The purist wrestling fan knows a gimmick can make or break a career no matter how talented you are. Let’s take a look at the current crop of talent, shall we? Apollo Crews is arguably the most gifted athlete, though he remains an afterthought due to a terrible gimmick that see’s him as a member of Titus Brand. On the flip side, Elias is a marginal talent in the ring but has caught on due to the brilliance of his character. Yes folks, a gimmick can make or break a career and even can resurrect a dead one - just ask Matt Hardy.
In this article, we dive deeper into the gimmicks of these 15 current WWE stars and find out how their characters came about. Some got extremely lucky with the timing of their ideas while some others struggled for quite some time in finding the right gimmick. In a couple of cases had it not been for the gimmick that came along at the perfect time, they might have been out the door.
From past Superstars like Kane and Goldust to the current crop such as Alexa Bliss and Broken Matt Hardy, all sides will be explained in this article. Enjoy and like always, be sure to share the link with a friend. Without further ado, here are 15 gimmicks and how these current WWE Superstars came up with the idea. We begin with a female over on SmackDown Live that managed to completely alter her persona.
16 Naomi (Feel The GLOW)
Unlike the current crop of popular female Superstars such as Sasha, Bayley, Charlotte and Becky – Naomi saw both the good and bad of the Women’s Division. Back in the “Diva” era Naomi was actually told by WWE officials backstage to tone down her in-ring abilities. The company wanted more of a “cat fight” style and because of that, Naomi was not allowed to showcase her tremendous athleticism.
Well, we’re witnessing it now, the Women’s Division is completely altered and of course, Naomi was ecstatic about it. Trying to fit in with the new era, Naomi came up with the GLOW gimmick herself, however she was only given one shot for it to work before a live event. Vince among others watched the entrance and based off that one test alone, she was given the green light. Naomi recalls the trial as one of the most nerve racking experiences of her entire career.
15 Bobby Roode (Glorious)
A member of the TNA roster since 2004, Roode finally made the bold decision to part ways from the company and join NXT in 2016. Of course, he’s got no regrets in taking such action as he instantly became the NXT Champion along with being slapped with a perfect Glorious gimmick. Surprisingly, his theme song has a lot to do with it.
Well all know the Glorious theme, but what if we told you that not only was Roode not crazy about the theme but also the song was originally developed for Nakamura. After Shinsuke passed on the song, Roode took it on despite his unwillingness at first. Gargano and Ciampa helped put the song on the map putting on several behind the scenes skits using the theme, it’s instrumental nowadays when it comes to Roode’s gimmick and popularity.
14 Goldust (The Bizarre One)
There are a couple of theories when it comes to the gimmick of Goldust portrayed by Dustin Rhodes/Runnels. One urban legend makes the claim that Vince slapped the gimmick on Dustin as a punishment for disliking his family. McMahon had given father Dusty a terrible gimmick just beforehand and many believe he wanted to do the same with Goldust, however if that was the case, the plan backfired.
Dustin spoke about the gimmick claiming the WWE wanted something different and something that was never done before. Dustin made the claim he was sick of using his family name and wanted to completely recreate himself, which is why he took on the gimmick which made no such family links. We can safely say the character worked as he’s still actively performing on Raw over two decades later in 2018.
13 Sasha Banks (The Boss)
She would eventually turn into one of the greatest NXT alums ever however, finding "The Boss" character took some time. Making her debut, Banks was used as an enhancement talent early on and she was slapped with a generic babyface gimmick. Sasha would finally turn her fortunes around when turning heel after an attack on Paige. A couple of weeks later she would defeat Bayley and announce the introduction of her new heel character as “The Boss” Sasha Banks.
Like many others, Banks was responsible for the character. Sasha tapped into her bloodline opting for a gimmick somewhat related to her cousin Snoop Dog. Eventually, she would come up with a role a larger than life character, hence The Boss name. Like others, she struggled with the portrayal a little bit early on due to how different it was to her actual low key self, though we can all agree she would eventually got comfortable with the gimmick.
