While wrestling gimmicks aren’t quite as important as they were in the ‘80s, the fact of the matter is that a gimmick can make or break a wrestler. On paper, a gimmick is nothing more than a wrestler’s character. However, wrestling fans know that a gimmick is more than that. A character is a flexible part of a script. A gimmick can often be a lifestyle. In fact, there are times when a gimmick can become so big and so popular that it transcends the performer itself. There are other times when the gimmick can be so bad that it manages to sink a performer that most people recognize as being an incredibly talented individual.
The dynamic between those two extremes is fascinating. Given that we rarely get a great wrestler paired with a great gimmick (like Stone Cold Steve Austin), we’re often left to look at the performer and the gimmick as separate entities. In that sense, it’s easy to recognize that there have been some truly great wrestling gimmicks over the years that were ruined - or forgotten - because the person playing them just couldn’t get everything out of the role that they should have. At the same time, it’s perfectly possible for someone to be so talented that they manage to shine through a character that audiences could care less about. A gimmick can make or break a wrestler, but there are times when you have to separate the two. That’s why we’re looking at the 15 great gimmicks WWE wasted on the wrong wrestlers and the 10 bad gimmicks great wrestlers that got stuck with bad gimmicks.
25 Great Gimmick - Eva “The Diva” Marie
This one is a bit of a catch 22. On the one hand, the gimmick of a female wrestler who refuses to actually wrestle in the middle of the women’s wrestling revolution was pretty much the perfect gimmick for Eva Marie. Marie was beautiful and drew legitimate heat, but clearly couldn’t wrestle.
On the other hand, it was a real waste to give this great gimmick to someone who expressed little interest in actually being a professional wrestler.
Imagine if WWE had given this gimmick to someone who actually stuck around.
They could have entered the women’s Royal Rumble last and won by entering an empty ring.
24 Great Gimmick - “Super Heavyweight” Crash Holly
This gimmick was admittedly limited but...well, so was Crash Holly. The basic idea here is that Crash Holly claimed to be a super heavyweight (he claimed to weigh over 400 lbs). That was clearly a lie, but he would bring a scale with him to the ring to weigh-in before each match and “prove” his weight. It was a simple piece of booking brilliance that could have easily been used in the light heavyweight division to “prove” that performers were lying about their weight. Sadly, the gimmick was abandoned rather quickly before anything really interesting could be done with it.
23 Stuck With Bad Gimmick - “Underdog” Roman Reigns
Yes, Roman Reigns is a good wrestler. He’s got a great look, he’s proven that he’s capable of putting on great matches in the right scenario, and he’s certainly athletic enough. What has ruined Roman Reigns are the months that WWE tried to book him as the “underdog.” First off, the underdog gimmick doesn’t usually work on guys as big as Roman Reigns. More importantly, it’s kind of hard to buy into the guy being an underdog when he’s constantly given opportunities to contend for the WWE Championship even when he hasn’t really done anything to deserve them. WWE is still cleaning up this mess.
22 Great Gimmick - “The Masterpiece” Chris Masters
You could also sub in “The Narcissist” Lex Luger for this spot, but we think Luger did more with the material. The Masterpiece gimmick is as old as it gets. Get a muscled up wrestler who thinks he’s God’s gift to the world and have him flex a lot.
This version of the gimmick was amplified by the addition of the Masterlock; a submission move that Chris Masters claimed no man could escape.
The problem was that Chris Masters was bad in the ring and bad on the microphone. This meant that he never really had the talent to push this gimmick to the next level.
21 Great Gimmick - “Vampire” Gangrel
This is another one that you could almost argue against on the basis that this performer got as much out of this gimmick as possible. However, everything that worked about this gimmick worked despite the contributions of David William Heath and not because of them. Gangrel’s entrance was awesome, his vampiric look was great, his music was amazing, and the visual of a wrestler spitting “blood” from a golden chalice rarely failed to amaze. The problem was that Heath had almost no microphone skills and was just serviceable in the ring. This meant that the gimmick withered once the spectacle of it did.
20 Stuck With Bad Gimmick - “Ringmaster” Steve Austin
We really don’t even know where to start on this one. Despite being brought in by WWE after laying he laid the foundation for the Stone Cold Steve Austin character in ECW, WWE decided to book Austin as “The Ringmaster.” What does that mean? It means he’s really good in the ring. That’s technically true but...really? That’s what you choose to focus on when you’re talking about Steve Austin?
To make matters worse, Steven Austin was paired with Ted DiBiase as his mouthpiece even though he’s one of the best mic workers in the history of the business. This gimmick proved WWE had no idea what they had in Austin.
19 Great Gimmick - “Independent Woman” Sable
To be fair, this gimmick did help get Sable over. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of a belittled female valet who breaks out on her own and proves she’s capable in the ring?
It’s kind of like an alternate take on the Miss Elizabeth storyline. The problem with the gimmick was the person WWE gave it to, Sable.
First off, Sable’s...err... assets probably did more to get her over than this gimmick. Second, Sable’s attitude problems made it hard to buy into her as a verbal victim. Third, it’s hard to sell Sable as an in-ring warrior when her in-ring work was so bad that WWE was forced to mostly book her in contests, rather than matches.
