It’s that time of year again. Last year I decided that for the 30 days leading into Wrestlemania, each day I would draw a wrestler. Last year it was all over the place. There was no real underlying theme to the characters I drew, most of them were just requested, but this year Ben and I came up with a list with the theme being bad gimmicks. Now even though we have a list of well over 30, obviously not all of them will make the cut, please feel free to submit requests.
In 1993 there was going to be a match between the team of Sid Vicious, Harlem Heat and Big Van Vader against the team of Sting, Davey Boy Smith, Dustin Rhodes and a mystery partner. At Clash of the Champions the two teams were on “Flair for the Gold”, a talk segment hosted by Ric Flair, and the heel team demanded to know who the mystery man was. With the introduction from Sting saying that their partner was going to shock the world, through the wall of the set burst #30, The SHOCKMASTER! As grand an entrance as it could have been with the pyro and the busting through the wall, even if the character looked stupid as-is, it was not meant to be as Shockmaster, played by Fred Ottman, would trip over a 2×4 that was not part of the set in rehearsal and fall flat on his face. The helmet the character wore, which was a sliver painted Storm Trooper helmet with glitter, would roll off as Ottman frantically tried to put it back on. Everyone tried in vain to not burst into laughter even though it’s audible that Davey Boy wasn’t keeping it together saying off-camera, “He fell flat on his fucking ass!” Ole Anderson, who was the voice of Shockmaster, had to cut a promo for the character and even he had trouble holding it together. Dusty Rhodes, who created the character, has said that he and Vince McMahon would get drinks together and compare which idea was worse, the Gobbeldy Gooker or The Shockmaster. At least on this list, Shockmaster wins. Or loses. So Sorry Vince, or maybe you’re welcome.
In the events leading up to Survivor Series 1990, a giant egg would make appearances leading people to wonder what the egg was? Then at the event the egg began to hatch and out came #29 The Gobbledy Gooker. Now, I don’t know exactly what Vince McMahon was on at the time to think that a giant turkey dancing around with “Mene” Gene Okerlund would get over, but it, unsurprisingly, didn’t and the live crowd booed the thing out of the building. The character, played by Hector Guerrero, was immediately dropped and would not be heard of for over 10 years, until the 2001 Wrestlemania X7 gimmick battle royal. Guerrero once again played the Gooker in the match but was quickly eliminated. The Gooker has gained almost an ironic fan following, being such a terrible character that people laugh when it makes a cameo, thought it’s now largely used as a way for a wrestler to sneak attack another such as when The Boogeyman dressed as the Gooker to attack Carlito and Primo, or when Maryse donned the feathered costume to attack Melina.
When Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara tried to make their mark in WCW, one of the “genius” ideas they had was to pair “Doctor Death” Steve Williams with Ed Ferrara going by #28 Oklahoma. The character would probably be less insulting if they stuck to the over-the-top yelling while doing commentary or carrying around a bottle of BBQ sauce, but what made the gimmick incredibly insulting was that Ferrara would droop his face and talk in a slur to mock Jim Ross’s bell’s palsy. This gimmick would also get Ferrara spit on and challenged to a fight by Jim Cornette for making fun of his long-time friend. At one point, Oklahoma would get hit in the face with his BBQ Sauce bottle, splashing sauce all over his face, which ‘cured’ his palsy. Of course the character never worked as people found it falling somewhere between stupid and insulting. Ross has since forgiven Ferrara, but many fans have not.
One of the best ways to wreck a wrestler’s career is to give them a gimmick where they have some kind of mental disability, which brings us to #27, Eugene. Brought in as the hapless nephew of Eric Bischoff, Eugene actually managed to get over with the crowd by imitating wrestlers of yesteryear, performing Stone Cold Stunners, Rock Bottoms, even mimicking Hulk Hogan on occasion. He even got a tag team title win with his handler William Regal. He would later team with Tajiri and Jim Duggan with less successful runs, and have feuds with the likes of Kurt Angle, Umaga and even Vince McMahon. Eugene was eventually released after a second suspension due to failed drug tests. Nick Dinsmore would continue to use the gimmick on the independent circuit going by “U-gene” he would also wrestle under his real name.
The 90s were so full of the silliest cartoony characters in wrestling. Probably the cartooniest was #26, Doink the Clown. Doink began his run as a heel who would play tricks on other wrestlers and audience members. After hitting Jerry Lawler with a pie, and after Matt Bourne was fired for drug abuse, Doink was turned face and the character was given to another performer. Doink would also gain a sidekick, an identically dressed midget named Dink. Matt Bourne would go to ECW and paint half his face with the clown makeup and play up a multiple personality disorder he developed while being forced to play a clown in WWF. Over the years Doink would continue to make appearances on WWF/E television played by a variety of different performers.
