Professional wrestling is just like any job—a wrestler has to start somewhere! Or sometimes a wrestler would have to reinvent him or herself to get noticed or move up the career ladder. Enter the gimmick, a wrestler’s chance to establish a special persona that separates one from his or her peers. Many wrestlers were lucky enough to have a particular stature that helped shape their respective gimmick. Others were not as lucky and had to work hard—or receive ‘help’ from management—on their in-ring identity. And if a wrestler started or worked in WCW in the early 1990s through 2001, they were just plain screwed!
WCW was notorious for having some of worst gimmicks in the history of wrestling. Getting a decent gimmick in WCW was akin to winning the lottery. However, there were adequate gimmicks that stuck for and pushed various performers. The following list will examine the best gimmicks WCW employed while also highlighting—or lowlighting—those that were a complete travesty. Hats off to these guys for having the sacks to perform some of these atrocities. But I’ve got to assume that many of us would’ve have done the same thing if we we’re in their boots! Nonetheless, lots of “scorpion” references on this list!
20 Cactus Jack - Best
WCW got one right in the short-term but really missed the mark long-term. Mick Foley brought the Cactus Jack gimmick with him from various independent territories when settling in WCW during the early 1990s. Upon his arrival he was immediately featured in both the mid-card and main event scenes. His bizarre antics and ceaseless shrieks while facing opponents were intriguing and amusing to say the least. However, it was the knocks he would take during matches that drew fan admiration. WCW seized the opportunity thrusting Cactus Jack into rivalries with Sting, Paul Orndorff, Abdullah the Butcher and Big Van Vader. The matches with Vader undoubtedly took years off his life not to mention a piece of Jack’s ear. But they served to solidify his legend before making his way to the WWE.
19 Michael (V.K.) Wallstreet - Worst
Mike Rotunda didn’t need gimmicks. Although his Varsity Club persona was successful, his Michael Wallstreet gimmick—copied from the movie Wall Street—was campy. Rotunda, or Wallstreet, asserted that he came into money, formally changed his name and devised an algorithm that would help him win wrestling matches. He led a faction called the Yorkshire Club that was managed by easy on the eyes Alexandra York. The stable consisted of a more sophisticated Terrance (Terry) Taylor, Richard (Ricky) Morton and Thomas (Tommy) Rich. If there were an algorithm to win matches, it would have surely recommended dropping Morton and Rich from the team. Rotunda’s gimmick carried over to the WWE during his run as Irwin R. Shyster (I.R.S.) and back to the WCW again as Michael “V.K.” Wallstreet. The V.K. was meant to signify a poke at Vincent K. McMahon.
18 "The Taskmaster" Kevin Sullivan - Best
Aside from being involved with a few of the worst gimmicks on this listing, “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan was effective in the toned down carryover of his Satan worshiping gimmick from Florida Championship Wrestling. Sullivan headed the Dungeon of Doom stable that consisted of legitimate wrestling gimmicks such as Meng, The Barbarian, Big Van Vader, The One Man Gang and The Giant. There would also be significant absurdity in the stable with gimmicks such as The Shark, The Zodiac, Loch Ness and The Yeti. Yet, Sullivan maintained his bearing as a diabolical figure leading a fearsome faction hell-bent on destroying the good guys. The Taskmaster would carry out feuds against Hulk Hogan and the Four Horsemen, with his most notable rivalry being that of Chris Benoit.
17 Disco Inferno - Worst
Oh man, fuhgeddaboudit! I thought there was potential to change my tune—no pun intended—after watching several clips of his dancing, interview and match endeavors. Nope, I didn’t. This gimmick was just as bad when I watched it for the first time on TBS’s Superstation several years back. Given he was a copy of John Travolta’s character Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever, remarkably the Inferno was kept ablaze for quite a while. He would navigate the mid-card feuding with Alex Wright, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn, all respectable foes. Furthermore, he competed and won championships in WCW’s cruiserweight division. And although the title was devalued by that time, a part of me still died when he won his first of two World Television Championships.
