Considering how long WWE has been around it should be no surprise that sometimes the company decides to recycle some of its gimmicks from the past, providing new superstars with a gimmick that has already been used once upon a time. Sometimes that decision is made by WWE itself, yet other times the wrestlers themselves make the decision to use a similar gimmick either because they are working that way on the independent scene, or because they want to try something different.
Many times wrestlers only take the odd element from another wrestler, perhaps a signature move, similar clothing or just having a vibe that makes fans remember an older wrestler, but other times it is distinctly obvious with a wrestler having exactly the same gimmick with very little differences. Whilst it makes sense for WWE to re-use a popular gimmick that worked for someone else, the issue is that it can be a burden for the new talent who picks it up as they are immediately expected to be at the level of whoever used it before, with fans wanting to see them put a new spin on things straight away.
This is easier said than done and many wrestlers have failed to make an impact in WWE simply because they have failed to be someone else, with the fan expectation not being met the WWE Universe can be quick to lose interest in a wrestler.
However, other wrestlers have embraced the chance to take on a gimmick that someone else used and take it to the next level, going one step further and putting their own spin on things and eventually making it even better than what originally came before them. In this list, we will look at 12 examples of both, with 12 wrestlers who flopped at trying to copy a gimmick, as well as 12 who actually worked better.
24 Totally Flopped: Chris Masters
Chris Masters is someone who has an incredible look, sporting exactly the sort of physique that we know Vince McMahon loves, hence why he was pushed hard early on in his career, with his Master Lock segments really taking off with fans. However, the Masterpiece's push didn't last forever and he quickly drifted into the mid-card and then eventually into the lower mid-card before becoming a jobber as he failed to make any real impact on the landscape of WWE.
Many fans were quick to compare Masters to Lex Luger during his run with the company.
Which makes sense as they both had a fantastic look and were really given their initial pushes simply because of the way they appeared and the fact that Vince liked that sort of look. Whilst Luger wasn't exactly a main event legend either, he certainly had his time at the very top of the card, regardless of the fact he wasn't exactly an incredible talent between the ropes. He is still a name that you remember well, unlike Masters who was quickly forgotten about.
23 Actually Better: Mandy Rose
When she debuted on the main roster alongside Paige and Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose didn't really have much of a gimmick, being put alongside the pair as a group that simply attacked wrestlers at random whenever there was an opportunity. The group got given the name of Absolution, but really had no direction or any form of gimmick other than Paige simply plucking two developmental talents to help her. However, whatever plans WWE did have for her never materialized due to Paige's career-ending injury.
Instead, Rose and Deville were put together alone for a brief amount of time, only for Paige to split them up, meaning that both women would have to now compete alone and develop an actual gimmick. For Rose, WWE decided to play upon her beauty and actually gave her the gimmick that was originally meant for Emma, with the slow-motion entrance that plays upon her looks whilst she works an aggressive style in the ring. It is something that Rose has done well with. This is obviously a better run that Emma, given that the Emmalina gimmick only actually took place for one week before going back to being Emma again, as WWE apparently wasn't happy with how she played her new role.
22 Totally Flopped: Sin Cara
WWE has spent years trying to replicate Rey Mysterio and the success that he brought the company and no matter who they put in that role and how much they get pushed, the company has never come close to repeating it. Mysterio was a huge fan favourite and brought WWE huge sums of money in terms of merchandise sales all whilst being able to transition from being a cruiserweight wrestler to a heavyweight main event talent, an incredible achievement that is often overlooked. One of the biggest examples of the company trying to repeat this formula was with Sin Cara, who was all set to be WWE's next big thing to break into the Hispanic market.
The high-flyer had tons of hype surrounding him and had plenty of potential with his in-ring ability yet things never managed to work out for him. Despite WWE giving his own matches mood lighting, a catchy theme song, and a cool entrance, fans just didn't connect with Sin Cara like they did with the Master of the 619, and the fact that his matches were littered with botches didn't help matters, so much so WWE eventually replaced the man behind the mask with Hunico. Since the switch, things have improved for the Sin Cara character, but it is clear that he is never going to be a big deal in the company like Mysterio once was, to the point that now WWE seems to be more interested in simply bringing Rey himself back for one more run rather than pushing Sin Cara.
