Wrestlers who do not re-invent themselves are subject to a much shorter shelf-life than those who do. There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Randy Orton has pretty much been Randy Orton his entire career. It's a character that works for him so there really is no need to change things up.
Even The Undertaker went through different incarnations of his character. Chris Jericho has consistently reinvented himself over the decades he's been in wrestling as well. For every wrestler who is successful at reinventing themselves, however, there is at least two who failed miserably. In fairness to them, however, it's usually somebody else who is doing their re-branding rather than them doing it to themselves. In these cases, it is really more Vince McMahon or creative's fault their new character failed. That doesn't make it any less funny though.
In this article, we break down nothing but failed attempts at re-branding a character. In some cases, the wrestler involved was working a gimmick that was treading water and needed something new. In other cases, there was nothing wrong with what the wrestler had been doing and the change ended up working out for the worst towards their careers. Here are 17 wrestlers who recently tried to re-brand themselves and failed.
17 Big Cass
Many fans were upset when Enzo and Big Cass got broken up. The tag team was still popular and had yet to win tag team gold in either NXT or the main roster. Still, WWE decided to split them up and turn Big Cass heel. It didn't really work.
Enzo and Cass had perfect chemistry. One guy ran his mouth off and the other guy backed it up for him. It was perfect. Both of them probably wish the team hadn't broken up. Perhaps Enzo wouldn't have spiraled out of control and perhaps Cass would still be receiving those big merchandise checks from t-shirt sales.
What Cass does now when he comes back is up for debate. He's got no mouthpiece and no rival. He is seven feet tall, however, and that is something you simply can't teach.
One year ago, Tenille Dashwood, aka Emma, debuted a new character on Monday Night Raw. She just as quickly abandoned the character and went back to her old Evil Emma character, complete with Aviator shades and gloves which looked like they didn't quite fit right.
A year later, Emma would be fired from WWE. She would state that even though WWE was behind the Emmalina character, she never felt comfortable with it and as a result, the character didn't project like company management wanted it to in rehearsal.
It's not known how much (if at all) of the failure as Emmalina contributed to Tenille Dashwood being let go. She has since debuted with Ring of Honor, however, and looks to be fast-forwarding into her post-WWE career. There is little chance she ever gives the Emmalina gimmick another shot.
15 Bray Wyatt
Bray Wyatt could not have come down with a viral illness any sooner than he did. Last year, Wyatt was involved in a feud with Finn Balor. The feud centered around each of them having "a demon" that comes out from time to time. In Balor's case, the demon was the character he dressed up as for big matches, complete with crazy body paint and a surreal entrance.
Bray Wyatt's demon was evidently the ghost of Sister Abigail... or something like that. Wyatt would eventually reveal that he is Sister Abigail and simply dresses up as his sister in an homage to the Psycho movie. It was all very forgettable, which is why you may have forgotten about it. The story was abandoned when Wyatt had to miss some time on the road due to illness. Thankfully, WWE never picked the angle back up after he came back.
Fans love Lana. She's entertaining, she reminds us of the woman from Rocky IV, and she's generally a quality performer when not taking part in a match. WWE attempted to capitalize on her popularity by turning her babyface and putting her in a storyline relationship with Dolph Ziggler and it didn't go over well.
Lana stopped wearing her normal attire and began dressing like Ziggler. That is to say, she began dressing like she was an 1980s high school student who is into Def Leopard. While fans enjoy cheering for Lana, that wasn't the version of Lana they really wanted to cheer for. Luckily, she and Rusev went on social media to announce their engagement, breaking rules of kayfabe in the process. Vince McMahon opted to drop the storyline afterward.
13 Jeff Hardy
Be it Willow or Itchweed, Jeff Hardy's fans would rather he just stick to being Jeff Hardy. While for the most part, wrestling fans tolerated Jeff Hardy wanting to portray different characters, none of the characters he portrayed we're nearly as interesting as him just being Jeff Hardy.
