There are bad wrestlers and bad tag teams, but sometimes when a talent fails, it has absolutely nothing to do with their in-ring talent. The whole, there are no small parts only small actors theory doesn't necessarily apply. You can be the most talented wrestler in the world, but if you're saddled with a crappy gimmick, you'll be lucky to go anywhere.
Then, of course, there are wrestlers who had gimmicks that weren't great, but somehow, their personality allowed them to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Given a gimmick any other person might have flopped with, these wrestlers actually fared ok, just fizzling out when it came to crunch time. Their gimmicks didn't translate well into being considered the face of the company or being taken seriously as a champion.
So, who were these wrestlers that either got saddled with a terrible gimmick or were asked to portray a character that really had no opportunity to go anywhere?
In determining the worst gimmick in each year, we used the following criteria. First, wrestlers had to have made at least 40 appearances for the company in that calendar year and under that gimmick. Anything less and we figured either the company gave up on the gimmick and the wrestler changed their characters or their gimmicks were never meant to work.
Second, we could not use the same gimmick in more than one year. While some gimmicks were so bad they deserved consideration for making the list more than once, we wanted to share the wealth and didn’t want to leave anyone out. You may see the same wrestler on this list twice, but their gimmicks were not the same.
Third, we didn’t specify what made them the worst and as such, there are a variety of reasons a gimmick may have made the list.
Make your way down our list from 1990 to today. See how many names you recognize and if you’d have selected someone else.
28 Saba Simba (1990)
We can trash this gimmick only so much because Tony Atlas credits getting hired again by the WWE as the thing that saved his life. Atlas was homeless and living on a park bench before getting a phone call from Vince McMahon.
Still, Saba Simba was supposed to be a warrior of a Ugandan tribe, but the gimmick was unpopular at best, and racist at worst. It had sort of a Tatanka meets the Lion King vibe and it was extremely short-lived and did nothing for Atlas' career at the time. It showed how when you're down and out, you'll take pretty much anything to gain lawful employment. He didn't return again until 2008.
27 The Mountie (1991)
The Mountie (Jacques Rougeau) made our list of the worst wrestler of every year and it was almost entirely thanks to his gimmick. A gimmick — one where he played a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — he couldn't even use full time.
The character was the subject of litigation in Canada, leading to a lack of being able to use the character up north (where The Mountie was from). So, in a place where his gimmick would have had the biggest effect and was home to probably the only fans who knew what the heck he was, he couldn’t use it. When it was outlawed, he went by his real name and didn’t wear the uniform. The closest he could get was a red shirt, black pants, and boots. The announcers actually had to publicly announce that Rougeau did not represent Canada.
26 Repo Man (1992)
Nailz almost made our list because as a human being he was insane. He got kicked out of the WWE after attacking Vince McMahon backstage over a debate in payouts, then went on to purger himself in court trying to take down McMahon during the infamous steroid trials. But, his gimmick, if on another wrestler, had some potential.
The Repo Man on other hand showed how quickly Smash from Demolition had fallen. Repo Man was a sneaky heel character who took joy in repossessing items from people when they were late on (or unable to make) their payments. He wore a black Lone Ranger Zorro-like mask and an outfit with tire tracks on it. Better yet, he had mannerisms similar to The Riddler from Batman. He always carried a tow rope that he would tie up opponents with after defeating them. The crazy part about the whole gimmick was that it was Barry Darsow's (the wrestler who played Repo Man) idea.
25 Bastion Booger (1993)
The wrestler who played Bastion Booger was riddled with so many bad gimmicks it's astonishing. From Friar Ferguson to Cousin Mike, Mad Monk, Norman the Lunatic and more, Mike Shaw (real name) was repackaged as an unkempt, slovenly and gluttonous slob who wrestled in dirty and too-tight, gear. It was all meant to disgust the audience and it worked.
It was almost as if the WWE was trying to punish Shaw for something because it was about the worst, most putrid gimmick ever created and no one in their right mind could have ever thought it was a character that could actually amount to anything. But, Vince McMahon was known to over the top in ways to disgust his audience. He succeeded here if that was his objective.