21 Actually Better: Damien Sandow
Many people often forget about just how entertaining Damien Sandow once was. The man who was once positioned to become a World Champion before his failed Money in the Bank cash-in had all the tools to be a major hit in WWE until management simply gave up on him. Whilst he worked many gimmicks during his run with the company from imitating different celebrities and wrestlers to his time working alongside The Miz, ultimately it was his "intellectual savior of the masses" gimmick that was his best. Coming out to the ring in a robe and addressing the WWE Universe to tell them all how much better he was, spouting out facts and figures to frustrate the audiences, he managed to get over as a top heel.
But this gimmick wasn't anything fresh or unique.
In fact, it was a total ripoff from a previous gimmick known as The Genius, which was portrayed by Lanny Poffo (Randy Savage's brother) in the late 1980's. The Genius might not be one of the top characters that get talked about from that era, but that doesn't take away from the fact the gimmicks are incredibly similar, with The Genius often insulting the audience in relation to how dumb they were compared to him. His gimmick had mild success, but when you look at both careers, Sandow's definitely took things a step further.
20 Totally Flopped: Jack Swagger
Whenever your gimmick is being recycled from Kurt Angle's, you are always going to be fighting an uphill battle to even get close to what the WWE Hall Of Famer managed to achieve, but Jack Swagger failed to live up to his own potential. Swagger did have a reasonable career, becoming a World Heavyweight Champion after winning the Money in the Bank ladder match, but despite having plenty of talent inside the ring, Swagger never managed to connect with audiences. He made the decision to don the red, white, and blue singlet wrestling outfit, just like Angle did, and the fact he had legitimate amateur wrestling history only continued to bring out the comparisons.
However, it really was on the microphone and in the personality where Swagger fell behind. Swagger didn't work well on the microphone and that was beyond his lisp; he just failed to ever do or say anything meaningful in order to make fans care about him, with people only booing him because they just didn't want to see him. However, Swagger shot himself in the foot with decisions he made outside of his in-ring career, choosing to smoke pot, which he got busted for and he never managed to recover since then, ultimately being a major flop.
19 Actually Better: The Wyatt Family
WWE enjoys creating stables, especially one where you have a cult leader that many others can follow which is what happened with The Wyatt Family which saw Bray Wyatt lead Harper and Rowan, and at a later stage, Braun Strowman to follow in his quests and desires. This followed a very similar situation as The Brood who was a popular group during The Attitude Era which saw Gangrel lead Edge and Christian as the duo hung on to his every word, creating bloodbaths and chaos at all opportunities.
The Wyatts managed to take things a step further because they were around a lot longer than The Brood, which helped give them the time to make an impact, and although they never had huge title success, the stable is one that will be fondly remembered by fans. There is no doubt that the Wyatts were better as the group gained a mass following, and their epic encounters against The Usos and The Shield in particular are battles that will never be forgotten amongst the WWE Universe. It is just a shame WWE didn't go as far as they could have with this.
18 Totally Flopped: Kevin Thorn
WWE isn't shy about using odd gimmicks that are totally unrealistic in their product; just look at the likes of The Undertaker, Kane or The Boogeyman as good examples of wrestlers who have used very far-fetched gimmicks and made them stick. Vampires are another pop culture element that WWE has grabbed upon several times, using the idea that a wrestler is a vampire as a gimmick, something which will struggle to land you in the main event scene but will work at making you stand out. For Gangrel, that is exactly what it did. He took the vampire gimmick and ran with it, becoming an incredibly iconic character in the Attitude Era, especially when he was backed up by The Brood, helping to propel the careers of both Edge and Christian.
WWE then decided to try and repeat that success with Kevin Thorn, but got nowhere near the same level with many fans outright rejecting the idea of his vampire gimmick. Whether that's because it wasn't done during the Attitude Era when different ideas were accepted, or simply because Thorn's gimmick lacked any real depth, it just did not click. Gangrel is a wrestler who fans still talk about today, yet Thorn has quickly been forgotten, showcasing just how badly his gimmick flopped, proving that not all recycled ideas work well.
