TNA is often mocked and ridiculed on the internet for their history and most of it is for good reason. The company had so much promise with a plethora of talent but the desire to compete with WWE and overall poor decision making turned the promise into disaster as they are currently on their last legs and scouring for a new television deal. One of the major reasons for the downfall of TNA has to do with not utilizing wrestlers well and, many times, sticking talent with unbearable gimmicks that ruin any chance for their character to connect with the audience.
Vince Russo served as an important member of the writing team for many years and his reputation has always been to write over-the-top storylines and characters rather than a logical approach. Many others minds were involved in TNA’s writing process but none seemed to bring success as for over 13 years; the company has been full of gimmicks that continuously flopped. With television and society in general having a desire to be entertained by reality based content, TNA failed to deliver and strayed further away from what the viewer wanted until it was ultimately too late.
Since falling on hard times, TNA has tried to move away from the foolish gimmicks and attempted to embrace the wrestlers’ strong suits but the brand has been damaged to a point where many lost fans refuse to give it a chance. As you’ll see there are still some rare occasions of terrible characters in current day TNA but it’s more staggering to see how consistent these gimmicks were written over the entire existence of the company. Failing to help the talent, hurting others involved and just contributing overall negatively to the betterment of the promotion, these are the 15 worst gimmicks in the history of Total Nonstop Action.
15. Mahabali Shera and the "Shera Shake"
The most recent wrestler to make the list is the young talent signed from India, Mahabali Shera. After TNA tried a show in India called Ring Ka King, Shera was one of the standouts from the country and he was officially brought over to America last year. Shera spent some time in James Storm’s heel faction before turning face and going with a new terrible gimmick. Based off a stereotype of Bollywood dancing, Shera has a dance called “The Shera Shuffle” that TNA has failed miserably at attempting to make an internet hit. The worst example of the dancing came at Bound for Glory 2015 when six or seven wrestlers stopped fighting in a #1 contender’s battle royal to partake in the dance. It was just another low moment in the history of bad TNA gimmicks.
14 Samuel Shaw
As a character with the mix of Dexter Morgan from “Dexter” and Patrick Bateman from “American Psycho”, Samuel Shaw’s short run in TNA was a disaster. Shaw’s character debuted with an obsession of Christy Hemme and he eventually stalked the ring announcer, owning a female mannequin and room full of posters of her. It was revealed Shaw still lived with his mother and her name was also Christy in an all-time terrible segment that left the audience rolling our eyes. The ultimate payoff to the storyline was Shaw losing to Mr. Anderson and entering a mental asylum. In TNA land, mental health issues are fodder for comedic stories. Shaw’s return to TNA television led to him developing another obsession with Gunner and once again, it flopped.
13 A.J. Styles as Ric Flair
The first big move under the regime of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff was having top face A.J. Styles turn heel to retain the TNA World Championship by aligning with Ric Flair. On the surface, a top young star being paired with a legendary wrestling personality is a good idea but the execution was atrocious. Styles was forced to add blonde highlights to his hair and walk around with local models, similar to “The Nature Boy.” The problem was it came off very unnatural given A.J.’s personality and the Impact Zone didn’t buy into it. Soon after, Styles dropped the title and was forced lower down on the card. A.J. has admitted this was his least favorite time working in TNA.
12 Black Machismo
Jay Lethal was a tremendous young prospect for TNA after signing with the company as a 20 year old. Lethal shined early in a big match against Jeff Jarrett but was never utilized significantly until undergoing a gimmick change as Black Machismo. With a tremendous imitation of the “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Lethal mimicked the legend on TNA television humorously for a couple of years. Lethal would once again have standout matches with Kurt Angle and Team 3D but his ceiling was very low in TNA due to the funny impression becoming a sinking gimmick. Since leaving TNA, Lethal has become the ROH World Champion and is showcasing what TNA failed to capitalize on.
11 Voodoo Kin Mafia
The former New Age Outlaws were both in TNA and decided to reform the tag team before being renamed the Voodoo Kin Mafia. At the time, WWE brought back D-Generation-X with Triple H and Shawn Michaels indulging in sophomoric comedy. TNA thought the best way to counter that with their former DX members was to plan segments even more tacky. The name Voodoo Kin Mafia was based off the initials of Vincent Kennedy McMahon, which for some reason TNA thought would be a cool way to hurt WWE. Voodoo Kin Mafia dressed as Triple H and Michaels as well as other wrestlers in segments that died a slow death. It was one of many instances of TNA trying to mock WWE that ended with egg on their face.
10 "The Guru" Sonjay Dutt
Similar to Jay Lethal, Sonjay Dutt was a very talented young wrestler with a good reputation. While his in-ring work was stellar, TNA didn’t believe in his personality, so he was given the new gimmick of a guru. Dutt would walk to the ring taking collections of money from the fans in what was likely a great bonus based off rumors of how low TNA’s pay is. Dutt’s biggest success with the gimmick was feuding with Jay Lethal in a love triangle with SoCal Val. Dutt won the feud and got the lovely lady but was greeted with less television time and eventually released.
