Bad gimmicks are a constant in wrestling. It can be strange as so often, stuff that sounds great on paper bombs while the things that seem so stupid go on to be massive hits. It’s probably why you see so much crazy stuff around, folks never know when something will stick or not. Yes, some gimmicks are horrible at the get go while still getting a push while others could have failed except for the performer behind it. Again, it’s hard to figure out as so many times you’re astounded this stuff was thought up in the first place, let alone put on TV. Other times, you see stuff that is absolutely great and even brilliant but for some reason or another, it’s dropped. WWE has seen a lot of horrible gimmicks over the years to the point there are entire websites devoted to nothing but their bad stuff. But they’ve also had great success with gimmicks that worked out better than expected.
Frankly, their misses far outweigh the hits. That’s especially true for the 1990s when they had guys based on various occupations, clowns and more nutty stuff. There are also plenty of cases of great workers saddled with frankly horrible gimmicks and dropping them was a good thing. But there times when WWE really did have something great that could have paid off but for some reason or another, let it go. Here are 10 gimmicks we’re more than happy WWE dropped but 5 that should have been kept.
15 DROPPED: Farting Natalya
You really have to wonder what goes through the minds of WWE creative sometimes. Natalya Neidhart was brought up in the wrestling business, proving her toughness training and rising up in OVW. She was really a great worker and proved herself a champion, ready to stand out amid the various Divas. In 2012, she and Beth Phoenix were a good partnership based on being tough ladies fighting LayCool. During a promo, Natalya accidentally passed gas, which should have been no big thing. But for who knows what reason, they decided to make it her character. Suddenly Natalya was farting with a loud sound effect and people reacted in horror, holding their noses as if a toxic bomb had gone off.
She even appeared to “kill” Hornswoggle with one toot and turning face didn’t help. Thankfully, WWE got rid of it and Natalya has been able to get back respect winning the SmackDown Women’s title and proving herself as a true wrestler to (sorry, it has to be said) put this behind her.
14 Wish They'd KEPT: Waylon Mercy
If ever there was an act ahead of its time, this is it. Dan Spivey had been an okay worker for most of his career, a few pushes here and there but really nothing special. In 1995, he remade himself into Waylon Mercy, a character based on Robert DeNiro’s villain of Cape Fear. He came out with a cool look of Hawaiian shirt, white pants and a strange mark on his forehead. His promos were absolutely fantastic, sounding friendly with a thick Southern accent but then turning sinister and menacing. In the ring, he was often slow but in a good way, almost stalking his opponents. It was truly gripping and coming at a time when there were so many cartoonish guys, so it stood out.
Sadly, just as it was about to really get going, Spivey was hit with several harsh injuries that cut him down. He decided to hang it up in 1995 and so sadly Waylon died with him. Bray Wyatt has openly admitted Mercy was a key inspiration for his own character and modeling his promos the same way. Too bad for Spivey as keeping healthy could have given WWE one stunning character to enjoy.
13 DROPPED: William Regal “Man’s Man”
No one can deny William Regal’s toughness. The Englishman is well known as one of the stiffest workers around, a fine technician and great on the mic as well. He had great success in WCW as TV champion before joining WWE in 1998. They gave him a nutty gimmick of being a lumberjack worker with the now infamous opening theme of “He’s a man…” and wearing a yellow helmet and forest worker clothes. Putting this on a guy from England made no sense and just didn’t fit him.
It was short-lived due to Regal’s various addictions that forced him out of the company fast. When he returned, they smartly decided to play up his British origins more as a foppish type that led to far better success. Regal would continue to wrestle but this was still remembered. In 2011, Regal faced Daniel Bryan in England and the production crew pulled a gag by playing his old “Man’s Man” entrance music with Regal unable to keep from laughing. Currently the NXT commissioner, Regal still puts up with ribs on his first “mannish” entry in WWE.
12 DROPPED: Emmalina
Emma never seemed to gain her proper footing when she was called up to the main roster. Her goofy dancing gimmick was a hit at Full Sail University in NXT but it didn't quite catch on when she was called up. Part of it was that WWE didn't allow her to balance her silly gimmick with the lengthy matches she had put forth in NXT against the likes of Paige. After a heel turn and months of spinning her wheels, WWE attempted to repackage Emma as "Emmalina" playing up her physical appeal more, and for many weeks, WWE kept teasing her re-debut. The gimmick was dropped after one night, with WWE officials thinking Emma wouldn't be able to pull off the gimmick.
