Hurricane wasn't much more than a ripoff of the Green Lantern, except without the superpowers. He was a delusional wrestler who truly believed, in his heart of hearts, that he was a superhero.
The backstory probably isn't all that far from reality actually, and Helms was brilliant in the gimmick, embracing it fearlessly. As we've seen time and again as fans, when a performer lives their role, we do too, and fans couldn't get enough of the goofy 'superhero', especially those who loved comics as much as Helms.
The Hurricane suffered some setbacks in the form of injuries, but he came back better and stronger than ever, competing mostly on the mid-card level but peaking during a feud with Hollywood superstar, The Rock.
The goofy gimmick that should have gone nowhere was so much fun that The Rock chose him as his opponent, even losing to The Hurricane. Of course, the win wasn't clean, but this is The Great One we're talking about, so you take what you can get.
15 The Ultimate Warrior
The Warrior gimmick made its debut in World Class Championship Wrestling before it was repackaged for the WWF as The Ultimate Warrior.
According to James Hellwig, he came up with the Dingo Warrior moniker after a fellow wrestler remarked that he looked like "a warrior". According to Road Warrior Animal, the name was Hellwig's way of trying to ride the coattails of The Road Warriors. Since Hellwig is the kind of guy who eventually legally changed his name to Warrior, it's hard not to believe Road Warrior Animal at least a small amount.
Wherever the name comes from doesn't really matter, and Hellwig joined the WWF in June 1987 as Dingo Warrior, defeating a few jobbers before he debuted in October of that year as The Ultimate Warrior. This new, face-painted warrior from parts unknown was unlike anything we had ever seen, and, arguably, something we will never witness again.
Like many of the great gimmicks on this list, there was little more than a word, or a single idea behind the entire character. In this case, that word was "warrior".
Somehow, Hellwig took the idea of a new-age, not-quite-native warrior, painted it neon, added armbands, and became The Ultimate Warrior literally and figuratively. He took basic moves like the clothesline and injected them with ferocity and intensity that made us feel each hit. He shook the ropes like a madman, making all of us who were children (and probably plenty of adults) feel like we were the ones about to gorilla press Hulk Hogan overhead.
His interviews sounded insane at times as he channeled the spirits of the great warriors throughout history, but that was only for the adults in the audience. To the children, Warrior was a hero, and they hung on his every word, no matter how incoherent it was from time to time.
He believed he was superhuman, and he made us believe it too.
14 The Blue World Order
To quote Joey Styles, "If any gimmick never deserved to make a dime and made a boatload of cash, [Blue World Order] is it!"
Stevie Richards, The Blue Meanie, and Nova were great at parodying fellow wrestlers and pop icons, as part of the ECW and members of the Raven's nest. Originally the three men, along with Raven, appeared as a parody of the rock band KISS, where they would rock out on their air guitars and irritate fans. At least, that was the original intention, since the gimmick never generated heat like it was meant to, instead getting over with fans almost immediately.
They continued with their send-ups of other wrestlers and icons, and, in 1996 at November to Remember, they struck gold.Bubba Ray Dudley (of The Dudley Brothers) had suggested they do a parody of rival WCW's superstar-stable The New World Order. Paul Heyman approved the idea, so Nova, Stevie Richards, and The Blue Meanie went on to become their own versions of the NWO as Hollywood Nova, Big Stevie Cool, and Da Blue Guy. The Blue World Order, as they were now known, was instantly popular with fans, and it even helped propel Stevie Richards up the ladder to ECW's main event. Like The NWO, The bWO would interchange and add members all the time, like Thomas "The Inchworm" Rodman (a parody of Dennis Rodman), bWo Japan, 7-11 (a parody of Syxx), and, my favorite, the "Nacho Man" Ricky Salvage.
The Blue World Order actually outlived the NWO, wrestling up until 2005, and frequently reuniting here and there since fans can't seem to get enough. Basically, they're the Weird Al of wrestling.
Before he even wrestled a match, the WWE audience decided the Fandango gimmick was a failure. A skilled dancer who decided to embark on a wrestling career did not inspire the same intrigue as sumo champion, like Yokozuna, or "giant who is a giant", like Big Show, so fans were certain the gimmick was doomed from the start. Fans simply aren't willing to overlook unrealistic backstories these days like they did during the goofy 80s and 90s.
Well, they aren't, unless the person behind the gimmick is special. The man behind Fandango happens to be that kind of special, and he has turned a terrible, ballroom dancer into a brilliantly performed heel who earned the respect of fans because of his unwavering commitment to the role.