Like I said with Glacier, wrestling, especially WCW liked to do characters based off pop culture. But with Glacier, the character was based off something that was still relevant when the character debuted. Creating a character based on the band KISS would have worked in 1975, but in 1999, it didn’t really work so well. KISS performed live at Nitro and introduced their character, #24 The Demon. Based on Gene Simmons’s character in the band, the Demon never got over the way I’m sure KISS hoped they would as I’m sure they got a cut of any merchandise The Demon sold. It’s rumored that due to the lack of response The Demon got, that the planned KISS-themed stable was axed. The Demon would become part of a stable, The Dark Carnival, led by Vampiro and included The Great Muta and The Insane Clown Posse. The character disappeared when WCW was bought by WWE and they did not pick up Dale “The Demon” Torborg’s contract.
Earlier on the list we mentioned a guy by the name of Glacier. Well, to make his angle complete, WCW introduced his nemesis, #23 Mortis. Like Glacier, Mortis was also based off of a Mortal Kombat character, Shao Kahn. Mortis would lose to Glacier several times before pairing with Wrath to take on the team of Glacier and Ernest “The Cat” Miller. (Neither Wrath nor Miller sere based on Mortal Kombat characters, they just got rolled into the angle) The team of Wrath and Mortis beat Glacier and Miller at Bash at the Beach 1997 and would continue to team together until the angle was phased out later in the year. Mortis would find greater success as a Tag Team and United States champion in the years after losing the mask and going by Chris Kanyon.
How do you kill a relatively successful performer? Strip him of everything he’s known for. Alex Wright was known for bright colors, smiling, and dancing. And in doing this, he got to hold the WCW Cruiserweight and WCW Television championships. Then in 1998 he was taken off TV. In 1999, WCW began airing promos for a character called Berlyn, #22 on the list. Firstly, Berlyn wore a long black trenchcoat and this delayed his debut after the Columbine shootings as those shooters also wore trenchcoats. Maybe when a character has to be delayed like this, it’s a sign to change direction. Not in WCW. He eventually arrived on the scene, black mowhawk, black coat, black sunglasses, black black black, very unlike the brightly colored Wright. He refused to speak English and instead did his promos through a translator who stammered and stumbled over every word of every promo she gave, and he was also accompanied by his body guard, The Wall. (Get it, Berlyn..Wall) What little heat this character had was killed in his first program when Buff Bagwell refused to job to him. Bagwell was replaced with Jim Duggan who was uncooperative in the ring. As the character drew on, even the announcers on TV were asking if they could start calling him Alex Wright again. And eventually they did as the character was dropped and Wright began wrestling under his real name again in 2000.
At WWF In Your House 5: Seasons Beatings, Savio Vega and Santa Claus were handing out presents when “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase made his way out and said that even Santa has a price. The duo attacked Vega. It was then revealed that this was no Santa, but rather Xanta Claus, Santa Claus’s evil brother from the South pole who stole presents. I don’t know that going by Balls was much better for him, but Xanta landed him at #21 on the list.
In his surprisingly long run in WWF/E, #20 had a couple silly gimmicks. But his first was that of an ex-NASCAR driver, Thurman “Sparky” Plugg, who was quickly renamed Bob “Spark Plug” Holly. However under this gimmick he did win a tag team title with 1-2-3 Kid, and even defeated Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental title, although that title change was reversed and is not officially recognized as a change. He would then go on to be “Bombastic Bob” as part of the New Midnight Express and part of the JOB Squad before becoming Hardcore Holly which was possibly his most successful gimmick that ran for 10 years until being released in 2009 after 15 years with the company.
#19 comes via request on the Squared Circle Facebook Fan Page. Before the Nation of Domination, before the Acolytes, Before the Ministry of Darkness, before the APA and before “DAMN!” (but after becoming the first black world champion not named Bobo Brazil) Ron Simmons made his way to the WWF under the name Faarooq Asad. He would go by simply Farrooq for most of his WWF/E run, but in the beginning he was in a very silly gladiator gimmick, wearing a weird frilly thing around his middle and a misshapen foam helmet. Being managed by Sunny didn’t help his case either as she always got more attention than the guys she was managing. Faarooq would, as mentioned above, break away from this silly gimmick and although never winning another heavyweight championship, would go on to have a rather respectable career, including a couple Tag Team title wins with Acolytes/APA partner Bradshaw, and is being inducted into the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame. Sometimes silly gimmicks lead to much better things.
