Gimmicks are as much a part of professional wrestling as are the actual performers, the matches that occur at events, promos and also television shows that air in North America and all around the world. Some of the most successful gimmicks in the history of pro wrestling helped certain individuals become worldwide icons known for being more than just in-ring competitors. Terry Bollea is the man who won titles in multiple wrestling promotions and who gained notoriety, both positive and negative, over the years for a variety of gigs and stories, but it's Hulk Hogan and not Bollea who is recognized by the masses. For better or for worse, Bollea will always be the Hulkster in the eyes of millions of people who wouldn't even consider themselves to be wrestling fans.
Hogan has played his character differently over the years, and, thus, we wouldn't necessarily consider him to be high on either a list of wrestlers with the most gimmick changes or on one discussing wrestlers who have undergone the least amount of gimmick changes during their careers. In some instances, a wrestler either found or was given a single gimmick that changed that person's life and allowed him to have a tremendous career for decades. Others, meanwhile, needed to go through multiple gimmicks in an attempt to find a long-term home with a promotion. It's interesting that the type of wacky gimmicks that we saw in pro wrestling back in the 1980s and early 90s are, for a large part, gone these days. Perhaps the industry could use an updated version of The Undertaker or even Hulk Hogan.
15 Most: Billy Gunn
The wrestler known to most casual fans as Billy Gunn was never able to become a World Champion in the WWE or in Impact/Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, but Gunn did well to remain relevant in the business for decades while having all kinds of gimmicks.
14 Least: John Cena
Upon seeing John Cena mentioned among wrestlers with the least gimmicks, some may mention that he worked as “The Prototype,” as himself once he officially debuted in the WWE and later as a rapper and the “Doctor of Thuganomics.”
It's fine to point that out, but all should remember that Cena and the WWE abandoned that gimmick, for the most part, all the way back in 2005 after he was drafted to the Raw brand during the original roster split. In fact, it was the elimination of that entertaining portion of his character that played a part in some fans turning on him and the birth of the “Lets Go Cena/Cena Sucks” chants that have been heard on shows for over a decade. Cena has been the company's top babyface and top star for roughly 12 years, and he has done so while using the same gimmick.
13 Most: Brodus Clay
We had such high hopes that the WWE couldn't waste the Brodus Clay gimmick. Clay was a huge monster, perfect to play the role of the muscle for a smaller heel, and he was impressive while working in NXT and on versions of WWE programming.
12 Least: Rey Mysterio Jr.
For the purposes of this portion of the piece, we're going to ask that we all agree to forget when certain individuals writing for World Championship Wrestling found it wise to unmask Rey Mysterio Jr. and toss money into the figurative dumpster in the process.
11 Most: JBL
Some readers out there may not have been paying attention to WWE programming in the 1990s when John Bradshaw Layfield played Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw, a cowboy and gimmick that came about a decade too late.
10 Least: The Miz
Whether you love Miz, hate him or find yourself somewhere in the middle of such discussions, you have to praise the guy for finding a gimmick that has genuinely drawn attraction, most of which has been purposely negative, during his career.
9 Most: Charles Wright
Charles Wright deserves of ton of credit for suffering through multiple ridiculous and terrible gimmicks before finally landing one that allowed him to become a fan-favorite in the WWE. Most notoriously, Wright was Papa Shango, the voodoo specialist who cast spells and once made the Ultimate Warrior “vomit” because of course he did. Kama, the “Supreme Fighting Machine” was a little less awful but still not all that great, and even the early versions of The Godfather were rather forgettable until he became associated with, um, ladies.
8 Least: Bret Hart
One of the best things about the Bret “Hitman” Hart gimmick is that it was almost always believable. You trusted the babyface Hart would do the right thing for his friends and family, wouldn't take shortcuts during matches and could topple evil heels. Even if you didn't like everything he said while he was a heel, particularly during the Hart Foundation's feud with American fans and American wrestlers, you honestly believed Hart felt he had been cheated, that he disliked the United States and that he believed he was “the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.”
7 Most: John Tenta
“I am not a fish!” John Tenta famously yelled during a promo on WCW Monday Nitro as he, essentially, declared that he was finished playing gimmicks such as the Shark, the Avalanche, Earthquake or any other similar roles based upon his massive frame/and or his associations with certain heel groups.
6 Least: Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar has had multiple nicknames throughout his tenure in the WWE. He has been “The Next Big Thing,” “The Beast Incarnate” and, who can forget, “The One in '21-1.'”
5 Most: Big Show
Some may point out that Big Show has retained the same gimmick once WCW abandoned the storyline that he was the son of Andre The Giant. That's fair, but what all should remember is that Big Show has changed from heel to babyface and later back to heel seemingly a historic amount of times.
4 Least: Marty Jannetty
Here is a person you may not immediately think of regarding wrestling gimmicks, and that actually plays a part in why he checks in on the list here. Marty Jannetty was, for the most part, always Marty Jannetty. When he was a member of the Rockers tag team, Jannetty seemed to be little more than a version of himself.
3 Most: Mick Foley
Passionate WWE fans could probably tell you that Mick Foley has played Mankind, Dude Love, Cactus Jack and, of course, Mick Foley during his time with the organization. You may have forgotten, or not even realized, those characters had different gimmicks on their own.
2 Least: Mr. McMahon
Regardless of what you think of the gimmick, nobody can deny the Mr. McMahon character is one of the most important in the history of the WWE, as it helped the company defeat WCW and win the “Monday Night Wars.”
1 Most: Kane
We can't blame you if you're struggling to recall all of the characters played by the man who eventually became Kane. You may have first seen Kane in the WWE as Dr. Isaac Yankem, an evil heel dentist. He played the “fake Diesel” as part of a horrible storyline involving announcer Jim Ross. Even the Kane gimmick has undergone a wide variety of tweaks and changes over the years. He was a monster deformed because of a fire, and he later became an unmasked psychopath.
Last, but not least, was the “Director of Operations” gimmick he played as a member of The Authority. Glenn Jacobs is now running for political office, and it's possible that real-life gimmick will be the last we see from him.
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