Wrestling gimmicks can be the start of a performer's career or the end of it. A great gimmick can launch someone to superstardom, while a terrible one can spell the end for that same wrestler’s time in a promotion. It all depends on what the gimmick is and how well the performer can pull it off.
Some wrestlers have managed to pull off their gimmicks so well that it is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. There are several examples of this sort of thing in the article below. Even more hilarious, however, is when a certain performer had been once considered for a gimmick that would ultimately be a disaster. There are plenty of examples of performers narrowly missing a gimmick that could have spelled the end of their careers in this article as well.
Wrestling went through a period where gimmicks were barely present. Nowadays, WWE has started going back to them more than they used to. This trend has given us Fandango, Adam Rose, and most recently, Elias. WWE really went to town with gimmicks in the 1980s, however.
In this article, we take a deeper look at 20 different wrestling gimmicks that were originally meant for someone else.
20 Glacier - Rob Van Dam
In 1996, WCW debuted a new character who reminded fans a lot of someone from the popular Mortal Kombat video game. It looked as though the company was attempting to capitalize off of the recent success of the Sub-Zero character in the popular combat video game.
According to an interview he would give years later, Rob Van Dam was originally contacted and offered the role of Glacier. This shouldn't be considered too surprising as Rob had done some work for the company early in his career and has always had a martial arts influenced style. It is said that Paul Heyman was the one who convinced Rob to turn down WCW's offer. Glacier bombed and RVD likely avoided a career-sinking gimmick.
19 The Goon - Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho said he was offered a WWE contract in 1996 but turned it down. According to Y2J, he was offered a role as a glorified enhancement talent. This would be similar to Sal Sincere or the Brooklyn Brawler role. Basically as a guy who has a gimmick and is there to put others over.
Jericho believes he would've been cast as The Goon, a hockey player/wrestler. This would play off Jericho's background as a Canadian whose dad played in the National Hockey League.
18 Spirit Squad Member - Elijah Burke
In 2006, WWE debuted a unique stable of developmental call-ups named, The Spirit Squad. Originally, Elijah Burke was to be amongst the group.
Perhaps sensing it as a gimmick that could be the death for his career, Burke turned the opportunity down. This would've been a controversial move for him to make as a young guy in developmental. Turning down a spot on the main roster might have meant never being given another opportunity.
17 Val Venis Ladies Man Gimmick - Edge
Val Venis and Edge would both debut in WWE in 1998. While the performer Sean Morely would ultimately be chosen for the role, originally WWE wanted Edge to run with the adult star gimmick.
Edge had been using a similar gimmick on the independents leading up to this. He hilariously wrestled under the name Sexton Hardcastle until signing with WWE.
16 Evolution Member - Mark Jindrak
Before Batista was given his role in Evolution, it was going to go to Mark Jindrak. Evidently, WWE eventually decided Batista had a brighter future in the business.
Jindrak trained at the WCW Power Plant and had debuted for the promotion shortly before its demise. He was one of the contracts WWE chose to pick up when they purchased the company in 2001.
He would only last four years on the main roster before being released from his contract in 2005. Jindrak is now a huge star in Mexico.
15 Wyatt Family Member - Baron Corbin
It's believed that Baron Corbin was at one time considered for the Wyatt Family, though the company would go the other way by casting others instead.
Evidently, WWE chose not to go this route and Corbin has had a rather up and down career on the main roster. Vince McMahon is said to be a big fan of Corbin's, so perhaps the reason he didn't debut with the Wyatt family is that Vince wanted a brighter spotlight on him.
Since debuting on the main roster in 2016, he's won the Andre the Giant Memorial trophy and the Money in the Bank. He also reportedly made a fool of himself during a backstage meeting, which may have led to him being booked to unsuccessfully cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase. As of this writing, Corbin is the current United States champion having defeated A.J. Styles for the belt.
14 Big Van Vader (New Japan Role) - The Ultimate Warrior
In 1987, New Japan Pro Wrestling ran an angle where an unknown, foreign, giant wrestler came in and challenged Antonio Inoki to a match. The character wore a large black mask and was named after a powerful warrior from Japanese folklore. He would defeat Inoki in his first match resulting in the Sumo Hall fans rioting and a two-year ban on wrestling in the arena.
Leon White would be the man New Japan Pro Wrestling chose for the role, but he wasn't their first choice.
13 The Undertaker - Black Bart
69-year-old Rick Harris is a retired professional wrestler who was known as Black Bart during his in-ring days. You can check out Bart in action on the WWE Network. He wrestled Ron Bass at Starrcade '85 in a Texas Bullrope match that couldn't have epitomized southern wrestling any more than it did.
According to Bart, he was offered the role of The Undertaker by WWE. Despite accepting the role, Bart says he was released from the company and the gimmick was given to Mark Callaway instead. There is no doubt that the gimmick worked wonders for Callaway, though Bart's career fizzled as the 80s came to a close. Granted, Bart was in his 40s at that time, however.
12 Gobbledy Gooker - The Undertaker
Had this played out as it was once planned, there is no telling how it could've impacted the wrestling industry. The rumor goes that the Undertaker was originally supposed to be the Gobbledy Gooker.
It was an interesting show that year at Survivor Series and WWE had been building up the anticipation by showcasing an unhatched egg on their television leading up to the event. The egg would crack open and we would all find out what was inside at Survivor Series.
