When you're at the top of your profession, people are always going to copy you. In music, Vanilla Ice famously stole Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure" for "Ice Ice Baby." In cinema, Quentin Tarantino has ripped off his favorite Japanese, Spaghetti westerns, and blaxploitation movies to make his classics (I understand I just compared Vanilla Ice to Quentin Tarantino). The same can be said for professional wrestling.
When you think about professional wrestling companies, the first one that comes to mind is the WWE. It's the biggest name in sports entertainment. So naturally, other wrestling promotions have been stealing from them for decades. Whether it's an original match idea that was replicated, a gimmick that was stolen, or a way of doing business, it's never a surprise when you see another company attempting something that WWE created.
Usually, once WWE has done something, it doesn't get better when somebody else tries it. Generally, the copycat is met with negative reactions. Rightfully so too, we've already seen it done in the past, so why would we want to sit through it again? That being said, sometimes a rip off can work. It can be seen as a fresh take on something from the past or it can be a loving homage that is done with such care, you can't help but appreciate it.
Here are 10 times somebody has failed at ripping off the WWE, and 5 times it's been a surprising success.
15 Pathetic - The Dungeon Of Doom Ripped Off Hulk Hogan's WWE Run
You might not agree with me on this, but stay with me. Remember during Hulk Hogan's lengthy run in the WWF in the 1980s and 1990s, he would always go up against a giant, monster heel, defeat them, only for a new colossal villain to be in his way? Over years and years, Hogan tangled with the likes of King Kong Bundy, Andre the Giant, Kamala, Earthquake, the Big Boss Man, and Yokozuna. This all worked because it was spread out over almost a decade. Once WCW signed the Hulkster, they tried to cram years of storytelling into one angle. Thus, the Dungeon of Doom was born. Filled with menacing acts like Meng, Vader, Kamala (again), the Giant, and repackaged Earthquake and Big Boss Man, members only existed to be thoroughly trounced by the aging champion. The Dungeon of Doom played like Hogan's WWE career on fast forward.
14 Pathetic - TNA Hardcore Justice Ripped Off ECW One Night Stand
In 2004, WWE released the documentary The Rise and Fall of ECW. The DVD, which chronicled the entire history of the legendary hardcore promotion, was a success both critically and financially. It also sparked a new interest in the product. This lead WWE to relaunching ECW, first as pay-per-views in 2005 and 2006, and eventually as it's own brand. The pay-per-views were incredible. They gave underrated stars like Super Crazy, Mike Awesome, and Masato Tanaka a stage to showcase their skills. The 2006 event also gave us the infamous "If Cena Wins, We Riot" banner. In 2010, TNA decided to redo WWE's idea by rebranding their Hard Justice show as Hardcore Justice. Despite having a lot of the same wrestlers like Sabu, Tommy Dreamer, The Dudleys, and adding Raven, the revamp was a flop. The show was rushed, so much so that TNA had a full card planned from the original Hard Justice that they ended up pushing four days to make room for the "Core" version. TNA should have rethought their approach when they couldn't even get the real Blue Meanie to show up and settled for an imposter.
13 Successful - The Young Bucks Ripped Off The '90s
Superkicks. S*ck its. Too Sweets (R.I.P). These are all things the Young Bucks have adopted throughout their careers that have helped them become the greatest tag team in the world today. Not to mention an unparalleled tandem offense that was inspired by teams like The Rockers and Hardy Boyz. Also the brightly colored pants, they just scream pre-Michael Hayes Hardys. Nick and Matt Jackson have ripped off people the right way. By borrowing things from some of the best here and there, the duo has been able to make all of these things their own while still harkening back to folks like WWF's Shawn Michaels, the 1-2-3 Kid, and Matt and Jeff Hardy in their younger days. The homages have worked so well that WWE even sent them, and the rest of Bullet Club, a cease and desist that has effectively stopped them from throwing up the legendary hand gesture of the Kliq.
12 Pathetic - "Macho Warrior" Ric Hogan Ripped Off All Of Your Favorites
Remember in the last entry when I praised the Young Bucks for taking all of the best parts of a variety of wrestlers and seamlessly melding them together to create something fresh and exciting? Well, here's the opposite. Despite claiming to be equal parts Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Nature Boy, and the Hulkster, Macho Warrior's promos were just him alternating between mediocre Mega Powers impressions. Dude couldn't even add a "Wooooo" at the end. Literally, nothing about him is borrowed from Flair or even the Warrior. No robes and no face paint. If you claim to be ripping somebody off, then do it! Don't even get me started on his wrestling. Anybody who claims Hogan and Warrior had no skills needs to check this guy out ASAP. Somehow, the 400-pounder wound up USWA Heavyweight Champion for three weeks in 1996 while embroiled in a lukewarm rivalry with Brian Christopher.