Johnny Curtis has gone as far as leaving radio interviews (in character as Fandango) because the host would not say his name correctly. Another time, after being brutalized in a match with Chris Jericho and winning via disqualification, Fandango mustered up what little energy he had left to take to the microphone and correct the announcer's pronunciation of his name.
The commitment with which he plays the hand he was dealt is a throwback to the days of wrestling when wrestlers were in character, no matter what, and his dedication got him over with a gimmick nobody expected to last very long.
12 Doink the Clown
Doink the Clown, as originally portrayed by Matt Borne, first appeared in the WWF in 1992. Doink, like his name probably suggests, was a clown, complete with the costume, face paint, and neon-green hair.
Like all clowns (okay, just almost all of them), Doink was evil at heart, and he would play cruel jokes on both wrestlers and fans just to amuse himself and as a way to throw other wrestlers off their game. He tripped the Big Boss Man using a wire, dumped water on Marty Janetty, and won a match at Wrestlemania by employing the assistance of a second Doink, who, for whatever reason, had a prosthetic arm. And not as an arm, as a weapon.
This Doink was sinister, creepy, and a heel that could become nightmare fuel, since we had no idea who the disgruntled (and possibly psychotic) veteran was behind the face paint. There was potential to play on the idea that, yeah, a wrestler could snap after being wasted for years and decide to become a murderous clown.
What happens when Doink's tricks became deadly? What if Doink became less circus clown and more of the psycho variety like Batman's Joker, blowing up a few limos in the process for the fun of it? That would have been insane in the pre-Attitude days.
Unfortunately, Doink (now no longer Matt Borne) did something worse and made a face turn. Then, he added a sidekick by the name of Dink. Dink was a man of tiny stature, who would hide under the ring and come to the aid of Doink in the what definitely wasn't face behavior.
Somehow, this pair was incredibly popular with fans, and Doink and Dink were over. Personally, I loved watching Doink and Dink come up with creative ways to cheat their opponents and upset people. Well, their original face incarnation at least. Once Doink and Dink were joined by Pink and Wink, more little-people wrestlers, the already absurd gimmick became pretty much unwatchable.
Doink the Clown existed in a time where a clown in the ring made as much sense as an undertaker or an IRS employee, and, in a weird way, that makes sense. Anything could happen in the WWF in the early 90s, and that was a big part of the fun.
This is another one of those gimmicks that makes a lot of people upset, especially at the fact that it got over. Maybe that was just another one of Doink's pranks to upset the audience without them even realizing it.
11 Damien Mizdow
Aaron Haddad rejoined the WWE and debuted in 2012 under the name Damien Sandow. Sandow was, according to himself, an 'intellectual savior' to the masses and, according to everyone else, a pompous performer who refused to compete against opponents he felt were unworthy.
He found a decent run of success until he ran into Sheamus, and found some more success with Cody Rhodes as his partner until Cody Rhodes and he eventually split up. Sandow and Rhodes began feuding, and Sandow began what was a terrible streak of losing, racking up 12 losses and only 1 win.
Sandow's next move would be challenging John Cena for the World Heavyweight Championship, cashing in his Money In the Bank briefcase and still managing to lose the match in the process.
Sandow became lost in the creative shuffle, and it seemed like his permanent fate until he aligned himself with The Miz in 2014, becoming Miz's "stunt double" and mimicking every move Miz made while wrestling and his mannerisms when he wasn't.
Somehow, the Miz's stunt man became the target of fan adoration while his "boss" still got nothing but booing, and, for a time, Mizdow was getting pops as big as anyone that wasn't Daniel Bryan.
Eventually, Miz's ego couldn't handle the fact that his employee was stealing his limelight, so he demoted Mizdow from his stunt double to assistant, before Miz's pettiness would culminate in him attacking Mizdow.
Mizdow did get a face turn at the Andre the Giant Battle Royal Match after eliminating the Miz, but he was also eliminated by the eventual winner Big Show. Mizdow later lost the right to the Miz brand, and was eventually released in 2016, because this lame stunt man gimmick somehow got over huge with fans, and, for whatever reason, WWE creative likes making the fans suffer.
10 The Wyatts
The Wyatts is another gimmick that would have been a no-brainer in the less realistic eras of the 90s and 80s, when there was nothing weird about creepy rituals, rambling promos, and terrifying assaults on fellow wrestlers, but the "family" was formed in 2012, as what seemed like a very dark version of the Robertson family, from the hit show Duck Dynasty, and played as the inbred, villains in every rural-based, horror movie ever. And, of course, they also happen to be a cult.
