Whether you like it or not, WWE is the biggest professional wrestling company in the history of professional wrestling. In fact, there are many people who probably don’t know there are other wrestling companies besides WWE. For years, Vince McMahon’s company has been a trendsetter. The rest of the wrestling world watches what they do in hopes of beating them at their own game. As is the case with any industry leader, it’s inevitable that some of those watchful companies are going to borrow a few ideas from WWE. To be honest, there are sometimes when these borrowed ideas - okay, rip-offs - actually lead to brilliant moments.
More often than not, though, these rip-offs are as painfully bad as you think they might be. For some reason, wrestling promoters throughout the years have honestly believed that all they need to do to be successful is do whatever it is that WWE is doing at that very moment. During those times, the best thing you can do is just laugh. You need to realize that kind of carnie logic is exactly the kind of mentality that the entire wrestling industry was built on.
15 Pathetic - TNA Refers to Their Fanbase the TNA Galaxy
The fact that TNA is still in business - as Impact Wrestling - should inspire everyone. Seriously, that company proves that no matter how many stupid decisions you make, there is always a way to stage a comeback. As you’ll soon see, TNA has had no problem ripping-off WWE over the years. On very rare occasions, it has worked out for them. More often than not, it just makes them look sad.
For instance, someone at TNA once had the bright idea to start referring to their fanbase as the TNA Galaxy. This is after WWE started using the term WWE Universe.
The similarity and timing of this decision was sad enough, but that galaxies are smaller than universes really hammers home what an awful idea this was.
14 Pathetic - WCW and TNA Both Hire Vince Russo
Vince Russo managed to go from freelance contributor to WWE Magazine to member of the WWE creative team in a shockingly short amount of time. In fact, Vince Russo was one of the people who led the charge for WWE to adopt an edgier television product. However, most people behind the scenes knew that Russo’s “brilliance” required a lot of help from Vince McMahon. That didn’t stop WCW from hiring Russo in an attempt to catch up to WWE. Of course, that failed spectacularly. What’s truly impressive, though, is that Russo’s disastrous time in WCW did nothing to dissuade TNA from hiring him years later. Predictably, that failed as well. Vince Russo must give the best job interview in the world, because the guy has turned little discernible talent into a hell of a career.
13 Worked - WCW Brings in Dennis Rodman
Professional wrestling companies have been hiring celebrities since the beginning of professional wrestling. Promoters have always been interested in turning that celebrity’s fanbase into wrestling fans.
Many of those celebrity crossover attempts failed, but Vince McMahon’s decision to have Mike Tyson participate in WrestleMania XIV was simply brilliant.
It was so brilliant, in fact, that it inspired WCW to call in some big-name celebrities of their own. Before too long, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, and Jay Leno were participating in WCW matches. Now, none of these celebrity hires were quite as successful as Mike Tyson, but each of them actually attracted pretty sizeable ratings boosts for WCW. You could argue that WCW went too overboard bringing in celebrities - David Arquette - but their initial run of hires worked out very well for them in the long run.
12 Pathetic - The Montreal Screwjob Recreations
The “Montreal Screwjob” changed wrestling forever. Vince McMahon’s decision to force Bret Hart to lose the title in Montreal not only exposed the business but created a real-life dramatic scripted scenario could top. It was such a fascinating series of events that WWE went on to use it as the basis for the Stone Cold Steve Austin/Vince McMahon rivalry.
While WWE is guilty of revisiting the screwjob story once too often, WCW wins the award for company that tried the most times to recreate the Montreal Screwjob without success.
It would be pointless to keep up with the number of times that WCW ran their own version of that angle, but Starrcade 1997 wins the award for most destructive attempt. WCW’s decision to compromise the Hulk Hogan/Sting story by adding a screwy finish involving Bret Hart may just have helped sink the company.
