Some wrestling fans take themselves way too seriously. The reasons for this are up for speculation and probably vary on a person-to-person basis. Personally, I tend to think overly-dour wrestling geeks are overcompensating. Otherwise, they might feel silly spending so much time watching spandex-clad adults pretending to fight each other. And no one wants to feel silly, right?
But y’know something, brother? Wrestling is silly, we are silly for watching it and maybe being silly is actually awesome. Without its absurdity, what would wrestling be? Take away the occasional Gobbledy Gooker, voodoo shaman, or Triple H necrophilia storyline, and all we’d be left with is mixed martial arts with far, far lower stakes.
Case and point: Nowadays, people talk about the Attitude Era as the glory days of WWE. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin frequently committed crimes like grand theft auto (beer truck), along with innumerable instances of malicious destruction of property. And yet, he never went to jail. Mick Foley regularly won matches by stuffing a sock in his opponent’s mouth. What kind of licensed sport would allow such an unhygienic tactic? From the Ministry of Darkness to D-Generation X to the Right to Censor, implausible kidnappings and brain washings abounded throughout a time in the business that now sits at the zenith of the nostalgia mountain.
Nobody complained about the dearth of logic at the time and they shouldn’t have. Some of the most memorable characters in the storied history of pretend fighting don’t adhere to reason or common sense in the slightest bit. Granted, some are generally looked back upon more fondly than others, but “smart” wrestling nerds have been unfair to a handful of the most oft-reviled gimmicks. Behold: The top 15 stupidest gimmicks in history that were actually awesome.
15 Val Venis
History as presented by the Monday Night Wars docs on WWE Network implies that occupation-based gimmicks vanished during the Attitude Era, but that’s only half true. Imaginary jobs didn’t stop defining gimmicks – the jobs just got sleazier.
For instance, “Val Venis” – the former pseudonym of current libertarian and marijuana legalization activist Sean Morley. Why would anyone with an ostensibly lucrative career in adult entertainment risk injury and disfigurement in the squared circle? Likely for the same reasons a hog farmer or garbage man would do the same. But despite – or maybe because of – his character’s boldface stupidity, Morley dominated the midcard in his day and almost broke through to main event status.
14 The Godfather
Racist? At least a little bit. Misogynistic? Unquestionably. But because everyone cheered for jerks in the late ‘90s/early ’00 and “The Godfather” stands as the most successful of the several characters Charles Wright portrayed during his near decade-and-a-half career.
Normally, when an individual goes on national television and identifies himself as a pimp who oversees a stable of "ladies of the night," the police come and arrest that individual. Inexplicably, The Godfather managed to evade the authorities until Wright’s 2002 retirement and in that time, managed to be a solid and entertaining midcarder.
13 Max Moon
For whatever reason, fans regard Gregory Helms’ tenure as The Hurricane and Mike Bucci’s Super Nova phase as wrestling comedy classics. Yet, the prototype for wrestlers who think they’re superheroes - Max Moon’s brief journey in the early ‘90s - gets talked about like Konnan’s most unfortunate professional black eye.
Never mind his woefully misguided, proto-Power Ranger/Battlefield Earth-themed bodysuit. “Max Moon” was ahead of its time. Can you imagine what would’ve happened had Konnan stuck around WWF for a few more years and his “reality-based” cocky nWo enforcer persona eventually bled through Max Moon’s sci fi lunacy? Think Cody Rhodes’ Stardust, except suaver.
12 12: Dr. Stevie
Here’s an occupation-based gimmick that, astoundingly, WWE never tried, despite the proven success record of evil psychiatrists like Hannibal Lecter and Hugo Strange.
Instead, it was TNA who repackaged Stevie Richards as a self-proclaimed mental health expert with sinister ulterior motives. While his efforts to help Abyss and Daffney work out their emotional problems predictably didn’t pan out, and audiences probably doubted the legitimacy of the one-time Johnny Polo fanboy’s doctorate, Dr. Stevie’s 2009 manifestation in the later-renamed Impact Wrestling created much thoroughly entertaining kayfabe misery for Abyss and Mick Foley.
11 The Spirit Squad
Controversial thought: WWE aches for the return of the Spirit Squad. The reemergence of Kenny, Johnny, Mitch, and Mikey would provide a year’s worth of storylines for Dolph Ziggler, the male cheerleading cabal’s prodigal son. And after Ziggler finally dispatches his old running buddies, they’d be left with limitless narrative potential. Bo Dallas could join the gang and fit right in! So could Big Show, because let’s humiliate him a little more since he’s going to retire soon anyway? Who’s got more positivity, The Spirit Squad or New Day? The people need to know! Can the Wyatt Family’s darkness endure against The Spirit Squad’s all-consuming pep? The time is ripe for the Spirit Squad’s overdue return.
10 Muhammad Hassan
Remember – when Hassan, a.k.a Mark Copani, first debuted in 2004, he was an Arab-American who resented the constant discrimination America was shoveling on those who shared his heritage.
Considering hate crimes against Muslims skyrocketed seventeen-fold once everyone in the US at that time, Hassan had a perfectly legitimate reason to be pissed off.
Unfortunately, someone cooked up the idea for Hassan to use Daivari as a pseudo suicide bomber against The Undertaker – a match filmed right around the same time as the 2005 London bombings. A Muslim character who didn’t like racism had potential longevity – a terrorist character was doomed to upset tons of people and probably hasted the end of Copani’s WWE career.
9 3 Count
Males between the ages of 13 and 25 harbored a seething, irrational hated for the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC and their boy band ilk in the late ‘90s. So when WCW combined Gregory Helms, Shannon Moore, and Evan Karagias into a sexy yet non-threatening pop trio, they assured instant and massive heel heat.