The Wyatt Family gimmick originally didn't work for everyone because of what appeared to be a storyline with no real direction, bad match making, and promos that caused as much confusion as they did terror, but the charismatic nature of Bray Wyatt, and the imposing statures of Luke Harper, Braun Strowman, and Erick Rowan made it easy for fans to demand more of the enigmatic clan.
They didn't reach the heights that was expected of them originally, but they did engage in a number of feuds with top talent like Kane, John Cena, and Chris Jericho.
It wasn't until their most recent feud with The New Day that they finally got over. This storyline, involving a match in The Wyatt's backyard in what felt like a crossover between a horror movie and an episode of a children's cartoon, culminated at Battleground, where the power of positivity met pure fear.
The Wyatts came out the victors after having tormented the three men for weeks, in what was an excellent storyline that shouldn't have worked on paper, but it did, especially thanks to Xavier Woods appearing more and more terrified and entranced by Bray leading to the final match at Battleground.
After this, Braun Strowman left the clan, and, since Bray Wyatt was drafted to Smackdown with Luke Harper or Erick Rowan both drafted to Raw, it's hard to imagine we'll see much more of what we knew as The Wyatt Family, but it was a fantastic, sometimes confusing, ride while it lasted.
9 Broken Matt Hardy
After his brother Jeff was sidelined by a motorcycle accident, Matt Hardy was forced to fend for himself, ultimately turning heel in the process and cheating to win TNA's world title. Jeff disagreed with Matt's decision and the siblings would begin feuding during matches, eventually resulting in Jeff putting Matt Hardy through a table.
Following that moment, things got weird, and Matt's wife, Reby Sky, was shown distraught as her husband sat quietly in a wheelchair, staring blankly. He wasn't himself, according to Raby. Jeff had broken his brother.
Matt Hardy returned to TNA with the new persona of "Broken Matt", after the attack from his brother left him mentally damaged. He now had an updated appearance -- something like Sweeney Todd the Wrestler -- facial twitches, and even an English accent for some reason, and most fans thought the entire thing was terrible and nonsensical from the get go.
At least they did until it all played out.
The entire saga is too much to layout here, but this new, broken Matt would target his brother Jeff psychologically and physically, eventually culminating in Matt achieving his goal of "deleting" Jeff Hardy at The Final Deletion, taking the right to the Hardy name in the process.
It came down to Matt Hardy being broken simply because he had to be the second brother for so many years. The older brother was tired of playing a supporting role to the more famous Jeff, and the genius that is Broken Matt Hardy is what resulted.
He deleted his brother's name, his brother's wrestling history, and the shadow he had cast for years, achieving a peak as good, if not greater, than the one he achieved as the other half of The Hardy Boys.
Even if it were terrible as a gimmick on its own (which it isn't), the Broken Matt Hardy story has made TNA wrestling relevant again which is exactly what Matt Hardy planned from the beginning.
8 New Day
What do you get when you have three wrestlers of the same ethnicity who you don't know quite what to do with? Well, if you're the WWE, you stick them together and turn their entire gimmick into one based on stereotypes and the most distasteful thing you can think of. Remember Cryme Tyme and LAX? Heck, how about Rusev?
These guys were tough to watch when they began. The WWE took three fantastic competitors and threw them at fans, basically saying, "Here. Enjoy this. It's not stupid at all." But fans didn't bite, and, neither did the wrestlers originally.
The New Day was one of the most hated faces off the bat, especially in an era where audiences refuse to be told who to root for (ahem, Roman Reigns). The gospel music and the preaching were also of no help, and all of those elements made it hard for fans to appreciate the tag team, simply because there was nothing to love about another lame gimmick based on race that the WWE wanted so desperately to convince us was good.
Kofi Kingston, Big E Langston, and Xavier Woods took ownership of the hated act, much like great wrestlers with other terrible gimmicks have done in the past, and they flipped it on its head. The New Day turned heel, and they continued to clap, so they wouldn't snap.
That clapping was at first to the chants of "New Day sucks" but it eventually became "New Day rocks" as fans adorned unicorn headbands and rainbow shirts to spread the 'power of positivity'. As Xavier Woods explains it, they didn't want to sing and dance, because that was expected from black athletes. Along with Big E and Kofi, Woods wanted to push a message to kids looking up to them: you can be whatever kind of character you want, no matter who you are.
