There is a theory that suggests nothing new is actually new, just a twist on an old idea. If that’s the case, it would make sense that WWE would find itself recycling a lot of old characters and gimmicks in an attempt to recreate the success of an original concept that made the company a lot of money. Blatant knockoffs are just part of the pro wrestling culture.
In today’s WWE, knockoffs are everywhere. From guys who want to be the biggest heel in the company like the Iron Sheik was back in the 80s to characters that look like a million bucks, roll to the ring in fresh wheels or act goofy just to get the crowd to love them. The characters may not be identical but you can see some “striking” similarities in the direction these talents are taking.
Will the WWE hit it out of the park each time they try to recreated a gimmick that worked so well for them before? Not even close. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of 15 WWE Superstars (most of which are current talents) that have some very non-unique qualities. Are they successfully taking these gimmicks to the next level or are they ruining the legacy of the gimmick that came before them?
Do you think we’re far off? Are we crazy for even suggesting these gimmicks are like gimmicks from the past? Maybe we’re making too broad a connection. Or, did we get it just right? Let us hear your voice!
15. Failed: Chris Masters
He was known as the “Masterpiece” Chris Masters but everyone saw him as the recycled “Narcissist” Lex Luger gimmick. Masters would stand on the stage, admire himself and his good looks and the entire idea of his character was that he was so darn attractive, he was simply better than everyone else. This is actually a gimmick the WWE does often.
The only problem was he wasn’t even better than Luger, who himself wasn’t all that great. Masters’ gimmick didn’t really last, especially after he was busted for violating the WWE Wellness Policy and when he came back he was some 15-20 pounds lighter and with a lot less muscle. He wound up leaving, returning and leaving again. Masters still wrestles but he has to be considered a huge flop.
14. Worked: Bobby Roode
The “Glorious” Bobby Roode isn’t terribly glorious when you consider that he’s an awful lot like “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and other characters who came before him sporting bright robes (hello, Ric Flair). But to his credit, Roode has taken the idea of being “Glorious” and made it extremely cool. He was one of NXT’s biggest stars for a year straight and got the call-up to the main roster of the WWE within a year of debuting and re-starting his wrestling career.
He looks like a million bucks, he’s hugely popular with the fans (so much so, WWE made the mistake of turning him into a babyface) and he’s got the potential to win a WWE Championship (something Orndorff never did). Bobby Roode’s career in the WWE thus far hasn’t just been good, it’s been glorious.
13. Failed: Aiden English
Aiden English may not be a direct knockoff of another wrestler but he’s pretty close in many ways to a few of them. From Damien Sandow to The Genius to Jillian Hall, the idea is that English will annoy the audience with “his craft” to a point that you want to see him get the tar kicked out of him by all of his opponents. The annoying part is working but the ability to make English into a star hasn’t worked, at least not yet.
English is still struggling to get anywhere past enhancement status in the WWE. He’s used to put over other talents and he takes the loss more often than not. You can see the company tries to get him the odd win every now and again but it never seems to stick and he goes right back to jobbing for other wrestlers.
12. Worked: Rusev
He’s a page right out of the Nikolai Volkoff or Vladimir Kozlov book but he’s got so much more personality and potential than either of those two former WWE Superstars. It’s amazing the way the WWE has wasted Rusev’s talents. Amazingly, he’s still done incredibly well considering the company doesn’t seem to want to offer a leg to stand on and if he could just get the company behind him again, he could be a huge star.
He’s also got the beautiful female valet that guys who came before him didn’t have and if the WWE would team them back together, they’d be taking a step in the right direction. Rusev is still full of untapped potential. He can wrestle, he’s agile and he can work the mic. He’s the full package but the WWE just isn’t opening him up yet.
11. Failed: Jinder Mahal
Give credit where credit is due, at first glance, Jinder Mahal wasn’t going to amount to much of anything. That he’s resurrected his career in the way he has deserves major props. He might be on his way down now but to be the WWE Champion for months and get people to successfully hate you as much as Mahal did, he’s up there now when it comes to conversations about heel characters using their homeland as a way to garner heat with the crowd.
Guys like the Iron Sheik made these types of characters a go-to for WWE and Mahal was a lot like Tiger Ali Singh and to a lesser extend Muhammad Hassan. He even pushed the envelope like some of these characters did and it backfired like it did with some of his predecessors.
10. Worked: Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt’s character is so close to the gimmick of former WWE Superstar Waylon Mercy that Bray actually called Mercy to get his permission to run with the gimmick. Mercy would probably be happy to see that Wyatt has taken the idea and done so much more with it than Mercy ever had a chance to do, he’s probably glowing like a proud father.
Unfortunately, Wyatt is stuck and has been for the past couple years. After debuting the character and potentially becoming the next huge WWE star, Vince McMahon decided to break up the Wyatt Family and send Bray on a never-ending spiral of losses and bad feuds that have almost destroyed his character. The good news about Bray Wyatt is that no one ever looks at him as down and out.
9. Failed: Alberto Del Rio
There was a point in Alberto Del Rio’s career that he might be WWE’s next big Latino star. He was brought out to the ring as a mashup of Eddie Guerrero and JBL and while he was pushed to the moon to start his WWE career, his behaviour and ability to get in trouble out of the ring cost him his push and eventually his job.