17 Actually Better: JBL
This one might be a controversial entry given how many fans perceive JBL as a person due to the countless number of stories in regards to his bullying, plus the character that he took inspiration from is a WWE Hall Of Famer and one of the all-time greats. However, whilst The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase was an incredible wrestler and deserving of his legendary status, JBL managed to actually achieve a little more as a main event talent, working as a World Heavyweight Champion and one of the best heels in modern history.
WWE has used the wealthy heel gimmick on many occasions with the likes of Alberto Del Rio and even Ted DiBiase Jr using it, but there is no doubt that JBL and Ted DiBiase Sr utilized the gimmick to its full potential. The reason why Bradshaw was better in the role is how much he changed to become it, going from the drunken A.P.A. brawler to the Texan who would come to the ring in a limo and brag to everyone. It fit him so easily and was a real success that elevated him to a level many fans never thought he would reach.
16 Totally Flopped: Chuck Palumbo
If you actually remember Chuck Palumbo's single run as a biker, then fair play, but his gimmick was so forgettable that it really slammed the brakes on what could actually have been a much bigger career. With the success of The Undertaker's biker gimmick being clear, with Big Evil being a hit with most fans, there was always going to be someone else portray a similar role in the company, and with Palumbo being a real-life big bike enthusiast, he was a sensible choice.
Palumbo had plenty of talent – his tag team run alongside Billy Gunn proved that – but for some reason, this biker gimmick just didn't click in the same way it had previously done with Undertaker, which was likely down to the star power that he already had. Undertaker headed into his biker gimmick with tons of momentum as he was already regarded as one of the biggest wrestlers in the company and fans were excited to see something different from him. However, that wasn't the case for Chuck, who may have looked cool en route to the ring and was a genuine biker, but the fans weren't interested and the gimmick totally flopped for him.
15 Actually Better: Hulk Hogan
At this point in time, Hulk Hogan has become so iconic that it probably surprises many fans to learn that his gimmick was actually something that he took from another wrestler, but that just goes to show how much better it was. Superstar Billy Graham managed to have a very good career for himself during the 1970s, and even though he never managed to reach the heights that Hogan would go onto achieve, he was still an important figure in developing WWE during its early years.
He was over the top and cartoonish in his movements, just like Hogan, and was incredibly energetic with bags of charisma.
Just like Hogan went on to do, Graham quickly stood out from everyone else and wore all the bright colours to ensure that happened, and those comparisons are all without mentioning the obvious facial hair feature. Hogan took the mold that Graham had created and went on to put his own spin on it, which proved to be the perfect recipe for success, as he went on to become one of the biggest names that wrestling has ever seen and someone that many people often imitate to this day around the world.
14 Totally Flopped: Carlito
Carlito's gimmick of spitting pieces of apple at people who he didn't find cool was something unique and did allow him to standout during his time on the WWE roster, which meant he did have a memorable career as far as a mid-card wrestler goes. But if you take a detailed look at his gimmick, it was easy to spot comparisons to that of Scott Hall's Razor Ramon character, a gimmick he was nowhere near at the level of during his time, no matter how fun it was to see him spit that apple. Both men made their entrances to WWE in very similar ways, shooting promos to show who they were by slowly walking down a Caribbean street, claiming they were the coolest people ever and didn't have much respect for anybody. The only difference was, Ramon was so much cooler and managed to make it to the main event level with his run.
Whilst Carlito did eventually branch away from Ramon's gimmick once he realized how popular the spitting element of his character had become, the first starts were very similar and it was all down to the cocky attitude and belief that they were the best. The issue was that Ramon could do many different things, as his incredible career showed he was a man who had some range and was able to change things up, whereas Carlito was very one-dimensional. Like Scott Hall ultimately did, Carlito also battled with personal demons, which is why he ended up leaving the company.
13 Actually Better: Straight Edge Society
Having stables who constantly berate the fans for being better than them is always going to attract major heel heat which is exactly what the Straight Edge Society did with CM Punk as its leader telling the world that they were better because they were straight edge and pure. But this wasn't the first time WWE had a group come out to the ring and preach to the fans and believe they were better in order to gain major heat. WWE had done this before to just as effective results during the Attitude Era with the Right To Censor stable. Right To Censor had a niche idea and was able to stand out in the Attitude Era by not conforming to the rest of society, refusing to be part of the wild drinking or sexual product that other wrestlers were getting popular from, and that simply annoyed the fans.
