Over the years, wrestling fans have been treated to all kinds of characters – smart mouths, animals, wrestlers carrying animals, giants, cowards, gladiators, and purebred warriors. After all, the sport has its roots in carnival atmosphere, so why wouldn’t there be all kinds of colorful people to shine a spotlight on.
Every now and again a character sticks and becomes ingrained in the hearts and minds of fans everywhere. These are the Stone Colds, Hot Rods, Hulks, and Undertakers of the wrestling world. Characters with staying power. However, there are those times when a wrestler(s) created a character that for better or worse didn’t catch on with the masses or did but went away far too soon, leaving fans just as nostalgic for seeing these characters return in one form or another.
While not the Gimmick Battle Royal from WrestleMania X-Seven, here are 15 gimmicks that we’d like to see return.
15. The Big Red Machine – Kane
During the spring and summer of 1997, Paul Bearer had been telling The Undertaker that his younger brother survived a terrible fire and was alive. We heard plenty about this burnt-to-hell man and his desire to inflict dastardly harm on his brother, who he blamed for the death of their parents and his terrible scarring. The monster Kane was unleashed on the world at In Your House: Badd Blood during the first ever Hell in a Cell, costing his brother the match and for the first time in The Phenom’s career, we saw a scared, confused, and hurt Deadman. The Devil’s favorite demon has since been neutered, as he’s become The Authority’s lackey, but if the monster was ever truly unleashed for one more run, rest assured everyone in the WWE would be heading for the hills.
14. The Proof is in the Statistics – The York Foundation
We need to go to the Way Back Machine to remember what the York Foundation was. Back in the early days of WCW, Ms. Alexandra York (Terri Runnels, pre-Marlena days) rocked the same sort of suit that Lana wears now and managed a stable of solid mid–card workers who all desperately needed a makeover. Ricky Morton, Tommy Rich and Terry Taylor were rechristened Richard Morton, Thomas Rich, and Terrance Taylor–the York Foundation, managed by the business savvy Ms. York and her trusty computer, who were all about the statistics and the metrics of the wrestling business. Obviously, we need to update this for today’s audience. Besides being fronted by the aforementioned Lana (who now needs something to do when not smooching Ziggler), you can take guys like The Miz (Michael Mizanian), Dolph Ziggler (Nicholas Nemeth), and Alex Riley (Alexander Riley) and turn them into a faction to be despised, by having them incessantly use social media to speak to ridiculous and absurd trends that would leave fans little choice but to boo the heck out of these three..
13. Hugs from Hell – Team Hell No
Somehow, Kane and Daniel Bryan worked as a tag team, even when they hated each other and each singularly declared themselves “the tag team champion.” After Dr. Shelby convinced The Big Red Machine and the American Drag…um…”the Yes Man” that hugging it out would be the best policy, the team became an even bigger force. Considering this was the last time Kane was entertaining and with Daniel Bryan consistently hurting himself, the reformation of Team Hell No could raise Kane’s stock again and give D-Bry much needed rest while not having to shoulder the load, if he’s ever able to return to the ring (*fingers crossed*).
12. He’s Hated Anyway – Michael Cole
GDYC (God Damn You Cole) signs are peppered through WWE arenas and Michael Cole is seldom respected by the fans. Cole has a hard job to do, being the Voice of the WWE and following in the footsteps of Jim Ross, the greatest announcer of all time. Cole has to be the referee between JBL, Jerry Lawler, Booker T, and whoever else is sitting with him at the announce table. He has to constantly sell the WWE Network and whatever else is trending. It’s enough to make a man crack, which is exactly what Cole did when NXT first debuted in 2010, constantly belittling Daniel Bryan and showing his support for The Miz.
It had been a long time since the WWE had a full-blown heel announcer and Cole tried his hand in the role for a brief time, even feuding with, and defeating, Jerry Lawler at WrestleMania. Cole was so hated that he had “The Cole Mine,” a special booth made just for him. Pair all of this with the insipid “and I quote…” whenever issuing an edict from the Anonymous Raw General Manager and you have one of the most hated villains of the past several years. At least when Cole was a heel, there were actual reasons to dislike the guy.
