While many fans of professional wrestling might critique some of the characters, storylines and other creative aspects of the product, it certainly can be one of the most challenging creative jobs in the world. Rather than create a gimmick that is meant for a movie or television show, a wrestler is someone who is portrayed almost all year round through television shows, live events and several special appearances.
It’s not easy to think of something that the fans will embrace like they have with Hulk Hogan in the 1980s, or superstars like The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Sometimes, there is a lot of brainstorming that goes into developing a persona – between both the wrestlers and the creative team at a company’s headquarters. Some ideas are instant hits and others don’t even make it out of the writer’s office.
Sometimes, the perfect idea just comes from an unexpected source or by complete accident. Maybe a special talent is discovered when they were backstage or on the tour bus. Sometimes, the best ideas just show up during regular conversations over a cup of tea - seriously. The following are the top 15 weird ways wrestlers and writers have come up with gimmicks.
15 Terry Taylor As The Red Rooster
Terry Taylor was brought into the WWE from 1988 to 1990 after having found some success with the National Wrestling Alliance and the Universal Wrestling Federation. But sometimes, personalities and actions behind the scenes can lead to not-so-favorable gimmick changes. Taylor had developed backstage heat because he often told the top WWE officials about what others were doing.
Essentially, he was a loudmouth, just like a rooster. Because others behind the scenes wanted to punish Taylor, his mouth earned him the infamous Red Rooster gimmick. It still got over with the fans and allowed him to have feuds with Curt Hennig and a rivalry with Bobby Heenan. The character was dropped when he left WWE for WCW in 1990. He had a few more jumps between WWE and WCW before becoming a trainer and agent for TNA. While the Red Rooster gimmick was absolutely horrible, it's still memorable today, for better or for worse.
14 Damien Sandow’s Impersonation Gimmick
There are a number of wrestlers who got a gimmick because of one segment that was considered a success. Damien Sandow was one of those talents for whom the creative team had nothing. The one-time “Savior of the Masses” was actually put into a Magneto costume as part of a segment involving guest star Hugh Jackman – aimed to promote an upcoming Wolverine movie.
Apparently, fans and the people backstage loved the idea of Sandow doing impersonations. This led to more – including Sherlock Holmes, LeBron James and Paul Revere. Eventually, the WWE would go one step further and have The Miz “hire” Sandow as his personal stunt double. This led to Sandow acting out what was happening to The Miz in the ring. Unfortunately, Sandow was kept to a comedic gimmick by WWE, despite how talented he showed he truly was.
13 Konnan As Max Moon
Konnan is usually remembered for his time in WCW as one of the top Latin American wrestling superstars during the Monday Night War. He was also able to translate that into a nice run in TNA Wrestling as a part of 3Live Kru. However, there are a lot of wrestling fans who don’t know about his brief stint in WWE during the early 1990s as Max Moon.
So the WWE creative team talked with Konnan about different ideas. Konnan said he brought up an anime cartoon in which the character would shoot out fire and confetti. This led to thousands of dollars being invested into the Max Moon costume. The story actually provides some context for a gimmick that looked like it had to have come from a Japanese cartoon. How else would anyone in Stamford, Conn., have come up with the look for Max Moon?
12 Perry Saturn In A Dress
Perry Saturn can be considered an underrated technical star in the wrestling world. He was part of some good matches between WCW and WWE, but he has a history of being paired with some silly gimmicks that really shouldn’t have worked. This is the same guy who fell in love with a mop and also had weird sayings like “Monkeys learn sign language to tell dolphins they love them.”
But in WCW, Saturn was supposed to get a win over Chris Jericho that would have written off the latter. Jericho was going to leave for the WWE at the time and Eric Bischoff wanted him to lose in a match that would kick him off of television. Since he was away, the change was finished and Jericho won. Saturn’s punishment was to wear a dress in the ring, which actually got over well with the fans.