Emma was capable of something better and while we're upset WWE didn't think of anything better, the Emmalina gimmick would have gone nowhere.
11 Wish They'd KEPT: The Black Hart
Bret himself always claimed Owen was his superior in many ways in terms of being a performer. He was terrific in the ring, highly skilled, a fantastic high flyer and his promos were miles ahead of his big brother. Owen had been a terrific heel for years with tag team and IC title runs and he and Bret had been reunited as part of a new Hart Foundation. But then Montreal went down with Bret naturally leaving. Owen was ready to go with, ignoring the huge contract he had with WWE. But Bret told Owen to think of himself and his own family first so Owen stayed. He soon pushed himself as the “Black Hart,” the last survivor, openly threatening Vince with payback. He was feuding with Triple H and even won the European title.
It was really a good thing as Owen had lots of fan backing due to the Screwjob and this could have been a great run. But then it was dropped without warning and Owen turned heel to join the Nation of Domination. He later teamed with Jeff Jarret for the tag titles and success before his untimely death. Just a shame what could have been Owen’s best shot at the top was ignored.
10 DROPPED: Gladiator Faarooq
Ron Simmons was very skilled from the start, moving from football to wrestling easily. He and Butch Reed were terrific as tag champions Doom and Simmons made history as the first black world champion in WCW. He suffered a bit with injuries and sliding down but made a big return in WWE in 1996. Sadly, it was terrible as Faarooq Asad, a gladiator warrior in one of the absolute most ridiculous outfits ever seen. The helmet alone was corny as hell, it looked like a bad video game costume and impossible to take him at all seriously. The WWE online show “Are You Serious” took this to task with Road Dogg remarking “why use a guy’s real life reputation or name when they can give him a new gimmick fresh off the assembly line?” Frankly, the gladiator motif wasn’t bad, it was just the outfit that looked dumb. Thankfully, it was dropped with Faarooq reimagined as the leader of the Nation of Domination. But today, Simmons can take a look at this and just say one word: “DAMN!”
9 Wish They'd KEPT: Straight Edge Society
CM Punk was always known for his “straight edged” lifestyle. While the man may have looked a classic partier, he boasted over never doing drugs or drinking and enjoying that lifestyle. He soon clicked on the idea of a Society built around people who shared that viewpoint. First up was Luke Gallows who fit in well with his beefy build to help Punk as the man would do sermons in the ring on “saving” people with his lifestyle. Then, a “fan” named Serena was given a haircut in the ring to join as well. It looked very promising. But the SES suffered from a lack of numbers (when they threatened Triple H with their “full power”, he responded “you mean, all three of you?”) and relying so much on Punk.
Also, Serena was fired after being filmed at a bar and the whole thing was dropped. Too bad as so much potential of Punk as a possible cult leader that should have pushed him even more.
8 DROPPED: Reverend D-Von
The Dudley Boyz are well known as one of the most successful tag teams in wrestling history with multiple titles in various promotions. In 2002, WWE tried to split them up in singles acts which didn’t take too well. D-Von suffered as he was given the character of a reverend, coming out in collar and dark clothes and doing preaching, based on his life before wrestling. While great on the mic, D-Von was stifled putting out sermons and trying to be a heel with this act. There was also his aide, “Deacon Dave” who would become known as Batista and whose presence just hindered D-Von more. The whole thing just came off terrible and WWE dropped it by reuniting the Boys. D-Von had another singles run in TNA which was a bit better as even a great talker can be saddled with a bad act.
7 DROPPED: Shelton Benjamin’s Momma
Shelton Benjamin is a fantastic wrestler, a man who stole the show in various Money in the Bank ladder matches and had runs as IC, US and tag team champion. Many believe his main stumbling block is his lack of good promo skills which may keep him down. In 2006, WWE tried to fix that by having Shelton’s “Momma” come out with him. Naturally, it wasn’t the real Mrs. Benjamin but an actress who wore oversized clothes and wig and acting like a poor man’s version of Madea.
It was a terrible stereotype and didn’t help Benjamin at all. She would act up like using her oxygen tank to help Benjamin win and her very presence hurt his standing with fans. It was dropped with Benjamin becoming the promising “Gold Standard” before leaving. Back in WWE today, Benjamin is trying to prove himself and hopefully his “Momma” stays home this time.
