Most pure wrestling fans will never forget the 80s, you either witnessed it as it happened, or you have spent countless hours watching footage and reading about it, like me. It was a very interesting time in wrestling, WWE became huge across America thanks in large part to Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior.
While Hogan and Warrior were selling out arenas, there were certain characters that came about that made many scratch their heads. Some were just executed wrong, some were bad, some were just plain awful and would not have worked even if they kept trying, from a giant Chicken, to a Voodoo Shaman, this list entails some of the worst gimmicks that ever came out of a very large period in wrestling history. WWE has since been able to look back on some of these and make jokes, but at the time they were established, they were taken seriously, but the fans were laughing from the start.
Wrestling fans have grown since the 80’s and now expect more real and down to earth characters. This list involves some outlandish and hard to believe gimmicks that existed in wrestling for a period of time.
15. Koko B Ware
Many regard Koko B. Ware as the worst non-celebrity Hall of Fame inductee. There was never anything special about his ring work. The only thing that stood out about him were his bright colors and his macaw, named Frankie. Ware stuck around mostly in the midcard, never winning a title and never being relevant in any major storylines. It’s remarkable how the WWE thought that amounted to Hall of Fame credentials.
14. Big John Studd
This one was one that I didnt understand, and I still have no idea what his character was exactly. Either way his biggest moment was eliminating Andre from a battle royal. The name seems odd to me, and slightly confusing. Studd competed in the first WrestleMania against Andre the Giant, where he and Andre competed in a $15,000 Bodyslam Challenge, in which the winner would receive the money. Studd would retire in 1986, but returned in ’88 to feud with the Heenan Family as a face.
13. The Barbarian
This one was just a complete joke. He dressed like a barbarian, and acted like one. Once again, in the world of wrestling, it is hard for that to work. If there was more to the character, and some in ring ability, it could have been a decent mid-card performer, but it ended up being just another character that was hard to watch. The Barbarian would eventually team up with our next entrant on this list.
This one seems fairly obvious, it was a man in a vikinig-like suit. He entered a few Rumble matches, but it s hard to remember anything decent , because he never did anything to remember. The only thing he’s really remembered for is holding the record for the shortest appearance in Royal Rumble history, lasting just two seconds in 1989. Gimmicks like this one make the 80s hard to watch now, because a large part of it is so cheesy and crazy.
11. Ding and Dong – National Wrestling Alliance
Before Eric Bischoff took over and the modern WCW was born, the NWA had a revolving door of bookers, one of which came up with a tag team, Ding and Dong. It was basically two guys in orange spandex jumpsuits, with bells on the chest. It didn’t last, thankfully, and was one of the reasons it took NWA and WCW so long to finally catch WWE. It’s hard to imagine anybody could have ever thought a team like this would sell to a wrestling audience.
10. King Kong Bundy
Anyone who saw the promos for this guy, knows why he on this list. The whole character was based on the movie about a giant gorilla. During the 80s , promoting a guy that was massive in size was not a new thing, when Andre was 7 feet tall, and 500 pounds. King Kong Bundy, although he had a unique look, was very goofy in the way he was brought in. When your basing a human character on a movie gorilla, you kind of put yourself in a corner with how much character he will have, and WWE did just that with Bundy, he was limited by his name, being associated with King Kong. Coincidentally, I think the movie gorilla had more character than Bundy did.
9. Brutus Beefcake
He was largely a friend of Hogan, and not wrestler. He was usually the peace keeper between Hogan and his partner. Brutus may be considered a legend in some people’s minds, but to me, you need to do a large amount in wrestling to be at legend status. Brutus is on this list due to his lack of in ring work and his outlandish barber gimmick, and those tights with holes all over.
This character always seemed like an odd person to be paired with Hogan, almost seemed like it would being Hogan down a level. I know they are friends in real life, but as characters, they seemed like complete opposites.
8. Hillbilly Jim
It’s hard to call this one a wrestler, as he mostly came out dancing in overalls…. WWE made the 80s so over the top, and after a certain point the characters became ridiculous. This was one of those cases. He later went on to manage The Godwins in the 90s, but when he started in WWE, it was largely as a Hillbilly, which is not really a gimmick, it’s more a way of life. Once again, hard to understand why WWE chose this as a character, but if you look at the 80s, it was full of strange gimmicks, so maybe Hillbilly Jim fit well. Either way, his lack of achievement has added him to this list.
7. Mike Von Erich
The Von Erich family was pushed to the moon in the Dallas territory thanks to patriarch Fritz Von Erich having control of the territory. The family is a tragic story in professional wrestling as four of Fritz’s sons took their own lives at a young age. It’s a true shame for Mike Von Erich that he was thrust into a wrestling role, as his only interest in the wrestling business was to be a cameraman. He would soon suffer injuries to his shoulder and was eventually forced to retire at a young age. He would commit suicide in 1987 by overdosing on a tranquilizer. A true shame, as Mike was never cut out to be a wrestler, nor did he want to be.
6. Jim Duggan
I’m not even sure what to put for this one, this character was so bad I am actually at a loss. He carried a two by four, but I’ve never ever understood what Duggan was, for an era that was full of crazy and outlandish ideas. Was he a construction worker? It never clicked with me, I always saw Jim Duggan as dull and boring, and he had no wrestling ability at all. A man with a two by four, shouting ‘HOOOO’ all the time is hard for me to get behind or get invested in, he needed more and never got it. Duggan is still the exact same character he was in the 80s, and I still don’t get it.
5. Junkyard Dog
Junkyard Dog was named the worst wrestler of 1987 by the Wrestling Observer. Perhaps he was somewhat of a victim of his ridiculous gimmick in which he would have a chain around his neck, crawled around the ring like a dog and headbutted his opponents. JYD won The Wrestling Classic by last beating Macho Man Randy Savage, which was the WWE’s first official PPV. It’s hard to know why that distinction went to him.
4. Lex Luger
Lex Luger is known mostly as a 90s wrestler, as having led the Lex Express in WWE and eventually returning to WCW in 1995 on the first episode of Nitro. Luger however, had a run in the old NWA/WCW territory back in the 80s. All Luger ever really had going for him was his look, as he was a good looking, muscular guy with the All-American features promoters loved in the 80s. His ring work was never up to par though. His mediocrity as a wrestler would then continue into the next decade.
3. Bob Orton
He wore a cast on his arm for 90 percent of the time he wrestled. He also never really achieved much in wrestling, he had his moments against guys like hogan or Piper, but beyond that he was a gimmick, a cowboy, which in the 80s seemed to be a theme, and one that carried over into the early 90s. Bob Orton was and still is known only for his cast, at least for his WWE tenure in the 80s. Although it made him an easy villain, it has become the thing he is remembered for, rather than having a stellar wrestling career.
A cartoon character or movie character is not a gimmick. Not sure why they chose this name. Once again there was a major lack of achievement here and it was largely due to the major ridiculousness of this gimmick, this one was only one of many, as you have seen on this list. The biggest thing in this superstars resume in WWE was being part of The Heenan Family, which at the time was huge, but when most people think of The Heenan Family, they do not think of Hercules.
1. One Man Gang
Easily had to be the only option for number one on this list. His name says it all, and the idea is cool in some ways, but completely cheesy in others. He was another big man, and again, in a time where ‘big’ was a requirement in WWE, it was not a stand-out character and fell in to a pack of big guys, some of which were just as bad. OMG is no.1 here for a reason, but I will give him one thing, his appearance was unique, the Mohawk, aviators and leather outfit, but beyond that it never really came across as something special.
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