11. Dashing – Cody Rhodes
Clearly, Vince McMahon likes dressing the sons of Dusty Rhodes in face paint and making them weird. Dustin Rhodes has made himself a lengthy career by becoming the bizarre one for almost twenty years now, so who’s to say that Cody’s Stardust won’t yield him a steady career? However, the big difference between Dustin and Cody is that Cody was over just as Cody and Dustin’s biggest success came as Goldust. Cody (Zelda Tri–Force boots and all) had a fantastic run giving us all grooming tips and proclaiming himself “Dashing.”
The gimmick got even better when Rey Mysterio broke Cody’s nose and he had to wear a protective mask. Now thinking he was disfigured, Cody would hand out paper bags for the fans to put over their heads. You know you’re over when people in the stands are clamoring for you to make fun of them and hand them a bag. Stardust is really just doing the Goldust gimmick with comic book overtones, so why not remove the bodysuit and have the Dashing One return?
10. The Hounds of Justice – The Shield
Pro wrestling has seen its fair share of stables that dominate the business, but none were as heavy hitting as The Shield. Dean Ambrose summed it up in the Destruction of the Shield documentary, by saing, “the things that Seth Rollins does, I don’t do. The things that I do, he doesn’t do. The things Roman Reigns brings, we don’t bring.” Each member of The Shield, as proof of today’s current product, are all capable of main eventing on their own, but the Hounds of Justice barely cracked the surface of what they could do as a team.
They had only recently officially turned face in a feud with The Wyatt Family and then demolished Evolution two PPVs in a row. Sure, it was a shocking to see Rollins destroy The Shield the night after they defeated Evolution in a No Holds Barred elimination match, but listen to the fans at Payback 2014 vs. the noise they make now for the individual members of The Shield. It’s still loud, but one year ago, it was deafening. If you need more proof, check out how ballistic the crowd went at this year’s Payback when the trio delivered a triple powerbomb to Randy Orton during their Fatal 4 Way contest.
9. Devotion to Clean and Sober Living – The Straight Edge Society
File this in the never going to happen again department, but when CM Punk guaranteed Vince McMahon he’d being the biggest heel in the company, the Straight Edge Society was what got the iconoclast to the dance. With Luke Gallows, Joseph Mercuy, and Serena as his disciples, there was no right Punk could do, just total and unabashed wrong. He sang the creepiest rendition of Happy Birthday ever to Rey Mysterio’s kid, he preached as he eliminated people from the Royal Rumble, and at one house show, he riled up an old lady so much that she lashed out at him and called him the devil, which is exactly the kind of “kind words” a heel wants to hear.
Now, we can’t expect this group to come back as it once was, with all of CM Punk’s issues with the WWE, but a similar stable in his honor could be interesting.
8. “Whatsupwiththat?!” – The Hurricane
Spiderman, Batman, the Avengers – why the WWE hasn’t brought back their own superhero to monetize and tie into the current comic book movie boom is beyond me. The Hurricane, aka Gregory “Shane” Helms, was about eight years too soon, as The Hurricane debuted in 2001 and the Marvel Cinematic Universe didn’t start until 2008. Helms took a comic gimmick and made it into one of the premier comedy acts, “swooshing” in and out of rooms–and the other superstars would play along, looking amazed at the flying superstar. While the movies take costumed crusaders seriously, it would be hard to take the ‘Cane seriously in wrestling, but Helms’ wrestling skills combined with a great portrayal of the bumbling champion made it memorable. Who wouldn’t pop for the immortal words “Stand back, there’s a Hurricane coming through?”
7. The American Bad Ass – The Undertaker
At Judgement Day 2000, The Undertaker returned from a several month rehabbing stint with a new look. Gone was the undead creature of the night that rose from the grave to take souls to hell. While no less intimidating, the Demon from Death Valley returned as a biker from Houston, Texas. If you thought the Tombstone pile driver was something to be feared, Taker debuted an elevated powerbomb, the Last Ride. As much as fans loved The Deadman, there was a lot more the American Bad Ass could be as a character, as he could now feel pain and sell for his opponents. Big Evil experienced a career renaissance, having amazing matches with just about everyone who dared to step into his yard, most notably against Triple H at WrestleMania X-Seven and with Jeff Hardy on Raw. While it’s doubtful we’ll ever see him again, make no mistake the Biker ‘Taker breathed new life into a stale character and made it that much more memorable when The Deadman returned at WrestleMania XX.
