In the life of a professional wrestling mid-card talent, gimmick changes can offer additional longevity to their career, and keep their presence fresh in any given promotion. While the main event-talents typically don't need to go trough the process of many gimmick changes, naturally there is only so much room at the top. An alteration in a wrestler's gimmick can provide years of relevance to a marginal talent, allowing them to stick around longer than they otherwise would have.
We've seen this a lot, mainly in the realm of WWE and WCW over the years. Especially during the gimmick-heavy period of the late 1980s running through the 1990s, there were certain wrestlers who shuffled appearances and personas seemingly at will. This was typically utilized to provide different mid-card storylines. As such, most of the names on this list weren't pay-per-view stars or main event favorites, but all of them were present for a long time in the mainstream eye, taking on a bevy of personas. Their ability to play multiple characters definitely served the promotions well, and served as a flexible piece in the arsenal of the WWE and WCW bookers.
Ranked below are 15 wrestlers who have undergone the most gimmick changes.
29 John Bradshaw Layfield
John Layfield was a fixture on the WWE roster for over a decade, and along the way has displayed many variations on the "Bradshaw" character. He debuted in singles competition in 1995, as Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw, but soon after found himself in the tag ranks. Forming The New Blackjacks with Barry Windham, he altered his gimmick slightly to become Blackjack Bradshaw, before dropping the name to just "Bradshaw", after forming the A.P.A. with Faarooq in the late 1990s. The formation of the A.P.A. also saw him move from the tried and true cowboy-type gimmick, to a more brooding, mysterious character, keeping that image for several years. Finally, he moved back into singles competition, as the John Bradshaw Layfield character, winning the WWE title as a slick, Southern prospector, which altered his aforementioned roughneck cowboy image, to a corporate one. Ultimately one of the most recognizable wrestlers of his era, Bradshaw was successful utilizing multiple gimmicks, proving his versatility.
27 Steve Austin
While the "Stone Cold" gimmick stands out above the rest for Austin, he's actually applied numerous characters during his career. Starting out in WCW, Austin was one half of the Hollywood Blonds tag team with Brian Pillman. It was a flashier gimmick, that saw Austin with predictably blonde hair, and stylistic coordination with Pillman. Though it rarely gets much press today, this was actually one of the better tag teams the promotion had to offer during the early 1990s. Several years later, Austin found himself in WWE, but didn't start out using his Texas Rattlesnake persona. Instead, the creative team at the time, gave him the Ringmaster gimmick, providing him with Ted DiBiase as his manager. It was just a play off of DiBiase's "Million Dollar Man" gimmick, and the shelf life was definitely short, when compared to the "Stone Cold" gimmick that we all know and love. In all, Austin had to shuffle through several personas before finding the one that struck gold.
25 Eric Young
Over the past 20 years, Young has played a variety of mid-card characters with multiple promotions. He made his first big splash in TNA, as a member of Team Canada, which was a popular stable at the time, in 2003. From there, he went on to portray a highly paranoid character, a mentally challenged one, as well as the comic-book homage, Super Eric. Currently, he's signed to NXT, and his penchant for playing a multitude of different characters should come in handy, in the gimmick-laden WWE. Young isn't sloppy in the ring either, which definitely assists in his longevity, and could help some questionable gimmick decisions go over better than they would otherwise. As it stands in the middle of his career, he's already had more gimmicks than most wrestlers do in an entire career, with more bound to come.
23 Ray Traylor
Everyone knows Traylor as the WWE mid-card regular, The Big Boss Man. Just within that gimmick alone, he portrayed two variations on it, during the late 1980s, and late 1990s respectively, while with the company. However, Traylor also spent a notable amount of time in WCW, where he donned multiple personalities, such as Big Bubba Rogers, The Guardian Angel and The Boss. Traylor excelled these mid-card characters, and while no one ever claimed him to have any five-star matches, he was effective in the role that he was presented with. It's the kind of wrestler that is valuable to just about any promotion; a reliable worker that has the ability to take on any character presented to them, and still be enough of a draw to warrant a spot on the roster. Unfortuantely, Traylor passed away in 2004, at the age of 41.
