There’s a high level of difficulty when trying to come up with something completely original. The problem is that many great ideas have roots that can be traced back to something else. In professional wrestling, it’s hard to do something new and fresh for a character’s gimmick. There’s always a constant struggle in trying to make something entertaining and being different. It’s the only way many of the best legends in the industry stood out in the ring.
Because of that, it’s understandable when we see gimmicks that are very similar to something done in the past. Bray Wyatt’s character has roots that go back to Waylon Mercy who competed in the WWE during the 1980s. This is just one recent example of a wrestling gimmick “ripoff” that succeeded. But that’s not always the case.
Wrestling fans don’t mind if a gimmick is slightly similar to something that has been done. They just want to enjoy something that still feels unique. If they are entertained, then there are no problems with where the inspiration came from. Additionally, there have been gimmicks that were ripped off from pop culture and done terribly. Maybe the gimmick doesn’t even try to hide the fact that it’s a blatant ripoff of a comic book hero or a legendary musician.
The following are the top 15 horrible wrestling gimmick ripoffs that fans still hate to this very day.
15 Ted DiBiase, Jr.
While the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase was able to become one of the best mid-card superstars during the 1980s and early 1990s, his son was unable to find similar success. Ted DiBiase, Jr. did have a successful debut winning the WWE World Tag Team Championship with Cody Rhodes, which led to forming Legacy with Randy Orton. But in 2010, DiBiase was then given a rich millionaire character that was very similar to his father.
This new character included bringing back the Million Dollar Championship and trying to find a manservant that his father had; only to hire the original Virgil for a brief period of time. DiBiase obviously wasn’t able to find his own niche and had to follow in his father’s shadow. DiBiase would again fall down the card in the WWE before deciding to retire in 2013.
14 The Honky Tonk Man
Elvis Presley was certainly an icon not only in the world of rock ‘n roll, but in overall popular culture. Despite passing away in 1977, his name is as recognizable as brands of snack cakes and candy bars from the same era. There are still Elvis impersonators who walk the streets of Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The WWE had one of their own with the Honky Tonk Man, who debuted in the WWE in 1986.
The Elvis impersonation was not even subtle. The Honky Tonk Man had everything from the signature hair style down to the suede shoes. The WWE made this cool, cocky Elvis impersonator into one of the best heel mid-card talents at the time. This led to him becoming the longest reigning WWE Intercontinental Champion of all-time from June 1987 until August 1988.
13 Brodus Clay
When Brodus Clay was first seen on WWE television, mostly in NXT and some episodes of WWE Superstars, he looked like someone who had a lot of potential. Clay could have been a great monster heel that could literally run people over at will. For several weeks in late 2011, it looked as if Clay was going to make a monstrous debut on the RAW brand. However, it kept getting delayed.
Eventually, fans were introduced to The Funkasaurus, who was a complete ripoff from Ernest “The Cat” Miller. Clay was dancing to the ring in a fashion that was extremely similar to The Cat, and then the WWE decided to reuse Miller’s old entrance theme that asked for 'Somebody to "Call My Momma.”' While Clay had some wins, it never materialized to any championships and he left the WWE in 2014.
12 The New Rockers
One of the worst types of gimmick ripoffs is when something done before and brought back with some key components missing. When Marty Jannetty made his return to the WWE in 1995, he was originally booked as a singles competitor. But the WWE decided to bring back The Rockers; just without Jannetty’s original tag team partner in Shawn Michaels. He was sort of busy winning championships as a main event superstar.
The New Rockers teamed Jannetty with Leif Cassidy. The team would quickly become a comedy act and never received quite the push that the original Rockers when considered one of the best teams in the 1980s. While it was doomed from the start, it felt like the WWE didn’t help do Jannetty or Cassidy any favors. Jannetty would also fail to elevate himself from the low-tier part of the match card before leaving WWE in late 1996.