6. Welcome to the Wasteland – The Ascension
Our newest gimmick on this list isn’t necessarily gone but Vince and the creative team might have forgotten the tag team they have on their hands with The Ascension. Isn’t the whole point of NXT to get these guys ready for the main roster? The Ascension held the NXT titles one day short of a year before being shocked by the Lucha Dragons, who are having a better go on the main roster then their NXT rivals are. The Ascension should be destroying everyone in their path on their way to delivering the Fall of Man to the current champions, New Day. Instead they’re seldom seen and that’s a shame since it seems WWE is putting a modicum of focus back on tag teams, so maybe it will be time to showcase just how dangerous these warriors can be.
5. Hollywood Dwayne – The Rock
From his earliest days, it was clear the WWE had big plans for the first ever third generation superstar, Rocky Maivia. However, not even Nostrodamus could predict the career trajectory that the Blue Chipper would be on. From being booed out of buildings to becoming one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, The Rock made good on all of those early predictions. On the way to Hollywood, however, the Great One was slightly in awe of himself and became the Great Jerk. Enamored with the bright lights of Tinseltown and annoyed with the fans that used to boo him, The Rock would become one of the most egotistical heels of the early aughts, demanding the fans to stop “singing along with The Rock.” It was a side of The Rock that he clearly loved playing and although it was for a short time, it would be nice to see it again.
4. Surfing Scorpion – Sting
It might have taken almost 15 years, but WCW’s greatest export finally made his WWE debut. After seeing his performance at WrestleMania this past year, it looks like The Stinger still has a lot to offer. Perhaps it’s time to ditch The Crow persona and embrace the energetic beach bum with the colorful painted face that got him to the dance in the first place. There are a lot of memorable Surfer Sting matches against the likes of Cactus Jack, Ric Flair, and Vader. Maybe the guy has one more decent run in him and maybe it’s the guy with the spiked blond hair that’s going to get the job done.
3. No Chance in Hell – Vince McMahon
Stone Cold, The Rock, The Game, and The Undertaker–all the top stars of wrestling’s greatest boom period, the Attitude Era. Four guys all peaking at the same time and all of them wanted to be on top of the card. Factor in the rise of Mick Foley and the debut of Kurt Angle and it was a recipe for success. However, they all needed some foil to work with and Vince McMahon was that terrific foil. From the early days (“Bret Screwed Bret”) to Vince revealing himself as the Higher Power, the CEO of WWE made himself the kind of enemy anyone would want to see the hero rally against, their very own boss.
Even when he wasn’t being over the top, his exacerbated facial expressions when meeting Mr. Socko or dealing with the childish Austin/Angle rivalry, McMahon sold it all like a champion. The Authority does a fairly decent job, but they do it tongue-in-cheek, with a wink at the audience to show that they’re just playing a role. Vince McMahon was pure unadulterated evil and arguably the greatest heel ever.
2. The Doctor of Thugonomics – John Cena
The jeers and cheers echo throughout every arena in the world, “Let’s Go Cena! / Cena Sucks!” There are discussions and questions and deliberations and debates from all corners of the wrestling fan base that question should John Cena become a heel or not? How about a different spin on the conversation? John Cena resurrects the Dr. of Thugonomics gimmick that brought him to super-stardom.
Cena has two things going against him, how Vince books him and how childlike his promos can be. One can’t be changed, but the champ’s promos can change. If Cena went back to verbally destroying his opponents before squashing them in the ring, he might win some fans back, not that he’s hurting for fans, but Cena’s matches are usually highly entertaining but get overlooked because of what those fans used to see in him. Word Life and throwback NBA jerseys might need to return.
1. The Intellectual Savior of the Masses – Damien Sandow
When I first heard that Damien Sandow was trained by Killer Kowalski (the same man who trained Triple H), I thought for sure he’d need his waist fitted for championship gold sooner than later. Then, not only did he win Money in the Bank, but he got his own leather case for the contract. Sandow did all of this while playing the smug intellectual who was here to save and educate our unwashed selves. Unfortunately, Sandow would be fed to John Cena and has not been relevant as a serious competitor since. True, he’s enjoyed his biggest success now, mimicking some of the greats (and The Miz), but it might be time for the Intellectual Savior of the Masses to return. His time as Mizdow got him over, it’s time to set Sandow loose!
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