Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery when done right, but a rip off is still a rip off. Virtually every pro wrestling company to exist since the beginning of the industry has stolen an idea or two in their day, and often without any shame whatsoever about doing so. With intellectual thievery so prevalent in the business, at this point, fans barely even care when Impact Wrestling or the local indie steals an idea from WWE. Unless, of course, they do so in a manner so outrageously horrible we have no choice but to mock it.
For whatever reason, smaller promotions feel like their fans won’t notice when they take an idea made famous by WWE and do it themselves, barely changing anything except the talent involved. Unfortunately for them, these pale imitations are usually so transparent in their influence that it’s all anyone notices, such to the extent any good matches that result from the rehash will be ignored, wasting everyone’s time.
WWE doesn’t really bother suing smaller companies for taking their ideas anymore, but that’s more because they don’t see these places as competition in the first place. It’s still pretty stupid of them to steal ideas from the most famous sports entertainment company in the world, though, so keep reading for the 15 most pathetic attempts at ripping off WWE.
15 Can WWE Rip Itself Off? Just Ask “Diesel” And “Razor Ramon”
In the interest of fairness, before we get into all the other companies that ripped off WWE over the years, it should be acknowledged that not even WWE is above this practice. Actually, the time Vince McMahon ripped himself off might be one of the worst examples of all, with fans rejecting the idea from the word "go." Back in 1996, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall infamously jumped from WWE to WCW and formed the nWo, shifting the wrestling landscape for the next two years. To retaliate, McMahon introduced fake versions of “Diesel” and “Razor Ramon,” the characters Nash and Hall had when working for him. Granted, the whole point was that they were pale imitations, the idea being to generate heel reactions for trying to dupe the fans. However, the extent of the hatred went beyond anything McMahon could have wanted, as fans loathed the company for putting on the angle way more than the wrestlers forced to perform it.
14 WCW Fails To Get Hardcore
Truth be told, this next item is more about WCW failing to rip off ECW than it is about their usual practice of copying WWE. That said, it’s worth noting WCW didn’t decide to get on the hardcore wrestling bandwagon until almost a full year after WWE did the same. More importantly, their attempt at doing so was demonstrably and unquestionably worse. If nothing else, the WWE hardcore division gave a spotlight to unique wrestlers like Al Snow, Raven, and Crash Holly, who were all entertaining in their own way even if the matches they had were two minutes long and filled with garbage. WCW removed the interesting characters part of the equation, quadrupled the amount of literal garbage in the ring, and figured fans wouldn’t notice there was any difference. For all its faults, the WWE Hardcore Championship still had a few memorable moments and matches in its short history. The WCW Hardcore Championship has no such luck, and anyone who remembers it at all probably wishes they didn’t.
13 Oklahoma Is An Offensive Failure
By god almighty, what a pathetic attempt at mockery it was when former WWE writer Ed Ferrara jumped ship to WCW and began doing a bad impression of Jim Ross each week on Nitro. Calling himself Oklahoma, Ferrara was at first the manager of JR’s real-life friend “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, followed by bizarrely becoming the WCW Cruiserweight Champion despite weighing about 300 pounds. It doesn’t really matter what Oklahoma did, though, because the real point is how he did it, which was by contorting his face in a manner to mock JR’s bouts with cerebral palsy and yelling “BY GOD!” over and over again. It would have been one thing if Ferrara only mocked JR’s penchant for exaggeration or folksy Southerner colloquialisms, but the decision to focus almost exclusively on the man’s medical problems was callous and disgusting. Years later, both Ferrara and his writing partner Vince Russo would admit the gimmick was terrible, apologizing to JR for pointlessly mocking him.
12 Original Outlaws Get Way Too Old For The Name
Blink and you’ll miss this bizarre attempt by WCW and transparently ripping off WWE, which lasted all of two or three weeks in January of 2000 before it became totally irrelevant. Around that time, future WWE Hall of Famers Terry Funk, Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko, and Paul Orndorff teamed up and started calling themselves “The Old Age Outlaws” while fighting the “new and improved” silver and black nWo. While the Old Age Outlaws had very little in common with the New Age Outlaws aside from their name, it nonetheless felt like a truly pathetic attempt by WCW to confuse fans into thinking the WWE tag team they actually liked might show up on Nitro or Thunder when these other Outlaws were advertised. At one point, commentator Mike Tenay even made an infamous flub where he called the Old Age Outlaws the “New Age Outlaws.” Actually, knowing WCW, it may not have been a mistake, and Vince Russo could well have told him to say it to intentionally mislead fans.