11 Ryback’s “Feed Me More”
Ryback certainly was someone who lived life big, both in the ring and behind the scenes. The powerhouse was certainly being booked to run over the local competitors (also known as jobbers) and lower-tier talents like he would go through a rack of ribs. Ryback said during an interview that he was in a meeting with several WWE officials and writers when he voiced his desire to face bigger names.
He claims that he shouted “feed me more” during the meeting. It was then that it became one of his catchphrases that the fans would get behind. It also made sense for The Big Guy, who was often seen at catering venues holding three to four full plates of food before every show. He certainly lived with that “Feed Me More” mantra on a 24-hour basis.
Gangrel was one of the more interesting and unique characters of the WWE’s Attitude Era. It was a brief stint on television, but Gangrel certainly made an impact by coming through the floor of the stage, surrounded by a ring of fire, and carrying a goblet of what looked like blood. However, Vince McMahon wasn’t exactly sold on the idea, but head writer Vince Russo certainly pushed it.
What was interesting was the name Gangrel actually came from a fantasy game from White Wolf called “Vampire: The Masquerade.” “Gangrel” was the name for one of the vampire clans in the game, and the WWE had to work with White Wolf on a contract that allowed the company to use the name for Gangrel’s vampire character.
9 Brodus Clay Becomes The Funkasaurus
Brodus Clay was worthy of being on WWE television. The former bodyguard was an intimidating 6-foot-7 and 375 pounds. However, he came across as a bland character. There were vignettes being shown on WWE television about the monstrous Clay, who was set to return to the RAW roster during the original brand split, but the debut kept getting delayed.
Vince McMahon apparently came across Clay cracking jokes, dancing a little bit and essentially being himself around some of the other talents. While he was nervous about dancing, Clay said he knew he could be the smiling jokester in the ring. This led to the creation of a more fun-loving Funkasaurus. Clay admitted that he did go and get some advice from another big man who danced his way to stardom: “The American Dream,” Dusty Rhodes.
8 Goldberg’s “Who’s Next?” Line
Sometimes, simplicity is really what’s best for business. Bill Goldberg was a talented athlete who made a big splash when he debuted on WCW television back in 1997. It worked as he was an unstoppable force that went on an undefeated streak of 173 matches. However, before he would appear on television, he needed to come up with a catchphrase that would put the gimmick over the top.
During an appearance on The Steve Austin Show this past July, Goldberg said he was sitting at a restaurant with his brother and a TV producer. They were telling him he needed a gimmick and a catchphrase. It was then that the waitress approached them and asked, “Who’s Next?". Goldberg claims that was the moment that inspired the infamous line that would be asked after each of his wins in WCW. Admittedly, it’s certainly not one of the most entertaining stories you’ll read about on this list.
7 Santino Marella’s Cobra finisher
Santino Marella is definitely a unique character. He was initially an underdog story as a fan who was selected to face Umaga, winning the Intercontinental Championship in the process. Since then, he’s become better known for a variety of comedic gimmicks that include – but are not limited to – tea time with Sheamus and pretending to be his own sister to win the Miss WrestleMania battle royal. Considering Marella to be one of the most entertaining superstars in the last 15 years is an understatement.
The story behind his finishing move, “The Cobra,” is actually kind of funny. Marella said during a podcast interview in October 2015 that he was shown the move by a gentleman at a Japanese bar. He decided to try it out in the ring at an event, which got quite the reaction from folks behind the scenes. That’s not to say just anyone should walk up to a superstar and tell him or her that they want to showcase their cobra move; it might not get the same result.
6 Darren Drozdov Becomes “Puke”
Wrestling fans who have watched the documentary Beyond The Mat will recall this moment almost verbatim. Darren Drozdov was hoping to find work after working with ECW for a brief period of time. There was a lot of potential, considering that he used to play for the New York Jets and Denver Broncos of the National Football League. He was given the nickname “Puke” because of vomiting live on Monday Night Football in 1993.