24 Duke "The Dumpster" Droese (1994)
For some reason, there was a period of time when Vince McMahon and the WWE felt the need to create characters that emulated real life, working-man's jobs. Duke "The Dumpster" Droese was the epitome of that. He was a garbage man and his job was to take out the trash.
Could you imagine the WWE Champion being a garbage man? Yeah, neither could anyone else. That's why his the character never really went anywhere. The WWE did get some mileage out it though. He lasted in the company for two years and had a pretty sizeable feud with Hunter Hearst Helmsley. He returned in 2001 for a very brief appearance in the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania X-Seven. Droese seemed like a nice guy and perhaps could have been a decent wrestler under another gimmick, but the garbage man never stood a chance.
23 Mantaur (1995)
We considered giving Dean Douglas the spot in 1995, but Mantaur edged him out after we considered Shane Douglas' contributions to wrestling as a whole. Shane Douglas had his ups and downs during his wrestling career. At the height of it, he was kicking off an era for ECW that will go down in history. At the low of it, he was a character in the WWE where he played an evil teacher. Mantaur on the other hand was
Mantaur, on the other hand, was never relevant. The Mantaur character was that of a Minotaur-like character, and he would perform antics such as charging, trampling, mauling, and mooing at opponents. He actually got another job after this as Goldust's bodyguard, but that lasted all of about 5 minutes as well.
22 Faarooq (1996)
On the July 22, 1996 episode of Raw, Ron Simmons came to the WWE in one of the most disrespecting and out-to-lunch fashions possible. After being a major player in WCW, upon arriving in the WWE, his first gimmick was that of Faarooq Asad, a gladiator who wore a black and blue gladiator outfit with a misshaped helmet and was managed by Sunny. Huh? How does any of that make sense?
Simmons started his first feud with Ahmed Johnson before shortening his ring name to Faarooq. Luckily, the WWE saw the error of their ways and dropped the gladiator gimmick, got rid of Sunny and had Faarooq take on something a bit more realistic. He played the leader of a group called the Nation of Domination and it went to be one of the greatest factions in history, due mostly to it including The Rock who went on to be one of the greatest WWE Superstars of all time. Without the Nation of Domination, The People's Champ might never have happened.
21 Rocky Maivia (1997)
This year we gave some serious consideration to Flash Funk, but the reason Rocky Maivia got the vote was just how ridiculous it made one of the best WWE Superstars ever look. If you think back to all your great memories of The Rock and all the classic moments he gave the WWE Universe, to think he was once "The Blue Chipper" who wore blue tassels and had strange curly/weaved hair with a constant parade like grin on his face, it would make you sick to your stomach.
His lineage was played to on TV, he was hyped as the WWF's first third-generation wrestler and he was pushed heavily out of the gate. The fans hated every minute of it chanting "Rocky Sucks" and "Die Rocky Die." The only good thing that came out of it was perhaps how much it fueled The Rock to go completely the other direction and become a mega heel character. He made that character into a star.
20 Golga (1998)
In defense of this character, Golga was kind cool as part of the Parade of Human Oddities, but to give former wrestler Earthquake the gimmick because he lost too much weight seems, in a way, kind of sad. That they then chose to have the character wear a mask and have some sort of weird fascination with Eric Cartman from South Park was even stranger.
Golga was never anything more than a part of the Oddities group that the WWE Universe was meant to laugh at and feel sorry for. In an ironic sort of way, it's why the fans fell in love with the group. When you added them to ICP and eventually Sable, they were the underdog everyone wanted to win, but never really did. The gimmick was never going to last and for that reason, it was one of the worst of that year.
19 Meat (1999)
The WWE had come up with some pretty strange gimmicks in the mid to late 1990s, (Beaver Cleavage would have won this year if not for our 40 appearances rule) but one of the strangest was that of the gimmick Meat, played by Shawn Stasiak. He was hired by the WWE after sending in some audition tapes that, to his credit, caught the attention of the WWE. He ended up coming into the WWE as a boy-toy type gimmick who hung around mostly with a group called the Pretty Mean Sisters (PMS). Yeah, I know...
