Over the years, the world of professional wrestling has seen so many colourful characters to list. Some of the gimmicks we have been introduced to have similarities and traits linked to characters from outside of the wrestling world. This list will explore some imitated gimmicks that worked and others that completely flopped.
When you look back at some of these entries, you may not think that creative grabbed a few traits from outside sources, but thank goodness they did. However, that's not the same case for the gimmicks that were less than over with audiences and quickly fell to the wayside.
Some of the entries you'll find in this list didn't work for reasons out of their control. That's just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. Most of the people who donned those gimmicks were able to attain success after the gimmick had run its course. One example is Kevin Nash going through his short run with the Wizard of Oz themed gimmick Oz, but still had moved on to become Diesel, sky-rocketing him into a level of success he could barely imagine while working as Oz.
This list is one that shows 13 gimmicks in professional wrestling that saw success, even though they imitated traits and characteristics from popular culture. In addition, you will read about 12 imitation gimmicks that failed when brought out to the public.
The gimmicks in this list grabbed traits and characteristics from a wide range of sources. From film characters to video games and musicians, the world of wrestling is a place that embraced the outside world and at times, adds them to the characters that walk past the curtain and through the ropes.
Here is the list that will show the fails and successes of gimmicks that were compiled of traits and mannerisms from popular culture.
25 Worked: John Morrison (Jim Morrison)
This entry is pretty obvious. If you put a picture of the late lead singer of the Doors, Jim Morrison and put it side by side with a picture of former WWE superstar John Morrison, it was a gimmick that needed to happen. If it didn't, the similarities would've been brought up almost right away.
The WWE saw a lot on talent in Morrison, and wanted to push his gimmick to the very best it could be. They saw the similarities in Jim Morrison. It went far beyond the looks, but that was wear it stemmed from.
The wrestler wore his cocky attitude and having cameras follow him every time he watched to the ring. Morrison, the wrestler, wore the gimmick with pride and found great success. He was a multi-time tag team champion, intercontinental champion and ECW champion.
Though his relationship with the WWE ended with some backstage politics, it is almost laughable. The late singer his gimmick was taken from had the same heat surrounding him throughout his career.
24 Didn't Work: Pirate Paul Burchill (Captain Jack Sparrow)
This is a gimmick we try to forget. Paul Burchill's pirate gimmick was the WWE's response to the height of the spotlight surrounding's Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean. To be a little more specific, Burchill was more a less tailored to be the WWE's Captain Jack Sparrow. It did not work at all.
Being British and having the charisma to match Johnny Depp's character in the film franchise, it seemed to be the perfect fit.
Watching the gimmick be the cornerstone of Burchill's feud with fellow Brit, William Regal, it didn't last much longer once the feud settled. In fact, it almost seemed like a costume solely for the feud.
Once Vince McMahon, who has been rumored to not be aware of the Disney film franchise, had ordered the gimmick "walk the plank," Burchill's WWE career could never recover. After a small stint on ECW brand, he had left WWE for the independent circuit until his retirement in 2017.
23 Worked: Nation of Domination (Nation of Islam/Black Panther Party)
As soon as the Nation of Domination was introduced to the WWE universe, there was no denying that the WWE was trying to convey the similarity to the Nation of Islam. Ron Simmons' gimmick, using the name Faarooq, was dressed and carried himself in a way that can be compared to Louis Farrakhan, the real-life party's leader.
It has been confirmed that the wrestling faction was loosely based on the Nation of Islam as well as the Black Panther Party.
The Nation of Domination had been compiled with an influx of talent. Members included D'lo Brown, the Godfather (who went by the name Kama Mustafa), Mark Henry, the Rock, Savio Vega and the late Owen Hart. Regardless of how the gimmick was influenced, it worked. The angry tirades on the mic and the athleticism they group showed on a nightly basis, gave the gimmick many benefits to withstand the longevity and the many changes they incurred.
Arguably the greatest faction of the Attitude Era, the Nation of Domination was definitely an imitation gimmick that was very successful.
22 Didn't Work: Waylon Mercy (Max Cady from Cape Fear)
Before there was Bray Wyatt, there was Waylon Mercy. The main difference being that Mercy didn't get over as well as Wyatt did.
After being trained by the legendary Dusty Rhodes, Dan Spivey had made his way through many gimmicks that found him working with the likes of Mike Rotunda (a.k.a. I.R.S.) and Teddy Long. The last gimmick Spivey used in the wrestling world was one that was inspired by Robert DeNiro's character in the film Cape Fear, Max Cady.