16 The Black Scorpion - Best
The Black Scorpion gimmick involving Sting wasn’t as bad as everyone says. On the other hand, the final execution and Ole Anderson’s voice-over is a little sketchy. Nevertheless, the premise behind the gimmick was cerebral. The fan attacks and the magic tricks threw fans off the trail as to who it was under the mask and garb. In his book To Be the Man, Ric Flair says that Al Perez—who at the time was on the rise—was supposed to be eventually revealed as the Black Scorpion. However, Perez left after finding out he was going to eventually lose to Sting. Really, potentially losing to Sting—WCW’s top draw—made him leave? I could think of 10 other reasons why someone would leave WCW. Even so, Ric Flair took one for the team and donned the Black Scorpion outfit to reignite his longstanding feud with Sting.
15 Glacier - Worst
The hype machine was in full effect for this martial arts gimmick in the late 1990s. Numerous vignettes played during commercial breaks in wrestling television programs highlighting “Blood Runs Cold” with ice and snowy backgrounds. It looked serious enough. What didn’t look serious was his appearance—a knock off of Mortal Kombat’s Sub Zero character. Yes, WCW was at it again, reaching for a piece of present-day pop culture. What wasn’t a reach are the true martial arts skills of the man who played Glacier. Ray Lloyd is accomplished in Judo and other forms of Kung Fu. Unfortunately for Lloyd, the Glacier character did not take off and was used sparingly for feuds against Hugh Mortis and several squash matches against a then surging Goldberg.
14 Raven - Best
To give credit where credit is due, Raven brought his grunge gimmick to WCW from ECW. In 1992, WCW had Raven—real name Scott Levy—perform as Scotty Flamingo. Yeah Flamingo, like the bird. Flamingo, or Levy rather, would perform in the Mid-South, the WWE and then ECW. In ECW he transformed himself from the obnoxious preppy jock into a darker grunge-like character. Raven was an extreme divergence from the Flamingo character as he spat out poetic prose for promos and portrayed erratic, depressive behavior. In the late 1990s, Raven joined WCW and surrounded himself with several “reject” wrestlers known as “The Flock.” Many people could relate to a depressed, spoiled rich kid who leads a ragtag group of troublemakers who all lament against the establishment.
13 PN News - Worst
“Yo baby, yo baby, yo!” Have you ever experienced it when news personalities or even your parents jump on the bandwagon of a fad that was out of style a few months ago? That was “The Rapmaster” P.N. News back in the early-1990s. And much like watching your parents do the “Electric Slide,” P.N. News’ run and push in WCW was one fad gimmick that we wanted to forget. This guy teamed with the great “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton and had a scaffold match against Steve Austin and Terry Taylor. That’s right, a scaffold match! Wasn’t anything sacred? Gratefully, P.N. News wouldn’t have a long WCW tenure as he would appear occasionally on undercards and pay-per views before he moved on to the independent scene. P.N. News won’t be the last of musically inspired gimmicks, unfortunately.
12 2 Cold Scorpio - Best
If actor and rapper Will Smith was a wrestler, he wouldn’t have been half as cool as 2 Cold Scorpio—believe that! That was 2 Cold’s gimmick—a smooth, fly wrestler. Before joining WCW in the early 1990s, Scorpio honed his skills in Japan, Europe and Mexico. He mixed grappling, speedy high-flying and smooth dance moves in the ring. Where’d he learn those? 2 Cold even had a specialty track made for his entrance theme! That was legit! In all seriousness, Scorpio would team with Marcus Alexander Bagwell and go on to moderate success in the tag-team scene. It’s a shame that 2 Cold only wrestled for a few years in WCW. Strangely, his departure would coincide with the arrival of Hulk Hogan in 1994. It was good for Hogan because if Scorpio stayed things would’ve gotten 2 Cold!
