It is fairly impossible to have every single idea be one that is knocked out of the park – everyone is entitled to have at least a few duds in their past because we are not all perfect. Let it be known that in the world of professional wrestling, there are many duds in the past, and most wrestlers would like to erase them from fans' memories. However, here at TheSportster, I have the very fortunate job of cataloguing these embarrassing gimmicks and characters and showing them off to the world so we can always remember just how ridiculous some of these wrestler’s past gimmicks have been.
Ever seen a wrestling robot before? How about a man who thinks he's a super hero? Perhaps a wrestling ding dong? I wish I was making this stuff up, but in this wacky world of professional wrestling, I can assure you that I am not. While all of these wrestlers will be recognizable by their WWE monikers, it's time to dive into their pasts and find their most embarrassing secrets. Wrestlers will often have to experiment with a lot of garbage before they find success, or sometimes they'll just reach a creative low in their career.
Here are 15 Embarrassing Gimmicks You Forgot These WWE Stars Had In Other Promotions:
15 The Dudley Boyz - Aces & Eights (TNA)
Ladies and gentlemen, we have an award winner in the house – we have the winner of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Worst Gimmick Award for both 2012 and 2013 making an appearance in this article in the form of the biker-gang faction Aces & Eights. It appears that a member of the TNA writing staff binge-watched Sons of Anarchy over a weekend and had the bright idea to make a biker-gang group invade TNA. Throw in a confusing storyline that didn't interest many fans and it was considered to be a rehash of the popular nWo storyline from WCW’s past.
Many wrestlers got entangled with in the angle, as most were revealed as members of the gang throughout their run, but the angle never gained interest with fans. While some wrestlers were only involved for a short period (like D’Lo Brown who was only in the group for six weeks), others like both Dudley Boys were involved for the full run, which they both certainly consider to be embarrassing parts of their legacy.
14 Kevin Nash - Oz (WCW)
When I think of Kevin Nash I instantly picture the 7-foot tall monster who started out as Shawn Michaels’ silent bodyguard, who eventually had enough of his cocky ways and went out on his own as “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel and powerbombed Bob Backlund to become WWE Champion in 1994. Never in the world would I have pictured him as a big, green mythical being who granted wishes to Dorothy and The Tin Man behind a curtain while being courted around by munchkins.
However, in the infinite wisdom of WCW management, they took a marketable wrestler like Kevin Nash and thought it was a big problem that needed to be rectified, so they dawned him in a giant green robe with spiked-up hair and made him magical.
Sorry WCW, but I think you missed the mark on this one. Thankfully Nash would get his run as Diesel not long after this debacle, which is what he is most remembered for, but thankfully us wrestling fans can still laugh at awful gimmicks like this.
13 Booker T - G.I. Bro (WCW)
Can you imagine a wrestler like G.I. Bro not only in today’s wrestling climate but in today’s politically-correct society? Yikes! No matter, our favorite nonsense talking RAW color-commentator Booker T was once part of the Misfits In Action stable in WCW who were a military-themed faction banded together against the powers of WCW management. Eventually after a few months leading the group, he eventually promoted Hugh Morrus to the title of General, making him General E. Rection (yes, this actually happened) so he was able to leave the group behind.
Thankfully this was Booker’s final pit-stop before entering the main event level in WCW, which eventually translated into multiple (five, I think) World Championship runs and an eventual place in the WWE Hall of Fame, but we will never forget this part of his legacy even if he would like to.
12 Marc Mero - Johnny B. Badd (WCW)
Here is the sad part – even though the Johnny B. Badd character was an overwhelmingly poor rip-off of the famous Little Richard, it was one of the biggest breaks in poor Marc Mero’s career as he was directly in the middle of WCW’s United States Championship division, and had a run with the Television Championship as well. While he may have been successful with the character, it made him a joke amongst fans as he did not get to display a large amount of professionalism as the character was mainly focused around his flamboyance.
Eventually Mero transferred to WWE as “Wildman” Marc Mero, then Marvelous Marc Mero, but was quickly overshadowed by his valet and enjoyed little success with the company before leaving quietly in 1999. You may have heard of her – her name was Sable.
11 Sandman - The Sand Man (ECW)
While the name may not seem much different, there is a considerable transformation that took place between the two types of characters. When I think of Sandman from ECW, I think of his entrance to “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, complete with cigarette smoking, beer drinking and can smashing until he bled from his forehead. The last thing that usually comes to mind is a surfboard, wet suit and sunglasses, but that's what “The Hardcore Icon” used to wear to the ring and during matches when he first became a part of Eastern Championship Wrestling before it became Extreme.