Part of his gimmick as Meat was that he'd come to the ring for his matches completely tired and out of breath. The insinuation was that he was so tired because he's just finished "pleasuring" the women of PMS backstage and it took all his energy. It was a terrible idea and it didn't last long. Meat eventually became Shawn Stasiak and Stasiak eventually left for WCW thanks to getting fired for secretly recording two other wrestlers arguing.
18 The Mean Street Posse (2000)
To be totally honest, I actually liked the Mean Street Posse when they debuted in 1999 as friends of Shane McMahon. As a stuck-up, snobby trio from Greenwich Connecticut, designed to appear as though they were from an upper-class background, they fit perfectly with McMahon's character. Their look was emphasized by their attire of sweater vests and dress pants.
As a group who helped Shane win matches (and it made sense to do so from a storyline standpoint because Shane was not a real wrestler) as childhood friends, they'd take a beating for Shane. Then, by 2000, when they turned on McMahon, their gimmick became essentially useless. They weren't credible enough characters to be really good at winning matches and since they had no real reason to be in the WWE anymore, it was a matter of time before they vanished. By late 2000, the entire group was sent down to Memphis Championship Wrestling and never really heard from again. They were released in 2001.
17 Billy and Chuck (2001)
After Chuck Palumbo was kicked out of the group of WCW/ECW wrestlers who invaded the WWE, he wound up with Billy Gunn. A storyline began in which Billy and Chuck became increasingly affectionate toward each other, showing evidence of a homosexual relationship.
The inclusion of these two on this list is not a comment in any way about homosexuality, but the way it was played up by the WWE was ridiculous. Rico was placed in the role of their crafty "personal stylist" and all three were flamboyant, would stretch together in strange and suggestive ways, and by 2002, the WWE had gone so far with the storyline, they staged a wedding between the two. Not knowing where to go with it, both characters admitted the past year and some was a publicity stunt that had gone too far, and they admitted they were strictly hetero. The group was abandoned.
16 Reverend D-Von (2002)
In 2002, the WWE held a brand split. The Dudleys were separated and D-Von went to SmackDown. When he reappeared, he was a villainous reverend character initially serving as Mr. McMahon's "spiritual advisor." He later took on a protégé in Deacon Batista. The gimmick was extremely short-lived and both D-Von and Batista separated.
D-Von went back to the being a Dudley and Batista went on to become one of the biggest singles stars in the WWE over the next few years. It could have been worse. Batista revealed in an interview in 2014 that the original idea before Deacon Batista was to have his origin described as a "rape child." It was supposed to explain why he was always so angry. Oh my goodness, what a bad idea that would have been.
15 The Basham Brothers (2003)
2003 wasn't actually a terrible year for gimmicks. Because we couldn't find one that really stood out, we had to steal one from our list of the worst tag teams. We went with The Basham Brothers and for only one reason.
Doug and Danny Basham were twins (except that they weren’t really even related and looked nothing like one another). They had a very short run and by the end of that year, were already on a downward slide. By 2004 they joined JBL as part of this faction The Cabinet and renamed the Secretaries of Defense (yes, not exactly the manliest of names.)
The Basham’s weren't bad wrestlers, they just weren’t terribly great and they didn’t have much backing from the company. There really wasn’t much the WWE could do with them.
14 Eugene (2004)
Somebody in the WWE meant well when they came up with this idea, but the Eugene character wound up being one of the most offensive gimmicks the WWE ever created. While the company didn’t come right out and say Eugene was special needs, it was clear that’s what the WWE was insinuating.
There was no way the character had more than a shelf life of a couple years. Where was it supposed to go? If you create a character that is supposed to barely overcome the obstacles (and you suggest it's because of his special needs), how is he supposed to have sustainability? Nick Dinsmore (the wrestler who played the character) did his best with the gimmick but caught all sorts of flack from activists and it wound up that he was never able to come back in the WWE as another character. He was too recognized as the Eugene gimmick. Many found the gimmick offensive. To all of a sudden say, 'Oh hey, we were kidding' would have been too much.
