Professional wrestling in the modern day is generally made up of characters that fans find believable, making them very easy to watch and support.
Top wrestling companies in WWE and TNA generally keep their main events exclusive to guys who effectively portray outlandish versions of themselves that the fans can relate to, creating a sense of anarchy and realism in the eyes of the fans.
The top tier of most wrestling promotions has been that way since Kevin Nash and Scott Hall changed the game in 1996, entering WCW as on-screen intruders without any silly gimmicks, simply as themselves wanting to create chaos.
This led to WCW creating more real-to-life characters,and eventually WWE followed down the same route, with Stone Cold Steve Austin and Mr McMahon forging a rivalry that spanned half a decade and paved the way for WWE to eventually win the Monday Night War.
That real-to-life aspect is what brought a new demographic to wrestling: the 18-35 males who don’t want to see outlandish cartoon characters pretend hurting each other in goofy costumes.
However, that is exactly what wrestling was for a long time and it was most evident in WCW.
Not only is the company responsible for an overwhelming amount of lame characters, but a number of gimmicks that make you want to facepalm so hard you will likely require medical assistance.
The worst 25 of those terrible WCW gimmicks have now been compiled all in one place for your enjoyment. Aren’t you lucky.
25 Johnny B. Badd
Poor old Marc Mero, who was tasked with taking on the role of Johnny B. Badd, an overly-flamboyant Little Richard impersonator. Somehow, someone thought this ridiculous impersonation would be a wonderful idea, with Badd even touting a confetti cannon to cap off the terrible outfit. To Mero's credit, he somehow managed to make this gimmick somewhat successful; well, as successful as it could possibly be.
24 The Artist Formerly Known As Prince Iaukea
This is one of those times you would have loved to sit in on the meeting that this idea was pitched in. After pop star Prince changed his name and it captured the attention of media outlets, WCW decided to do the same thing with one of its characters six years after the event and turned an enjoyable worker into a living pee break. Nice one.
23 Black Blood
Here's a great idea, let's take Billy Jack Haynes, arguably the most mentally unstable man in the history of professional wrestling – matched only by The Iron Sheik – and give him an oversized axe to carry around. An executioner gimmick isn't that out of the box, given how many over the top characters WCW pushed during the early 90s, but the black hood and axe were pretty ludicrous. Can you even use axes in professional wrestling?
22 Big Josh
Lumberjack gimmick: okay, that's fine. Lumberjack gimmick given to a seasoned wrestler in Matt Borne who performed on the first WrestleMania: still okay I guess. Lumberjack gimmick given to a seasoned wrestler in Matt Borne who performed on the first WrestleMania who also dances with bears for the crowd's entertainment: stop. It's usually WWE that takes established wrestlers and ruins them with horrid gimmicks, but WCW clearly wanted to get in on that action.
21 Stewart Pain
From the man that brought you Smash from Demolition and Repo Man, Barry Darsow, here is Stewart Pain, who can only be described as a sadistic golfer. After real life golfer Payne Stewart passed away, the character was renamed Mr Hole-In-One Barry Darsow and later "Putting" Barry Darsow - as you can imagine, it didn't make the gimmick any less stupid.
20 Misfits In Action
A common tactic by a writing staff to make struggling singles talent relevant is to wrap them all up in a package and throw them into a stable. In the case of Misfits In Action, a group of misguided military wannabes, WCW took Lash Leroux, Van Hammer, Hugh Morrus, Chavo Guerrero Jr and even Booker T, and turned them into a comedy act that failed to receive any traction.
19 The Ding Dongs
Oh Jim Herd, you horrible, horrible man. As WCW's Executive Vice President in the late 80s to early 90s, Herd was responsible for some of the stupidest gimmick ideas in wrestling history and here is one that actually made it to the ring. The Ding Dongs gimmicks was simple: a tag team that wore orange bodysuits who liked to ring bells. That's it. They rung bells. What a wonderful idea.