11 TNA Try To Turn Eric Young Into Daniel Bryan Overnight
If TNA or any other company wanted to rip off the way WWE handled Daniel Bryan and get it right, all they really had to do was push a super-popular wrestler to the World Championship without constantly trying to kill his career in the process. Instead, they took a bearded dude who kinda looks like Bryan and had him suddenly win the TNA Championship with little build or provocation, basically running the exact same angle WWE did at WrestleMania XXX without the benefit of context. Eric Young is a very talented wrestler in his own right, which he proved time and again both in TNA and now that he appears in NXT. However, he wasn’t exactly some champion of the people everyone was dying to see finally break through to the main event when he did just that on a 2014 episode of Impact Wrestling. Tellingly, while fans were okay with the fact Young was champion, he had nothing close to Bryan’s star power, making this whole angle a synecdoche for the WWE/TNA relationship in general.
10 A.J. Styles Acts Like A Punk For The Winter
Of all the angles on this list, it has to be said that this one came closest to entertaining fans, if only due to the level of talent involved. Plus, for as apparent as TNA were in once again ripping off a major WWE storyline, there were actually a few minor details they did better than Vince McMahon. Also, WWE was already ripping of Ring of Honor when they had CM Punk walk out on the company while reigning as World Champion, so maybe it could be said TNA was stealing from RoH all along. Digressing to the point, in late 2013, A.J. Styles followed in Punk’s footsteps by walking out of TNA shortly after winning that promotion’s grandest prize. Styles did so largely because of real life tensions with TNA President Dixie Carter, which had been bleeding into the company’s storylines for several months. Of course, this is almost identical to Punk’s issues with Vince McMahon. Art continued imitating life when Styles later walked out on TNA for real, vowing never to go back.
9 Repeat References To Montreal Just Screw The Fans
To this day, wrestling fans debate over the truth behind the main event of Survivor Series 1997, when Vince McMahon called for Earl Hebner to ring the f’ing bell the second Shawn Michaels put Bret Hart in a Sharpshooter. The Hitman wasn’t submitting, but that didn’t stop the boss from declaring HBK the new WWE Champion, a move made necessary by Hart’s impending jump to WCW. The reason the Montreal Screwjob was such an infamous and integral turning point in the wrestling landscape is that McMahon’s decision to trick Hart into losing was entirely real, unlike the many, many times other companies have tried recreating it. WCW was guiltier than anyone else, immediately calling back to the Screwjob at Starrcade 1997, then doing the exact same thing two years later at Starrcade 1999. Both times, fans felt legitimately screwed out of good matches, and unlike with the original, there was no real world drama to justify it.
8 World War 3 Has No Ties To Royalty
Forget about the main event of WrestleMania—to many WWE fans, the biggest and best match of the year is actually the Royal Rumble match at its eponymous PPV. No matter what’s going on in the WWE Universe at the time, somewhere near the middle of January, 30 Superstars compete for the chance to become number one contender for their brand’s World Championship in a highly specialized match usually guaranteed to last at least an hour filled with nonstop action. When WCW made a concerted effort at competing with WWE, they tried to create their own version of a big, bombastic match that could match the Rumble’s intrigue and promise, only to misfire spectacularly. Rather than contriving WCW’s best match of the year, the company’s executives came up with the worst in World War 3. Spread across three separate rings, 60 superstars would engage in the biggest battle royal in the sport, with the problem being way too much stuff was going on for fans to follow any of it at all.
7 The Big Show Started As A Giant Imitation
With over 20 years near the top of the wrestling business, it goes without saying that The Big Show has long since overcome his origins and become a true legend in the pro wrestling business. Love him or hate him, Show has been both WCW and WWE Champion many times over, and he’s held practically ever other piece of gold Vince McMahon has created over time, as well. Despite it all, one can’t forget the way WCW first introduced him to the world in one of the most pathetic attempts at copying WWE and lying to fans in the company’s long history of doing just that. Initially, WCW outright lied to fans and claimed Show, then known simply as The Giant, was in fact the son of André The Giant. In other words, they were saying “here is our new and improved André,” regardless of the fact the newcomer had no actual relation to the Giant. In fact, André had already died at that point, and thus literally had no connection to the current sport at all anymore.
6 TNA Meets the Voodoo Kin Mafia
Right off the bat, we have to admit we’re not sure if the Voodoo Kin Mafia were a rip off, an imitation, a rehash, or just plain stupid. It probably isn’t fair to say the former Road Dogg and Billy Gunn, known in TNA as B.G. and Kip James, were necessarily ripping off their own team as the New Age Outlaws when they kept teaming up in TNA and on the independent scene. Plenty of tag teams remain together after leaving WWE, and as friends in real life, it made sense they’d stick together elsewhere. The problem was no one seemed to inform the oh-so-cleverly named VKM they no longer worked for Vince McMahon, and thus their nonstop references to him in their every promo seemed pointless. Obviously, TNA was attempting to rehash the second incarnation of D-Generation X at this time, staging invasions and waging “war” on WWE like the rebel group did to WCW. Unfortunately for them, the shots missed their marks, and WWE didn’t even care they were “under attack.”
