A gimmick is what defines a character in the wrestling industry. It can be that of a squeaky clean good guy, a treacherous villain, a badass, an underdog and many others that can help the audience relate to the wrestler. A good gimmick can always help a wrestler get over with the fans. On the other hand, a bad gimmick can absolutely destroy a wrestler's reputation.
The WWE's creative department experiments with a lot of different characters before a wrestler can find his perfect gimmick, but sometimes bad decisions can lead to disastrous results. Therefore, it is also the responsibility of the wrestler himself to come up with a gimmick that suits his personal style and wrestling abilities.
Although the WWE's creative has often come up with brilliant gimmicks which helped to create legends in the industry, it has also come up with some disastrous gimmicks that absolutely tarnished the reputation of a wrestler. They have come up with awful gimmicks for even the best of wrestlers, and while some have been able to survive them, others haven't been so lucky and have seen their careers effectively brought to an end.
22 RUINED: Max Moon (Konnan)
Konnan was one of the hottest Hispanic wrestlers in the 90s, and was in high demand because of his respected status in his country of Mexico. So anticipation was high when he was signed by the WWE, but his gimmick startled everybody. Debuting as “Max Moon” he would portray the character of a cyborg “from The Future” or “from outer space” and this was instantly ridiculed because of the strangeness of the character. Konnan himself seemed to be ashamed of this gimmick and continued to wrestle in Mexico while under a WWE contract, and also had a very strained relationship with Mr. McMahon because of his unprofessional behavior. After a brief run, Konnan was released from the WWE and the character was given to Paul Diamond, who also failed at it, forcing McMahon to scrap the hideous character altogether, while ending any chances of Konnan returning to the company as he’d find success in WCW later on.
21 SURVIVED: Spirit Squad's Nicky (Dolph Ziggler)
The Show-Off Dolph Ziggler wasn’t always as popular as he is now, as he had to scratch from the bottom to get to where he is now in the WWE. Ziggler actually debuted as part of the Spirit Squad who were a bunch of male cheerleaders who ganged up on others to help heels, as he was known as Nicky in those days. The Spirit Squad was a stable which no one really liked and were ridiculed numerous times by DX, who did a lot of disgusting things to them and Ziggler wasn’t really relevant as Nicky either. His gimmick was very weird as compared to what he became in the future years, and remembering him as Spirit Squad’s Nicky still makes for some laughs. Ziggler repackaged himself brilliantly after the Squad were sent packing by DX, returning as what he is now, having had some really memorable moments over the years and still remains as one of the WWE’s biggest stars.
20 RUINED: Eugene (Nick Dinsmore)
Eugene was actually a pretty good wrestler, with a brilliant ability to learn the work very quickly and was also actually pretty good in the ring. But his gimmick, which was that of a “special” person who was overly excited and mimicked other legends’ wrestling moves to win the matches was hilarious at times, but drowned out very quickly. With this type of a character, Eugene was never going to be taken seriously but got a mini-push after his debut when he wrestled Triple H at SummerSlam 2004 but lost. After that he’d be involved in some comedic acts and feuds, while portraying this childish character superbly even though the fans stopped paying attention to him after a point of time. He never really got over because of the nature of his character, and was released after some years in the company. Nick Dinsmore (his real name) had the ability to be a strong character in the company but was reduced to this mentally challenged, happy-go-lucky character who no-one could take seriously.
19 SURVIVED: Rocky Maivia (The Rock)
Before he was the most electrifying man in all of Sports Entertainment, The Rock had to endure the worst in his first years in wrestling as he debuted in the WWE as “Rocky Maivia” who was hyped as WWE’s first ever third generation wrestler. Despite his inexperience, he was pushed right from the beginning and was rejected and booed by the fans because of the cheesiness of his character. His clean-cut face character had absolutely nothing in terms of charisma or any attitude which made it very stale very quickly, and the fans refused to cheer him despite him winning the Intercontinental Championship soon after debuting. But after losing the belt and being sidelined for a bit due to an injury, he returned as a heel and started calling himself “The Rock” and the rest as they say, is history. In spite of what he became as The Great One, The Rock’s ability to transition from a boring Rocky Maivia to a charismatic Rock is what made him such an amazing entertainer.
18 RUINED: The Ladies Man (Dean Malenko)
Dean Malenko was probably one of the best wrestlers to have jumped ship from WCW to WWE when the former was on the down-fall, but his WWE run was extremely underwhelming because of the way his character was handled. The once calculative “Ice-Man” became a prominent cruiserweight in the WWE as he won the Cruiserweight Title twice in his term in the company, but saw his whole reputation go down the drain when he was given the “Double Ho Seven” gimmick which was a parody to James Bond. This was born out a match against the Godfather, who offered one of his hoes to him instead of fighting, to which Malenko accepted it. Malenko would then try to gain the affections of Lita, even offering her a Cruiserweight Title match with the condition that she’d go on a date with him if he won. He did win, and the sage continued for a disturbingly long time after which Lita pinned him in a match. Afterwards, he’d try to woo Ivory and Jacqueline, as they cost him his Cruiserweight Title in a match against Crash Holly. After that Malenko would go off TV, as he was probably disgusted at the horrible gimmick which effectively ended his career in the WWE as well as forcing him to retire later on.
