First impressions are important, it is the first opinion somebody will have of you and it will influence all future interactions with that individual. A positive first impression lends itself to beneficial dialogue with individuals that may lead to unexpected but beneficial opportunities. The same can be said for every Superstar of the World Wrestling Federation. While the sentimental may state "it is what is on the inside that matters", if you look ridiculous when you come through the curtain and down the aisle to step into the squared circle, the fans will think you are ridiculous. It can sink a career, and the memory of a poor gimmick or ridiculous bit of ring attire does not wash off easily, if ever.
The desire to avoid such a fate is how Vince McMahon keeps his authority over his employees. If you 'Cross the Boss' you get punished. If you reject a gimmick, you may be forced into an even more career-harming one. So, it is usually safe to assume that when a wrestler debuts new ring attire that is unusual that it is in fact a punishment. Here we explore 15 times wrestling fans assumed incorrectly that a Superstar was being punished by having to wear ridiculous attire.
Vito LoGrosso was born in Brookyln, New York, standing at 6'3" with wide shoulders, shaved head with his Italian accent he was without a doubt an imposing figure. His muscular build and mean demeanor aided LoGrosso's wrestling career with the independant companies in 1990, as well as some time as a 'jobber' in WWF in 1991. It would be 14 years and 4 wrestling promotions later until 'Big Vito' would reach mid- card status in the WWF as a member of the Full Blooded Italians (FBI). The FBI would come to an end when the double underhook DDT specialist began wearing a dress.
LoGrosso went from being a guy that was full of bravado to wearing a dress to wrestle.
What did he do to deserve that punishment? LoGrosso spoke about it to "Duke Loves Rasslin": "Stephanie and Vince asked me [to wear the dress] ... and then the first time I smiled on TV... I became a fan favourite, I went undefeated for four months." It can be argued his best run with the company was while he was wearing the ill-fitted dress. Not every wrestler gets a 4 month winning streak, which is proof positive that this was no punishment.
George Gray entered the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1987, 10 years after the start of his professional wrestling career. Upon entering the WWF, the 6’9” 450 pounder was known as the One Man Gang. A fitting name to say the least for somebody with such an intimidating and full stature. Add in the ripped jean biker jacket, mohawk haircut with tattoos on the shaved sides of his head and there is little doubt he would need anybody to qualify as a gang. After two years of challenging the top faces of the late 80s, a new idea was pegged for Gray.
The South Carolina native spoke to ClubWWI.com about the time he was confused when Vince McMahon asked if he knew how to dance, so he called his “manager” to explain; “Oh man, we got this great idea that I went to Africa and I found your roots and we're gonna turn you into an African man and you're gonna be Akeem.” Unfortunately “turning him into an African man” entailed giving him stereotypical characteristics of African Americans that were popularized in the late 80s and dressing him in attire that Vince McMahon believed would reflect somebody of African heritage.
When it comes to ridiculous ring attire, Dennis Knight barley makes this list, not because his ring attire was barely ridiculous, but because his ring attire barely existed. Dennis Knight's wrestling career spanned from 1998 to 2006 for various wrestling organizations. Without a doubt, it would be expected that any professional wrestler would have gone through a number of characters. In the WWE alone, the 6'3" Florida native went from a "simple farmer" named Phineas I. Godwin to a "cult member" named Mideon.
He was living his dream as a professional wrestler, and he always did what the company needed him to. So being punished with a shift in character would have been surprising. The only surprising part is 'Naked Mideon' was not a punishment, Knight states in an interview with wweclassics.com; “The best part... I was getting paid the same amount of money as I was wrestling every night. But instead of getting my head kicked in, I was running out in a fanny pack”. Even though his first love was football and he dreamed of being on the grid iron instead of the squared circle, a shoulder injuryderailed those dreams, and his fanny pack caused nightmares for everybody else.
After a stint in World Championship Wrestling under the moniker of ‘Norman the Lunatic’, the 6’3” Killer Kowalski trainee moved on to the WWF/E. He originally portrayed a monk who enjoyed drinking, but criticism from the Catholic Church would spur a character change. The new character was the principle reason for the attire change, and this indicates it was in fact not a punishment, although it had to feel like it. While the attire would improve incrementally, the original attire seemed to simply be silver duct tape wrapped around his “over 400-pound” body.
Eventually, the attire just looked like it was silver material simply designed to look like electrical or duct tape.
To repeat, this was not a punishment, as the failure of the Monk character was not his fault, and neither was Bastion Booger. Shaw stated to wrestling chronicler Scott Teal: "I think the Booger character would have worked if I got over as a heel, but my heart wasn't into it. I didn't like the character and I didn't like the outfit." That does not sound like an individual who was punished on purpose. Bottom line, nobody could blame Shaw for feeling this way, but he should be admired for at least trying to make it work.
Paul Worden Taylor III humbly began his wrestling career in 1979 in the mid-south region promotions. Eleven years later, now known by the name of Terry Taylor, he joined the World Wrestling Federation. A few months passed until the 6'1" South Carolina native slipped on the now infamous red trunks and styled his hair like a rooster's comb. Any wrestling fan of Terry Taylor had to wonder who he upset to get stuck with such a look. Taylor made his debut in July of 1998 for the WWF, within a few months he was strutting like a rooster every chance he had.
