They say that all of the good ideas are taken and that can probably be attributed to professional wrestling, as well. We have seen a lot of entertaining and successful gimmicks and storylines throughout the years, but they have been copied and emulated to the point where we know a knockoff when we see one. It’s one thing to rehash a gimmick that had been done years prior (think of Ric Flair and Buddy Rogers), but it’s another thing to completely rip-off a gimmick from one of your rival promotions.
This has happened more times than you think throughout the years, as companies have stolen attire ideas, entrance music, mannerisms and more. Some are more blatant than others, and the knockoffs usually tend to not stick around nearly as long as the originals (for obvious reasons). But which gimmicks have been the most blatant knockoffs in professional wrestling?
Here is a look at 15 wrestlers, tag teams or stables that were ripped right from the scripts of a rival promotion. There's been a lot of varying success for the knockoff characters and a couple of them are even still around today thanks to adapting their characters in recent years.
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15 LayCool (The Beautiful People)
Normally TNA doesn’t have a gimmick that gets copied by WWE, but this was definitely one of the exceptions. Starting in late 2007, Angelina Love and Velvet Sky started up a stable that would be known as The Beautiful People, which would end up being a narcissistic group of women (and Billy Gunn at some point early on). The group would also have Madison Rayne and Lacey Von Erich in the stable, and the team stuck around in some form for nearly a decade.
WWE’s version of The Beautiful People (which were just Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie knockoffs to begin with) was LayCool, consisting of Michelle McCool and Layla. Just like The Beautiful People, LayCool would always target the “ugly” people, though their run only lasted for a bit more than a year.
14 Val Venis (Rick Rude)
Sean Morley signed with the WWE in 1998, making his debut in May of that year. Morley would become known as Val Venis, A.K.A. the guy that you were hoping was not on the screen at the time your parents walked in when you were watching Monday Night Raw. Venis was an adult star character (hence the last name that sounds like a certain body part), but the timing was a bit interesting.
Venis adopted a lot of the same mannerisms as Rick Rude, who had left the WWE less than a year earlier after getting upset about the Montreal Screwjob and not getting a full-time contract. Rude then went over to rival WCW, which is probably what prompted WWE to make a character reminiscent of Rude’s from his WWE days.
13 Mr. McMahon (Eric Bischoff)
If you’re talking about the greatest villains in WWE history, one of the first names that you have to bring up is Mr. McMahon during the Attitude Era. With McMahon around, the anti-hero Stone Cold Steve Austin was able to become the biggest name in professional wrestling. Authority figures had been around in wrestling for a very long time before the Mr. McMahon character, but he certainly perfected it.
However, it was already being done (though to a lesser extent) in WCW at the time by Eric Bischoff. Bischoff and McMahon would end up being two of the most recognizable faces in pro wrestling during the late 1990s for making the authority figures in wrestling a bigger part of the story...something that is unfortunately still overused today.
12 Corporal Kirchner (Sgt. Slaughter)
Sgt. Slaughter doesn’t seem to get the love he deserves in terms of wrestling history as he played one of the best faces in the business, then one of the best heels. Patriotic or militaristic gimmicks happen a lot, but Slaughter was definitely the best character that has come along. In the mid 1980s, Slaughter was fired by WWE after not showing up to an event thanks to Vince McMahon not giving him the vacation he requested.
Slaughter went to AWA as a result in 1985, which was just before RT Reynolds adopted the Corporal Kirchner character. It was clear that WWE was trying to emulate Sgt. Slaughter now that he was with a rival promotion. Unlike Slaughter, though, Kirchner’s character never really caught on thanks to being a stiff worker that got popped for drug use.
11 KroniK (The APA)
Bradshaw and Faarooq have gone through a lot of gimmicks over the years and one of their more memorable one came as a tag team in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The pair was known as The Acolytes, which then became the APA (Acolytes Protection Agency) in 2000 when they played the role of hired bodyguards. Meanwhile, WCW was trying to copy the idea just three months after The APA gimmick debuted.
KroniK was made up of Brian Adams and Bryan Clark, and they were bodyguards for hire, identical to The APA. Unfortunately for the duo, WCW would close its doors not long after their gimmick debuted, and WWE obviously didn’t need two sets of gimmicks. The two would have a brief debut in WWE before not having their contracts picked up.
10 Abyss (Mankind/Kane)
It’s not 100 percent clear just who Abyss is a knockoff of, we just know that he’s a knockoff. Abyss made his debut for TNA back in 2002, but then became the most famous of his gimmicks the next year with an odd leather mask and large stature. Abyss was known as “The Monster” and he looked like a mixture between Kane and Mankind of the WWE. Abyss has worn different masks throughout his time, and they seem to have both been taken from the lockers of Mick Foley and Kane.
Abyss has developed his own character in the years since and is now part of the Decay stable that includes Crazzy Steve and Rosemary. They have been feuding with Broken Matt Hardy, who definitely didn’t take his gimmick from WWE.
9 Sangriento (Sin Cara)
It was big news for WWE in early 2011 when they signed Luis Urive from Mexico and gave him the name of Sin Cara, basically meaning “faceless” in English. By March of that year, Sin Cara had debuted, showcasing his high risk and often botched maneuvers. Still, a lot of people were talking about Sin Cara, which is probably why TNA figured that they wanted to have a Sin Cara of their very own.
Their idea was to take the wrestler known as Amazing Red and giving him new gimmick (Sangriento), claiming that they signed a new talent of their own from Mexico just a few weeks after Sin Cara debuted for WWE. The gimmick only lasted for a few matches, though, as Jonathan Figueroa left TNA just a couple of months later.