17 SURVIVED: The Real Man’s Man (William Regal)
Coming in from WCW, William Regal was one of the finest technical wrestlers in the late 90s when he arrived at the WWE but was completely ruined by one of the worst gimmicks of all time. Regal who was known for his technicality, was given the gimmick of “A Real Man’s Man” with a lumberjack/builder looking gimmick. Vignettes of him doing “manly” things like chopping wood, shaving with a straight razor and squeezing his own juice was aired to hype up his debut. The thing is, this gimmick might have looked good on actual brawny men with Regal being a regular athlete who relied more on his technical ability rather than his strength in the ring, and his style and persona were completely ruined by this gimmick. It didn’t last long, as he only fought a couple of matches with the gimmicks before he left the WWE to join the WCW for another stint. But he returned to the WWE triumphantly in 2001, firstly as a commissionaire and then a strong mid-carder who had avenged his horrible past gimmick with the one which suited him the best, which was the arrogant Brit.
16 RUINED: Moppy (Perry Saturn)
Another wrestler to hop trains to the WWE when WCW was in its death-bed, Perry Saturn was another bright prospect because of his impressive displays in the WCW as part of Raven’s Nest and later feuding with Raven. Saturn debuted as part of The Radicalz with Malenko, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, but couldn’t be as successful as them and was mostly in the lower-mid card. But after a match where he legitimately beat up a jobber, he was punished by given a gimmick where he’d be infatuated with a mop. After being beat up by the APA which gave him head trauma, Saturn became eccentric as he’d utter “You’re Welcome” in random situations and fall in love with “Moppy”. This led to his on-screen girlfriend Terri Runnels telling him to choose between her or the mop, to which he chose the mop. Saturn’s Moppy would be “kidnapped” and given to the woodchipper by Raven, whom he’d have a feud against next. But Saturn, who was a legitimate bad-ass in WCW, was now degraded to this hysterical weirdo who no-one could find likeable and he soon saw himself out of the WWE, and never returning because of how bad a taste his gimmick left on the fans.
15 SURVIVED: The Connecticut Blueblood (Triple H)
Triple H has come a long way in wrestling, ever since starting off in the low leagues as Terra Ryzing to now become a key figure in the company. Triple H’s beginning to his WWE career wasn’t the most glorious either, as he’d debut as a “Connecticut Blueblood” who would wear a suit and carried a traditional spray bottle to highlight his snobbishness. His time as a Connecticut Blueblood made for some of his least memorable moments in the company, like his Hog Pen Match against Henry O. Godwinn. He would also have different valets appear along with him every week leading to his match against the Ultimate Warrior, which he lost in under 2 minutes. He’d continue to portray this snobbish persona until the Kliq got popular amongst the fans which forced the WWE to align Triple H with Michaels, who would later form D-Generation X and Triple H would begin a glorious run in the company which would result in many championships and moments and has culminated to him being a vital figure in the WWE right now, as his transition from this bad gimmick to becoming the King of Kings is why he’s regarded as one of the bests of his time.
14 RUINED: That 70s Guy & The Fat Chick Thriller (Mike Awesome)
Most of the wrestlers given a bad gimmick can moan about how one bad gimmick almost ruined their career. Well Mike Awesome had two bad gimmicks in the space of a year which definitely ruined the Awesome in his name. Once a master of the extreme in ECW, Awesome moved to the WCW in 2000 after problems with management in ECW and arrived as a star in WCW. But the reputation which he built in all those years in the land of extreme would be tarnished by WCW’s creative, who came up with his first gimmick as “The Fat Chick Thrilla” where he became infatuated with fat, chubby women. This horror-show would be followed by “That ‘70s Guy” which would be a reference to hit TV Series That ‘70s Show, as Awesome started to dress in the 1970s inspired outfits and hosting the “Lava Lamp Lounge” segment. These Awful gimmicks took away all his credibility towards the end of his WCW career when he joined WCW’s Canadian Stable with Lance Storm and Elix Skipper, as the reputation for this intimidating wrestler was now being referred to as a comic relief.
13 SURVIVED: Festus (Luke Gallows)
Before he was part of “The Club”, Luke Gallows had quite a history in the WWE where he first started out as the imposter Kane in 2006 during a feud with the Original Kane. He’d then be teamed with Jesse and be called “Festus” who was a mentally challenged and unresponsive mountain of a man who would suddenly get pumped up when the ring bell rang. His character who is mostly just an unresponsive, weird man would become focused and angry and the team would get some wins due to him. Obviously this bizarre gimmick wasn’t that liked by the fans, but later Festus was packaged to Luke Gallows as part of “The Straight Edge Society” and seemed to gain on from there after he was released from the WWE. He upped his momentum in TNA and then in New Japan Pro Wrestling, where his impressive display led for a call from the WWE where he and Karl Anderson now are ruling the roost as the top heel team of Raw, aiming to win the Tag Team Championships from The New Day as the once unresponsive, challenged man is a now a threat to be taken very seriously.