21 Matt Borne
Matt Borne was a reliable talent for both WCW and WWE from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Far and away, the most popular gimmick he had was the first incarnation of Doink The Clown, present in WWE during the early 1990s. While the character may have represented much of the goofiness that was rampant throughout the promotion at the time, Borne played the role to a tee. He also wrestled under other gimmicks, such as Big Josh, Borne Again, the Great Mustapha, as well as his real name, throughout his wrestling career. Much like with the aforementioned Ray Traylor, Borne was someone who could a variety of gimmicks, and was good enough in the ring to not be an outright detriment. While Doink was his most successful character, his other lower-card ventures did the job as well. Sadly, Borne passed away in 2013.
19 John Tenta
John Tenta was also most renowned for his Earthquake gimmick, when he started out as the "Canadian" Earthquake during the late-1980s in WWE. He remained in the same character for several years, and was considered one of the most popular super-heavyweights in the industry. In WCW, he portrayed several other characters, Avalanche and The Shark, for several years during the mid-1990s, and while they weren't as successful as his Earthquake persona, they served the angles that involved them. At the time, relying on WCW for forward-thinking angles, and unique characters wasn't really an option, and Tenta did his best to make these characters work. In yet another gimmick change, Tenta portrayed the Golga character as a member of The Oddities in late-1990s WWE. Ultimately, Tenta was adept at portraying multiple gimmicks, a rare talent for a wrestler of his size. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2006.
17 Stevie Richards
The longevity that Stevie Richards mustered up, given his obvious limitations, is truly remarkable. Throughout his years in ECW and WWE, he has undergone many character changes, notably as a member of The Raven's Nest, Right To Censor, the Blue World Order, as well as an adaptation of Mick Foley's "Dude Love" character, in addition to wrestling under his own name. He was a regular on the promotion's Sunday Night Heat b-show, and was a reliable Swiss Army Knife in the mid-card department, with the ability to take on any character that he had to. Richards stayed with WWE for nearly ten years, and carved out a niche for himself in a promotion that generally wouldn't keep a wrestler of his limited size, for that amount of time. A true underdog success story in the world of professional wrestling, Richards has had every gimmick under the sun, and entertained mainstream audiences for nearly a decade.
15 Nelson Frazer Jr.
Most known for his work in WWE, Nelson Frazier Jr. adopted multiple characters in his time spent with the promotion. He began in the mid-1990s, as Mabel, in one half of the Men On A Mission tag team. Shifting into singles action soon after, he took on his King Mabel gimmick. From there, he gained notoriety as a member of The Brood, with the Viscera persona, and finished out his WWE career as the mid-card staple, Big Daddy V, mostly wrestling in a marginal role. In all, Frazier was a reliable worker, who could be counted on as a mid-card draw with all the aforementioned characters to his name. His super-heavyweight stature allowed him to stand out, and he took advantage of the opportunities he was presented with these various gimmicks. Ultimately, one of the most recognized WWE characters of his time. Sadly, he passed away in 2014.
13 Mick Foley
Foley is one of the few main event caliber talents on this list, although that wasn't always the case during his career. He started out wrestling in WCW during the early 1990s in his Cactus Jack character, which would later be resurrected in WWE. On top of that gimmick, he's also used his Dude Love and Mankind characters, as well as wrestling under his real name. There was a time when Foley interchange all three, as he did in the 1998 Royal Rumble, when he appeared as all three characters in the same match. He was able to successfully portray all of these characters at a high level, and never stopped being a consistent draw, which speaks to the value he had in either WCW or WWE. Foley has proven himself as a one-of-a-kind entertainer in the ring, and was able to display under nearly a half-dozen different characters over the years. They all ranged from mid-card to main event, but the end result was always worthwhile.
11 Terry Taylor
Taylor worked for countless promotions over the years as a mid-card staple, and as such, has just as many characters to his name. Probably most well known for his time in WWE as The Red Rooster, Taylor has also worked under other character, which mostly play off of his full name. Over the years, he's been; "Terrific" Terry Taylor, "Taylor" Made Man, "Scary" Terry Taylor and Terrance Taylor. What it shows, is that the basic structure of his name was conducive to a variety of gimmicks, which served him well over his career, extending his longevity in the business. He was always solid in the ring, but he was never the type that was going to be a main event-talent, so he had to make use of the gimmicks that various creative teams could come up with. It worked for the most part, and the gimmick-reliant Taylor was in the pro ranks for over 20 years, again, with a wealth of different promotions.