While being another silly gimmick on a fat guy, #18, Mantaur, actually had a bit of a winning streak upon his arrival in WWF in January 1995. Coming to the ring wearing a bull’s head to emphasize the Minotaur gimmick, he tore through some jobbers and even got an Intercontinental title match against then champion Razor Ramon. He would compete in the 1995 Royal Rumble and be eliminated. After a few months he would fail to get into the King of the Ring, losing to another awful gimmick Bob “Spark Plug” Holly. His final appearance would be at In Your House 2 that July. Mantaur is also a cousin of #17, PN News.
So many bad gimmicks can be boiled down to one central thought, “Make the fat guy look stupid.” And there is plenty of that in wrestling. #17 is yet another example of that line of thinking. PN News was a guy who, in 1991-92 WCW was a fat guy who came out saying “Yo, baby! Yo, baby! Yo!” and would dance and rap so terribly that it almost makes old R-Truth seem bearable. He did, however have some high profile feuds with the likes of Diamond Dallas Page and “Stunning” Steve Austin. He would disappear from WCW in 92, but resurface in ECW in the fall of 99. He aligned himself with the faction Da Baldies but would eventually lose a “Loser leaves town” match, teaming with Vito LoGrasso against Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney.
Dennis Knight is no stranger to bad gimmicks, The Godwinns, Southern Justice, and Mideon. But as #16 it was taken to a new level. Building off of his Mideon character from the Minestry of Darkness, he shed his baggy pants and sleeveless tshirt and traded them in for a fanny pack and a flesh colored thong and would wrestle and run around arenas as Naked Mideon. Thankfully, this character only made sporadic appearances before finally being released in 2000.
By comparison, there are very few women in wrestling. It is, by and large, a male dominated pass time. That being the case, I make an effort to include at least one female on the 30 Day Wrestler Challenge lists, which made it hard when Ben and I decided the list was going to be about bad gimmicks, because there really aren’t many female wrestlers that have been saddled with any exceptionally silly gimmicks. Until I remembered #15, Jillian Hall. Wrestling is a pass time where the characters are meant to look like action figures for ease of merchandising, and few looked more plastic than her. With her comically large bust and lips that would put Steven Tyler’s to shame, Jillian Hall looked like a living blow-up doll. And then they bring her in as an image consultant with a large growth on her face that looks like someone glued the contents of a can of beans on her face. The gimmick was eventually dropped when the Boogeyman would bite said blemish off her face. Classy. She would then go on to be a tone-deaf pop singer. It’s a shock neither of these gimmicks got over and she was eventually released.
#14 was going to be the Bastion Booger, the gimmick who was, essentially, a fat guy in dirty wrestling gear. But upon looking for the reference material, I came across the wikipedia page of Mike Shaw, the wrestler who played the Booger and found out about an even worse gimmick that preceded that in his WWF run. In 1993, before his run as the Booger, he was “The Mad Monk” Friar Ferguson. A monk who would come to the ring in robes with chanting music and then would lift the robe and do some kind of dance. The gimmick was quickly dropped after negative feedback from the Catholic church.
In the mid 90′s when Jerry “The King” Lawler was having his issues with Bret “The Hitman” Hart, he turned to his giant monstrous dentist, #13 on the list, Dr. Isaac Yankem DDS. However, Dr. Yankem could never quite get the job done, never getting a victory over Bret Hart. After that angle ended, Yankem slowly faded away. He resurfaced later in another failed gimmick, taking Kevin Nash’s place in playing the character Diesel. When that didn’t work either, he disappeared, but would come back with a gimmick that would be his character for the next 15 years, Kane.
#12, Phantasio only made one WWF television appearance, on Wrestling Challenge in 1995. He came out to no music and did a variety of magic tricks including shooting fire from his hat, tearing his “face” off and pulling a very long ribbon from his mouth. He did win his one match but was never heard from again.
In late 1999 WCW, vignettes began running with a mysterious figure outside of a child’s bedroom window. This was the beginning of #11, Seven. These dark clips would run on Nitro and Thunder leading up to the debut of the character, in a black trenchcoat and white face, Seven made his debut, and the performer under the makeup, Dustin Rhodes, threw down the gimmick claiming he was tired of nonsensical gimmicks in professional wrestling, including the persona he had been using in WWF for the years prior, Golddust. The truth was that the vignettes scared Turner Television executives thought the videos would lead people to believe Seven was a child abductor and forced WCW to drop the gimmick.