Under the suggestion of ECW owner Todd Gordon, Sandman began to incorporate more of his own personality into his character, which made him one of the most popular ECW wrestlers of all time. I'm sure Sandman looks back on his previous gimmick and enjoys a good laugh, which we all certainly do as well when we find pictures of it.
10 Batista - Leviathan (OVW)
Not everyone’s first kick at the can is going to be successful, even when you are a three-hundred-plus pound monster with a great look for professional wrestling – enter Dave Batista. Upon first entering the professional wrestling business, Batista landed in WWE’s developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling. In OVW, Batista began with a character known as Leviathan – a gothic, monster-type character who was portrayed as being from another world, here to wreak havoc upon other wrestlers along with a stabled called the Disciples of Sinn.
Thankfully, this gimmick did not last long and his potential as a superstar landed him in WWE very quickly. Unfortunately for “Big Dave”, his first gimmick on the main roster was alongside Reverend D-Von as “Deacon” Batista. Ultimately, things would work out very well for Batista and he would become one of the biggest stars in WWE in just a few short years, but people will never forget these first gimmicks.
9 John Cena - The Prototype (OVW)
One of the biggest criticisms against John Cena’s in-ring ability is that he is reliant on his “Five Moves of Doom” to complete a match and that there's not a lot of variety in his arsenal as a professional wrestler. What if I told you that was not his fault, and was only a result of his robotic programming? During Cena’s early training days at the California-based Ultimate Pro Wrestling and WWE’s Developmental Territory Ohio Valley Wrestling, he portrayed an android-type wrestler named The Prototype who was built to defeat other wrestlers.
No, this is not a joke – before he stood for “Hustle, Loyalty and Respect” and before he was the “Doctor of Thuganomics”, he was a tin can robot that was a professional wrestler. Can you imagine if Cena kept this gimmick through his career – he would not be anywhere close to the magnitude of superstar that he is today.
8 AJ Styles - Nature Boy (TNA)
Yes, it's sad but true – two of the greatest wrestlers of all time have made it on to this into one entry. One is The Phenomenal One who has taken WWE by storm since joining in 2016, and has easily transitioned to a main-event player despite his minimal length of time in front of a WWE audience. The other is widely considered to be the greatest professional wrestler of all time, and a true living legend in the business. What do you get when you mix both AJ Styles and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair together? A gimmick that is just trying too hard and takes away from an excellent in-ring performer.
During his run as TNA Champion in 2009, AJ Styles was taken under the wing of Flair and began to emulate Flair’s in-ring style and persona in interviews, complete with a southern-style “Woooo” from Styles, which just appeared unnatural. As you can see from his current WWE run (and past appearances outside of “The New Nature Boy” gimmick), Styles has the ability to carry a promotion on his back, but not when he's strapped with a silly gimmick like this.
7 Goldust - Seven (WCW)
I’ve always wanted to sit inside of a professional wrestling creative meeting to see how the room reacts when a writer brings a very strange storyline forward. When a really out-of-left-field idea is brought up, presumably everyone would be shocked and instantly nix the idea, right? Well, I wonder how the gem that is “Seven” got passed the rest of the team, as Dustin Rhodes’ character in WCW seemed doomed from the start. Appearing in vignettes which placed him outside of children’s windows peering through the glass made the character seem like a pedophile instantly raised eyebrows about what the character was about, and certainly not in a good way.
In addition to the strange vignettes, Rhodes debuted the as the character on an episode of Nitro and instantly cut a shoot-style promo declaring that he hated the character, as well as denouncing his WWE character Goldust. As we all know, Rhodes has ended up back in the Goldust role so I don’t think he hated it too much, but he was right on the money with how embarrassing Seven was for his career.
6 Eric Young - Super Eric (TNA)
The Eric Young that's currently in NXT’s SAnity stable is an absolute badass – he is the leader of a group of wrestlers who are hell-bent on destruction during their matches, and act as a gang to take out their opponents. It would be difficult to think of anyone who's part of such a destructive group of wrestlers to ever be involved in an embarrassing gimmick. Well, that means you didn't see Eric Young in his “Super Eric” wrestling character.