On the other hand, his brother Matt developed a whole new character and persona and fans took to it immediately. Now Matt Hardy is more popular than he has ever been in his nearly 25-year long career. Fans don't want Willow, they want Jeff Hardy. That it works in almost opposite fashion for his brother is a unique characteristic of the tag team. Perhaps it comes down to the idea that Jeff Hardy is a character on his own and any additional gimmicks added feel like overkill?
12 Jinder Mahal
In storyline, the rebranding of Jinder Mahal worked out great for him. After all, he won the WWE Championship and held it for almost four months. In reality, however, the push from the company did not work out as they had hoped.
WWE had hoped that Jinder would become a big star in India and dramatically increase the popularity of their product in the country. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support the idea that this is what happened. WWE scheduled two house shows in the country late last year and were forced to cancel one of them due to low ticket demand. It's pretty hard to call the Jinder Mahal experiment a success considering they couldn't even make a house show tour in the country work.
11 Enzo Amore
Enzo Amore's recent life has been a series of highs and lows. Suffice to say, he is currently in a low period.
When Enzo and Big Cass debuted on the main roster, they were popular babyfaces. Not only that, their merchandise was a big seller. Enzo in particular, was said to be raking in the merchandise checks. Then they decided to turn Big Cass heel. After Cass got injured, they decided to turn Enzo heel. Neither turn worked very well and those merchandise checks aren't being cashed by anybody anymore.
WWE decided to re-brand Enzo as an entitled Cruiserweight Champion with an ego to match. It's not clear if real-life mirrored television or if television mirrored reality because it turned out Enzo was living a life close to what was portrayed on television. Enzo's gone now, released after some disturbing allegations were made against him.
When the Golden Truth tag team of loveable veterans, Goldust and R-Truth, broke up, we were led to believe it was to lead to the return of the old Goldust. Old-school Goldust vignettes were shown and a heel turn began. He started feuding with R-Truth. Then everything was just dropped with little explanation. No more old-school Goldust and it was back to the comedic, loveable veteran, Goldust.
That he is now being accompanied to the ring by Mandy Rose perhaps suggests everything worked out fine for him, however. The pair teamed together in the recent Mixed Match Challenge and seem to now be aligned together.
The paint seems like its staying which wasn't the case in some matches featuring Goldust without it. All the gimmick really showed us is how old Goldust got without the paint.
9 Mike & Maria Kannelis
In fairness, the performers involved did a fine job attempting to get this gimmick over. In 2018, however, this character is a little too silly to advance past mid-card status.
Their gimmick is that Mike Bennett is so in love with his wife, Maria, that he will do anything for her, even take her last name. Maria is secretly the manipulative woman using her husband to settle her scores. It just came off a little hokey, however. Luckily Maria got pregnant and went on maternity leave.
Both performers are great and seemingly could have fantastic matches with many Superstars on the WWE main roster. While Maria doesn't wrestle much anymore, she is a fantastic on-air personality. Paul Heyman took a liking to Maria when working with her in developmental and Heyman doesn't endorse those who don't have talent.
8 "Gentleman" Jack Gallagher
Did you know the lovable gentleman from 2016's Cruiserweight Classic is now a bad guy? Somehow WWE decided it was a good idea to turn Jack Gallagher heel and align him with Brian Kendrick. Now instead of receiving cheers when he comes out because fans enjoy his matches, he receives little to no reaction at all. That's not how good heel turns are supposed to work.
205 Live has had an entirely different feel to it as of late, so there is no guarantee that Gallagher's heel turn will stick. It is said that behind the scenes Vince McMahon is no longer involved with the program and has left the booking of the Cruiserweight division to Triple H. It is believed the focus of the division will be back on in-ring work now and less on storylines and silly gimmicks.
7 Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler recently attempted to re-brand himself as... a guy who did other people's entrances?
In 2017, for what seemed to be an agonizingly long period of time, Dolph Ziggler came out on SmackDown and began impersonating other wrestlers while doing their ring entrance. It wasn't funny, although we're not sure if it was supposed to be. It certainly wasn't entertaining.
Eventually, Ziggler announced he was going to debut a whole new persona. Then it turned out his new persona was just him walking to the ring with no music. Then he won the United States Championship and promptly vacated it for reasons which have never been made clear to the audience. Who is Dolph Ziggler? It's not clear if either the performer or WWE is all that interested in even answering this question anymore.