18 Great Gimmick - Nailz
The Nailz gimmick gets a lot of heat, but we’re honestly not sure why. The idea of a former convict who claims to have been mistreated by The Big Bossman is actually kind of awesome. It’s a logical play on the Bossman’s gimmick, and it harkens back to Bossman’s days as a heel. We even like Nailz’s off-putting digitally enhanced voice. The problem was that the guy who played Nailz - Kevin Wacholz - was downright awful. Seriously, the guy had no business being a wrestler. What’s worse is that he had a major backstage issue that led to his release.
17 Stuck With Bad Gimmick - “Stuttering” Matt Morgan
“Great wrestler” might sound like a stretch if you’re only familiar with Morgan’s WWE work, but the guy really established himself as a true talent when he was able to grow in TNA. In WWE, though, he was temporarily saddled with an absolutely awful stuttering gimmick. The idea was that Morgan had a stutter that he was very defensive about. Besides the obvious problems with this gimmick - problems that include “Who Cares?” - this gimmick was given to Morgan near the end of his WWE run. So we’re supposed to believe he just developed this stutter out of nowhere?
16 Great Gimmick - Muhammad Hassan
Muhammad Hassan remains one of the boldest characters that WWE has ever dared to put on television.
The original version of Hassan was a wrestler who felt that fans were treating him poorly because of his race and heritage.
It was a bold move that was initially hindered by the fact that WWE did kind of book him like a heel because he was of Arab descent and straight up nixed when WWE went too far in his storyline with The Undertaker. Of course, it didn’t help that wrestler Marc Julian Copani was a fairly limited performer who never really made the most of the gimmick.
15 Great Gimmick - “Voodoo Doctor” Papa Shango
Yes, we love Papa Shango. We love Papa Shango’s look, we loved his music, and we loved the idea of a voodoo doctor wrestler who is able to use dark magic to manipulate his opponents. The original Papa Shango gimmick not only looked great on screen, but it struck that great balance between cartoony and kind of dark that would have worked well for the era. Unfortunately, Charles Wright just wasn’t the right guy to work that gimmick. He never really came across as intimidating and certainly never had the in-ring skills needed to serve as a tangible threat.
14 Stuck With Bad Gimmick - Dean Malenko
Oh boy, this gimmick. Look, if you want to see Dean Malenko at his best, you have to watch him in WCW. WCW knew (at least for a time) that they had to book Dean as the dominant in-ring technician he was and to use storylines to cover up for some of his personality weaknesses. On the other hand, WWE tried to book Dean Malenko as a parody of James Bond that saw Dean Malenko bring women to the ring. WWE clearly hoped to inject some personality into Malenko via this gimmick, but Malenko clearly wasn’t comfortable in the role.
13 Great Gimmick - The Ascension
Right, so we’re kind of stretching “great” and “bad” in this instance, but this still applies. Truth be told, we don’t think that Konnor and Viktor are the absolute worst wrestlers in the world. They’re pretty good.
We also don’t think that The Ascension gimmick is the best thing ever. However, The Ascension gimmick should have been more than it was.
The idea of tough tag team wrestlers wearing face paint has been appealing ever since The Road Warriors, and The Ascension’s slightly spooky take on that concept really did work. Blame WWE booking if you must - it was a problem - but Konnor and Viktor were also just not ready for prime time.
12 Great Gimmick - “Monster” The Boogeyman
This gimmick is great for many of the same reasons that the Papa Shango gimmick was great. The Boogeyman was a ridiculous gimmick, but intentionally so. It was a weird throwback to old-school horror movies combined with some more modern horror sensibilities. Yet, WWE found ways to make The Boogeyman’s appearances consistently entertaining.
The problem was that The Boogeyman had to occasionally wrestle, and that’s where Martin Wright dragged the gimmick down.
Wright severely limited how effectively the WWE could use the Boogeyman gimmick. We’re not saying this gimmick would have headlined WrestleMania, but it could have been more.
11 Stuck With Bad Gimmick - “Red Rooster” Terry Taylor
What do you even say about this at this point? Well, just to make things interesting, we actually do like aspects of this gimmick. The idea of having a heel manager berate a great wrestler before the wrestler shows how great he is could work. The problem was that great wrestler Terry Taylor was booked as a man who seemed to think he was a rooster. Even after he beat and left Bobby Heenan, he remained a grown man acting like a rooster. This was never properly explained and effectively removed any chance Taylor had at being taken seriously by the WWE audience.
10 Great Gimmick - “The Messenger” Just Joe
We’re going to go ahead and guess that a lot of you don’t remember this gimmick. Well, that’s because it was barely utilized before WWE killed off the character. Before that happened, Just Joe was a jobber who said “controversial” things to anger other wrestlers and fans. We say “controversial” because most of what Joe said reflected some of the thoughts of WWE’s fans and critics. It was basically a cathartic way for WWE to introduce - and shoot down - certain ideas on television. It might have gone further if Joe E. Legend was even a somewhat talented wrestler.
