There’s a reality in wrestling that you’re going to have to put up some bad gimmicks. It’s just part of the game, not just in WWE or TNA but the indies as well. With very few exceptions, a rookie has to have a few goofy characters before they click as a major star. There’s also how even an established star can be struck by an incredibly idiotic gimmick. It’s a huge thing as entire websites are dedicated to nothing but the horrible gimmicks and angles in wrestling history. WWE even had the web show “Are You Serious” to showcase several of them. Many are truly famous and it's baffling how they were conceived, let alone put on the air.
You look at the landscape of WWE today and several cases of stars with bad gimmicks abound. Some are rather famous such as Dolph Ziggler once a male cheerleader, the Undertaker with a fake twin, Rey Mysterio getting unmasked and more. In many cases, the gimmicks are still the stuff of legend and talked about majorly. But in some cases, the gimmicks have faded from common knowledge. Even some die-hard fans may not be aware of some of the stupid ideas some WWE stars have put up with at various points in their career, whether in the company or outside of it. Here are 20 bad gimmicks fans forget these current WWE stars once had and it's amazing how they succeeded past them. It just shows how talented they were as performers.
20 “Man’s Man” Stephen Regal
William Regal had been a genius in WCW pushing himself as the classic foppish British heel. Backed by his great ring skills, Regal had several runs as TV champion and good success. For some bizarre reason, when WWE hired him in 1996, they decided to ignore all that. Instead, Regal was pushed as the “Man’s Man” with vignettes of him working construction or a lumberjack. He came out in a hard hat and vest, a totally wrong look for him. Regal left fast for WCW. When he returned to WWE, he was once more pushed on his British roots for some good title runs.
A famous bit in 2011 was when Regal faced Daniel Bryan and the production crew played his old “He’s a Man” theme song. Regal himself just had to chuckle remembering this nutty gimmick.
19 Terra Ryzing/Jean-Paul Levesque
It’s mentioned now and again yet many WWE fans forget that Triple H actually got his start in WCW. He had real potential as Ric Flair saw the promise Hunter would have. That was not shared by the WCW brass who saddled him with the moniker of “Terra Ryzing,” some sort of wild surfer type. He dropped that to be put in the gimmick of Jean-Paul Levesque, a “French aristocrat” type. That meant promos of Hunter speaking with an accent like Pepe Le Pew which was downright laughable to hear. A twist came with the idea of him actually being from the U.S. and pretending to be French. He was rising up but decided to head to WWE, and the rest was history.
18 Hairdresser Carmella
It took a while but Carmella is finding a nice place in WWE. She had potential but was saddled with a throwback to the old Diva antics. This included showing up as a hairdresser for Enzo and Cass in NXT. Her banter with them soon led to her coming out to the ring as their valet. She would keep up the hairdresser act at times and presented herself as an arrogant Jersey lady.
Carmella has found better success away from the duo and (with aid from James Ellsworth), won the first women’s Money in the Bank match. That led to a run as champion. Since dying her hair darker, Carmella has gotten over with her goofy partnership with R-Truth, which is much better than her initial gimmick in WWE.
17 Robert Roode Inc.
One of the first major stables for TNA was Team Canada. Bobby Roode was breaking out nicely from the back as a tag team champion. When the team broke up, Roode was a bit lost as he boasted of being a hot free agent. He then took up how he’d made a mint in the stock market and came out in robes with dollar signs on them. He had Brooke Tessmacher as his “stock analyst”. It was pretty much a rip-off of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Man gimmick and didn’t quite fit Roode. However, when he and James Storm were thrown together, they ended up clicking beautifully. Roode then moved on to his singles success as TNA champion.
16 Super Eric (Eric Young)
Eric Young has proven himself an amazing survivor in wrestling. After coming to success in Canada, he moved to TNA and became part of the Team Canada stable. That led to winning the tag titles and then becoming a goofball fans loved. Young has endured some bad stuff from winning the Knockouts title with ODB to fighting Scott Baio at a golf course. One of the wildest was in 2007 when Young came out as Super Eric.
It was a full-fledged superhero in costumed cape and claiming to be from another planet. This included teaming with Kaz to win the tag titles but when he refused to admit his true name, they were stripped of them. Today, Young is the intense leader of Sanity and many forget his bizarre alterego.
15 The BFFs (Charlotte, Sasha & Summer Rae)
It took a bit for NXT to really push women’s wrestling. For a time, they were stuck in the usual “Diva” antics they would later abandon. Sasha Banks had the potential to break out as a star yet her early runs in NXT weren’t that good. That included how she and Summer Rae, of all people, were put into a team called “The Beautiful Fierce Females.” They later joined with Charlotte as Summer headed to the main roster.
