As Paul Heyman memorably said to Vince McMahon, “You ran all the competition into the ground, and you stole their ideas and made yourself a billionaire out of it.” During a worked shoot promo, Heyman absolutely lit up Vince for his crushing of rival promotions and the stealing other promotions’ ideas in what was one of the greatest promos ever cut. While that sounds like sour grapes coming from the third-place company during the Monday Night Wars, Heyman wasn’t necessarily wrong.
During the competition between WCW and WWE, there were plenty of ideas being taken from one another in an effort to win the ratings war. When WWE took the lead in the ratings, WCW panicked and started blatantly taking popular ideas from WWE and using them on Monday Nitro. Even now, smaller wrestling promotions of the Independent Circuit have been caught copying ideas from WWE and using them to advance their promotions. However, WWE isn’t innocent of idea theft either.
With everyone copying everyone else, it’s extremely difficult to find an original gimmick, whether it’s a gimmicked match or character, but that doesn’t automatically make the copied gimmick a flop. There are plenty of "stolen" gimmicks that have been used in WWE that were actually better than the original. Of course, that doesn’t justify stealing ideas or vindicate the stolen ones that completely failed and, in some cases, did irreparable damage to a wrestler’s career. In this article, we detail some of these stolen gimmicks, more specifically, 8 stolen gimmicks that failed, and 7 that surprisingly worked.
15 Failed: Chris Masters - Ripoff Of Lex Luger
His Master Lock may have been virtually unbreakable, but Chris Masters wasn’t the first superstar to look like he was chiseled from stone. The Narcissist, Lex Luger had a similar build to “The Masterpiece” Chris Masters and even had a similar gimmick before Masters was even ten years old. Eventually, Masters would join WWE, flexing his muscle much in the same manner as Lex.
Even Masters’ entrance bore a resemblance to that of The Total Package, especially in Luger’s later WCW days.
Masters would find a lot of success from his Masterpiece gimmick and debut his entertaining Master Lock Challenge. Despite the challenge being popular, the Master Lock would be officially broken, Masters would get popped for a WWE wellness violation, and the leaner and ideally meaner Masters didn’t have anything else going for him. Luger, on the other hand, became a legend in the business from his Total Package and Narcissist gimmicks. Though, one has to wonder how Luger would have fared under WWE’s current wellness policy.
14 Worked: Ric Flair - Ripoff Of Buddy Rogers
Ric Flair is easily one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. His insane promos and in-ring mastery pushed him to greatness, but his stylin’ and profilin’, limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ n’ dealin’ made him legendary. Ric Flair lived his “Nature Boy” gimmick for decades and used it to become a 16 time World Champion. Flair’s career was immensely successful, to say the least, but he wasn’t the first to don the “Nature Boy” gimmick.
Flair made no allusions to his affinity for the original Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers. Flair imitated, Rogers' look, mannerisms, took his nickname and even used the figure four leglock. Though Buddy Rogers had a successful and legendary career, with two World Titles of his own, Ric Flair popularized the gimmick and made it mainstream. Still, Flair didn't exactly "steal" the gimmick from Rogers. Rogers jobbed to Flair in their one Nature Boy vs. Nature Boy encounter, essentially passing the torch to him.
13 Failed: Ryback - Ripoff of Goldberg
Before fans were chanting “Feed me more” they were asking, “Who’s next?” Goldberg is well known for his undefeated streak which started with victories over jobbers and mid-carders before finally reaching the main event. The formula was a successful strategy in building the future 2018 WWE Hall of Famer, and years later, a similar formula was used for a former rising WWE star, Ryback.
Ryback destroyed jobbers, had a great look and possessed a catchphrase that fans could get behind.
His undefeated streak and power moves fueled Goldberg comparisons and even “Goldberg” chants.
Ryback even started using Goldberg’s Jackhammer finisher and signature powerslam. Unfortunately for Ryback, his emulating of Goldberg didn’t take him to the same heights as “Da Man.” Creative would end Ryback’s undefeated streak against CM Punk and then turn him heel just when Ryback was the most over. Ryback would play hardball during contract negotiations, and WWE let him feed elsewhere.
12 Worked: Elimination Chamber - Ripoff Of WarGames
WCW has had some crazy gimmicked matches whether it’s the Triple Decker Cage, the World War 3 Battle Royal, or a Judy Bagwell on a Pole match. While many of WCW’s gimmicked matches need to never be revived, one match that originated from WCW that Triple H is actually fond of is the WarGames Cage Match.
When Eric Bischoff returned to WWE as General Manager, he introduced the Elimination Chamber which implemented aspects of WarGames. The Elimination Chamber has been successful, took the best parts of WarGames for itself and even became its own successful pay per view event on the road to WrestleMania. While Elimination Chamber is pretty much WWE’s version of WarGames, WWE has decided to just completely take the WarGames concept for itself and has used the concept already on NXT.