11 Pathetic - Caged Heat Ripped Off Hell In A Cell
WWF was really onto something when they created the Hell In a Cell match. They were able to use the match as a mega blow off for some of their biggest feuds. Matches like Shawn Michaels vs Undertaker, Triple H vs Cactus Jack, and of course, Undertaker vs Mankind used the cell so incredibly they should be required viewing for anyone even thinking about stepping foot in a cage. Seeing how popular these matches were, WCW decided to duplicate the idea entirely with the unoriginal name: Caged Heat. It's difficult to find just how many of these matches were held, as they would often use the Caged Heat cell and call it a "Cage Match." The biggest problem with these matches is that they were held with no rhyme or reason. Did The Wall and Kidman really need to wrestle in one? How about the Filthy Animals and the Misfits in Action? This was also the match type where Vince Russo beat Booker T to claim the WCW Championship. Not really on the level of King of the Ring 1998.
10 Successful - EVIL Ripped Off The Undertaker
The Undertaker is a shining example of giving the right gimmick to the right wrestler. As important as Calaway was in making the character, the character was just as important in making Calaway. Nobody cared about him when he was Punisher Dice Morgan, The Master of Pain, or Texas Red. Just like nobody cared about the wrestler Takaaki Watanabe. Sure, he was a fine hand during his excursion to Ring of Honor in 2014, but it wasn't until he returned to New Japan in 2015 as EVIL that he clicked. Taking a page out of the Prince of Darkness' book and becoming the "King of Darkness," EVIL has carved out great role for himself as Los Ingobernables de Japon's muscle. His most telling homage to Big Evil happened at 2017's King of Pro-Wrestling, where he had his own WrestleMania-worthy entrance complete with druids, a robe, and a throne.
9 Pathetic - TNA Gut Check Ripped Off Tough Enough
When WWE launched Tough Enough on MTV in 2001, it changed the way a lot of fans viewed professional wrestling. All but one season consisted of full-length episodes that did a great job at giving a behind the scenes look at what went into making it to the WWF. It even gave us some big names like John Morrison, Ryback, and The Miz. Eleven years later, TNA decided to hold its own reality competition to find its next stars with Gut Check. Since Gut Check wasn't an actual show, but a segment within Impact, we were never given that great peek behind the curtain that Tough Enough gave us. Also, the show was mostly filled with established independent stars like Joey Ryan, Christian York, Adam Pearce, and Brian Cage. So, Instead of seeing folks with no training learn the ropes of the sport, all we got were one-on-one matches where a panel of judges would vote on competitors American Idol-style.
8 Pathetic - The Human Torch Match Ripped Off The Inferno Match
In 1998, a special match type was devised for Kane: the Inferno Match. In the match, the ring was surrounded by fire and the only way to win was to set your opponent aflame. None of the matches have been great. Since the performers are generally trying to avoid being burned, they're always slow and plodding. Thinking no idea is too bad to steal, WCW's version was known as the Human Torch Match. The objective of the bout was the same, the execution was completely different. Instead of the ring enveloped in flames, there was a solitary torch placed above the Turnertron. Once the wrestlers (Vampiro and Sting) climbed the structure, the lights began to flash, making it almost impossible to see what was going on. This seizure-inducing effect was done to hide the fact that before he was immolated and fell to a crash pad, Sting was replaced with a stunt double.
7 Successful - "Black Machismo" Jay Lethal Ripped Off "Macho Man" Randy Savage
We've talked about a lot of direct ripoffs in the past that failed. Characters like Oklahoma, Asya, and the Renegade were people replicating the schticks of Jim Ross, Chyna, and Ultimate Warrior, but without any of the talent and/or charisma. That's what made "Black Machismo" Jay Lethal special. Sure, his pitch-perfect mimicry of Randy Savage got a lot of eyes on him, but it was his amazing ring work that made him a success. As he's proven over his 16-year long career, Jay Lethal has no problem getting over. Not only is he a six-time X Division Champion in TNA, but he is also the only wrestler to hold the Ring of Honor World and Television Championships simultaneously. As the Macho Man-approved Black Machismo, Lethal was able to cut hilariously entertaining promos. Then, once he had the audience in the palm of his hand, he put on show-stealing matches that were the highlights of many Impact episodes during the time.