While he may have had the mannerisms and look down pat, the way he the gimmick came across to the fans never took really took off. Spivey may have had matches with some of the biggest names in the WWE in 1995, the gimmick ultimately led to his retirement from the wrestling ring.
It has been said that he left the squared circle due to injuries. However, it would have been better if he had left on a higher note in his career.
21 Worked: Sting (The Crow)
Though he had a successful career for ten years already, in late 1996, Sting debuted a new gimmick that was immediately compared to the likeness of Brandon Lee in the 1994 film, The Crow.
First appearing in the rafters, carrying a baseball bat, Sting continued his feud with the New World Order. His career elevated and he once again, found himself at the top of WCW.
This gimmick gave Sting the longevity his career needed to reach the audience that was getting younger and began to prefer darker, more mysterious characters.
Sting had begun his wrestling career 10 years before he started this gimmick, his career went on for another 20 years. He had a small setback with "Joker" Sting, but underneath it all, he was still the Icon.
Captivating millions wherever he laced up his boots, Sting finally made his WWE debut in 2015, the last year of his in-ring career. Though he had only participated in a handful of matches in the WWE, the legacy he had created in the years before solidified his induction in 2016 WWE Hall of Fame, headlining that year's class.
20 Didn't Work: Jillian Hall (Britney Spears)
When we think of Jillian Hall, we think of two things: that crazy mole that the Boogeyman bit off of the side of her face, and her well below average singing voice.
She had been ran through a gimmick as a "fixer" and image consultant for both MNM and then JBL, but it was when she decided that she was more than just eye candy and talented in more than just her wrestling ability, that everything changed.
No one wanted to hear her sing, but she would belt out any chance she could, even trying to get Timbaland to help her get a recording contract when he made an appearance on Raw.
It has been said that Hall's gimmick was derived from Britney Spears. If that is in fact true, it was a failed attempt. Hall didn't look like Spears at all, and the voice that came out of her mouth would never crack the Billboard top 100. Hall should've taken a page out of Spears' book and lip-synced.
19 Worked: Bray Wyatt (Charles Manson/Max Cady from Cape Fear)
While the look of Bray Wyatt may be quite similar to that which Waylon Mercy donned two decades earlier, but there was another element to this gimmick that gave us slight comparisons to someone else. When the Wyatt Family debuted, there was a certain characteristic that stood out and made us think of a cult leader.
Specifically, we think of the late Charles Manson. In the early days of the Wyatt Family, the similarities were seamless. Manson never truly committed the crimes, but instead convinced his followers to do the dirty work.
The same can be said for Bray Wyatt. With Erick Rowan, Luke Harper and at different times, Braun Strowman, Daniel Bryan, John Cena and Randy Orton, behind him, there wasn't much that Wyatt had to do to win matches.
Wyatt may not have the family behind him, but change and growth is something that every gimmick needs to do to stay relevant. Wyatt has welcomed that change and continues to find himself making headlines in the WWE.
18 Didn't Work: The Demon (KISS)
There was no secret as to who The Demon was paying tribute to with his gimmick. Sadly for the wrestler, his career would never reach the success of the legendary rock band, KISS.
Eric Bischoff, who was head of creative at WCW at the time, originally gave the gimmick to Brian Adams, who had more experience in the ring that Dale Torborg, who came to the wrestling world from a baseball background. Adams donned the gimmick twice before Bischoff handed it off to Torborg.
It was a gimmick that looked pretty good on paper, with the band KISS even getting involved and demanding that The Demon get a main event match.
With Bischoff losing his position, the match was nowhere near the main event and The Demon lost after a chokeslam from The Wall. Bischoff seemed to be the only one who believed this gimmick would actually work.
The gimmick didn't last much longer after that, only having a slight angle with Vampiro. It left a bitter taste for the wrestling world in Torborg's mouth, and when the WWE purchased WCW, he didn't take his scheduled tryout.
17 Worked: Razor Ramon (Scarface)
Hey yo! Scott Hall brought the machismo with his gimmick, Razor Ramon. He wasn't the first person to show that arrogance and take his frustrations out on others, though. Al Pacino displayed some of the same personality traits when playing Tony Montana in the classic film, Scarface.
Hall gave the WWE Universe some of the best matches while he was in the Intercontinental Championship picture. He competed in the first ever ladder match against fellow Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels for the prestigious title.
For four years, Hall had been at the top of his game in the WWE and was making headlines with the feuds and matches he competed in. It was these years and those moments that helped him earn the right to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.
