As you will likely already know since you are reading this article, professional wrestling isn't like any other sport. In fact some would argue that it isn't a sport at all. As hokey as the term sports entertainment sounds, the wrestling business really is a unique blend of entertainment and sport. It isn't like MMA where competitors turn up and they just need to be good at fighting. Pro wrestlers need to be good in ring performers of course, but if they are going to make it and they are going to be remembered they need so much more than that. They need to be able to talk people into a building, they need a great entrance, a striking attire, and all of that together makes up what is most important, their gimmick.
People like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair had terrific gimmicks. Characters where you couldn't tell where exactly the pro wrestler ended and the real person began. That's why they had such legendary careers. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to develop a gimmick as good as these three Superstars though. Some guys and girls are laden with absolutely terrible ideas to make something of. It really is what you make of it though. If you're handed a gimmick that seems terrible on the surface and you don't try and make it your own then it will always be destined to fail. Put your heart and soul into it though, like these following 15 Superstars, and you may actually be able to make a pretty decent career for yourself.
15 Santino Marella
Santino Marella made a rather strange and unconventional debut in WWE. During a show in Italy Marella was plucked from the crowd to face Umaga for the Intercontinental Championship and pulled off a shock win with an assist from Bobby Lashley. With that the comedic Santino was born. Marella was treated as a joke by WWE for the most part. His finisher involved him putting a snake sock on his hand and jabbing his opponent with it, and he even won a Divas' Battle Royal at WrestleMania under the guise of Santina Marella. Santino embraced it though and from that title win in Milan to his retirement, his WWE run lasted seven years. As well as the Intercontinental Title he also won the US Championship and was a Tag Team Champion in that time.
14 The Hurricane
For the longest time WWE Superstars and pro wrestlers in general have been portrayed as larger than life people and personalities. The likes of Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior were depicted and viewed as almost being super heroes. Well in the early 2000s Gregory Helms took that definition a little more literally. The cruiserweight wrestler donned a mask, some lycra and a cape and dubbed himself The Hurricane. Helms character was quite literally supposed to be a super hero, but his size compared to others in WWE meant he wasn't exactly seen as such by higher ups. Although he was categorized as a cruiserweight and a small guy by WWE, Helms still made the best of The Hurricane gimmick and it's a character that is still remembered fondly by fans today.
13 The Godfather
When you say The Godfather to most people it conjures up images of Marlon Brando depicting the character in the iconic film of the same name. Say it to a wrestling fan however and they'll likely have very different memories. During the Attitude Era, Charles Wright was called upon to bring WWE's Godfather gimmick to life. Wright played a pimp and would have his women come to the ring with him for his matches. You really couldn't make this up and WWE really wanted to see what they could get away with back then. It worked, and although Wright played a number of characters over the course of his career The Godfather is probably the main reason why he is in the Hall of Fame.
12 Val Venis
The 1990s saw a lot of terribly thought out gimmicks in WWE and truth be told The Godfather playing a pimp was not the worst of it. At the very same time the company housed a Superstar known as Val Venis. For those of you who don't already know of him his name might sound quite innocent and he just looks like your regular run of the mill wrestler. That couldn't be further from the truth. Venis was supposed to be an adult entertainment star turned wrestler, something I thankfully didn't realize when I watched WWE as a child. He took part in an angle that involved Japanese men trying to chop off his you-know-what and his finisher was called The Money Shot. Despite all that, Venis became a staple of that era in WWE and actually had a job with the company well into the 2000s.
Sticking with the theme of extremely dubious characters in WWE, let's move swiftly on to Eugene. Eugene came about after the Attitude Era so WWE doesn't even have the excuse of this one taking place during a time when they were desperately trying to push the boundaries in an attempt to beat WCW in the ratings. Eugene was portrayed by a pro wrestler called Nick Dinsmore. He was brought in as the 'special' nephew of General Manager at the time Eric Bischoff. About every thing you can think of has been used to create a character in WWE regardless of political correctness and this one was on some of the shakiest ground. Dinsmore made the best of what he was given though and even had a series of matches with Triple H as Eugene. Nick even landed himself a job as a trainer in WWE's developmental territory OVW for a while on the back of his Eugene run.
10 Perry Saturn
Perry Saturn spent the majority of the 1990s building up a great reputation for himself in ECW, WCW and various other smaller promotions. That reputation revolved around him being a great wrestler and he was in the same category as the likes of Taz, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho. When he arrived in WWE it was as a part of the faction The Radicalz, but he was always more of a background character during that time. Unfortunately it was ridiculousness that made Saturn's WWE run memorable. After suffering a story line head injury, Perry fell in love with Moppy, a mop with a face stuck on it. He would take it to the ring with him and even chose it over Terri Runnells. Once that gimmick came to an end so did Saturn's run with WWE after he suffered an injury.
9 Dolph Ziggler
Male cheerleaders aren't exactly common place in any walk of life. Regardless of that a male cheerleader gimmick somehow found its way onto WWE programming. Five men were selected from WWE's developmental territories and were dubbed The Spirit Squad. While some of them are wrestlers to this day, outside of WWE there is probably only one man from the squad that you would recognize today, Dolph Ziggler. Despite the Spirit Squad feuding with D-Generation X for a while the gimmick eventually died out, but Dolph's time with WWE didn't. In fact as you well know Ziggler remains with the company to this day and has even been a World Champion. Two other members of the Spirit Squad were brought back by The Miz recently in an attempt by The A-Lister to mock The Showoff.