The Straight Edge Society had a very similar message but managed to make it fit the time period they were working at where the drink and drug culture of the world had gone to new heights. However, Punk's incredible ability on the microphone and in the ring allowed him to take his group to heights that The Godfather (as "The Goodfather") could only have dreamed of. The fact that the Straight Edge Society became a main event gimmick, going up against Jeff Hardy in one of SmackDown's greatest ever feuds showed that the group had taken the same idea, but applied it to the main event level with a harder edge.
12 Totally Flopped: Fake Diesel/Razor Ramon
This was always destined to fail and what Vince McMahon was thinking when creating these characters is beyond anyone's imagination because the fact that he thought fans might buy into the fact Diesel and Razor Ramon hadn't left the company is just ridiculous. However, Vince owned the gimmicks of Diesel and Razor Ramon and wanted to try and stick it to WCW by using those gimmicks with the idea that it wasn't the people but the gimmicks that were over with the fans. Vince decided to have two wrestlers, one of which went on to become Kane, dress up as Diesel and Ramon and head out to the ring and actually pretend to be them in the hope that fans would be fooled.
Obviously, to nobody's surprise these gimmicks flopped, as the real people behind them, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, were making huge waves over in WCW, a product that the vast majority of wrestling fans were watching anyway. Not only that, but the fake imposters looked nothing like the real men and couldn't work to the same level in the ring. The fans didn't care and had no interest in watching people pretend to be two wrestlers that no longer worked for the company, and it was eventually scrapped.
11 Actually Better: Dolph Ziggler
Before you get too angry, no, we are not talking about Dolph Ziggler being better than Shawn Michaels, that would be insane, but you may still get annoyed when we claim he has been better than Billy Gunn. Sure, Billy Gunn had an incredible career and is very likely to find himself in the WWE Hall Of Fame one day, but the reason fans loved Gunn was because of his links to DX and his amazing tag team run alongside Road Dogg as the New Age Outlaws. As a singles wrestler, Gunn really did fail to live up to the hype, in a similar way to Ziggler really, but if you are comparing the two as singles acts there is no doubt that the Show-off has managed to achieve a lot more on his own, with bad timing of injuries being the main thing that held him back.
Both men have very similar looks with their bleach blonde hair and the fact they came out and shook their butts to the crowd.
They were incredibly cocky and arrogant and believed they were the best, and Ziggler even took some of Gunn's moves (particularly the Famouser, or as Gunn called it, the Fame-A$$-er), only adding to the belief that the two were similar. The only difference was that Ziggler has managed to achieve plenty on his own and now could follow Gunn's steps into the tag team world alongside Drew McIntyre.
10 Totally Flopped: Muhammed Hassan
Muhammed Hassan is one of the biggest flops in modern day wrestling and a lot of it is down to timing and circumstance, with his terrorist gimmick simply not working in today's climate, yet prior to WWE having to pull him, Hassan was becoming an effective heel. It followed very similar themes to that of the Iron Sheik from the 80s, another gimmick that pushed the boundaries and was incredibly anti-American, yet back then the world was in a different place, which allowed that style of gimmick to fit in and be effective.
For Hassan, it just wasn't possible. Even though he used Sheik's infamous Camel Clutch, the character was never given the time to reach a memorable point as WWE had quickly realized the mistake they had made in creating the gimmick in the first place, which meant that it flopped in a major way. Following an ill-timed angle, the company quickly wrote him off TV, and Hassan never returned which was a shame for him as he was a talented wrestler who had his career totally ruined simply due to the fact he was portraying a gimmick that the company asked him to do.
9 Actually Better: King Booker
WWE has had countless "King" gimmicks, with the winners of the King Of The Ring often taking the mantel which was a yearly thing at one point. For some wrestlers, this gimmick worked to perfection such as William Regal and most notably, Jerry Lawler, yet for others, it was a total flop, such as with Sheamus or Wade Barrett. One of the wrestlers who had the greatest run with the "King" moniker was Booker T who took a total 360-degree turn on his gimmick from what everyone had come to know and love, and became a despicable heel who was hated by fans, creating his best run in WWE.