Regardless of the health and legal issues that Hall has endured in the years after his run as Razor Ramon, the gimmick was still the successful stepping stone he needed to change the entire foundation of the wrestling world with Kevin Nash when they made the jump to WCW in 1996.
16 Didn't Work: Mortis (Mortal Kombat's Reptile and Scorpion)
Chris Kanyon was a very talented wrestler, one that whose life ended far too soon, at the tender age of 40. Though it may not be a career that was highlighted with championship reigns, Kanyon had gained a great following of fans. This happened when he was wrestling under his birth name. When he donned a gimmick different from himself, it didn't go over so well. Enter, Mortis.
Mortis was a gimmick that was made to rival that of Glacier. Thinking of a character that could go up against the Sub-Zero that Glacier imitated, Mortis was created with hints of both Reptile and Scorpion.
On paper, it seemed great, but it did not transcend to the wrestling ring. Kanyon dropped the gimmick in less than a year, turning to his birth name for the remainder of his career.
Mortis is something that fans don't like to talk about or remember. I'm sure if Kanyon was still with us here today, the only thing he would be grateful for is the stepping stone it gave him to be himself in the squared circle.
15 Worked: The Hurricane (Green Lantern)
Shane Helms makes two appearances on this list. Thankfully, one of them is a gimmick that worked.
It was never a secret to die-hard fans of Helms that he was comic book nerd. He has a tattoo of the Green Lantern's logo, and using that, he emerged in the WWE as the company's very own superhero, The Hurricane.
Helms found great success with this gimmick, even finding himself in a slight feud with the People's Champ, The Rock. He had captured the European championship once and the World Tag Team Championships twice. It was the biggest success that Helms would have in his career, teaming with greats such as Kane, Lance Storm and the late Rosey, with sidekicks throughout the years like Molly Holly and Stacy Keibler.
Making a return at the 2018 Royal Rumble, it shows that the Hurricane is still loved by fans and will go down in history as the greatest time in the North Carolina native's career.
14 Didn't Work: Adam Rose (Russell Brand)
Before he was a member of the Social Outcasts, Adam Rose reminded the WWE of British party boy, Russell Brand.
Shown as a party animal with a large following of party-goers, Adam Rose quickly gathered a legion of fans. Moving from NXT to the main roster, the party that followed Rose was one that could easily be seen as the WWE's answer to Brand.. He was very toned down compared to Brand, but Rose's WWE career was following the same path as the comedian's was in Hollywood.
The gimmick that Rose carried as the party boy quickly became laughable, much as Brand's career had become. The entire gimmick was more heckled than it was admired, and took away from the wrestling ability that Ray Leppan had. Following an arrest for domestic violence in May of 2016, Rose asked for his release from the WWE. After trying an edgier run with the party gimmick on the independent circuit, he retired from wrestling in 2017.
13 Worked: Doink the Clown (Pennywise)
He was just a clown. There couldn't possibly be anything sinister about that, right? Well, when we look at the clown the Stephen King made famous, Pennywise, we've learned to never judge a book by its cover.
Much like Pennywise, Doink gets pleasure out of hurting others.
While Doink has the demeanor of a happy, friendly clown, as soon as he is in close quarters with his opponents, he's no longer friendly. The same is for the clown that Tim Burton first brought to life on the silver screen in 1990.
Though the gimmick has changed from being a heel to being a fan favorite over the years, Doink the Clown had a long run in the WWE and fans still talk about him with great admiration. The gimmick may have started as an evil clown, but making the change from heel to face is what allowed it to have longevity and cement its legacy in the wrestling world.
12 Didn't Work: The Juicer (Beetlejuice)
After a suggestion from the late Roddy Piper, Art Barr debuted the character "Beetlejuice," based off the character from the 1988 Tim Burton movie with the same name shortly after the film's release.
The gimmick debuted when Barr was wrestling for Pacific Northwest Wrestling, headquartered in Portland, Oregon. With white powder in his hair and the face paint, similar to how Michael Keaton donned in the film, Barr's gimmick quickly became a fan favorite.
In 1990, after his license to wrestle in the state of Oregon was not renewed, Barr quickly received a tryout with WCW. Upon his debut, he changed the gimmick's name to "The Juicer" to prevent copyright issues.
The run Barr had in WCW didn't even last a year. A prior rape conviction that Barr took a plea-bargain for while he was still in Oregon caught up with him and the company had no other choice but to release him. After his departure from WCW, Barr wrestled in two Mexican promotions, EMLL and AAA before his untimely death in 1994.
11 Worked: Rob Van Dam (Jean Claude Van Damme)
This entry comes as no surprise to anyone. The amount of similarities between the wrestler and the actor Jean Claude Van Damme are endless.