12 Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens (Friendship Angle)
Looking back at 2017 it’s hard to find a better angle than the Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho friendship. The two ended the storyline with a dramatic beat down by Owens against his former partner. The entire angle was booked to perfection however many don’t realize that there was a brain behind the scenes writing the excellent material.
Jimmy Jacobs was the one responsible for the friendship angles between the two. Jericho admitted his previous dislike for working with WWE writers; however he was amazed by the work of Jacobs. The angle would reach its peak at the Festival Of Friendship and it came with a bit of controversy backstage as Triple H wanted a different ending for the Owens turn. Thankfully, Jericho stuck to his guns and after making a phone call to Vince, they were allowed to keep the original ending which saw Jericho read his own name on KO’s list. Seriously speaking, it couldn’t have been done any better.
11 Stephanie McMahon (WWE Debut)
Vince Russo gets a ton of heat for lots of his ideas, however, he deserves praise for the unveiling of Stephanie McMahon as an on-screen character. Steph was working back at the head offices at the time. Needing to add heat on The Undertaker, Stephanie was called in to join the company. ‘Taker would abduct Stephanie and it would add some serious heat to the storyline.
That was only the beginning of her WWE journey. She stated off as a sweet and innocent babyface alongside the late Test though that would all change after she turned on her own father and joined forces with Triple H. Stephanie would became one of the most villainous characters in WWE history, something that is still felt today. What makes it all so remarkable is that fact that she’s the polar opposite in real-life as one of the sweetest faces backstage.
10 Finn Balor (The Demon)
The initial plan for The Demon character didn’t work as smoothly as Finn would have liked. He recalls explaining the concept to good friend Karl Anderson, his response to the gimmick wasn’t the greatest telling him he’d be booed out of buildings. The initial intent from Finn was to create a heel gimmick in form of The Demon that was meant for fans to hate him due to the scariness and ruthlessness of the look. However, it all backfired as Balor became beloved due to the alter ego.
Of course, the WWE wouldn’t object to The Demon alter-ego. Being a big fan of comic books, The Demon gimmick was inspired by Finn’s passion for comics. He’s still using the gimmick today as it still remains extremely over on the main roster. We can expect the gimmick to return at WrestleMania 34.
9 Kurt Angle (Olympic Gold Medalist)
Angle ended up taking the hard route to the WWE. He was offered a ten-year deal which he turned down – though wisely he would re-contact the WWE a couple of years later. After a successful tryout he was set to debut for the company.
His debut was truly hilarious according to some shoot interviews. Angle was baffled that Vince saw him as a heel. Angle debated that fans wouldn’t boo a gold medalist. McMahon basically said okay go out there and do your thing, ultimately as expected, Vince was right on the money as Kurt’s medal winning success came across as arrogance to the WWE fans. Angle would fully embrace the gimmick after his initial reaction and become one of the better wrestlers in the history of the company both in the ring and from an entertainment standpoint.
8 Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder (Edgeheads)
Both Hawkins and Ryder were a part of the WWE developmental system back in 2006. Unfortunately for both of them, things weren’t going too well, Hawkins recalls both being on a short leash at it appeared as though their days were numbered down in development. Needing a change, both would come up with a tag team gimmick as “Edgeheads”, the entire gimmicks were written up by the two. The idea was actually approved by the developmental agents and later sent to Edge who also got a kick out of the idea.
A couple of months later, the WWE needed a heel finish for Edge’s PPV victory against ‘Taker, in a shocking twist, both Ryder and Hawkins got the call up to interfere in the main event. So putting things into perspective, both Superstars went from being on the verge of a release to interfering in the main event of a WWE PPV, Armageddon. Gimmicks can save a career or in this case, two careers.
7 Bayley (Super-Fan)
Similar to Sasha, Bayley started off with NXT as an afterthought losing matches early on. Heck, she even wrestled under a mask when making her debut at a live event, thankfully, that gimmick would be scrapped sooner rather than later.
A real-life fan of pro wrestling since she was a kid, Bayley decided to tap into that passion using it as her gimmick. She was super-fan with NXT and that would catch the attention of the NXT audience as she became a loveable babyface. During the gimmick, Bayley also sought out to improve her promos taking on acting glasses which allowed for another emotional side to her character. She would morph into one of the greatest babyfaces in NXT history and she cemented her legacy at TakeOver:Brooklyn putting on the greatest match in NXT history against her villainous rival Sasha. Bayley was victorious and received a thunderous pop after hitting the “Bayley to Belly” for the win.