The important phrase is 'he had', that is correct, this was not a punishment, apparently it was a slight misunderstanding. On Jim Cornette's 'Talking Sense' podcast in October of 2016, Bruce Pritchard states; "Rooster was supposed to be just in name. Taylor is a cocky guy and was suppose to exaggerate his personality". Much like how a rooster struts around confidently. Pritchard is insinuating that Taylor was not supposed to take the word rooster literally, and that he chose to act like an actual rooster. Whatever the real story, it was in no way a punishment from McMahon. At worst it was just another dumb idea.
Fred Alex Ottman is on this list just so he can be spoken about without mentioning the ‘Shockmaster’. If you are unaware of the Shockmaster, youtube it, as it will be worth every second you spend. Prior to the Shockmaster debacle, the almost 400 pound wrestler was the Tugboat. When he broke into the WWF in June of 1989, he was a heel, going by the name of Big Steele. As a big man he was to go up against the ‘good guys’ and give them something to overcome. He impressed over the summer and was rewarded with his very own gimmick, with new ring attire and everything.
The Bearhug specialist spoke to Dan Lovranski of Live Audio Wrestling and was asked about the Tugboat character; ‘Marketing came to me and asked if I would be comfortable with the character, and since I am a big cartoon junkie, I get to be a cross of Popeye and Brutus, it’s the best”. Ottman went to go on to speak how fortunate he was to get a storyline with Hulk Hogan thanks to the character, and he has nothing but good memories. Hard to imagine the huge red and white striped double strapped tights with white pants and a sailor hat turns out to be a reward.
In 1986 Jacques Rougeau would break into the WWF alongside his real life brother Raymond as the 'Fabulous Rougeaus'. Coming from a storied wrestling family, they knew how to get the fans to dislike them. Entering a new promotion with his real-life brother as a tag team partner made things easier and allowed him to get his feet set prior to breaking out on his own. That breaking out would come in the form of impersonating a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The actual Canadian Mounties are frequently parodied or mocked in movies, mainly due to their red jackets, brimmed hat and pants that are not associated with catching criminals. It would stand to reason that when an accomplished wrestler gets saddled with a gimmick that would require such a ridiculed outfit, it is because he did something wrong. In Jacques case, not so much as Nick Paglino reported in 2015 for wrestlezone.com. Rougeau recalls; “I had the greatest moments as The Mountie in my career… I honestly made people believe that I thought I was the Mountie”. Jacques had even more fun when the actual RCMP sent the WWF a letter forbidding him to use the character in Canada.
Barry Darsow was one half of Demolition, arguably the most celebrated tag team in early World Wrestling Federation history. If those spike ladened, leathery strapped outfits were not punishment, nothing you put him in would ever be. The Ed Sharkey trained Darsow began wrestling professionally in 1983, during that time in various promotions he would win the mid-south television title from the future Red Rooster and tag gold from the future Gobbedy Gooker. Once in the WWF, Demolition would win the tag titles 3 times, once for a record 16 months.
After Demolition ran its course, Smash was repackaged as the Repo Man and wore a black mask similar to Zorro and trunks that had tire tracks printed across them. Darsow recalled the big plans for the Repo Man in an interview for The Hannibal TV in 2016; “ Vince and I talked about it and it was supposed to end up as a big time babyface. I wanted to do stuff for Make-A-Wish … but it never got to that point where I could turn babyface and that was why I quit.” Perhaps if it worked out John Cena would not hold the record for most wishes granted.
First, it was Headshrinker Fatu, then the Sultan, but it would be as Rikishi that Solofa F. Fatu Jr. would find most of his success. The sumo wrestler inspired attire that would leave very little to the imagination when it came to his posterior gave ample fodder for Rikishi to be the literal butt of many of Jerry Lawler jokes. The fact that as Rikishi, the 6’1” inventor of the ‘Stink Face’ won the Intercontinental Championship, the tag teams championships twice, and had a main event feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin, the loincloth was no punishment. In fact, opponents of the San Francisco born Fatu, suffered the worst punishment when they were on the receiving end of His back end in the face.
As a guest on The World According to Wrestling podcast with former WWE writer Court Bauer and Dave Meltzer, Rikishi detailed how the Stink Face came to be.
When an old lady in the crowd shouted, “Rikishi! Turn around and stick your rear in his face.” he added that Big Bossman said “Come on boy, stick your rear in my face” The rest as they say is history and at least he now had a reason to wear that outfit.
Keith A. Franke, Jr. had a wrestling career that began in 1974 and lasted until his unfortunate passing in a vehicle accident in 1988 at the young age of 34 years old. The knee drop specialist joined World Wrestling Federation in 1980, originally teaming with Jesse Ventura, then with Texan Dick Murdoch. During this time Franke was a biker, with a leather jacket to top it off. As he began his career in the WWF as a singles wrestler he would abandon the black leather jacket for blond hair and pink bows.