The two have a long background in martial arts and when the similarities were suggested to the wrestler in 1991, his in-ring style wasn't the only thing that people compared. At the time, Van Damme had only been just a year removed from starring in the film Kickboxer, and RVD donned a similar mullet-style hairdo.
These comparisons would follow RVD his entire career, which has found him tremendous success. He has headlined many pay-per-views between great tenures at ECW, TNA, and WWE. In 2014, 13 years after the WWE had purchased ECW, they had named RVD the greatest ECW wrestler of all time. Though he is currently wrestling on the independent scene, the gimmick has helped RVD not only claim many championships, but become one of the most influential wrestlers of all time.
10 Didn't Work: Oz (Wizard of Oz)
In all of the gimmicks Kevin Nash went through during his career, Oz had to be the worst decision he made. Though The Wizard of Oz is a timeless classic, the gimmick that Nash created based on it was not.
After a strong push that lasted roughly a month, Nash had refused to take a pay cut when WCW was cutting costs. Though he continued to wrestle as Oz for the remainder of the year, the push was no longer there. He had suffered losses from opponents that he would've crushed just a few months prior.
Nash had taken some time off of WCW television until a new gimmick was conjured up for him. While that gimmick might have been Vinnie Vegas, but it was not as bad as Oz was. Vinnie Vegas was a stepping stone for possibly Nash's most successful gimmick aside from using his own name, Diesel. Oz, however, was something that everyone wishes to forget.
9 Worked: Johnny B. Badd (Little Richard)
Only the great Dusty Rhodes could make something like this work. Marc Mero was in the market for an updated gimmick, and with Rhodes at the helm of WCW, he came up with the idea of "Johnny B. Badd."
The idea came up from Mero having a similar look to legendary rock 'n' roll singer Little Richard. Mero was dressed flamboyantly, wearing makeup and feather boas whenever he would prance to the ring.
After a heavy push from the debut of the character in 1991 as a villain, Mero held on the to the gimmick for five years, capturing the WCW Television Championship three times. Mero had faced some of the biggest names in WCW at the time. With matches against Diamond Dallas Page, Lex Luger and Rick Rude, Johnny B. Badd was the most successful gimmick that Mero ever used.
Dusty Rhodes was an amazing booker while in WCW. While he may have made some mistakes (looking at you, Shockmaster), Johnyy B. Badd was certainly not one of them.
8 Didn't Work: Kid Kash (Kid Rock)
After an short stint in ECW, David Cash had moved on to the indies as well as a handful of matches in the WWE. Following an injury that occurred in a match with WWE tag team Too Cool, Cash returned to ECW in late 1999. As the then-owner of ECW, Paul Heyman saw something in Cash and wanted to re-package him to help reach a new level of success.
Heyman noticed how much Cash looked like musician, and the latest member of the WWE Hall of Fame's Celebrity Wing, Kid Rock, and re-named him Kid Kash. In addition to the name, Cash would come to the ring dressed like Kid Rock did on the cover of his debut album Devil Without A Cause, and named his finisher after one the singer's biggest hits at the time, Bawitdaba.
Cash would suffer multiple injuries throughout the two years he used this gimmick, not letting it get over as much as he or Heyman had hoped it would. Thankfully, Cash had dropped the gimmick after leaving ECW, putting it in the past and keeping it there.
7 Worked: Jushin Thunder Liger (Anime)
This gimmick worked so well, and still does to this day. It may be because of where the idea came from or where it debuted. Regardless, Jushin Liger, based off of comic superhero with the same name, has had success in the last three decades.
Debuting in New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1989, Liger has had success in every promotion he has walked into. Though he may not have captured titles everywhere he went, but his massive legion of fans followed him everywhere he went.
It's a toss up to say if his success is based on the anime superhero or his wrestling ability. Either way, all fans are always on the edge of their seats when Liger is in the ring.
Making appearances at independent promotions to this day, Liger, still portrayed by Keiichi Yamada, may not be an original gimmick, but it is one that has definitely worked.
6 Didn't Work: Outback Jack (Crocodile Dundee)
It is easy to see the similarities here. Outback Jack's popularity in the wrestling world was centered around the success of the film franchise his character came from.
Debuting in the then-World Wrestling Federation in the same month when the first Crocodile Dundee movie was released, the wrestler, being Australian as well, quickly got over with the audience. Sadly, without his control, the wrestler's popularity faded just as the film's did.
