Gimmicks in wrestling come and go, and have been around forever, whether it’s simply dressing in a manner that suggests that they are better than you, being completely passionate about themselves, or simply being someone who enjoys music. One of the earliest and most notable wrestling gimmicks was the flamboyant Gorgeous George, who would spray the audience in order to mask their smell. It was a heel tactic guaranteed to get heat, one that fans truly bought into. Loudmouths like Roddy Piper faced death threats almost on a daily basis because they were so convincing.
However, for every good gimmick, there are many bad ones. When they are trash collectors, clowns, two sport athletes or complete replicas of other gimmicks, imitation isn’t always the sincerest form of flattery. This brings us to today’s gimmicks and this particular list. Often gimmicks that are recycled lose something special because there is no sense of creativity to them. While nuances may be different, they feel like something that has been repeated over and over again. Whether it was fifty years ago or five years ago, some concepts have been rehashed too much and have nothing compelling about them. Here are fifteen recycled gimmicks fans are absolutely sick of.
15. The Cult Leader
Examples: Raven, The Undertaker, Bray Wyatt
We’ve seen these ominous leaders do more than just led by example. Their presence suggests that they are capable of ruling the world with their words. Their followers are mindless and in need of guidance to make the right choice, the choice of following the dark side. For characters such as Raven in ECW, The Undertaker when he led the Ministry of Darkness, and the eater of worlds, Bray Wyatt, their cult leader persona was both creepy and dangerous. They would lead men that would act like sheep and do the bidding of their leaders. What would be the result for their followings? Most of the time they would receive a beating and come back thanking their leaders and asking for more. These characters often blurred the lines between fact and reality, and their actions were often considered controversial. This type of character has run its course, and it’s time to reinvent with something fresh.
14. The Cocky Showoff
Examples: Dolph Ziggler, The Miz
There were guys that flaunted just how good they were, and each and every time they did, it got under the skin of fans. They would hit truly exceptional moves or take chances that others wouldn’t even think to attempt. One of the most repetitive characters that has been seen in wrestling is the ‘cocky showoff’. A number of characters come to mind, people that were just as quick to take down others as they were to build themselves up. In the early 90s, during the early part of his singles career, Shawn Michaels was brash and braggadocios, showing off just how good he was on the mic and in the ring. The nuances of that character have evolved and it still exists in WWE today. Dolph Ziggler and The Miz are cocky showoffs who say how good they are and take it to their opponents. Clearly, wrestling has gone to the well for this type of character on too many occasions.
13. The King
Examples: Booker T, Jerry Lawler, Macho Man, King Barrett
It seems like being regal in wrestling is about as old of a gimmick as there is. These characters have often worn a robe, a crown, and asked others to bow at their feet. The most notable man to be known as a king is Jerry Lawler. For the better part of four decades, Lawler has been ‘the King’. The concept originated partly due to his time in Memphis, which was also the home of the King of Rock n Roll, Elvis Presley. For every man since then that has been known as the King, they’ve each carried the crown with a very different ‘rule’ to their throne. Often the Harley Races, Wade Barrett’s, Booker T’s and Jerry Lawler’s have been booked as despicable Kings who are more selfish than selfless. The King gimmick has run its course, and hopefully will be one fans won’t be seeing any time soon.
12. The Ladies Man
Examples: Ravishing Rick Rude, Val Venis, Romantic Touch, Ric Flair
We have all known a person that has felt that they were God‘s gift to mankind. In a few cases, there have been wrestlers whose gimmick was they believed they were God‘s gift to women around the world. That confidence usually rubbed fans the wrong way. They presented their view that they were better than any man, and exactly what all women wanted. The gimmick has been done a number of times, but to reinvent it now wouldn’t work because it manages to be insulting to women, and there would no doubt be a number of complaints by female viewers. The late Ravishing Rick Rude was notorious for gyrating his waist and picking women from the crowd to whom he would deliver a kiss on the lips. There have been incarnations of the gimmick, such as the legendary ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair and, more recently, The Romantic Touch in Ring of Honor.
