Professional wrestling is not a sport, it’s much more than that. To be a successful professional wrestler you can’t simply be a great athlete. All of the best Superstars as far back as you can stretch your mind have been tremendous characters and needed that gimmick to be as good as they were. Stone Cold, The Undertaker, The Rock, they were all so much more than simply good wrestlers, and that’s why they succeeded to the level that they did. In fact some of the time a wrestler’s gimmick can mask a Superstar’s less than stellar in-ring ability. No offence to the man but the greatest example of that is Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster was hardly the greatest wrestler of all time but his aura and persona made him into one of the biggest names ever to step foot in the ring.
Most Superstars aren’t lucky enough to find their best gimmick on the first attempt, in fact many never find it at all. You decide whether that’s better than being trapped inside one for your entire career. It isn’t so much of a problem nowadays, but around 20 years ago both WWE and WCW bestowed some pretty terrible ideas upon their employees, many of which will make up this list. Some gimmicks are so bad that they simply can’t be shaken off, and that’s what the poor wrestler becomes known for forever.
The future looked bright for Fandango when he first arrived on the scene in WWE. The dancing wrestler made his main roster debut against Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 29 and much to everyone’s surprise actually won the match. Alas the life of a Superstar whose gimmick is that he dances was never going to be one that shot Fandango straight to the top, in fact it’s a bit of a shock that over four years later it’s still going. The man behind the dancing shoes, Curtis Hussey, reportedly is not a fan of the gimmick that has befallen him, and who can blame him? Like so many wrestlers throughout history though Hussey has kept quiet and gone about his business, destined to always grace WWE’s rings as Fandango.
14. The Gobbledy Gooker
At Survivor Series 1990 we were introduced to one of the best gimmicks of all time, and also one of the worst. While most will remember the event for the debut of The Undertaker, a select few will not have forgotten that the show also introduced us to The Gobbledy Gooker, a man dressed in a giant turkey costume. As you can imagine the bit didn’t go down too well. Hector Guerrero was the man inside the costume, and yes he is a member of the famous Guerrero family. You would think that being hidden inside the ridiculous outfit would have protected him and they could use anyone for it, but apparently not. WWE tried to push on with the gimmick and continued to use Hector. Then when they brought the Gooker back for a gimmick battle royal at WrestleMania X-Seven over ten years later, it was once again Hector Guerrero that donned the feathers.
13. The Spirit Squad
Okay not all of The Spirit Squad qualify for this list. Dolph Ziggler managed to successfully shake the moniker of male cheerleader and has gone on to carve out a pretty successful career for himself away from that terrible gimmick. The other members of the group, not so much. When the roster was split in two last year WWE actually brought two of The Spirirt Squad back to SmackDown Live, Kenny and Mikey. Kenny in particular has never been able to shake off The Spirit Squad stink. After the former Tag Team Champions broke up WWE tried to push Kenny by himself but it didn’t work. On top of that he has even resorted to using the gimmick outside of the company.
12. Red Rooster
One of the most under rated wrestlers to climb between the ropes in WWE is Terry Taylor. While Vince McMahon may have wasted Taylor’s talents years ago he’s trying to make amends for it now and has Terry working as a coach at the Performance Center. It was a baffling gimmick that tainted Taylor’s in ring career. In WWE during the late ’80s Taylor became a heel character known as the Red Rooster. He would walk and act like a chicken and even styled and dyed his hair to look like the crest atop a cockerel’s head. Even when Terry turned face WWE inexplicably kept him as Red Rooster. He wrestled elsewhere afterwards and even returned to WWE years later, but he will unfortunately forever be known as the Red Rooster.
When WWE and WCW were going head to head every Monday night throughout the latter half of the 1990s, no shots were off limits. Superstars were being stolen, skits mocking each other became regular fixtures, and WCW even revealed the results of WWE’s pre-taped matches live on air. Referring back to the mocking of Superstars, one man that WWE selected to poke fun at was WCW’s Goldberg. They found a wrestler back stage who looked like a small and scrawny version of their rival’s major asset, named him Gillberg and sent him to the ring. Believe it or not the man behind the sparklers, Duane Gill, actually wrestled for WWE on a pretty regular basis before being renamed Gillberg. Unfortunately for Gill after that it was pretty much all he’s remembered for, and he has even been brought back into the WWE fold on occasion to further Goldberg angles.
10. Santino Marella
Who remembers the debut of Santino Marella in WWE? The lucky Italian was plucked from the crowd at a show in Milan to take on Umaga for the Intercontinental Championship, and he won! The whole thing was a work and part of a story line of course, but even more so than you might think. Not only was Santino already a WWE Superstar who had been planted in the crowd, but he’s not even Italian at all. Clearly Vince McMahon needed someone who looked like they could pass as an Italian to pull the gimmick off and Santino fit the bill, whose real name is Anthony by the way. Despite winning a few titles during his time with the company Marella was very much a joke character on WWE television. A particular low point for the faux Italian was winning a Diva’s battle royal at WrestleMania.
9. Austin Aries
This one may seem like a bit of strange one to appear on this list, but let me expand on it a little. Austin Aries is a terrific technical wrestler who has experienced a lot of success in his career. If being a fantastic performer is your gimmick, that’s hardly one that you would feel trapped in. On the main roster in WWE however A-Double did become trapped and pigeon holed. His injury in NXT ironically led to him being rushed to Raw too quickly as a part of 205 Live. It quickly became evident that WWE saw Aries as nothing more than a cruiserweight and that he was destined to live out his days with the company on the 205 Live roster. Austin clearly had bigger ideas and while his WWE persona will always be trapped in that cruiserweight bracket, elsewhere he will be appreciated for the all round wrestler that he is.
