Throughout time in wrestling, gimmicks have been crucial in terms of getting people over with larger than life personalities and different stories that fans can invest in and either cheer or boo. Now more than ever in this "entertainment era" are gimmicks important, with WWE attempting to be more like a soap opera than they are a traditional sport, which has its positives and its drawbacks.
Over time there have obviously been highs and lows when it comes to wrestling gimmicks, with some going very wrong, for obvious reasons, and others being huge successes, however sometimes things don't always go the way the would seem. At times it often seems bizarre that an idea has even left a creative meeting with some of the dreadful gimmicks WWE pulls out, yet they can often be huge hits with fans and stick around for years. While, on the other hand, there are moments when what seems like a perfect gimmick just doesn't click for one reason or another and they fail miserably.
Throughout this list, we will be looking at examples of exactly that, with 12 terrible gimmicks that actually worked, and 12 brilliant ones that failed miserably.
24 Bad Gimmick That Worked: Fandango
It might not have worked for an incredibly long time, eventually falling foul to poor booking that saw him treated like a jobber until the Fashion Police angle, but Fandango's original run certainly got over with the fans. At first many members of the WWE Universe thought it was a joke that he was facing Chris Jericho at WrestleMania, deeming it a major waste of Y2J's talent.
While in retrospect it was, the pair of them got the dancing gimmick to work.
The night after 'Mania saw Fandango be the hottest act of the night with people singing along to his song, doing the Fandango dance which managed to become a viral sensation around the world.
23 Great Gimmick That Flopped: Divas Of Doom
The Divas Of Doom gimmick could have been so much better than it was and if WWE was putting it together today then it could really have some success given that the talent of the female roster has improved so much. At the time, the partnership of Natalya and Beth Phoenix as two dominating female wrestlers seemed like a good idea, but when the only person on their level was the other member of the team, it was tough to believe anybody could beat them.
With rumblings of a female tag team division currently ongoing, if Phoenix believes she has one more run in her then this could be a great way to do it, because it was a true shame that it didn't work to the level it could have in the first place.
22 Bad Gimmick That Worked: Eugene
As the mentally challenged nephew of Eric Bischoff, Eugene was a character that had mental difficulties which is not a gimmick you would necessarily think connects with professional wrestling, yet it worked very well. Although the man who played Eugene, Nick Dinsmore, had some input into the character's creation, it was such a stereotypical display of someone with mental problems that it could have offended some, but the way it was portrayed made the gimmick click with fans and he became a perfect underdog babyface.
Even though the gimmick did eventually fade away, Eugene managed to reach a solid level in WWE, competing with the likes of Kurt Angle and Triple H, something that a gimmick like this was never expected to do.
21 Great Gimmick That Flopped: Reverend D-Von
The actual Reverend D-Von character sucked, people didn't enjoy it and it is something that isn't looked back on fondly, but a big reason for that is that everyone just wanted to see D-Von do what he is known for; being a Dudley Boy. The actual gimmick itself as a preacher using religion to force a message to people actually isn't bad, especially to get real heat onto somebody.
WWE did this a little when they had CM Punk as the Straight Edge Society leader and it showed its potential.
However, there is no doubt the company can go even further with it if they want to and that could really get under the fans' skin and gain true heel heat, something the current roster is missing.
20 Bad Gimmick That Worked: Doink The Clown
While WWE did eventually turn Doink into a joke like character later on, with different wrestlers portraying the famous clown who would pop up every now and then, but the original Matt Borne run of Doink was incredible. On paper, the idea of a clown in wrestling just leads you to think of some comedic character but what we actually got was totally different with Doink being a fantastic heel that was inspired by The Joker from the Batman comics.
The character was sadistic and clever in what he would do, cutting excellent promos and genuinely putting fear into the fans who watched, turning what should have been a joke into something excellent that is fondly remembered still today.
19 Great Gimmick That Flopped: The Lunatic Fringe
This still has potential, should WWE bring Dean Ambrose back the right way, as a heel, but up until this point his run as a singles wrestler hasn't hit the levels that it could have done post-Shield. If your gimmick is being a lunatic then that brings an expectation that they will do crazy things, perhaps using weapons a lot or cutting wild promos, but the fact is Ambrose doesn't really do anything to that level and he never has.
