Whether it be in the early '90s or today, failed gimmicks happen more than successful ones. Although we all praise the Attitude Era, the time period featured so many faulty characters that we would need a list larger than 20 to fill those up. Some are real bad, though there are some that have wrestling fans thinking to this day. These are really "what could have been" type scenarios. Even looking at the current landscape, we can’t help but think that the Jason Jordan gimmick could have worked had WWE opted for another representative. In this article, we keep a similar theme, looking at performers that could have done these gimmicks justice. For the most part, we will feature the current crop of talent replacing those behind these gimmicks from the past.
It should also be noted that in some of these cases, McMahon and company really didn’t give these performers the proper tools to succeed. Take Stardust, who we will feature on the list. Cody Rhodes did a great job with the persona and a lot of the failure has to do more with WWE’s lack of pushing the character more than anything else. Cody himself admitted creative was unwilling to listen constantly – and we’re quoting him mildly to be quite frank.
Enjoy the article as we take a look at failed gimmicks that could have worked and which stars might have been the ideal replacements. Let’s get started!
20 Kurt Angle’s Son (Chad Gable)
Looking back at 2017, the most peculiar storyline had to be Jason Jordan being revealed as Kurt Angle’s kayfabe son. The story did more harm than good and before he knew it, Jordan was the biggest heel on the roster. Surely, that’s not what WWE was going for, although they tried to play it off that way.
Looking back, the gimmick could have worked. An easy candidate to replace Jordan could have been his partner, Chad Gable. Not only did he thrive in the Olympics like Angle but he also oozes with charisma. Given the promos alone between these two, Gable could have turned into a mammoth star alongside Angle.
19 Emmalina (Carmella)
Some WWE performers have a tendency to turn chicken waste into chicken salad. Carmella definitely falls under that category. Time and time again she has been given a peculiar persona, only to thrive completely. This stems from her NXT days as a hairdresser all the way to her current days with a gimmick that is based off “dance breaks.” Somehow, she makes it work.
She would have done the same with the Emmalina gimmick; another persona that had potential if given to the right person. Carmella could have thrived especially given that she has a lot of character, which is what the persona was lacking during Emma’s short run with the gimmick.
18 The League Of Nations (Asuka, Taynara Conti, Rhea Ripley and Toni Storm)
This one is a major failed faction gimmick. McMahon went down his old well of tricks debuting a group of foreign heels. Although the talent involved wasn’t all that bad, the idea tanked and the group lasted less than a year.
Surprisingly, this concept can still work today but with females. Given that The Four Horsewomen of the WWE and MMA already exist, wouldn’t it be a treat to see four international women debuting together and taking on other factions? The females to take part in this group would not be short of talent featuring Asuka as the leader along with Taynara Conti, Rhea Ripley and Toni Storm. What a team!
17 Chuck Palumbo Biker Gimmick (Baron Corbin)
Chuck Palumbo always had the look to succeed. The only problem was that he wasn’t completely polished in the ring. During his WWE return, he was slapped with a great biker gimmick which could have worked. The only problem, fans weren’t buying it given his past as a member of the Chuck and Billy tag team.
We could see Baron Corbin thriving in this situation, especially given his real-life admiration for motorcycles. To his credit, Corbin has also improved leaps and bounds in the ring. Seth Rollins recently praised the former GM for his in-ring performances. He could have given the gimmick justice in the ring as well.
16 Cryme Tyme (The Street Profits)
Cryme Tyme enjoyed a decent amount of success during their main roster run. However, at the end of the day, the duo are viewed as a flop. The gimmick had a lot of potential and in reality, that’s what gave them so much life. The only thing lacking was the in-ring aspect. They weren’t as smooth as they could have been and because of it, their overall allure was weak.
The Street Profits, look as though they could have perfected the gimmick. Not only do they know how to cut vignettes backstage but Montez Ford in particular has grown so much as a performer in recent months.
15 Buff “The Stuff” Bagwell (Tony Nese)
Buff Bagwell's gimmick was somewhat of a hit with WCW. However, when it came time to debut with WWE, it totally and completely missed the mark. After one match, Bagwell was future endeavored.