Harnessing current events and/or the cultural zeitgeist for a wrestling character can backfire (Sgt. Slaughter the Iraqi sympathizer, for starters) but with 3 Count, WCW mocked a loathed fad without preying on its fans’ xenophobia or risking death threats.
8 The Insane Clown Posse
While many of us had fun figuratively pooping on boy bands at the time, today, most of us would agree that “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “I Want It That Way” are actually pretty okay tunes. On the other hand, Insane Clown Posse have been loved by 5 percent of the human race and considered absolute talentless wretches by the remaining 95 percent since they became household names. This will never change and it means 95 percent of the Earth’s entertainment consuming population wants to watch ICP get beat up. They might not know how magnets work, but ICP sure do know how heel heat works.
7 Papa Shango
While playing what he likely, and incorrectly, assumed would be the most racist character WWE would ever thrust upon him, Charles Wright blew a run-in during an already terrible Hulk Hogan vs. Sid match, then got fed to The Ultimate Warrior. Papa Shango never got a fair shot.
Dude wore Misfits skull facepaint a few years before Michale Graves had the idea. WWE may have lacked the technology or imagination to make a “voodoo curse” convincing in 1993, but just think of the wasted comedy potential. What if a babyface Papa Shango placed a curse on Jerry Lawyer, where The King’s pants fell down whenever he said “puppies?” How about forcing Razor Ramon to sudden believe himself a little old lady whenever he heard a mat slapped three times?
6 "The Angry Amish Warrior" Roadkill
He spoke one word: “chickens.” He was a member of an esoteric, insular Luddite religious sect. Evidently, he got his jollies by strangling small animals. How is it possible Roadkill got booked essentially as Danny Doring’s comedy sidekick, instead of the bone-chilling monster he was clearly meant to be?
Especially if WWE owns the rights to the “Roadkill” character, it’s not too late to give Michael DePoli a call and use WWE films to launch a new horror franchise, in which DePoli stalks and strangles vacationing spring breakers he inexplicably refers to as “chickens.” The Amish would be offended, except as they don’t have televisions, they’d have no idea a WWE movie depicted them as serial killers.
5 Los Ice Creams
While practicality mandates that we spend most of this list focusing on past and present personalities from WWE, WCW, and ECW, an real indie wrestling aficionado could put together a list of ridiculously wondrous gimmicks most of us haven’t even heard of, and pretending otherwise would be dishonest. So in the interest of giving the indies their due, let’s put Chikara’s El Hijo del Ice Cream and Ice Cream Junior at #5, to represent every gimmick that hasn’t wound up on national television yet.
An enigmatic faction, Los Ice Creams conceal their faces in lucha masks resembling ice cream cones. They are kind of jerks. That is all that is known for certain. According to shadowy, unfounded sources, Cesaro was briefly an Ice Cream, but TheSportster can neither confirm nor disconfirm this information.
4 Blue Meanie
Maybe Brian Heffron didn’t win many titles. Technically, his biggest claim to fame is either the bWo, getting authentically sucker punched by JBL, or appearing in WrestleMania 2000 for Nintendo 64. But here’s the thing - between his nascent tenure as Stevie Richards’s toad, to his post-Raven’s Nest tag team with Nova, to a brief but memorable WWE run – wrestling nerds stopped thinking of the Blue Meanie as a stupid gimmick at all. Here was a rotund gentleman with immodest fashion sense and an oft-flaunted, poor sense of rhythm. Yet, he somehow wove himself into the fabric of his era, so much so that we’ve been reconditioned to think of the Blue Meanie as iconic instead of stupid. There’s something magical about that, I think.
3 Mr Backlund For President
After his 1994 World Title reign came to a quick and humiliating end, Mr. Backlund decided to spread his message or morality and the virtue of a robust vocabulary beyond professional wrestling – to the forum of national politics.
Normally, when a former wrestler decides to run for public office, they distance themselves at least a wee bit from their former career as a fancy underwear fighter. But Mr. Backlund campaigned on WWE programming exclusively and hilarity ensued. In fact, enough time has passed to resurrect that angle and a presidential hopeful could bring some much needed topicality to the WWE, given the expected events of the next year and a half. Just saying - Bo Dallas could use something to do.
2 Doink the Clown
If alternate universes exist, somewhere out there, our doppelgangers consider Doink The Clown one of the most terrifying wrestling villains of all time and his legacy ranks alongside the likes of The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. We know this because the evil clown archetype resonates throughout so much of pop culture – Pennywise from IT and The Joker pop to mind – that it’s fair to say Doink stands as a missed opportunity for all parties involved. Today, all we need to do is turn on RAW and watch Cody Rhodes do his Cesar Romero Joker impression to know a deranged clown-style character works just fine.
1 The Undertaker
As explained by screenwriter Max Landis in his parody film, Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling, The Undertaker is a wizard, a satanic magician, and no, I don’t know why he’s a wrestler…..It’s all pretty f@#$ing insane.”
Appropriately, one of the most over-the-top, completely implausible, nonsensical characters in WWE history almost happened to evolve into its most enduring. Had a performer lesser than Mark Calaway been assigned The Undertaker routine in 1990, odds are excellent that it would’ve amounted to a forgettable Hulk Hogan feud and appeared further down this list as a “should’ve been.” That said, maybe our collective fascination with fear of the unknowable keeps The Undertaker consistently relevant while most of his contemporaries feel tied to a specific era. After all, if wrestling is fake and Death is wrestler, then maybe Death isn’t so scary after all. Right?