18 The Maestro
There is nothing that gets the crowd's hearts pumping like Robert Kellum performing as a pianist. Imagine having to face a guy with a pianist gimmick; furthermore, imagine being booked to lose to him. One of his feuds even included James Brown, no joke, which somehow didn't get over with the crowd. Not surprisingly, the gimmick failed badly.
When you're struggling to create interesting characters of your own, do what WCW did best: rip off other characters and pretend like it was your idea. Hulk Hogan did a great job of hyping his debut, giving off the impression that WCW was about to acquire The Ultimate Warrior and while they did eventually acquire the wrestling legend at a later date, everybody instantly realized that Renegade was a less-toned, blatant copy of The Warrior and it did not go over well.
16 The Shark
John Tenta may be the king of big-guy-with-over-the-top-gimmicks, first serving as Earthquake in WWE and originally Avalanche in WCW before WWE threatened legal action. As a result, Tenta was repackaged as The Shark, an overweight guy sporting a onesie with predictable face paint using his hand to create a fin atop his head. Thankfully Tenta eventually delivered an excellent promo that shed himself of all lame gimmicks, but the damage was already done.
15 The Demon
This was effectively WCW's way of saying "Hey you, you know that band KISS, right? You know Gene Simmons, right? Well, here's a wrestler that is based on them." WCW invested in a deal with the band and part of the deal was being contractually obligated to create a wrestler based on KISS and place him in a main event. Brian Adams turned down the role and it was passed over to a jobber by the name of Dale Torborg; if you're looking to gain mainstream appeal, this serves as a great example of what not to do.
14 The Zodiac
Brutus Beefcake must be the smartest man alive, as he intelligently exploited his friendship with Hulk Hogan to further his career. Sadly, the result was working with gimmicks like Brother Bruti, The Butcher and The Man With No Name. After all three of those (obviously) failed, we were presented with The Zodiac, a Dungeon of Doom member that would constantly scream "No! Yes!" like a mentally disturbed version of Daniel Bryan to the confusion of the audience. But don't worry, it gets better with The Booty Man.
13 The Booty Man
The Booty Man was a character portrayed by Brutus Beefcake that was quite simply obsessed with his own booty. Wearing pants that gave the illusion that his butt was hanging out the back, The Booty Man became a running joke that wasn't even remotely funny, such as using a High Knee as a finishing move (you'll get the pun in a moment). Guess what his valet (played by Kimberly Page) was named? The Booty Babe. Why, WCW?
We begin a trilogy of horrible Brad Armstrong gimmicks with Arachnaman, WCW's answer to Marvel that was like a Taiwanese rip-off of Spider-Man, who shot silly string and was supposedly nothing like the original superhero because Arachnaman was obviously purple and yellow - derr. No seriously, that's the defense WCW took. Well, the defense failed and Armstrong needed to find another gimmick...
11 The Candyman
Still with our good friend Brad Armstrong who, after the horrible failure that was Arachnaman, surely couldn't work a worse gimmick than that, right? Oh how horribly wrong you be. In order to out-stupid Arachnaman, Armstrong was booked as The Candyman, handing out candy to children at ringside in what was effectively a pedophile gimmick. Are you shocked that it didn't manage to get over?
10 B.A. Buzzkill
You'd think that sir Brad Armstrong had been dealt his fair share of horrible gimmick cards, but arguably the worst was yet to come. In order to compete with WWE's Road Dogg character, Armstrong's real life brother, WCW decided to blatantly copy the gimmick and brand Armstrong as B.A. Buzzkill, slapping fake braids on his head and copying every aspect of the D-O-double-G. Imagine the awkward family thanksgiving dinner.
9 That 70's Guy
Here you have Mike Awesome. Here you have an established star in Japan fresh out of ECW. Here you have That '70s Guy, an attempt to take advantage of the popularity of That '70s Show. Somehow, something went horribly wrong along the way. Mike Awesome was an established, enjoyable big man who had come into the company as one of the hottest starts in professional wrestling, and WCW decided to throw it all out the metaphoric window and give him a stupid hairstyle and outfit. But don't worry, it got worse.