5 Road Dogg’s Brother Is A Total Buzzkill
Sometimes, when Vince Russo decided to rip off an idea he made famous in WWE while working somewhere else, it almost felt like he wasn’t even trying. This was definitely the case with Buzzkill, a short-lived gimmick portrayed by Brad Armstrong in WCW circa the year 2000. After over a decade of recognition as a solid worker with almost no gimmick, Armstrong suddenly started dressing like a weird hippie stoner and doing a strange impression of his own brother, WWE superstar “Road Dogg” Jesse James. Not quite an outright imitation, there were also a few shades of Dude Love and flower child sensibilities in Buzzkill’s specifics, but the idea was clearly just to make the boring Armstrong look and act more like his charismatic brother. The problem was, no matter how Brad dressed, what he called himself, or what he was talking about, he simply didn’t have the same gift of gab Road Dogg does, making the whole affair little more than a reminder of just how different two brothers can be.
4 A Darker Take On The Undertaker
As one of the most iconic gimmicks in wrestling, which happens to be easily shrouded in mystery, The Undertaker has been ripped off more times than we could possibly name on this list. Even WWE had their own Underfaker at one point, inspiring dozens of independent wrestling promotions around the world to do the same thing. Usually, these Underfakers only appear at really small companies so WWE and the wrestling press don’t really care, but recently, an offensive Undertaker “parody” made headlines when he got an event canceled due to blatant racism. In December 2015, the Cleveland Wrestling Alliance promoted a show with a black wrestler named the “N---- Taker” challenging for their Heavyweight Championship in the main event. Former ECW Champion Shane Douglas was at the show, too, but no one really noticed, too outraged that someone would rip off WWE and do so in a racist manner at the same time.
3 Overweight, Unauthorized, Out of Touch Clowns
Easy as it is for independent wrestling promoters to rip off The Undertaker, there’s actually a sillier, much less successful gimmick that gets stolen and rehashed a hundred times more than the Deadman ever could. All it takes is a green wig and some white face paint, and suddenly even a wrestling promotion that started yesterday could have their very own Doink the Clown. Once again, this is an area where WWE even ripped themselves off, trotting out a cavalcade of pathetic Doink imitations long after they fired Matt Borne, seemingly the only wrestler to ever get the gimmick right. Of course, the WWE versions were nowhere near as pathetic as the overweight, completely inept Doinks seen wrestling Jack Swagger on YouTube videos filmed outside of a Golden Corral. It could be assumed the only reason WWE never tries to stop so many companies from creating imitation Doinks is that they do enough damage to their own reputations by hiring them.
2 Who Could Possibly Be Bigger Than Chyna?
Remember what we just said about Vince Russo and his propensity to rip off WWE without making any effort whatsoever at pretending his ideas were original? Forget about the whole Buzzkill situation, which can slightly be justified by the Armstrong family relationship, and the fact Brad Armstrong was so bad at the gimmick it was almost unique because of it. Even worse than that pale imitation was the WCW answer to Chyna. Rather than come up with a single unique idea, all Russo did to make the next Ninth Wonder of the World (so, the Tenth Wonder of the World?) was hire an equally impressive physical specimen and name her Asya. Muscles notwithstanding, Christi Wolf didn’t add a thing to the role, nor did WCW have Asya do anything interesting. All she did was stand around Shane Douglas and then (future husband) The Demon, never getting 1/10th the crowd response Chyna once received.
1 The Ultimate Rip-off
Ultimately, hiring the painfully untalented Rick Wilson to paint his face red and pretend he was The Ultimate Warrior might have been the worst thing WCW ever did in its 10 year existence. This is a statement made in reference not only to horrible the matches Wilson would have as “The Renegade,” nor the fact fans were furious Eric Bischoff and partners apparently thought so little about them that they believed this façade would somehow work; in many respects, hiring Wilson for the role also heavily contributed to the man’s eventual suicide. The sad fact is that Wilson never had “it” as a wrestler, nor anything close to “it,” making him a horrible choice to rip off a wildly popular WWE performer. Granted, even if Wilson had been immensely or uniquely talented, the WCW audience would have known he wasn’t the Warrior and been appropriately upset about the lackluster “ultimate surprise.” Nonetheless, the guy might’ve recovered or moved on gracefully if he had any talent at all, rather than spiral into obscurity and depression when the entire wrestling world hated his guts.