Super Eric was Young’s alter ego that he would utilize when he was afraid of his opponents as a way of garnering courage to fight them. Instead of being a clever, funny gimmick, it just made Young look terrible and like a wimp compared to the other wrestlers who were brave enough to fight on their own. While Young was very popular during his over ten-year stint with TNA, there were very few fans that got behind this silly gimmick as it completely took away from Young’s ability as a wrestler.
5 The Big Show - Andre the Giant’s Son (WCW)
Sometimes wrestlers have a very interesting past before appearing on our television screens that the basis for the character comes from that – other times writers have to invent a backstory for the character from scratch. And other times the writers just phone it in completely, which unfortunately was the case for “The Giant” Paul Wight before he became The Big Show in WWE, For those that are not aware, Big Show’s debut gimmick when he arrived in WCW (while winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in his first match), was him being promoted as being the son of famous wrestler Andre the Giant, complete with matching wrestling attire. This aspect of his character was quickly diminished, but thankfully we have pictures like this to remind us of how ridiculous WCW was.
4 Crush - Kiss Demon (WCW)
Known to long-time WWE fans as Crush (also known as that third member of Demolition who is not part of their long Tag Team Championship reign), Brian Adams was a widely travelled professional wrestler during his career, complete with tenures throughout Japan, WCW and WWE during his career. While his most successful run was arguably as a member of Demolition, he does have another interesting career highlight under his belt. Adams was chosen to be the inaugural KISS Demon wrestler as a way to promote WCW’s partnership with the band KISS, which was not a very popular move among the WCW fan base.
Live crowds treated his appearances poorly due to their disinterest, and the character was quietly phased out (Adams himself even passed the role on to another wrestler after only two appearances). While Adams would go on to compete in both WCW and WWE as a member of KroniK (another poorly received gimmick with an awful stain of a match as their only WWE appearance), he's unfortunately remembered for participating in this awful cross-promotional tactic.
3 The Gymini - The Johnsons (TNA)
It's a very difficult question to answer – which would you rather be remembered as? Would you rather be a part of a tag team who partnered with Simon Dean, who achieved very little during a WWE run? Or would you rather remembered as a literal pair of wrestling ding dongs? Hmm, maybe the question isn’t too difficult to answer, but unfortunately it is a black mark on the careers of both of The Shane Twins.
During TNA’s first weekly pay-per-view event, The Shane Twins would wrestle as "Richard "Dick" Johnson" and "Rod Johnson", and donned latex body-suits to wrestle their opponents so they would resemble penises. I really wish I was making this up, but unfortunately I'm not. Thankfully this was their only appearance, but you cannot help but think that this was in the back of their minds for the rest of their wrestling careers as a huge embarrassment.
2 Jimmy Wang Yang - Flying Elvis (TNA)
Unfortunately the original incarnation of the WWE Cruiserweight Division during the mid-2000s didn't receive a lot of love despite having a large depth of talent, one of them being James Yun, or better known as Jimmy Wang Yang in WWE. With only some slight exposure in WCW as a member of the Jung Dragons, Yang was looking for a job after WCW folded in 2001 and ended up as a member of the TNA roster while they were experimenting with new gimmicks for their talent.
TNA management’s great idea for Yang was to make him an Elvis impersonator with a group of other Asian wrestlers and call them “The Flying Elvises”, which thankfully didn't last very long, but there are too many pictures of it in the world that it must haunt Yang’s dreams to this day. On a positive note, Yang does have the accolade of being involved in TNA’s first match ever.
1 Billy Gunn - Cute Kip (TNA)
Growing up, I was a huge “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn fan – despite him having a very strange obsession with his posterior, his athleticism was a cut above other members of the roster as he showcased both strength and agility in the ring that made him very entertaining to watch. After some great success as a tag team wrestler, he eventually ended up puttering around WWE’s mid-card until 2005 when he was released for making many negative comments about WWE in an interview, and ended up where most former WWE talent did in the mid-2000s – he began a new career in TNA!
Unfortunately, this left a big black mark on Gunn’s legacy as a performer, as he was tasked with the character of “Cute Kip”, the image consultant for the female “Beautiful People” faction. Kip’s role in the group was to act as an enforcer, taking out both men and women who would get in the way of The Beautiful People, which was not a very popular gimmick among fans. While this angle didn't last very long, it wasn't very pleasant to watch, unless you were looking to laugh at Billy Gunn’s expense.