The sad reality of the wrestling business is that a wrestler can have their entire career made or destroyed by others. A wrestler could have all the natural born athleticism, good looks and charisma in the world but ultimately it is up to the creative team to decide their fate. The creative team decides who you are in that ring and on that mic. They decide who will wrestle whom and who will win.
The gimmick a wrestler gets assigned to them can be a blessing or a curse. They can be given a gift from up above that sends them straight to the top of the card or they can be given a comedic jobber role that has then out of the business within a year.
However, the wrestlers on this list are a rare and, somewhat, depressing breed. Professionals who had already developed a great character, whether that be in a previous company or through years of honing their craft on the independent scene, and are suddenly cast into a new gimmick. A role that simply is doomed to fail from the beginning.
As you will see, many of these wrestlers would sign with a new promotion for bigger dollars in the hopes of developing a greater financial security for themselves and their family, only to be stuck with a rotten gimmick that only hindered their careers.
Several of these gimmicks were rip-offs of previously successful characters, others were simply out-dated and others were downright racist and offensive.
A bad gimmick change can effectively take an already established star and render them completely useless. Wrestlers who had major impacts on the wrestling world that were reduced to performing embarrassing tasks for no special reason other than lazy writing.
15 Chavo Guerrero Becomes Kerwin White
No, Chavo Guerrero was not exactly lighting the world on-fire as himself. Sure Guerrero was not much more than a midcard act with the wrestling lineage to get over with the fans. That does not mean that the WWE had to go the blatantly offensive route and have Guerrero denounce his Latino heritage and become Kerwin White.
The newly named White would dye his hair blonde and wear sweater vests to portray the middle-class, Anglo-American persona. White would sport the catchphrase “If it ain’t White, it ain’t right” before it got changed to “If it ain’t Kerwin White, it ain’t right” before the whole phrase got dropped.
His time as Kerwin White was filled with offensive and suggestive remarks towards any race that was not Caucasian.
The gimmick stayed until the tragic passing of Eddie Guerrero when Chavo reverted back to hmself.
14 Leo Kruger Becomes Adam Rose
Though the gimmick needed some development, Leo Kruger was a solid act in NXT. The South African was a hard-hitting, bruiser of a wrestler who excelled at being the contrast to the babyface wrestlers, while providing an ominous and legitimate threat. However the character did get bland due to lack of storyline growth and the WWE decided to change the once brooding bounty hunter to a loud and annoying partier.
The newly named Adam Rose would come to the ring with a group of idiots in stupid costumes, completed with all of them acting as if they were happy to be there. Rose would make it to the main card, but to be nothing more than a comedic jobber who was not very entertaining.
Rose’s career highlight in the WWE was probably when he was feuding with the person dressed up as an oversized bunny.
13 Shane Douglas Becomes Dean Douglas
Shane Douglas was arguably the most important wrestler in the early days of creating Extreme Championship Wrestling. His wrestling skills, pedigree and raw mic skills made him an impassioned character that fans could either rally behind or hate. However, Douglas decided that the money of signing with the WWE was too much to pass up, which was a respectable decision based on the nearly no money to be made in ECW.
Douglas returned to the WWE for his second stint with the company while it was still geared toward the younger demographic, so creative decided to make him a professor character called Dean Douglas.
The company never allowed Douglas to blossom the way ECW did, with his one claim to fame as Dean Douglas being his Intercontinental Title reign of 11 minutes.
12 Barry Windham Becomes The Stalker
Barry Windham will always be a fondly remembered wrestler. His family lineage and stiff in-ring style was always the perfect combination for success. However, like many individuals before him, Windham signed with the WWE and then got stuck with a moronic gimmick. Windham was dubbed ‘The Stalker’ and his vignettes for his arrival saw him sitting in the forest, a term I use very loosely as my backyard has more trees, rambling on about hunting and prey.
The Stalker would debut with some camouflage clothing and face paint, but would only stay in that character for a few weeks. During his short and distasteful run as The Stalker, Vince McMahon openly refereed to him as Barry Windham and Steve Austin openly said the gimmick insulted the audience’s intelligence.