11 Failed: Paul Burchill - Ripoff Of Jack Sparrow
Paul Burchill debuted as a typical bully heel which certainly didn’t endear him towards the WWE fans. In an effort to give Burchill some charisma and character, Burchill was given the pirate gimmick. Capitalizing on The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Burchill swung on a rope and donned a pirate persona and ring attire, completely stealing Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow character.
Unbelievably, Vince McMahon reportedly had no idea about The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise or the popularity of the Jack Sparrow character.
This greatly affected Burchill’s booking and eventually fans turned on Burchill. Burchill would lose the silly gimmick but really didn’t have anything entertaining to replace it with. (Case in point: his unusually close relationship with kayfabe sister Katie Lea.) Burchill would walk the plank completely out of the WWE after a five year run.
10 Worked: Evolution - The Four Horsemen
The Four Horsemen was arguably one of the most dominant stables in all of professional wrestling. The history of The Four Horsemen and Ric Flair was certainly not lost on Triple H. The Game idolized Ric Flair and when Triple H formed his Evolution stable with Flair, Batista and Randy Orton, he made sure to copy many aspects of the classic faction. Evolution consisted of four Superstars, all of which Triple H respected.
All four Superstars were heels, wore suits, donned the high life gimmick and terrorized the babyfaces much in the same vein as The Four Horsemen.
Although Evolution may not have had the staying power of the Horsemen, Evolution was definitely a successful stable. Evolution captured many titles during their run and further confirmed their impact to wrestling with the positive fan reception during their reunion (albeit minus Flair) against The Shield.
9 Failed: Sin Cara - Ripoff Of Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio was one of the most popular Cruiserweights in all of WCW. He revolutionized the Cruiserweight Division and helped bring the lucha libre style to the Unites States. After WCW folded, Rey would bring his style to WWE and successfully adapted it for the company’s slower, “tell a story” style. With Rey getting older and more injury prone, WWE needed someone to replace him. WWE brought in Sin Cara to be that replacement, but it didn’t quite work out.
The first Sin Cara was portrayed by Luis Urive, and the signing was a huge deal for WWE. Sadly, the original Sin Cara’s debut match was lackluster, and Sin Cara’s fast-paced style didn’t mesh well with WWE’s. Numerous botches occurred, and eventually Urive was replaced with Jorge Arias, aka the former Hunico. However, the damage was already done. Sin Cara hasn’t come close to gaining the popularity of Rey Mysterio and has yet to win a single WWE Title.
8 Worked: Mr. McMahon - Ripoff Of Eric Bischoff
Eric Bischoff was the executive producer for WCW, and commentator at the announce booth. However, Bischoff would join the nWo and tell the fans how much he loved each and every one of them to a chorus of boos. As it would turn out, Vince McMahon liked the idea of a heel authority figure and would implement a similar character for Monday Night Raw, becoming the greatest heel authority figure of all time, Mr. McMahon.
The Vince McMahon’s character was a perfect foil for the anti-hero, rebellious Stone Cold Steve Austin. The character spawned the Austin/McMahon storyline and feud which ultimately helped WWE win the Monday Night War.
Vince claimed to base the Mr. McMahon character off of The Breakfast Club’s villain Richard Vernon with the strut and authoritarian personality.
The character was a massive hit so much so that fans forget the Eric Bischoff authority figure actually preceded and motivated the character’s inception. While Bischoff may have been a heat magnet, his impact on Monday Nitro pales in comparison to the impact of Mr. McMahon.
7 Failed: The Wyatt Compound - Ripoff Of Final Deletion
There is an abundance of evidence showing Impact Wrestling blatantly stealing ideas from WWE, from the Eric Young storyline mirroring Daniel Bryan’s, to Dixie Carter’s Authority angle mirroring Triple H and Stephanie McMahon’s. However, in this case, we have an example of WWE actually copying Impact Wrestling.
While he was taking the wrestling world by storm with his Broken Brilliance, Matt Hardy would engage in a feud with his brother Jeff, or as he called him, "Brother Nero." The two would battle on their own property in a Final Deletion Match. The match was as ridiculous as it was entertaining, and promoted Broken Matt Hardy even further.
Not long after the Final Deletion, The New Day would face off against The Wyatt Family at the Wyatt compound in a brawl very similar to the Final Deletion. The whole concept didn’t come off nearly as well as the Final Deletion and was panned for having copied an idea from the lesser renowned Impact Wrestling. The Wyatt Compound angle was a flop and The House of Horrors match from the same vein involving Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton is considered one of the worst “matches” ever.
6 Worked: Damien Sandow - Ripoff Of "The Genius" Lanny Poffo
Before copying The Miz’s gimmick as Damien Mizdow, he portrayed the Intellectual Savior of the Unwashed Masses, Damien Sandow. Insulting the fans with his superior intellect, Sandow’s genius gimmick became an instant hit and helped propel him to a Money in the Bank victory and title shot against John Cena. Sandow’s genius gimmick made him an excellent mid-card heel, but much like his portrayal of The Miz, his arrogant intellectual gimmick wasn’t original either.