Jimmy Hart, his WWF manager at the time, spoke about the Adorable Adrian Adonis character in 2015 while promoting WrestleMania XXXI; “We didn’t try to make him any particular character, one way or another… We just wanted to make sure he was flamboyant.” That recollection by Hart indicates that Franke had a lot of input into the ‘Adorable’ character and the switch from tough biker to effeminate crossdresser was by no means a punishment as many believed not only at the time, but to this day. The Adonis character had great success and while one-dimensional, there wan as effort made not to be offensive or degrading.
Some will argue to this day that the Goldust character was a punishment to Dustin Runnels for leaving the WWF and joining competitor WCW 4 years earlier, but that is not the way Dustin Runnels sees it. He states with WrestlingINC “I was sitting at home for about 6-8 months trying to figure out what the heck I was going to do… Bruce Pritchard called me out of the blue one day and he said, 'Hey Dustin, I got Vince McMahon here. We'd like to run a character by you and see if you'd be interested in doing it. Are you sitting down?”
That was the start of Goldust, and his run as The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust was just as out of the blue. Goldust was feuding with Brian Pillman, but before their pay off match could take place Pillman tragically took his own life. In order to give Runnels a storyline, they had him leave his wife Marlene to be led around by Luna Vachon. Each week Runnels would wear outrageous ring attire, at times impersonating other WWF superstars. One should not try and explain The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust, but when you watch him, just know it was not a punishment.
Randy Colley and Jose Luis Rivera did nothing wrong at any point during their stint in the WWF in 1987. So being put in grey masks and black bodysuits with what seems to be white reflective tape in a form of a ‘V’ was not a punishment, but would have been a fantastic one. They seldom beat anybody, nobody knew who they were and achieved nothing of significance. Randy Colley was originally a member of the legendary tag team Demolition, but was removed after 3 appearances due to the fact the audience recognized him as his previous character.
Paint apparently was not enough to disguise that familiar mug of his, so a hideous mask was naturally the next step. It can even be argued that for Rivera being Shadow 2 was a push of sorts, due to Rivera having a year long losing streak prior to winning a debut match with Colley. The Shadows' claim to fame would be their feud with the Killer B’s in which they lost every match. One can mark this down as at least a success in that they at least they pulled in a paycheque and nobody had to know what a ridiculous situation they were in, all thanks to those masks.
Let us get this out of the way real quick, this was not a punishment, well, was not a deliberate punishment. Héctor Manuel Guerrero Llanes’ in ring wrestling career began in 1973 and lasted until 2015. His debut in the World Wrestling Federation was at the Survivor Series in 1990. Repeat, this was his debut, he was hired to dress up in a turkey costume and hatch from a giant egg during a pay per view. If that was not bad enough, this reveal was hyped up on national television for weeks prior to his lacklustre debut that managed to not even closely live up to the hype.
Did I mention that this was not a punishment? Hector gave some insight to Paul DeBenedetto of Mental Floss in 2017 “The idea was a fun mascot for kids who would eventually start actually wrestling. Months after getting the call from Vince, I tried out for Gooker in person.” This had punishment written all over it, typical McMahon modus operandi, put somebody in a ridiculous costume that they do not want to be in, in order to send a message to the rest of the locker room. Unbelievably, this was not the case.
It has been debated by fans and wrestling insiders alike, that giving Owen Hart back the Blue Blazer character was punishment for Owen’s brother Brett leaving the WWF. Vince Russo (who you can choose to believe or not) is reported on Pro Wrestling Stories.com saying; “The whole idea just started so innocently… We had brought back Owen’s old gimmick … to really get over the comedic genius of Owen Hart.” Owen began his training in the famous Hart Dungeon in 1983, he broke in with the WWF in 1988. He quickly became a solid worker and, due to his in ring skills and his mic work, was always involved in prominent storylines.
So, why did Owen get put in the Blue Blazer costume after years success? Jim Cornette shared his thoughts “Vince Russo didn’t feel that [Owen] was exciting enough as himself. Owen wasn’t comfortable with it, but he had already turned down a few things that he wasn’t comfortable with, and he didn’t want to be known as the guy who kept saying no.” The Blue Blazer character would unfortunately be the reason the wrestling world would lose a great entertainer and his family would lose a great husband and father.
Mick Foley is a straight up no doubt wrestling Hall of Famer, not just a WWE Hall of Famer a wrestling Hall of Famer. Foley began his wrestling career in 1983 as a 'jobber' in the WWF. After his first stint with WWF, Foley went on to wrestle in numerous promotions including World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling and in Japan before returning to the WWF in 1996. This was a debut for Mankind, if you are reading this article, there is no need to explain Mankind. There is no reason to even explain the 'Many Faces of Foley' except of course Dude Love.
It was a tie dye wearing, love spreading, peace signing hippy character that the "Hardcore Legend' was saddled with.
Although drastically different from everything else Mick had enjoyed success with, 'Dude Love', while a comedic character, was not a punishment. It was basically the opposite, Dude Love was a character that Foley would play as a kid and he could not have been happier to play the character on the main stage Dude Love was something that Foley earned and was trusted with by the creative team and it did not hurt his main event status in the least.