Under different circumstances, the flamboyant gimmick could have worked with another wrestler. Take Tony Nese, who not only looks the part, but boy, can he ever bring it in the ring as well. This particular gimmick needed the in-ring aspect to back it up. Nese is the perfect guy who can blend both those elements together.
14 Eva Marie's Goddess Gimmick (Mandy Rose)
We’re basically seeing this one come to fruition. Initially, Lana was slapped with Eva Marie's Goddess gimmick but given her in-ring struggles, WWE quietly transitioned the persona over to Mandy Rose. Obviously, WWE sees the value in this persona.
Eva lacked charisma and in-ring ability and those two factors hurt the gimmick. Still new to the business, Rose isn’t having any issues with the charisma part thus far. She cut a great promo recently against Naomi, and hey, it also helps that the boss himself is high on her potential. With more in-ring experience, she will fully revive this once failed gimmick.
13 Cosmic Wasteland (Rosemary, Chelsea Green and Nikki Cross)
Some scoffed at the inception of the Cosmic Wasteland while the optimistic wrestling fan saw potential in the trio. Stardust and The Ascension combined had the looks to thrive together but in the end, the gimmick wasn’t treated with the proper amount of respect. It led to Cody leaving the company while The Ascension remain in the same lower card spot to this day.
Again, women could have rescued this concept which speaks volumes to the current era in WWE. Such a faction gimmick needs outlandish personas and we can’t think of three better women for this role like Impact’s Rosemary, NXT’s Chelsea Green and SmackDown Live’s Nikki Cross.
12 Bad New Barrett (Pete Dunne)
Had it not been for injuries, perhaps the Bad News Barrett gimmick could have worked. He definitely generated a lot of heel heat with it. The only problem here was inconsistent television time. He was then switched to King Barrett, which was so bad that it caused him to leave WWE (that wasn’t the only reason he left, but it didn’t help).
The gimmick could work, still today. It needs a mean, do anything it takes type of wrestler. Pete Dunne is the perfect example, though in truth, Dunne can make anything work.
11 Glacier (Cesaro)
Quite obviously, WCW was trying to recreate a Mortal Kombat character, particularly Sub-Zero with the Glacier gimmick. Let’s creditEric Bischoff. He wasn’t wrong to debut the gimmick, especially with the rise of Mortal Kombat during the mid-'90s. Bischoff was a lot brighter than most give him credit for.
The gimmick needed more of an in-ring backing. The portrayal of the charcter needed speed, strength and athleticism, kind of like a super hero. The man behind the gimmick, Raymond Lloyd, didn’t do it justice. Cesaro however, definitely could have. Given Cesaro’s history with bizarre gimmicks in Chikara, he could have made this work.
10 FBI Gimmick (Fabian Aichner)
Nunzio, Johnny the Bull and a guy we mentioned earlier, Chuck Palumbo made up the FBI. To their credit, the three weren’t all that bad as a unit. Although Nunzio did the bulk of the promo work. The gimmick could have worked for a lot longer than it did.
Such a gimmick needs a background from Italy. We can hear Fabian Aichner saying hold my drink. Unlike the trio, Aichner has serious talents in various forms. Not only can he fly like a Cruiserweight (like Nunzio, but better), but he also has impressive strength to hit a power bomb (like Palumbo and Stamboli, but better). He could have thrived in this gimmick alone.
9 “Patriotic” Jack Swagger (Jason Jordan)
Ask anyone about Swagger’s gimmick and all they will remember was the catchy slogan that it produced. Aside from that, success was limited. Swagger was relegated to pre-show duty throughout his run with the character.
This persona could have worked with Jason Jordan. It could have been perfect for him as he would also have a mouth piece in Zeb Colter to cut those promos. He would have thrived in the ring, giving the persona exactly what it needed. Unfortunately for Swagger, he also had the skill but at that point, fans just didn’t care anymore. The gimmick simply needed someone new.
8 Anonymous RAW General Manager (Kevin Nash)
Back in the summer of 2010, WWE launched a storyline and gimmick with some serious potential. It was the unveiling of a unanimous general manager. For months on end, fans speculated who was behind this gimmick.