In true Vince McMahon fashion, he heard about his ability to puke on command. This led him to bring Drozdov in as a wrestler named “Puke.” Fans can recall him asking Drozdov to puke right there in the meeting back in 1998, which led Vince to yell the infamous line, “He’s gonna puke!” The video has been a viral hit and can easily be found online.
5 Blue World Order
Extreme Championship Wrestling definitely was a unique product to watch. While it was the home of hardcore wrestling and obscure characters, there was definitely room for some parody gimmicks played out on ECW television. There was a goofy super-hero Super Nova, who was almost like Adam West’s Batman, but the comedy continued when he was paired with The Blue Meanie and Stevie Richards as Raven’s Flock.
The three usually came out under different musical parodies that included the Jackson Five and KISS. Behind the scenes, Bubba Ray Dudley made a comment that it would have been better if they had done a parody of WCW’s New World Order, and that’s what they did. The three would wear blue gear and call themselves the bWo – Blue World Order.
4 John Cena’s Rapping Skills
John Cena was certainly making a quick impact when he made his debut on that 2002 episode of SmackDown, accepting Kurt Angle’s open challenge. It was the start of the Ruthless Aggression Era in the WWE and Cena looked like he could have a chance to be that breakout star. Still, during his rookie year, he was essentially a talented athlete who was still trying to find a way to connect with the fans.
The rapper gimmick that has made Cena a superstar was not even considered an option until WWE officials heard Cena doing some freestyle rapping on a tour bus. Cena has often spoken about having a love for groups like Beastie Boys, Wu Tang Clan and Jay-Z, so he certainly had a lot of inspiration for a character that would become the biggest star of this era in WWE.
3 The Shockmaster
Wrestling fans are surely aware that Fred Ottman’s Shockmaster character was one of the biggest botches in professional wrestling history, but the trip that sent Ottman – formerly known as Tugboat and Typhoon – crashing through the wall and his helmet rolling on the floor wasn’t the only mistake. Apparently, the original Shockmaster costume was meant to be closer to Vader’s mask and costume, but it wasn’t ready in time for his scheduled television debut.
However, they were scrambling for something to work for the debut during a segment with Ric Flair and Sting on WCW. The helmet was a last-minute decision that had so much glitter, it was believed to have affected Ottman’s eyesight. The infamous Shockmaster scene had better intentions, but it turned out to be one of the funnier accidents in wrestling history.
2 Scott Hall Pitches Razor Ramon
If you thought that your impression of Tony Montana from the Scarface movie was good, you should see if it can land you a job. That’s what Scott Hall was able to do when he was about to be brought into the company. Apparently, McMahon had never even heard of Scarface and when he heard Scott Hall talk with the "Cuban" accent, he loved it. Vince McMahon was a big fan of the “bad guy” persona and was willing to hire Hall after hearing the concept of the character. McMahon invited Hall to a meeting where they brainstormed names.
Hall pitched Razor, but McMahon said there was already someone with that name in boxing – Razor Ruddock. Hall’s response, in his best Montana voice, was that he would “kick his bleepin’ (butt).” This allowed the name Razor Ramon to stick. Shortly after the meeting, wrestling fans would say hello to the bad guy.
1 “Stone Cold” Cup Of Tea?
Steve Austin certainly had a share of bland gimmicks. “Stunning” Steve Austin was okay in WCW, but never anything impressive. Therefore, it was imperative that his next gimmick was a good one so that he'd have the opportunity to be a breakout star in the world of professional wrestling. He wanted the concept of his character to be a cold-blooded individual. Unfortunately, the creative team was coming up with some pretty bad temperature-based names, like Fang McFrost and Chilly McFreeze.
Austin was sitting with his ex-wife Jeanie Clarke over a cup of tea, with the Texas Rattlesnake worried about what his future ring name would be. His wife then told him he should drink his tea before it got “stone cold,” and that was the inspiration for “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. To think, Austin was almost given the name Fang McFrost. Not sure “McFrost 3:16” would have the same ring to it.
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