Well before fans had irrelevant opinions of Damien Sandow (and at a time when Sandow wasn't even 10-years-old), Lanny Poffo would debut his “genius” character, wearing graduation robes and reciting poems to insult the crowd and the fan favorites.
Although The Genius actually holds a victory of Hulk Hogan, Poffo’s version didn’t last long and didn’t get nearly the reactions Sandow’s character did.
Despite Sandow’s WWE tenure cut short, his portrayal took him farther in his career and surpassed the original Genius in entertainment value as well.
5 Failed: Kevin Thorn - Ripoff Of Gangrel
In a way, Kevin Fertig actually stole three gimmicks when he debuted in WWE if you think about it. First, he debuted in WWE as a religious zealot character named Mordecai, which was actually a rip off of his original “Seven” gimmick. Even more, Mordecai was strangely similar to The Undertaker of whom Thorn was supposed to feud with, making Mordecai a hybrid of two similar and previously used characters. With Undertaker feud scrapped, Fertig would change gimmicks, once more, taking yet another gimmick that had already been used in WWE beforehand.
Using the “Kevin Thorn” moniker, Fertig would return to WWE’s ECW brand sporting a vampire gimmick, not at all unlike Gangrel’s character. The gimmick, much like the other “Sci-fi” characters, was terrible, and Thorn would eventually be used as just another lackey for The New Breed before being finally released from WWE altogether.
4 Worked: Razor Ramon - Ripoff Of Scarface
The king of machismo, Scott Hall was heavily influenced by the movie Scarface and adapted his Razor Ramon character to that of Tony Montana from the movie. Hall adopted a Cuban accent, tweaked catchphrases from the movie to use as his own and dubbed himself “The Bad Guy.”
Though the character was a huge hit and impressed Vince McMahon so much, even Hall admits the ideas he pitched for the character came straight from Scarface.
Unsurprisingly, given Vince being so removed from pop culture, he hadn't heard of the Scarface character either.
Because WWE owned the Razor Ramon character, Scott Hall had to drop a lot of his Razor Ramon characteristics in WCW, but Razor definitely put Hall on the map. Razor was a huge success in WWE and helped give Scott Hall credibility in WCW, all thanks to Scarface. Scott Hall had the skills to go far in wrestling even without the Razor Ramon gimmick, but it definitely helped sky rocket his career a lot sooner.
3 Failed: Kane/Corporate Kane - Abyss/Joseph Park
When Kane isn’t The Devil’s Favorite Demon, Kane goes by his other persona of the suit wearing, maskless, more civilized Corporate Kane. As Corporate Kane, the Big Red Machine is mostly a stooge for Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, only unleashing The Monster Kane when necessary. However, the idea of Kane’s Jekyll and Hyde split personality isn’t a first in WWE. In fact, the split resembles more closely to an Impact Wrestling character.
On Impact Wrestling, The Monster Abyss has a similar split personality also. When Abyss wasn’t seen on television, the weaker, unmasked “brother” of Abyss, Joseph Park, would appear, which resulted in storylines of Park transitioning to Abyss and vice versa. WWE has done split personalities before with the three faces of Mick Foley, but Kane’s split personality gimmick happening so close to the Abyss/Joseph Park storyline wasn’t lost on the hardcore TNA fans. Needless to say, Corporate Kane isn’t nearly as legendary as the masked Kane, and certainly not worth copying from Impact.
2 Worked: Hulk Hogan - Ripoff Of Billy Graham
“Whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania steals a gimmick from you?” Obviously nothing, as Hulk Hogan took professional wrestling to heights never before seen, but that doesn’t mean he was original. While Hogan is the most recognizable professional wrestler of all time, Hogan’s iconic look was taken almost completely from “Superstar” Billy Graham, from the body builder physique, to Graham’s trademark ‘stache.
Graham was a world champion himself, but wrestling wasn’t nearly as popular as it was in the '80s. However, Vince noticed wrestling trending towards the body builder, larger than life characters and saw dollar signs in Hulk Hogan. Vince capitalized on that trend and launched professional wrestling to new heights through Hogan. It clearly worked out for Vince who's filthy rich and Hogan, who helped make professional wrestling the global giant that it is today.
1 Failed: John Morrison - Ripoff Of Jim Morrison
John Hennigan was the co-winner of WWE’s Tough Enough 3 and debuted on Raw as Eric Bischoff’s assistant, Johnny Nitro. Nitro would eventually grow out his hair and tweak his name to “John Morrison” as a homage to Jim Morrison of The Doors. The John Morrison character stuck, and his theme music, mannerisms and look were altered to better resemble The Doors' late lead singer.
Despite having a character that worked and having excellent wrestling ability, Morrison couldn’t break the glass ceiling in WWE.
He would eventually leave WWE but couldn’t even take his Jim Morrison character with him. Morrison would wrestle as Johnny Mundo for Lucha Underground and is currently wrestling as Johnny Impact on Impact Wrestling. Unfortunately, he’s still not nearly as over as he was during his John Morrison days. While Morrison’s gimmick definitely lit his fire, he just couldn’t break on through to the other side.
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