To see someone go from a street-tough thug who had managed to win fans over to a cocky, over the top royal, also bringing in his wife as his "Queen" was impressive. It was a brilliant run and just goes to show how sometimes recycling a gimmick can actually have a major impact. For a wrestler who was coming towards the end of his career to have the run that Booker had just highlighted proved that there is nothing wrong with copying a gimmick from time to time, especially one that has been done over and over again, because if the commitment is there, things can really take off.
8 Totally Flopped: Woken Matt Hardy
It might be a little harsh to say that Woken Matt Hardy has totally flopped as the gimmick is still ongoing right now and could certainly pick up and he is currently the Tag Team Champion alongside Bray Wyatt, but the WWE version of the gimmick is never going to live up to what has come before it. Matt Hardy captured lightning in a bottle with his Broken Universe whilst he was working for TNA and managed to become one of the hottest acts in wrestling, because it was simply so different and unique and he committed to it, leading fans to buy into all of it.
In WWE, it seems as if the company hasn't quite bought into the idea itself and therefore the gimmick hasn't fully been embraced.
WWE has taken elements such as the laughing and wacky promos, but they haven't let Matt just take control and go crazy with it, which is what you have to do. The Ultimate Deletion was another example of WWE clearly not quite understanding the Woken gimmick, with a watered down version of what TNA managed to put together. In the end, it has failed to be the success that it should have been.
7 Actually Better: Demolition
Managing to be a better version of The Road Warriors was always going to be a difficult thing, yet Vince McMahon managed to create exactly that when he created Demolition, who were basically the exact same thing, only with two different wrestlers. The Ascension work as a perfect example of how easy it is to get things wrong when trying to copy the Road Warriors, as that is exactly what the company tried to do with the former NXT duo, only for fans to see right through it which led to them falling to the bottom of the pile.
Vince McMahon wanted to have his own tag team like Road Warriors and simply created their own with Demolition. The duo went on to totally dominate the tag division, still holding the second longest Tag Team Championship run in history, a record only recently beaten by The New Day. For some reason fans just jumped onboard with Demolition; everyone knew they were exactly the same as Road Warriors, with their ring gear, the paint and even their style of wrestling, but everyone wanted to see that, and therefore nobody had a problem. As such, Demolition became one of the greatest teams in history.
6 Totally Flopped: The Corre
The Nexus was a group that really shocked the WWE Universe when it burst onto the scene, making a major splash with its debut that was totally different to anything we had ever seen before. The group had tons of potential being compromised by brand new wrestlers who hadn't competed on the main roster before, yet were all working to the same goal and used the group pack mentality in order to outnumber different wrestlers and dominate everything and everyone. In the end, of course, Nexus failed to live up to its potential, which was largely down to poor booking decisions on WWE's behalf, deciding to give John Cena his big SummerSlam moment instead of allowing the group to control WWE for a short while, yet they are still a stable that is fondly remembered.
The group managed to have a big impact, regardless of the fact that it didn't quite reach the level it should have, yet when WWE began to break up Nexus, it made the decision to create a splinter group on SmackDown called The Corre. For some reason it had two R's, something that never made sense, and the group attempted to recapture some of the magic that Nexus had, given that Wade Barrett was the leader of both and other members were the same, but it was nothing like Nexus and was something that fans simply weren't interested in. The WWE Universe had already seen enough of big stables with Nexus, especially considering the way that stable just fizzled out and therefore, The Corre was never really given a fair shot and the group was quickly pulled.
5 Actually Better: Eugene
Eugene was a very controversial character in WWE. As he was someone who clearly was mentally challenged in kayfabe, the company walked a very tight line between becoming offensive and managing to be entertaining with how they portrayed him. Thankfully, most people managed to see the light side of things but there is no denying that the gimmick displayed every single stereotype of a character with a mental disability and that is something that is incredibly risky. This type of character had been used before in the mid-1990s when Kevin Sullivan introduced his mentally challenged storyline brother Dave (or "Evad," due to his dyslexia) who happened to be a huge Hulk Hogan fan, but that gimmick was never given a major push, as it was quickly pulled due to it being offensive.
