The world of professional wrestling is filled with strange characters and personalities. In the past, wrestling fans once believed that wrestling was real. Today, most people accept the fact that wrestling is a work. However, there are some wrestlers who actually bought into their own gimmicks a bit too much during their careers. For example, Dr. Death infamously assaulted a reporter for asking him if wrestling was fake. The WWE was sued for thousands of dollars, but Dr. D’s colleagues respected him for protecting the business. Nonetheless, Dr. Death was subsequently fired because of the incident.
There are countless wrestlers who believed in their own characters so much that they blurred the lines of reality. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were two superstars that let their real life feud spill onto the television screen. The characters that HBK and The Hitman portrayed were basically identical versions of their off-screen selves. While Michaels and Hart were two of the greatest wrestlers of all time, most people would agree that they took their characters’ personas a bit too seriously. However, truly living a wrestling gimmick has led several superstars to become hall of farmers.
Wrestlers generally play the same onscreen characters for years, and it can get quite hard for superstars to separate real life from show business. Steve Austin once famously said that he is who he portrays to be, and the intensity of Stone Cold is just his real life personality dialed up. With that being said, here is our list of The 15 Wrestlers Who Lived Their Gimmicks.
15. The “Macho Man” Randy Savage
Randy Savage is one of the most intense wrestlers of all time. His promos were magnificent, and so were his matches. The Macho Man could do it all, but he did have a few flaws. During the 1980s, he was one of the biggest stars in the WWE. His onscreen marriage to Miss Elizabeth was a shoot, and so was his extreme jealousy. Randy Savage did everything in his power to protect Miss Elisabeth from the boys. However, he couldn’t stop people from talking to her, and that made him angry as well. Nonetheless, he is still one of the greatest wrestlers to have ever graced the squared circle.
14. Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan was the face of wrestling for nearly two decades. His run in the 1980s as the babyface of the WWE was legendary. All of the fame and fortune eventually got to Hogan’s head. He began to believe that he was bigger than life. Hogan rarely did favors for wrestlers he didn’t like. He was one of the few wrestlers who had creative control in their contracts, and he used it more than once. The most famous incident in which Hogan refused to job for Shawn Michaels at the 2005 SummerSlam. Michaels was supposed to win the match, but Hogan used his creative control to veto that outcome. Some wrestlers just can’t stand to lose, even though we all know wrestling is scripted anyway. Hogan happens to be one of the wrestlers who takes his persona a bit too seriously.
13. Vince McMahon
Vince McMahon is the CEO of the WWE, and he uses his position to play an onscreen villian. McMahon is the quintessential heel. His feuds with Stone Cold Steve Austin and DX were legendary. In the ring, McMahon was a stiff and rigid powerhouse. He wasn’t the greatest wrestler, but he gave his all for the fans of the WWE. Vince’s gimmick was basically to be himself on camera, dialed up about 1,000 times, in front of the whole world.
12. Triple H
Once referred to as HBK’s sidekick, Triple H has grown into one of the best workers of all time. He was a founding member of DX, and he also married the boss’s daughter. Triple H’s marriage to Stephanie McMahon on screen started a real life relationship between the two, and they eventually got married in real life. Triple H’s character has always been one who has tried to get ahead at the expense of others. Today, Triple H basically runs the company, and his power hungry onscreen persona isn’t far off from who he actually is.
X-Pac was one of the best workers in the WWE during the late 1990s. He was known for being a member of DX and the Kliq. X-Pac’s raucous lifestyle portrayed on camera wasn’t far from reality. Offscreen, X-Pac battled with drugs and womanizing. His relationship with Chyna imploded, and the couple’s sextape was leaked all over the internet. Today, X-Pac is sober and doing well. But, just a few years ago, he was partying and living fast.
10. John Cena
His motto is to never give up and never surrender. John Cena has been the face of the WWE for nearly a decade now, and some fans are unhappy about that. Nonetheless, Cena’s work ethic cannot be denied. Cena is a hero to kids on-screen and he always ensures he’s the same way off-screen. The last few months have been hard for John Cena. His recent real-life injuries have caused him to be absent from WWE television. However, Cena promises to be back stronger than ever.
9. David Schultz
While he isn’t the most well known wrestler of all time, he might just be the most infamous. David Schultz wrestled as “Dr. D” during his run in the WWE. In 1984, Dr. D was interviewed by reporter John Stossel. The reporter unwisely asked Schultz if wrestling was fake. Stossel received two open handed slaps as an answer. The WWE was sued by Stossel for thousands of dollars following the incident, and David Schultz was fired.
8. Roddy Piper
Before Stone Cold Steve Austin, Roddy Piper was the original hellraiser of the WWE. The bag playing Scotsman broke into the wrestling business at an early age in life. The grizzled veterans were hard on Piper, but the abuse made him tough. Roddy Piper was a firecracker in and out of the ring. He was a wild man that loved to fight and drink liquor. His onscreen character wasn’t far off from his actual self. Piper’s long standing feud with Mr. T. was a shoot. In fact, during their boxing match at WrestleMania II, Piper lost it and threw a wooden stool at Mr. T.’s leg. Piper recently passed, and we all miss him dearly.