They went from caricatures with no substance to Pokemon playing, high-flying, two-time, tag-team champions of the world who have turned a potentially disastrous gimmick into one that has won over many fans, myself included. They really got over with fans after the feud with the Wyatts, and they are among the top faces in the WWE.
The act may be polarizing, for some obvious reasons, but all I see is three guys who took lemonade and made Booty O's, with a little power of positivity, ending up the longest-reigning, WWE tag-team champions (of the world!) in the process. There are still fans that think New Day sucks, and that's their right, but, love them or hate them, you're going to tune in to see these guys wrestle.
When Goldust first slithered his way onto the scene, it wasn't clear what to make of the heel. In fact, the Goldust gimmick was so confusing that even Dustin Rhodes, son of legendary wrestler Dusty Rhodes and the man behind the makeup, had no idea of the direction the gimmick was going to eventually take. According to Rhodes, Vince McMahon wanted him to be an androgynous weirdo. After already agreeing to the role, Rhodes looked up androgny immediately regretted saying yes, but still decided he'd put his 110% into it, since Vince McMahon was backing the idea, after all.
After six or seven months of trying to figure out the character, the androgynous, mysterious, and, at times, unsettling Goldust was introduced through a series of vignettes, confusing adults and children everywhere. What little we knew from the vignettes was that Goldust was a movie fanatic who would quote famous movies and relate them to storylines. And, of course, he was gold, modeled after an academy award. He was also unlike anything wrestling fans had ever seen, and it was impossible to imagine the "bizarre one" getting over.
This was all nothing much more than another strange character who would have probably been gone after a few months if it weren't for advice Rhodes received from Savio Vega. According to Rhodes, he was frustrated and not sure how to act the part of Goldust, and Vega, his opponent that night, simply told him to go behind him and start rubbing up and down on his chest, and act suggestively. At first reluctant, Rhodes listened to Vega's advice, made crowds of wrestling fans upset and absolutely mad with his suggestive mannerisms, and the legendary heel known as Goldust was officially born.
This gimmick is still the worst thing ever in the eyes of many, so it's probably going to raise a few eyebrows.
If you don't know, Eugene was a character portrayed by Nick Dinsmore who, while never outright stated, was mentally disabled. Outside of the ring he was innocent and gullible, being duped by unscrupulous heels, and, inside the ring, he mimicked his favorite wrestlers with great technical prowess and, from time to time, still got duped.
The whole idea was a terrible one that won over a lot of fans as they saw a mentally handicapped athlete hold his own, then lost them again when Eugene began feuding with more prominent wrestlers like HHH, and the storylines became less comical and fun and more brutal and insensitive.
To be completely fair, the character wasn't meant to be an athlete with mental difficulties. Instead the idea was a "kids based character" who had trouble doing basic things, yet had the ability to emulate his favorite wrestling stars once he entered the ring. That's according to Dinsmore who came up with the idea. I don't know if the idea of a man-child with arrested development is much better, but it's different.
Even if people can't get past the idea that Eugene was meant to portray a developmentally impaired individual, he was mostly portrayed as a sympathetic character and not a parody, and the gimmick originally worked very well as a wrestler with great technical ability who had a childlike mind.
4 John Cena
When John Cena first appeared in the WWE, he was little more than a bodybuilder gimmick that got tossed into a wrestling ring, because he really was an ex-bodybuilder who made a career change and decided he was more suited to wrestling.
Because his muscles were shaped like most action figure molds, he was named The Prototype, AKA Mr. P, and made his debut after accepting an open challenge from Kurt Angle. This led to an awesome handshake from The Undertaker, and that's where this gimmick peaked.
While on the WWE tour bus, Stephanie McMahon was impressed with John Cena's rapping, so she decided to give John Cena a push, leading to his "Doctor of Thuganomics" gimmick, which should have never, ever been greenlit. The gimmick was, basically, "White rapper", and not even "Eminem-like White rapper", but the throwback, Vanilla-Ice kind. He wore baggy jean-shorts that looked completely out of place in a ring, along with dog tags, even though he had no military experience. The entire thing reeked of a guy who was stuck in the nineties, because the WWE was (and usually still is) out of touch.
In the wrong hands, this gimmick would have been called "The Poser".
Since this was the right hands, Cena threw himself into the role completely, using his love of hip-hop and the military to turn a relatively corny character into an eventual superstar. Even through all of the cheesy aspects of his gimmick, Cena managed to amass hordes of fans, including many in the military who he has been a huge supporter of throughout the years.
Cena is hated as much as he is loved, but there's no denying that he is still "the face that runs the place", "the champ that runs the camp", and a career babyface who just keeps on winning.