9 The Rock 'n' Rave Infection
Lance Hoyt and Jimmy Rave were two impressive wrestling talents in TNA with very little to do so they were paired together as a tag team. Unfortunately, it was another instance of Vince Russo and TNA planning a gimmick based off a short term popular fad in pop culture. Hoyt, renamed Lance Rock, and Rave were paired with Christy Hemme as a rock band that didn’t realize they were terrible at music. Playing fake instruments from the video game “Guitar Hero,” the act looked very bush league and hindered them from succeeding despite having good matches when given the chance. Neither man lasted long in TNA following the gimmick.
8 “Stone Cold” Shark Boy
Shark Boy was a very popular act on the independent wrestling scene and the early days of TNA due to the humor of the gimmick. Comedy can succeed in pro wrestling when done right and Shark Boy was fine with the gimmick of a half man/half shark in the lower card. After a while, it got old and Shark Boy was featured less on TNA television until a new facet was added to the gimmick. Now “Stone Cold” Shark Boy, he would dress in his usual Shark Boy gear but recite old Steve Austin promos. It was less endearing and humorous and felt like just another chance to reference WWE in a less than flattering light.
7 The Governor
Daffney was a top female independent wrestling name after her run in WCW but her first big break in TNA turned out to be with one of the dumbest gimmick ideas. The Beautiful People (Velvet Sky and Angelina Love) were one of the hottest acts in TNA and needed new faces to feud with. Writing them as ditsy blondes, Love and Sky were told Sarah Palin was coming to TNA. In the news for making outlandish comments as the governor of Alaska running for vice president, Palin was topical so TNA decided to make Daffney dress as her and do poor impressions. Why did this company want so many gimmicks based off impersonations? It resulted in very bad television but luckily Daffney was able to showcase her own character afterwards.
6 Orlando Jordan
In real life, Orlando Jordan lives a bisexual lifestyle as a man who is attracted to both men and women. TNA decided bisexual had a different definition as they wrote Jordan as a sex-crazed maniac who stalked male wrestlers, wore ridiculously revealing clothing and squirted sunblock all over his face for no apparent reason. The gimmick was pretty offensive and did nothing but harm the momentum of everyone involved. Most of the time in wrestling, results will be mixed with the art being subjective but this was unanimously disliked by everyone watching.
Kazuchika Okada is one of the biggest wrestling stars in Japan right now but his time in wrestling wasn’t always great as seen in his excursion with TNA. Trying to get experience with a television company and showcase his potential, Okada was sparingly used in TNA until a gimmick change. Renamed Okato and pairing with Samoa Joe, the duo was playing a mock act of The Green Hornet. which was in movie theaters at the time. Apparently Vince Russo saw the movie that week and had a bright idea. Two themes involved in these terrible TNA gimmicks are short sighted topical things in the news and stereotypical characters. Both were displayed in Okada’s terrible stint with TNA, where he played a comic book sidekick.
TNA signed former WWE/WCW star Johnny Stamboli and gave him the very bizarre horror character gimmick of Rellik. Aligning with Black Reign and James Mitchell in what was supposed to be a terrifying monster heel gimmick, it was more of unintentional humor. Rellik looked like he belonged on the Nickelodeon cartoon “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” and was out of the company very quickly. A running joke via Rellik’s official TNA trading card was the factoid that Rellik spelled backwards is Killer. When that’s the insight in naming a new character, you know it’s bound to suffer a terrible failure.
3 Black Reign
Much like Rellik, Black Reign was written with the intention of being a horror-style villain meant to intimidate the audience. Dustin Rhodes signed with TNA during one of his stints outside of WWE and this was the direction of his character. Black Reign was the dark side of his split personality with darker face paint and a black wig in place of Goldust’s blonde wig and gold paint. Billed as being from “the deepest darkest corner of his mind” and having a pet rat, this was clearly was the worst stretch of Rhodes long career. Black Reign failed horribly and Rhodes was quickly out of TNA, unable to survive the gimmick flop.
The biggest issue with the Suicide gimmick is there was no gimmick. Suicide was a playable character in TNA’s only console video game. For some reason, TNA decided to bring the character to television for a long stint being played by multiple wrestlers. Wearing a unique mask and gear along with a hinted mysterious past, TNA never expanded on who exactly Suicide was, yet decided to push him as a top X Division star. Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian spent the majority of time under the mask and neither man had kind words to say about that time. Many credit the push of the Suicide character to the top of the X Division as one of the main reasons the once popular division started to lose its luster.
1 The Johnsons
Most known for their short run in WWE as Gymini, the Shane Twins had the most ridiculous gimmick in TNA history. During the very early stages of TNA, Mike and Todd Shane were given the gimmick of The Johnsons. Both men would appear on TNA’s first PPV wearing giant latex body suits that were intentionally made to look like men's genitalia. With the ring names of "Richard "Dick" Johnson" and "Rod Johnson," TNA introduced their brand to the world by having two men dress, and act, as literal privates. The Shane Twins would leave TNA shortly after but their impact was left in the memory banks of many disgusted wrestling fans. Only in Total Nonstop Actions would something like this be a fitting introduction to the world, given what followed over the next 13 years.