WWE then decided to revisit that idea with Eugene and to a degree, it managed to work. Eugene put on some of WWE's most entertaining moments and the company thrust him into major storylines with the likes of Triple H which no doubt helped the situation. The fact he was able to work with some of WWE' main event talent made the character feel much less like a joke and allowed Eugene's work to be taken seriously from bell to bell, but it is certainly a gimmick that WWE is very unlikely to ever try again.
4 Totally Flopped: Stardust
When you see how big of a star Cody Rhodes has become since leaving WWE, it really does make you think if WWE understood the talent it had on its roster at the time when they were forcing Cody to slap on face paint and act like a goofball, reducing him to nothing more than a mid-card act. It was clear from the start WWE was trying to recapture the magic that was Goldust, using the link that Cody and Goldust are brothers in real life as the only real reason for the change to make any sense. Whilst Cody certainly committed to the role, just like his brother has done, the gimmick was so similar that fans weren't bothered.
The problem was that Goldust is such as unique character and was already a legend and future Hall Of Famer that it was never going to be replicated, just like The Undertaker or a Stone Cold, things like that can't be copied because they only work once. Another issue was that Goldust was still an active wrestler on the same roster. Why would you want to see an imitation of Goldust when you can watch the original on the same show? It didn't make any sense and whilst this had potential with the way he reacted to Cody chants, WWE never pulled the trigger on turning him back.
3 Actually Better: The Usos
The Usos are highly regarded as one of the best tag teams in the last 10 years in WWE and one of the very best on the planet right now, and although a lot of that praise came after they changed things up from their babyface act, there is no denying that they have always had talent in between the ropes. The Usos took on a similar gimmick to that of The Headshrinkers, playing up their heritage with the way they made their ring entrances and the face paint that they had, The Usos took it to another level and gave it a modern twist and feel that fans appreciated.
This helped the brothers standout when they first burst onto the scene and since then they have managed to stay relevant, seemingly only growing with time rather than fading to the back of the line like many teams, including The Headshrinkers, did. The success of The Usos is undeniable at this point and you could even make a case for them being a Hall Of Fame worthy tag team when they have finished up their careers already, which should just go to show exactly how good their careers have been in WWE.
2 Totally Flopped: Ryback
As much as he might proclaim that his gimmick was different, there was no denying the similarities between Ryback and Goldberg, so much so that fans used to chant Goldberg's name at him everytime Ryback appeared during the early stages of his career. The main reason for this was the way that Ryback looked, which was incredibly similar to that of the former World Champion, with the bald head, jacked up body and crazy amounts of intensity. WWE then even booked him in the same manner, giving him a long unbeaten streak which included him just simply running through people in quick fashion, seemingly only encouraging the comparison.
Fans always wanted to see Ryback compete against Goldberg, but if you look at when the former WCW star made his return to the company, it was clear that Ryback never managed to get to his level, despite having a solid career. Ryback did have plenty of potential and managed to get over with fans as he built some steady momentum, but in the end he only walked away from his WWE career with one very forgettable run as Intercontinental Champion to his name, which, compared with Goldberg's Hall Of Fame career, really shows him to be a flop.
1 Actually Better: Ric Flair
The original Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers was an incredible wrestler during his time and is a legend of the sport, so managing to have a better career than him takes a major accomplishment, but that is exactly what Ric Flair managed to do. Flair is often regarded as the greatest wrestler in the history of the sport and given his legacy and achievements spanning over such a long period of time working in different places it is very difficult to argue the point.
Flair took the Nature Boy gimmick and made it his own, turning the dial up to 11 and styling and profiling like only Flair knows how to the point where fans just lapped up everything he said or did. Ric lived his gimmick and that helped take it to the next level, and considering he was able to perform in front of millions of people, it is only natural that he will be remembered as the greatest Nature Boy of all-time. Taking pieces of what Rogers did and adding in his own elements allowed him to put his own spin on things and the fact that people are still, to this day, trying to now copy what Ric did, with the likes of Bobby Roode and his own daughter Charlotte being prime examples, it only cements this point even further.