13 Kerwin White (2005)
In June of 2005, Chave Guerrero denounced his Hispanic heritage in favor of the "Anglo-American way." The character created named Kerwin White was a stereotypical, middle-class, white, conservative, Anglo-American man. He dyed his hair blond and often drove a golf cart to the ring which held his golf clubs. Soon after his debut, White started making suggestive remarks towards African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and other non-White people, specifically directed towards Shelton Benjamin.
It's hard to say how long the WWE would have continued on with such an awful gimmick, but the death of Eddie Guerrero stopped everything in its tracks, including the Kerwin White character. He went back to Chavo and started using some of Eddie's moves to pay homage to him.
12 The Spirit Squad (2006)
How seriously were the fans supposed to take a group of male cheerleaders? Did the WWE really believe that this group made up of members with the names Kenny, Johnny, Mitch, Nicky and Mikey be anything more than a comedy bit that toiled around the lower to mid-card of the roster and stole the odd victory now and again? Sure, they made for some comedic moments and some of them turned into pretty good wrestlers (Dolph Ziggler), but this group really never stood a chance. It was clearly one of those grandiose ideas that came straight from Vince McMahon.
Amazingly, they won the tag championships at one point and were the only team that had five members recognized as the champs. Any one of them could wrestle and defend the titles. They feuded with some pretty big names too, but as expected, fizzled out.
11 Festus Dalton (2007)
Festus, who we all know now as Luke Gallows was an interesting character. He played a farm boy that was insanely strong, an emotional giant capable of snapping at any moment (especially when he heard the bell ring) and was mentally challenged. The gimmick didn’t last very long.
What made the gimmick even more ridiculous was that somehow Festus could turn on and off his disabilities (or whatever it was he had going on). When the bell rang, he turned into a focused machine. When it rang again to signify the end of the match, he was regular docile self. Not much you can do with a gimmick like that. It wasn't terribly entertaining and it certainly didn't have a long-term future. Festus was gone by 2009.
10 Kizarny (2008)
If Jake Roberts and Doink the Clown had a love child, it would have been Kizarny. The gimmick started with some odd vignettes that aired on SmackDown prior to his debut in 2008 and it caught some attention. During the vignettes, Nick Cvetkovich (the real name of Kizarny) was revealed as a member of a carnival who spoke in "carny talk." He wrestled in several dark matches before making his debut to a dead crowd in January of 2009. By March, he had been released.
It was one of the stranger gimmicks the WWE ever tried to pull off (and they have attempted some odd gimmicks). The crowd had absolutely no interest in the character and the company quickly realized Kizarny had no real future.
9 Chris Masters (2009)
Chris Masters debuted years earlier with the WWE to a gimmick that actually had a chance to work. It was not a new gimmick having been used by guys like Rick Rude or the Narcissist Lex Luger, but Masters could have made something of it or transitioned it into a character that offered a subtle change. Instead, after an extended absence, when he returned in 2009, they tried the same gimmick with an odd twist.
He was now a good guy and would make his pecs dance. He entered talent shows and offered a special performance art piece. It was insanely stupid and it basically crushed any opportunity Masters had of making it in the WWE after that point. They should have either kept it a serious gimmick where he thought he looked great and played the heel role or changed it up entirely.
8 Vladimir Kozlov (2010)
For a while, Vladimir Kozlov was a Russian monster. He barrelled through everyone and was a legit threat as a heel character like many of the international angry outsider gimmicks that came before and after him. But, when his act grew stale, the WWE decided to stick him with Santino Marella.
First, he started be competing in a dance-off. Then it moved to dressing in suits, having dinner parties and their entire schitick became a comedy routine. It wasn't that it was terrible, but it left absolutely nowhere for Kozlov to go as a character.
He's done much better since leaving wrestling and is now a stuntman in many major Hollywood movies.
7 Sin Cara (2011)
He was supposed to be the next big star from Mexico for the WWE. He debuted with the red carpet rolled out, tons of vignettes announcing his arrival and press conferences bragging the WWE had signed him to a contract. Because of this promotion and the complete flop he ended up being, Sin Cara made our list, despite there really being nothing wrong with his gimmick.