7. The Rock
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the most electrifying man in the history of the WWE. He is a third generation superstar who was born to entertain. The Rock is currently the biggest action star in Hollywood, but he owes a lot of his success to his run in the WWE. Before he was a star on the big screen, The Rock was lost in his own character. During the 1999 Royal Rumble, The Rock delivered 10 brutal unscripted chair shots to Mick Foley’s skull. It would be hard to imagine Dwayne Johnson delivering that kind of punishment to a fellow wrestler these days. While Dwayne Johnson always seemed to stay level-headed, there’s no doubt a lot of his real personality was in the gimmick of The Rock.
6. Stone Cold Steve Austin
The Texas Rattlesnake might just be the most popular wrestler of all time. His onscreen persona was a near shoot for most of his career. Steve Austin is a beer drinking badass who loves to raise hell. In the ring, Stone Cold fought against Vince McMahon and the establishment for years. Behind the scenes it wasn’t all that different, as McMahon has said Austin’s intensity and stubbornness made him hard to work with.
Today, Stone Cold Steve Austin has calmed down a bit, but he still raises hell on the occasional appearance of WWE Raw.
5. The Undertaker
No, we’re not implying that Mark Calaway was actually hanging out in funeral homes laying people to rest. There’s no doubt though that he did a lot to protect his character though. The Undertaker is one of the most imposing figures in the history of wrestling. The Phenom’s chilling entrance coupled with his flawless ringwork made his work a true sight to behold. In the 1990s, The Undertaker was rarely seen out of character. Throughout the years, he has been the leader of the locker room. All other wrestlers look up to him, and it’s not hard to see why. The Undertaker is a straight shooter, and he tells it like it is.
4. The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior hailed from parts unknown, and his promos definitely proved it. His promos were filled with incoherent screaming. He would ramble about strange topics like the stars and the moon. Nonetheless, his promos would often give me a rush of uncontrollable energy. The Warrior lived to motivate his fans.
Even after he left the world of professional wrestling, he made motivational videos for his fans. The character of the Ultimate Warrior was a bit out there, and so was the real man. Nonetheless, he meant well. His untimely passing on April 8, 2014 was a sad day for wrestling fans, but his memory will live on forever.
3. Shawn Michaels
HBK is widely considered to be the greatest in-ring performer that has ever lived. Shawn Michaels has starred in more “match of the years” than any other wrestler in history. His feud with Bret Hart was as real as it gets. HBK lived to steal the show, and he did it to take the spotlight from his co-workers. He strived to be in the best matches on each and every card, and he usually succeeded.
During the 1990s, Shawn Michaels was an egotistical and arrogant wrestler that could outperform anyone who stepped in the ring against him. Behind the scenes, Michaels ran the show as well. He had Vince’s ear, and he politicked himself and his friends to the top of the wrestling world. HBK was also the leader of the Kliq. The group famously “exposed” the wrestling business in Madison Square Garden.
Over the years, countless WWE superstars have stated that HBK was nearly impossible to get along with in the 1990s. Shawn Michaels lived his onscreen gimmick backstage, and it gained him hatred from nearly all of his peers. However, today, Michaels is a born again Christian who lives to help others. But, that hasn’t stopped his haters from hating. Nonetheless, HBK is still one of the greatest, and even his haters can’t deny that.
2. Bret Hart
In the early 1990s, Bret Hart was the face of the WWE. Throughout his career, he was known for being one of the greatest wrestling technicians of all time. Hart grew up in a wrestling family, and his father Stu put him through rigorous training at an early age. The famous Hart “Dungeon” was basically a torture chamber for adults. Bret Hart grew up hearing the screams of men who unwisely decided to test his father.
Over the years, many WWE wrestlers have claimed that Bret Hart took his persona a bit too seriously at times. Hart had real wrestling ability, and he prided himself in being a “good guy.” His on screen feud with Shawn Michaels always had an element of reality to it and of course there’s the 1997 Survivor Series fiasco. Hart knocked Vince McMahon out with a punch after he was famously screwed. If that’s not living your gimmick, I don’t know what is.
1. Ric Flair
Ric Flair is arguably the greatest wrestler of all time. Countless WWE superstars such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Batista, and Shawn Michaels have labeled him as the greatest wrestler ever. Flair has starred in some of the best wrestling matches of all time. Aside from his in-ring ability, Ric Flair’s personality made him extremely popular with the wrestling fans as well.
The “Nature Boy” was known as the kiss stealing, wheeling, dealing, limousine riding, jet flying, son of a gun. Flair lived his gimmick more than any other wrestler on our list. He spent thousands of dollars at hotels and bars on a nightly basis during his championship run in the AWA. Flair’s robes alone are rumored to have cost him $10,000 or more. He has been married four times and lost millions of dollars in the process. Slick Ric was the same person on and off the television screen.
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