11 D-Von Dudley Becomes Reverend Devon
D-Von Dudley will go into the history books as part of the most illustrious tag team in wrestling history. D-Von and Bubba Ray were amazing in ECW before turning in some of the most memorable matches in history against The Hardyz and Edge and Christian. However, the WWE decided to divide its roster in 2002 and split the tag team up.
The WWE decided to borrow from Devon Hughes’ life (both his mother and father were part of the clergy) and create Reverend Devon. The newly ordained wrestler would become a villainous preacher who, along side Deacon Batista, would rant and rave at the audience.
One of the largest issues with the gimmick was the fact that it was based on religion. Religious gimmicks rarely work as they always feel forced and offensive.
Within six months, The Dudley Boyz were back together and all was right.
10 Jay Lethal Becomes Black Machismo
Jay Lethal was, and still is, a fantastic in-ring wrestler who had some flaws on the mic. His character was largely undeveloped and a tad generic during his early years in TNA, so the company decided to go in a different direction.
During a story arc that saw Lethal and Sonjay Dutt working with Kevin Nash to develop new gimmicks, Nash decided that Lethal’s spot-on impersonation of Randy Savage was the best basis for a gimmick.
Thus we saw the birth of Black Machismo. The newly minted wrestler literally just mimicked Macho Man in every way possible; from the signature “Oh Yeah,” to the tassels on his clothing to the Pump and Circumstance entrance music.
Somehow this gimmick lasted two years. Black Machismo would develop chemistry with the audience through nostalgia, but there was no character development and it did nothing to actually grow Jay Lethal as a performer.
9 Dustin Rhodes/Goldust Becomes Seven
This one is a bit tricky. Dustin Rhodes excelled in the WWE as Goldust, a character that allowed him to become distanced from his legendary father, whom he always struggled to move beyond. So when WCW signed Rhodes, they initially created the character Seven, who would wear creepy white face paint and stand outside children’s rooms.
Yeah, it didn't take WCW long to see how poorly that came across so they decided to drop the gimmick before it ever really started.
Rhodes would come out on his first night on WCW as Seven only to take off all the elaborate makeup and clothing to do a shoot interview denouncing the idea of the elaborate makeup and clothing that made him successful.
This gimmick only lasted for about two minutes inside the actual ring, but the idea of ripping off the Goldust gimmick only to turn it into a character with undertones of being a child predator and then ditching it almost immediately screams the desperation that the WCW attempted to get away with in the late 90s.
8 Jim Neidhart Becomes Who
There are those who downplay Jim Neidhart’s significance in professional wrestling history. ‘The Anvil’ was the ying to Bret Hart’s yang, which allowed the younger star to blossom and become ‘The Hitman.’ However, Neidhart was never given much of an opportunity to flourish once Hart moved on from The Hart Foundation into singles competition.
Neidhart would make several returns to the WWE in the later stages of his career, one of which included him wearing a mask and being called Who.
The gimmick, which is a generous title for the character, had absolutely no personality whatsoever. Rather the gimmick was merely used for terrible bits with Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler on commentary, allowing them to parody the famous Abbott and Costello bit ‘Who’s on First?’
Thankfully the gimmick was short lived, but the once dominating and vocal driver of the Hart foundation was reduced to a name for a bad comedy bit.
7 Mike Awesome Became The Fat Chick Thrilla Who Became That '70s Guy
Did WCW ever mess this one up. Mike Awesome had the chance to be a top tier big man for the company, a dominant mountain of a man who excelled at destroying opponents in ECW. However, the company gave him two of the worst gimmicks in history back-to-back.
Upon his introduction to WCW, Awesome was largely the character he was always known to be beforehand. Then the company straddled him with the moniker ‘The Fat Chick Thrilla.’ Yes, Awesome was suddenly infatuated with women of a larger size.
Then WCW dropped that gimmick and made Awesome ‘That 70’s Guy.’ Awesome would wear out-dated, horribly stereotypical 70s wear and host a show called the "Lava Lamp Longue.”
Trust me, the gimmicks did not get much better after that either.
6 Kerry Von Erich Becomes The Texas Tornado
The Von Erich family can be likened to the Kennedy family of wrestling. The Texas-born family was made to become wrestlers with ridiculous amounts of athleticism and charisma and Kerry Von Erich was possibly the most impressive of them all.