Other than a few wacky arm movements, what has Ambrose actually done that you could consider being worthy of the nickname? A terribly dull Asylum match and a seriously average match with Brock Lesnar were two major chances to prove himself, and they fell short of the mark which is a real shame as the gimmick given Ambrose's history could be fantastic.
18 Bad Gimmick That Worked: Damien Mizdow
This gimmick was utterly ridiculous and entirely brilliant all at the same time and the way Damien Sandow managed to get this over with fans really was impressive and deserves a lot of credit. The only reason this didn't take off the way it should have done is that WWE cut the momentum from underneath him and The Miz, which was a huge shame. Teaming with The Miz, Sandow decided to copy everything he did and basically become another version of the "A-Lister," as "Damien Mizdow."
And by copy everything, we mean everything.
From his actions and mannerisms to literally taking bumps on the outside whenever Miz did. It was totally stupid but the WWE Universe loved it and Sandow deserved more than he got for his efforts.
17 Great Gimmick That Flopped: The Son Of Mr McMahon
How good could this have been? Seriously, someone getting the gimmick of being Vince McMahon's illegitimate child should have been a free pass to the main event scene of WWE, but instead, it was a complete and utter disaster. Of course, the entire thing didn't go to plan, with the original gimmick supposedly being meant for Mr. Kennedy, who would have gone into a major feud with Triple H, which should have created a huge cocky heel character from Kennedy.
What fans actually got was a total joke as Hornswoggle, of all people, was revealed to be the bastard child of Mr. McMahon and the fans instantly lost every bit of passion they had in the angle. Later on, 'Swoggle was revealed not to be Vince's bastard after all, but that of Fit Finlay.
16 Bad Gimmick That Worked: Broken Hardys
First of all, when you are already established megastars, totally changing your gimmick is an incredibly brave decision, which is the one that Matt and Jeff Hardy made when they introduced everyone to the "Broken Universe." Secondly, when the gimmick is as crazy as this one was there is always a high chance of it not working, with Matt Hardy claiming he was nothing more than a vessel which had been taken over by something that was thousands of years old.
Among other bizarre behaviors, Hardy would "delete" people and talk to giraffes and other animals as if they were historical figures like George Washington. The entire thing was crazy, yet because they were so committed it all worked and created one of the best gimmicks in recent memory.
15 Great Gimmick That Flopped: Solomon Crowe
Solomon Crowe a.k.a Sami Callihan was never really given a fair run in NXT, despite the fact he is one of the most talented wrestlers on the independent scene, but he was provided with a killer gimmick that should have done better. One of the reasons it didn't is that Crowe's gimmick was never fully explained to fans and wasn't developed enough after his introduction. Crowe was supposed to be a hacker and while that sounds like something that could suck, in this modern era it has real potential.
Imagine a character being able to hack the WWE's social media to spread their message, perhaps posting videos on the company YouTube channel at random. With the way the world is going, this is a gimmick that needs to be explored properly.
14 Bad Gimmick That Worked: Val Venis
This was the sort of gimmick that could only ever work in the Attitude Era, as nowadays it would fall flat on the PG product, but back then Val Venis was over with fans and certainly worked well. Venis was an "entertainer" that also wrestled... because why wouldn't he? The gimmick was ridiculous, but Sean Morley did a fantastic job in throwing everything he had at it, with his famous "Hello ladies" becoming one of the most well-known catchphrases in WWE history.
While it was never a main event gimmick, it was certainly one that went down well with fans who simply found it hilarious and bought into it.
The ladies would scream and the men would be jealous, it was a simple recipe for success that only Vince McMahon would think of.
13 Great Gimmick That Flopped: Nailz
If your name ends with a 'Z' you know that they must be tough, Nailz had a great gimmick but sadly a terrible attitude and that led to a major confrontation between him and Vince McMahon and we all know who wins that, don't we... The gimmick of a wrestler coming in from prison as someone who just wants to beat people up is something that WWE could really play on, making them a feared heel that has to be taken down by a true babyface.