Today he’s still wrestling for whatever promotion will give him the biggest paycheque or allow him to show up if he hasn’t burned that bridge. He was never as cool as Guerrero and he was never as annoying as JBL and in wrestling, both of those things are important if you want to be successful as a heel or a babyface.
8. Worked: Carlito
Razor Ramon wound up being one of the most popular gimmicks in professional wrestling and Scott Hall (the person who played the character) wound up being one of the most influential wrestlers in the industry. He literally changed the way contracts in wrestling are done. But, Razor Ramon was not unique.
The Ramon character was kind of a ripoff of Scarface. Since Razor Ramon worked and Scarface was always iconic, WWE tried to reproduce a mix of the two with Carlito. Carlito was wildly popular and would have worked if he’d just stayed clean. Because of this, we’re calling it a work instead of fail. It wasn’t the character, it was the man playing the character. More than we can say for the “Fake Razor” that came after Hall went to WCW.
7. Failed: Chad Gable
There is still hope for Chad Gable and he could become a very big star so we’re adding him to the failed column knowing there is a chance he could turn around and make something major out of his WWE career. However, when you are looking to fill the shoes of a guy like Kurt Angle, you’re in for a tough uphill battle.
There are a lot of similarities between the two characters. From the attire to the moveset to the love for America. Gable is a small statured guy with a legit wrestling background. Angle was one of the most popular WWE Superstars in history. Right now, Gable doesn’t even come close. Let’s give this one time, perhaps Gable will surprise a lot of people.
6. Worked: The Miz
The Miz is quickly becoming a megastar for the WWE and not many would have guessed that would have ever been the case when he first debuted. Always a strong speaker, The Miz has taken his Hollywood A-Lister persona to new heights and there is an argument that can be made that he’s currently the best heel character in WWE.
He’s not far from a guy like Batista when Batista played the heel role. Wearing his shades and touting his fame as a point of contention for everyone else, Batista was annoyingly cocky when he was at his best. The Miz has really embraced that role and become a huge commodity for the WWE. Fans eat it up and they actually genuinely seem to love to hate him.
5. Failed: Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler is like Shawn Michaels, only not at all. He’s even admitted that Michaels is his idol and he patterns himself after what Michaels was able to accomplish. He takes major bumps and tries to sell his opponents moves like Michaels. He acts like a “boy toy” and calls himself the best wrestler ever to step foot in the ring.
The difference is, Michaels was actually all of those things. He’s widely regarded as the best ever and Ziggler has never come close to achieving that level of success in the WWE. On most nights, he’s still trying to find a way to win a single matchup. In many ways, Ziggler has to be viewed as one of the biggest disappointments in WWE. He had a ton of potential but he never really reached any of it.
4. Worked: New Day
This might be a bit of a stretch, but to me it feels like New Day has become a reincarnation of D-Generation X, at least in terms of their behaviour. DX used to be famous for acting like total idiots and getting the fans to love them. In a way, that’s where the New Day is now.
New Day makes something out of nothing all the time. From taking 8 minutes to get up after a match to making fun of their opponents, insulting them, throwing things at them and acting childish, it’s a schtick DX made famous. There are obvious differences between the two factions but a lot of similarities as well. New Day will never pass DX in terms of popularity but it is amazing just how popular they became after starting out universally disliked.
3. Failed: Kalisto
It’s almost unfair to make the connection but there was a time that Kalisto was on his way to being a huge star for the WWE and potentially the new face for a Latino/Mexican market that wasn’t well represented in WWE. It’s the kind of role Rey Mysterio played so well. In fact, there were rumours WWE was interested in bringing back Mysterio because they felt they were missing that type of talent.
Kalisto and Mysterio were both high flyers, put a lot of time into their ring attire and masks and were seen as the talented underdog in almost every match they were ever in. Kalisto hasn’t lived up to the success he saw for a brief period of time in the WWE and right now is toiling around in the Cruiserweight Division. He’s taking steps backward and not forward.
2. Worked: Sheamus
The Irish guy who likes to fight. Tell me where we’ve heard that idea before. It’s not a new stereotype but it was never more blatantly pushed than when Fit Finlay played that character. Sheamus has seen much more success than Finlay ever did and while he’s still wrestling with fans that say he looks stupid, he’s had tremendous success throughout his time as a WWE Superstar. From winning championships to being parts of a successful tag team, he’s done well for himself. Finlay ended up being known more for having a sidekick leprechaun than anything else. Let’s just stay Sheamus has done a whole lot more with a simple idea.
1. Failed: The Ascension
In one of the worst knockoffs in the history of WWE, The Ascension is about as bad a gimmick ripoff as you’ll ever find. Really, pick your poison. You can say they unsuccessfully stole the Demolition idea. Maybe you’d argue they are too much like the Legion of Doom. Perhaps the Powers of Pain? Whoever you choose, The Ascension doesn’t measure up in any way.
The best thing they’re doing right now is co-starring in a series of vignettes with Breezango and that’s probably not where the WWE envisioned they’d be when they debuted a team that was supposed to be a couple of monsters. The Ascension was supposed to be feared. Now they’re a comedy routine and while often times funny, it wasn’t supposed to turn out that way.
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