Storylines are the heart of professional wrestling. The athletics make up a good majority, but matches are booked based on storylines developed by creative teams. What helps build these storylines are characters that are created by these same teams. In every form of professional wrestling, competitors are given gimmicks, or personas, to help make things more entertaining. There are no gimmicks given to MMA fighters, as that is strictly fighting. If wrestling did not have gimmicks, the sport would be much more relative to MMA. Wrestling is so much more as its focus is on the storytelling. It is what brings you in and keeps you. This also includes the direction of the character.
Plenty of gimmicks have been portrayed by the same wrestlers over the years. However, some have stuck with one gimmick the entire time. That takes a lot of story and character development, along with the ability to sell the character and win over the crowd. While this works, most of the time the gimmick begins to wear thin and gets stale. The crowd loses interest and the story for the character does not go in the right direction. Bad gimmicks have even ruined careers for wrestlers, while long and drawn out gimmicks have left a lasting, bad taste in fan’s mouths.
This list, in particular, takes a look at the top fifteen gimmicks that lasted entirely too long. This list includes plenty of fan favorites, and maybe some things that people do not realize. The list consists of WWE and WCW Superstars, as these two companies have been the biggest part of professional wrestling and what fans will remember most. Some of these characters will seem like obvious choices, while others will jog your memory and make you think: “oh yeah…”. Remember, these are not about bad gimmicks, they are about gimmicks that got stale, annoying, or eventually even brought down a company.
A gimmick that probably should never have taken off in the first place lasted longer than it ever needed to. WCW jumped on the Mortal Kombat bandwagon when the nWo was at its height to try and promote something new. Having a grand entrance and being a direct rip off from the fighting game’s character Sub Zero, Glacier featured a martial arts move set and some pretty weird promos building up to his unveiling. Played by Raymond Floyd, the gimmick involved a story where Glacier trained in Japan and also wore a 400 year old helmet that was passed down to him from his instructor. He would always bow to the referee before each match. The gimmick did not last superbly long, but for the price of production and the lack of crowd support, it probably should not have happened in the first place.
14 Disco Inferno
It is one thing to be a jobber. However, keeping the same gimmick for six years, receiving a push, and winning titles to a character that never got over with the crowd just does not work. Fans remember Disco Inferno as being annoying, which was the point of the original character. It simply would make sense to change things up if you wanted to push an athlete, but the disco gimmick was lame. He even ended up being affiliated with the nWo Wolfpac. The thing is that Glenn Gilbertti was actually good on the microphone and in the ring, but could have been handed a better character to play at some point.
13 Jack Swagger
I always considered Jack Swagger a failed attempt to replace Kurt Angle when he left the company. He began in WWE's version of ECW and was getting pushed towards belts. He competed against some of the top guys during that era including Randy Orton and MVP. He ended up being nicknamed “The All-American American,” which comes off as a stupid pun to me. Joining up with Zeb Coulter helped his cause, but the gimmick never really took off. He actually turned babyface in recent years after being a heel for so long. A change of gimmick might have been something that Swagger could have used, however there wasn’t much to his gimmick to begin with.
12 Adam Rose
Coming from NXT, there were a lot of promo videos hyping Adam Rose. These promos showed off ridiculous parties with unusual characters and showcased his charismatic personality. Eventually getting on RAW, Rose was accompanied by these characters and the crowd gave mixed reactions, at best. Turning his party gimmick dark and fighting a bunny was not the best of moves, as he still stuck with the party followers. His party gimmick, as a whole, never took off and WWE stuck with it. Rose is now a regular on WWE Main Event and continues to be a Debbie Downer with his cryptic tweets on the internet.
11 Bo Dallas
One may wonder if Bo Dallas still has a job in WWE due to the fact that his brother is Bray Wyatt. The “Bo-Lieve” movement did not really take off, and comes off as humorous at best. The most that you will witness “Bo-Lieving” on RAW is if he is helping a former Superstar or guest get over. It was pretty amazing to see Brock Lesnar set an example with him. Honestly, if Dallas and Bray are brothers, why is Bo not in the Wyatt Family? Either way, the gimmick has really gone nowhere as has his presence in WWE.
Dustin Rhodes played a very questionable gimmick when he made the jump over to the WWE. Being pushed as an over-sexual character with some questions about his sexuality, Rhodes embraced the character and went with it. This was certainly against his Texas heritage during that time. However, here we are in the PG Era, and Goldust is just touted as “strange.” None of the sexual things are allowed, and it is just noted that Rhodes is a legend. The gimmick has basically hit a dead end with what the WWE is today, and honestly should have been put on the shelf years ago.