8 Eric Young (Daniel Bryan)
In late 2013 and early 2014, WWE had one of the best storylines in recent memory with the scrappy bearded underdog Daniel Bryan breaking through the authority to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXX after defeating three members of Evolution. The “Yes!” Movement was a lot of fun to watch and TNA seemed to feel like they could capture the same lightning in a bottle.
Just four days after Bryan won the title at WrestleMania, TNA’s scrappy bearded underdog Eric Young wound up winning his first TNA World Heavyweight title after winning two matches (battle royal and one-on-one with Magnus). Fans were very quick to point out how TNA had copied WWE, with sources saying that WWE talent was even calling it a knockoff.
7 Buzzkill (Road Dogg)
Before Enzo and Cass came along and became the tag team that everyone likes to say their lines along with, Road Dogg Jesse James and Bad Ass Billy Gunn were doing it as The New Age Outlaws in The Attitude Era. Road Dogg’s entrance was definitely one of the most memorable in the past 20 years and WCW wanted something similar to call their own. So what did they do? They had Road Dogg’s own brother copy him.
Vince Russo had Brad Armstrong adopt the gimmick of Buzzkill that was almost identical to Road Dogg in every way, even down to the entrance music. Most fans didn’t even know they were brothers and it never really stuck. After injuring himself shortly into the gimmick, Buzzkill was done with WCW and went independent before becoming a trainer in WWE until his passing in 2012.
6 Demolition (The Road Warriors)
You can call them The Legion of Doom or The Road Warriors, but just know that Michael “Hawk” Hegstrand and Joseph “Animal” Laurinaitis already had pulled their gimmick from the “Mad Max” series of films. Hawk and Animal started to pick up some steam when they were in the AWA and then Japan throughout the 1980s, and they had joined the early WCW in the later part of the decade.
WWE’s answer to The Road Warriors was Demolition, which was a team that consisted of Ax and Smash, wearing very similar garb as The Road Warriors. When The Road Warriors made their way to WWE in 1990, Demolition started to get phased out and both teams were actually gone by 1993 before The Road Warriors returned in 1997. If you're looking for a more modern and less successful imitation of The Road Warriors, you can find The Ascension on WWE Superstars or Main Event.
5 Juventud Guerrera (The Rock)
There was no doubt that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had a big role in helping the WWE win the Monday Night Wars against WCW. The Rock was a big talker with a lot of popular catchphrases and instantly recognizable mannerisms. Juventud Guerrera over at WCW thought that he was going to become as big as The Rock and help the company out, so he was essentially doing his own versions of The Rock’s catchphrases and mannerisms.
Guerrera started calling himself “The Rock of Mexico” saying that he was just as big of a name and all of that rubbed The Rock the wrong way. Guerrera said that he could use the gimmick since he was just as popular, even though we all know that to not be true.
4 The Renegade (The Ultimate Warrior)
The Ultimate Warrior made his debut in the WWE back in 1987 and quickly became one of the biggest names in the business. After butting heads with Vince McMahon in the early 1990s, Warrior would end up leaving WWE before returning multiple times. Still, WWE fans remembered him and hoped that he would come back for good, but he signed with WCW in 1998 before retiring for good.
Before he became a member of WCW, the company already had their Warrior knockoff in the form of The Renegade. Everything about him was identical to The Ultimate Warrior from his music to his moveset. In 1998, The Renegade was released from his contract after The Ultimate Warrior made his debut with WCW, bringing a sad end to his career. The story did not have a happy ending as Renegade took his own life months after being released.
3 Superfly Afi (Jimmy Snuka)
Jimmy Snuka became an instant marvel in the WWE after debuting in 1982 and pulling off his famous jump from the top of a steel cage just months later. The high flyer was something that had not been seen in WWE at that point, but Snuka left the WWE in 1985. The next year, Snuka was in NJPW and then the AWA, sticking around there until 1989.
Throughout Snuka’s time with AWA, WWE stole the gimmick by creating "Superfly" Afi, even calling him the cousin of Snuka. Afi really embraced the gimmick, even getting himself tattooed up and down, but it wouldn’t help in the long run. Snuka would return to WWE in 1989, so Afi wasn’t really needed anymore. Afi ended up getting a pretty neat post-wrestling job, though, as he became a bodyguard and stunt double for actor Burt Reynolds.
2 Lex Luger (Hulk Hogan)
Hulk Hogan knew that he was going to be leaving WWE in 1993, so he sat out his contract and wrestled in Japan until he was able to sign with WCW in 1994 to become one of the biggest free agent signings in wrestling history. With Hogan gone and people starting to tune into WCW, the WWE had a huge void to fill. While Hogan was in WWE, he always played the patriotic babyface, so instead of trying to create a new superstar, Vince McMahon just gave Lex Luger Hogan’s gimmick.
Luger was dubbed as “The All-American” and was shot into the main event scene. That would last for less than two years as Luger would then jump ship to WCW when Sting urged Eric Bischoff to sign him after he said he wanted out of the WWE.
1 Asya (Chyna)
Very few of the female wrestlers that WWE has used over the years look like they could actually win matches against men like Big Show, but Joanie Laurer (Chyna) was one of those few. At one point, Chyna even participated in a Royal Rumble and won an Intercontinental Championship. WCW decided that they needed a female wrestler that could pull off some big victories, so they took Christi Wolf and had her become a Chyna knockoff by calling her Asya (yes, also using the ‘y’ instead of an ‘i’).
The only problem was that Asya didn’t really wrestle at first, so it was a bit of a throwaway gimmick. By the end of her run, Asya had picked up a win as part of a mixed tag team match, but she didn’t garner nearly as much interest as Chyna did over in WWE despite being similar in stature.
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