11 Joker Sting
TNA Wrestling certainly had some interesting moments during their high points of popularity. In 2011, TNA gave the "Icon" Sting a bit of a transformation into a much more deranged personality. Sting started to pick up more and more clown-like traits that reminded some fans of DC Comics’ villain The Joker. It became more obvious when his face paint was messed up to look more like the Joker that was made famous by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight film.
While there were certainly some funny moments, the Joker Sting character felt a little too much like a cartoon gimmick. It was certainly not the type of gimmick anyone would have expected for a veteran that had the standard of Sting. On the bright side, it was better than Sting’s older surfing gimmick in WCW during the 1990s.
10 Los Power Raiders
During the 1990s, the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers was the most popular television show and quickly became a global phenomenon. The original group featured five teenagers who were given the powers to become galactic crime-fighting ninjas. Their costumes were colorful and were quickly parodied in professional wrestling. A group of luchadors in Asistencia Asesoria y Administracion (AAA) in Mexico competed as Los Power Raiders.
These wrestlers known as Power Raider Azul, Rojo, Negro, Blanco and Verde didn’t even try to change the attire. Unlike WCW’s version of Arachnaman, Los Power Raiders were complete copies. This might have led to Mattel, who owned the rights to the Power Rangers, to sue the wrestlers involved with the gimmick. The Raiders quickly rebranded as Los Cadetes Del Especio – or “The Space Cadets” in English.
Mortal Kombat’s popularity certainly grew a lot during the 1990s, especially with the real-life movie adaptation hitting the theaters in 1995. About a year later, WCW decided to bring out a ninja character who had seemingly had the powers of ice and snow. Glacier debuted on a September 1996 episode of Monday Nitro, and his attire looked extremely similar to the Mortal Kombat icon known as Sub-Zero. The attire was black and blue and he also had face paint around one eye.
The martial arts move set didn’t really flow well in the ring. Instead of spots having fluid transitions through the match, there were awkward pauses in between spots that made the match feel clunky. The ninja gimmick just didn’t work out in WCW. Glacier had a year-long undefeated streak before beginning to fall into WCW obscurity that led to being released from the company in 1999.
Professional wrestlers have often been considered real-life superheroes competing. Fans are treated to a battle between the forces of good and evil. However, using a superhero to be the base for a wrestling gimmick has very rarely worked beyond the Hurricane. Even some of the early TV superhero shows came across goofier than they had hoped for. Professional wrestling was no different.
In 1991, WCW debuted Arachnaman. While his costume was purple and gold and not the iconic blue and red of Spiderman, the character looked like a terrible knockoff for a cheap birthday party appearance. They even gave Arachnaman “webbing” that looked like Silly String coming out of his hands. It was just one of the several failed gimmicks used by Brad Armstrong, the son of Bob Armstrong and brother of “Road Dogg” Jesse James.
7 Johnny B. Badd
Marc Mero was certainly a decent pro wrestler during the 1990s for the time he spent between the WCW and WWE. One of his earliest characters portrayals took place during his first run with WCW under the name Johnny B. Badd. While the name was obviously derived from Chuck Berry’s hit song “Johnny B. Good,” Mero’s character had the look and flamboyant attitude of Little Richard. Mero’s character had the mustache and long black hair similar to the pop singer.
Johnny B. Badd was originally a heel, but quickly became a face known for shooting a confetti gun called the Badd Blaster. While Mero would have a run with the WCW World Television Championship, he would leave in 1996 for a run with WWE that included winning the WWE Intercontinental Championship. In an interesting twist personally, the man who was once known as “Badd” has since become a Christian motivational speaker.
Ryan Reeves apparently didn’t get over as Skip Sheffield during the first season of NXT, or when he was an original member of the Nexus. But an ankle injury in 2011 led to Reeves going to rehab and developing an entirely new character during his recovery. Only it really wasn’t all that new. About four months after Sheffield was last seen in the WWE, Ryback made his SmackDown debut in April 2012. For weeks, he would win in quick squash matches where he manhandled opponents.
