Wrestling is a tricky business. As much as they think otherwise, promoters and bookers can never be truly sure what’s going to work and what won’t. So many times, ideas that look great on paper die while stuff that’s incredibly dumb goes on to draw huge money. Guys are given gimmicks that look totally stupid but they end up working while others are saddled with things that sink them. It’s hard to find a wrestler who hasn’t had to put up with some rough stuff and it’s a testament to how talented they are that they can rise above it.
So many guys have had bad gimmicks that were early in their careers and they had to break out of them. Others are interesting in that they were veterans who tried a change and it didn’t work out very well. Many a worker has had stupid stuff put on top of them and it takes a real inner talent to rise above it and still make it work. Dusty Rhodes had to put up with the polka dot outfits in WWE but still got over well thanks to his fantastic talent while son Dustin made things like Goldust work out damn well too. On the other hand, poor Terry Taylor was never the same after the horrific Red Rooster sank him badly. It’s still notable how many guys have been hit with stupid stuff though and managed to still get over. Here are 15 major wrestling stars who once had the worst gimmicks imaginable and how so many of them managed to bounce back from those to be a huge star.
15 15. Batista- Deacon Dave
14 14. Kevin Nash - Oz
13 13. Edge - Damon Striker
12 12. Raven - Johnny Polo
11 11. Dolph Ziggler - Spirit Squad
10 10. Kane - Isaac Yankem
9 9. Triple H - Frenchman
8 8. The Undertaker---Mean Mark
7 7. Shane Douglas - Dynamic Dude
After years as an okay worker, Douglas transformed himself as “The Franchise” and took off as the first ECW champion and helping put the promotion on the map. It’s amazing to see his rise given how his start was one of the most goofball of ideas. In 1989, he and Johnny Ace (John Laurianitis) were formed as the Dynamic Dudes, a pair of skateboarding faces meant to be the big team with the fans. The face neither knew how to skateboard and just brought them to the ring didn’t help and the face push was so obnoxious that fans turned on the entire idea massively and booed them out of the building.
6 6. Booker T - G.I. Bro
Booker had to rise above bad stuff from the start as originally Harlem Heat were booked as convicts in orange suits and chains led to the ring by a Southern “Colonel.” Thankfully, that was dropped fast and the Heat rose quickly with Booker transitioning to a singles champion as well. In 2000, Booker and Stevie Ray got into it in an idiotic feud with the even more stupid stipulation that by losing, Booker lost the “T” name to Big T (the former Ahmed Johnson).
5 5. AJ Styles - Moron
AJ Styles has been seen as one of TNA’s top guys, holding every belt in the company multiple times and putting the X Division on the map. He wowed fans with his amazing ring work and truly over yet TNA seemed to give him some bad stuff. That included a bit where Ric Flair tried to mold Styles into a second “Nature Boy” when Styles didn’t fit that at all.
4 4. Sting - The Joker
3 3. Ric Flair - The Black Scorpion
The plan for 1990 was for Ric Flair to drop the NWA title to Sting and help book Sting as a great champion. But first, Sting’s knee injury put him out for months to put that off. Ole Anderson then took over booking and by the time Flair did drop the belt, Ole had soured to him. Thus, Ole created the Black Scorpion, a mysterious guy from Sting’s past whose “feud” involved video threats and magic tricks on audience members. By the time Starrcade came along, it finally dawned on Ole that they needed someone to fill the role out. So at match time, four UFOs dropped four masked Scorpions before the real one came to the ring.
2 2. Hulk Hogan - Mr. America
1 1. Steve Austin - The Ringmaster
Almost everyone who saw Steve Austin in his debut in 1990 knew this guy was a star in the making. He had amazing ring skills as well as killer on the mic. In WCW, he held the TV and U.S. titles and seemed ready for more of a rise but that was cut short when Hogan came in and Austin pushed down the card. Fired while injured, he moved to ECW and got over majorly with his mic work there so WWE came calling. But ignoring all that, WWE gave Austin the gimmick of “The Ringmaster,” with Ted DiBiase as his mouthpiece and making him his “Million Dollar Champion.”
Wasting Austin like this was a true mistake and it was clear Austin himself hated it. He began to shift up the act and as soon as DiBiase left for WCW, Austin dropped the gimmick and adopted the Stone Cold persona that would launch him to fame. Still remarkable how one of the greatest stars ever was nearly undone in the early going.
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