11 The Incredible OZ - Worst
Just think what would’ve happened if WCW management had access to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) back in the day! It may have increased Kevin Nash’s chances of assuming a gimmick that wasn’t a play on The Wizard of Oz. You can’t make this stuff up! Dressed in a wizard hat and mask, neon green cape and tights, and led to the ring by The Wizard, Kevin Nash played “Oz.” When I saw this for the first time—Dorothy, the Tinman, the Lion, the cheesy commentary and the monkey crawling around on The Wizard’s shoulders—I seriously thought wrestling was dead. Being a tall, imposing man didn’t get one much in the way of serious gimmicks back in the 90s. Fortunately, Nash would find solace in later gimmicks. However, this one was terrible!
10 Crow Sting - Best
As much as it pains me to say—this is one movie copy that WCW got right. When things went south with the WCW stable and the Stinger during the nWo angle this made some sense. Adopting his look and persona from The Crow film, Sting would watch over the nWo happenings in WCW from the rafters. Sting was really into his character and did an excellent job building up tension for what would be several rafter drops of bat swinging and brawling mayhem to close out wrestling television time. However, Sting would join the nWo Wolfpac—like everyone in the WCW did at the time—and paint his face red and black. Interestingly, he would keep the crow gimmick for his subsequent runs in TNA and the WWE. Admit though, we still missed the caffeine amped, face painted surfer dude!
9 The Five Faces of Ed Leslie - Worst
Et Tu, Brute? Seemingly trying to depart from the cartoonish character he played in the WWE, Ed Leslie of Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake fame underwent quite the identity crisis during his WCW tenure. He would follow his former partner Hulk Hogan to the WCW from the WWE and subsequently ignite a feud with him being addressed as “The Butcher.” After that it was all downhill as “The Butcher” became “The Man with No Name” which was a loose play on a Clint Eastwood movie of the same name. Next came “The Zodiac” gimmick and then “The Booty Man,” Hulk Hogan’s personal spy. All the while, I remember saying to myself, “What the hell is Brutus Beefcake doing?” And it didn’t stop there as he would become “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan’s nWo bodyguard, “The Disciple.” Count them—five gimmicks in what was technically four years!
8 The Great Muta - Best
Billed as a karate and judo master, the Great Muta was the most underrated Japanese wrestler of the late 1980s. Similar to The Great Kabuki of old-school wrestling, Muta wore ceremonial Japanese garb, face paint and spit mist into the eyes of opponents. What separated the two was Muta’s in-ring speed and skill. Paired with renowned heel manager Gary Hart, WCW used Muta sparingly and haphazardly. He would have several high-profile matches with Sting which highlighted the athleticism of both men. However, Muta’s gimmick was not exploited to the fullest and was fodder for other WCW stars. Much of this was due to his continued commitment to splitting time between WCW and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Muta would win the NWA World Championship before WCW withdrew from the promotion in the early 1990s.
7 The Shockmaster - Worst
You can’t mention the worst WCW gimmicks without making mention of the Shockmaster! Sting would find himself in the precarious position of carrying this angle and gimmick. Mired in a nasty feud with Sid Viscous, Big Van Vader, and Harlem Heat, Sting couldn’t find help aside from Davey Boy Smith and Dusty Rhodes. As a result, Sting enlisted the help of a guy who looked like an overweight caveman wearing a glittery Storm trooper helmet. What made matters worse was the Shockmaster’s introduction on live television. He was supposed to run through a wall—unscathed—and deliver a blistering warning to Viscous and his crew. However, he tripped while going through the wall, fell to the ground and scrambled for the helmet that rolled of his head. How Sid and Harlem Heat kept straight faces is remarkable!
6 Big Van Vader - Best
Originating in Japan, Big Van Vader was his own gimmick! He looked like a real-life He-Man figure with his spiked mastodon helmet and his enormous build. He was a freak, manhandling and moonsaulting onto hapless opponents. It was like Mark Henry, Rikishi or King Kong Bundy with Lucha Libre skills! Vader actually started out as an AWA mid-card wrestler in the mid-1980s using his real name, Leon White. He would later travel to Japan and assume the monster heel persona and mask. It worked well as Vader would obliterate Japanese stars until making his way to WCW and being thrust into the main event scene, feuding with Ric Flair, Sting and Hulk Hogan in the early to mid-1990s. Adding to Vader’s legend and gimmick was the fact that he inadvertently injured wrestlers during his matches. Reference No. 20 on this list!