9 Steve Lombardi
Lombardi has been a WWE staple for the last 30 years, and in that time has donned a multitude of different gimmicks, most notably the Brookyln Brawler persona, which has generally been used to enhance new talent. He has also portrayed Doink The Clown after Matt Borne left, Kim Chee, who was Kamala's "handler", as well as The Red Knight and MVP. He's a jack of all trades when it comes to filler characters, and Lombardi has appeared in some form on WWE programming during four different decades. As mentioned, he's been a staple figure with the company for so long, that he transcends generations. He's not needed in the main event scene, and performs his duties to a tee. Versatile and reliable, Lombardi can be considered a WWE legend in his own way, even if it doesn't include a bevy of titles, or name recognition.
7 Barry Darsow
By far, the most notable character Darsow portrayed, was Smash as one half of Demolition, but some may not realize that he also undertook numerous mid-card gimmicks as well. Over the years, he's also been known as Repo Man, Krusher Khruschev, the Blacktop Bully, Tsar Mongo and Mr. Hole-In-One. Obviously, none of these were as successful as the tag-champion Demolition, but most of them appeared on mainstream wrestling programming, and Darsow was able to perform well in this marginal role. Many of the characters were a product of their time, but that was likely due to the creative team's deficiencies, rather than anything that Darsow could control. He was good in the ring, and stuck around WCW and WWE for quite a long time, and proved that he could be a steady part of the singles or tag ranks.
5 Paul Diamond
Diamond was also a staple in the tag scene, during his run with Badd Company alongside Pat Tanaka. They won the straps in the CWA, as well as the AWA in the late 80s, before switching gimmicks to the Orient Express tag team in WWE. In this gimmick, Diamond wrestled under a mask to hide the fact that we was not of Asian descent, and the tandem stuck for two years in WWE. After this, Diamond was given the horrendous Max Moon character, which pretty much epitomizes the ridiculousness that was present in WWE at the time. He's also performed under the monikers of The Comet Kid and Venum, along with wrestling under his real name. Given the era that he worked in, and his ability to switch between singles and tag competition, Diamond was a prime candidate for a multitude of gimmicks, allowing him to wrestle in many different promotions over the years.
3 Charles Wright
No wrestler in WWE ever changed gimmicks as often over the course of a decade, as Wright did. In the early half of the 90s, he was known as Sir Charles, but quickly switched to the Papa Shango gimmick, where he received a small push. Ultimately, that character fizzled out several years later, before he re-surfaced as a member of The Nation of Domination, in his Kama Mustafa persona. Before long, he settled under his ever-popular Godfather gimmick, which made use of dancers from local strip clubs accompanying him to the ring. Needless to say, this was a mid-card favorite during the Attitude Era, and had quite the staying power. He presented a brief variation on the gimmick during his time in Right To Censor. Overall, all of Wright's different characters saw significant time on WWE programming, proving that he was one of the most adaptable talents of the 1990s.
1 Kevin Sullivan
No other one in-ring performer says "wrestlecrap" like Kevin Sullivan does. His barrage of gimmicks came on to the scene in WCW during the 1990s. His Dungeon Of Doom stable, predicated on putting an end to Hulk Hogan, spearheaded plenty of cringeworthy gimmicks, including his own Taskmaster. Additionally, over the years he has been known as The Masked Lucifer, Gamesmaster, The Great Wizard and Johnny West. With limited in-ring skill, his penchant for bad gimmicks was all the more pronounced, though they certainly held value in the era that they were presented in. I suppose it counts for something that Sullivan was able to stick around for as long as he did, with as many gimmicks as he had, but when all of them were considered "goofy" at best, it may not be the greatest compliment. Still, he had a ton of characters to his name, so he definitely qualifies for a list like this, reminding everyone of the questionable creative decisions that marred mainstream professional wrestling during a portion of the 1990s.
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