The use of gimmicks in wrestling can be hit or miss. There have been instances of gimmicks creating characters that have become long term successes for both the talent and the company. The best example of this would be The Undertaker and Kane. Both men are certain WWE Hall of Famers and have been respected members of the WWE roster from the 90s to recently being in the co-main event of Survivor Series 2015. The gimmicks resonated with the audience of the time and the wrestlers performed at a level that created longevity. Through the years, they’ve adapted and added depth to the characters but it’s the best case of a gimmick.
Most gimmicks in wrestling are on the opposite spectrum. For every successful one, there are at least five horrible gimmicks that have flopped in embarrassing fashion. The gimmick is typically a more “out there” character rather than a natural extension of the performer based on their in-ring skills or true personality. You’ve likely read many lists breaking down the worst gimmicks in wrestling. Regardless of how successful or well run a company is, every wrestling promotion has delivered their fair share of bad gimmicks. Most of the time the wrestlers to portray them are weak talents but what about the good wrestlers?
There have been quite a few stints of talented wrestlers being given a gimmick that was terrible. Some ideas are so bad that no performer would be able to make it work and those are going to be discussed here. These gimmicks were so bad that it completely destroyed chances of a talented performer being able to overcome it and showcase their skill set. It’s time to dig deep in the memory banks and remember the things you wanted to forget, as we look at the top fifteen talented wrestlers that had their careers end with an awful gimmick.
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15 Shane Douglas
Shane Douglas was a success in ECW but his time in WWE was a disaster. Given the gimmick of Dean Douglas, he played an arrogant professor that would try to “teach lessons” to his opponents. Douglas would cut corny promos and perform trite actions like scratching a chalkboard to get across his heel persona. The gimmick was a joke and Douglas’ WWE career ended rather quickly. He did reclaim his name with a great run in ECW but was unable to ever make it back to the WWE and failed to keep a wrestling career going after WWE purchased WCW and ECW.
14 Simon Dean
Another talent that is remembered fondly for a good body of work in ECW but given a terrible gimmick in WWE is Nova. Between his humorous segments as Hollywood Nova in the Blue World Order and his impressive singles wrestling matches in the later days of ECW, Nova made a name for himself as a talented and credible performer. WWE hired him to play the role of Simon Dean, a heel fitness guru that would insult the appearance of the audience and try to sell weight loss items. It was easy to figure out that the gimmick would flop and after a couple of weeks, the crowd gave it “go away heat.”
13 Brodus Clay
Brodus Clay has one of the most intimidating presences in all of wrestling. There’s a reason Snoop Dogg hired him to be his real-life bodyguard before Clay decided to try his hand at wrestling. With the obvious makings of a monster heel or bodyguard character for a main event star, WWE threw the audience a curveball and debuted Clay as a dancing dinosaur. Dubbed “The Funkasaurus,” Clay would perform a dance number before and after matches as a face character. The gimmick ran its course quickly and Clay was released from WWE. He’s found work in TNA and on the indies with a heel character, but the dancing gimmick killed his chances of success in WWE.
12 Ken Doane
Ken Doane had all the makings of a star, but he could not overcome the Spirit Squad gimmick. WWE introduced five young talents with potential in the gimmick of male cheerleaders. Despite achieving some success as tag champions and feuding with D-Generation X, they were mostly used as goofs made to laugh at. After the gimmick was finally scrapped, Doane was repackaged as a singles act and put into a feud with Ric Flair. The audience didn’t take Doane seriously because he was still viewed as “The Spirit Squad dork” and his time in WWE ended. Dolph Ziggler was the only one to rebound from The Spirit Squad and it helped that he drastically changed his look.
As a big man with the ability to move in the ring, Luke Gallows was hired by the WWE with high expectations. Unfortunately for him, the company kept placing him in terrible gimmicks. After portraying a fake Kane that was trying to stalk the real Kane, that idea was scrapped and he was repackaged as Festus. He was presented as a mentally challenged and unresponsive person that would turn into a great wrestler once the bell rung. After it flopped, he was used in CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society in an effective manner but that had a short shelf life. Once it ended, Gallows was quickly released by WWE.
10 Diamond Dallas Page
When WWE purchased WCW, the wrestling world was anticipating an amazing storyline where the stars of the two biggest companies faced off in incredible matches. The only two true WCW main eventers that were brought over to WWE were Booker T and Diamond Dallas Page. While Booker was used as a top performer, DDP was given a huge character change. Page portrayed a stalker that was following and video recording footage of The Undertaker’s wife, Sara. Everything that was cool about DDP in WCW was stripped away in one night. Page was irrelevant after a month or two and his wrestling career took a nosedive.