8 The Fat Chick Thrilla
If at first they didn't succeed at ruining a wrestler such as Mike Awesome, you can be sure that WCW would try again, and try their hardest they did. After That '70s Guy predictably flopped, Awesome was redubbed The Fat Chick Thriller, a ladies man who had a piqued interest in women of size. Mike Awesome could have been an incredible acquisition for WCW - instead, fans got That '70s Guy and The Fat Chick Thrilla. Any wonder WCW isn't around today?
Even Kevin Nash, arguably the biggest success in WCW history, isn't immune to the cesspool that WCW gimmick ideas are pulled from. Before breaking out as Diesel in WWE, Nash had to deal with a number of cheesy gimmicks in WCW, but nothing was as bad as Oz. Ted Turner had recently acquired the rights to many classic movies and wanted to crossover some of the characters into professional wrestling and so, Oz was born. Wearing a clearly cheap mask and green robes to the ring while ear-splitting 80s metal shot out from green mist, the silver-haired Oz flopped. Badly.
6 The Black Scorpion
If you're going to develop a new character, you should probably have some idea where the character will go - or at least who will play it. This was not the case when WCW developed a new main event rival for World Champion Sting, who was taunted by promos and vignettes from a mysterious voiceover thanks to Ole Anderson. Various wrestlers played The Black Scorpion throughout its terrible run, as the Scorpion would use lame magic tricks to entertain the fans. Think of Kane's early days and remove any possible cool thing about it and you've got The Black Scorpion.
Pumped up with vignettes and promos that made Glacier seem like the greatest thing since sliced bread, it's no surprise that Ray Lloyd dressing as a cheap imitation of Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat fell flat on its face. While the promotion promised someone who would change the face of wrestling, what wrestling fans received was a heap of overly expensive set designs, costumes and laser shows that were almost as cringe-worthy as they were a waste of money.
4 The Yeti
For anybody who possesses half a brain, a Yeti is another name for an abominable snowman, a creature that myth hunters have been seeking for longer than time itself. For WCW writers, a Yeti is a mummy that has an unquenchable thirst for Hulk Hogan's destruction. Ron Reis somehow found himself wrapped in bandages and slowly hobbling to the ring at Halloween Havoc 1995 and somehow this gimmick didn't manage to work in the long run, despite WCW's tweaks that just added more confusion to the whole deal.
3 The Shockmaster
Chances are if you've come this far, you already know who The Shockmaster is. After a hilarious debut that saw him fall through a fall and lose his glittered-up Storm Trooper helmet, Fred Ottman somehow didn't manage to make The Shockmaster character work, though it wasn't really his fault. This is widely considered one of the all-time gimmick failures in any wrestling company, let alone in just WCW.
While most gimmicks on this list are just plain hilariously stupid, the Oklahoma gimmick was done in very poor taste. WCW's relationship with Jim Ross had previously broken down behind the scenes and while Ross was working for WWE, WCW writer Ed Ferrera thought it would be a wonderful idea to go on TV and mock Ross' Bells Palsy, a condition which left half of his face paralyzed. While Ross was continuing his career with WWE and went on to carve a path as arguably the greatest wrestling commentator of all time, WCW went out of business in 2001. Nice one.
Remember that time Sting was trapped in a cage by The Four Horsemen at WCW's Capital Combat in 1990 and RoboCop came to his rescue in one of the most shameless cross-promotions in wrestling history? While Lex Lugar, Sting's on-screen BFF, had a World Heavyweight Title match with Ric Flair, Sting wanted to make sure The Four Horsemen wouldn't cause any trouble. Naturally, Sting hit his speed dial and phoned up a fictional crime-fighting robot to come and save the day. The event set off a chain of events that led to WCW being significantly set back a number of years before the introduction of Monday Nitro and the nWo.