8 The Boogeyman
The Boogeyman may be the most creepy and down right baffling gimmick WWE have ever come up with. Before we get to that though we should cover the intriguing path the man behind the face paint, Martin Wright, took to WWE. Wright competed as a part of Tough Enough in 2004 before admitting that he was 40 (the cut off age was 35). With that he was removed from proceedings but invited by WWE to train with them at OVW. It was there that The Boogeyman persona began to take shape. It debuted in 2005 on the SmackDown brand and was pretty weird. Wright would paint his face, carry an alarm clock to the ring, and worst of all he would stuff handfuls of live worms into his mouth. Despite the gimmick being down right bizarre The Boogeyman still makes sporadic appearances on WWE to this day and actually has a legends contract with the company.
WWE has taken something of a beating so far in this list when it comes to landing their Superstars with terrible gimmicks. Time to give their once fierce rivals WCW a little of the spotlight. Mortal Kombat was a big deal during the 1990s. From the film to the video game series, naturally capitalizing on that was a must for the world of pro wrestling. A good idea in theory but not in practice. WCW introduced us to Glacier, an homage to the Mortal Kombat character Sub Zero. He wore a similar outfit and even came to the ring as synthetic snow fell from the arena ceiling. Even though it was widely regarded as a pretty foolish idea, Glacier stuck around for a while. In fact he still makes appearances now 20 years later, most recently showing his face in Ring Of Honor.
Duane Gill was actually a wrestler for WWE before he would fall into the gimmick that would make him famous. Vince McMahon needed someone who could make a mockery of WCW's biggest star. Goldberg was really making a mark on Nitro every Monday and WWE resorted to poking fun at the former WCW Champion. It was something both companies were guilty of over the course of the Monday Night War. Duane Gill's Gillberg was the most famous example of it though. Duane looked like Goldberg if he had been washed at the wrong temperature and came out to sparklers rather than the real deal's impressive pyro. Despite that all taking place during the 1990s, WWE actually dug up Gillberg for an appearance this year when Goldberg returned for a brief run. Who'd have thought Duane's career as Gillberg would have lasted this long?
A long time ago - although not long enough - certain acts in pro wrestling were viewed as novelties and side shows. Women were very much treated as such, and so were those with dwarfism. There were still aspects of that in WWE not too long ago as was demonstrated by the inclusion of Hornswoggle on the roster. Hornswoggle was first hired by WWE in order to play a leprechaun that would accompany Finlay to the ring. He wound up turning it into so much more than that though. His stay with the company wound up lasting an impressive ten years during which he was involved in some high profile angles. He won the Cruiserweight Championship, was revealed as the anonymous Raw General Manager, and even played Vince McMahon's on screen son for a short while.
Tyler Breeze was considered a pretty big deal while competing in NXT. Even though he never won the brand's championship his gimmick was unique and the future seemed bright. Then when he arrived on the main roster he made a big mistake right from the start. Apparently Breeze left a taping of Raw early which is a no-no, especially for a new Superstar. Prince Pretty has been being punished for it ever since. The latest punishment came in the form of being paired with Fandango. It really feels like this was meant as a rib on both guys, yet they have more than made it work. For large chunks of this year Breezango have been one of the most popular acts on SmackDown Live. WWE are trying to make us forget about them but they aren't having any luck.
One of the most underrated Superstars of the past 20 years in WWE is Goldust, or Dustin Rhodes as he is known while not in his face paint. Dustin went between WWE and WCW a fair bit throughout the 1990s, and it was in 1995 while with the former that he debuted as Goldust. There is actually an argument to be made that the introduction of Goldust signalled the true beginning of the Attitude Era. During the early years Goldust was a strange character that was overtly flamboyant to put it mildly. It was an outrageous gimmick and something WWE are probably still surprised they managed to get away with. Here we are over 20 years later and Goldust is still on the WWE roster. He's not the same being he was back then thankfully but it's a testament to Dustin that he has managed to make the character last so long.
One of the most impressive examples of a terrible idea for a character working out and becoming a main stay in WWE was Doink the Clown. A man dressed as a clown wrestling. It sounds like the kind of thing WWE would do as a one off joke, having a heel beat up a clown. They actually did it on 205 Live very recently. During the 1990s though there was Doink, and he was so much more than a one hit wonder. While Doink has been portrayed by a multitude of wrestlers over the years, the man who made the gimmick famous was Matt Osborne. Matt's portrayal of Doink will forever go down in wrestling folklore. Scaring children and playing tricks on both opponents and fans, he was an under appreciated performer who really made the best of the lot he was given.
1 The Undertaker
Perhaps the greatest gimmick and one of the greatest performers in all of pro wrestling history is The Undertaker. Mark Calaway has lived the character and been fully invested in it since day one all the way back in 1990 and that is why The Deadman's time on top in the business has lasted for such a long time. It really is incredible if you think about it. The Undertaker was effectively intended to be a character that's undead. On paper it sounds like one of the worst ideas WWE have ever come up with, and that's saying something. If anybody apart from Mark Calaway had been laden with the job of portraying The Phenom then it simply would not have worked. It was the perfect storm and has led to one of the most legendary careers in sports entertainment.