9 Stuck With Bad Gimmick - “Boring” Lance Storm
Look, Lance Storm is boring. At least he’s very boring on the microphone. As such, the smart thing to do would be to find a way to use Lance Storm (who is a phenomenal wrestler) in a way that hides that weakness. WWE didn’t do the smart thing.
They decided to try to get Lance Storm over by having the crowd chant “boring” whenever he was around.
This was a no-win proposition. The best that WWE could hope for in this situation was for Lance Storm to get over as a boring guy. No, we honestly have no idea what they were thinking with this one.
8 Great Gimmick - “Righteous Preacher” Mordecai
Sometimes, WWE just strikes gimmick gold. At least that’s exactly what happened - or almost happened - with Mordecai. As a religious zealot who believed himself to be above the idea he preaches and the people he preaches to, Mordecai was already a pretty brilliant character. What made him especially cool was the fact that he was presented as the visual opposite of The Undertaker (who he was scheduled to feud with).
Sadly, that feud (and this character) was canceled around the time that WWE gave up on wrestler Kevin Thorn. We would have loved to have seen someone who was ready for this gimmick get the assignment.
7 Stuck With Bad Gimmick - “Kerwin White” Chavo Guerrero
It really does amaze us what Vince McMahon has managed to get away with over the years. There are things that WWE has done that most other major companies would be shut down for if they even thought to try. The Kerwin White character has to be near the top of any list of said awful ideas. Somehow, WWE came up with the idea to turn Chavo Guerrero into a suburban white guy named Kerwin White. It wasn’t funny (though they tried to make it funny), and it didn’t get Guerrero over as a heel. The only thing it gave us was a fascinating entrance video.
6 Great Gimmick - “F.C.C. Parody” Right To Censor
So, there’s some room for debate here as Stevie Richards, Ivory, and Val Venis were all fairly good performers. However, none of them were anywhere near whatever existed of their primes by the time that WWE gave them a pretty money gimmick. The Right to Censor was a heel group who tried to remove all edgy content from WWE.
It was a money heel gimmick that was introduced at a time when WWE really did have to start cutting down on all that stuff.
Sadly, none of the performers in this stable came across as legitimate in-ring threats.
5 Stuck With Bad Gimmick - “Max Moon” Konnan
We honestly don’t envision a world in which Konnan managed to get over in WWE in the mid-’90s. He really didn’t have all the things that WWE demanded from their star wrestlers at that time. However, he deserved much, much more than the Max Moon gimmick. WWE tried to introduce Konnan (one of the biggest wrestling stars out of Mexico) to WWE fans by booking him as Max Moon; a wrestler who were supposed to believe came from outer space. It was one of the ultimate examples of Saturday morning cartoon booking in WWE history, and Konnan had the good sense to walk away from it.
4 Great Gimmick - “The Devil’s Advocate” Sean O’Haire
It’s rare that you get a wrestling gimmick that is too complex to explain in a few sentences, but Sean O’Haire’s WWE gimmick approaches that territory. Often described as “The Devil’s Advocate,” O’Haire would do things like tell fans that they should cheat on their taxes or convince wrestlers to cheat in matches. He was kind of a de-motivational speaker who tried to get people to bring out the worst of themselves by arguing that he’s “not telling them anything they didn’t already know.” It was a smart gimmick that was sadly used on a guy who couldn’t keep his career or personal life together.
3 Stuck With Bad Gimmick - DDPeeper
Sometimes, you’ve got to remind yourself that Vince McMahon is one of the most ego-driven human beings on the face of the planet. It’s the only way you come close to explaining how he justifies doing things like bringing in one of the most beloved WCW wrestlers ever (Diamond Dallas Page) and then absolutely burying him by asking him to chase The Undertaker’s wife.
DDP made the grave error of agreeing to go to WWE in time for the Invasion when Vince was determined to bury every former WCW star.
As a result, WWE fans spent weeks watching him play a painfully bad character that he clearly had no interest in.
2 Great Gimmick - “Waylon Mercy” Dan Spivey
Sometimes described as the midway point between Jake Roberts and Bray Wyatt, Waylon Mercy remains the most fascinating gimmick that WWE gave up on way too soon. Modeled after Robert De Niro’s character in Cape Fear, Mercy spoke in a slow Southern drawl that would have been charming were it not for the fact that it was so menacing and creepy. Mercy would speak about things like family picnics and somehow make them sound like the scariest things in the world. He came across as a genuine lunatic. The problem was that wrestler Dan Spivey just couldn’t get over with that era’s audience with his slow, plodding in-ring work.
1 Stuck With Bad Gimmick - “Stardust” Cody Rhodes
The thing that stands out about this gimmick isn’t necessarily how bad it is. It certainly is bad, but the idea of a comic book cosmic villain isn’t the absolute worst thing in the history of professional wrestling. What makes this gimmick awful is how little Cody Rhodes wanted to do it. He tried to be a company man, but he begged for WWE to let him go back to being Cody Rhodes at some point. WWE didn’t even let him revert when Dusty Rhodes passed away and the opportunity to do so couldn’t have been more obvious. Rhodes left WWE over this gimmick (at least partially due to the gimmick) and is now showing WWE what they missed out on.