It’s wild to see two amazing female wrestlers coming out more as 'Divas'. It didn’t last too long with the two splitting and then Sasha becoming “the Boss.” Yet it's interesting how two of the best female wrestlers of their time started off like this.
14 Nature Boy AJ
AJ Styles is on the Mount Rushmore of TNA. From day one, Styles was doing his best to make the company shine, a multiple champion and stunning fans with his ring work. Sadly, TNA would often saddle Styles with some poor gimmicks and angles that hampered him. From portraying him as a total buffoon to the ridiculous Claire Lynch bit, it was a bad time.
The worst would have to be when AJ fell under the mentorship of Ric Flair who basically turned him into a new Nature Boy. Styles came out with the robes, strutting and even used Flair’s moves. Sadly, for all his charisma, Styles in no way could be like Flair. It was a terrible act that hampered AJ. There’s only one Nature Boy and Styles was less than phenomenal pretending to be him.
13 Consequences Creed
Xavier Woods is known today to WWE fans as part of the New Day. Thanks to his charisma and amazing mic skills, Woods has aided the trio become multiple tag team champions and a terrific entertainer. He’s become so successful in WWE that it’s quite easy to forget his run in TNA. He was Consequences Creed, a complete knock-off of the Apollo Creed character from the “Rocky” movies. He was good but like so many in TNA at the time, the gimmick hampered his potential. It took a bit in WWE for Woods to find his groove and be a much bigger star than Creed could have been.
12 Kane As The Unabomber
WWE is well known for some bad judgement in various angles and gimmicks. Yet the old territory days could have more than a few troubling ideas as well. In the early '90s, the unabomber was in the news. Somehow, someone in Smokey Mountain thought that would be a great wrestling gimmick. Yes, they actually had a guy in a mask coming out with that name and the commentator talking of him being a monster. Even by Jim Cornette’s old-school standards, this was some sick heat. The man under the mask was Glenn Jacobs who headed to WWE as twisted dentist Isaac Yankem. He’s better known today as Kane and thankfully, that gimmick saved his career.
11 Cedrick Von Haussen (Johnny Gargano)
Johnny Gargano has been one of the best performers of 2018. His feud with Tommy Ciampa has torn down the house in NXT with the duo putting on what many believe are the best matches in NXT history. “Johnny Wrestling” continues to compel fans with events such as his recent heel turn and fans hoping he’ll get a run with the title. It’s been a long journey to make it which includes a brief appearance in WWE back in 2007. MVP was doing his arrogant work, claiming on taking on all international comers. He brought out “Cedrick Von Hausen, the champion of Lichtenstein.” He was dressed like an elf and it was a total burial by MVP. Gargano himself cracks on how his first WWE run was a far cry from his later success.
10 Yodeling Cesaro
Cesaro has often been frustrating to watch for WWE fans. The man is truly talented, good on the mic and a terrific presence to be a star. Oddly, Vince McMahon seems to think Cesaro doesn’t have the ‘it factor” and thus ignored him too much. That includes some bad moves to try and get him over in various ways. One of them was the idea of the guy embracing his Swiss heritage by…yodeling. Yep, the single most cliché idea possible and to his credit, Cesaro actually sounded pretty good doing it. But it was still a stupid move that did him little good.
9 The Jinx Brothers (The Hardy Boyz)
Even the most hardcore Hardy fans may not know of this. Some of the early work of Matt and Jeff is famous such as Jeff’s debut against Scott Hall. There was also how they were the “door openers” for the 1996 King of the Ring event (with a fun bit of Ahmed Johnson bursting through the doors to send them flying).
In an attempt to spark the team up, WWE had them come out in outlandishly colored masks and costumes, billed as the Jinx Brothers. They didn’t have real names, being referred to as Red and Green. They were pretty much jobbers for a few other teams without the spark they would make famous. The Hardys have since become one of the best teams of their era and are probably happy the masks hid how bad there were in this act.
8 Bayley as Luchadora
She’s had ups and downs but Bayley still has a good following in WWE. She broke out huge in NXT as the nice gal with the perky side and backed it up with amazing wrestling against Sasha Banks and others. She’s been hurt by bad booking on the main roster but she still has the potential to rise up more. That’s a big turn from how she stated out.