9 Alex Wright
The selection of Alex Wright on this list is not for his time as “Das Wunderkind.” While the dancing did limit his chances of ever moving up the card, he had good matches and a memorable character that added to the shows. This all ended when Wright was repackaged as Berlyn. With the new look of a black mohawk and goatee, Wright tried to play a more serious heel character. It failed to get over and he quickly reverted back to his old dancing gimmick in a tag team reunion with Disco Inferno. This was hard to pull off as Wright was now bald and looked more like the failed Berlyn than the Alex Wright fans remembered.
8 Paul Burchill
Paul Burchill was a top prospect who had the ability to become one of the best workers in WWE. Sadly, he was given a terrible gimmick that ruined any chance of him succeeding, as Burchill portrayed a pirate character similar to Johnny Depp’s in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise. The genre of gimmick WWE was going for was outdated for their audience and it did not get over. WWE gave him another terrible gimmick as he was paired with Katie Lea Burchill to work an implied incest storyline between brother and sister. Burchill was never able to showcase his skills in WWE and his wrestling career never recovered.
It’s not fair to say that Cody Rhodes' career will definitely fall off thanks to his Stardust character, but we’re getting pretty close to it. Rhodes has been on the verge of moving up the card for years with impressive work done in storylines against D-Generation-X, The Shield and Rey Mysterio. Many believe that Rhodes has what it takes to become a World Champion but his Stardust gimmick has ruined those chances. Instead of Rhodes becoming a star, he's now the definition of a character that’s “midcard for life.” Struggling to get on television, Stardust has no upside and will continue to wallow away in obscurity.
6 Perry Saturn
Perry Saturn was a reliable and talented worker for ECW and WCW. For a few years, Saturn was one of the cornerstones of the WCW midcard division but is not remembered as such due to the other future stars there at the time. When he moved to WWE with Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko, Saturn was the least talented of the four but he had something to offer. Saturn did serviceable work for his first few months in WWE before taking a hit to the head in a match and going bananas. The gimmick would see him dump Terri Runnels to be in a relationship with a mop named “Moppy.” Saturn’s career was finished at that very moment.
5 Mike Awesome
Mike Awesome's work in ECW was incredible. The mad genius Paul Heyman loved Awesome’s work so much that he decided to put the world title on him as soon as Awesome could commit to full time dates in the country. Unfortunately, Awesome didn’t have the same love for Heyman as he decided to sign a contract with WCW while still the ECW Champion. After all the legal mumbo jumbo cleared up, Awesome worked in WCW but was destroyed with two putrid gimmicks. His time as “That 70s Guy” saw Awesome act like he was hanging out with Eric Foreman and his time as “The Fat Chick Thrilla” had Awesome trying to sleep with overweight women. Both gimmicks contributed to the end of Awesome as a credible name in the business.
4 Dean Malenko
Dean Malenko earned a reputation as one of the elite in-ring performers in the wrestling industry. While he lacked in charisma and personality, Malenko was second to none when it came to having great matches. Following a successful run in WCW, Malenko joined WWE as a member of The Radicalz. Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero became successful midcarders and eventual main eventers but Malenko’s run did not go as smoothly. WWE decided to make him a perverted womanizer obsessed with Lita. It led to a couple of humorous segments but it was the beginning of the end for Malenko in WWE. The master technician was quickly off of television.
3 Shelton Benjamin
There was a time when everyone and their mother wanted Shelton Benjamin to become a main eventer. Unfortunately, WWE took the phrase “everyone and their mother” too seriously, as they developed a peculiar gimmick for Benjamin. He was nearly flawless as a worker but he didn’t possess the charisma WWE looks for in top acts. WWE decided to make him a “mama’s boy” and hired an actress to play his overbearing mother. She managed him ringside and participated in various backstage segments that were painful to watch. This was the moment where fans stopped believing in Benjamin and accepted that he would never a big star for WWE.
2 Chris Candido
The late Chris Candido is still remembered by wrestlers and fans alike for being one of the most underrated talents of his time. Candido was a tremendous worker and showcased his skills in the rare times he was put in a position to. WWE signed him along with girlfriend Tammy Sytch to portray Skip and Sunny. They were fitness gurus that would insult the crowd and utilize exercise moves in their matches. The gimmick was made for a scrub and Candido could not do anything to make it work. He even lost in a match against career-long enhancement talent Barry Horowitz. The gimmick ruined his WWE career and limited his potential in future companies.
Nick Dinsmore was considered one of the best technical wrestlers in the business. During his time in OVW and USWA, he looked primed to be a successful wrestler on the WWE roster. That was partly true as he debuted in big storylines involving Eric Bischoff and Triple H, but the gimmick of Eugene crushed his chances at showing his skills. Eugene was a mentally challenged wrestling superfan that would be excited to meet other wrestlers on the roster. The character led to many moments featuring poor humor and low tact. Eugene faded away and Dinsmore was forced to play a similar character in other wrestling companies. Dinsmore was unable to escape Eugene for the rest of his career.
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