6 Wish They'd KEPT: Mordecai
The very concept was great to the point of John Laurenatis openly telling Vince this was money in the bank. Kevin Fertig had been working a concept as “Seven” in the indies when he got his WWE contract, a skilled man with a good build. The concept was simple but brilliant: A religious zealot in pure white who would boast of cleansing everyone of “sin” but would proceed to cheat his way to victory while beating down opponents. A white-garbed man as a heel was a terrific idea and his promos were great. The plan was for him to face The Undertaker, a feud that really just wrote itself. But before that could happen, Fertig got into a bar fight that led to lawsuits and thus was busted down to OVW. He returned in ECW as Kevin Thorn but just didn’t find the success promised. Too bad this twist of fate ruined what could have been a fantastic heel.
5 DROPPED: Rocky Maivia
A famous case but it sure fits. When he started out in the USWA, Dwayne Johnson had serious promise, skilled, high-flying and showing an arrogant edge. WWE made the massive mistake of toning it down, turning Maivia into a smiling babyface as a “blue chipper.” Late 1996 was the absolute worst time to present a guy like this and even a run as IC champion did nothing to help him out. Soon, the boos began and the “Die Rocky Die” chants that grew constant as poor Rocky just couldn’t make it work. As fate had it, a leg injury put him out and forced him to adjust his style. It also gave him the excuse to turn heel and become more arrogant, soon letting his true persona out. The Rock was born and would go on to be a mega-star of both wrestling and Hollywood to prove even the biggest stars have stumbling moments early on.
4 DROPPED: Isaac Yankem
Glenn Jacobs spent years with some bad gimmicks but this is one of the worst. Jerry Lawler was in a feud with Bret Hart where he lost a “Kiss My Foot” match and forced to eat his own toes which he had spent weeks dirtying up. Lawler vowed revenge as he went to his personal dentist, Isaac Yankem. Jacobs came out in dental coat and jeans, looking rather foolish. Yes, an evil wrestling dentist, another case of WWE’s obsession with guys taking on various occupations at the time. It was dropped as Jacobs bounced around before landing the role of Kane. He’s done fantastic in that role as one of the biggest stars of the company and even running for mayor of his town. So getting rid of this was a great move for Jacobs and proved how dumb a dentist can be in the squared circle.
3 Wish They'd KEPT: The Brian Kendrick
In many ways, Brian Kendrick was a bit ahead of his time. His small size prevented him from rising up in the main roster but he was highly skilled and a great high flyer. He and Paul London had a long run as tag team champions that gave him more of a push. When they split, Kendrick took on a new persona, of “The” Brian Kendrick, an amazingly arrogant heel who boasted of his greatness. The idea, of course, was that Kendrick was clearly no match for the bigger guys on the roster but acted like he could become champion if he wanted, he just liked “playing around” with opponents first. It really was a cool idea and while it probably wouldn’t have meant a main event run, Kendrick could have been good with the US or IC belt.
Kendrick would leave, taking a long break before returning to WWE in 2016. While he occasionally uses that “The” title, he’s more “The Wizard of Odds” and while he’s had a run as Cruiserweight champion, it’s not the same cool act that could have meant success back then.
2 DROPPED: The Ringmaster
From the day he debuted, Steve Austin was being touted as a future superstar. He was highly skilled, charismatic and fantastic mic skills. He showed that in WCW with multiple title runs but the politics kept him from rising. When he was fired while rehabbing an injury, Austin turned to ECW where his promos rocked fans. So there was excitement when brought to WWE but then he was saddled with Ted DiBiase as a manager and made the new “Million-Dollar Champion.”
Austin clearly hated the whole thing, and using the Million-Dollar Dream as a finisher made him feel like a ripoff of DiBiase. Thus, when DiBiase left, Austin was able to cut loose, shaving his head, taking the name Stone Cold and the rest is history. It’s just remarkable to see how WWE nearly ruined the guy who would become their biggest star.
1 DROPPED: Kerwin White
This was a horrible idea when it was started and looks even worse today. Chavo Guerrero had been a star Cruiserweight, a great athlete and he and uncle Eddie a top tag team. He was proud of his Mexican roots and doing a fantastic job as a Latino heel. So it made no sense that in 2005, they gave him a makeover that was truly racist. Suddenly, Chavo had his hair dyed blonde and skin lightened, coming out in polo shirts and pants and took the name of Kerwin White. He acted like a upper-class guy from the suburbs, smirking and putting down Latinos with the line “if it’s not white, it’s not right!”
It’s easy to see it was booed but for all the wrong reasons, as fans horrified at this. As fate had it, just a few months after it started, Eddie died and thus the whole thing was dropped and WWE almost never mentions it. While the reasons for it dropped were bad, it’s still good it was in the end.