9 Biker Undertaker
I had to question whether or not to put the Dead Man’s gimmick onto this list, but honestly as oddly as it started, it still works to this day. However, there was a time during when WWE Creative attempted to change things up for The Undertaker. Going with a biker gimmick and a new finisher, Taker would ride a bike out to the ring to Kid Rock and act like a badass. While it worked for a minute, it hung around for too long. It felt like the perfect gimmick for 'Taker but the feeling didn't last.
8 Spirit Squad
At one time, the WWE was being overrun by a group of male cheerleaders dressed in green. These guys were heels, and have thankfully been mostly forgotten. Starting off feuding with Shawn Michaels, the Spirit Squad eventually caused Michaels and Triple H to reform D-Generation X. The group ended up becoming WWE Tag Team Champions, and under the “Freebird Rule," were able to have any members of the faction compete for the titles. Only one of the members ended up becoming anything, and that person was Dolph Ziggler. The group disbanded as DX placed all the members in a crate that was labeled OVW, which referenced the developmental territory in Louisville, Kentucky. This group was extremely annoying, and never gets referenced today.
While the nWo was dominating the WCW during the late 1990s, the company decided to bring in an ex-football player who did not have much talent in the ring, but was highly energized and was pushed to be an unstoppable force. Bill Goldberg would embark on an undefeated streak which would culminate in a victory against Hollywood Hogan on Monday Night Nitro in Atlanta, Georgia. He would snag the World Heavyweight Championship and peak at that point. However, how long could creative continue this undefeated streak until it got stale? WCW would push the limits and eventually strip him of his title and streak in one of the worst ways they could. All to push Kevin Nash with the belt. The nWo would reunite and begin to use a taser on Goldberg. He would eventually get hurt and leave the company.
Stinger has always been a crowd favorite, even when he went dark with WCW in the late 1990s. Sting is now being pushed as the face of WCW during the Monday Night Wars by the WWE. While you might not realize the time gap for him using his dark gimmick, it has lasted entirely too long. Even in TNA, it was the same thing. Before he went dark, Sting was high energy. To see him creep out to a WWE ring with the same gimmick that is twenty years old and not descending from the rafters is pretty disappointing.
Glenn Jacobs is a nice and hardworking guy as his time in the industry speaks for itself. His best known character is Kane, who broke in as the Undertaker’s demonic younger brother. The gimmick was great at the time. Kane wore a scary mask with black makeup and talked with a voice box. However, the details of the gimmick changed over time, but not necessarily progressed. They eventually pulled the mask off, made a horror movie with Jacobs, then put a mask back on that looks akin to Leatherface. Jacobs is not that good on the mic, and going with Corporate Kane just never made sense. The Demon Kane gimmick has gotten old and stale, and has never really progressed from its original state.
4 D-Generation X
A fan favorite faction and gimmick was D-Generation X. This gimmick helped to catapult the WWE back into the mainstream as they pushed the boundaries on weekly cable television. The faction eventually built up to more members than the originals of Triple H and Shawn Michaels. The original gimmick was not the problem. The problem was bringing it back in the middle 2000s, especially with only Triple H and Michaels. They were still funny together, but it felt more like a push to sell merchandise rather than something natural. Of course, another reunion occurred at Wrestlemania 30 during the Triple H and Sting match as the Monday Night Wars came to life for a brief moment.
3 John Cena
Hustle. Loyalty. Respect. This has been happening for longer than most of you realize. John Cena was once a thug rapper in the WWE. His gimmick now of being a shining example and a positive role model who overcomes all odds and is constantly the underdog is way past due for a change. He has been the face of the WWE for ten years, but the crowd reaction is so split that it shows just how bad of a change is needed for Cena. It will never happen. The kids love Cena, and the merchandise sells. It would be amazing to see him in an updated heel role as fans have clamored for it on the internet.
2 Hulk Hogan
The two main gimmicks involved with Hulk Hogan both reached their tipping points. Being the Real American in the 1980s and early 1990s, WCW had the right idea in turning him heel. It was drawn out and the crowd reactions towards the end of his WWE tenure were equal to what we see with John Cena right now. After being reinstated to the WWE (before being banished again), he portrayed the same gimmick he had in the '80s. You cannot deny that Hulk Hogan in the 1980s pushed professional wrestling into the mainstream, but the Real American gimmick stuck around for way too long.
1 New World Order
The nWo is arguably the best faction in the history of wrestling, and the image that was created by it was a gimmick in its own right. The persona had to be exemplified by each of its many individuals over the years. However, you hit a point when you say enough is enough? WCW beat the name to death, way past its peak. There would even be a split faction with the nWo Wolfpack (which I honestly did not mind). But thinking back, it was all a cash crop for merchandise. You even had the LWO (Latino World Order) featuring all the Luchadores from the Cruiserweight Division. Everyone wanted to be a part of the nWo, including people like Jeff Jarrett. The gimmick wore out its welcome, which inevitably helped lead to the demise of the company.
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