Between acts like the New World Order, Sting, and Ric Flair, WCW was able to lay claim to some of the greatest gimmicks in the history of professional wrestling. All of these characters were able to connect with the audience, have memorable matches and moments, and become legendary performers. Not only were they gifted performers who gave it their all, they also had the support of the company behind them to push them into the stratosphere.
That being said, WCW also created some of the worst gimmicks ever seen. Ones that were such misfires that the characters were destined to fail from the start. Whether it was the classic early-90s approach of taking a profession and putting them inside the ring, one of their many, many attempts to rip-off something their rivals in WWF did, or just something that was way too goofy to ever make sense, WCW had their fair share of blunders as well.
WCW may have gone out of business sixteen years ago, but it’s always a good time to reflect on their work. They say those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. I like to think that by bringing these disastrous characters to light, I am helping the greater good. That, by reminding the world about just how tone-deaf and boneheaded some of these wrestlers were, we can avoid future gimmicks that make us cringe.
Here are fifteen wrestling personas that left us all scratching our heads and wondering, “WCW-TF were they thinking?!”
15. Harlem Heat’s Original Gimmick
Nowadays, Harlem Heat is regarded as one of the greatest tag teams of all time. Made up of brothers Booker T and Stevie Ray, the duo was WCW’s most decorated tandem of all time, winning the tag team championship ten times. They were a great combination of power and speed and have influenced an entire generation of wrestlers. They stood out as being some of the only African American performers to have solid pushes and win gold. Booker even went on to have an incredible solo career becoming a multi-time world champion (if only there was a way to know exactly how many times), hall of famer, and can be regularly heard being uncomfortably mocked and ridiculed every Monday on Raw. Their beginnings were not so glamorous. When they first debuted in WCW, they were known as Kole and Kane and came to the ring in chains. They were managed by Col. Robert Parker, a rich southerner who might have well as owned a plantation. The brothers were presented as prisoners who Parker had “won” in a game of cards. It was racist as hell.
Jim Ross is one of the most well respected personalities in the history of professional wrestling. His play-by-play commentary during WWF’s Attitude Era brought performers like Mick Foley and Steve Austin to a whole new level. He is lauded worldwide by fans who yearn for a more cohesive and legitimate announce team. That being said, throughout his career, there were many instances, like his colonoscopy and joining Vince McMahon’s “Kiss My Ass Club,” where he was often the *ahem* “butt” of some nasty jokes. The worst of all was when WCW writer Ed Ferrara began to impersonate Good Ol’ JR. Ferrara called himself “Oklahoma” and even mocked Ross’ recent bouts with Bell’s palsy. The character was one tasteless, BBQ-sauce obsessed, misogynistic joke after another. Oh, he would also go on to win the WCW Cruiserweight Championship by beating Madusa, an incredibly talented woman, by pulling her top down and rolling her up. It would be another fifteen long years before the Women’s Revolution.
“What’s bigger than the country of China? The entire continent of Asia! Since bigger is always better ‘Asya’ is be better than ‘Chyna!’”
That is as long as it took to create a character during the fledgling years of World Championship Wrestling. At the time, Chyna was breaking down gender roles in the WWF by wrestling some of the most talented men in the business and winning the Intercontinental Championship. Granted, she wasn’t the most talented performer, but she gave it her all and had tons of support from backstage creative. WCW could never be bothered to try and do the same for Asya. The most notable thing she ever accomplished was…wrestling a 46-year-old “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan to a no contest? Always seen as nothing more than a palette swap knock-off, right down to her matching leather and chain ensemble, Asya was unable to impress folks with anything besides her continental physique.
Alex Wright was a carefree, good looking young wrestler who just loved to dance! He was mildly successful in the ring and won WCW’s Television and Cruiserweight championships. But that was the mid-90s, when the late-90s rolled around The Matrix came out and somebody backstage had found out about industrial music. Wright’s character was given a total overhaul; he dyed his blonde hair black, grew a goatee, and dressed in long trench coats. Now dubbed Berlyn, because as Asya just proved, the letter “I” was out and the letter “Y” was in. Wright’s debut was met with a plethora of problems. First, the man he was scheduled to wrestler, Buff Bagwell, refused to put over someone who had been previously billed as a cruiserweight. Then, Buff’s replacement, Jim Duggan refused to sell Berlyn’s offense, making for a lackluster match for the redebuting Wunderkind. Top it all off the fact that he shared many aesthetic similarities with the perpetrators of the Columbine Massacre and Wright’s attempted heel push never stood a chance.