Sadly, this has just never worked and WWE has actually tried it more than once, but it has never been on the right talent. If this was to fall on someone who was fully committed to being a true heel, and didn't have the attitude Kevin Wacholz had, then this gimmick has money written all over it.
12 Bad Gimmick That Worked: Boogeyman
While the Boogeyman didn't achieve main event status that others on this list have done, the gimmick certainly went down better than it had any right to, sticking around much longer than originally planned. From eating worms to smashing a clock over his head to eating a giant mole out of Jillian Hall's face, the Boogeyman was simply ridiculous, yet because the performance was so convincing the fans managed to buy into everything that they saw.
Had it not been for in-ring limitations, with Boogeyman not being the greatest between the ropes, then who knows where this character could have gone, but for a gimmick so cartoonish, it worked very well.
11 Great Gimmick That Flopped: Eva Marie
Many people won't be surprised by hearing something to do with Eva Marie failed, as she wasn't anywhere near WWE's level and was simply brought in for her beauty and physical appeal, but she was given a great gimmick toward the end of her time with the company. Finding new and innovative ways to dodge matches and having a grand entrance complete with a voiceover was perfect for Marie's character, which the fans already hated, and it managed to gain real heat.
She was just starting to get somewhere with the idea when she got busted for a wellness violation, which seemed to be the mistake that opened WWE's eyes as they never used her again since, with the gimmick fading away with her.
10 Bad Gimmick That Worked: The Hurricane
We get it, WWE Superstars are like superheroes, especially to the younger members of the audience, but when WWE decided to actually make Gregory Helms be a superhero many people questioned what the gimmick would be like. The answer was The Hurricane and the monster reaction he got for a 10-second comeback at the 2018 Royal Rumble shows exactly how beloved that gimmick was by fans. What was incredibly cartoonish and silly managed to become incredibly fun and entertaining.
Yes, The Hurricane did play up to the cartoon elements but when you are dressed as a superhero in a cape and mask there is no way of avoiding that. But the way it was portrayed allowed him to end up beating The Rock, proving just how over he was with fans.
9 Great Gimmick That Flopped: Kharma
When Kharma made her debut in WWE the women's division was a totally different place with WWE still focusing on "Divas" who were more about looks and physical appeal than they were about the actual wrestling. In came Kharma who promised to destroy the "barbies" (including one Barbie Blank, aka Kelly Kelly) and was set to totally change the women's roster, destroying everyone and everything in her path, yet for all the hype and potential, she only ever had one official match; her Royal Rumble entry where she eliminated a scared-for-his-life Michael Cole in epic fashion.
Kharma fell pregnant during her early run which led to her going away and sadly she just never returned, which given the potential this gimmick had, especially at that time, was a real shame to see.
8 Bad Gimmick That Worked: Kane
Much like his brother, from where this gimmick came, on paper, the idea of Kane is quite a silly one. Someone who was burned, but not actually burned with just mental scars who loves tormenting people and can make fire shoot out of places doesn't exactly scream wrestling at first. However, as we all now know only too well, the gimmick did work with wrestling and was one of the best of all time, still gaining huge reactions from fans to this day. From the moment he arrived in WWE, ripping off the Hell in a Cell door, Kane was presented as a real-life monster that should be feared.
And feared he was, fans were honestly scared of Kane at the start of his run and although the character has evolved and changed throughout the years, at times being more comedic than scary, Glenn Jacobs has always made it a success.
7 Great Gimmick That Flopped: Inspirational Bo Dallas
Who remembers Bo Dallas in NXT? If you do then I am sure you are just as puzzled as to where things went wrong for the former NXT Champion on the main roster, because his gimmick was perfect in developmental. Dallas took the natural turn from babyface to heel without having to change up his act at all, simply getting under the skin of wrestling fans by the way he talked and acted, and because he was a heel, everything just felt so obnoxious.
WWE had the potential to make this a fun act, at least as a mid-card talent, but instead threw Dallas to the wolves and turned him into a jobber, a place he has struggled to recover from. Guess Vince McMahon never really "Bo-lieved" in Bo.