It didn’t take long for the comparisons to Goldberg to form among the WWE Universe. Even with the catchy “Feed Me More” chant, Ryback couldn’t shake people comparing him the most dominant WCW competitor during the 1990s. Eventually, the WWE would just embrace the chants, and Ryback even hit a Jackhammer on John Cena a few years ago. Before he was released, Ryback’s attire became black shorts and matching boots and pads.
Dustin Rhodes was able to hit a gimmick goldmine (no pun intended) when he debuted as Goldust in 1995. The son of Dusty Rhodes felt like a polar opposite from what his father did as the American Dream. Unfortunately, his brother tried to do something too similar that fell short of unique and great. Cody Rhodes becoming Stardust felt like the result of a lost bet between the brothers that was made behind the scenes.
Everything about Stardust was a ripoff of Goldust. The music was extremely similar. The same with the full-body suit and face paint. The only difference was the star pattern on Cody’s face. The look did have some color changes during Cody’s final years in the WWE. It was the one type of character that didn’t work for Cody Rhodes. In interviews since leaving WWE, Rhodes has said he asked the creative team several times to drop the gimmick, but to no avail.
4 The Corre
When the WWE decided to have CM Punk kick Wade Barrett out of the Nexus group the latter created, many wondered if this would lead to Barrett becoming a face. Instead, he made the switch from RAW to SmackDown and created a new faction. Along with former Nexus members Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel, as well as the addition of Ezekiel Jackson, Barrett created The Corre. The results probably weren’t what the WWE was hoping for.
The group formed in January 2011, but didn’t survive past the summer with the three original Nexus members deciding to turn on Jackson. Less than a month later, Barrett decided to leave his teammates during a six-man tag team match and the group died. This was an instance of a ripoff gimmick not getting over with the fans.
3 The Renegade
One of the worst gimmick ripoffs in professional wrestling history took place in the mid-1990s. Hulk Hogan was feuding with the Dungeon of Doom when he teased an “ultimate surprise” was coming to WCW. Eventually, Rick Williams would come out to the arena as The Renegade. Here was a muscular gentleman who had long blond hair and face paint similar to the Ultimate Warrior.
While The Renegade didn’t have the same incoherent promos that sounded like a crazy person on drugs rambling on, he ran out to the ring with the same mannerisms as Warrior. WCW even gave him an entrance theme song that sounded way too similar to the Ultimate Warrior’s theme in WWE. It may have walked and looked like a duck, but no one was fooled in the end when the real Ultimate Warrior returned to WWE less than a year after the Renegade debuted.
It has been said that imitation is meant to be the highest form of flattery. But during the Monday Night War during the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was just another shot fired from WCW to WWE. Former WWE writer Ed Ferrara would join WCW, but there were issues with the ratings. But the biggest crime committed by Ferrara during his time with WCW was portraying Oklahoma; a blatant knock on WWE announcer Jim Ross.
Wearing the traditional black shirt and black cowboy hat, Ferrara even impersonated his Bell’s palsy condition. Oklahoma would also become a punching bag for many WCW superstars like Sid Vicious and Madusa. Fans weren’t happy with the character and it certainly upset many behind the scenes. Ferrara has since made up with Ross and there are no hard feelings between the two.
1 Legion of Doom (2005)
Whether you knew them best as the Legion of Doom or the Road Warriors, Hawk and Animal formed one of the greatest tag teams in professional wrestling history. They were a special team that had a signature look – the red and black facepaint and the spiked shoulder pads that they wore to the ring before matches. But this tag team was actually ripped off by the WWE twice.
Hawk and Animal returned in 2000 with Sunny as their manager; followed by Droz becoming a third member. But the worst offense came in 2005 when Animal decided to not only join forces with Jon Heidenreich, but donned him with his own shoulder pads. The 2005 version of the L.O.D. would claim SmackDown’s WWE Tag Team Championship before Heidenreich was released in 2006 without making a lasting impression.