Most wrestlers try on a gimmick, give it some time to get over, then move on if it doesn't work. When a gimmick does work, it usually survives for a few years before the wrestler behind the act shakes things up in a minor or major way. Those are most wrestlers.
When we were introduced to Mankind -- the creepy, mask wearing, guy who lived in the boiler room of the arena and kept a pet rat -- the gimmick could have been ridiculous. He was something like a Leatherface clone, and another in the long line of ominous, horror-movies-come-to-life. He was a tortured soul who would physically abuse himself as much as he would his opponents. His Mandible Claw, a silly finishing move in the hands of any other performer, was disgusting, unsettling, and a move we were convinced was deadly.
This strange, emotional creature also had trouble figuring out who he was, and the Mankind lore evolved into more personas. These included Dude Love, a cool, ladies man, and Cactus Jack, an even more hardcore version of himself.
These were the three faces of Foley. They shouldn't have worked. Yet, they were all incredibly popular.
Maybe it didn't make sense for him to switch from persona to persona, but it also really did. That was probably the most terrifying aspect of his whole gimmick. If this guy can come out one day as Dude Love, then the next as this thing, Mankind, with Mankind being varying degrees of insane and brutal from one day to the next, that tells me he's not playing crazy but is actually the real deal insane.
What was to stop Dude Love from freaking out in the middle of a match and decide to use the Mandible Claw as he reverted to his Mankind persona? Nothing, that's what.
And, somehow, he masterfully convinced us that the Mandible Claw was just as dangerous and effective when it was done with a dirty sock; a sock with a name.
Mick Foley is wrestling royalty, and the boiler-room loving, hair-pulling, hardcore-legend Mankind is what put him there.
2 The Undertaker
In hindsight, there's nothing about The Undertaker that isn't brilliant, except maybe, just maybe, the American Badass gimmick. But, looking at it as a gimmick by itself, without the superior performance behind it, there's so much about the Deadman that should not have worked.
First off, The Undertaker was supposed to be 'the undertaker', literally. Like the ones in spaghetti westerns who would be cloaked in all black, staring creepily from behind a shed somewhere as they waited for someone to be shot to death at that day's gun duel.
He was no ordinary undertaker though, and it was revealed that he was essentially a mindless zombie being controlled by Paul Bearer, who kept an urn with the key to The Undertaker's power inside. Paul Bearer also spoke for the unstoppable heel, and Bearer's shrill voice and pale, wiggly flesh alone should have been enough to kill the gimmick, but it wasn't, and it actually made the few times The Undertaker would speak for himself that much more intimidating and enjoyable.
Somehow, the WWF got a zombie with a day job over, without him having to say a word.
At this point, it's safe to say The Undertaker really is undead, since he was supposed to stop wrestling sometime around the late 90s or early 2000s, and, here we are, 26 years after his debut at the 1990 Survivor Series -- several broken bones, torn ligaments and muscles, and many chronic joint problems later -- wondering how he's still doing it, but grateful that he is.
Take everything that shouldn't have worked about Undertaker's undead gimmick, make it a demon-monster gimmick instead, add a mask, tons of fire, and an unclear backstory (that is still not entirely clear to this day), and you have yourself the Big Red Monster, otherwise known as Kane, the Undertaker's half-brother. This already impossible gimmick also happened to be portrayed by a wrestler with possibly the worst history of gimmicks, Glen Jacobs.
There was no conceivable way this would get over, right? Of course not. Yet, somehow, it absolutely did.
In 1997, Paul Bearer was no longer the manager of The Undertaker, and he found himself on the wrong side of a fireball delivered by the Deadman during a match. The fire prompted Bearer to slowly reveal The Undertaker's "biggest secret": his brother Kane. Thanks to Bearer's grudge, we found out The Undertaker had a long-lost brother, whom we had never heard about, and we bought it, because the idea that there was something out there that was as terrifying, if not more terrifying, than The Undertaker was something we never thought we would hear, and it was immediately intriguing.
The Undertaker himself refused to believe Kane could have survived the fire that he claimed Kane himself had actually set, but there was no more denying The Big Red Machine existed when he debuted and cost Undertaker his match at Badd Blood by performing a Tombstone on the Deadman. Surviving a fire was impressive, but only the devil himself would be brave enough to Tombstone The Undertaker.
No matter how bad the gimmick may have been on paper, it got over practically immediately, and Kane had officially arrived.
From that period on, Kane became a pivotal part of the Attitude Era, and he has remained an icon in the WWE through his many incarnations.