11. The Anti-American Foreigner
Examples: Rusev, Kozlov, Iron Sheik
One of the most reliable heel gimmicks in wrestling has been the anti-American. Whether it was the Koloffs in the NWA or Nikolai Volkoff, The Iron Sheik or more recently Rusev in WWE, they have earned jeers from the crowd more times than not because they will criticize the country and talk down to its citizens. However, it’s a recycled gimmick that has been completely worn out. During the 1980s, the U.S/Russian relationship was strained due to the Cold War, giving extra weight to ‘Russian’ wrestlers. However, the old cliché of hostilities between the anti-American foreigner and the high profile American wrestler has seen better days, and doesn’t reflect todays society in the least. In some ways, it appears to be a hindrance for Rusev, who still deals with fan chants of USA even though his character is no longer overtly anti-American.
10. The “I’m Better Than You” Diva
Examples: Eva Marie, Maryse
The guys who believe they are better than their competition aren’t the only ones guilty of acting like that. These sorts of characters don’t just believe that they are better than their opponent, it also applies to anyone watching them. The gimmick also gets applied to females, heels who walk with a sense of entitlement because they believe they’re better than you. A few years ago, there was former Divas champion, now wife and manager of The Miz, Maryse. Maryse’s character was always of the belief that she was better than anyone watching her, let alone anyone that stayed in the ring with her. That belief that she is better is anyone in her path is reflected in current Smackdown Live women’s performer Eva Marie. Eva Marie believes she’s better than you, but fans believe that this gimmick has grown stale.
9. The Dancer
Examples: Brodus Clay, Flash Funk, Fandango
Something WWE always says about themselves is that they want to entertain. Entertainment can mean a number of different things, whether it’s film, music or a sporting event. Since entertainment takes on a number of different forms, WWE has sought to present segments or gimmicks that have nothing to do with sports or acting. Dancing is a characteristic that has been booked as part of a persona on a number of different occasions. Whether it was Junkyard Dog and Koko B. Ware in the 80s, Flash Funk in the 90s, Brodus Clay or more recently Fandango, WWE has often wanted to use dancing as an easy to book aspect of a persona. It generally appeals to fans, especially a younger demographic. This isn’t saying it has run its course and should not be used moving forward. However, more fight needs to be demonstrated after watching these characters attempt to entertain by dancing.
8. The Monster
Examples: Kane, Braun Strowman, Abyss
They are built up as indestructible forces of nature. They have tremendous size, and don’t sell the offense of their adversaries, but rather scare the life out of those smaller than them. In the case of men such as Abyss, Kane and most recently Braun Strowman, the monster is a persona that’s been used countless times by wrestling promotions. It really isn’t hard to develop. Most of the character’s effectiveness relies on their ability to simply be big. However, in many cases, simply having size isn’t enough, as they need to convey that they are more than just monsters, but athletes as well. A number of years ago, big, slow moving, plodding men certainly were a sight to see, but they weren’t anything notable to think about. Today, fans are less interested in finding these fantastic beasts.
7. The Bodyguard
Mr. Hughes, Test, Diesel, Sid
Too often there have been men that have stood tall behind a smaller man, providing them with protection they felt they needed. During the earlier part of his singles run, Shawn Michaels always had security back him up. However, while there were a number of instances where Michaels needed protection, oftentimes the likes of Diesel and Sid would attack Michaels’ opposition during a match, unprovoked and behind the referees back. Another performer that was known throughout his career primarily as muscle was Mr. Hughes. He would stand tall protecting anyone that would pay him. In later years, another wrestler that began as a bodyguard was the late Andrew ‘Test’ Martin. With time, Test developed into a tag team and a reinvented singles wrestler. However, he initially stood by and defended The Corporation. These characters have had their time, and really bodyguards are a gimmick that is no longer necessary.
6. The All-American
Hulk Hogan, Jack Swagger, American Alpha
They wear their pride on their sleeves, which is somewhat ironic because none of these examples of All-American pride seem to wear sleeves. Whether they are former Olympic athletes or collegiate stars, these particular wrestlers bleed red, white and blue. From Hulk Hogan, who claimed to be a real American, to the All American-American Jack Swagger to the current Smackdown Live tag team champions American Alpha, American pride is something that has gotten over with the fans. The problem is that when it’s overdone, it loses some lustre, and fans grow tired of the characters with this gimmick. When Swagger first came in, he was jeered for being way over the top in his patriotism, and was able to switch to being conceited and arrogant, telling Americans how they should be living their life. The rejection of that over the top patriotism was no longer engaging to fans.