6 Kane (Undertaker’s Brother)
Like Goldust earlier in the article - we can safely say the gimmick worked pretty well, especially considering he’s still closing out shows in 2018. However, things weren’t always that smooth for Kane when it came to finding the right gimmick. He struggled early getting slapped with a Dentist and heck even Christmas Creature gimmicks. Kane laughed about his past failures with the gimmicks claiming he was very frustrated with what he was given creatively early on. He wasn't into the ideas at all which aided in the failures, heck how enthusiastic would you be when your own mother is making a Christmas Creature costume for you...
Thankfully, his fortunes would change with the development of Kane. The company was looking for a new storyline for the long-term involving Undertaker and out came the story of his long lost brother Kane. It put his Big Red Machine character on the map while aiding The Undertaker as well.
5 The New Day (Group Formation)
The New Day gimmick became one of the most over acts in the current era, however the development of the group was quite the struggle behind the scenes. Xavier Woods was actually the face behind the group, he became frustrated with his booking getting beaten up by Rusev week after week down in NXT and later on the main roster. With Big E losing the IC Title and doing nothing meaningful, Woods pitched the idea of the two working together. The duo pitched several ideas, though both felt something was missing, enter Kofi Kingston.
The original idea was to have the trio kind of like a knock of the Nation of Domination. The three instead pitched a new gimmick which didn’t consist of the prototypical ranting or singing or dancing from black wrestlers. After meeting up with Vince voicing their concerns, McMahon left the meeting telling them to basically clap and sing. Despite being baffled by the verdict, the group made it work and would eventually sprinkle in their own flavor as they were given more creative freedom due to the success.
3 Matt Hardy (Broken Matt)
Leaving the WWE in 2010, Matt hit the indie scene and later signed a deal with TNA. At the time, nobody really thought much of it. Hardy would eventually climb the ladder with TNA as a babyface champion. At that point he wasn’t making lots of waves, however that would soon change for good.
He would adopt the wacky “Broken” gimmick in 2016 which would completely resurface his value. Of course in thinking of such a gimmick, Matt was thinking outside of the box. This time around, Matt’s goal was to connect with casual wrestling fans and not the purist wrestling enthusiast. His main goal was for the gimmick to receive viral attention given the wackiness of it all. That’s exactly what would take place as Matt’s name resurfaced among the elite pro wrestlers. He’s now using a “Woken” gimmick with the WWE and given his recent promos, that viral attention is surely catching on quick.
2 Alexa Bliss (The Goddess)
Looking at Alexa’s petite size, her best option would be to turn heel, staying babyface was truly career suicide. It didn’t start off as such however, Bliss was given an awful Fairy gimmick that completely tanked. She even worked some backstage gigs alongside Scott Dawson as trailer park type character. Needing something heelish, Bliss tapped into her high school days.
Alexa explained the motivation from her gimmick came from the “mean girls” at her high school. Bliss used that as motivation for her heel character, she also used everything that would annoy her and put it to use with the gimmick. She would eventually outshine her tag team (Blake & Murphy) as the manager and would reach new heights on the main roster. Not only is she the first ever Raw and SmackDown Champion but she’s also the longest serving Raw Champions at more than 130 days.
1 John Cena (Doctor Of Thuganomics)
John admitted himself that things got so bad at one point during his main roster run that he was almost out of the company. The era was all about Ruthless Aggression and Vince wanted to see that out of Cena, when John wasn't delivering McMahon grew skeptical about Cena’s potential and that almost led to his demise.
In one of the most bizarre situations you’ll ever hear about, it was actually Stephanie that saved John’s career after she heard him rapping in back of a tour bus. Stephanie used his skill on a special Halloween episode of SmackDown, eventually, the gimmick would stick with Cena and he’d become one of the most over-acts in the entire company. A 16-time WWE Champion, we can all agree Stephanie was right on with John’s potential.