In order to stay relevant in wrestling, you have to reinvent yourself over the course of your career, as gimmicks become old and stale with the viewing audience. In some cases that means revamping your entire persona, and in others it means making small tweaks to an established character. In both cases however, fans will either accept or reject the change, making them the ultimate judge of a wrestler's fate. Could you imagine what would have happened if the WWE Universe didn't get behind Undertaker's American Badass gimmick, or if they would have accepted The Gobledy Gooker as a main event player? Sure those may be extremes, but the underlying truth remains that a gimmick change can make or break a career.
Today we are going to look at 16 gimmick changes, half of which were horrible and the other half were career making. Some of these gimmick changes were necessary for a wrestler to thrive, while others were seemingly changed out of nowhere. In all cases however, careers were changed because of these creative choices that will be detailed today.
As always feel free to leave us your thoughts and opinions in the comments section, and let us know who we missed.
16 Made: Stone Cold Steve Austin
15 Killed: Steve Austin (Heel)
14 Made: Hardcore Holly
13 Killed: Beaver Cleavage
12 Made: The Godfather
I’m no expert on the matter, but I think that changing your gimmick from a witch doctor, to a pimp that gets you into the WWE Hall of Fame makes you worthy of this list. As Papa Shango, Charles Wright was ridiculed by fans and voted the Worst Gimmick by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter in 1992. It would take two years before Wright could wrestle on WWE television again, but this time it was as Kama “The Supreme Fighting Machine”, and eventually as a member of the Nation of Domination. It wasn’t until Wright struck out on his own as the very cheesy Godfather, that he would experience his greatest popularity.
11 Killed: Corporate Kane
10 Made: APA
9 Killed: Tensai
Matt Bloom is certainly an underrated performer despite joining the WWE with such little experience in 1999. Debuting with only two years experience as Prince Albert, Bloom enjoyed a five-year career in the WWE before spending six years in Japan as monster heel Giant Bernard. In 2012 rumors swirled in about Bloom signing back with the WWE, but he denied it vehemently until showing up as Lord Tensai on RAW in March of that year.
8 Made: Mark Henry (Hall of Pain)
Do you want to know the best way to get a monster over in wrestling? Well if history tells us anything, then it’s to have your monster absolutely destroy other wrestlers, which is what the WWE finally did with Mark Henry in 2011. What made Henry’s squash matches different than those of the past, is that The World’s Strongest Man was running through other monsters. In just a few months Henry had injured The Big Show, Kozlov, Kane and the Great Khali, inducting the wrestlers into what he called his “Hall of Pain”.
7 Killed: Pirate Paul Burchill
6 Made: Al Snow
5 Killed: Axelmania
4 Made: Bray Wyatt
When Husky Harris debuted as part of NXT, there were few things that set him apart from the pack. The only thing he had going for him was the fact that his father was Mike Rotunda, otherwise known as WWE legend IRS. Harris failed to make an impact during his year on the main roster and was sent back to developmental to restructure his character.
This was easily the best move of his career, as Harris was able to develop the Bray Wyatt character in NXT and was quickly promoted to the main roster. Needless to say Wyatt has been successful, with multiple WrestleMania matches under his belt and of course is currently the reigning WWE Champion for SmackDown Live.
3 Killed: Mike Awesome (WCW)
Mike Awesome seemingly had all the tools to make an impact on the wrestling industry. Standing at 6’6” tall, and weighing in at nearly 300 pounds, Awesome had the looks of a main event star during his prime in the late ‘90s. Maybe that’s why he was plucked from ECW to join WCW in 2000, surprising many by attacking Kevin Nash on an episode of Nitro. Adding to the mystery of Awesome was the fact that he was the reigning ECW Champion when he showed up on Nitro that night. You would think that ECW would be able to use his debut to springboard Awesome into a top spot, but you’d be wrong. Instead the brass at WCW turned him into a “70s guy”, which was a play on the popular show That 70s Show.
2 Made: The Rock
No surprise here right? I mean who else benefited so much from a gimmick change as much as Dwayne Johnson did when he adopted The Rock persona? When Johnson debuted in the WWE as Rocky Maivia, he was billed as “The Blue Chipper”, a reference to his lineage as a third generation star with unlimited potential. Rocky was pushed as a clean cut babyface in a time when those types of characters no longer worked. When the audience eventually turned on Rocky in 1997 chanting “DIE, ROCKY, DIE”, a change had to happen.
1 Killed: The Shockmaster
One single promo ended a career before it even began back in 1993 for Fred Ottman. Ottman, who had made a name for himself as Tugboat and Typhoon in the WWE, made the jump to WCW and was poised to debut as The Shockmaster in the main event of the Fall Brawl pay-per-view. Though he did participate in the match, The Shockmaster ruined any shred of credibility that he had by falling over during an interview segment with Ric Flair. Ottman was never able to recover from the infamous gaffe, and instead of continuing with the gimmick, WCW instead made The Shockmaster clumsy as part of his character. The incident may have ruined his wrestling career, but Ottman makes pretty good money in merchandise sales at various autograph signings because of it.
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