Though the wrestler was talented and the company saw something in him, this gimmick's failure was bound to happen. Basing the character on a film character from a franchise whose popularity was up in the air is not always the best decision. Some work and find success, much like Doink the Clown did. Unfortunately, this one did not.
Peter Stilsbury, the man who donned the Outback Jack character, has said on several occasions that he does not like to look back on his time in the top wrestling company in the world. Seems the gimmick wasn't only a failure in the eyes of the fans, but also to the man who donned it for roughly two years.
5 Worked: Road Warriors (Mad Max)
This Hall of Fame tag team had massive amounts of success across many wrestling promotions around the globe.
With a look inspired by Mad Max 2, The Road Warriors, also known as Legion of Doom, their success far outweighs the comparisons that have come up.
The gimmick may have a look that came from an outside source, but the athleticism they showed in the ring set them apart and made them their own entity.
Capturing tag team championships in nine different promotions throughout the world and the legacy they left honored them with inductions into three wrestling hall of fame classes. The comparisons are not even brought up when talks of the mark they left on the world of professional wrestling.
Though they did switch their gimmick after the untimely death of Hawk, the legacy that the tag team had until that time is the one that helped them be viewed as one of the best tag teams in history.
4 Didn't Work: 3-Count (90s boy bands)
While the WWE had Too Cool, it was only a matter of time before WCW tried to come up with a group in response. Their idea was a trio that would all dress alike and sing in the middle of the ring before their matches. On paper, it may have looked great, but once it came to life, it quickly began to fall apart.
Thinking that they could be the wrestling world's answer to the boy bands of the 1990s was a mistake on the part of WCW's booking team. They couldn't sing very well and their choreographed dance moves would verge on cringe-worthy.
Sadly, being a wannabe-Backstreet Boy was best it would ever get for one member of this trio.
It was something that may have jump-started the career for Shannon Moore and Shane Helms, but Evan Karagias never really recovered from the gimmick. He still wrestles on the independent circuit, but sadly, his gimmick was the highlight of his career.
3 Worked: Honky Tonk Man (Elvis)
When it comes to the Intercontinental Championship, no one has a longer, uninterrupted reign than the Honky Tonk Man.
With a gimmick inspired by the King of Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis, Wayne Farris came out of Memphis, debuting in the WWE in 1986. Originally acting as a fan favorite, Farris held his gimmick for the last three decades. Whether he was a fan favorite or a villain, he is still highly regarded as a legend in the wrestling world.
Farris used everything in his arsenal to make his gimmick as close to Elvis as possible, much as any impersonator would. He even had Jimmy Hart join him as his manager, using the name "Colonel Jimmy Hart," much like the King's manager's Col. Tom Parker.
The gimmick may have been an impersonation, but the wrestling success couldn't be more real. Farris still makes appearances as Honky Tonk Man at conventions and throughout the independent circuit to this day.
2 Didn't Work: Glacier (Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat)
How did this last three years? Glacier, portrayed by Ray Lloyd, had the most expensive entrance at the time. For the late 199os, spending nearly half a million dollars on one character's entrance was quite extravagant. This was especially true when the pay-off didn't end very positively.
It was no secret that Lloyd's character was inspired by Mortal Kombat's Sub-Zero, with the martial arts element, and everything being tied to being frozen. Throughout the three years this gimmick lasted, it almost felt as if the booking committee of WCW was frozen and blind to see that the money they put into the entrance was wasted as the fans never truly got behind Lloyd as Glacier.
The booking committee tried to amp up Glacier by bringing in yet another gimmick who was previously mentioned in this list, Mortis. The issue is both of these characters debuted during a time when all eyes were on Scott Hall and Kevin Nash.
The money that Hall and Nash brought in to WCW was poorly administered, and Glacier's entrance was the result.
1 Worked: Stone Cold Steve Austin (Richard Kuklinski)
No one is going to argue that this gimmick worked. He was by far the biggest WWE superstar of the Attitude Era. Before his days of swigging Steveweisers and giving everyone in his path the bird, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was inspired for the original concept of the gimmick by "Ice Man Killer" Richard Kuklinski.
In the early months of the gimmick, the way Austin carried himself was very similar to the criminal that inspired the persona. He would lack remorse for his actions and kept an ice cold stare in his eyes. Shaving his head bald and growing the goatee was another step that Austin took to look more like Kuklinski.
We know that it wasn't long for Austin to make slight changes to his gimmick, making it more like the Sandman in ECW. With the original idea coming from characteristics of someone outside of the wrestling world, this imitation gimmick definitely tops the list of ones that not only worked, but were highly successful.