12 RUINED: Positively Page (Diamond Dallas Page)
Diamond Dallas Page was definitely one of the more under-rated stars of WCW in the 90s, as he rose the ranks in WCW perfectly to become of their top guys. So after the WCW was bought by WWE, DDP was one of the few guys to accept buyouts of their AOL Time Warner contracts and immediately sign with the WWE. Page would start out as a stalker to the Undertaker’s wife, Sara, and feud with him after which he’d be a part of the Invasion angle. But after suffering an injury, he returned to a new gimmick of a motivational speaker, which involved in him constantly smiling and acting optimistic, sparking a trademark phrase “That’s not a bad thing.. that’s a good thing!” but this gimmick completely tarnished his chances of becoming a legitimate top WWE superstar and he continued to wrestle in the mid-cards afterwards. His “motivational skills” were funny at times, but it disabled the fans to take him seriously as he had to leave WWE after nagging injuries soon, with his status as a top star fading away with this horrible gimmick.
11 SURVIVED: The Ringmaster (Steve Austin)
After portraying “Stunning Steve Austin” in WCW, not many thought that Steve Austin would become the trash-talking, rebellious wrestler which he became after joining the WWE but he didn’t immediately get his Stone Cold gimmick upon joining the company. Like his earlier gimmick, he was named “The Ringmaster” who would be another of Ted DiBiase’s men who awarded him the Million Dollar Championship. Austin had to defend it while DiBiase was beside him, but this gimmick would get him nowhere because it was just too weak(as Austin had himself figured out) and he couldn’t become a singles superstar with a man like Ted DiBiase at his corner. He wasn’t really paid much heed upon while portraying the Ringmaster as he later went bald(which would be prefix to his Stone Cold character) and then slowly transitioned into the iconic character once Ted DiBiase left the WWE. After being a nobody as the Ringmaster, Austin was suddenly the talk of the town and rose to became one of the most iconic figures in wrestling history, helping the WWE win the Monday Night Wars over WCW.
10 RUINED: Just A Regular Guy (Tommy Dreamer)
Tommy Dreamer was the heart of ECW, who stuck through all its highs and lows and did everything he could for the company before it closed its doors. He was signed by WWE afterwards, who debuted during the Invasion era but was kept off TV until returning with a gimmick where he’d claim to be “Just A Regular Guy” but was anything but that. He would be shown doing some disgusting antics such as brushing his own teeth and his dog’s teeth with the same toothbrush, as well as eating food from the floor. There was a segment aired where he would drink the Undertaker’s “tobacco spit” in the middle of the ring, much to the disgust of everyone. This might have been funny for some but it was disrespectful to this Hardcore Legend who later left the company and returned for their ECW brand later on, but saw his reputation diminished because of the awful antics he had been forced to commit through this terrible gimmick, which is one of the cases of the WWE intentionally sticking it to another promotion through downgrading the promotions’ star.
9 SURVIVED: Isaac Yankem, DDS (Kane)
The Big Red Monster Kane is definitely one of the most terrorizing characters in wrestling history, as he has haunted the superstars of the WWE for a long time now. But before he was this terrifying monster, he was a dentist in the WWE as Dr. Isaac Yankem who was the private dentist of Jerry “The King” Lawler. But because of his intimidating figure and height, he was hired by Lawler to take out his nemesis, Bret Hart against whom Yankem wrestled a lot of matches only to lost the feud in the end. He was later used as a jobber to the stars like The Undertaker, Jake Roberts and The Ultimate Warrior before the Yankem gimmick was sidelined. He was now given the gimmick of the Fake Diesel which was probably as awful as the last one as Kane’s career was going down the drain, when he debuted as the brother of The Undertaker and quickly asserted his dominance in the WWE. Kane would go onto become one of the iconic figures of the Attitude era, as well as staying a faithful servant for the WWE for a long time as his transformation from a Doctor to this Big Red Machine was amazing to say the least.
8 RUINED: Dean Douglas (Shane Douglas)
Shane Douglas was one of the keymen to spearhead the revolution of Extreme Championship Wrestling which had changed from Eastern Championship Wrestling, as he was vital to put over the promotion with the fans. So when the WWE came calling, Douglas couldn’t help but be wooed into the prospect of performing for them, not to know what he was getting into. Upon arrival, he was given the gimmick of a college dean who would hype his debut by showing vignettes of him teaching to wrestlers and fans, and would often scout his opponents by taking notes of them at ringside during their matches. This was expectedly a massive failure, as Douglas wrestled only a handful of relevant matches and became Intercontinental Champion when the title was vacated by Shawn Michaels(who he was set to wrestle) but lost it in eleven minutes to Razor Ramon. This horrible gimmick didn’t attract to the fans and Douglas’ WWE career didn’t even last a full year as this nonsensical, meaningless gimmick ruined what could’ve been a solid career for a superb wrestler.
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