11. Wild Cat Willie
Did the Gobbledy Gooker not have enough ‘tude for you? Well, feast your eyes on Wild Cat Willie, the official mascot of World Championship Wrestling from 1995 until 1999. Looking like the awkward offspring between “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Battle Cat, “W.C.W.” (clever kitty) was usually positioned on the entranceway, dancing for the audience during commercial breaks. If there’s one thing the drunken late-90s WCW fans had the patience for, it was an anthropomorphic cat doing the Cabbage Patch. Eventually, the mascot began to act as more of a trash magnet than hype-machine, often attracting unwanted refuse from the hands of willing audience members. Thankfully, “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner stood up for the less than amused spectators and utterly decimated the flipping feline on an episode of Nitro; proving that the Big Bad Booty Daddy was not the hero we needed, but the one we deserved.
10. “Fat Chick Thrilla”/“That ‘70s Guy” Mike Awesome
When Mike Awesome made the jump from ECW to WCW, it was a big deal. He was the reigning Extreme Championship Wrestling Heavyweight Champion and made a huge splash by appearing on an episode of Monday Nitro by attacking Kevin Nash. He was thrust into programs with other established talents like Hulk Hogan and Diamond Dallas Page and most notably, threw Chris Kanyon off of a cage. That was in May of 2000. By the time summer rolled around, Awesome was known as the “Fat Chick Thrilla,” a comedy gimmick where he was ridiculed for his love of heavyset women and presented as a Godfather with a plus-size fetish. Only a few months later, his nickname was changed once again to “That ‘70s Guy,” a play on the popular That ‘70s Show. He could be seen dressing in leisure suits and drove to the ring in a replica The Partridge Family bus. Both of these personas were insulting to the man who became famous for his amazing hardcore matches against Masato Tanaka and his no-nonsense attitude.
9. The Maestro
In the late 1990s, WCW was desperately trying to reclaim their status as the number one wresting promotion in the world. A last ditch effort was filled with swerve after swerve (not the hit WWE Network produced prank show you know and love) and their best attempts at using wrestlers’ real lives to enhance the product. However, they were unable to fully separate themselves from their cornball, family friendly profession-based gimmicks of the past. Cue the Maestro, a Beethoven wannabe who conducted an imaginary symphony on his way to the ring. He was an awful wrestler, and even though he was a classically trained pianist, his conducting style was more reminiscent of Bugs Bunny than Mozart. In fact, the only reason the ‘Stro was hired in the first place was because he was the great nephew of legendary flamboyant villain Gorgeous George. Not because they respected him and his lineage, but because Macho Man wanted to use that name for his newest girlfriend.
8. The Blacktop Bully
Before developing a love for long-haul trucking, Barry Darsow was most well known as former WWF Tag Team Champion Demolition Smash. However, once he was he was on his own, he fell flat on his face. After having a year and a half long disastrous run in WWF as the Repo Man, Darsow would next be seen in WCW as The Blacktop Bully. Portraying a hardnosed, truck-driving, tough guy who would sound an air horn in the faces of nearby good guys. He would also be involved in one of the worst booked gimmick matches of all time, the “King of the Road” match. The bout saw Bully and Dustin Rhodes on the back of a moving truck, where the winner had to make his way to the front and honk a horn. For some reason, they figured a match this ludicrous was missing one thing: heavy bloodshed. Both men would be fired, as WCW had a strict “no blood” policy at the time, effectively sending the character to the big truck stop in the sky.
7. The Renegade
In the mid-90s, both Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage had jumped ship to WCW. The only person they were missing to complete the trifecta of WWF’s biggest “past their prime” babyfaces was the Ultimate Warrior. When we were shown a silhouette of a longhaired man wearing tassels flexing, it seemed like that was what we were about to get. Alas, it wasn’t the case. To quote Lionel Hutz from The Simpsons, “This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The NeverEnding Story.” That’s exactly how the world felt when the Renegade was introduced after being hyped by Hulk Hogan as his “Ultimate Surprise.” In addition to being four-inches shorter, the bargain-bin wrestler lacked the charisma and somehow the wrestling abilities of man he was positioned to replace. Jimmy Hart was right, when after he turned his back on the high-energy muscleman by saying, “You’re not a renegade! You’re just plain old Rick!” Sadly, the Renegade took his own life after suffering from depression related to not being able to live up to the promise that he was the second coming of the Ultimate Warrior.
6. The Guardian Angel
Poor Ray Traylor, after succeeding in the late-80s and early-90s WWF as both a heel and a face as the Big Boss Man, he soon found himself wrestling for their rivals in WCW. The Ted Turner-owned company’s first attempt to reclaim his success was to bill him as simply (cue Born to Run) “The Boss,” where instead of wearing a light blue police uniform, he wore a dark blue one. Somehow, WWF was able to see through this genius-level strategy and sent cease and desist letters. Stripped of his badge and identity, Traylor soon modeled himself after the very real New York City-based crime-prevention organization, The Guardian Angels. Aptly naming himself “The Guardian Angel,” Traylor swore to stand for, “law, order, and justice.” He just couldn’t, you know, use any authority whatsoever to uphold these values. Wearing a red windbreaker and barrette to the ring, the Angel looked more like a French Kool-Aid Man than a street-smart vigilante.