Most fans recall the epic letdown when Hornswoggle was unveiled as the man behind the gimmick. It was such a bad unveiling, the crowd went completely silent when it was revealed. According to the backstory, Kevin Nash was the one intended. Given that he was still with TNA at the time, WWE was buying time with the gimmick. When Nash didn’t join, they needed to press the panic button which was Hornswoggle. Obviously, Nash would have been the better choice.
7 Mordecai (Aleister Black)
WWE had big hopes back in the early 2000s when it came to the debut of Mordecai. That was clear given the weeks and weeks of vignettes. Given all the allure around the gimmick, why have him debut at a PPV against Scotty 2 Hotty?
He could have been an adversary of The Undertaker. Although he didn’t come anywhere close to that. The gimmick had serious potential but was completely floundered. Aleister Black could have turned into the next Undertaker given such a role. With his thunderous kicks, we would have taken the persona a lot more seriously.
6 El Vagabundo (The Hurricane)
At this point, Elias was at the lowest of lows with NXT. He was jobbing on a nightly basis and this gimmick only amplified the defeats. Though in truth, the gimmick was actually a lot of fun and it really showed what Elias was capable of, using humor in his songs.
We can see Hurricane thriving with the gimmick, even if it had a short-shelf life. Hurricane has a witty sense of humor when it comes to promos. Give him a guitar as well and he could have really hit this one out of the park. Just imagine a feud with Elias under the persona? The skits backstage alone would have us glued to our television sets.
5 Gangrel (Finn Balor)
Set to turn 50 in just a couple of weeks, it is surreal that Gangrel is still using this gimmick out on the indie scene. It should have resulted in a far greater outcome for the veteran, though at the end of the day, his contributions are remembered more so as a launching pad for Brood members Edge and Christian.
With a quicker in-ring pace, the gimmick could have worked far greater. We can’t help but think of Finn Balor and his demon gimmick. Seeing how he portrays that alter-ego, he could have no doubt thrived under similar circumstances with this Attitude Era persona.
4 Leviathan (Bobby Lashley)
Who? Only real wrestling fans remember the Leviathan! This was Bastia’s first persona with OVW. He was meant to be a monster with evil in him. Given the look alone, this gimmick could have worked. However, WWE went the other way, debuting Batista alongside D-Von Dudley.
The gimmick needed a mammoth wrestler like Bobby Lashley. It could have been the perfect role for Lashley, especially due to the fact that the person playing the gimmick never spoke.
3 Patriotic Lex Luger (Sting)
We go way back to the early '90s for this one. It is hard to believe that even back then, some considered Hulk Hogan’s wrestling career to be done with. As we came to see years later, there was life left in Hogan as he helped form the nWo.
With Hogan leaving WWE for a film career, the company tried to recreate the magic using a similar formula. Lex Luger was chosen and he completely tanked with the gimmick. Sting on the other hand, used something similar with WCW but instead, became a household name. Had WWE picked up Sting, this gimmick could have worked. It could have been a cross between The Ultimate Warrior, given the face paint, and Hogan, given the patriotism aspect.
2 Stardust (Velveteen Dream)
Majority of fans remember the Stardust gimmick as the persona that ended Cody Rhodes' WWE run. In reality, the gimmick could have worked out. As Cody stated, a lot of the failure had to do with WWE’s lack of interest and less due to Cody’s portrayal.
Still, we think Velveteen Dream could have hit this one out of the park, especially given his current character. Using a similar formula, Dream could have turned this gimmick into one contending for a World Championship.
1 Doink The Clown (Matt Hardy)
Some suggest that this gimmick ultimately tanked because of Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster refused to put the clown gimmick over and it hurt the late Doink in a big way.
Even modern day, this gimmick can still work under the right circumstances. If it was re-launched in the mid-'90s, someone like Brian Pillman could have easily ran with it. Today, we instantly think of the likes of Dean Ambrose or better yet, Matt Hardy to play the role of a creepy clown. Doesn't the idea sound intriguing?