6 Pathetic - New Japan Rumble Ripped Off The Royal Rumble
Despite still trying to figure out how to navigate a world where Tetsuya Naito didn't win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Kazuchika Okada, I'll be the first person to tell you that Wrestle Kingdom 12 was one of the best pay-per-views put together. It may be the best ever if we leave out the pre-show New Japan Rumble. Honestly, in the four Wrestle Kingdoms that it's taken place, the New Japan Rumble has never been good. Structured similarly to WWE's Royal Rumble, in addition to being thrown over the top rope, wrestlers can be eliminated by pinfall. Although this seems like a fun twist, the rule is actually implemented because a lot of the participants are over 50 and can't risk taking big bumps. Like the Royal Rumble, surprises are something fans look forward to, but when the biggest unannounced entrants have been Scott Norton and Billy Gunn, it leaves something to be desired. Also, the winner isn't granted a title shot or even a trophy, making it even worse than the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
5 Pathetic - "The Millennium Man" Sid Ripped Off "Y2J" Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho's WWE debut is considered one of the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T., if you will). The idea of a clock counting down to the new millennium was exciting and different from anything we had seen before. With his brash attitude, exciting in-ring styles, and incredible promos, the 29-year-old Y2J was the perfect performer to bring wrestling into the year 2000. WCW's idea of the performer for the new millennium was Sid. The 38-year-old wasn't the fresh-faced superstar here to revolutionize the sport like his nickname "The Millennium Man" lead those to believe. This didn't stop WCW from booking Sid to the moon. They gave him an undefeated streak meant to rival Goldberg's. However, the bulk of his "wins" came from him simply powerbombing unsuspecting wrestlers after their matches. All of this lead to Sid losing to Goldberg in an "I Quit" match in November of 1999. Five weeks before the new millennium even began.
4 Successful - New Japan World Ripped Off WWE Network
I've lost count of how many people I know have gotten back into wrestling since the advent of the WWE Network. Even friends who were casually interested in the sport during the Attitude Era are now full-fledge fanatics thanks to the video-on-demand service. Since the Network's success, other promotions have jumped on the bandwagon and are offering their own versions. Hands down, the best one is New Japan World. Not only can you watch all of their shows live (if you're up at 2 a.m.), but you also have access to their back catalog. You can finally shut your one friend up who keeps telling you, "Dude, Hulk Hogan can go!" by watching him go toe to toe with the Great Muta. Even though we're still waiting on an app for Roku, AppleTV, and consoles, the service keeps getting better and better over time with additions like English commentary. It's definitely worth your 999 yen.
3 Pathetic - WCW's Hardcore Championship Ripped Off WWE's Hardcore Championship
A lot of wrestling fans who grew up in the 1990s have fond memories of WWE's Hardcore Championship. Especially when it was contested under 24/7 rules. In 1999, WCW established the Hardcore Trophy that was won by Finlay but was quickly vacated by WCW management (a favorite hobby of theirs). Opting to go for an actual belt, the division was centered around the likes of Brian Knobs, an unmotivated Bam Bam Bigelow, and 3 Count. The only standout being the hilarious "Screamin'" Normal Smiley. Over the 14 months the title lasted, there was a staggering 19 championship reigns. And this belt wasn't defended 24/7! That's not counting the two times it was vacated. Even adding hardcore legend Terry Funk to the fold didn't help the fledgling division. WCW showed just how little they cared about the belt when they allowed Meng, the final champion, to jump ship to WWE in 2001, effectively killing the division.
2 Pathetic - The TNA Hall Of Fame Ripped Off The WWE Hall Of Fame
When the WWE launched its Hall of Fame in 1993, the company had already been around for 41 years and didn't establish it until the death of Andre the Giant, one of the biggest (pun intended) stars in the history of the sport. TNA had been around for a decade, and seemingly only created their version because they had Sting under contract. At the time, Sting was one of the most popular wrestlers of all time to never work for WWE, so it was a way for TNA to stick it to the competition. A similar thing happened the next year in 2013 when Kurt Angle was the next inductee. WWE couldn't induct him at the time, so TNA beat them to the punch. However, in recent years, both Sting and Angle have defected to WWE and are both in their Hall of Fame, neutralizing the competition. TNA's (now Impact) Hall only includes seven entrants, two of whom are also in WWE's and at least two more that will join them in Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley.
1 Successful - Goldberg Ripped Off "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
At WrestleMania XIV, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin claimed his first World Heavyweight Championship when he toppled Shawn Michaels, the head of WWE's "cool heel" faction D-Generation X to reach the top of the mountain. Less than four months later, Goldberg, another bald-headed, goatee-faced, black trunk-wearing butt kicker also won his first World Heavyweight Championship when he toppled Hulk Hogan, the head of WCW "cool heel" faction nWo to reach the top of the mountain. They have both gone on to become iconic symbols of pro-wrestling and were the top guys during the sport's biggest period. Granted, the way both men achieved success was different. Austin is regarded as one of the industry's greatest talkers, and Goldberg, who was never known for his promos, was booked to perfection with his unprecedented undefeated streak. However, the look and timing of both these men are pretty telling that WCW was looking at the Texas Rattlesnake when they envisioned Goldberg.