Sin Cara also had major heat with the WWE from day one. He'd failed Wellness tests, he didn't get along with other wrestlers and he wasn't at all what the WWE had invested in. They quickly realized he was not what they wanted and stuck Hunico under the same mask and kicked the original Sin Cara to the curb. The entire relationship with the WWE was ugly from the start.
6 Funkasaurus (2012)
When Brodus Clay returned to the WWE after an extended absence and it was believed his re-debuts were delayed because he was filming a movie, nobody expected what came in January of 2012. Instead of walking out of the back as the monster he was in the movie, or acting like the scary character he'd been prior to his exit, he came out as a fun-loving disco dancing Barney-like funk-master.
It was crazy and completely unexpected. It worked for about five minutes before the WWE got sick of him and his Funkadactyls. It didn't help that the WWE added Tensai to the group. There was never a chance Clay or his tag team would have gone anywhere and the WWE amazingly didn't learn that lesson after Flash Funk flopped.
5 3MB (2013)
It was a strange mix of characters. Heath Slater, Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre formed the Three Man Band (3MB) and came to the ring claiming to be rock stars who weren't actually rock stars. Heath Slater was their leader and it was clear from day one the group was going to be nothing more than jobbers meant to put other teams over, but hopefully get a few laughs along the way.
They weren't terribly funny and the most entertaining part about the group was how miscast it was. There was absolutely no reason that someone like Jinder Mahal or McIntyre fit the idea of the group, but there they were. About a year later they've moved from the idea and each joined other groups or were released from the company.
4 Bo Dallas (2014)
If you want to get ahead in life, all you have to do is Bo-lieve. At least that's what Bo Dallas' character wanted you to think. His gimmick was a part motivational speaker and part annoying and it played for a short time, but he quickly turned into an enhancement talent who is still struggling to find his foothold in the WWE today.
He's been packaged and repackaged and is now currently part of the Miztourage, but his Bo-lieve gimmick was by far the worst version of Bo Dallas we've seen to date. He would run around the ring mid-match and at the end of his contests would get on the mic in his whiny voice and tell people to believe in themselves, but mostly in him.
3 Adam Rose (2015)
Adam Rose made his debut in the WWE in 2014, but by 2015, he was already old news. The most exciting part about his gimmick (even though it had previously played well in NXT) was that he was feuding with a Bunny from his parade of Rosebuds from the Exotic Express. It was painful to watch.
It was clear early on that what had worked in NXT was not the same feel in front of a much later audience and in a bigger arena and the WWE tried to force it to work anyway. It led to Rose's being used as nothing but backstage humor, poorly written romances, and sponsorship commercials backstage. He was released not long after and wound up with some personal life legal issues.
2 Apollo Crews (2016)
The reason Apollo Crews makes this list is the opposite reason most of the people made this list. Crews is downright boring. He wasn't given a gimmick or character at all and because of that, despite his tremendous athletic gifts, he's almost unwatchable. If the WWE would have either kept him in NXT and given him a character he could sink his teeth into or brought him to the WWE with something more than 'hey, this is Apollo Crews', he might have stood a snowball's chance in hell. Now, he's stuck trying to make a go of things with Titus O'Neil and that's not exactly confidence inspiring.
Crews needs to go away for a while and come back as something completely fresh. The WWE has an opportunity to actually give him a personality. Otherwise, they risk ruining him before he's hit his peak.
1 No Way Jose (2017)
The WWE hasn't learned from mistakes like Fandango or other dancers, who no matter which direction you take them, will never be taken seriously. No Way Jose has a catchy tune, but that's simply not enough to be anything more than a mid-card guy in NXT and a character that will absolutely fail if he gets the call up to the main roster.
The idea that he's always supposed to have fun and that he can use dance moves as finishers is completely illogical. The No Way Jose gimmick is clearly one that doesn't have long-term appeal and he's another wrestler who could use a change. Even if that change is subtle, it's better than what the WWE is asking of him. I will give the WWE credit though... that song gets stuck in your head.