In 2013, NXT was still working out the bugs, stuck doing shows in front of just 40 fans and nowhere near the great system it would become. Bayley was signed as Rose Martinez but was then put under a mask for some tag matches. While she could pull off some high flying moves, Bayley hardly fit the luchadore mode. She would give it up to be more herself and take off a lot better.
7 Juan Cena
It’s something that pops up now and then in wrestling. A face character will get “suspended” or such and a mysterious masked guy will suddenly show up who is quite obviously him. It’s a classic bit used for decades and WWE has played with it now and then. Yet, it’s still amazing how they wanted to try this out. In 2011, John Cena was battling it out with the Nexus with a brief idea of Cena being “fired” after losing a match. At a couple of house shows, out came Cena’s “cousin” Juan Cena. Yep, Cena in the exact same outfits but with a purple mask. It didn’t last long and never made it to TV as even WWE realized how dumb it was. Yet it shows why this is a bit that just doesn’t go away in wrestling.
6 Dancing Becky
Becky Lynch has been getting more attention lately. Her heel turn has led her to regaining the SmackDown Women’s title but notable for how fans refused to truly boo her. It’s given Becky a new fire and taking off nicely. It’s been a long road for Rebecca Quinn, who was actually retired for a bit with a neck injury before coming back. However, her early NXT work was not what she wanted. She was basically forced to be a total Irish cliché, coming out to cheery bagpipe music and even dancing a jig in the ring. Becky herself isn’t a fan of the whole thing and was happy when she was pushed as being more herself.
5 Rosebud Braun Strowman
Braun Strowman has taken off as a true star in WWE. At first just a big guy in the Wyatt Family, Strowman has won fans over with some actually funny promo work and good matches against various opponents. He’s set to finally get the Universal title and fans excited to see him in the main event. That’s a great rise considering he had his start in WWE as part of the laughable Rosebud brigade. This was Adam Rose, trying to get over by coming out to the ring with a group of goofy “party followers.” Braun was around as the giant figure and the sight of him trying to dance was something. He’s a much bigger star now to let folks forget Braun part of the “party crowd.”
4 Luke Gallows As Festus
Today, Luke Gallows is known for his great tag team with Karl Anderson. The duo have torn it up as part of the Bullet Club and also winning the RAW and IWGP tag team titles. The man is a cool tough warrior with a great edge to him. Which is a far cry from his first run in WWE. He was teamed with Ray Gordy on the idea of him being a country bumpkin who was portrayed as a total idiot. There was the clever idea that when the bell rang, he turned into an actually good fighter but that didn’t make up for him just staring out as a nut.
He also had a brief run with CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society. A trip to Japan managed to turn him around as Gallows doesn’t exactly remember his first WWE run fondly.
3 Golf Caddy Dolph
Most know that Dolph Ziggler was once “Nicky” of the Spirit Squad. Ziggler was the best of the bunch and nicely transformed himself into a star. But many forget that wasn’t his first brush with would be WWE fame. In 2005, WWE made one of their all-time worst makeovers as Chavo Guerrero became Kerwin White. Dying his hair blonde and skin lighter, Chavo denounced his heritage and presented himself as a rich guy from the suburbs.
He’d head to the ring in a golf cart and Dolph was his caddy. He’d show up on videos and the odd time interfering to help Chavo win. The angle was ended by Eddie’s passing as Dolph headed to OVW and even he doesn’t like remembering his part in this bad angle.
2 Fairy Alexa
Alexa Bliss has become one of the biggest success stories of NXT. Her debut was rather laughable to the point Alexa makes fun of it on a WWE Network collection. She was presented as a literal fairy princess, skipping to the ring in a dress costume and waving a wand. She even went so far as to blow “fairy dust” to fans and hugging little girls. It was a truly wild idea and amazing to see Alexa put up with it.
Thankfully, she realized it was better to be more herself and changed into the wicked valet for Blake and Murphy. That led to improvement in the ring and on the mic combined with her fantastic facial expressions. It’s made Alexa a multiple champion and a terrific heel and a far cry from her less-than-magical start.
1 Kofi Kingston
It’s brought up now and then but most fans have long forgotten that Kofi Kingston was once meant to be from Jamaica. He had the entire island vibe going for him and put out various promos in a thick accent. It’s why his move is called “Trouble in Paradise” and his last name is "Kingston", the capital of Jamaica. While born in Ghana, Kofi grew up in Boston so he wasn’t really from that region. By 2009, he had dropped the accent and it was even joked about with Triple H asking “where's your accent?” Today, Kofi is riding high as part of The New Day and the occasional jibe but some newer fans may forget the “island” guy he’d once been presented as.