6 Hideo Itami
Formerly known as Kenta, the wrestler now known by the name Hideo Itami gave up a lot to come to WWE. This is a guy whose career in Japan involved being NOAH's Heavyweight Champion, receiving the match of the year award from Tokyo Sports, and generally being regarded as one of the best performers in the world.
Kenta Kobayashi risked it all to move to Orlando and chase his WWE dream. Now re-branded as Hideo Itami, his stock has dropped considerably. Gone are the awards for match of the year from Tokyo Sports and in its place is losing in the first round of the Cruiserweight Championship tournament on 205 Live to Roderick Strong.
Itami can still make a success of himself in WWE, it's just that the last four years have yielded little in the way of results so far - his gimmick is growing stale comparable to what Ziggler is on the main roster.
5 The Ascension
Despite being the longest reigning NXT Tag Team Champions of all-time, The Ascension has endured a rough go of it on the main roster. The dark tag team felt like the next incarnation of the Road Warriors in NXT but once they graduated to Raw, they fell flat.
Recently, The Ascension have changed to comedic roles. Nowadays, you are more likely to find them in a Fashion Files segment than an actual wrestling match. While this might be a slight improvement from losing matches every week, it still isn't' very good. The Ascension's quest to become comedic stars might be their last gasp to staying on the main roster but it's doubtful it'll work. It might not be long now until this tag team is wished well in their future endeavors.
4 Bone Soldier/Captain New Japan
New Japan Pro Wrestling fans are all too aware of the re-branding disaster that was "Bone Soldier". Mitsuhide Hirasawa had been successfully playing the role of "Captain New Japan" for years when it was abruptly decided he would turn on the promotion and join Bullet Club. He was renamed "Bone Soldier" and absolutely nothing of any significance came from his gimmick change at all. He teamed with Bad Luck Fale in the 2016 World Tag League and the duo lost all of their round-robin matches. Kenny Omega referred to him as a gigantic disaster and nobody has seen him since.
Hirasawa went from having a comfortable role wrestling on the NJPW undercard to seemingly being gone from wrestling altogether. Not a great gimmick change, in other words.
3 The Colons
The Colons have gone through so many poor gimmick changes and re-brands that we're not sure where to start with them.
They were once re-branded as Spanish bullfighters even though they're both from Puerto Rico. This was after the company had hired El Torito to serve as the bull for the pair. After that gimmick ran its course, they returned to using their real names but would also begin selling timeshares for locations in Puerto Rico. It's not clear if members of WWE's creative staff were considering timeshares in Puerto Rico at the time or just what exactly it was which led to this storyline. One thing which is certain, however, is it led to no segments which fans found exciting or even worth watching.
Finally, the Colons were just utilized as the Colons, two guys who grew up in wrestling and were pretty good at it.
Some fans aren't aware that Asuka was turned heel for the last few months of her NXT career. Fans don't remember this because even despite her heel-turn, everybody kept cheering for her anyway.
Asuka cheated to retain the NXT Women's Championship in her defense against Ember Moon. That match was the catalyst for a heel turn which fans didn't by and refused to take part in. No matter how unscrupulous her actions were from that point on, fans would still cheer her as if she was the biggest babyface in the company. Eventually, when Asuka was injured and had to relinquish the title, NXT just forgot all about her heel turn and gave her a hero's send-off to the main roster. Turning someone as popular as Asuka is a difficult task.
1 Jason Jordan
If you didn't know Jason Jordan was going to end up in the number one spot in this article then you haven't been paying attention to the WWE for the past few months.
Jason Jordan's controversial re-branding has been as Kurt Angle's long-lost son. Such storylines rarely do well as fans have trouble suspending their disbelief to such a degree. It has worked out okay in the past but there are more examples of these stories failing than succeeding.
To be fair, Jordan has really done well in the role. He's got fans honestly believing he is an entitled, whiny, GM's son. It's just not overly clear if playing such a role is not a giant disaster for the guy's career. It'll be tough to wash off the stink from this role but Jordan should be able to do it. It might be best if they hide him in a tag team again for another few years, however.