One of the many bizarre characters from the Vince Russo era of WCW was #10, Kwee Wee. Based off the Saturday Night Live character, Mango, Kwee Wee was an eccentric, flamboyant, character who wore bright pink wrestling gear and was covered in body glitter. Also, like Mango, even though he would be flirtatious with men, he would be quick to point out that he wasn’t gay if these men ever gave in to his apparent advances. The character was made even more bizarre when they introduced Angry Allen Kwee Wee’s angry alter ego that he would transform into in a very Incredible Hulk kind of way.
After a successful run in the late 80s-early 90s as half of the tag team Demolition, Barry Darsow was saddled with gimmick #9 on the list, The Repo Man. The gimmick was basically him, running around in a trenchcoat and black mask, stealing the belongings of fellow WWF wrestlers who hadn’t made their payments. He would also carry around a tow rope that he would use to tie up opponents and assault them. It’s a wonder this gimmick didn’t last very long.
At one point Ted Turner wanted to incorporate some of the movies that were under his umbrella into WCW. This brought about #8, Oz. Billed as being from the Emerald City and actually being the Wizard of Oz. Oz went on a tear for a while squashing various opponents but the character never really caught on and was eventually dropped. The wrestler who played Oz would go on to find much greater success when he would go to WWE as Shawn Michaels’s bodyguard Diesel and then when he returned to WCW to wrestle under his real name, Kevin Nash.
Oh the Dungeon of Doom, there was no collection of worse ideas in the history of wrestling. One of the worst, however had to be when they revealed a large block of ice on Nitro that would thaw by Halloween Havoc to reveal #7, The Yeti! Yeti, looking more like a mummy than an kind of yeti I’ve heard of, interfered in the match for the WCW title between The Giant and Hulk Hogan where he and Giant would lock Hogan in a double bear hug that looked like he was dry humping the Hulkster. His appearance was made all the more comical by Tony Shiavone’s announcing. “It’s THE YETT-TEH!”
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, Bill Goldberg didn’t think it was very flattering when WWF and Duane Gill decided to come up with #6, Gillberg! In the mid-late 90′s there were two top dogs in professional wrestling, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in WWF and Goldberg in WCW. As WWF thought it was fun to mock WCW whenever possible, (See the Billionaire Ted skits) it was only natural that they’d mock the biggest thing WCW had going for it. With his pyro consisting of men holding sparklers and piped in “Gillberg” chants, Gillberg had possibly the worst losing record of anyone in professional wrestling, he did, however, have wins over stars like Marc Mero, Golddust and winning the Light-Heavyweight championship from Christian. He would also go on to hold that title for a record 15 months, the longest reigning Light-Heavyweight champion in the company’s history.
Who knows what WWE creative was
thinking smoking when they came up with #5, Battle Kat! Apparently they wanted to utilize the gymnastics background of Dean Peters, who before becoming Battle Kat was enhancement talent. Battle Kat actually went undefeated during his run before being released.
Wrestling has always tried to be topical whenever possible. Latching on to things in popular culture to try and capitalize on. Sometimes it was News. Sports. Movies. TV shows. And in the 90s, it was video games. In 1996, one of the most popular games on the market was Mortal Kombat, and WCW decided to try and capitalize on it’s popularity by introducing us to #4, Glacier. With an elaborate entrance and attire, Glacier never quite got over like WCW had hoped and eventually fell off the radar, even selling his entrance gear to Kaz Hayashi.
Oh, Steve Lombardi, there was no gimmick that you wouldn’t so “no” to. No mask you wouldn’t don. No paint scheme you wouldn’t have smeared on that puss of yours. Which brings us to Number 3, Abe “Knuckleball” Shwartz, first known as baseball’s MVP, Most Violent Player, this short-lived gimmick was an attempt by WWE to be topical during the 1994 Major League Baseball strike.
Second is WCW’s homage to Spider-Man, Arachnaman! He was so close to Spider-Man, in fact, that Marvel threatened WCW with legal action if they continued to use the character. Strange considering that Marvel and WCW would work together to make action figures and a 12 issue WCW comic book.
Fittingly enough, as the first entry from last year’s challenge was The Ultimate Warrior, this year’s first entry is WCW’s Warrior knockoff THE RENEGADE.