11 Pathetic - The Many Heel Authority Figures of WCW/TNA
The Stone Cold Steve Austin/Vince McMahon angle may have been built on the Montreal Screwjob, but it lived on thanks to the brilliant heel work of Vince McMahon. Vince’s decision to turn himself into the worst boss in the world was one of the biggest contributing factors to WWE beating WCW. Now, to WCW’s credit, they did recognize the brilliance of that angle and briefly replicated it with Eric Bischoff in the role of Vince McMahon. That worked for a time, but WCW soon ran it into the ground. They also tried to replicate it with other people in the authority role with little to no success. However, TNA wins the award for most pathetic heel authority figure. We just hope they fired whoever told Dixie Carter she could be a top-tier professional wrestling villain
10 Worked - WCW Runs Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper
This is a bit of a rip-off storyline and a bit of brilliance on WCW’s part. See, Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan had an epic rivalry in WWE. In fact, their rivalry was the basis of the main event of the first WrestleMania. However, WWE botched the feud a bit by never really giving Piper and Hogan a proper in-ring blowoff match. The closest they came was the infamous “War to Settle the Score” event which was really just an elaborate set-up for WrestleMania.
WCW, though, recognized that people still wanted to see these two have a one-on-one match on a big stage after WWE missed the boat.
While the Starrcade 1996 main event between these two wasn’t a great match - and suffered from awful booking - that event drew one of WCW’s largest PPV audiences ever.
9 Pathetic - WCW’s PG Attempts At Eye Candy Female Performers
WWE’s use of their female wrestlers during the Attitude Era remains one of the most controversial decisions the company ever made. They more or less completely abandoned the idea that their female competitors would ever be seen as serious wrestlers. Instead, they turned them into sex symbols not afraid to show some skin. WCW recognized that WWE’s strategy was a successful one. Unfortunately, their network wouldn’t let them broadcast that much skin. Instead, they tried some “PG” ways of utilizing the sex appeal of their female performers.
The most famous example of this was the Nitro Girls, but WCW also hosted a few drastically toned down “Bra and Panties” style matches that were clearly poor imitations of what WWE was doing. It was just one of those things that reminded WCW fans they were watching a poor imitation of WWE.
8 Pathetic - Asya
From time to time, WWE and WCW would take on-screen shots at each other. Sometimes, these cheap shots resulted in truly memorable moments. The DX “invasion” of WCW certainly qualifies as a good example of that kind of story done well. More often than not, though, these cheap shots felt very sad. For instance, you may remember that brief period of time when Chyna became one of WWE’s most famous mainstream performers.
In an attempt to replicate Chyna’s success - and mock WWE just a bit - WCW decided to have their own muscular female performer.
In fact, the only difference between the two characters was that WCW’s muscular female performer was named Asya (because Asia is bigger than China). Of course, Asya wasn’t nearly as good of a performer and also didn’t have WWE’s creative team to work with.
7 Worked - Lucha Underground’s Aztec Warfare/Gift of the Gods
While Lucha Underground suffers from some behind the scenes business decisions that may very well sink the company, their on-screen product really is one of the best in the business. Lucha Underground’s blend of comic book storylines and classic luchador atmosphere hits that “professional wrestling absurdity” sweet spot. The company has also successfully ripped off WWE on a few occasions. For instance, their annual Aztec Warfare event is nothing more than a Royal Rumble match. Of course, we struggle to remember the last Royal Rumble that was booked as perfectly as Aztec Warfare has been.
Elsewhere, Lucha Underground’s Gift of the Gods title is little more than a modified take on Money in the Bank. Again, though, Lucha Underground found a way to take that familiar concept and make it their own.
6 Pathetic - WCW’s Hardcore Division
Technically, we can just as easily blame WWE for ripping-off this concept from ECW, but you get the idea. Besides, WCW didn’t really do many “hardcore” matches until WWE started running more of them. They’d occasionally run a no disqualifications brawl, but they didn’t go over the top with those contests until 1999. That’s when WCW introduced the WCW Hardcore Championship; a clear knock-off of WWE’s own Hardcore Championship. WCW’s version of the title even utilized backstage and out-of-the-ring contests.