However, Vince McMahon and the rest of the WWE liked to think they were the only wrestling show around so they dubbed Von Erich ‘The Texas Tornado’ instead of using his well-known family moniker.
Though he was relatively successful during his stint as the ‘The Texas Tornado,’ Kerry would become increasingly addicted to painkillers, which caused his ability to perform to deteriorate. Kerry Von Erich would later tragically commit suicide in 1993.
5 Orlando Jordan Becomes Overly Sexualized Orlando Jordan
Orlando Jordan had a successful, though largely unmemorable, run within the WWE. A long tenure that was associated as a lackey to JBL’s Cabinet, but with solid in-ring performances. However, the WWE decided to move on from Jordan after he floundered as a singles competitor.
TNA decided to bring Jordan in to bolster their roster in the hopes to develop the young wrestler. However they made one critical flaw by allowing Jordan to talk them into his gimmick idea, which was based largely on his real life bisexuality, something he proposed to the WWE who wanted nothing to do with that.
Jordan would come into the ring wearing police tape, for a reason I have never figured out, and being flanked by a half naked man and woman.
The gimmick felt awkward and directionless, plus it left fans in an awkward position. Even if Jordan was a heel, he failed to generate heat because audiences did not feel comfortable booing a wrestler based on their sexuality.
4 One Man Gang Becomes Akeem, The African Dream
One Man Gang was a nominally successful heel during the 1980s. George Green, One Mang Gang’s birth name, sported biker wear with a Mohawk and was basically a tough looking Hells Angels-type. However, his manager Slick announced that One Man Gang discovered he was of African descent and would embrace his roots.
So the formerly tough, biker dude changed his name the Akeem, the African Dream.
Akeem, who was billed from ‘The Deepest, Darkest Africa,” would wear a dashiki while swaying his arms as if he was a pimp in a bad 70s B-movie and speaking in the most excessively, stereotypically jive way possible.
Once again, the WWE decided to go the overtly racist route.
3 Tony Atlas Becomes Saba Simba
There are few wrestlers who could claim to have as big of an impact on the creation of Africa-American equality in the business than Tony Atlas. The former bodybuilder and Rocky Johnson were the first all African American duo to hold the tag team titles.
However, Vince McMahon loved to repackage stars that were already over into some of the worst things imaginable. Thus, Saba Simba was born.
Atlas was transformed into a grossly offensive and stereotypical African tribesman who would chant and dance during his matches. The newly minted Saba Simba would come to the ring accompanied by tribal drums while wearing a large headdress and flaunting a large spear.
Thankfully this gimmick was short-lived, though Atlas would later attribute the gimmick to helping him clean up his life.
2 Dusty Rhodes Becomes Polka-Dot Wearing Common Man
Dusty Rhodes is one of the most iconic and important figures in wrestling history. Rhodes just oozed charisma and character, while being able to tell a story in the ring like very few ever could. By the time Rhodes finally caved in and signed with the WWE in 1989, he was in the business for 15 years and was well known. That is the perfect recipe for a terrible gimmick.
Rhodes entered the WWE with a common man gimmick he exemplified throughout his career, but for some reason was decked out in bright yellow polka dots. Rhodes was also given a valet by the name of Saphire, a very average looking, older lady who was meant to be the common woman.
Eventually he dropped the polka dots, but his treatment and the gimmick he was given was far beyond what Rhodes deserved.
1 Terry Taylor Becomes The Red Rooster
During his time in regional promotions, Terry Taylor was being groomed to be a big star. Taylor had the entire package a professional wrestler could ask for with speed, agility, athleticism and good looks.
However, once the WWE got a hold of Taylor they repackaged him as ‘The Red Rooster.’ The awfully named Red Rooster was portrayed as a novice wrestler (keep in mind Taylor had almost a decade of experience at this point), with Taylor going as far as to dye his hair red and strut like a rooster in the ring.
The legend goes that the WWE had two gimmicks, The Red Rooster and Mr. Perfect, and two wrestlers, Terry Taylor and Curt Henning. Mr. Perfect would go on to become one of the most important wrestlers on the 1990s while The Red Rooster became a jobber who left the company within two years.