Oh, you didn’t know?! The Road Dogg wasn’t the only member of his family to be a braided loud mouth who performed his own introduction on the way to the ring. Brad Armstrong, a former Light Heavyweight Champion, was a very talented wrestler in his own right. Unfortunately, he was often saddled with ridiculous gimmicks that could have also been included on this list, like the wall-crawling lawsuit known as Arachnaman and late Fabulous Freebird addition, Badstreet. Once his little brother hit it big as the D-O-Double-G, WCW decided imitation was the best form of flattery and branded him Buzzkill. With a pitch-perfect recreation of the New Age Outlaws theme, Brad would constantly job to B or C-listers like Tank Abbott. The B-U-Double-Z (his words, not mine) wouldn’t last long, as he would suffer a knee injury that would keep him out of action until after WWE’s acquisition of WCW.
4. The Ding Dongs
Jim Herd may have only been the Executive Vice President of World Championship Wrestling for four years, but during that time, he was able to mess up a lot of the groundwork the Georgia-based promotion had laid. He ran both Stan Hansen and Ric Flair out of the company when he pitched them both god-awful ideas. His most damning creation may have been the Ding Dongs. The team dressed in bright orange bodysuits with bells printed on them, wore actual bells on their wrists and ankles, and had a bell in their corner that one of them would ring constantly throughout the match. Oh, they were billed from Bellville, USA. Just in case you didn’t get it. The nicest thing that can be said about the Dongs is that they were not as bad as Herd’s proposed idea of wrestling hunchbacks. You see, they couldn’t be pinned because you can’t get both of their shoulders on the mat at the same time. It’s that kind of forward thinking wrestling ideas you get from a former Pizza Hut regional manager! If you ask me, Herd was the real ding-dong.
3. The Dynamic Dudes
Shane Douglas and Johnny Ace are two of the least cool men to ever lace up a pair of wrestling boots. They are about as far as you can get from a couple of “Dynamic Dudes.” Sure, both Douglas and Ace were technically proficient grapples who were able to become mega popular in Philadelphia and Japan respectively, they were just the last guys who should come down to the ring holding skateboards. I say “holding” skateboards because neither man had the ability to ride one six inches without face planting. Their characters of two hecka-chill hyper-color wearing surfer brahs never clicked with the audience, as their performances came off as extremely flat and forced. Even a feud with perennial bad guys The Midnight Express and their manager Jim Cornette couldn’t get the fans on their side. The team would soon be taken off TV, giving them more time to each hold a rollerblade and tell babes to, “hang loose.”
2. The Dungeon Of Doom
If I truly wanted to, and maybe one day I will, I could have filled this entire list with every member of the Dungeon of Doom. From the 7-foot-tall love machine the Yeti, the diminutive but not small enough Braun the Leprechaun, to the walking reason for research The Final Solution, the Dungeon of Doom was a real “Who’s that?” of “Huh?-list” wrestlers. The over-the-top villainous cabal of supernatural wrestlers fronted by “The Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan, was hell-bent on destroying Hulk Hogan and everything he stood for. This was all made evident through the cheesiest backstage promos that looked like they were shot on the set of Legends of the Hidden Temple. Another big problem with the entire ordeal was that the southern crowd was already tiring on the Hulkster and wasn’t all that interested in seeing him succeed; even if it was over the 650-pounch Loch Ness and Debo from Friday. This all infamously led to the Doomsday Cage match that was a baffling triple cage debacle where the D.O.D. failed to put the aging Hogan out to pasture.
1. The Shockmaster
Let’s bring it on home with one of the most “so bad it’s good” wrestling moments of all time. The Shockmaster!
Ol’ Shocky will be studied for years to come as everything you shouldn’t do when creating a wrestling character. The Shockmaster was built up as the mystery WarGames teammate for Sting, Davey Boy Smith, and Dustin Rhodes to take on the heel team of Sid, Vader, and Harlem Heat. When Sting uttered the famous words, “Our partner is going to shock the world,” he wasn’t lying. An errant piece of wood was all it took to shock the world. Tripping during his wall-busting entrance, Shockmaster fell face first out of the main event picture and into our hearts. When the world saw the man behind the goofy, blue glitter-painted Storm Trooper helmet was the former WWF superheavyweight Tugboat it was as good as dead. They doubled (or is it tripled by this time? Quadrupled?) down on the awful ideas when the Shockmaster’s voice was Ole Anderson garbling his way through a promo via a backstage microphone. Even though he picked up the win for his team in the WarGames match, his place in history as wrestling’s biggest joke was already solidified.
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