One of the most infamously terrible gimmicks in the history of professional wrestling was that of Glacier. In the late ’90s WCW had the not so bright idea to try and appeal to fans of the video game Mortal Kombat. They did so by introducing a Superstar named Glacier, a blatant rip off of the Mortal Kombat video game character Sub Zero. Despite the instant realization that it was a terrible idea, WCW forced the issue and kept Glacier on their television on and off almost up until they were bought out by WWE in 2001. The man behind the Glacier gimmick was Raymond Lloyd. After WCW folded Lloyd joined the independent circuit and of course couldn’t shake the Glacier name. It was who people knew him as so he had no option but to embrace it going forward.
Back in the days where professional wrestling was even more of a politically incorrect business than it is in 2017, little people wrestling each other was considered an attraction. The category would have its place on the card alongside women’s wrestling and luchadors. Shockingly WWE managed to revisit that bygone era as recently as the past ten years. I am of course referring to Hornswoggle. WWE gave Hornswoggle, or Dylan Postl as he’s otherwise known, an opportunity which is fair enough. However it soon became clear that the reason they signed Dylan was because Vince McMahon needed a leprechaun for a story line. They even named him Little Bastard to begin with. It will always be how Dylan is known for as long as he continues to wrestle, and he is simply known as Swoggle on the independent circuit.
6. Curt Hawkins
Curt Hawkins doesn’t have a gimmick per se, but he is known for something that I’m sure he would love to leave in the past. Losing. Hawkins has been and gone from WWE time and time again yet despite his above average wrestling ability remains a glorified jobber to the stars. When his first stint with the company came to an end he was very much in the position of being squashed in order to put other Superstars over. After leaving he would later return but as a part of NXT. You would think WWE Developmental would make better use of Curt, but sadly for the former Tag Team Champion it was more of the same. Hawkins has recently returned once again and has clearly made peace with his position on the card, losing in short order on pretty much a weekly basis nowadays.
Heidenreich was a pretty terrifying human being. He was brought in as one of a few unsuccessful wrestlers to feud with The Undertaker on SmackDown, along with the Great Khali and Vladimir Koslov. The feud with The Deadman almost led to a WrestleMania tag match where Heidenreich would pair up with Snitsky while Undertaker would team with his brother Kane. Thankfully Taker put a stop to those ideas. The reason Heidenreich would be paired with Snitsky was because the both of them were effectively portraying psychopaths. Heidenreich would write unnerving poems, known as Disasterpieces, that basically made him out to be unhinged. Towards the end of his career WWE tried to get him away from that by pairing him with Road Warrior Animal in a reboot of Legion of Doom. It was unsurprisingly unsuccessful and Heidenriech will always be remembered as a lackluster wrestler with a screw loose.
4. The Boogeyman
One of the strangest and down right weirdest gimmicks WWE has ever come up with is The Boogeyman. A creepy, witch doctor sort of looking wrestler wearing black and red face paint. It wasn’t a guy who was repackaged, just one that was brought up from developmental, before the days of NXT, with a series of creepy vignettes to introduce him before his debut on SmackDown. The weirdest aspect of the whole thing was that the Boogeyman would eat live worms. If it was an idea that Martin Wright, the man behind the face paint, had it’ll be one he regrets now. His whole time in WWE, including recent returns, has involved him portraying that gimmick and he was even forced to keep it for his brief foray onto the independent scene.
Their truly is no line that WWE won’t cross, or at least there wasn’t in the past. During the mid 2000’s WWE introduced another wrestler to their roster who was somewhat politically incorrect, Eugene. Eugene was the on screen nephew of Raw General Manager at the time Eric Bischoff. He was portrayed as being special and had an undying love for professional wrestling. When someone plays a character like Eugene in any realm of entertainment they have to tread extremely carefully. Nick Dinsmore, the man who played Eugene, was of course not special like his on-screen character. Eugene was the character he was stuck with for his run with the company however. Dinsmore does a lot of work behind the scenes in pro wrestling nowadays, including having worked for WWE a few years ago.
2. The Shockmaster
When I say the name Fred Ottman most of you will likely not know who I’m talking about. How about Tugboat and Typhoon? Probably a few more of you will recognize who he is now. A huge man who competed in WWE during the early ’90s as both of the personalities mentioned above. Unfortunately for Ottman it’s not those two personas that he is remembered for, and perhaps he would have been had they come after his disastrous attempt at making it in WCW. Fredd Ottman is The Shockmaster. The man in the glittery Storm Trooper helmet who fell through a fake wall on his WCW debut. It’s an infamous moment in wrestling history and one that Ottman has still never been able to escape despite it happening over 20 years ago.
1. The Undertaker
Despite what you may have gotten from this list up until this point, being trapped in a gimmick for the majority of your career isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is one man who has lived the same pro wrestling persona for more than 30 years now, and you would have to imagine he is more thankful for it than anyone ever has been of a wrestling gimmick, and that’s The Undertaker. On paper it sounds like the most ridiculous idea for a character ever suggested. An Undertaker as a wrestler? No one apart from Mark Calaway could have pulled off what he has done with the crazy idea. There was a brief period where The Deadman became the American Badass, but it didn’t last. Taker eventually returned to the undead anti-hero that fans couldn’t get enough of, and he will forever be known as one of the greatest wrestlers in WWE history.
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