The difference was that WWE always treated their version of the championship like a joke. WCW, meanwhile, tried to develop a semi-serious hardcore division.
Again, the problem was that TNT didn’t like ultra-violent competitions. As such, WCW staged highly-elaborate - and much more family friendly - hardcore competitions that ironically led to more injuries.
5 Pathetic - Eric Young’s Daniel Bryan-like Push
Daniel Bryan’s WWE run is arguably one of the best runs a singles competitor has ever enjoyed in WWE. What made it work so well is the very real storyline involving WWE’s belief that Bryan was a limited performer. However, fans rightfully recognized that Daniel Bryan was arguably the best wrestler in the world. This caused them to rally behind Bryan in a way that we really haven’t seen since the Attitude Era.
In their infinite wisdom, TNA decided that what really got Daniel Bryan over was his beard. As such, they had the bearded Eric Young assume the role of underdog champion with a well-publicized beard. Wrestling fans immediately saw what TNA was trying to do. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop TNA from continuing to try to do it. As such, audiences endured several weeks of this shameless knock-off.
4 Worked - Diamond Dallas Page: The People’s Champion
There was a time when Diamond Dallas Page was basically a nobody in the world of wrestling. That might sound a little harsh, but the truth was that nobody thought DDP could be anything more than a mid-tier heel. However, fans started rallying around DDP in late 1996. This was partially due to his incredible finisher and partially due to the fact he was one of the few wrestlers who hadn’t joined the nWo by this point. Not long after, WCW started referring to DDP as “The People’s Champion.”
They clearly were inspired to do so by the The Rock’s own use of that term, but their desire to rip-off WWE was actually quite brilliant in this instance.
It gave them an excuse to give DDP a serious push at a time when WCW fans desperately needed someone to root for.
3 Pathetic - TNA Also Tries to Run Live Television Shows on Monday Night
When TNA/IMpact Wrestling eventually goes under - it has to happen at some point - there are going to be many stories written about why the company failed. You can rest assured that most of those stories are going to focus on TNA’s decision to recreate the Monday Night Wars. To be entirely fair, TNA was never more famous than when they signed Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, and others and announced they were going to run head-to-head against WWE on Monday nights. Then, with the whole world watching, they delivered some of the worst televised professional wrestling shows you’ll ever see. We’re not sure how nobody at TNA didn’t think to step up and point out the many, many reasons WWE was able to run a live show on Monday nights and TNA was not, but it wouldn’t be TNA if someone had.
2 Pathetic - WCW’s Renegade
Given how long the history of WCW’s attempts at ripping off WWE really is, you shouldn’t take it lightly when we tell you that this is by far their most pathetic attempt. See, back in the early ‘90s, WCW felt there was a very good chance they could sign The Ultimate Warrior. They were so confident, in fact, that they began running a series of promos that hyped his arrival without ever actually dropping his name. As you may know, The Ultimate Warrior didn’t sign with WCW at that time.
Rather than completely abandon the planned Warrior storyline like any rational company would have done, WCW continued to hype up the arrival of someone who sure looked a lot like The Ultimate Warrior.
Eventually, they revealed that their new superstar was a guy named Renegade; a wrestler who looked like a Halloween costume version of The Ultimate Warrior.
1 Worked - Goldberg’s Stone Cold Steve Austin Look
Back during the Monday Night War, people were fond of claiming that Goldberg was a rip-off of Stone Cold Steve Austin. That’s not entirely true. The two actually had very different gimmicks. However, there is no denying that many WCW presented Goldberg in a way that would make people think of Stone Cold Steve Austin. That certainly wasn’t an accident. Still, this was undoubtedly WCW’s best rip-off. They utilized Stone Cold Steve Austin’s iconic looks, but still pushed Bill Goldberg as a fairly unique competitor. The comparisons helped Goldberg attract some extra attention at the start, but people eventually kept tuning in because they liked what they saw when they changed the channel. That’s what companies that rip-off WWE sometimes struggle to realize. Those rip-offs will only keep people watching for so long.