11 All-American Lex Luger - Crush
Lex Luger received the push of a lifetime in the World Wrestling Federation as the All -American gimmick in mid-1993. With Hulk Hogan gone from the company, Vince McMahon wanted to replace his big star with an All-American, true blue hero. While the role would ultimately go to Lex Luger, though Brian Adams (aka Crush) was also considered for it as well.
At the time, he was wrestling as Kona Crush, as he was no longer in Demolition. Instead of being chosen as the new hero, Crush would turn heel and align himself with Mr. Fuji and Yokozuna, Luger's biggest rivals at the time.
10 Evolution Member - Maven
The winner of the original Tough Enough series, Maven, was once considered for a role in Evolution.
When WWE formed the faction, they wanted to do something slightly different than the Four Horsemen. The Evolution idea was that Ric Flair is the greatest from a bygone era, Triple H was the greatest at the time, and Orton and Batista were the future of the industry. Evidently, it was decided that Maven wasn't the blue-chip prospect they perhaps needed in the role.
9 The Heartbreak Kid - Shane Douglas
The story goes that when Vince McMahon originally came up with the idea of the Heartbreak Kid, the role was supposed to be more of a rock star type of persona. It would turn into more of a Chippendale's playgirl type gimmick when Shawn Michaels eventually adopted the role, however.
Douglas would have an odd relationship with Vince McMahon through the years as they never quite saw eye-to-eye on who Douglas was as a performer. His first stint with WWE yielded very little aside from an appearance in the 1991 Royal Rumble. He would be back in the Federation in 1995, however, under a new gimmick. This time instead of being a rockstar heartthrob, he was renamed Dean Douglas, an evil college administrator gimmick.
8 nWo's 3rd Man - Bret Hart/Sting
It seems ridiculous in hindsight, but Eric Bischoff actually didn't know who the nWo's mystery third man would be up until the very day of Bash at the Beach '96. He had some ideas in mind, but nothing was set in stone.
7 Wyatt Family Member - Judas Devlin
Former WWE developmental wrestler, Austin Matelson, is better known to wrestling fans under the ring name Judas Devlin or more recently as the Luchasaurus. He would later become a contestant on Big Brother as well.
The current Lucha Underground and House of Hardcore wrestler was originally supposed to be a member of the Wyatt family. While in WWE developmental, however, Devlin was one of several trainees who made allegations against head-trainer, Bill Demott, for using racially insensitive language, physically assaulting and bullying students, and sexually harassing female talent.
6 Demolition's Smash - Moondog Spot
Moondog Spot was originally packaged as Smash from Demolition in 1987. Unfortunately, it is said that fans recognized the popular member of the Moondogs and began chanting his name at live events while he was dressed as Smash. WWE then made the decision to give the role to Barry Darsow instead.
Demolition would go on to become one of the hot teams of the 1980s, even breaking WWE's record for longest Tag Team Championship reign. That record would eventually be broken by the New Day, however.
5 Max Moon - Konnan
According to Konnan, the Max Moon character was a cyborg of sorts and he was the one who pitched the idea to Vince McMahon. The company loved the idea and even paid $13,000 for a custom-fitted suit for Konnan.
It would be Paul Diamond who would ultimately play the role for the short time the character existed, however. Konnan would leave the company after backstage disagreements caused him to no-show some events. At the time, Konnan's popularity was exploding in Mexico so he opted to focus more on his time over there and later with WCW.
4 The Ringmaster - Bryan Clark
The man first considered for the role of The Ringmaster was Bryan Clark, who you might better remember as Adam Bomb, or as one half of Kronik. Ultimately the role would go to Steve Austin, however.
Some have said Austin didn't need a manager at the time so pairing him with Ted Dibiase made little sense. On the other hand, Bryan Clark was never that strong a promo guy so having DiBiase as his mouthpiece could have been advantageous for him.
3 The Undertaker's Higher Power - Christopher Daniels
Vince Russo originally wanted to unveil Christopher Daniels as the higher power that The Undertaker worshipped as part of his Ministry of Darkness angle. Unfortunately, concerns from the network forced WWE to tone down the darkness of the angle and eventually the Ministry was paired with Vince McMahon's Corporation faction.
Evidently, when Vince McMahon got a look at Christopher Daniels and how small he was in comparison to the other members of the Ministry of Darkness - Vince was having none of it.
2 Mr. Perfect - Terry Taylor
It is hard to imagine anybody other than Curt Hennig in the role of Mr. Perfect. Hennig had that gimmick down like no other performer has ever worked a gimmick before. The vignettes where Mr. Perfect showed off his skills in various different sports will go down as some of the most entertaining vignettes in wrestling history. That's why wrestling fans are always so surprised to hear that originally the role was written for Terry Taylor. The man who once portrayed the Red Rooster would have been the man to throw and catch a touchdown to himself.
1 The Million Dollar Man - Ric Flair/Tully Blanchard/Vince McMahon
The Million Dollar Man character was said to be Vince McMahon's ultimate gimmick. It was the one he would have wanted if he had been a wrestler. Ultimately, there would be elements of the Million Dollar Man character in the Mr. McMahon character who would end up becoming a wrestler in the late 1990s, however.
WWE considered Ric Flair and also Tully Blanchard as possible performers for the role, even flying Flair out to meet with Vince himself to discuss it. The company decided to go with Ted DiBiase, however. DiBiase even agreed to sign with the company before knowing exactly what the gimmick was. He just figured if Vince McMahon was that behind it then it would turn out to be good for his career. He was right about that.
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