6 Bad Gimmick That Worked: King Booker
For the majority of Booker T's career, the WWE Hall Of Famer was a babyface that fans loved to get behind, but after winning the King of the Ring tournament, he adopted a new gimmick that took his career to the next level. Booker followed the path of many other tournament winners and became "King Booker," an obnoxious and cocky heel who brought his wife "Queen" Sharmell alongside him to really add to the whole pompous character, with both husband and wife speaking in fake English accents.
It took Booker to the main event level in WWE and proved that the "King" gimmick could work. However, as many others have found out, the gimmick can also be a horrendous curse, so the fact Booker was so successful is a real testament to him.
5 Great Gimmick That Flopped: 'Dashing' Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes was given many different gimmicks during his WWE run and it's fair to say when you look back at them, he made the best out of every single one of them, with the Dashing gimmick being one of his best. Rhodes became arrogant and cocky over his good looks, and when someone is that confident about the way they look, it simply irritates people, which is a great way to gain a reaction from a crowd. Sadly, WWE pulled the plug too soon, giving him the disfigured, mask-wearing gimmick early into the run.
This is something that can easily be done again, but this time it would be good to see WWE commit all the way with it. Obviously, the role has to go to an attractive wrestler, otherwise the whole thing is pointless from the start, but if WWE can get it right, they could have a top heel gimmick here.
4 Bad Gimmick That Worked: Goldust
Goldust is still a reliable hand that competes regularly for WWE to this day, if that doesn't prove this dumb gimmick hasn't worked then I don't know what does, but Dustin Runnels managed to turn this into something special. The gimmick was incredibly risky, even for the Attitude Era (and that is saying something) with his overtly suggestive mannerisms sometimes crossing the line, but no matter how far it was pushed, Goldust always worked.
Whether he was quoting movies, crawling around on all fours or being a loveable wrestler who teamed with his brother, Goldust has changed with the times and always stayed relevant, making it a great gimmick in the end.
3 Great Gimmick That Flopped: Bray Wyatt
While gimmicks on the other side of this list have been similar to Bray Wyatt's, this was slightly different. The fact that gimmicks like Undertaker and Kane had already been accepted and been successful meant that this wasn't as wacky as many might think and should have had huge success. It was also very different to them as Wyatt didn't really have crazy powers, but instead was a cult leader who gave incredible promos that rambled on about Sister Abigail and had fans hooked from the moment he opened his mouth.
The WWE Universe bought into everything to do with Wyatt, but sadly, poor booking from WWE has led to this totally failing. No matter how many times Wyatt would have fans intrigued, every single time WWE would book him to lose, which led to fans totally giving up on him and the gimmick. Currently, he's Raw Tag Team Champion alongside "Woken" Matt Hardy, which is a good sign he's regaining some lost momentum, but fans certainly expected more back when he was new to the main roster.
2 Bad Gimmick That Worked: The Undertaker
You might be questioning how The Undertaker is even on this list, but that alone proves how good this gimmick is. Now, it is seen as possibly the greatest gimmick in wrestling history, but on paper, it is something that should have never lasted this long. It is incredibly cartoonish, if you think about it all – the idea that a "dead man" who can shoot lighting and appear and disappear whenever he likes, has come back from the dead and is powered by an urn is a complete joke.
Yet here we are and The Undertaker is not just a great gimmick, but one of the greatest wrestlers of all time who has created a legacy that no other wrestler will be able to match, turning a dumb gimmick into something legendary.
1 Great Gimmick That Flopped: Bad News Barrett
The only reason that this gimmick failed is that WWE totally gave up on it when it was at its hottest. Wade Barrett had finally struck gold and found a perfect gimmick for the first time since his Nexus run and WWE just decided to take it away, throwing him into the League Of Nations. Barrett had all the tools to be a top star, the look, the ability, microphone skills, and the magic '"catchphrase" ("I'm afraid I have some BAD NEWS!") that WWE could easily have made plenty of money from, but instead the company thought they knew best and took it all away.
While it might not have reached the main event level, mainly because Barrett had already been around for so long at that point, it still could have been an upper mid-card gimmick had WWE actually invested.