5. The Flamboyant
Examples: Aron Rex, Adrian Adonis, Orlando Jordan
These are characters that are lavish in how they dress and affected in their mannerisms. It is usually said that their opposition is uncomfortable to be in the ring with them because their nature suggests they aren’t a red-blooded male. They wore oversized sunglasses, long bedazzled robes, jewellery, and in some instances make-up. This character goes as far back as the late Gorgeous George, who presented a personality to which no one from his era could compare. As times have changed, the flamboyant character appears to have evolved, but ultimately still carries an overly dramatic, if not effeminate, nature. In the 1990s the late Adrian Adonis wore make-up and feather boas, which definitely made viewers uncomfortable. More recently, the character portrayed by Orlando Jordan was one whose flamboyant nature easily generated heat because it pushed on people’s level of comfort. Still, the implicit homophobia in this kind of character would not be as welcome today.
4. The Samoan
Examples: Umaga, The Usos
There is nothing wrong with being proud of who you are. The most convincing of characters demonstrate their success is rooted in being themselves. In the case of one particular family from one specific culture, their heritage has often been a focal point simply because of how many generations have been in the business. Whether it was the Wild Samoans Afa and Sika, or Umaga the Samoan bulldozer, or Jimmy and Jey Uso, being Samoan was all they needed to be. It didn’t matter whether they were portrayed as savages or came to the ring doing a Haka, being Samoan has been a gimmick that has been around for nearly fifty years. The biggest annoyance with the gimmick is that it is exhausted, and offering those of Samoan descent the chance to simply be themselves without having to lean on their culture would be a refreshing change.
3. The Rich Man
Examples: Ted Dibiase, JBL, Alberto Del Rio
Everyone has a price and everyone is going to pay! Wealth is considered one of the greater evils, at least by WWE, given it is still a rather a common gimmick. The rich man character was first made prominent by ‘The Million Dollar Man‘ Ted DiBiase, and was later reinvented by JBL who would ride to the ring in a huge car and supported by his cabinet of employees. Later, fans were introduced to a rich man that was of Latino descent. When Alberto Del Rio was brought into WWE, he had his own personal ring announcer in Ricardo Rodriguez. He was quick to demonstrate his wealth through how he carried himself and being driven to each match in beautiful cars. We’ve grown tired of the rich man persona, and it would be better left on the shelf moving forward.
2. The Wrestlers For Hire
Examples: APA, Hardline Collection Agency
They aren’t necessarily good guys and they aren’t necessarily bad guys. These are wrestlers whose gimmick was to provide protection to anyone that needed them. Fans will recall during the Attitude era that when the Acolyte’s broke from The Ministry, they became the Acolyte Protection Agency, or APA. Bradshaw and Farooq would do the bidding of anyone for a price. The concept was first presented nearly twenty years earlier, when Dick Slater and Dick Murdoch were the Hardline Collection Agency, a concept essentially identical to the APA, though it had a much shorter run. Whether it was a team or simply an individual who was being paid as a hired mercenary, the idea of a person for hire has been done enough. While those two specific examples from wrestling history don’t seem like much, it is far too similar to the bodyguard doing the bidding of a specific wrestler, as both are someone getting paid to take another wrestler out.
1. The Jobber
Examples: Gillberg, The JOB Squad, James Ellsworth
Wins and losses don’t matter to some characters. These are characters whose sole purpose is to lose. When wrestlers lose, it’s referred to as doing a ‘job’. And ‘the jobber’ isn’t new, it has been a constant character in WWE for a number of years. During the 1980s, the WWE had Barry Horowitz, who rose to prominence because of his number of losses. Fans gravitated to the everyman that seemed to lose, despite always putting in his best effort. While James Ellsworth has attained a great deal of popularity, he isn’t the first jobber who has been booked to earn a modicum of success and be a regular part of the roster. Before Ellsworth, Duane Gill became Gillberg, and was popular as a spoof of Goldberg. And before that there was the JOB squad, which consisted of the likes of the Blue Meanie and Al Snow, who also embraced the concept of being constant loser.
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