5 The Yeti - Worst
Why is a seven-foot mummy is considered a Yeti? Oh I get it—it’s a mummified Sasquatch or Big Foot! This gimmick was all over the place. The Yeti’s introduction was ridiculous as he was supposedly freed from a block of ice by Kevin Sullivan. It got even more peculiar when he joined forces with the Giant to put a double bear-hug hump on Hulk Hogan at the conclusion of the 1995 Halloween Havoc pay per view. Don’t believe me, look it up! Like the piledriver before it, the double bear-hug hump is now banned because of the Yeti and the Giant! The Yeti bandage gimmick would be dropped and eventually morphed into a ninja outfit using “The Yeti” name. Later, The Yeti would be renamed “Super Giant Ninja.” See, all over the place! And yes, there are even worse WCW gimmicks than this!
4 “The All American” Ron Simmons - Best
There’s genius in simplicity! After his run in the tag-team Doom, Ron Simmons assumed the simple, albeit effective, All-American gimmick for his singles wrestling in the early 1990s. For Simmons, the gimmick wasn’t a stretch as he was a stud defensive tackle for the Florida State Seminoles under head coach Bobby Bowden. In addition, Simmons played for the NFL and the now defunct USFL in the early 1980s as well. Simmons parlayed his athleticism into the wrestling ring during the late 1980s, gaining experience and initial notoriety teaming with “Hacksaw” Butch Reed in Doom. Simmons would split with Reed and embark on a singles path that would lead him to being the first official African-American World Heavyweight Champion in wrestling history with his win over Big Van Vader in 1992. Damn!
3 Arachnaman - Worst
Okay, quiz time! Who wrestled their very first match against wrestler Crusher Hogan? It’s Spider Man in issue No. 15 of Amazing Fantasy. Next question: What wrestler wrestled as a copy of Spider-Man in WCW? It was poor Brad Armstrong! This was an insult to everyone’s intelligence. WCW management must have thought the average fan’s age was eight at the time. But even an eight year-old wouldn’t have been duped by a Spider-Man knock-off! Again, WCW made me question why I watched wrestling when I saw this gimmick. Thankfully Marvel Comics intervened, threatening to sue WCW over the ‘close’ resemblance to the comic franchise’s most storied character. I’m sure Kevin Nash was keeping his fingers crossed for similar litigation against his “Oz” gimmick during this same timeframe!
2 “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan - Best
The reincarnation of the heel Hulk Hogan in the mid-1900s is one of wrestling’s most significant moments. Likewise, his forming of the New World Order with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash was just as paramount. To borrow from film—as WCW had done so many times—the storyline was like The Thing as no one knew who else was infected. What fans did know at the time was that Hulk Hogan made the switch from a colorful, larger-than-life fan favorite to a character filled with vitriol towards fans and former allies who took him for granted. Hulk Hogan’s gimmick transformation lent to scores of changes amongst other WCW wrestlers amid the nWo storyline. While fans were punch drunk by the nWo angle’s end, there’s no denying that Hollywood Hulk Hogan was WCW’s best gimmick ever!
1 Robocop - Worst
The Robocop gimmick shouldn’t have happened! I’m not sure what was worse: Sting going along with the angle or announcing greats Gordon Solie and Jim Ross trying to sell it throughout the 1990 Capitol Combat pay per view. This angle was wrought by Sting’s return to the ring after injury and his continuing feud with the Four Horsemen. Sting was “thrown” into a ringside cage by Sid Viscous and Arn and Ole Anderson. Robocop slowly strolled to the cage, ripped off the door and freed Sting. Sting sold the angle like he just won the Price is Right showcase. Sid Vicious and the Andersons backed up quicker than Jack Nicholson did in The Shining bathroom scene. And Jim Ross sold it like Stone Cold Steve Austin stunned the Pope. This one’s a no brainer—worst ever!