The 1980s are considered by some to be the golden age of professional wrestling. The WWE was still the main player at the time, and the shows were very character-driven. Seemingly every wrestler had a gimmick that featured an over the top personality that made fans go wild. The characters were also mainly larger than life in terms of stature, as very few small men made their way to the top.
The current product of the WWE relies on personalities that are cranked up beyond normal, but nowhere near the extent as the 1980s product where screaming into a camera during an interview happened more often than not. The beefy wrestlers of the 1980s oozed testosterone, and never broke kayfabe, while today’s WWE gets meta pretty often, sometimes breaking the fourth wall.
So with that said, there are some people on the current WWE roster that just wouldn’t fit the mold of the 1980s era of the company. People like John Cena would likely get over in just about any era- in fact his good guy persona would get over even better in the 80s, but there are plenty of people who are too modern that the fans in the 80s wouldn’t truly appreciate. But which ones are they? Here are 15 current WWE Superstars that wouldn’t get over in the Golden Age.
15 Seth Rollins
If there’s one thing that Seth Rollins has been great at in his time with the WWE, it’s playing the role of the chicken heel. This is something that has always been a staple in professional wrestling, but it’s hard to imagine Rollins playing the top heel role in the 1980s. The man affectionately known to some as “Crossfit Jesus” used to make his way to the ring via punk dancing in his pre-SHIELD days. Rollins is great for the current WWE, but it would have been a strange fit in the 1980s.
14 The Prime Time Players
Perhaps Titus O’Neil could have gotten over in the 1980s thanks to his imposing 6-foot-6 stature, but the tag team of The Prime Time Players wouldn’t have gotten much steam. For starters, people in the 1980s would have had no clue what that name meant, or why they are blowing whistles and barking. On a side note, the fans of the 1980s weren’t as progressive, and might not have welcomed Darren Young the way that today’s fans do.
13 Randy Orton
The 1980s already had one crazy guy named after a reptile in Jake “The Snake” Roberts, so The Viper wouldn’t have been able to overtake his spot. Sure, Orton has the more fitting physique of the time, but Roberts played the psychotic heel to perfection. Orton’s character was much crazier earlier in his career, but he’s gone a bit stale. If you put the current Orton in the 1980s program, people would get bored pretty quickly, especially if they didn’t know his background, including his lineage.
R-Truth is one of those guys where it’s hard to gauge how well he would have gotten over. The whole conspiracy theory gimmick that R-Truth had might not have worked so well in the 1980’s, but there would be an outside shot that he could have gotten over as a babyface with the way he raps when coming out to the ring. If you take that entrance, though, there isn’t much to R-Truth that would have caught on. His jokes are also for a more current crowd and his fanbase is mainly on the internet as it is.
11 The Ascension
Konnor and Viktor of The Ascension would have basically no chance of getting over in the 1980’s because their gimmick had already been done, and it was booked much better. The Ascension hasn’t gotten a lot of steam, because a lot of fans still remember The Legion of Doom (Road Warriors Hawk and Animal). The gimmick is basically a retread except they are given no microphone time and just a weird Illuminati sort of entrance.
10 Zack Ryder
Poor Zack Ryder was actually able to get himself over with fans during the early parts of his career but got buried below even the mid-card after his feud with Kane that involved John Cena. Ryder probably would have been a jobber 30 years ago like he is now, because nobody knew what on Earth a ‘Broski’ was. The guido sensation that swept the nation was the basis for Ryder’s gimmick, but that wouldn’t come until the mid 2000s.
9 Dolph Ziggler
What happens when you take the hair from Mr. Perfect and put it on a guy that’s a few inches shorter and much smaller in stature? You get Dolph Ziggler, and it wouldn’t have played well in the 1980s. Ziggler is a great worker, there’s no doubt about that, but he lacks the charisma needed to get himself over with the 1980s crowd. Ziggler seems to try too hard and gets a little meta with his promos, something that was very much frowned upon back then.
The late 1980s and early 1990s were filled with a bunch of stupid gimmicks where wrestlers had jobs that didn’t make much sense at all. Fandango is one of the few carryovers of that era where a nonsensical gimmick is given to someone that has a lot more talent. Fandango, like many of the other wrestlers in the era, would have fallen flat on his face eventually. The only reason he worked in today’s era for a short time was because it was a gimmick so dumb that people got on board out of pity.
7 Lucha Dragons
When it comes to tag teams, not much has changed in the last 30 years, except for the fact that tag teams aren’t given as much time to talk these days. The Lucha Dragons literally have not spoken while on the WWE roster, and the mystery of the two small high flyers would not have grabbed the interest of the 1980s crowd. You didn’t need over the top acrobatics to get over in the 1980s, you just needed to have a lot of personality. The Lucha Dragons are the exact opposite of that.
6 Bo Dallas
Just imagine how well a creepy guy like Bray Wyatt would have fit in during the 1980s. Now think about his brother, Bo Dallas, and wonder how much of a trainwreck that would have been. The first time he would have come out with the long intro video and the random motivational speech would have left people scratching their heads, with a few of them booing. Bo doesn’t have the physique or the matching gimmick to do anything more than job to big name wrestlers of the 1980s.
Neville is something that the fans can appreciate now, but he has pretty much nothing to offer what the 1980s fans were clamoring for. Neville is a high flyer that can pull off a lot of twists and turns through the air, but that wasn’t commonplace back then. Neville also has his stature working against him. It’s not his physique that’s his problem since he is jacked, but with a billed height of 5-foot-10, not many people would have taken him seriously. He also hasn’t been provided much speaking time on the main roster.
4 The Miz
There’s no doubt that The Miz has been a good heel during his career with the WWE. With the microphone, he is able to draw a lot of heat that would have made him a big star, perhaps a bigger one than he is now. The reason that The Miz is on this list is because the 1980s would not have given us a chance to know who he is. The Miz got his shot at the WWE thanks to his appearances on reality television (such as “The Real World”), which wasn’t an option for aspiring wrestlers.
Kane didn’t get much traction when he first made his debut in the WWE as Jerry Lawler’s private dentist named Isaac Yankem, DDS. Thankfully the gimmick was scrapped, allowing the introduction of Kane as The Undertaker’s brother. It was the perfect time for the gimmick, but it would have made little to no sense to have a demon suddenly invade the WWE during the time when Macho Man and Hulk Hogan were on top. At least the Attitude Era gave him a reason to appear.
2 Kevin Owens
The WWE has never had a problem with huskier guys being able to get over, but not in the way that Kevin Owens is. Owens isn’t super big or super tall, he just looks like an average overweight guy who happens to be really good at wrestling. His technical skills wouldn’t have been enough to get him over, and he is definitely a byproduct of a smarkier era in wrestling. Think about how much more imposing Yokozuna or Andre the Giant or George “The Animal” Steele were compared to Owens today.
1 Daniel Bryan
We were all rooting for Daniel Bryan to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship back at Wrestlemania XXX against Randy Orton and Batista. Thankfully, we got our wishes, but that wouldn’t have happened in the 1980s. There was no internet to voice our complaints, and we would have had to call the expensive hotline to let our kayfabe breaking wishes be known. Who’s to say Bryan would have gotten over in the first place? He’s under six feet tall, barely 200 pounds and had a catchphrase that probably wouldn’t have gone viral. Thankfully, all of the wrestlers on this list are employed in today’s day and age where they can thrive.